Commentary

Hamilton, Volquez trade places

Updated: December 24, 2007, 12:32 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Josh Hamilton, one of 2007's most inspiring stories, joined his third (technically his fourth) organization in a little more than a year this past Friday, traded by the Reds to the Rangers in exchange for pitchers Edinson Volquez and Daniel Herrera. The move came one year and 14 days after Hamilton, the No. 1 pick overall in the 1999 amateur draft, was selected by the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft, then shipped to the Reds in a trade that same day.

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Why the Reds would want to trade Hamilton, a .292 hitter with 19 homers and a .922 OPS in 90 games as a rookie, might seem perplexing, but the team felt it was deep enough in the outfield already, and perhaps wanted to sell high on a talent it felt wouldn't be a complete (read: platoon-free), or healthy enough, regular. Hamilton did bat .222 with 29 strikeouts in 72 at-bats against left-handers, and he made two trips to the disabled list (it would have been three had DL status meant anything in September; he sat out most of the month with a hamstring strain, after previously battling gastroenteritis and a sprained wrist).

Still, there's plenty to like about Hamilton, a legitimate power source and a player in his prime, all of 26 years of age. He'll stand a better chance at everyday at-bats in Texas, perhaps bat in the heart of the order, as opposed to being a leadoff man, as he was for much of the season in Cincinnati, and won't be hurt by the ballpark switch, since Texas' Rangers Ballpark is also a hitting-friendly environment like Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park.

It's not unreasonable to think Hamilton, despite having quickly developed a reputation for being injury-prone, could top 400 at-bats in 2008, and at last season's pace, 400 at-bats would mean more than 25 homers. Call that a nice late-round mixed-league pick with upside, or a solid No. 3/4 AL-only outfielder. But don't get too carried away; Hamilton needs to prove he can handle the chores of an everyday player before he'd be a huge breakout candidate.

Of the Reds' new pitchers acquired in the deal, Volquez is the name you know. He's a high-upside, 3.69-ERA, 1.20-WHIP, 9.20-strikeout-per-nine pitcher for his career, but one who has yet to make much of his big league career. The right-hander showed some brief signs of figuring it out late last season, though, and should get a long look in the spring. If Volquez looks good in March, he should break camp as the team's No. 4 starter, and might not be a bad NL-only sleeper or at least a spot-start candidate. Herrera, meanwhile, is a decent left-handed relief prospect, albeit one at least a year from being big league ready.

Phillies add Taguchi

Perhaps attempting a mix-and-match strategy with their outfield, the Phillies signed So Taguchi to a one-year, $1.05 million contract Monday. He'll slide in as the team's fourth or fifth outfielder, depending on whether he can outplay Jayson Werth during spring training, and in an outfield comprised only of Pat Burrell, Shane Victorino, Geoff Jenkins, Werth and Chris Snelling, he's probably going to matter to NL-only owners.

How much he'll matter, though, is the question. I'd try to avoid Taguchi if possible, because he has a .727 OPS, averages one homer per 66.7 at-bats and steals one base per 16 games for his career, meaning he offers little more than an empty batting average (he's at .283 lifetime). Still, this is the kind of player who can create headaches for fantasy owners, stealing at-bats from other options within his outfield. Taguchi will likely cost the more-interesting Snelling a roster spot, but on his own, will likely only warrant spot-start potential in deep leagues when he starts a home game against a left-hander.

Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.

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