According to the poll we ran, 45% of you would quite literally trade the farm system for Roy Halladay, while 55% would not. The airwaves and newspapers are abuzz with passionate arguments about how we have to try to win now, or how we can’t mortgage the future for one player. Neither side is wrong. Neither side is right.
Luckily for us, this wouldn’t be the first time in the history of baseball that a team traded a boatload of prospects for a #1 starter. Over the last 12 years, 14 trades have happened in which an “ace” is traded for a leigon of young players. I’m going to examine those trades here, and give grades to the team in the Phillies position (i.e. giving up the prospects) based on how the trade worked out.
Dec 15, 1997
Padres get: Kevin Brown
Marlins get: Derrek Lee, Steve Hoff, Rafael Medina
Brown’s contract status: Off season move, 1 year left on contract.
How it worked out: Brown was dominant in his season with the Padres, with a 2.38 ERA over 257 IP. He led the Padres to 98 wins and a NL Pennant, only to be swept by the Yankees in the World Series. After the season, he signed a long-term deal with the Dodgers. Lee was the only chip in the deal that they missed, as he went on to help the Marlins win a championship in 2003.
Grade: Winning the pennant makes this a worthwhile deal for the Padres, even though Lee turned out to be a star. B+
July 31, 1998
Astros get: Randy Johnson
Mariners get: Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, John Halama
Johnson’s contract status: Mid-season move, 1/2 year left on contract.
How it worked out: Johnson was 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA in 11 starts for the Astros, but the offense couldn’t support him in the playoffs and the Astros were bounced in the first round by Brown’s Padres. Johnson signed with the Diamondbacks after the season. Garcia had a great 5 1/2 season with the Mariners, making 2 all-star games. Guillen didn’t meet his potential until he was traded to the Tigers, where he made 3 all-star games, and John Halama was a solid rotation guy for a couple years.
Grade: The Astros risked it with Johnson hoping it would get them a World Series, but it didn’t get them past the first round. They gave up 2 future all-stars that could have helped them in the final years of the Bagwell/Biggio era. D+
Feb 18, 1999
Yankees get: Roger Clemens
Blue Jays get: David Wells, Homer Bush, Graeme Lloyd
Clemens’ contract status: Off season move, 2 years left on contract.
How it worked out: The Yankees were coming off a season in which they won 114 games and the World Series, and Clemens was coming off a year where he won his 2nd straight Cy Young. The Yankees won 2 more World Series with Clemens, who pitched so-so in the regular season, but very well in the playoffs. Wells was solid for the Blue Jays, but the Jays really messed up this deal when they dropped their demand for Alfonso Soriano to be involved. Bush, the only young player in the deal, was a bust.
Grade: You could argue that Yankees would have won those World Series with either Wells or Clemens, but we know they did win them with Clemens. A
July 26, 2000
Diamondbacks get: Curt Schilling
Phillies get: Omar Daal, Vicente Padilla, Nelson Figeuroa, Travis Lee
Schilling’s contract status: Mid-season move, 1 1/2 years left on contract.
How it worked out: We know this one well. Schilling had his best years with Diamondbacks, including winning a World Series, while Ed Wade traded one of the best players in baseball, and got back no one in particular.
Grade: Schilling put the D-Backs over the top, and only gave up a couple decent Vicente Padilla seasons to do it. A+
June 27, 2002
Expos get: Bartolo Colon
Indians get: Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, Lee Stevens
Colon’s contract status: Mid-season move, 1 1/2 years left on contract.
How it worked out: The Expos were making a playoff push but fell short even after acquiring Colon, who went 10-4 with a 3.31 ERA with the Expos. They then moved Colon to the White Sox the next season for El Duque and others. Meanwhile, they gave up an MVP candidate, a Cy Young winner and an all-star 2B, setting the franchise back years.
Grade: Probably the worst trade on this list, the Nationals would look a lot different right now with Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips on their squad. F
Nov 30, 2003
Red Sox get: Curt Schilling
Diamondbacks get: Brandon Lyon, Casey Fossum, Jorge De La Rosa, Michael Goss
Schilling’s contract status: Off-season move, trade contingent on Schilling signing a multi-year extention.
How it worked out: Schilling, like with the Diamondbacks, was the missing piece for the Red Sox and led them to their first World Series title in 86 years after winning 21 games in the regular season. Lyon was a decent relief pitcher for the Diamondbacks, but they really didn’t get much out of this deal.
Grade: Ended an 86-year drought and didn’t give up much to do it. A+
Dec 17, 2004
Braves get: Tim Hudson
Athletics get: Dan Meyer, Juan Cruz, Charles Thomas
Hudson’s contract status: Off-season move, 1 year left on deal. Signed an extension before his first pitch with Braves.
How it worked out: Hudson has been solid, when healthy, for the Braves, but the team has only made the playoffs once in his 4 years there. Right now he’s being paid $13 million to miss the season and will be a free agent after the season. Meyer was supposed to be a can’t miss pitching prospect, but he missed, as did Thomas, while Cruz made his mark on other clubs.
Grade: Hudson didn’t have the impact that the Braves had hoped, but the prospects they gave up didn’t end up hurting them. B
Dec 20, 2004
Cardinals get: Mark Mulder
Athletics get: Dan Haren, Daric Barton, Kiko Calero
Mulder’s contract status: Off-season move, 2 years remaining on deal.
How it worked out: Mulder had a good 1st year with the Cardinals with a 3.64 ERA in 205 IP, but blew his arm out the year after and has not been effective since. Meanwhile, Dan Haren became so good, that he’s on the other end of one of these deals a little bit down the page.
Grade: Haren has been a top-5 pitcher in the NL the last 2 years, and you could make the argument he’s the best pitcher in baseball this season. The Cardinals were looking for an ace, but they already had one. They avoid an “F” because they only gave up one star. D-
Jan 11, 2005
Yankees get: Randy Johnson
Diamondbacks get: Javier Vazquez, Dioner Navarro, Brad Halsey, $9 million
Johnson’s contract status: Off-season move, trade contingent on Johnson signing a multi-year extension.
How it worked out: Johnson was not the dominant pitcher the Yankees had hoped, putting up a 3.79 ERA in his first season and 5.00 ERA in his second. Vazquez is a good pitcher who can’t handle the big lights and Navarro was the starting catcher for the AL champion Rays last year.
Grade: The Yankees didn’t get what they wanted from Johnson, but didn’t give up any stars to do it. However, pieces like Vazquez and Navarro might have been best used acquiring someone else. C
Nov 24, 2005
Red Sox get: Josh Beckett (and Mike Lowell)
Marlins get: Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado, Harvey Garcia
Beckett’s contract status: Off-season move, 2 years remaining on deal.
How it worked out: Fantastic for both teams. Beckett gave up 4 runs in 4 postseason starts in 2007, leading the Sox to their 2nd World Series title of the decade. Lowell happened to be the MVP of that series. Hanley Ramirez on the other hand, has become one of the best players in baseball.
Grade: Beckett has been very good when healthy, but blister problems have continued to plague him. However, the Red Sox absolutely don’t win the 2007 World Series without him. Right now they would probably trade Beckett back to the Marlins for Ramirez if they could given the pitching depth in their system, but winning the Series guarantees a good grade. A-
Dec 15, 2007
Diamondbacks get: Dan Haren
Athletics get: Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland, Chris Carter, Carlos Gonzalez, Aaron Cunningham, Greg Smith
Haren’s contract status: Off-season move, 3 years remaining on deal.
How it worked out: Haren, part of the Mark Mulder deal above, has been exactly what the Diamondbacks wanted him to be, sporting a 2.84 ERA through 2 seasons with the squad. Unfortunately, the young offensive players have struggled big time and the Diamondbacks haven’t sniffed the playoffs. Meanwhile, since Haren had 3 years left on his contract, the Diamondbacks had to give up a ridiculous prospect haul to get him. Anderson, the jewel of the deal, is a flame-throwing lefty who, at 21, is already a part of the A’s rotation. Smith and Gonzalez went to Colorado as part of the Matt Holliday deal. Carter and Cunningham are both still top offensive prospects.
Grade: This is a real tough one. The Diamondbacks can’t complain at all with what Haren has given them, but the team has been such a disaster that they might have been better off just hanging off to all those prospects. Anderson, Carter and Cunningham all appear like they will be solid pros and Anderson might be a star. Chances are none will be as good as Haren, so I don’t know who they would take. B
Jan 29, 2008
Mets get: Johan Santana
Twins get: Carlos Gomez, Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra
Santana’s contract status: Off-season move, trade contingent on Santana signing a multi-year extention.
How it worked out: Santana has been very good for the Mets, with a 2.72 ERA through 2 seasons. However, whether it’s the bullpen or the injuries, the Mets haven’t cashed in on their acquisition. On the other end, Gomez is struggling to hit, and it remains to be seen what kind of player he will be. Humber, Mulvey and Guerra all could be starters some day, but none are top prospects.
Grade: This trade still makes me mad. The Mets got the best pitcher in baseball and didn’t even have to give up their best prospect to get him because the Twins so poorly misplayed their hand with the Yankees and Red Sox. Obviously, Johan hasn’t taken the Mets to the playoffs, but they didn’t give up anyone elite to get him. A-
Feb 8, 2008
Mariners get: Erik Bedard
Orioles get: Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, George Sherrill, Tony Butler, Kameron Mickolio
Bedard’s contract status: Off-season move, 2 years remaining on deal.
How it worked out: Bedard and Felix Hernandez were supposed to give the Mariners a 1-2 punch that would lead them to the AL West title. It didn’t. Bedard only threw 81 innings for the Mariners and they finished with one of the worst records in baseball. This season he’s healthy and pitching better, but the Mariners are only a fringe contender. The other franchise in this deal, the Orioles, have pretty much rebuilt their franchise on this trade. Adam Jones is a superstar in the making and Tillman is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Sherrill has been their closer for 2 years and both Butler and Mickolio are viable major league prospects.
Grade: In a couple years, this could rivals or pass the Expos/Colon trade above. The Mariners were blasted at the time of the trade for giving up too much, and the injury to Bedard and emergence of Jones has actually made the deal worse than originally thought. F
July 7, 2008
Brewers get: CC Sabathia
Indians get: Matt LaPorta, Rob Bryson, Zach Jackson, Micheal Brantley
Sabathia’s contract status: Mid-season move, 1/2 year remaining on deal.
How it worked out: The Brewers, desperate to make the playoffs, traded for the Indians stud, knowing he was a half year rental. Much like Randy Johnson and the Astros, Sabathia was comically dominant (11-2, 1.65 ERA) in the regular season, but couldn’t get the Brewers past the first round (and Sugar Shane Victorino’s power stroke). On the Indians end, all of the players are still in the minors and while they expect big things from LaPorta, nothing is guaranteed at this point.
Grade: The Brewers made the playoffs, which makes the trade at least somewhat of a success. However, they certainly envisioned Ben Sheets being there with Sabathia and making a run deeper in the playoffs. Since the prospects they gave up aren’t in the majors yet, it’s not possible to give them a proper grade. N/A
While some talking heads, writers and fans speak with such certainty that the Phillies should, or should not, make this trade - these trades (shockingly) show that there is no definitive right or wrong answer on this. Some teams went on to win the World Series after the move, some severely damaged their franchise for years to come.
Let’s run down the grades I gave out for the teams in our position…
A – 5
B – 3
C – 1
D – 2
F – 2
N/A – 1
If you count A’s and B’s as “successful” trades, 8 of the 14 trades turned out OK for the teams giving up the prospects. Only 5 of the 14 turned out bad, but 2 of those 14 really decimated the franchise trading the prospects. However, both those teams were trying to get to the upper echelon of teams, not already there like the Phils. So on a whole, you can say that there is about a 60% chance you won’t regret the trade.
What does concern me is that only 2 of these trades included 5 or more prospects (what the Blue Jays are asking) and those graded out at a “B” and an “F” and the package that is closest to what we would have to give up is what the Mariners gave the Orioles (though none of our prospects are as highly regarded as Jones was). However, the Mariners were not ready to contend and Halladay is far, far better than Bedard.
I didn’t expect this to show one way or another that we should do the deal, but it does give some perspective. It seems as though the teams that were already built for success and made the move to put them over the top had a better chance of not regretting it than those who did it to try to play with the big boys. Obviously, we fall into the former category, so that would infer we have a better chance of success with the deal.
For me, whether to do this deal or not will still come down to the package we have to give up, but I hope this gives everyone some perspective that there is no easy, or correct, answer at this point and we’ll just have to wait and see.
I’m sure there are plenty of talking points I missed – does this change the way you think about a possible trade?