With the MLB Non-Waiver Trade Deadline fast approaching (Monday, July 31st at 4:00 pm Eastern time), there are numerous rumors and predictions being tossed around. Baseball fans love rumors; they provide something to talk about. I, however, prefer to re-evaluate trades that have happened in the recent past, using hindsight to provide clarity on how well each team truly made out in the deal. Since prospects are such a major part of trades in the MLB, it often takes a few years to really determine if a trade was worthwhile. Therefore, I have gone back to the 2012 and 2013 trade deadlines and have handpicked three deals that I believe are worth revisiting.
What I specifically looked for when reviewing prior trade deadlines was whether or not deals were made that yielded a prospect return that ultimately turned out to be a bust (or close to it). I then checked to see if there were prospects available in the buying teams’ farm system that could have made for a much greater return had they been substituted into the deal. In doing this exercise, I am not necessarily claiming that the selling team made a mistake, I am simply outlining what could have been. Since I received some push-back in my last post about a few questions/what-ifs that I presented, I will repeat myself here: these are not necessarily “mistakes,” they simply provide a fun exercise to imagine a scenario that could have altered the course of MLB history. Of course if a 2012 team received a then consensus top-50 league prospect, it is hard to question their motive for making the trade. Additionally, I will only be looking at direct cause and effects, I will not try to interpret the ripple effects of each deal. For example, there will be no ‘if team A had traded for player X from team B in 2014, then team C would not have traded for Player X in 2015 and therefore would not have won the 2015 World Series, allowing them a better draft pick in 2016 which they could have used to draft player Y in the blah blah blah…’ It can also be difficult to mix and match various prospect rankings across sites and seasons, so I will focus primarily on the Baseball America preseason rankings for the year of the examined trade. Lastly, I will provide each player’s career fWAR in parenthesis next to their names for comparison’s sake.
Those are the rules. Feedback and criticism is expected and invited, but please make any responses worthwhile. Thank you for reading!
July 23rd, 2012
Summary of Prospects that moved:
- RHP Jacob Turner (-0.3 fWAR) – 22nd in preseason Top-100
- C Rob Brantly (-0.5) – 7th in Tigers’ Top-10
- RHP Brian Flynn (0.0) – outside Tigers’ Top-10
Other names in 2012 Tiger’s Farm System:
- 3B Nick Castellanos (1.8) – 45th in preseason Top-100
- LHP Drew Smyly (8.6)- 3rd in Tigers’ Top-10
- C James McCann (2.7) – 9th in Tigers’ Top-10
- OF Avisail Garcia (0.9) – 10th in Tigers’ Top-10
- OF Tyler Collins (0.5) – outside Tigers’ Top-10
- SS Eugenio Suarez (5.0) – outside Tigers’ Top-10
A big swing and a miss for the Marlins in this deal. Jacob Turner was the consensus top prospect in the Detroit farm which makes it difficult to question, but he turned out to be a major bust. Miami could have received one of any player listed above and they alone would have provided more value than what they actually received in the deal. Most notably, a similar package to the one Miami received that would have resulted in considerably more future value could consist of Drew Smyly, James McCann, and Brian Flynn. If you want to get a bit more creative, then you could try to create a deal in which the Marlins received Nick Castellanos, though they likely wanted a pitcher as part of the return for Sanchez and a Castellanos/Smyly deal seems like a steep asking price based on the actual agreement. Ultimately, while Sanchez’s current contract with Detroit looks bad, I can say with confidence that the Tigers still received the better end of deal.
August 25th, 2012
The Boston Red Sox send 1B Adrian Gonzalez, OF Carl Crawford, RHP Josh Beckett, INF Nick Punto and about $11 million in cash to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for 1B James Loney, RHP Allen Webster, RHP Rubby de la Rosa, 1B/OF Jerry Sands, and 2B Ivan De Jesus
Summary of Prospects that moved:
- RHP Allen Webster (-1.0) – 95th in preseason Top-100
- RHP Rubby de la Rosa (1.8) – 90th in 2011 Top-100 (fell off of 2012 rankings after August, 2011 TJ surgery)
- 1B/OF Jerry Sands (0.1) – 6th in 2011 Dodgers’ Top-10 (exceeded rookie limits during 2011 season)
- 2B Ivan De Jesus (-0.4) – outside Dodgers’ Top-10
Other names in 2012 Dodger’s Farm System:
- RHP Nate Eovaldi (9.3) – 96th in preseason Top-100
- OF Joc Pederson (7.5) – 9th in Dodgers’ Top-10
- OF Yasiel Puig (13.6) – signed by LAD on 6/29 for $42m over 7-years
- 3B/SS Cory Seager (12.9) – 18th overall pick in 2012 Amateur Draft
- OF Scott Van Slyke (4.0) – outside Dodgers’ Top-10
After their 2011 September collapse, the Boston Red Sox found themselves trying to shed salary and rebuild a broken clubhouse that was yielding a losing season despite immense amounts of talent. Luckily, the team was able to hit the reset button with this blockbuster, which actually took place in August after the Non-waiver Trade Deadline had passed (all players had to clear waivers in order to be dealt). Boston managed to shed over a quarter-billion dollars in this mega-deal with the LA Dodgers, receiving a package of James Loney and four prospects in return for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto. Of the four prospects, three had appeared on Baseball America’s top prospects list over the course of the two seasons prior; but they have accumulated just a 0.5 career fWAR combined to this point in their careers (1.8 of which has come from de la Rosa). The fund doesn’t stop there: at the time of the deal, the Dodgers had five players who have since combined 47.3 WAR! Even a name as unexciting as Scott Van Slyke could have mad for a valuable bench piece. At the top end, the Dodgers had just drafted a franchise SS in Corey Seager. There is reason to believe that neither Seager nor Puig were being made available by L.A., but it is still hard to believe that Boston couldn’t have snagged at least one name on that list. Of course, using the monetary flexibility gained from this trade, the Red Sox were able to make some smart signings en route to a 2013 World Series title, putting the 2012 season in the rearview mirror.
July 22nd, 2013
Summary of Prospects that moved:
- 3B/1B Mike Olt (-1.8) – 22nd in B.A. 2012 preseason Top-100
- RHP Justin Grimm (2.1) – 5th in Rangers’ preseason Top-10
- RHP Carl Edwards Jr. (1.1) – outside Rangers’ Top-10
- RHP Neil Ramirez (0.2) – outside Rangers’ Top-10
Other names in 2013 Ranger’s Farm System:
- IF Jurickson Profar (-0.2) – 1st in preseason Top-100
- LHP Martin Perez (7.1) – 81st in preseason Top-100
- OF Leonys Martin (8.6) – 97th in preseason Top-100
- C/1B Jorge Alfaro (-0.2) – 9th in Rangers’ preseason Top-10
- 3B Joey Gallo (2.4) – 10th in Rangers’ preseason Top-10
- OF Lewis Brinson (-0.3) – 29th overall pick in 2012 Amateur Draft
- 2B Rougned Odor (5.0) – outside Rangers’ Top-10
- OF Nomar Mazara (1.8) – outside Rangers’ Top-10
Of the three trade discussed in this article, it is this one that has the least to second-guess. At the time of the deal, Garza was in a contract year and still managed to yield the Cubs a top-50 prospect in Mike Olt. Additionally, Edwards and Grimm have turned into useful albeit unspectacular bullpen pieces. It is unreasonable to be disappointed with any deal that involves trading a rental for two MLB bullpen pieces. Looking at other names that were potentially available, however, it is intriguing to wonder what could have been. Of the ones listed above, Profar has been a disappointment while Alfaro and Brinson are yet to really reach the majors full time. The other five though would be nice additions to any team. Somebody as simple as Martin Perez would have provided the Cubs with a decent left-handed starter to round out a rotation. Regardless, nobody is complaining about the championship core that the team currently fields, and Epstein has been among the best in baseball at recognizing both talent AND clubhouse fits. If the formula isn’t broken, then don’t fix it!