Tigers Get Their Catcher

The Deal
Now that Ivan Rodriguez is out of the picture, Vance Wilson is a free agent and Brandon Inge has been reinstalled at third base (for the moment), finding a catcher ranked near the top of the Tigers’ offseason to-do list. In trading for the Rangers’ eminently available backstop Gerald Laird, they met that challenge. The cost: minor league righthanders Guillermo Moscoso, who reached Double-A for six games in August, and Carlos Melo.
The Young Players
Moscoso has an intriguingly quick arm that fires 91-92 heat with late life, but at the same time, he’s a pitcher who comes with several caveats. Firstly, he spent most of 2008 pitching in high Class A as a 24-year-old. (He’s now 25.) And a big reason for his slower developmental path has been persistent shoulder problems that have limited him to no more than 91 innings in a season. Moscoso, whom the Tigers signed out of Venezuela in 2003, had surgery in 2005 and missed the first six weeks of 2008 because of the ailment. He also has below-average feel for his changeup and curveball, which, taken with his injury history, suggests a future role as a reliever. But if he’s healthy, Moscoso could realize that ceiling quickly. He ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the Tigers system prior to the trade.

The Tigers signed Melo out of the Dominican for $165,000 in July 2007, so he has just one professional season under his belt, and that came in the DSL. The 17-year-old went 3-3, 5.14 with an eye-opening 61 strikeouts in 49 innings, while allowing 20 walks and two home runs. At his best, Melo runs his explosive fastball up to 92-96 mph and he’s shown some aptitude for a curveball and changeup. He’ll be 18 next season.

Quick Take
A defensive standout, Laird has averaged 93 games behind the plate for Texas over the course of the past three seasons. In that time, he’s batted .260/.309/.396 in 994 at-bats—with an OPS of just .707 away from Arlington. While he may not be a big offensive threat, the 29-year-old Laird has erased 37 percent of basestealers since 2006, though he did slump to a figure of 28 percent this season.

The Rangers could afford to part with Laird because they have three big league ready young catchers already: defensive whiz Taylor Teagarden and offense-first backstops Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Max Ramriez. He’s also arbitration-eligible following a season in which he made $1.6 million.

" Trade Central 2008