Around the MinorsNovember 05, 2008
Even Small Trades Can Have Big Impacts: A Review of 2007-08
By Marc Hulet

The 2008-09 Major League Baseball off-season is in full swing with the General Managers Meeting underway and with MLB free agents busy declaring their freedom. Last week I took a look back at some of the larger trades that were made during the 2007-08 off-season. This week I am going to continue the theme and take a look at some of the smaller trades made during that same time frame, which had larger-than-expected impacts on one or more teams.

The A's and White Sox make a Swisheroo

To Chicago (AL):
OF/1B Nick Swisher

To Oakland:
LHP Gio Gonzalez
RHP Fautino de los Santos
OF Ryan Sweeney

Even with 1B/DH-types Jim Thome and Paul Konerko already on the roster, the White Sox management went out and nabbed 1B-OF Nick Swisher with a plan of having him spend the majority of the time in the outfield. Swisher, though, ended up playing 71 games at first base, while filling for an injured - and ineffective - Konerko. Carlos Quentin (see below) also made Swisher expendable from the outfield rotation. Swisher had his worst offensive season in 2008 by posting a line of .219/.332/.410 with a .191 ISO in 497 at-bats. On the plus side, his rates remained around his career-norm (14.2 BB%, 27.2 K%) so a return to his old ways is not out of the question for 2009.

From the A's perspective, the trade went fairly well. Ryan Sweeney had a solid, albeit unspectacular, season in the outfield with a line of .286/.350/.383 and rates of 9.0 BB% and 17.4 K%. He is probably not a long-term regular in the outfield, but he should be solid-average in 2009. Gio Gonzalez had a respectable Triple-A season at the age of 22. He allowed 106 hits in 123 innings and posted rates of 4.46 BB/9 and 9.37 K/9. He was roughed up in 10 big league appearances and posted an ERA of 7.68. Fautino de los Santos, who had a breakout 2007 on the mound, was found to be injured after making five minor league starts and underwent undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Winner before 2008: Draw
Winner after 2008: Undecided

Texas Gives Away Some Much-Needed Pitching

To Detroit:
RHP Armando Galarraga

To Texas:
OF Michael Hernandez

This trade was an absolute steal for Detroit, as teams continue to steal pitching away from Texas - a club that needs quality pitching about as badly as any team in baseball. Armando Galarraga is not a superstar, but he proved to be a solid No. 3 or No. 4 starter in 2008. He won 13 games for Detroit by allowing 152 hits in 178.2 innings and posting rates of 3.07 BB/9 and 6.35 K/9. On the downside, Galarraga allowed 28 homers (1.41 HR/9) while playing half his games in a spacious ballpark. In the future, the right-hander might want to try and vary his speeds a little more as his fastball averaged out at 90.2 mph, while his slider was at 84.8 mph, and his change-up was at 84 mph. Michael Hernandez did not even play for Texas in 2008 and spent just 16 games in pro ball - all with the New York Mets' A-ball affiliates.

Winner before 2008: Detroit
Winner after 2008: Detroit, in a landslide

Detroit Deals Depth for Veteran Stability

To Detroit:
SS Edgar Renteria

To Atlanta:
RHP Jair Jurrjens
OF Gorkys Hernandez

It feels like Edgar Renteria has been around forever (and he has in fact played in 13 MLB seasons) but he was only 32 years old in 2008. Regardless, aspects of his game are beginning to slip and he has played with four teams in five seasons. Offensively, he hit .270/.317/.382 with just six stolen bases in 503 at-bats for Detroit. Renteria posted rates of 6.9 BB% and 12.7 K%. In Atlanta, Jair Jurrjens had a solid season and gives the rotation some much-needed hope for the future. He allowed 188 hits in 188 innings pitched and posted rates of 3.35 BB/9 and 6.64 K/9. He did a nice job of keeping the ball in the yard and allowed just 11 home runs all season. Jurrjens relied mainly on his fastball/change-up combo in 2008 and could stand to mix in his slider more often (11.8%) if he wants to continue to improve. Gorkys Hernandez took a step back in High-A ball with a line of .264/.348/.387, along with five homers and 20 stolen bases in 406 at-bats.

Winner before 2008: Detroit
Winner after 2008: Atlanta

Texas Gives Away More Pitching... But Gets a Little Something in Return

To Texas:
OF Josh Hamilton

To Cincinnati:
RHP Edinson Volquez
LHP Danny Ray Herrera

You could say this trade worked out well for both teams... although Josh Hamilton deserves the nod for the best overall season - with an almost MVP-deserving year. But on the other hand, Texas yet again gave away some young, promising pitching to improve its already fairly-potent offence. Hamilton was a run-producing machine in the first half (60 runs, 95 RBI), before tailing off a bit in the second part of the season to finish at 98 runs scored and 130 RBI. He also had an excellent line of .304/.371/.530 with 35 doubles and 32 homers in 624 at-bats. Edinson Volquez had a solid first full season at the Major League level despite some inconsistencies. He won 17 games and allowed just 167 hits in 196 innings. He posted rates of 4.27 BB/9 and 9.46 K/9. Despite pitching in a homer-happy stadium much of the time, Volquez allowed just 14 home runs. Danny Herrera, who may be the shortest player in Major League Baseball at 5'6''-ish, made his MLB debut in 2008 at appears to have a future as a LOOGY.

Winner before 2008: Texas
Winner after 2008: Texas, but let's revisit this after 2009...

A Salary Dump Pays a Surprising Dividend

To Atlanta:
OF Mark Kotsay

To Oakland
RHP Joey Devine RHP Jamie Richmond

Rarely do salary dumps favor the team doing the expelling. This trade, though, is the exception to the rule. Veteran Mark Kotsay had a solid season for Atlanta (and later Boston) with a line of .276/.329/.403 with six homers in 402 at-bats, but Oakland picked up a player who could be the heir apparent to closer Huston Street. Joey Devine finally showed some of the promise that made him one of the top relievers in college baseball when Atlanta selected him 27th overall during the 2005 draft. Control issues kept him from realizing his potential until 2008 (He has a career 5.10 BB/9 rate). This past season, Devine posted an eye-catching 0.59 ERA while allowing just 23 hits in 45.2 innings. His walk rate was down to 2.96 BB/9, with a strikeout rate of 9.66 K/9. As well, he did not allow a home run all season. The third player in the deal, Canadian minor league pitcher Jamie Richmond, regressed in A-ball.

Winner before 2008: Even
Winner after 2008: Oakland

Hey, Kenny Williams Made a Good Trade!

To Chicago (AL)
OF Carlos Quentin

To Arizona:
1B Chris Carter

Carlos Quentin got a raw deal in Arizona and made the Diamondbacks pay for giving up on him too soon. The former first round pick (29th overall in 2003) - and star college player - has battled injuries throughout his career - and even missed a fair chunk of time in 2008 - but he was awesome when he was on the field for Chicago. He posted a line of .288/.394/.571 and slugged 36 homers and drove in 96 runs in 480 at-bats. Quentin's ISO was an impressive .283. For a power hitter, his rates were solid at 12.1 BB% and 16.7 K%. Chris Carter was not to be outdone. The 21-year-old first baseman slugged 39 homers and drove in 101 runs in High-A ball with rates of 13.2 BB% and 30.8 K%. Oh - and he did it for Oakland after being sent from Chicago to Arizona to Oakland (in the Danny Haren trade) during the off-season. The most impressive part about this whole trade, though, might be the fact that Kenny made the deal without having to trade even one already-injured pitcher...

Winner before 2008: Chicago
Winner after 2008: Chicago

Phillies Make a Move for October... in November

To Philadelphia:
RHP Brad Lidge
SS Eric Bruntlett

To Houston:
OF Michael Bourn
3B Mike Costanzo
Geoff Geary

This is one of those trades that you can definitely look back on as a difference-maker in 2008. Brad Lidge, who had worn out his welcome in Houston, absolutely rejuvenated his career with the Phillies and won over a hardcore fan base, as well as city. The 31-year-old closer saved 41 games in the regular season and allowed 50 hits in 69.1 innings. He posted rates of 4.54 BB/9 and 11.94 K/9, while allowing just two homers. He saved another seven games in the post-season en route to a World Series title. Michael Bourn stole 41 bases for Houston, but posted a paltry line of .229/.288/.300 in 467 at-bats. Geoff Geary allowed just 45 hits in 64 innings, with rates of 3.94 BB/9 and 6.33 K/9. Mike Costanzo was shipped off to Baltimore in the Miguel Tejada trade.

Winner before 2008: Philadelphia
Winner after 2008: Uh yeah, Philadelphia


The players you mention all have become (or already were) bigger names, but I would add the Rays dealing away Jeff Ridgway to acquire Willy Aybar. While Aybar did not have anywhere near the impact of someone like Hamilton or Quentin, he proved a very important piece to TB's excellent season and likely will continue to play an important role next year. Ridgway demonstrated some strikeout prowess, but only pitched 9.7 innings in the majors in 2008. I would consider TB the winner both before and after 2008.

The exchange of Seth McClung for Grant Balfour fits the same model as Balfour emerged as a shutdown reliever in a tremendously improved bullpen and has a chance to move into the closer's role while McClung continued his maddeningly erratic performance history.

When I said 'smaller deals'... I meant in terms of the number of players changing hands - which was basically an easy way to split the topic into two separate articles for ease of reading.

That said, most of the big names like Hamilton or Quentin really weren't 'big' prior to their breakout 2008 seasons. In 2007, I would have called them promising or on the cusp of said breakout.

Thanks for reading.