November 6, 2009

Calling on the Angels to call on Chad Tracy

While Matt Holliday, Jason Bay and John Lackey are clearly the headliners in this year’s version of the Hot Stove League, I would like to talk about a guy who will fly under the radar (for the most part) and yet have the potential to be a nice pick up for someone (hopefully the Angels).

I’m talking about none other than Chad Tracy. Tracy is just 29 years old and has had more than his share of injuries the last three years. Those injuries have hindered his ability to fulfill his potential, the same potential that convinced the Arizona Diamondbacks to sign him to a three year, $13.25 million contract in 2006. At the time he looked like a bargain having come off a 2005 season where he hit .308 (6th best in the NL) with 27 homeruns and a .911 OPS (16th best in the NL). In 2006 he hit 20 homeruns and his OPS slipped to .794; however, he had become a solid run producer before succumbing to injuries to his knee and oblique over the next three seasons (including 2009).

The Diamondbacks did not pick up his $7 million 2010 option yesterday and instead bought him out for $1 million. Tracy is now a free agent and I’d like to see him in Anaheim. I see him as a low risk, medium to high reward investment. He’s a left handed bat with a little pop. His career OPS is significantly higher versus right handed pitching (.840 vs. .614), suggesting he might be a solid platoon guy. I know platoon guys don’t usually make the headlines in the Host Stove League, but I think Tracy could make some noise.

He also seems to do his best hitting late in the year with a career best .931 OPS in September/October. He's also hit more homeruns during that time period as compared to other months. I love guys who can play at a high level that time of the year.

Why the Angels? He could be an insurance policy for Brandon Wood (assuming Wood becomes the 3B next year). I don’t necessarily see him as an every day guy, but could flourish in a platoon situation with Wood (at least until Wood gets his feet wet). Scioscia loves to platoon young guys. He did this with Casey Kotchman and he’s done with Howie Kendrick and Kendry Morales.

Tracy is versatile. He can play 1B, 3B or LF. The Angels are going to need some additional pop from the left side. Outside of Kendry Morales (who is a switch hitter), they really don’t have another left handed power threat. Abreu can drive in runs, but has never been a huge long ball threat. Aybar and Izturis are solid switch hitters, but neither have hit digit homeruns in a season – even in the minor leagues (other than the one year Aybar hit 14 homeruns at Rancho Cucamonga).

He’s not the sexy choice people most people want to talk about, but I think he could help a team. Don’t get me wrong, the Angels #1 priority should still be John Lackey. I’m also hopeful Figgins and Oliver will be back and that the Angels can some how manage to sign Jason Bay. Tracy isn’t going to invoke comparisons to Troy Glaus or even Doug DeCinces, but could be added as a complimentary piece of the puzzle for next year. At the very least he could be a new and improved version of Robb Quinlan; albeit from the left side.

I know some might see Freddy Sandoval as the logical replacement for “Q.” Not me. Sandoval is only two years younger than Tracy and has had an average minor league career, in my opinion. Tracy is a “young” veteran and would likely fit the role better.

Another choice might have been Matt Brown. This past spring – some were hoping to see Brown take Quinlan’s place. Brown had a good spring, but didn’t follow it up with a solid minor league season. He hit a mere .249 with a .749 OPS with Salt Lake City. In fact Brown has a career .267 average in the minors. I’m afraid the window is closing on both Sandoval and Brown. Neither has the upside of Tracy.

I know it’s been three years since Tracy was last productive. I know he’s been injured a lot. Those are the downsides of Tracy. The upside is that Tracy hopefully has something to prove and sometimes guys who have that kind of attitude can pay off big time. The potential is definitely there and he would be a nice story if he comes through.


  1. I agree, Grich, that Chad Tracy offers a nice risk/reward ratio, as he clearly has some offensive tools and will come at a minimal price, but I wonder whether Anaheim is the right fit. He hasn't played significant innings at 3B since 2006 and he's a bit of a free-swinger (league-average OBP even in his best season), which is something the Halos seem to be trying to get away from. The platoon with Wood is interesting and potentially very productive, but I wonder whether Sandoval couldn't fill the same role for significantly less money. With so many big-time free agents and thus a number of potential holes to fill, it seems like Anaheim might be wise to stand pat at 3B and commit their remaining free-agent dollars to the pitching staff.

  2. Good points for sure.

    To tell you the truth, this isn't the kind of thing I usually write about, but as I was looking over the list of free agents and he looked interesting to me.

    That being said, signing Lackey should be the #1 goal for sure and/or making sure the rest of the pitching staff is solid.

    I'm not sold on Sandoval, but I could be wrong... Time will tell.