How much fun is it to talk Major League Baseball trades when the Pittsburgh Pirates are not selling off half their team, but are actually buyers in July? Well, I'm having fun at least.
With the deadline a few weeks away, there is a lot of speculation about what the Pirates are going to do. Former Reds and Expos/Nationals general manager said he thought the Buccos should part with two of their top 10 prospects for Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez of the Chicago White Sox.
Whether it is for players like Rios or Ramirez, or others, the question is when/do you move your top prospects for proven talent, or do you make smaller moves that don't really affect the farm's best?
I honestly don't know where I fall, because history is mixed on the topic. There are times I am all for moving unproven players, who may never amount to anything in the big leagues, for those who have shown they can play in the majors. But then again, when you cheer for a small-market team, you have to build through prospects, who can be controlled by the team for a long time at a reasonable price. But then we flip back to the sell the farm side of things and the idea that one way to use talented prospects is to move them for already developed players.
It seems like an endless debate that both sides could argue. So here are some example of deals where top prospects were moved and how their careers have gone.
- Milwaukee Brewers trade for CC Sabathia
Back in 2008, the Milwaukee Brewers were on pace to make the postseason for the first time in 26 years. They needed some pitching help and sold the farm to bring in Sabathia. The Brewers ended up moving Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Zach Jackson and Rob Bryson.
Sabathia was incredible for the Brewers down the stretch, posting an ERA below 2 and pitching seven complete games in 17 starts. LaPorta was the centerpiece for Cleveland's end of the deal, but he has not panned out for the Indians. He is now 28 and still in the minors. When given a shot in the Majors, he has failed to hit higher than .254. Jackson hasn't pitched in the majors since 2009 and was terrible when he was given a shot. Bryson has yet to appear in the majors and it doesn't look as if he ever will make an impact in the show.
|The fat power propelled the Brewers to the playoffs...|
...and then signed a fat contract with the Yankees.
Sure, Sabathia left the Brewers after 2008 for the New York Yankees, but looking at the players involved, it's hard to imagine the Brewers wouldn't make this trade again in a heartbeat.
- Indians ship Cliff Lee to Philadelphia, Phillies unload Lee to Mariners, Mariners send Lee to Rangers
Cleveland - The Indians received Jason Donald, Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson and Jason Knapp for Lee in 2009. Donald has been nothing more than a utility infielder with little impact and hasn't played with the Indians in 2013 at age 28. Carrasco has a career ERA of 5.47, including 9.10 in 2013, in 39 starts since 2009. Marson, a catcher has been terrible (.219 career average, five homers). Knapp is only 22 and hasn't played above Single A. He may turn into something, but it's hard to tell at this point.
|Hmmm. I'm thinking the Indians might want this one back.|
Seattle - Seeing their 2010 season fall apart despite Lee's great season, the Mariners traded Lee to the Texas Rangers for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Matt Lawson. It hasn't worked out so well for the Mariners. The supposed centerpiece of the deal, Smoak, has been a mediocre player for the Mariners. The power prospect has yet to hit more than 19 homers and can't hit for average to save his life. Beavan has 43 starts with the M's, but has been moved the bullpen and his ERA has ballooned to 6.13 this season. Lueke made 25 appearances for the team in 2010 before being shipped to the Tampa Bay Rays for John Jaso. The utility infielder Lawson has done squat and was actually sent down to AA this year.
Are you seeing a trend with Lee? He has been traded on three separate occasions for prospects, and not a single one of said prospects has lived up to projections at the Major League level. He is another example, or three, of how paying for a known commodity with prospects is a good move.
- Blue Jays trade Halladay
Toronto expected to replace their ace with a future ace in the form of Kyle Drabek. Too bad Drabek struggled with command every time the Jays called him up and then underwent Tommy John surgery last season. Drabek never showed signs of being a reliable fifth starter, let alone an ace before the injury. Now he has two major surgeries on his resume and has career reliever written all over him.
|Who knew acquiring a potential Hall of Famer could be so easy?|
Once again, the team dealing for the star is the winner, while the team collecting prospects is seeing poor results from the prospects acquired.
- Manny to Dodger, Bay to Sox, crap to Pirates
The two teams that received the veteran stars won big time in the deal, while the Pirates go practically nothing from three of the four prospects they got back in return.
Ramirez had one of the greatest stretches that I've ever seen in baseball once he got to LA. In 53 regular season games that year he had 17 home runs and a slash line of .396/.489/.743. On top of that, Ramirez hit over .500 in eight playoff games that fall. He never came close to replicating those numbers for the Dodgers in the next season and a half, but considering what they gave up to get him, I would say it worked out for them.
The Red Sox got a great player in Bay as well. He finished 2008 strong and had a great postseason that year with Boston. That momentum carried over into 2009, in which Bay had a career high 36 home runs and 119 RBIs.
How did those prospects for the Pirates do? I think this sums it up.
The big get for the Pirates was supposed to be LaRoche, a power-hitting third baseman. The only problem is he had no power with the Pirates. Hell, he couldn't hit at all for the Pirates. In 301 games with the Pirates, the "power-hitting" LaRoche hit 19 home runs for the Buccos. He showed some promise in 2009, but then came crashing down to earth in 2010. He's had four plate appearances in the majors since the start of the 2012 season...
|Thanks for nothing, Andy.|
Hansen was terrible in 21 appearances for the Pirates. He was hurt a lot and is currently out of baseball.
If there was a positive to take from this trade on the Pirates' side of things, it is that Morris is actually still with the team and contributing. He is a part of one of the best bullpen's in baseball and doing pretty well. But come on. When you move a 30-homer guy like Bay, you expect to say you got back more than 32 home runs and a decent bullpen arm, right?
- Boston acquires Beckett and Lowell from Marlins
After the 2005 season, the Florida Marlins had their regularly scheduled fire sale. They sent Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota to the Red Sox for prospects Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado and Harvey Garcia.
Beckett was terrible in 2006, but rebounded to win 20 games in 2007 and have a phenomenal postseason that saw the Red Sox win the World Series. He had another few bad seasons mixed in with excellent ones until he was traded last year at the deadline. Despite the rocky finish, I think the Sox are happy in the World Series he helped them win and the three All-Star appearances Beckett made in his time there.
Lowell hit 80 home runs between 2006 and 2010 and hit .352 with two home runs and 15 RBIs during Boston's 2007 World Series run.
Mota was just a throw-in and never pitched an inning for the Sox.
Down in Florida, the Marlins got a player in Ramirez who was one of the game's best players between 2006 and 2010. In that time, Ramirez hit 124 home runs, stole 196 bases, scored 562 runs and never hit below .292. Can you think of a more dynamic player in that time frame than Ramirez? Sure, his fielding hurt the club at times, but his offense more than made up for it.
|Han-Ram was unstoppable |
until he became a diva
The other two prospects acquired in the deal did nothing for the Marlins. Delgado made all of two appearances for the team and hasn't pitched in the majors since 2008. Garcia made eight appearances in 2007 and hasn't sniffed the majors since.
- Rangers ship Teixeira to Braves
This is a trade where it definitely worked out better for the team receiving the prospects. While Teixeira played extremely well for the Braves, he had 37 home runs, 134 RBIs and a WAR (I threw that in for Mike) of 6.1 in 157 games for the Braves between 2007 and 2008. The only problem was the rest of the Braves stunk. The team failed to make the playoffs in 2007 and were doing terrible in 2008, which led to them sending Tex to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at the deadline that year. Considering the Braves got a AA pitcher who was not regarded as a top prospect and Casey Kotchman for Tex, I think it's safe to say getting Tex never paid off for the Braves.
|Teixeira, center, waving to the 27 fans|
attending a Braves game.
Andrus has been the everyday shortstop for the Rangers since 2009 and has 142 stolen bases for his career to go along with a .271 average and solid defense.
Perez had three incredible years out of the bullpen between 2009 and 2011, two of which were as a closer where he recorded a combined 72 saves. The Rangers moved him into the rotation in 2012, and he was having a great season until he suffered and injury and needed Tommy John surgery. He has a career ERA of 2.67 and 8.8 K/9.
Harrison got off to a rocky start in Texas, but was arguably the team's best pitcher in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Both years he had a sub-3.40 ERA, pitched more than 185 innings and had a combined WAR of 10.1.
The other two prospects in the deal didn't do much for the Rangers. Saltalamacchia, while a lot of fun to say and try to spell without Googling, never turned into the elite catcher he was supposed to. From 2007 and 2010 he hit all of 19 home runs. And that is playing half his games in one of the most home-run friendly parks in the bigs.
Jones is 26 and no longer in the Rangers' organization. He is looking like a career minor-leaguer.
Wow. This post turned into quite a monster. I think what it shows is if a team has an opportunity to add a star or two to their team at the cost of prospects, no matter how highly regarded they are, they should pull the trigger. If they would only get average or a little above average players for said top prospects, then I think the team should hold off.