|Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow continued converting veterans into prospects, this time sending 27-year-old third baseman Chris Johnson to the Diamondbacks for Bobby Borchering and Marc Krauss, a pair of corner-outfield prospects who played for Double-A Mobile.
Few National League contenders have gotten as little out of third base as the Diamondbacks this season. Arizona third basemen—Ryan Roberts plus Cody Ransom, Josh Bell, Geoff Blum and a cast of thousands—have batted .230/.285/.346 this season, and only the Phillies have fared worse in the NL. The Diamondbacks recently traded Roberts to the Rays, seemingly turning over the position to 23-year-old rookie Ryan Wheeler. That plan has been scrapped with the acquisition of Johnson, who despite batting righthanded has hit righthanders much harder (.764 OPS compared with .646 versus lefties) for his career.
The trade of Johnson to the Diamondbacks marks Luhnow’s fifth July trade. He previously dealt Carlos Lee to the Marlins, Brandon Lyon and J.A. Happ to the Blue Jays, Brett Myers to the White Sox and Wandy Rodriguez to the Pirates. What makes the Johnson trade notable is that Luhnow has shown a willingness to trade even pre-arbitration players if he doesn’t deem them part of the future in Houston. (Granted, that future could be as far as four years off.) The GM’s first deal last fall sent reliever Mark Melancon, who had five years of club control remaining, to the Red Sox, and subsequent trades have also sacrificed cost-controlled player seasons, e.g. Jason Bourgeois (four years), Happ (two), David Carpenter (the full six) and now Johnson (four). Even Rodriguez was signed through 2013.
In an interesting footnote to the trade, both Borchering and Johnson attended Bishop Verot High in Fort Myers, Fla. The Red Sox drafted Johnson out of high school in 2003 (37th round) but didn’t sign him.
|Bobby Borchering, of
Age: 21. Born: Oct 25, 1990 in Alva, Fla.
Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200.
Bats: B. Throws: R.
School: Bishop Verot HS, Fort Myers, Fla.
Career Transactions: Selected by Diamondbacks in first round (16th overall) of 2009 draft; signed Aug. 14, 2009.
Drafted as a third baseman, Borchering played his way off the hot corner last season, spending the majority of his time at first base with high Class A Visalia. A well-below-average runner, his defensive instincts make him a shaky defender even in left or right field, so a return to first base is not out of the question. What the switch-hitting Borchering does offer, however, is huge raw power, particularly from the left side. He managed a home run once every 17.1 plate appearances in the Cal League, a rate that ranks fifth in the circuit still, though he’s struggled to get his bat going after a promotion to Double-A on July 3. Borchering’s undoing has been strikeouts. He whiffed in nearly 28 percent of plate appearances in two years in the Cal League, and that rate has climbed to 33 percent in the Southern League, giving him virtually no chance to hit for average without a dramatic improvement in contact rate.
|Marc Krauss, of
Age: 24. Born: Oct 5, 1987 in Deshler, Ohio.
Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 235.
Bats: L. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Selected by Diamondbacks in second round of 2009 draft; signed June 15, 2009.
Though he’s not exactly young for Double-A, Krauss has redeemed himself with a fine campaign with Mobile, one year after a so-so year with the same club in which he batted .242/.340/.439 in 433 at-bats. Though limited to left field with below-average speed, range and arm strength, Krass’ bat might carry him to a big league role because he identifies pitches well and hits with authority to all fields. To that end, he leads the Southern League in on-base percentage (.413) and walks (73) and ranks second in extra-base hits (46) and fourth in slugging (.506). He stays on lefthanders well, batting .252/.358/.515 in 103 at-bats this season. The Astros must add Krauss to the 40-man roster prior to this November or else risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft.
|Chris Johnson, 3b
Age: 27. Bats: R. Remaining Commitment: Under contract for $495,000 this season, then under club control for 2013-16 seasons.
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.