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Monday, January 27, 2020

Where a Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado or Francisco Lindor trade would rank among winter blockbusters

The trade: Clemens for David Wells, Homer Bush and Graeme Lloyd

The New York Times headline said it all: “Yankees Subtract a Star but Add a Legend.” This shocking trade came in mid-February, after spring training had started and after Clemens had dominated the American League in 1997 and 1998, going 41-13 with a 2.33 ERA, leading the league both seasons in wins, ERA and strikeouts. The Yankees had just come off their historic 114-win season and added the best pitcher in the game. In fact, Clemens is the only player on our post-1950 trade list who ranks first in two-season WAR as either a pitcher or position player.

“You can equate this with getting a Michael Jordan,” George Steinbrenner said in Buster Olney’s story in the Times. “We’re getting a man who makes it a notable day in Yankee history.” According to the story, the trade came together in less than 10 hours. Clemens, who had two years remaining on his deal, had demanded a trade earlier in the offseason but withdrew the demand before Christmas. Still, Blue Jays general manager Gord Ash was determined to trade him and made the offer to Brian Cashman, who immediately called Steinbrenner.

“Run that by me again,” Steinbrenner said, in apparent shock that the asking price wasn’t higher than Wells and two players of little consequence.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 27, 2020 at 03:43 PM | 31 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: January 27, 2020 at 03:57 PM (#5919686)
So why did the Clemens trade happen? He demanded to be traded, but TOR could always have said "no".
   2. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: January 27, 2020 at 04:24 PM (#5919704)
As I recall there was allegedly a side agreement between Clemens and Blue Jay ownership that he could demand a trade based on some criteria (that I don’t recall). Such an agreement was (and is) against the rules but...
   3. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: January 27, 2020 at 04:27 PM (#5919705)
I know it almost certainly will not happen but if the Brewers somehow grabbed Nolan that would be ####### awesome
   4. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 27, 2020 at 04:43 PM (#5919710)
So why did the Clemens trade happen? He demanded to be traded, but TOR could always have said "no".
Supposedly, there was a verbal Gentleman’s Agreement not part of Clemens’s formal contract that Toronto would trade him on his request if they failed to contend. Toronto didn’t contend, and the Blue Jays were willing to move him after 2 seasons, perhaps because paying Clemens big bucks without contending didn’t fit in their plans either.
   5. bbmck Posted: January 27, 2020 at 04:56 PM (#5919716)
Throwing the WAR numbers aside and going with some unscientific form of gut reaction of how big the trade felt at the time, these are obvious omissions:

August 25, 2012: Adrian Gonzalez traded by the Boston Red Sox with Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto and cash to the Los Angeles Dodgers for players to be named later, Ivan De Jesus, James Loney and Allen Webster. The Los Angeles Dodgers sent Rubby De La Rosa (October 4, 2012) and Jerry Sands (October 4, 2012) to the Boston Red Sox to complete the trade.

December 5, 1990: Roberto Alomar traded by the San Diego Padres with Joe Carter to the Toronto Blue Jays for Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff.

November 19, 2012: Mark Buehrle traded by the Miami Marlins with Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes and cash to the Toronto Blue Jays for Henderson Alvarez III, Anthony DeSclafani, Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jake Marisnick, Jeff Mathis and Justin Nicolino.
   6. Nasty Nate Posted: January 27, 2020 at 05:00 PM (#5919721)
Well, dates in November and December before the solstice can be considered "winter" in terms of baseball, but August is really pushing it.
   7. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 27, 2020 at 05:11 PM (#5919727)
Donaldson for Brett Lawrie, Franklin Barreto, Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin


Someone still needs to explain to me why Oakland did this. It was panned at the time and has really not worked out.

The trade: Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt for Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress


Interesting note is that this deal came together only after Greinke nixed a deal to Washington for Drew Storen, Jordan Zimmermann, and Danny Espinosa because the Nats weren't competitive. That trade ended up giving the Royals two starters on their championship club, and a top prospect that they used to get James Shields.
   8. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: January 27, 2020 at 05:16 PM (#5919729)
Brett Lawrie?!! holy ####. That guy hasn't played a major league game since 2016. And since being traded by Oakland Donaldson has had four seasons of five plus WAR. Donaldson if he stays healthy and good could have a borderline hof case by the time he retires.
   9. PreservedFish Posted: January 27, 2020 at 05:19 PM (#5919731)

Someone still needs to explain to me why Oakland did this.


I remember Fangraphs writers trying to justify it as a smart move to add prospect bulk, ie 22 'years of control' vs 4 'years of control' or whatever it was. It was not convincing.

They also said that Donaldson was a bad clubhouse influence or something, right? That it was another version of the Mabry trade?
   10. John Northey Posted: January 27, 2020 at 05:20 PM (#5919734)
Typical Ash - he was a nightmare as GM for the Jays. Bad trades all over. Wells twice involved in bad ones - first the Clemens deal, then traded to the White Sox for an injured pitcher who never threw a pitch as a Jay (Mike Sirotka). Wells did OK as a Jay 7.8 WAR over 2 years. Clemens over those same 2 years was at 7.4 so on the surface it wasn't a bad deal in the end. I remember how some fans went nuts over Homer Bush thinking he'd be the magic answer at 2B (a black hole after Alomar left) but he was 26 when he came to the Jays and had a great first year (3.3 WAR) but was -0.4 WAR over the rest of his time in Toronto. If Ash had got something (anything) for Wells then it might have worked out in the end but it doesn't excuse the stupidity of the Clemens trade. I figure the Sirotka one ended Ash's time in Toronto as that just screamed incompetence to not do a physical on a guy that important in a trade.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: January 27, 2020 at 07:05 PM (#5919755)
Weren't there rumors of a Beane-Donaldson (or Melvin-Donaldson) blow-up? I suppose it's also possible Oakland thought Donaldson was a fluke and better to trade a year too early ... But yeah that was a pretty terrible trade.

Also although none of them were in Donaldson's class, Oakland has/had a long history of trading off arb-eligible "stars" for a group of borderline players and have those trades kinda work in their favor. They traded Swisher for Gio and Ryan Sweeney (who was solid for 2.5 seasons). Then they swapped Gio for an even less-impressive sounding package yet Derek Norris gave them 6 WAR, 2.5 WAA; Milone was about average; Peacock got flipped for Jed Lowrie who was not great but it was a few years before Peacock became a good P. Norris was later part of a trade for Jesse Hahn who looked like a pretty good pitcher at the time.

The Donaldson trade has some similarities to the Marte trade. The big prize was supposedly Barreto, turning 19 and coming off a 311/384/481 season at A- (which followed a pretty good rookie-league season at 17). Barring a late resurgence, he flopped. Peguero is a rising 19-yo coming off a 326/382/485 season across rookie and A- following a pretty awful age 17 season (as all age 17 seasons should probably be). Graveman was supposed to be about a league-average starter and he was a bit better than that over 3 seasons when healthy. Then he stopped being healthy. The young pitcher the Pirates got almost certainly has a higher ceiling right now than Graveman did at the time but has plenty of time to get injured before making the majors.
   12. The Duke Posted: January 27, 2020 at 07:09 PM (#5919756)
Those are some bad trades. As a cardinal fan, that list should include Steve Carlton. The Mark McGwire trade to the cardinals was another one that didn’t make any sense. Bottom line is you can’t ever get value for a star. So many of those players are footnotes in history.
   13. RJ in TO Posted: January 27, 2020 at 07:11 PM (#5919758)
November 19, 2012: Mark Buehrle traded by the Miami Marlins with Emilio Bonifacio, John Buck, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes and cash to the Toronto Blue Jays for Henderson Alvarez III, Anthony DeSclafani, Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jake Marisnick, Jeff Mathis and Justin Nicolino.
The amusing thing was that this trade was received as more of a "The Jays just got Reyes and Johnson. Oh yeah, also Buehrle."
   14. RJ in TO Posted: January 27, 2020 at 07:13 PM (#5919759)
Typical Ash - he was a nightmare as GM for the Jays. Bad trades all over. Wells twice involved in bad ones - first the Clemens deal, then traded to the White Sox for an injured pitcher who never threw a pitch as a Jay (Mike Sirotka). Wells did OK as a Jay 7.8 WAR over 2 years. Clemens over those same 2 years was at 7.4 so on the surface it wasn't a bad deal in the end. I remember how some fans went nuts over Homer Bush thinking he'd be the magic answer at 2B (a black hole after Alomar left) but he was 26 when he came to the Jays and had a great first year (3.3 WAR) but was -0.4 WAR over the rest of his time in Toronto. If Ash had got something (anything) for Wells then it might have worked out in the end but it doesn't excuse the stupidity of the Clemens trade. I figure the Sirotka one ended Ash's time in Toronto as that just screamed incompetence to not do a physical on a guy that important in a trade.
This is unfair to Ash, as it doesn't mention his terrible free agent signings, or his terrible extensions for guys already under contract. Ash was the GM who least seemed to understand the concepts of small sample size or career year.
   15. puck Posted: January 27, 2020 at 09:12 PM (#5919777)
Bottom line is you can’t ever get value for a star.


Well, almost never. The Rockies got a good deal for Matt Holliday. Didn't the Red Sox trade Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett? There must be some others.
   16. Walt Davis Posted: January 27, 2020 at 11:36 PM (#5919803)
Like it or not, it's never as simple and pure as "getting value for a star" it's "getting value for a star at this years/$$ combination." Oakland was only trading two months of McGwire (checked via Wiki) and the Cards were able to extend him. Possibly the A's could have extended him for a similar contract. The Cards weren't in contention that year so they must have felt they could extend him (did he agree before the trade?)

So yeah, the Rox got outstanding value for what I think was just 1 year of Holliday. The A's didn't do too badly either flipping him at the deadline, getting top 50 prospect (and not so good player) Brett Wallace. Holliday also re-signed with the Cards but did declare FA first.

This loops around to the Marte trade again. Getting that return for 1 year of Marte might be fine; getting it for 2 months of Marte would be darn good ... or if Marte was owed something like 2/$50, then that return might be good in an abstract $/WAR sense. But at 2/$24 for a 3-WAR player, and you're even eating a tiny bit of money, ya oughta get back more than that.
   17. Ben Broussard Ramjet Posted: January 28, 2020 at 05:11 AM (#5919820)
Well, almost never. The Rockies got a good deal for Matt Holliday. Didn't the Red Sox trade Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett? There must be some others.


The Chapman rental by the Cubs a few years ago comes to mind. EDIT - if a reliever is ever really a 'star' in value terms, but if there is one, I guess Chapman would be a star.
   18. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 28, 2020 at 01:03 PM (#5919923)
The Royals got good value for Greinke. The Indians made out great for Bartolo Colon. Still early, but the White Sox did well in the Chris Sale deal. You can definitely get value for a star. I think the running theme through the blockbusters that didn't work was the team dealing the star had their hand forced or had a limited market (Clemens forced a deal, Schilling wanted to go to Arizona, Griffey wanted to head home, A-Rod had a limited market due to his salary)
   19. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: January 28, 2020 at 01:40 PM (#5919941)

The Mets got Zach Wheeler in exchange for a few months of Carlos Beltan (+ cash).

They also got Noah Syndergaard (and Travis d'Arnaud) for one year of R.A. Dickey, although there were other players involved.

Huh, Michael Brantley was actually the PTBNL going to the Indians in the CC Sabathia trade.
   20. . Posted: January 28, 2020 at 01:51 PM (#5919946)
I remember Fangraphs writers trying to justify it as a smart move to add prospect bulk, ie 22 'years of control' vs 4 'years of control' or whatever it was. It was not convincing.


I can't remember if it was in connection with the Donaldson trade or not, but there was a long debate on here about this "years of control" idea. Five (*) years later, the notion is even more stupid than it was then. It's one of those Cult of the GM cutesy ideas that have grown in prominence since the Donaldson trade, but still has little to do with a GM actually building a winning team.

(*) Or whatever.
   21. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 28, 2020 at 01:56 PM (#5919949)
These past several posts emphasize the futility of evaluating trades based on post hoc outcomes, especially trades involving starts. It's not "impossible to get value for a star." It's just that the vast majority of trades involving stars have prospects coming back, and of course a lot of prospects flame out. It isn't really useful to say that Team X got good value for Star A because the prospects they got made good years later, but Team Y didn't get value for Star B because their prospects busted. The value a team gets for its star is the expected future value of the players acquired at the time of the trade, which is of course a lot muddier, but it's the only evaluation criterion that makes any sense.
   22. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 28, 2020 at 03:15 PM (#5919970)
These past several posts emphasize the futility of evaluating trades based on post hoc outcomes, especially trades involving starts. It's not "impossible to get value for a star." It's just that the vast majority of trades involving stars have prospects coming back, and of course a lot of prospects flame out. It isn't really useful to say that Team X got good value for Star A because the prospects they got made good years later, but Team Y didn't get value for Star B because their prospects busted. The value a team gets for its star is the expected future value of the players acquired at the time of the trade, which is of course a lot muddier, but it's the only evaluation criterion that makes any sense.

Sure, but at the end of the day, if the actual realized value is skewed to be much less than the expected future value, the estimates suck, and the trades were bad.

You can't justify investing your retirement savings in Beanie Babies by saying "But they were highly valued at the time!"
   23. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 28, 2020 at 04:41 PM (#5920020)
Sure, but at the end of the day, if the actual realized value is skewed to be much less than the expected future value, the estimates suck, and the trades were bad.

You can't justify investing your retirement savings in Beanie Babies by saying "But they were highly valued at the time!"
If you're consistently getting way less actual value than expected future value out of your prospects, then yes, either your FO and/or your player development staff is suspect. But that's a totally different analysis than saying one trade returned good or bad value.
   24. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 28, 2020 at 04:53 PM (#5920031)
If you're consistently getting way less actual value than expected future value out of your prospects, then yes, either your FO and/or your player development staff is suspect. But that's a totally different analysis than saying one trade returned good or bad value.

No, I'm saying in general, teams are getting less value from their prospects than they project. If prospects are over-valued, lots of trades will look good at the time, but really be awful.

   25. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 28, 2020 at 04:59 PM (#5920037)
If prospects are over-valued
I'd be curious to see data on that. I would imagine someone a lot smarter than I am could run some sort of study.
   26. . Posted: January 28, 2020 at 05:08 PM (#5920041)
The value a team gets for its star is the expected future value of the players acquired at the time of the trade, which is of course a lot muddier, but it's the only evaluation criterion that makes any sense.


This is the right equation (***), but as applied in baseball reality, the expected future value of the players acquired is systematically overvalued because (a) it just is, because the risk is deemed lower than it actually is; and (b) especially now, their salaries.(**)

As I'm writing, I see that snapper already said it in 24. The future value of prospects is systematically overvalued by the types of people that tend to write and think about such things.(*) They dig prospects the way chicks dug the long ball, circa 1998.

(*) And for that matter, the consistently, predictably high output of stars is systemically undervalued, though that effect is smaller.

(**) And in turn, the likelihood of success of consciously-undertaken "rebuilds" is systematically overvalued.

(***) Generally speaking, anyway. Technically, the value a team should get for its star is the prevailing market value as measured by what assets teams were willing to give up for him. If teams were willing to give up, say, expected value of 25 WAR and you take a package with expected value of 20 WAR, you haven't really gotten his value in return, even if his future expected value is only 20 WAR.
   27. Walt Davis Posted: January 28, 2020 at 05:49 PM (#5920055)
But you can justify having invested your retirement savings in Boeing stock. Stuff happens. As I noted, the A's got a #50ish prospect in Brett Wallace for 2 months of Matt Holliday. That's a good return. That's a good return even though we know that many #50 prospects won't return any value and only a small handful will return more than 5-8 WAR. It wouldn't surprise me if the expected (average) return is only around 3 WAR and the median return even less. But 3 eventual WAR for 2 months of a good player when you're not contending is perfectly fine plus you have the 1-5% chance that the guy actually turns out to be quite good.

Prospects are always high variance and such assets are always hard to price. But that variance is understood and it's not impossible to price them. It is perfectly reasonable to say "the going price for 1 year at $X of this level of veteran is a prospect ranked roughly #30 to #70" without pretending that any team has the magical ability to pick the right prospect in that range. It is then perfectly OK to judge a deal where they get a #15 prospet in return as "good" and a #90 prospect as "poor" regardless of the eventual outcome. Now if there's some front office that pulls off those sorts of trades and repeatedly picks the right prospects then we might credit them with the magical ability.

Where I suspect the "disappointment" comes from is the tendency on the part of even knowledgable fans to overestimate prospects. I don't think teams do although it seems clear they value them more than they used to (esp the top guys) -- Torres-Chapman notwithstanding. A #50 prospect is simply not a major acquisition -- you hit the jackpot occasionally but generally you're quite happy if you get 2-3 average starter seasons out of them. Teams pretty clearly understand that but are maybe willing to pay more than they should for the shot at the jackpot. But, when trading just 1 or sometimes even 2 years of control of a player, they also know they are usually only trading away 5-6 wins. These simply aren't big trades.

You can't really call such things failures of scouting or failures of estimation. The estimates come with very wide confidence intervals -- again all well understood. The scouts -- well, 23 teams passed on Mike Trout; every team passed on Pujols 12 times and he put up a 157 OPS+ 1.5 years later. If those guys were tough to evaluate even remotely correctly, it's clearly impossible to accurately predict which #50 prospect is gonna give you 20 WAR and which one is gonna give you 2 much less the difference between the one that's gonna give you 2 vs the one that's gonna give you 0. Nobody has a crystal ball that's accurate to within 15 long-term WAR much less 3. What scouts are reasonable good at is "these guys are worth a top 5 pick; these guys are worth a #6-20 pick; these guys are worth a #21-#60 pick; who knows after that but here's a set of guys who have a decent chance of developing at least one ML-level skill; why does the draft have so many rounds, fine, my cleaner told me the SS on her son's HS team was pretty good." (I know, I know, like a scout would get paid enough to have a cleaner.)

It looks like fewer than 120 positioni players (some pitchers snuck in) made their debut in 2010. How many draft picks and international signings did it take to produce those 120? (Randomly, that includes Brett Wallace) Only 43 of them made it to 2 career WAR (to date) and that includes at least 1 pitcher (Travis Wood). 22 of them made it to 8 WAR; 15 made it to 12+. So looks like I might have slightly under-estimated the likely return from a #50 prospect (who is probably a #30 position prospect). Still, almost by definition, when acquiring a #50ish prospect, you should be thinking "if all goes to plan, he'll probably be one of those guys who eventually debuts and gives me 2-8 WAR." Daniel Nava (2 good years), Danny Espinosa (4 useful-good seasons) or Lucas Duda (3 useful seasons out of parts of 10) are guys in the 7-8 WAR range. Espinosa made a couple of top 100 lists (high 66) while the other two didn't. (I swear those were the first 3 blah names I checked. Justin Smoak is also here if you want somebody with more prospect pedigree.)

Some of the "stars"? The big star is Donaldson who was never ranked in the top 100. Stanton was top 20 at 19 and top 5 at 20. Freeman was top 100 at 19, top 50 at 20, top 20 at 21. Cain was never top 50. Heyward was top 40 at 18, top 10 at 19 and #1-2 at 20. Carlos Santana jumped into the top 40 at 23, top 10 at 24. That's it for 30+ WAR over 10 seasaons, next on the list is Austin Jackson at 22 then Starlin and Lucroy at 18. So picking up on Cain or Santana before they broke out would have been excellent trades. If you can trade for a #50 prospect who is 19, you've probably gotten good return. But a year of Matt Holliday was probably never going to get you Stanton, Freeman or Heyward.
   28. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 28, 2020 at 06:58 PM (#5920067)
But a year of Matt Holliday was probably never going to get you Stanton, Freeman or Heyward.
I'm sure the Cubs would quite gladly trade Heyward for a year of Matt Holliday.
   29. John Northey Posted: January 29, 2020 at 12:57 AM (#5920121)
For us Jay fans from the era of Ash his name described how we all felt our dreams went whenever he made a trade or did pretty much anything outside of the first round of the draft (his first rounds produced Halladay, Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, among others who did quite well). His Woody Williams and others trade to get Joey Hamilton was a disaster from day 1 (every Jay fan I knew was flabbergasted by it as Woody alone was better than Hamilton [3 years in a row of 90's ERA+ vs Williams consistent low 100's at a lower dollar cost due to W-L record and league adjustments). The Clemens trade was panned right away, as was the later Wells one. John Olerud and cash for Robert Person was a big 'noooooooo' at the time. Green for Mondesi was a clear attempt to replace a player with a slightly inferior more expensive one as Green was going to leave as a free agent. We all hated the Loaiza trade (sent away Mike Young as a minor leaguer) just due to Loaiza not being that good (strangely he did good for the Jays that year a 141 ERA+ in 14 games, but hardly worth 2 good prospects). Ugh. Thank god he didn't trade away Halladay for some shiny stones back then too.
   30. Buck Coats Posted: January 29, 2020 at 11:48 AM (#5920175)
I think the running theme through the blockbusters that didn't work was the team dealing the star had their hand forced or had a limited market (Clemens forced a deal, Schilling wanted to go to Arizona, Griffey wanted to head home, A-Rod had a limited market due to his salary)


I don't think Griffey quite fits here - that trade worked fine for Seattle...
   31. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: January 29, 2020 at 12:02 PM (#5920178)
So this kind of article is bad enough for trades that actually do happen, but for trades that haven't happened and may not happen?

Or, maybe the author is a hidden genius, and there will be a spate of articles on things like "where would a zombie outbreak rank among the great pandemics of world history?"

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