Thursday, March 03, 2005

Harris/Helms Deal: On or not?

Well, according to ESPN Radio 1000 WMVP in Chicago, the Brewers and White Sox have been discussing another swap. This one involves Brewers 3B Wes Helms and ChiSox 2B/CF Willie Harris. In my opinion, this trade benefits the Brewers in several ways. One, they are able to shed themselves of Helms' bloated $2.7 million deal, and potentially use this extra cash to sign a RP or decent RH OF bat when the time comes for teams to start releasing players. This could also free up money to help in paying for the contract extension they are going to hopefully lock up Sheets with. Second, the deal would allow the Brewers the insurance policy of sending Krynzel back to AAA for more seasoning, and also a servicable back-up for Spivey for when he likely gets hurt or traded - without having to rush Weeks up to the bigs. Harris has always posted very respectable OBP's and is only 26 years old, and provides a much better option than Bill Hall, whose OBP seems to have an invisible ceiling set below the .300 mark. Harris lacks power, but sees a lot of pitches and plays a respectable D at bot second and in CF. Here's Harris career numbers, spanning back to his minor league days, courtesy of The Baseball Cube:

1999 (Rk, 22 AB): .273/.384*/.318, 4 BB / 2 K, 0 HR, 1 SB
1999 (A, 272 AB): .265/.315*/.357, 20 BB / 41 K, 2 HR, 11 SB
2000 (A, 474 AB): .274/.388*/.411, 89 BB / 89 K, 6 HR, 38 SB
2001 (AA, 525 AB): .305/.369*/.423, 46 BB / 71 K, 9 HR, 54 SB
2001 (MLB, 24 AB): .125/.125/.167, 0 BB / 7 K, 0 HR, 0 SB
2002 (AAA, 360 AB): .283/.345/.397, 33 BB / 61 K, 5 HR, 33 SB /14 CS
2002 (MLB, 163 AB): .233/.270/.294, 9 BB / 21 K, 2 HR, 8 SB / 0 CS
2003 (AAA, 100 AB): .380/.470/.640, 17 BB / 20 K, 6 HR, 9 SB / 3 CS
2003 (MLB, 137 AB): .204/.259/.241, 10 BB / 28 K, 0 HR, 12 SB / 2 CS
2004 (MLB, 409 AB): .262/.343/.323, 51 BB / 79 K, 2 HR, 19 SB / 7 CS

All in all, the numbers aren't too shabby, aside from the weak slugging, but what can one expect out of a 5'9", 175 lb. guy? Helms, on the other hand, is probably of little or no value to the Brewers, aside from his ability to hit LHP. He plays awful defense, and only provides what Baseball Prospectus terms "heaps of near-adequacy". His VORP last year was a whopping 3.4, on the heels of his much better 26.9 in 2003. Harris' VORPs in these two years were -7.1 and 5.2. Not great either, but due mostly to his lack of power. He does work pitchers (3.98 P/PA), and steal bases for what their worth, even though he does get caught too often.

If this deal is done, Doug Melvin should be patted on the back for his ability to unload Helms' salary, especially if he is able to turn that cash into a serviceable ML player of some capacity. The whole thing, of course, could be a fabrication of the Chicago media. One of the hosts on WMVP said that Harris may not even break camp with the Sox, but also said that Helms is "a 3B who can hit". I think one of those statements is true - guess which one.

* - There were not OBP's compiled for Harris in these lower levels, thus I simply used H+BB/AB+BB to get the approximate OBP.

I agree with you that this deal makes sense if the Brewers need to shed some cash in order to sign sheets. On the other hand, Willie Harris is just not that good. While knowledgeable Brewer fans will be snickering if we can dump Helms on the White Sox, I can tell you that the Sox fans will be snickering as well. Without money in the equation, I'd take Helms over Harris (esp. considering his 2003 season).
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