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.


Trade Bait: Braves Nab Uggla

The Atlanta Braves have a nack for striking early to get what they want during the off-season.  This year was no exception, they have traded infielder Omar Infante and lefty reliever Michael Dunn to the Florida Marlins for Dan Uggla

Recently Braves GM Frank Wren mentioned that their top priority was to acquire a right-handed power bat and that it would likely be via trade.  Well Wren made good on his words to the press, just not exactly how many thought.  Uggla is a right-handed power bat that has consistently put up over 30 home runs each of the past four seasons.  He should provide good protection to a lefty-heavy lineup.

Defensively, Uggla’s UZRs have been routinely negative  from 2B during his career.  Many teams that were showing interest in him wanted Uggla to move to third base, a position more suited for his lack of range.  If the Braves do try to extend him beyond this season, it’s possible that they’ll try to move him over to the hot corner after Chipper Jones retires.

In return the Marlins receive yet another reliever.  That’s reliever candidate number four for those counting at home.  Dustin Richardson, Ryan Webb, Edward Mujica, and now Michael Dunn have been added to the depleted bullpen.  Dunn is a young flame throwing lefty that the Braves received from the Yankees as part of the Javier Vazquez trade last off-season.  He has some troubles keeping the walks down, but strikes out plenty.  A back end of the pen that includes Webb, Mujica and Dunn could potentially be very good once the Marlins move into their new ballpark in 2012.

All-Star infielder Omar Infante enjoyed a career year with the Braves last season, starting out as a super-sub, he eventually started every day due to injuries to Chipper Jones and then Martin Prado.  His .355 BABIP suggests that a regression from his .321 batting average last season may be in order.  Infante will likely play third base until Matt Dominguez can prove he is ready.  Chris Coghlan should provide better defense at second, his natural position, than Uggla did.  Overall, their defense improves notably from the start of last season.   

It is a common reaction amongst analysts that the Braves stole this trade away, and I completely agree.  Although Uggla’s defense is poor, his bat makes this a great move by the Braves.  The Marlins will receive some salary relief and improve their defense.  But they already lost some potential offense in Cameron Maybin and now their biggest power hitter in Uggla.  They’ll have to get significant breakout seasons from Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison, but it is a feat that is entirely possible given their abilities.

It’s not that I don’t like the idea of trading away Uggla, but the Marlins should’ve gotten more for him than a lefty reliever and a utility infielder.


Giants vs. Braves Game 4 – Pregame Notes

With the San Francisco Giants and the Atlanta Braves squaring off soon in what could be Bobby Cox’s last game, there are some important aspects to point out.

The Giants have made the right move in selecting Madison Bumgarner to pitch tonight’s game.  The lefty matches up well with a lefty-heavy Braves lineup.  The move also saves Tim Lincecum for a possible Game 5 or Game 1 versus the Phillies.

Brooks Conrad is sitting this game with Omar Infante shifting to second and Troy Glaus in at third.  This is the right move as Conrad’s confidence is shot.  He’s handled the whole affair very professionally and you have to feel for him, but not only does he have four errors in the playoffs, he has eight errors in his last seven games.  He’s is at his best off the bench for the Braves anyway.  As for Glaus, watch for obvious bunt situations to be directed towards him.  With his bum knee and lack of playing time at third, Glaus’ fielding of bunts will likely be pretty ugly.

The Braves have also made other changes to the lineup.  Jason Heyward has been moved to sixth in the lineup.  Many are saying that Cox is panicking with Heyward’s struggles and should keep him there.  But this looks like a decent move.  They are facing a tough lefty and moving the right-handed Matt Diaz into the second spot may be better than having the Heyward in his traditional spot.  This may also force Diaz to cut down his swing to just get simple hits.  You can tell he’s been swinging for the fences too much lately, an approach not suited well for his abilities.  Diaz is at his best when he’s trying to hit for average.

The head-scratcher may be the fact that Ankiel has been pathetic against left-handers this season.  In the regular season he hit .154 with a .192 slugging percentage in a Braves uniform against them.  Melky’s been bad this season, but he’s at least hitting .233, nearly 100 points higher than Ankiel, against lefties.  The Giants’ block of Cody Ross from an Atlanta acquisition is looking like a great decision by GM Brian Sabean right now.

(Can’t believe I just wrote that.)


Trade Bait: Infante and Ohman are Braves

The Atlanta Braves realized that the price to resign Ron Mahay was going to be too large and decided to go another route.  On Tuesday they acquired another left-handed reliever, this time from the Chicago Cubs.  The Cubs sent lefty Will Ohman and infielder Omar Infante to the Braves for reliever Jose Ascanio.

Ohman replaces Mahay as the main lefty out of the pen.  He has some odd splits, including the difference between pitching in Wrigley (6.63 ERA) and on the road (2.32 ERA).  He should be a viable addition to the Braves pen if Bobby Cox puts a reasonable limit to his exposure to right-handed hitters.

Infante fills the utility role and provides a veteran bat off the bench.  He’s played six positions and will likely give Kelly Johnson a rest against tough left-handed pitchers as well as give an occasional rest to the aging Chipper Jones and the relatively inexperienced Yunel Escobar.

Ascaino is a flame thrower that produces good groundball rates.  His fastball reaches the mid-to-upper 90s, but his breaking ball and changeup need improvement.  If his back injuries are a thing of the past, he could be a good addition to the Cubs pen after some additional seasoning in the minors.

It was a good trade for both teams.  The Braves filled two of their main holes at a relatively low cost with this trade, leaving only the centerfield position as the only real question.  The Cubs, on the other hand, freed up about $3.6 million in this deal after considering the probable arbitration increase for Infante.  The freed up money will help them sign another player. 

Cubs fans had better start learning how to say Kosuke Fukudome. 


Trade Bait: Tigers reel in Jones

The Detroit Tigers completed a recently rumored trade for outfielder Jacque Jones.  The Chicago Cubs’ centerfielder will now be the Tigers main leftfielder.  In return, the Cubbies will get infielder Omar Infante.

Jones adds a left-handed bat that the team is light on.  Although he hit only five home runs last season, Jacque averaged 25 home runs over the previous three seasons.  But, except for a weird 2007, he has problems hitting left-handed pitching.  Jones will likely be platooned with Marcus Thames or Ryan Raburn to negate his problems against left-handers.

Infante, on the other hand, is a light-hitting utility infielder that helps the Cubs fill out their bench.  He has decent power for a shortstop, but it is doubtful that he will hit enough to replace Ryan Theroit.

Although the Cubs are supposedly passing over financial considerations, the deal frees up cash for the Cubs to spend elsewhere.  Trading away Jones also opens up space in the crowded Cubs outfield.  They are expected to start Felix Pie in center and Alfonso Soriano in left, leaving right field to under-armed Matt Murton.  Could this move have been a signal that the Cubs will go all out for Japanese rightfielder Kosuke Fukudome?  We shall see.

Dave Dombrowski has made a decent move this off-season.  With teams expected to make ugly deals for mediocre free agents, it will be costlier to sign free agents.  It will also be harder to make trades if other teams realize they cannot afford the free agents available and decide to go the trade route.  Trading for Edgar Renteria and Jacque Jones, Dave cleaned up his batting order before the frenzy really begins.  It is also rumored that he finalized a deal with Todd Jones, cleaning up another of his question marks early on. 

Yet another reason why he is regarded as one of the better GMs in the majors.