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Royals That Might Be Traded: Wilson Betemit

By know, most of you know the story of Wilson Betemit as a Royal. Dayton Moore signed him to a cheap minor-league contract, he wasn't hitting particularly well but was called up anyways, and has hit pretty well for the Royals since his call up. He is now banished to hell the Royals bench because Moore called up top prospect Mike Moustakas. Still, Betemit is a switch-hitter who allegedly can play multiple infield positions, so theoretically he should have some trade value.

Betemit has been almost exactly a league average hitter this season. His triple slash line is .286/.343/.407, which gives him a wRC+ of 101 (league average is 100). The slugging percentage is keeping Betemit from being better than league average; his HR/FB ratio is the worst it has been in a season where he has more than 50 AB, and is 10% lower than the HR/FB ratio he had last season. In spite of this lack of power, Betemit has a wOBA (which takes baserunning into account) of .325, and only six teams in the MLB are getting a wOBA greater than .325 from their third basemen. Amazingly, three of those teams are already out of contention (Orioles, Mets, and Cubs). So there could be many teams interested in Betemit's services.

The problem with Betemit is that he doesn't play anymore, he only has 210 PA on the season (Eric Hosmer has 202), and he is currently playing once or twice a week because of Mike Moustakas. Not only does Betemit not play consistently anymore, he is not a great defender. His UZR for the season in -3.8, and last season it was       -12.7. While there are sample size issues, I can't imagine anyone arguing he isn't a below average defender at third base; the question is how below average do you think he is. These factors have resulted in Betemit only being worth .4 WAR this season, which means he has been worth around two million dollars to the Royals. The Royals are paying Wilson one million dollars this season, so he has generated an extra 1.5 million dollars in excess value halfway through the season.

Since Betemit has only been worth 1.5 million excess dollars to the Royals halfway through this season, we can only project that he will be worth 1.5 million excess dollars in the second half of the season. Theoretically, he would have generated more WAR if he would have played more this season. Other teams, however, most likely will not buy into the theoretical. They will see how Betemit has performed for the Royals this season, use that to project how he will perform for them and then make an offer accordingly. According to Victor Wang's research, 1.5 million dollars is equivalent to a Grade C pitcher 23 years or older. In the Royals farm system, this could be anyone from Kevin Pucetas to Justin Marks. So Betemit by himself will likely have very little trade value.

In theory, contenders are willing to overpay for wins because they are more important to the contenders, especially as the season continues. While this makes sense, it normally does not mean they will drastically overpay. The Royals likely hurt themselves by calling up Moustakas and benching Betemit. Since he doesn't play anymore, the Royals have no value for him on the team. Since the Royals don't need him, their leverage has been damaged, which could easily cancel out the benefit of trading Betemit at the trade deadline to a contender.

Other players similar to Betemit have been traded, and the results back-up Victor Wang's research. In 2009, Jack Hanrahan was traded from the Mariners to the A's for Justin Souza, who is currently a 26 year-old reliever in AAA. Hanrahan gets most of his value from his defense, but his WAR over a full season in 2009 is 1.0, which is what we would currently project out of Betemit. In 2007, the Astros traded for Ty Wigginton and sent back reliever Dan Wheeler, who has accumulated 4.5 WAR his 12 seasons, which includes 2.5 WAR in 2005-2006 for the Astros. So the Royals could possibly get a reliever who is essentially replacement level,  a veteran to "stabilize" a bullpen full of young kids.

I have been frustrated with how the Royals have handled Betemit this season. I think it was foolish for the Royals to have called up Moustakas before trading Betemit because they currently could be building up his trade value, especially at a position that is very weak traditionally and currently. The Indians were able to land Chris Perez for Mark DeRosa in 2009, and Ned Colletti needed Casey Blake so bad that he was willing to give the Indians Carlos Santana. While the Santana deal is way out of reach, if the Royals had given Betemit consistent playing time, he could have accumulated as much WAR as DeRosa did in a half season (around 1 win). This would give the Royals a better chance of trading for someone useful instead of the likely organizational filler that Betemit will probably net. There is still a chance Betemit could be traded for a quality player. Buster Onley tweeted that lots of scouts are watching Betemit play, which that implies a lot of teams are interested in his services. If a lot of teams are interested, someone may get in a bidding war and drive up his price, but I doubt his value will skyrocket while sitting on the bench. If Betemit was playing third base everyday, I would feel much more optimistic about what kind of trade value he would have. As the situation is now, however, I would be shocked if Wilson was traded for anything other than a couple of C, maybe one C+ minor league pitcher.