Revisiting the Trades of the Last Few Years Part 2

Check out part one, looking at the 2008-2009 trades leading up to the 2009 deadline.  Now for the 2009-2010 deals:

Adam LaRoche

The Trade: LaRoche didn’t have a lot of value, since his salary was at the maximum amount to get any value.  The Pirates ended up getting Argenis Diaz and Hunter Strickland for him from Boston.  Boston later traded him to Atlanta for Casey Kotchman.

Initial Reaction: The reaction wasn’t good, as the return wasn’t anything to write home about.  The trade did get a boost when Hunter Strickland combined with Diego Moreno for a no hitter in West Virginia shortly after the deal.

Reaction Over Time: LaRoche was a pending free agent, so this deal didn’t get a lot of attention compared to other bigger deals.  Plus, for some reason, LaRoche was under-appreciated in Pittsburgh.  Part of that is because he was brought in as the anchor of the lineup, when he’s best used as a support player.

Reaction Now: Diaz looks like a bench player, while Strickland has struggled in A-ball with performance and injury issues.

Verdict: The Pirates didn’t get much, but also didn’t give up much, losing two months of LaRoche.  They also wouldn’t have gotten compensation, as his salary was too high to offer arbitration.

Cedeno hasn't been the most consistent shortstop, but his value is the same as Wilson's value in his final years.

Jack Wilson/Ian Snell

The Trade: The Pirates sent Wilson and Snell to Seattle, along with cash to cover the remainder of their 2009 salaries and improve the return.  In exchange, they got Jeff Clement, Ronny Cedeno, Aaron Pribanic, Brett Lorin, and Nathan Adcock.

Initial Reaction: The trade was viewed as a steal, mostly because Wilson and Snell were perceived as having no value at the time.  The expectations were extremely low for each player, and the fact that the Pirates got any return for Wilson was seen as a bonus, due to his high salary at the time.

Reaction Over Time: The trade eventually shifted to the performance of Clement, which wasn’t good.  The trade was labeled a bust when Clement didn’t work out in his switch to first base.  Ronny Cedeno’s inconsistent play had people wanting Jack Wilson back, even though Wilson was beyond his prime, injury prone, and on the downside of his career.

Reaction Now: Snell retired, then un-retired.  Wilson has been a disaster this year.  Meanwhile, Cedeno has been strong defensively, providing the same value the Pirates had from Wilson in the final years.  Nathan Adcock is pitching in the majors right now.  Unfortunately, that’s with the Royals, who took him in the Rule 5 draft.  Pribanic and Lorin are putting up strong numbers in the minors, but neither look like more than a back of the rotation starter or power bullpen arm, similar to Adcock.

Verdict: The Pirates basically matched Wilson’s production with Cedeno.  Now, that’s not Jack Wilson 2006 we’re talking about, but the Jack Wilson from 2009 that was making around $7 M.  They also have a few extra pitching prospects in the system.  Not a huge return, but not horrible, and it could be worse.  They could have extended Wilson (which they almost did), which would put them in the situation that the Seattle Mariners are currently in.

Freddy Sanchez

The Trade: The Pirates dealt Sanchez to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for top prospect Tim Alderson.

Initial Reaction: The reaction at the time was great.  Alderson still had top prospect status, with questions on whether he could emerge as a top of the rotation starter.

Reaction Over Time: Alderson has struggled since the deal, and to be fair, his struggles started before the deal, which is how the Pirates got him for Sanchez.  Meanwhile, Sanchez helped San Francisco win a World Series.

Reaction Now: The trade was really two months of Sanchez for Alderson, since there was no way the Pirates were going to exercise his option (the Giants didn’t exercise it, but instead made an extension offer that amounted to $1 M more per year than what the Pirates offered prior to the trade).  The trade is seen as bad, although most people forget that Sanchez was viewed as having no trade value, due to his injury history (he was injured at the time of the deal) and his large contract.

Verdict: Alderson has turned things around this year in Altoona, although only as a reliever.  I don’t really see him becoming a starter.  One of the downsides to going with the “quality” over “quanitity” approach.  You only get one shot, and prospects aren’t guaranteed.

John Grabow/Tom Gorzelanny

The Trade: The day after the Sanchez/Wilson deals, the Pirates dealt John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny in exchange for Kevin Hart, Jose Ascanio, and Josh Harrison.

Initial Reaction: This came right after the Pirates got unexpected returns for Wilson and Sanchez, so the expectations were high.  The trade was equal value, although when compared with the (at the time) steals the Pirates got for Wilson/Sanchez, the move was seen as a disappointment.  The biggest outcry was the lack of left handed pitchers in the upper levels.

Reaction Over Time: Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio both experienced shoulder injuries, and have been injured for most of the last two years.  Josh Harrison was the lone piece of the trade, but undervalued until this year.  Grabow was only under control for two months, and was a pending free agent.  The big loss was Tom Gorzelanny, who had struggled in 2009, but has since bounced back to become a serviceable pitcher.

Reaction Now: Hart and Ascanio look like they might not get their careers back on track, due to their injuries.  Meanwhile, Josh Harrison has emerged as a major league player, possibly serving as a strong super utility option off the bench.  Ironically, the biggest complaint about the deal (lack of left handers) never really turned in to an issue.  The Pirates are now faced with a decision on whether they should keep two or three left handers when Joe Beimel returns.

Verdict: Harrison is good consolation, although the Pirates sold low on Gorzelanny.  They might have gotten a better return if they would have waited.  Then again, that’s more of a hindsight argument, as no one says that about Snell, even though he and Gorzelanny were in the same situations.

Jesse Chavez

The Trade: The Pirates got Aki Iwamura for Chavez, filling their second base need.

Initial Reaction: The reaction was good.  The Pirates filled a need at second base, with no internal options available in the upper levels of the system.  There were some complaints that the Pirates traded Chavez, who was coming off a strong season.

Reaction Over Time: Iwamura struggled in 2010, although Chavez also struggled.  It became more of a “why did they add Iwamura” issue.  Neil Walker eventually took over at second, and the rest was history.

Reaction Now: A lot of revisionist history exists with this trade.  People now ask why they added Iwamura when they had Walker.  That ignores the fact that Walker broke out in 2010, after Iwamura was added, and only then was he moved to second base to eventually take over full time.

Verdict: It was a good strategy, as the Pirates needed a second baseman, and didn’t give up anything of value.  It just didn’t work out.

D.J. Carrasco/Ryan Church/Bobby Crosby

The Trade: The Pirates sent Carrasco, Church, and Crosby to Arizona for Chris Snyder and Pedro Ciriaco.  The deal was basically Carrasco for Snyder and Ciriaco, with Church and Crosby thrown in to cover salary for Snyder.

Initial Reaction: With Ryan Doumit struggling, no one objected to adding a strong defensive catcher, especially when they were trading next to nothing and getting money in the deal.

Reaction Over Time: There were some complaints about Snyder’s 2010 performance with the Pirates, although I don’t think anyone regretted the deal.

Reaction Now: Snyder is injured right now, but the deal is seen as a good one in that they added a position of need, while giving up very little.

Verdict: It may not blow away other deals, but this is the type of move the Pirates need to make going forward.  Take on salary, and give up nothing from the farm system in order to upgrade a spot on the roster.

Javier Lopez

The Trade: The Pirates traded Lopez to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for John Bowker and Joe Martinez.

Initial Reaction: The reaction was kind of mixed, mostly because this trade was over-shadowed by two other deals that day, and wasn’t dealing with any major trade pieces.

Reaction Over Time: Martinez was eventually designated for assignment, and claimed off of waivers by the Cleveland Indians.  Bowker always had success in AAA, but could never carry that over to the majors.  He was designated for assignment, and is currently having success with the Indianapolis Indians.

Reaction Now: Kind of a forgotten trade.  Lopez is still putting up good numbers in San Francisco, but I don’t think anyone is calling for him back, with the current bullpen performing so well.

Verdict: It was a trade of a middle reliever for a potential middle reliever and a potential power bat off the bench.  The players received by the Pirates didn’t pan out, but the player they traded is easily replaced, as we’ve seen in 2011.

Octavio Dotel

The Trade: The Pirates traded Dotel to the Los Angeles Dodgers, along with some salary relief, in exchange for James McDonald and Andrew Lambo.

Initial Reaction: McDonald and Lambo were the top prospects in the Dodgers system prior to the 2009 season, but saw their value fall.  Still, for a two month rental of Dotel, the return was seen as a good trade.

Reaction Over Time: It didn’t take long for this trade to start getting talked about in the same sentence as the Nady trade.  McDonald immediately joined a struggling rotation, and put up a 3.52 ERA in 64 innings, spanning 11 starts.  He also posted an 8.6 K/9 and a 3.4 BB/9 ratio.  Lambo started reviving his prospect status at the AA level, making this deal look like a possible steal.  Dotel was traded by the Dodgers about a month and a half later.

Reaction Now: People have cooled on the “Nady trade” comparisons.  Part of that is due to Lambo struggling at the AAA level, and being demoted back to AA this year.  A bigger part has been the season totals for McDonald, who has a 4.40 ERA in 17 starts, with a 74:47 K/BB ratio in 92 innings.  However, a closer look shows that McDonald isn’t having a bad year at all.  He was injured during Spring Training, and arguably wasn’t ready for the start of the season.  However, he started the year in the rotation, and struggled his first four starts, with a 10.13 ERA in 18.2 innings.  Since then, McDonald has been excellent, with a 2.95 ERA in 73.1 innings, along with a 62:35 K/BB ratio.  His control has struggled at times, although even in his worst starts he’s going 5-6 innings, allowing 2-3 runs, and putting the Pirates in position to win (they’ve won in four of his last five starts).

Verdict: Anytime you can get a starting pitcher for a closer, you take the deal.  A starter is going to give you much more value.  In this case, the Pirates got a talented starter who is under control for years, all for a two month rental of a closer who was easily replaced by Joel Hanrahan.  If Lambo works out, that’s just a bonus.

Conclusion

A lot of analysis comes down to the Bay and Nady trades.  Point to the Bay trade as evidence that Huntington can’t trade.  Point to the Nady trade as evidence that he can.  Those are obvious outliers.  The Bay trade was as bad of a result as you can get when dealing a top player.  The Nady trade, on the other hand, was a huge steal.  I think it’s fair to say that those trades pretty much cancel each other out.  So let’s remove those outliers and focus on the rest of the trades.

The first big trade was the Nate McLouth trade.  For the longest time this deal was criticized.  The funny thing was it was criticized on both sides.  Braves fans hated the addition of McLouth, and Pirates fans hated the return they got for McLouth.  It’s normal for fans to hate a trade return, but it’s rare for both sides to want to reverse a trade.  With Morton’s success this year, it’s easy to put this one in the win column, for now at least.  Obviously trade grades are an evolving process.  That “win” ranking exists as long as Morton continues his turnaround.

The next trade was the Morgan/Burnett deal, which brought in Joel Hanrahan.  Looking at what Hanrahan has done this year, I don’t think you’ll find anyone who would want to reverse that trade.

The 2009 deadline deals get a mixed reaction.  People forget at the time that Wilson, Sanchez, and LaRoche didn’t have much trade value, due to their high salaries.  The Wilson deal is pretty much a wash at this point.  Clement didn’t work out, Cedeno has replaced Wilson’s production from the final years, and they’ve got two pitchers remaining who might provide value.  The Sanchez trade didn’t work out as well, although Tim Alderson might have some value as a reliever going forward.  The LaRoche deal was a bit of a disappointment, considering his history of second half success.  However, it’s obvious that he didn’t have much trade value, as Boston was only able to get Casey Kotchman for him later in the year.

The 2010 deadline deals were a good series of moves.  The Pirates got Chris Snyder for next to nothing.  They got James McDonald for a two month rental of Octavio Dotel, who they signed prior to the 2010 season.

As for the minor deals, with bench guys and relievers (Eric Hinske, Javier Lopez, Jesse Chavez), the results haven’t been huge, although the expectations shouldn’t have been that great to begin with.  The biggest standout from this deal was Jose Bautista, although it’s hard to fault the Pirates for how this turned out.  This is a guy who had very little value at the time, was almost non-tendered by Toronto before his breakout year, and refused to make changes until the 2010 season.

The track record of trades isn’t perfect, but at the same time it’s hard to say that the track record is bad.  That’s especially hard to say when you look at the current roster, and see that most of the top players (Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton, James McDonald, Joel Hanrahan, Jose Tabata) were all acquired via trade.  Huntington’s trade record seems normal for a General Manager.  You win some, you lose some.  You have some disasters, and you have some big wins.  You trade some guys away who go on to surprise, and you get guys for next to nothing who surprise you.

When evaluating whether the Pirates should deal guys like Joel Hanrahan or Paul Maholm, the only thing that should be evaluated is what kind of return could be expected, and how this could impact the makeup of the team.  Suggesting that Huntington can’t be trusted to get a good return is an out-dated thought process.  It’s putting too much weight on the Bay trade, without realizing that every General Manager has a bad trade like this.  It’s failing to update the perception on the trades that brought in Hanrahan and Morton.  It’s expecting Huntington to do what no General Manager does: put up a perfect trade record.  If the Pirates trade guys like Hanrahan or Maholm, there would be no guarantees that they would eventually see a big win from the trade. At the same time, there are no guarantees that the trade would be a failure off the bat.  Huntington’s track record shows that he’s no different than every GM with trades: win some, lose some.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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