So often in trade discussions, fans seem to fall into one extreme camp or the other. You hear these folks all day calling in to local talk radio shows offering packages that can be categorized one of two ways. The first group of fans want to trade for Roy Halladay offering some variation of Melky, IPK, Kei Igawa and Shelly Duncan.
The second group bends over backwards not to look like the former, and offers Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Jesus Montero, A-Jax, their mother, their first born son and Colonel Sander’s secret fried chicken recipe for Halladay. Plus they’ll gladly take back Vernon Wells’ deal, since its only money.
So what’s a fair deal for an ace pitcher? What does the marketplace tell us they’re worth? To get some idea, let’s take a look back at previous trades made for top starters in recent years. The ones that are further back give us the best idea, since the prospects involved have likely reached their respective ceilings by now. But all of these deals tell us something about what makes for the framework of a deal. I’ll start from the most recent, and go backwards:
July 7, 2008: Traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Milwaukee Brewers for Matt LaPorta (minors), Rob Bryson (minors) and Zach Jackson. The Milwaukee Brewers sent Michael Brantley (minors) (October 3, 2008) to the Cleveland Indians to complete the trade.
Analysis Weird Science divx -MIL gave up a lot for 3 months of Carsten Charles, but he was an absolute godsend that re-energized the franchise in a way they hadn’t seen in a generation. MIL made the playoffs for the first time in 26 years carried on CC’s back. The excitement they generated in Milwaukee likely created a new generation of baseball fans in that town, so this trade will pay dividends for years to come. LaPorta was blocked at his position by Prince Fielder, so he was expendable. Matt LaPorta is destroying AAA, despite struggling in limited action in the bigs.
Verdict: Too soon to tell, call it even.
Analysis: Many GMs thought Seattle’s Bill Bavasi overpaid by a lot at the time, and they were proven right. Bedard was hurt for most of 2008, the Mariners made this trade as a win-now deal and wound up with a disastrous 61-101 record for the season. For the O’s, Sherrill was plugged in as their closer, Adam Jones is a budding star and Tillman is coming along nicely in AAA.
Verdict: Big win for O’s GM Larry McPhail. Bavasi was fired.
Analysis-Rookie Twins GM Bill Smith overplayed his hand badly. He had a far better offer from the Yanks, the Red Sox were never serious, and he waited too long and the market collapsed. He would up taking a paltry package from the Mets, since they were the only bidder left. Santana’s contract demands limited the number of bidders from the outset. Adding insult to injury, the Twins missed the playoffs by losing a ‘play-in game’ to the White Sox, so they would have been better off keeping Johan and taking the draft picks.
Verdict: Big win for Omar Minaya.
December 14, 2007: Traded by the Oakland Athletics with Connor Robertson Lesbian Vampire Killers rip to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Brett Anderson (minors), Chris Carter (minors), Aaron Cunningham, Dana Eveland, Carlos Gonzalez and Greg Smith.
Analysis-Quantity over quality for Beane, who really should have done well with Haren considering his long deal at cheap money. He did manage to flip some of the pieces to make other deals (Greg Smith+Carlos Gonzalez for Matt Holiday) as did Arizona (Connor Robertson for Scott Schoeneweis) But outside of Brett Anderson, most of these guys are cup of coffee major leaguers. Even if Anderson reaches his very high ceiling, that’s mostly luck on the part of Beane in this deal. Brett was in high-A when the A’s traded for him and was high ceiling filler, not the centerpiece of the deal. The guys he was really after were Gonzalez and Eveland, and both disappointed.
Verdict: Big win for Arizona.
Analysis Five Children and It dvd -Mike Piazza’s best buddy Guillermo Mota was added to the deal after Boston didn’t like Beckett’s physicals. Peter Gammons was quoted at the time saying Red Sox officials referred to Beckett’s shoulder looking like “Chopmeat”. 3 1/2 years later, Beckett is still the ace of the Red Sox staff and has been a brilliant post season performer. Boston GM Theo Epstien was dead set against the deal from the start, but was overruled by team pres Larry Lucchino. Hanley Ramirez was the key to this deal for FLA. Anibel Sanchez is promising, but has been unable to stay healthy. Lowell has been a pleasant surprise for Boston, and a key contributor to the Sox’s recent success. Should be noted that the Sox have been looking for a SS since this deal.
Verdict: Even. Both sides got what they wanted. BOS got a championship lead by Beckett and Lowell. FLA got the best SS in baseball and a good year out of Sanchez.
Analysis-If A’s GM Billy Beane ever does a sequel to Moneyball, I’m sure he’d like to skip over this one. He traded a top flight starter for a reliever in Juan Cruz with an electric arm and little control. In his one year with the A’s in 05, Cruz spent over 2 months on the DL and had the worst season of his career. Beane flipped Cruz the following year for “the Admiral” Brad Halsey, who was even worse. The rest of the package isn’t worth discussing from Oakland’s standpoint.
Verdict-Big win for Braves GM John Schuerholz, despite Hudson’s recent injuries.
Analysis-A’s GM Billy Beane kicked off his dismantling of the A’s rotation with this deal, and it was a good one. Dan Haren became the ace of their staff, Kiko Calero a nice bullpen piece and one year wonder Daric Barton gave them added value. Mulder gave the Cards one good season in 05, 1/2 a bad season in 06 and pretty much nothing afterwards. The Cardinals would have been far better off had they not made this deal. For more detail on this deal, check out this BTB article
Verdict-Big win for Beane.
So in concluding, the framework of a deal seems to include one top flight minor leaguer, surrounded by filler of various levels of floors and ceilings. Including more than that can contribute to getting you fired, just ask Bill Bavasi. A GM will do well if he brings back a good everyday player for a top flight pitcher, as many of the GM’s trading these pitchers failed to do so.
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