Well he's certainly had an interesting couple of days. #51 on our list is Mark Teahen.
"Tell us about Teahen," says Billy.
Mark Teahen, says Erik, is a third baseman from St. Mary's College just down the road in Moraga, California. "Teahen," says Erik. "Six three. Two ten. Left right. Good approach to hitting. Not a lot of power right now. Our kind of guy. He takes pitches."
"Why haven't we talked about this guy before?" asks the old scout.
"It's because Teahen doesn't project," says Erik. "He's a corner guy who doesn't hit a lot of home runs."
"Power is something that can be acquired," says Billy quickly. "Good hitters develop power. Power hitters don't become good hitters."....
Everyone stares silently at Teahan's name for about thirty seconds. Erik says, "I hate to say it but if you want to talk about another Jason Giambi, this guy could be it."
-"Moneyball" by Michael Lewis
Mark enters his fourth season as a Royal in 2008, after being acquired in a blockbuster deal with John Buck and Mike Wood for star outfielder Carlos Beltran in June of 2004. He was touted as a third baseman of the future and a cornerstone for the franchise for years to come, but just two years later the franchise had a new third baseman of the future and cornerstone for the franchise, moving Teahen to the outfield. The initial scouting report on him turned out be right, at least thus far in Mark's career. Good plate discipline, good walk totals, not much power. Another Jason Giambi he is not.
Mark was originally a first round pick in 2002 by the Oakland Athletics, one of seven draft picks chronicled in the book "Moneyball." After just thirteen games in Rookie ball, where he hit .400, Teahen was moved up to High A ball in the California League. He struggled mightily in the hitters league, posting an anemic .239/.302/.299. He repeated the level the next year, and although his average and plate discipline rose, his power was still absent. He hit .283 with a .374 on-base percentage, but hit just three home runs in 121 games. You really have to try to not hit home runs in the California League.
"He always pushed the ball to the other side, never really hit with much power. He was always content dropping a single, flaring it over the shortstop's head. If he used his legs better and got a better start, he could hit with power. It was all there, just a little stubbornness on his part."
-Oakland Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman
Teahen opened 2004 in another hitters league, the Texas League, where he enjoyed his finest professional season. He was hitting .335/.420/.543 in 53 games for Midland before being promoted to AAA. He spent twenty games in Sacramento before being told he had been traded to Kansas City.
Everyone in baseball knew the Royals were going to trade Carlos Beltran, going as far back as 2002. The Royals unexpected success in 2003 put off that trade talk for awhile. Beltran was an impending free agent going into the 2004 season, but with the Royals surprising finish in 2003, the team was thinking contention instead of rebuilding. When the team stumbled out of the gate and were ten games back by Memorial Day, the Beltran trade rumors intensified.
Royals third baseman Joe Randa was also and impending free agent in 2004. He was willing to stay in Kansas City and was still reasonable productive. Rather than try to ink him to a short term deal, the Royals instead looked towards the future and insisted on receiving a third baseman in return for Beltran. They also hadn't had a good catcher in the organization since the days of Mike MacFarlane, so General Manager Allard Baird also insisted on a backstop in the trade. I'm not quite sure how he perceived those to be the two biggest holes on the team, considering the team ERA in 2003 was over 5.00, and the team was dead last in ERA in 2004. The team had finished in the bottom five in the league in ERA every year since 1997. But it was catching and third base they needed, right? So that's what Allard insisted on.
He asked the Angels about Dallas McPherson and the Mets about David Wright, but both teams balked at trading those young prospects. The Red Sox were quite interested in Beltran and offered a package of Kevin Youkilis and Kelly Shoppach. The Yankees were also quite interested and offered a package of Dioner Navarro and Robinson Cano, who they showcased at third base. Neither of those packages garnered enough interest in Allard. It was actually Athletics General Manager Billy Beane's need for a closer that got trade talks going between the A's, Royals and the Houston Astros. On June 24, the Royals finally consummated a deal that sent Beltran to the Astros, Houston closer Octavio Dotel to the A's, and third baseman Mark Teahen, Astros minor league catcher John Buck and A's minor league pitcher Mike Wood to the Royals.
"Any baseball person who's seen him enough knows he's going to be a solid major-league player. I think he's got a chance to hit 25 home runs, have a good on-base percentage and hit between .290 and .300."
-Royals General Manager Allard Baird
Win Shares of Possible Beltran Deals
New York Yankees
2005 - 12
2006 - 18
2007 - 21
Total - 51
2005 - 4
2006 - 3
2007 - 6
Total - 13
Boston Red Sox
2004 - 8
2005 - 3
2006 - 22
2007 - 20
Total - 53
2004 - 3
2007 - 7
Total - 10
Oakland Athletics/Houston Astros
2005 - 10
2006 - 19
2007 - 16
Total - 45
2004 - 4
2005 - 9
2006 - 10
2007 - 8
Total - 31
The Teahen/Buck duo produces 76 Win Shares, with Cano/Navarro edging out Youkilis/Shoppach 64 to 63. This is pretty simplistic however, and does not take into account the player projections going forward. If I had to rank the players I'd most want now, I'd rank them (1) Youkilis, (2) Cano, (3) Teahen, (4) Buck, (5) Navarro, (6) Shoppach. The Royals got the two mediocre players. Not great, not awful, but serviceable. I guess that would be seen as an improvement for where the Royals were coming from.
The bigger question is why a franchise in as bad a situation as the Royals felt they only needed to address two holes? Why did Allard box himself into getting a third baseman and catcher when there were so many glaring needs in the organization? That was the biggest mistake in the Beltran deal, in my opinion.
Which is not to say Mark Teahen and John Buck were a terrible haul for three months of Beltran. The Royals could have done much worse. Trouble is, low-revenue franchises like the Royals really need to hit home runs on such deals. And the Royals hit a solid single - maybe a stand up double.
Teahen was supposed to begin 2005 in Omaha, but when a wrist injury sidelined stop-gap solution Chris Truby, Teahen made the Opening Day lineup. Teahen struggled on defense and suffered a viral infection and back injury early in the season. Just two weeks into his MLB career, he was on the disabled list. When he returned, he failed to hit for much power and ended the season with a disappointing .246 average in 130 games. He slugged .376 with just seven home runs. Even more disappointing was his much anticipated defense. Highly touted as a glove man in the minors, Teahen was by many defensive metrics, the worst defensive third baseman in the league in 2005.
Mark was even worse to start off 2006. By early May he was hitting .195 with a strikeout per game when the Royals finally demoted him to Omaha.
The Royals aren't just bad, they're infuriating. John Buck - a key element in the Carlos Beltran trade - actually had a passed ball on a pitchout the other day. First time I've seen that one. And it reminds you that the Beltran trade, looking back, was the death knell for this organization. The Royals had one great player to trade, one of the best players in the game, and in exchange they got Buck, Mark Teahen and Mike Wood.
A baseball executive e-mailed me that day to say the trade was a fiasco, a breathtakingly dumb move by general manager Allard Baird. I held out hope that the executive was wrong. He wasn't wrong. To this point, Buck and Teahen - the two key elements to the deal - are hitting a combined .190 with three times more errors than home runs.
Teahen went on a tear in Omaha, hitting .380 with fourteen extra-base hits in twenty-four games. The Royals recalled him in June and he hit over .300 in each of the next three months. He was torrid in July hitting seven home runs, seventeen extra-base hits, slugging .692, and collecting 25 RBI. After his June call-up, Teahen hit .313/.376/.557 with sixteen home runs in just 86 games. He missed the last three weeks of the season with a shoulder injury, but Teahen compiled very solid numbers for the season with a .290/.357/.517 line, and a team high eighteen home runs.
With first round pick Alex Gordon ready for the big leagues at third base, the Royals asked Teahen to make the switch to the outfield for 2007. They were counting on him for middle-of-the-order run production. He went on a tear in May, hitting .305/.392/.486 and it looked like the Royals had a solid hitter in their lineup. Teahen would hit just fifteen extra-base hits over June and July, including a 250 at-bat home run drought. He would end the season slugging just .410, although he did sport a healthy .353 on-base percentage, tops on the team. He also managed to play right field competently, even impressing at times with his rifle arm.
Teahen has again emerged to a slow start in the power department in 2008. It is becoming clear that this season is a crucial one for Teahen, one in which he must make progress, or else he will find himself on the bench, or in another uniform. Mark is a likeable guy, a goofball in the clubhouse, a "heads-up" player with great baseball skills, a decent fielder, an excellent base-runner, and a solid hitter with good plate discipline. He has enough skills that some team should be able to find a good use for him. I'm just not sure it is Kansas City.