“Our scars make us know that our past was for real”
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
There are some exciting events during a season for a baseball fan. It starts with pitchers and catchers reporting in the frigidity of February and ends with the crowning of the World Series Champion in the cooling of October, sometimes November. Along the way, you have Opening Day, the All-Star Game, and my favorite, the Trade Deadline.
Why is the deadline such a favorite? It embodies a key element of baseball: strategy. The game on the field includes a flood of strategical decisions, but the piecing together of the squad does as well. The non-waiver trading deadline is an opportunity for teams to add weapons for the battle for October and for others to add weapons for the future. (There is also the childlike fun of seeing star players in new uniforms) Since the 2016 trade deadline is just one week away, let’s take a quick look back at the top deals from the 2015 deadline.
The Mets picked up Yoenis Cespedes while the Royals acquired Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist, who both played important roles toward reaching the World Series and (for Kansas City) winning it. David Price and Troy Tulowitzki went to Toronto and imploded, mostly, in the postseason. The Rangers picked up some much needed help in starting pitching by prying Cole Hamels from the Phillies. You may observe that these trades were quite impactful for the playoff-bound teams, but how do we truly evaluate the prospects after just one year?
For a better perspective, let’s rewind 5 years to the deadline of 2011. 5 years provides a nice timeframe for evaluation as the prospects involved in the deals have either lived up to their status or not. The impact of the major leaguers in the deals can also be fully assessed.
1. Orioles acquired Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter, Rangers acquired Koji Uehara. The Orioles won big in this deal with Davis, who has become one of the top power hitters in all of baseball. Hunter had a decent run of success in the Baltimore bullpen, including a stint as their closer, and was eventually dealt to the Cubs for Junior Lake. The Rangers did ok too as they went to the World Series with Uehara in their bullpen, but he struggled mightily in the postseason and eventually signed with the Red Sox as a free agent, where he enjoyed great success.
2. Phillies acquired Hunter Pence, Astros acquired Josh Zeid, Jonathan Singleton, and Jarred Cosart. Pence failed in the postseason for Philadelphia and was traded the following year to the Giants for an underwhelming trio headed by Tommy Joseph and Nate Schierholtz. The Astros have had Singleton in prospect status for several years and he could still pan out, but isn’t looking like a star yet. Cosart was later traded to the Marlins for a marginal package of Jake Marisnick and Colin Moran. Houston is the winner in this deal, even if Singleton doesn’t succeed.
3. Giants acquired Carlos Beltran, Mets pick up Zack Wheeler. Beltran was a pure rental who did quite well, but the Giants would have to wait for an even year to win it all again. Wheeler hasn’t yet lived up to his potential and is currently pitching his way back to the majors with a mid 3 ERA in AAA. The Mets win this deal as Wheeler is expected to be, at least, a serviceable starting pitcher and has also been mentioned in trade talks during the current deadline period.
4. Indians acquire Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies received Alex White, Joe Gardner, Matt McBride, and Drew Pomeranz. Jimenez had a rough time with the Indians until putting together a nice season in his free agent year that lead to nice contract with the Orioles, which they now regret. The Rockies are the victors in this deal, despite the fact that Pomeranz is the only player who had success in the majors, although not with Colorado, as he was traded later on for Brett Anderson. The victory comes in the fact that Colorado avoided the repurcussions of signing Jimenez to a long term extension
5. Blue Jays acquired Colby Rasmus, Trever Miller, Brian Tallet, and P.J. Walters, Cardinals received Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski, and Corey Patterson. This high volume deal never became a blockbuster. Rasmus has spent his entire career as a high talent player who hasn’t quite blossomed. The Blue Jays received one strong year out of 4 from him before letting him leave as a free agent. On the other hand, the Cardinals went on to win the World Series with solid contributions from Dotel, Jackson, and Rzepczynski, which clearly makes them the winner in this deal.
6. Braves acquired Michael Bourn, Astros received Jordan Schafer, Juan Abreu, Paul Clemens, and Brett Oberholtzer. Bourn did everything that was expected of him in Atlanta for a season and half before leaving as a free agent. There isn’t a clear winner here, but the edge goes to Atlanta. Brett Oberholtzer has enjoyed the greatest success out of the Houston haul and he was eventually part of the terrible deal that brought the Astros Ken Giles, so the winner in this deal is the Phillies.
7. Tigers acquired David Pauley and Doug Fister, Mariners received Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Chance Ruffin, and Francisco Martinez. Furbush became the only viable big leaguer for the Mariners and has enjoyed a nice run as reliever, but is currently struggling with a sore shoulder in the minors. The Tigers are the clear winners in that deal. Fister pitched very well in the regular season and in the postseason, including the World Series in 2012, which was lost to the Giants. He was later dealt for Ian Kroll, Steve Lombardozzi, and Robbie Ray. Kroll was then swapped for Cameron Maybin, Lombardozzi was given away, and Ray went to Arizona in a 3 team deal that brought Shane Greene to the Motor City. Maybin is another eternal prospect, but looks like he may be realizing his potential as long as he can stay healthy this season.
What can be gleaned from these 7 deals of 5 years ago? Out of 17 prospects involved in these trades, 11 haven’t panned out and a few others could join that group. The most successful prospects in these deals have been Cosart, Pomeranz, Wheeler, Furbush, and Oberholtzer. Singleton remains enigmatic. That’s not exactly a star studded team. If your team has a legitimate shot at the World Series, go for it! Don’t head to battle with any deficiencies. Guard your very best prospects and feel free to deal away the rest. If you are on the flip side of the ledger, go for prospect quantity as it is often the 3rd or 4th guy thrown in that makes the difference. Take a risk if the reward can be great, don’t spend your life avoiding scars. Success often leaves scars as a testament to the risks we have taken.