Casey Kotchman was an organizational guy in Anaheim. Read Rev Halofan's review of the trade and it seems like a tearful eulogy of a player who was born into the organization, and then pried from its arms like some Janet Reno-esque raid. Rev relays this memory of Kotchman, "...loved hearing the stories about him taking BP with Garret in the minor leagues instead of doing his 4th grade homework..." I'm guessing that is Garret Anderson, who has been around the Angels long enough to have been playing for the team when Kotchman was a youngster.
Despite all the logic of not liking a player who was underperforming this year for a playoff-bound team, the Angels' fans seem pretty heartbroken with the loss of Kotchman -- like our seperation anxiety after the Justice and Betemit trades.
There was a good point (in the Braves' favor) made by Kevin Goldstein on the Baseball Prospectus Trade Blog about our acquisition of Kotchman:
...take a look at the Braves system (No 1B, other than Freddie Freeman, who's in Low-A), then take a look at the free agent market (no first basemen). Go one more year out to the next free agent market (no first baseman). The Braves really needed something to replace Teix in the deal.
That take is one that sums up the win for the Braves in this deal. Yes, the Angels also get a win, but Atlanta gets a more definite win beyond this season. Kotchman is someone who should be able to provide good production at first while giving the Braves excellent defense (something Atlanta highly values).
The downside of the acquisition of Kotchman is that we acquire yet another player who is underperforming. Many around the team have pointed to Kotchman as having "potential" and "upside," but his numbers this year are down from last year, so our "hope" is that he returns to his 2007 form and even exceeds that production. Add Kotchman to the other Braves who occupy key spots on the Braves lineup and who are underperformed this year -- Jeff Francoeur, Kelly Johnson, anyone in left field -- even Yunel Escobar's numbers are down from last year (but that could be mainly due to injury).
Can this team sustain a winning tradition with at least four positions of questionable offensive production going into next year?
For a scout's opinion on Casey Kotchman, we turn to independent baseball scout Deric McKamey. We heard from Deric at the start of the season when I interviewed him about the Braves farm system. After the Kotchman trade I asked him to give me his opinion of Casey and his development as a player, and here is his analysis:
Kotchman has been slow to develop, partly due to assorted injuries at the beginning of his career, but has turned-out to be an outstanding player. He has excellent bat speed and a high finish, which should produce home runs, but can get too much topspin on his hits, limiting his over-the-fence power. His strike zone judgment and contact rate are solid, so should always hit for a consistent batting average. He is a standout defender, showing good range and the ability to scoop low throws. I was incredibly high on him and thought his overall offense would be better than what it is now, as I originally pegged him to have Jason Giambi (in his prime) numbers, but he produces enough to be an asset in the lineup.
While this was a good review of Kotchman, I think it just adds to the confusion about what kind of player he could turn out to be -- his potential is anything from a four-A first baseman to an above average All-Star caliber first baseman.
At this point all we know for sure is that we got a warm body to play good defense at first base. What kind of production we will get from Kotchman is a big unknown, but the "hope" is that it will be above average.
The Braves should plan on average or slightly above average offensive production from Kotch, and that should spur the team to go out and get that big bat to put in left field in the off-season -- and that is the going to be one of the big keys to this team next season.
The team we have now is filled with good role players and two to three impact players, but it is not filled with the depth of proven talent and consistent production that will be needed to be competative in any division, let alone the post-season. If Casey Kotchman was all we could get for Teixeira, then I'm glad we at least got somebody who has potential (in lieu of the Chad Tracey's of the world). This off-season and the money we will have available and who we will spend it on will be critical to the Braves' success in 2009. Kotch may be a good first step, but there's a whole lot more work to be done.