Thursday, July 25, 2013

Trade Deadlines Trades Reviewed

As we near July 31st, baseball fans are worked into a frenzy as the trade deadline nears. Listening to Chicago's 670 The Score like I do, I have the privilege of hearing about TWO bad teams that are definitely sellers, which got me to thinking--how often DO these big trades work out? I decided to check all trades from 2000-2012 using data from Pro Sports Transactions. I only looked at trades between July 20th-July 31st of a given year, since I was looking for deadline trades. I'll go by year, starting with 2012.

2012--106 players moved
The BIGGEST trade was between the Blue Jays and Astros with 10 players switching teams, the big name being J.A. Happ going from the Astros to Blue Jays--whatever. Other important deals resulted in Wandy Rodriguez going from the Astros to Pirates and Anibal Sanchez from the Marlins to the Tigers, and both of those trades turned out well for the acquiring teams, but Rodriguez hasn't pitched since June 5th. 

It's too early to evaluate any trade from 2012 even though some of the players have reached the majors--Robbie Grossman for the Astros, Jacob Turner for the Marlins, but there's already one team that will come to regret a deal they made for years to come--the Angels, who acquired Zack Greinke from the Brewers and gave up three minor league players, one of whom was Jean Segura. With the year Erick Aybar is having, the Angels could have used Segura this year, and Greinke either didn't sign or was allowed to go to the Dodgers in the offseason. I'm not saying I want to pay Greinke the money he's going to get ($128 million through 2018), but I'll guarantee the Angels wish they had Segura now because they essentially traded him for NOTHING.

2011--109 players moved
The trade that jumps out at me is from an organization I've come to expect makes no mistakes. The Cardinals acquired Edwin Jackson and three other players from the Blue Jays and gave up four players, one of which was Colby Rasmus. They had half a season to evaluate him and Jon Jay in center field, both of whom put up similiar offensive numbers. The Cardinals decided to stick with Jay, who appears to have stopped hitting for power as soon as the trade was completed. Rasmus is one of the best young center fielders in the game today.

I was at a Brewers/Astros game in Milwaukee on Friday, July 29th, 2011. It was tied 0-0 when Hunter Pence was removed from the game after the 5th inning. I was surprised until I got back to my hotel room and saw that he had been traded to the Phillies. He had very solid production (.324 BA, .954 OPS) as the Phillies made the playoffs. Of the four players the Astros received, only Jarred Cosart has played in the majors. The acquired became the traded in 2012 as Pence moved to another contender in the Giants. Who knows what 2013 will bring?

The other big trade was Michael Bourn going from the Astros to Braves. The players the Astros received have all been underwhelming and not part of their current youth movement. Consider that--two valuable pieces traded for a total of eight prospects, none of whom have amounted to anything yet. It's one thing to acquire prospects, but totally another for them to have value. No wonder the Astros are where they are--they traded what talent they had and received nothing in return.

2010--106 players moved
The big trade featured the Angels again, acquiring Dan Haren from the Diamondbacks in exchange for Joe Saunders, another player and a couple of minor leaguers--Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin--that's right, in two years the Angels got rid of Patrick Corbin and Jean Segura. I freely admit that hindsight is 20/20, but this is stunning.
The Indians sent Jhonny Peralta to the Tigers for a minor league player. Peralta has been a solid shortstop for the Tigers while the Indians are using Asdrubal Cabrera at short, who's delivering about $10 million less in value this year than Peralta, according to FanGraphs. I wonder who they wish they had at short now, particularly as they battle the Tigers for a playoff spot?

The Astros traded Roy Oswalt to the Phillies for the aforementioned J.A. Happ, Anthony Gose and Jonathan Villar. Happ was part of that 2012 Blue Jay trade that eventually produced, well, nothing so far, Gose was flipped the same day for Brett Wallace and Villar is just starting to play. From 2001-2010 Oswalt had the third-most wins (behind CC Sabathia and Roy Halladay), and that's all the Astros could get for him.

The Cubs sent both Ryan Theriot and Ted Lilly to the Dodgers and received Blake DeWitt and two players that didn't pan out. In essence, they gave away two major leaguers for one sub no longer in the majors. It was a classic move by the old Jim Hendry regime, one that is completely different today with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

The White Sox dealt Daniel Hudson to the Diamondbacks for Edwin Jackson. This looked like a very bad deal initially as Hudson had a very good 2011 while Jackson continued his quest to pitch for every major league team, but Hudson hasn't pitched since last June. He's young and could absolutely bounce back, but if he doesn't, what could have been a terrible trade will be forgotten.

Before I move on, take a moment to reflect on the trades I've mentioned--in my mind, these are the BIG deals of the year, and how many big names have there been? Two hot prospects so far (Segura and Corbin), and how many of the acquired players helped their teams like Hunter Pence did? Not many, suggesting maybe, just maybe, the trade deadline might be, I don't know, HYPED? Just think about it.

2009--72 players moved
At the end of 2008 the A's made a very un-Billy Beane-like move and traded for Matt Holliday. Beane has to kick himself daily over that deal as he gave up Huston Street, Carlos Gonzalez and another player--quite a haul for a player the A's kept for only half a year. They traded him to the Cardinals for Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen and Shane Peterson, so they essentially gave up Gonzalez and Street for these guys. Don't tell White Sox TV announcer Ken Harrelson or he'll never stop talking about it. Up until this year, Holliday has been a key part of the Cardinals success, so it was a very good deal for them.

Cliff Lee was traded by the Indians to the Phillies in return for Lou Marson and three other players, essentially nothing. The Reds made what was considered an odd trade at the time (they were around 10 games under .500) and received Scott Rolen in exchange for Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke and Zack Stewart. Rolen was important as the Reds made the playoffs in 2010, but he hasn't played so far this year and is essentially finished, whereas Encarnacion has the third-most home runs since the beginning of 2012 (behind Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis). The Reds don't seem to be missing Rolen much, but I'm sure they wouldn't mind having Encarnacion.

The White Sox acquired Jake Peavy in exchange for Clayton Richard and three other players. It looked like a bad deal for the Sox initially as Peavy had injury issues and Richard showed flashes of brilliance, but Chicago may indeed get the last laugh if they're able to trade Peavy and get something in return. However, as we progress through these trades, that appears to be difficult.

2008--47 players moved
The Dodgers acquired Casey Blake and gave up two players, one of whom was Carlos Santana. Oye como va ("How's it going"), Dodgers? The Angels acquired Mark Teixeira from the Braves for Casey Kotchman and another player. Jason Bay went to the Red Sox in a three-team deal that involved Andy LaRoche and Manny Ramirez, with Ramirez helping the Dodgers make the playoffs. Other than that, a very quiet trade season.

2007--58 players moved
There was one trade of interest, a big one that saw the Rangers trade Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay to the Braves for five players, among them Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Both Andrus and Harrison are having down years this year but were solid contributors to the Rangers success in 2011 and 2012.

These are the trades that piqued my interest from 2000-2006:
2006--Indians trade Ben Broussard to the Mariners and receive Shin-Soo Choo
2006--the Rangers trade four players to the Brewers for Carlos Lee...and Nelson Cruz
2006--the Yankees received Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle from the Phillies for essentially nothing
2004--Mets receive Victor Zambrano and another player from Rays for Scott Kazmir and another player
2004--Yankees received Estaban Loiaza from the White Sox for Jose Contreras. Contreras was a very important part of the Sox 2005 World Series championship.
2003--Cubs received Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramirez from the Pirates for essentially nothing
2003--the A's received Jose Guillen from the Reds and gave up Aaron Harang and two other players
2000--the White Sox received Harold Baines and Charles Johnson from the Orioles for four players

From 2000-2012, 828 players changed hands, of which very few went on to great success or caused their teams distress over parting with them. It's a different day from when Jeff Bagwell was traded from the Red Sox to Astros for Larry Andersen--teams have a much better idea of not only their own talent, but other team's talent as well. A new emphasis on growth from within vs. looking for talent elsewhere is spreading across baseball, and the jewels of farm systems (unless it's the Angels) will be protected. When the Collective Bargaining Agreement gives teams six years of control over a player at reasonable money (three years at roughly the Major League minimum, three years of arbitration), why move them when there's an extended window to see what they'll become? That's why the chatter over the trade deadline is about 20 years too late--it reflects an era that no longer exists. Just to see, I'll go further back and see:
1998--Randy Johnson goes from the Mariners to Astros for Carlos Guillen, Freddy Garcia and John Halama (as a player to be named later)
1997--The A's traded Mark McGwire to the Cardinals for T.J. Mathews and a couple of stiffs
1997--the famous White Sox White Flag trade, in which 9 players changed hands between the Sox and Giants, the notables being Keith Foulke and Mike Caruso going to the Sox and the Giants receiving Roberto Hernandez and Wilson Alvarez. Notable more for the notoriety it gave the trade deadline than the quality of the players themselves.
1996--the Tigers traded Cecil Fielder to the Yankees for Ruben Sierra and another player. Fielder and Sierra were washed up by then.

Don't believe the hype.

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