The 2007-08 Winter Trading Season in Review
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.
To Tampa Bay:
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
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
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
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
To New York (NL):
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
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