Around the MinorsOctober 28, 2008
The 2007-08 Winter Trading Season in Review
By Marc Hulet

With the World Series underway it means that the off-season is not far off. In baseball, though, the off-season is never a quiet one; there is always something going on. Last year, the stretch from November to February was a busy time with a number of big names changing jerseys, including Erik Bedard, Miguel Cabrera, Miguel Tejada, and Dan Haren. There were also a number of top prospects changing hands, such as Chris Tillman, Deolis Guerra, and Cameron Maybin.

This week, I am going to review how those big trades (at least one star name, plus five or more players involved) worked out for both clubs. Next week, I am going to take a look at some of the smaller trades of the off-season that had larger-than-expected impacts on one or more club.

The Twins, Rays exchange young, potential stars

To Minnesota:
OF Delmon Young
IF Brendan Harris
OF Jason Pridie

To Tampa Bay:
RHP Matt Garza
SS Jason Bartlett
RHP Eduardo Morlan

This trade may have had more impact on the 2008 Major League season than any other trade made all of last year. Not only did the Rays receive a solid Major League starter and an excellent defensive shortstop, but the club also re-made the clubhouse atmosphere with the expulsion of Delmon Young. Matt Garza became a solid No. 3 starter for the Rays behind Scott Kazmir and James Shields. He won 11 games and pitched 184 innings with just 170 hits allowed. Jason Barlett was hurt for a while but he gave the pitchers confidence when he was on the field, which allowed them to pitch to contact. In Minnesota, Delmon Young had an OK season but he failed to hit for power (.115 ISO) and continued to struggle with his patience (5.7 BB%) and pitch selection. Brendan Harris appeared in 130 games with modest success, but is really a utility player. Both Jason Pridie and Eduardo Morlan spent the majority of the season in the minors.

Winner before 2008: Even
Winner after 2008: Tampa Bay

Oakland improves depth with Dan Haren deal

To Arizona
RHP Dan Haren
RHP Connor Robertson

To Oakland
OF Carlos Gonzalez
LHP Brett Anderson
OF Aaron Cunningham
1B Chris Carter
LHP Dana Eveland
LHP Greg Smith

The Arizona Diamondbacks secured a talented No. 2 starter - something a lot of teams lack - but they gave up a great deal of depth to obtain Dan Haren, who is signed through 2013. Haren had a stellar 2008 with 204 hits allowed in 216 innings. He posted rates of 1.67 BB/9 and 8.58 K/9 - with an eye-popping 5.15 K/BB. He also lowered his home runs allowed and batting average against for the third straight season. Connor Robertson spent the majority of the season working out of the Triple-A bullpen but he appeared in six big league games.

In Oakland, Carlos Gonzalez appeared in 86 games for in the Majors at the age of 22 and showed his youth - but also his potential. The toolsy outfielder hit .242/.273/.361 with 22 doubles and four homers in 302 at-bats. The outfielder, who split time between center field and right field, obviously needs some more seasoning after posting rates of 4.1 BB% and 26.8 K%, with an ISO of .119. Both Dana Eveland and Greg Smith provided more than what was expected of them - although they both faded significantly in the season half of the season. Eveland made 29 starts and posted an ERA of 4.34. He struck out 118 batters and allowed 172 hits in 168 innings of work. His nemesis, though, was the walk. Eveland posted a walk rate of 4.13 (77 in total). Smith made his Major League debut in 2008 and started 32 games for Oakland. He allowed just 169 hits in 190.1 innings, but walked 87 batters (4.11 BB/9). Smith also posted a strikeout rate of 5.25 K/9. He will have to improve upon his GB% of 34.2 if he is going to have a long stay in the Majors, especially given that his fastball averages out at 87.6 mph. Brett Anderson had a solid minor league season and the 22-year-old lefty ended the season by pitching in the Triple-A playoffs. He could contribute at the Major League level in 2009. Aaron Cunningham was slowed by injuries early in the 2008 season, but he rebounded and ended the year in Oakland and should be a future MLB fourth outfielder - at the very least. Chris Carter, who began the winter as a White Sox prospect only to don three different jerseys, is an all-or-nothing slugger who dominated the California home run race with 39 bombs (13 more than the next closest hitter). That total was also second in all of Minor League Baseball, next to veteran Dallas McPherson, who hit 42 in Triple-A.

Winner before 2008: A draw
Winner after 2008: A draw, leaning Oakland's way

Sometimes trades don't work out the way you think they will...

To Detroit
3B Miguel Cabrera
LHP Dontrelle Willis

To Florida
OF Cameron Maybin
LHP Andrew Miller
C Mike Rabelo
RHP Eulogio de la Cruz
RHP Dallas Trahern
RHP Burke Badenhop

After this trade, just about everybody in baseball - yours truly included - handed Detroit the World Series title. But clubhouse chemistry went awry in The Motor City and players had disappointing seasons. Miguel Cabrera had a terribly slow start to the season and he was criticized for coasting on his new, fat contract. By the time the season ended, though, most of his stats were in line with his career norm - except perhaps his average (.292, the lowest since his rookie season) and on-base percentage (8.3 BB%, again the lowest since his debut year). All-in-all, though, he still managed to hit 37 homers (.245 ISO) and drive in a career-high 127 runs. Former young stud Dontrelle Willis was a mess on the mound with a 9.38 ERA and 35 walks allowed in 24 innings of Major League work. That was a far cry from his 22-win 2005 season at the age of 23. Detroit handed him a three-year deal after the trade for about $30 million so they are stuck with him for the next couple of seasons.

For Florida, the trade netted some interesting names but they did not do much in 2008. The key to the trade was young outfielder Cameron Maybin, but he spent the majority of the season in Double-A. His line of .277/.373/.456 in 390 at-bats was good, but not great, especially when you look at the fact he struck out 31.8% of the time with just 13 home runs. On the plus side, he had a late-season promotion to Florida and hit .500 in 32 at-bats. Andrew Miller, the second key piece of the trade, probably should have spent the season in Triple-A rather than in the Majors where he posted a 5.87 ERA in 29 big league appearances - including 20 starts. He posted a walk rate of 4.70 BB/9, but a respectable strikeout rate of 7.46 K/9. He allowed 120 hits in 107.1 innings of work. Mike Rabelo was supposed to fill Florida's void behind the dish but he hit just .202/.256/.294 in 109 at-bats during an injury-filled season. Burke Badenhop appeared in 13 Major League games - including eight starts - but posted a 6.08 ERA with 55 hits and 21 walks allowed in 47.1 innings. Eulogio de la Cruz had a respectable season in the Triple-A starting rotation but he posted an 18.00 ERA in six Major League games with 15 hits and 11 walks allowed in nine innings. Dallas Trahern posted a 6.16 ERA in 21 Triple-A starts.

Winner before 2008: Detroit
Winner after 2008: Possibly a draw?

Baltimore fleeces Seattle

To Seattle:
LHP Erik Bedard

To Baltimore:
OF Adam Jones
LHP George Sherrill
RHP Chris Tillman
RHP Kam Mickolio
LHP Tony Butler

If you're a Seattle fan, this trade still makes you sick. Erik Bedard was OK when he was able to pitch but then he broke down - again. He posted a 3.67 ERA and allowed just 70 hits in 81 innings of work. But he also allowed a few too many big home runs (1.00 HR/9) and his command was lacking (4.11 BB/9). There is a chance that Bedard could get non-tendered this winter, which would really, really burn. In exchange for the frustrating Bedard, Seattle gave up a closer, a possible future star outfielder, and one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. George Sherrill saved 31 games, although he faltered in the second half of the season. Adam Jones' game showed some holes, including a 4.6 BB%, but he played with energy, continued to show improvements and oozed potential. Chris Tillman, 20, could be one of the Top 5 pitching prospects in baseball. In Double-A, he allowed just 115 hits and 65 walks in 135.2 innings. He also struck out 154 batters. Kam Mickolio does not have a huge ceiling but he made his MLB debut in 2008 and should be a serviceable reliever.

Winner before 2008: Seattle, barely
Winner after 2008: Baltimore

Twins surprise everyone by sending Johan Santana to... the Mets?

To New York (NL):
LHP Johan Santana

To Minnesota:
OF Carlos Gomez
RHP Deolis Guerra
RHP Kevin Mulvey
RHP Philip Humber

Minnesota had a number of suitors for Johan Santana but the organization played its cards poorly and lost out on a number of potential suitors. When Santana started grumbling, the Twins acted hastily and took a deal from New York that never did look all that appetizing - and it looks even less so now. Santana's stuff was not quite as sharp as it used to be, but he still helped the Mets and led the club in almost every pitching category, including wins (16), innings pitched (234.1) and strikeouts (206).

For the Twins, Carlos Gomez was the only player to establish himself in the Majors after the trade. He shows potential and is still young at the age of 22, but he really didn't hit for average, power or get on-base, with a line of .258/.296/.360. He does, though, currently offer speed (33 SB) and defence. Deolis Guerra has been disappointing since the trade and his stuff took a big step back this past season in High-A ball. He posted a 5.47 ERA and allowed 71 walks and struck out just 71 batters in 130 innings. Both Phil Humber and Kevin Mulvey spent the majority of the season in Triple-A with modest results and will likely have to break into Minnesota as relievers.

Winner before 2008: New York
Winner after 2008: New York

Baltimore learns about the risks of acquiring young pitching

To Houston:
SS Miguel Tejada

To Baltimore
RHP Matt Albers
LHP Troy Patton
OF Luke Scott
3B Mike Costanzo
RHP Dennis Sarfate

Houston took a gamble on Miguel Tejada after his name had been dragged through the mud a bit, and then it got dragged through the muck again after the trade. Regardless, the offensive-minded shortstop had a solid season with a line of .283/.314/.415 in 632 at-bats. His power, though, continued to be MIA with an ISO of .131. Tejada scored 92 runs but his total of 66 RBI was the lowest in 10 seasons. He is no longer the impact hitter that he once was. Over in Baltimore, the club was thankful for receiving Luke Scott in the deal. The outfielder, who did not secure a role in the Majors until he was 28, posted a line of .257/.336/.472 with 23 homers and 65 RBI in 475 at-bats. Pitchers Matt Albers and Troy Patton were derailed by injuries. Albers is rehabbing a partially torn labrum, while Patton underwent surgery for a similar, but more severe, injury. Dennis Sarfate spent the season in the Baltimore bullpen and allowed 62 hits in 79.2 innings. He posted rates of 7.00 BB/9 (no that is not a typo) and 9.72 K/9. Continuing with out theme, he pitched with an injured shoulder all season and was going to have surgery at the end of the year. Mike Costanzo had a disappointing season at Triple-A.

Winner before 2008: Baltimore
Winner after 2008: Baltimore

Be sure to check back next week when we take a look at some of the "smaller trades" from the winter of 2007-08, that still had big impacts on the 2008 season.


you didn't say who you think was the winner in the last trade before or after

I'd say Baltimore won that trade before and after.

Let's revisit the package that (supposedly) was on the table from Boston for Santana: Lester (thank God that didn't happen), Crisp (would have fit nicely in Min.), Lowrie (starting to look like a lot to give up), and Masterson (ouch).

Who would have thought the Red Sox would have been worse off with possibly the best pitcher in baseball due to this deal? I always said Min. should aim for a package that gets them numerous players they could expect to play on the team within a year, and this one would have done it and then some (4 players who had an impact on a team with championship asperations). Netting a starting CF, starting pitcher, and two guys who would have been up by midseason (I expected they would actually start Lowrie by the end of April) would have been a massive coup.

But...they wanted Bowden instead of Masterson. Or Ellsbury instead of Crisp. Oops!

another huge trade this year (atleast to me)

Brad Lidge/Eric Bruntlett to Philly for Michael Bourn/Mike Costanza/Geoff Geary from Houston.

The day of the trade Ed Wade said Bourn.".... we receive a speedy center fielder, top-of-the-order bat whom we think has the ability to be a catalyst for our club a long time and hopefully set the stage for Hunter Pence and (Lance) Berkman and Carlos Lee to drive him in," In theory yes Ed that does make sense, but the ceiling was very apparent with Bourn when he was in Philly and he proved to be touching it then. Bourns 08 numbers of .229 AVG and a OBP of .288 are downright not pro level numbers. Des;ite spending some time on the DL he did have 467 AB's with only 107 hits and 37 Walks. As for Geary, he pitched well but was not used nearly enough to validate the trade, posting an ERA of 2.53 as well as a decent WHIP of 1.164 in 64 innings is something to count on for 2009 but what was sent to Philly finally makes us Philly Fans thank the baseball gods for Ed Wade finding another job. Brad Lidge has been perfect all season in Save appearances going 41 for 41 and breaking the major league record for single season consecutive saves all while posting a cool 1.95 ERA. Numbers aside he has been a model player for an organization looking for a leader and so far the Phillies have responded. Eric Bruntlett has been a integral part of the Phillies bench. As a late inning defensive substitution for most of the season Eric still played 6 different positions with a combined fielding percentage above .950 and did hit possibly the biggest hit of the year in a crucial divisional battle between the Mets and Phils, Bruntlett roped a 2 out 9th inning double that tied the game and capped an 8 run comeback which will surely go down as a classic Phils victory in an unforgettable 2008 season. Missing in all of this is Mike Costanza the Philly native drafted by the Phils to the Astros. Well he did not last long with the star on his cap abruptly being traded to the Orioles in the Miguel Tejada deal. (his story is mentioned in the Orioles/Houston trade above.) Maybe the Astros will say that Mike Costanza was the missing piece that sold Tejada to them but I would wholeheartedly disagree. Hey Rich with those great seats you have in LA, you may want to yell over to Tony Reagins to do business with Ed Wade, you will surely prosper.

Advantage pre 2008 - Phils
Advantage post 2008 - Phils

"Santana's stuff was not quite as sharp as it used to be, but he still helped the Mets and led the club in almost every pitching category, including wins (16), innings pitched (234.1) and strikeouts (206)."

Santana also led all major league pitchers in one huge category: ERA. He deserves the Cy, though Lincecum is equally deserving.

It is a close race this year in the NL:






I think you have to give it to Lincecum - the poor guy had to play for the Giants all year.

ALthough in hindsight, is it better to know you are not going to make the playoffs all year, or think you are going to make it only to suffer your second seasonal collapse in a row and then miss the playoffs?

According to some resources, Brett Anderson is only 20 years old now, not 22.

Thank you Marc for a great post about a topic that really fascinates me. Looking back on the biggest trades of the past offseason can be either a very satisfying experience or a horribly painful one. I thought your analysis of each trade was excellent and I found it difficult to disagree with many of your conclusions about which team was the winner.

I thoroughly enjoyed your thoughts on the Tampa Bay and Minnesota trade, in which Garza and Young were the center pieces. I agree that it may have been the most significant trade of the past year. I guess what spoke to me most what that for the Rays, it was in a way addition by subtraction (with the loss of Delmon Young promoting harmony within the clubhouse). Young was one of the most highly touted young offensive players in the league and although Garza had a great deal of potential, I believed the Twins might be getting the better of Tampa Bay in this trade. This is probably also due to an inability to predict Jason Bartlett's impact on the club.

I did wonder about the Detroit and Florida trade however. While I agree that Detroit seemed to be a winner before the trade, I still feel that they got the better of this trade post 2008. It is true that Willis was a disappointment at best but Cabrera ended up having a decently strong season. I just wonder if the Tigers' collapse (after being favorites to head to the World Series preseason) played a large role in assuming this trade was a loss for Detroit. Florida did not seem to get a great deal of production from any pieces of this trade apart from a few late season hits by Maybin. If Willis manages to have a respectable season (10 to 13 wins) and Cabrera performs as we all expect, I do not expect Florida's young haul to have a bigger impact on the team's overall performance in the 2009 season. What are your thoughts on that?

On a more personal note, do you see the Santana trade as a bit of payback to Mets fans after the Kazmir-Zambrano fiasco? Even after two monumental late season failures, I have to believe the Mets have the talent to get there and win it all in 2009 with a few key additions. I maintain a blog about baseball and would love some feedback from a pro.

This is the link:

If you could spare any time it could be greatly appreciated.