Saturday, May 30, 2009

Trade Review, Part 1

I was asked to take a look back at some of the trades that have gone through this season. In each case, I'm going to do a little analysis of why I think it made sense (or not) for the teams involved.

I'll try to do something once a week or so, just covering the more significant deals. (Sorry to those hoping for an in-depth breakdown of Henry Bailey for Eddie Milton.)

Hopefully this helps some of the newer players have a better understanding of why people make certain deals, and what to look out for when they make their own trades in the future.

Burlington trades Johnny Stroud and Pedro Osuna to the NY Burros for Eugene Buckley

Why it makes sense for Burlington: The Ice Storm finished with just 802 runs in season 11, placing them 14th out of the 16 teams in the AL. The team's ERA was 5th in the league, so there wasn't much question what needed to be improved. Stroud is a slugging 2B who posted 36 HR in a slight pitchers' park in season 11, a solid OBP guy (career numbers around .350) and one of the better all-around players in the league. Osuna's glove isn't as good as Stroud's, but he can rake as well. He posted 37, 36, 35 and 40 HR in his first four ML seasons, all in a slight pitchers' park. You can pretty much just pencil him in for a .300/.370/.550 (BA/OBP/SLG) every season. Both players are still young, with Stroud making the minimum and Osuna in just his first year of arbitration-eligibility. Both figure to anchor the Ice Storm's lineup for many years to come.
Why it makes sense for the NY Burros: The Burros have lived on their starting pitching for basically the entire history of the franchise, and Buckley seems like he'll fit in very nicely in their rotation in a few years. His stamina, control, splits and top two pitches all say "future ace." The Burros haven't ever had a top-15 pick in the draft, meaning they often have to land their top SP via trade or IFA. The steep price the Burros paid for Buckley gives you a pretty good indication how much they value a front-line SP.
And the winner is...: No one really "won" this trade. NY gave up an awful lot to get Buckley, but sometime around season 16, they'll be happy to have him. There's no question that Burlington markedly improved their team as well.

NY Bombers trade Wilson Marshall to Chicago Ballbusters for Alan Benes

Why it makes sense for the Ballbusters: Marshall's control, splits and pitch ratings all mean he's still a useful ML pitcher, regardless of what his 7.29 ERA in season 11 might suggest. His contract expires after season 12, meaning Chicago won't be stuck with a long deal for a declining player.

Why it makes sense for the Bombers: This played out as a pure salary dump. The Bombers cut Benes (who was eligible for arbitration) just hours after the deal went through. The trade saved them $4.8M this season, which they hoped to use to land a front-line FA pitcher on the open market. Benes is still a free agent -- his numbers are okay, but he'll never be more than a backup IF on a good team.

And the winner is...: This one benefitted both teams to some degree as well, although the benefit to the Bombers was lessened greatly by the fact that they were not able to parlay that extra cash into signing either of the premier SP on the free agent market this off-season. Marshall has been good for Chicago, but I don't think the Bombers are losing any sleep over his departure.

San Juan trades Tony Jacquez to Toledo for Jimmie Eusebio.

Why it makes sense for the Sixburghs: They add a 25-year-old starting pitcher with a proven track record, who is locked up for four years at the relatively inexpensive price of $5.9M per season.

Why it makes sense for the Holy: This was kind of a curious trade for Toledo. They gave up a pretty good, young SP and got back a guy with a similar contract (3 years @ $5.8M vs. 4 years @ $5.9M) who mostly plays the corner OF spots and doesn't get on base all that well (.316 and .328 OBP the previous two seasons). Jacquez hits for power (33, 31, 27 HR the previous three seasons) but isn't a defensive wizard or a great base-runner. The trade cleared one year of salary off of their books, but that was about it.

And the winner is...: At the time, I would have graded this one as a knockout for San Juan. Eusebio is never going to be an ace, but he's a good, solid #3 starter who's going to continue to be solid throughout his contract. The replacement level on SP is much, much lower than at the corner OF spots (it's easier to sign a corner OF for the minimum who could approximate Jacquez's numbers than it would be to sign a SP for the minimum to approximate Eusebio's). Thusfar this season, Jacquez has played significantly better than his career numbers would suggest and Eusebio has played significantly worse. Still this seems like a deal Toledo might like to have back.

Louisville trades Max Leary and Nolan Webber to Milwaukee for Rolando James

Why it makes sense for Louisville: James is a below-average defensive catcher, but makes up for it with a superb bat. His contact, power, VL and batting eye are all all-star-caliber and are solid enough to still make him dangerous against righties, even with a sub-par VR split. He's in his first year of arbitration-eligibility, so he's still relatively cheap and they have him for three full seasons before he can test the free agent market.

Why it makes sense for Milwaukee:
This looks like it was more or less a salary dump from a team that didn't want to pay James. The Blues got back a couple middling prospects, neither of whom will ever approach the numbers James has already put up. Webber's projected offensive numbers are in the 49-59 range except for a 69 batting eye. He'll top out around a .700 OPS-type guy in the majors (kind of low for a 3B), and while Leary has some more impressive projections (contact and eye in the 70s, 89 speed), he hits with very little power, has so-so splits and a dreadful baserunning rating (which will negate the value of his speed).

And the winner is...: Louisville by a wide margin. James has continued to put up above-average numbers since the trade, while neither of the guys the Blues got will ever be significant contributors to a championship team.

Madison trades Damian Carter, Tori Hanson and Bert Jones to Iowa City for Trent Boone, Nate House and Scot Branson.

Why it makes sense for Madison: The Massa's entered the year knowing that they'd be in a three-way fight for the division title, and wanted to upgrade their pitching. This was sort of an odd trade, though. Pitchers with control under 60 are typically somewhat dicey, and the Massa's traded for three guys with projected control of 40, 42 and 45. Boone is the best of the three. His stamina, VL/VR splits, velocity, GB/FB ratio and top two splits all suggest he'll be a future ace, and yet his lousy control has him sporting a 1.64 WHIP at Low A ball right now. House and Branson are pretty much the same story. Either Madison knows something about pitching that no one else does, or this was a huge, huge mistake.

Why it makes sense for Iowa City: They gave up three pitchers who will likely never pitch up to the level of their OVR numbers and got back three very good players. Carter will be a very good #2 or #3 starter. His VR split is a little low, but his control, VL, GB/FB and top two pitches are all good ML-caliber numbers. Hanson will be an average defensive catcher, but will put up 25-30 HR and an 850 or higher OPS in the majors. Jones won't be a star, but will be a good, above-average ML corner OF.

And the winner is...: Iowa City simply stole these players from an experienced (and past champion) owner. That Kamikazes franchise has a long climb ahead of it, but deals like this make it look like they're just a few seasons away from being a legitimate player in the NL pennant race. I would be surprised if any of the arms Madison got ever become even slightly above-average pitchers in the majors. I was shocked to see the Massa's make this deal.

Toledo trades Kevin Yamaguchi and Alan Chambers to Atlanta for Miguel Calvo and Trenidad Durham

Why it makes sense for Atlanta: Signing Calvo to a three-year deal was a huge mistake, and this deal eliminated it. Calvo is 32 years old with a makeup rating in the 50s and has already fallen eight points of his peak OVR. That's not the kind of guy you want to throw 3 years, $12M at. Durham is a solid SP, but with the Braves not yet ready to contend in the NL East, there's no real reason to pay those two guys $7M this season. The guys they got back won't ever be good ML players (both have control ratings in the 40s, just like the last trade).

Why it makes sense for Toledo: The Holy really didn't give up much, and got a good SP (Durham) very cheap for this year. Calvo's awful contract is tough to swallow, but if Durham helps Toledo win the pennant, it'll be worth it.

And the winner is...: This one works well for both teams. The Braves escaped a big mistake (Calvo's deal) and Toledo got a good SP without trading much away. Had the Braves not signed that bad deal, they could have gotten a useful prospect for Durham, but ridding themselves of Calvo's deal makes this a palatable trade.

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