Top 5 Trades of the 2007 Baseball Winter Meetings

The recent MLB Winter Meetings, combined with the trade that sent Carlos Quentin to the Padres reminded me of the last time that Kenny Williams and Josh Byrnes hooked up in a Quentin trade, the 2007 Winter Meetings. Only one “major” trade took place during the meetings, but the four other trades had impacts of their own down the road.

1. Tigers Trade for Miguel Cabrera

Tigers Received:
3B Miguel Cabrera
LHP Dontrelle Willis

Marlins Received:
OF Cameron Maybin
LHP Andrew Miller
C Mike Rabelo
RHP Eulogio De La Cruz
RHP Burke Badenhop
RHP Dallas Trahern

This was obviously the deal of the Winter Meetings. Cabrera has been an offensive powerhouse for the Tigers and has been mentioned in the AL MVP vote about every season he’s been there. Willis is another story, he fell apart after moving to Detroit and was never the dominant pitcher he once was. Regardless, Dombrowski extended him and paid dearly for it. He found limited success last season, but not with the Tigers.

Maybin struggled in Florida, but a change of scenery in San Diego has helped. The Marlins received to relievers on their end for him. Andrew Miller was ineffective and has since been traded to Boston. Rabelo spent some time as a backup catcher for the Marlins, but never hit enough to hold the position long enough.

Cruz was bounced around in a number of roles and found him self on the Padres and the Brewers after the trade. He did have some success this season in Milwaukee’s pen, though it was a Bey limited sample. Badenhop has been the most useful of the three eighties in this deal, pitching over 50 innings out of the pen the past couple seasons before being traded to the Rays this winter. Trahern never hit his stride and therefore never reached the majors.

This trade was an obvious win for the Tigers, even with Willie’s ineffectiveness and contract as well as Cabrera’s off field issues.
2. White Sox pick up Hard Hittin’ Carlos Quentin

White Sox Received:
OF Carlos Quentin

Diamondbacks Received:
1B Chris Carter

Since Kenny Williams and Josh Byrnes teamed up to trade Carlos Quentin again this winter, reviewing this trade seems appropriate. From a player to player comparison, Kenny Williams obviously won this trade for the White Sox as Quentin has been a productive middle of the order bat for the team since he was traded for. His defense on the other hand….

Carter was D-Back property for 11 days as he was flipped to Oakland as part of a trade for Dan Haren. Although Byrnes didn’t win by value for value, he used Carter’s value at the time as a piece to land Haren, Carter’s value has since dropped. Chris has since had some decent seasons in the minors, but hasn’t excelled in the majors. He will have to push past a potential “Four-A” hitter label this season if he wishes to have a Major League career.

 

3. Nationals obtain Clippard

Yankees Received:
RP Jonathan Albaladejo

Nationals Received:
SP Tyler Clippard

The Yankees were looking for a pitcher to fill a middle relief role. Albaladejo was a hard thrower that performed well in an audition with the Nationals in 2007, pitching to a 1.88 ERA and a 0.628 WHIP. But the walks hit him hard in New York and he never posted a WHIP below 1.50 in parts of three seasons with the Yankees. Clippard on the other hand would eventually move into a role that the Yankees would’ve loved for Albaladejo to develop into. He has become the setup man for the back-end of the bullpen and has even closed a few games. Tyler has excelled in relief and had his best season yet in 2011 with a 1.83 ERA, a 0.838 WHIP, 10.6 K/9 and an All Star Game appearance.

 

4. Braves Snatch Infante

Braves Recieved:
IF Omar Infante
LHP Will Ohman

Cubs Recieved:
RHP Jose Ascanio

The Braves filled their short-term needs with this deal. Ohman was a vaible lefty out of the pen in 2008 and saw a career high in innings pitched, along with career lows in BB/9 and HR/9. He left via free agency after the season. Infante had three very good seasons as a utility infielder in Atlanta, including an All Star selection in 2010. He was then used in the Dan Uggla deal after that season.

Ascaino’s 2007 season at Double-A proved to be an abberation and he wasn’t successful  in various trips to the Majors with the Cubs and then the Pirates.

 

5. Nationals pick up Hazardous Dukes

This was a tough one to decide on as the rest of the trades didn’t really help any team much. The Freddy Guzman for Chris Shelton trade was intriguing as I was always interested in Guzman and his speed (90 SB in the minors in 2003). But both players became “Four-A” players during their peak. The Tigers traded Jose Capellan to the Rockies for Denny Bautista. Everyone drooled over Bautista’s strikeouts during his career, but his walks were loathsome. Although he pitched to a 3.32 ERA in Detroit, his 1.526 WHIP didn’t make him a keeper. Finally, it was settled that the Elijah Dukes to the Nationals trade had the biggest impact, in more ways than one.

Nationals Received:
OF Elijah Dukes

Rays Received:
LHP Glenn Gibson

Dukes was known for his hot head as much as his potential talent. The Nationals gave him his best chance in the Majors and he hit a respectable .256/.359/.430 in two seasons, including an .864 OPS in 2008. He didn’t hit that well in his second season there and spent plenty of time in the minors. Dukes hasn’t been back to the Majors since.

Gibson fell apart after moving to the Rays. He displayed a very nice 1.069 WHIP in Low-A for Nationals system before being shipped out, but a 1.894 for the Rays the next year. He never returned to the success he had in 2007.

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Trade Bait: Rizzo Traded Again, Now a Cubbie

Anyone getting the feeling that the major league front offices are starting to become one big fraternity? Theo Epstien’s regime, that came from Boston, just traded with a GM in San Diego (Josh Byrnes) who used to be an assistant under Theo as well as the current Cubs GM Jed Hoyer, for a player who was originally drafted by Boston.

Recently, the Cubs traded young pitcher right-hander Andrew Cashner and outfielder Kyung-Min Na to the San Diego Padres for first baseman Anthony Rizzo and right-hander Zach Cates.

Rizzo, of course, is the centerpiece of this deal as he was a notable portion of the Adrian Gonzalez trade from the Padres to the Red Sox last winter and he has recently been displaced by the Mat Latos deal that brought Yonder Alonzo to play first base in San Diego. Though I’m not convinced he’s going to hit for a good average, he should be a good middle of the order hitter for the Cubs down the road.

Cates didn’t make Baseball America‘s top 10 list for the Padres for 2012, nor did he make the top 25 on Minor League Ball‘s preliminary list, though he was mentioned under “others”. But he ranked 16th on Minor League Ball’s prospect list for the Cubs (posted after the trade), stating that he has a live arm and could be a breakout candidate. He has a good fastball with a plus change, but he’s still working on his curveball.

Cashner is a power arm that could be an could be a candidate for the rotation, but that is doubtful anymore with his injury history. It is more likely that Cashner settles in towards the back of the bullpen for San Diego. But it is not all bad, he has the stuff that he could eventually be pretty good out of a setup role and possibly close out games.

Na is an outfielder with virtually no power and was caught in 1/3 of his stolen base attempts. On the good side, he’s only 19, very young for a player at Double-A and he produces a good walk rate. Regardless, he seems to be a forth or more likely fifth outfielder at this point. There’s an outside chance that he learns to steal bases efficiently and hits for a higher average as he matures, but I’d rather bet on Cates’s chance at success.

Anyone can tell you that if you can trade a reliever for a position player, do it. That adage is true with even this trade. If I had a belief that Cashner could stay healthy in a starting role, this trade would be much closer, but Andrew hasn’t sold me on that in his short career. The most interesting part of this trade though is that the Cubs intend to give first base to Bryan LaHair after his tremendous season at Triple-A last year, giving Rizzo a little more seasoning in the minors. Maybe they’re hopeful that LaHair will be able to produce well enough to draw some trade interest at some point during the season before they bring Rizzo up.

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Trade Bait: Mat Latos to the Reds

With everyone centering on the availability of Gio Gonzalez, Matt Garza, and possibly a surplus starter from the Rays, the Padres struck first in unloading their top pitcher for prospects. Though they didn’t have to get rid of Mat Latos, the bounty they received was hard to pass up. Yesterday the Padres traded Latos to the Cincinnati Reds for Edinson Volquez, Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, and Brad Boxberger.

Cincy gets a starter with near-ace like stuff that is not even arbitration eligible yet. Latos is a good pitcher, but he does lack enough command of his fast ball and the mound presence to be a true ace pitcher. Quite a few talent evaluators have been talking about his personality and how it keeps him from being an ace. But there’s no doubting that he is one of the best pitcher available on the market.

Volquez was great for the Reds after his trade from the Rangers a few years ago, but Tommy John surgery has derailed his career. His first full season back from the surgery didn’t so well, posting a 5.71 ERA in the process. But it is a common belief that a pitcher doesn’t fully recover until his second full year back from the surgery. Getting out of Great American Ballpark and moving into PETCO will help as well. Even though it won’t help his absurd 5.38 BB/9, it should help knock down his 20.7% HR/FB. It is completely possible that Volquez rebounds this season and becomes a viable trade target at the deadline this July.

Alonso creates a logjam at first with Anthony Rizzo. But Yonder is more suited for PETCO than Rizzo, his line drive stroke fits better than the fly ball hitter that Rizzo is. Rizzo immediately becomes trade bait and a number of teams may be interested, including the Cubs, Rays, and Pirates.

Grandal is a top catching prospect and is not far from the majors. He could push Nick Hundley aside by July, giving the team additional trade bait beyond Volquez. He’s a premium prospect at a premium position.

Although some feel the Brad Boxberger could become a starter or close, he looks more like a setup man. He has a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a curve, but his changeup is inconsistent. Brad looks like the type of relieve that should excel in PETCO….then again the Padres seem to make prized relievers out of nearly anybody in that ballpark.

There is a feeling that the Reds are taking advantage of a “down” NL Central with this clearly “win now” move. With the Cubs rebuilding, the Brewers without Prince Fielder and the Cardinals without Albert Pujols some believe their time is now. But the Cardinals pitching will be better with Waino back in the rotation and the Brewers will be better, without Prince, than many believe. The Reds gave up just too much for a #2 starter.

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D’Backs Dump Byrnes and Hinch

The Arizona Diamondbacks made an ugly move on Thursday as they let both GM Josh Byrnes and Manager A.J. Hinch go.  Although there are mixed reviews around baseball, most of them state that it was a bad move by the team. 

There are two pretty good articles on Arizona’s activities.  The first from Yahoo’s Jeff Passan that noted some ugly moves of Byrnes (Dan Uggla, Chris Snyder, Chris Young), but also states that there’s some bad luck in what’s been happening over the past couple seasons.  When you lose a starter of Brandon Webb’s quality at the top of the rotation, it changes so much about the pitching staff.

Dave Cameron of FanGraphs doesn’t feel that Byrnes should’ve gotten the axe.  He points directly to the pathetic bullpen that didn’t look so bad going into the season.  The relievers have been perplexingly bad and TBO even looked into cheap ways to improve it.

I can agree with the firing of Hinch as he had no previous managing experience (note to the Diamondbacks, neither does Kirk Gibson) and he had troubles gaining the respect of the players.  But removing Josh Byrnes (along with his excessively long contract) is a bad move.  The move is especially ugly as they head towards the trade deadline.  The good signings of Kelly Johnson and Adam LaRoche, as well as some others, could’ve been flipped well for players that could help in the next year or two.  Can acting GM Jerry DiPoto pick up from exactly where Byrnes left off in negotiations?  Sure he was involved, but possibly not to the extent that Byrnes was.  Is that what this team needs at this critical juncture in the team’s future?

Good luck Arizona, you’re going to need it.

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Trade Bait: Conor Jackson to the A’s

And so it starts…..

The much anticipated breakup of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ roster has begun.  The D’Backs have sent outfielder Conor Jackson to the Oakland Athletics for pitching prospect Sam Demel.  It is a deal that has implications beyond just Jackson’s future impact on the A’s, it’s more of a harbringer of things to come…soon.

Conor Jackson has been hampered by sickness in 2009 and hamstring problems this season, but he’s a decent source of line drive power and on-base ability.  The Diamondbacks will cover about $400k of his remaining salary for the season.  Once his injury problems subside, he could turn into a decent pick up for the offensively stagnant Athletics.

Demel looks like a decent relief prospect.  He has a 94 mph fastball with very good movement, a biting slider that is good when he can control it, and a good straight change-up that actually has decent split-finger-like sink to it.  On the season, Demel has a 1.26 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 28.2 innings at Triple-A.

I like this deal more from Arizona’s standpoint than Oakland’s.  The likelihood that Conor Jackson will bounce back this season to his 2008 form is limited.  The A’s are already four games back in the division and in third place.  Additionally, the Angels are just starting to hit their stride, they could pull away fast.  The D’Backs, on the other hand, have dumped some cash and possibly improved their pen. 

Although this is just a trickle of a move, it gives us a warning that the floodgates are probably about to open.  Who’s next, Kelly Johnson, Adam LaRoche, or even Dan Haren?

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Trade Bait: Dontrelle Willis to the D’Backs

Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski is giving in to his mistake.  Signing Dontrelle Willis to a 3-year, $29 million contract was a clear mistake.  He just came off a 10-15 season, posting a 5.17 ERA, with a FIP (5.13) that backs up that ERA.  There were discussions floating around at the time that his added weight was screwing up his mechanics and he couldn’t get this once-deceptive high leg kick as high anymore.  Since that contract was signed, he hasn’t posted an ERA under 4.98 in the majors.

With the Tigers in the thick of the AL Central race, Dombrowski swallowed his pride and designated Willis for assignment.  He needed the roster spot for someone that could actually help the team.  Even with Willis’ struggles the past few seasons, a few teams were interested in the left-hander.  On June 1st Dave was able to make a deal with one of those teams, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Tigers will send Willis and most of his remaining salary on his contract, that runs through the end of this season, to the Diamondbacks for pitcher Billy Buckner.  Except for the pro-rated portion of the major league minimum, the Tigers will be on the hook for roughly $8 million in remaining salary.  But the Tigers are open to paying it if they can get performances like they did out of Max Scherzer.  Scherzer was called back up when they DFA’d and promptly struck out 14 batters in his first start back from the minors.  Control issues still exist for Scherzer, but he might be straightened out enough to provide more quality starts than Willis.

Buckner is a right-hander the D’Backs received in exchange for Alberto Callaspo in December 2007.  He’s been relatively decent as a starter in the minors, but has been knocked around in Phoenix.  He has a good curve and scouts thought of him as a possible 4th starter back in 2007, but it’s looking more likely that middle relief may be his future role on the team.

Honestly, I’m pleasantly surprised that the Tigers were able to get that much for Willis…..or anything for that matter.  Buckner isn’t anything special, but he’s better than nothing.  It’ll be interesting to see if a return to the National League will help, but I’m not counting on it.

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D-Backs Bullpen Woes Fixable?

The Arizona Diamondbacks came into the season with high hopes.  Many analysts believed that they were amongst the most improved of the off-season.  But those hopes quickly fizzled as Brandon Webb went on the DL and the team’s pitching imploded.  The team is currently last amongst all 30 teams in ERA and the bullpen has converted only 8 of the 18 save opportunities handed to them.  Aaron Heilman and Billy Buckner (only 5 IP) are the only relievers in the pen with an ERA under 5.00.

There isn’t a whole lot of help down on the farm either.  The recently acquired Carlos Rosa has sported a nice 2.76 ERA, but his 1.59 WHIP says that he’ll have problems in the majors.  Except for Rosa and Daniel Stange, no other reliever with over 10 innings pitched in Triple-A this season has a WHIP under 1.50.  The best relief for the team’s relief woes is probably outside of the organization.

With the team already last place and 6.5 games back of the surprise NL West leading San Diego Padres, it may be best that the team just looks for patch-work options that just makes the pen at least passable so that it doesn’t completely ruin the psyches of the young players throughout the roster.

Chad Gaudin was recently released by the Oakland Athletics.  As Ben Nicholson-Smith writes for MLB Trade Rumors, Gaudin’s walk and strikeout rates are pretty good, he’s just been hit harder this season than regularly.  The D-Backs may be the latest to give the righty a try.

Going into the season, Brian Bruney was viewed as a potential closer for the Washington Nationals.  But he’s walked 20 batters in just 17.2 innings-pitched….needless to say, that’s not a good sign of success.  However, he a former Diamondback and the team may be able to get him back on track.

Although neither reliever has been good at all this season, they both have a decent track record and may be salvageable.  If the Diamondbacks can stow them away in Triple-A while they try to figure out any flaws, they may be able to at least get some league-average innings out of them.

Something needs to change, or Manager A.J. Hinch may want to replace the boxes of gum in the dugout with antacids.

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The GM of the Month Award

As a new post category, I am starting the GM of the Month Award.  Each month I plan to provide the GM of the Month Award to one MLB GM who’s had the best month based on mainly on his transactions.  Trades, waiver claims, signings, are the main aspects to be looked at.  As this will be a monthly award, I’ll be basing it off of MLB.com’s Transactions page and press releases.  So, even if a player’s signing is essentially complete, if it doesn’t show up until the next month on the transactions or an official press release, the GM won’t get credit for it until the Award for April comes out.  So let’s look at who won for the month of March:

This month the award goes to the General Manager that signed break-out outfielder Justin Upton to a long-term contract that is team-friendly.  He also signed third-baseman Mark Reynolds to an extension that provided the team with a little more financial certainty.

Congratulations to Josh Byrnes of the Arizona Diamondbacks!

If you haven any recommendations for next month’s award, please forward them to The Baseball Opinion through the TBO Contact form.

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Reynolds gets Three Years

The Arizona Diamondbacks have gotten into recent the ‘extension of players through their arbitration years’ craze.  They have locked up third baseman Mark Reynolds for three years with an option for 2013.  Reynolds will receive a signing bonus of $1 million, $500,000 this season, $5 million in 2011, and $7.5 million in 2012.  The deal also provides Reynolds with a limited no-trade clause.

There are many comparisons out there of Mark Reynolds to Adam Dunn.  It’s a fair comparison when you look at Matt Klaassen’s post “Three True Outcome Leaders 2007-2009” on FanGraphs.com.  As Matt noted, Reynolds defensive abilities aren’t that good, but he’s the best out of that bunch that Matt listed.  But that’s what Mark is, a passable third baseman that’s main value is his powerful bat. 

The projections for Reynolds have him hitting around .260 with 30+ home runs yet again this upcoming season.  None of them predict an increase in his walks, but most think there will be a notable drop in his strikeouts (about any drop from 223 is notable).  But I think just the opposite on the walks.  His walks have increased each season (37, 64, 76) and pitchers are more likely to pitch around him after a 44 home run season.

It’s a decent deal for the Diamondbacks, but you still have to worry that his batting average will sink back down into the .220′s again.  At least Diamondback fans will continue to get free air conditioning for the next 3-4 years.

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Justin Upton Locked Up

Justin Upton has been locked up.  Not in jail, but to a six-year deal for $51.25 million.  It is a very team-friendly deal for the Arizona Diamondbacks as Upton, who hit .300/.366/.532 last season as a 22-year-old, should be worth much more than the contract value if he isn’t besieged by injuries.

FanGraphs calculated his value last season to be worth $20.4 million.  If Upton played as well as he did last season over the length of the contract, he will surpass the contract value in approximately 2-1/2 years.  Over the six-year span, the Diamondbacks will have received $122.4 million in value for his services.  You also have to take into account that Upton started slowly last season and is still only 22, bigger numbers are likely to come from him in the near future.

Joe Pawlikowski, over at FanGraphs, wrote an article in mid-February that expected a five-year, $58 million deal to come out of the long term deal talks.  The one that Upton is signing is obviously much more team-friendly.  Joe also notes how old Upton will be when he hits free agency.  Based on a six-year deal, Upton will be 29-years-old when he hits free agency, in-line for a massive contract. 

Although there is a slight amount of worry that he’ll flounder like his older brother BJ in Tampa, scouts have always been higher on his potential than his brother’s.  This looks like a very good contract for Josh Byrnes.

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