22 players in two weeks? An egregious trade pipeline and collusion

One item that became apparent in the aftermath of the collusive trade addressed previously was the establishment of a trade “pipeline” between Teams A and B. When the outcry began about the collusive trade, the commissioner looked at every trade they made last year and this year and saw that an unquestionable pipeline existed, and is only now taking action. Too little too late.

In the next two weeks, these colluders made four more trades, so there were a total of five in two weeks. Aside from the previously discussed first trade, here are the rest. Contract statuses are:

s1–can be kept next year only by increasing salary by 10.
s2–can be kept for one more year at current salary. Or, after this season, they can be signed to a long term contract at an increase of $5 per year.
s3–a guy just auctioned this year. Next year he becomes an s2, and if not signed long term, becomes an s1 and then returns to the free agent pool unless he is signed to the $10 increase.
0P-a free agent picked up this year. Can be kept at a salary of 10 next year.
0L9–a rookie. When they lose rookie status they become 7s2.

So here are the trades:

Team A(the alleged dumper)–
1. Trades to Team B: Frank Thomas 10 s1, Scott Linebrink 4 s1, Jason Michaels 1 s1, Kenny Rogers 8 s1, and Brandon Lyon 0 L9
for Wily Mo Pena 8 s3, Bronson Arroyo 12 L6, Kevin Slowey 2 s3, James Loney 10 s3, and Miguel Cairo 0 P.

This appears to be a relatively fair trade in a vacuum.

2.Team A trades:
Rich Aurilia 1 s1, Jay Payton 4 s1, Ramon Hernandez 10 S1, Chad Cordero 13 L1, Todd Jones 18 S1, Kevin Millar 8 s3, R. Spilborghs 0 L9.
Team B trades:
Gerald Laird 6 s2, Ryan Shealy 7 s2, Dustin Moseley 0 L9, Jose Cruz, Jr. 1 s3, Jacque Jones 15 s2, Jeff Baker 1 s3

This trade is an absolute joke. Two closers, a catcher who was a top ten AL catcher, a burgeoning young outfielder who is keepable for a few backups and mediocre outfielders. Despite the fact that a few can technically be kept next year, aside from Moseley it is possible none of the players the alleged rebuilder is getting may be kept. Guys like Jones, Shealy and Laird are not valuable at those salaries when they can be kept for next year only. This trade isn’t as bad as the next one.

3. Team A trades: Wandy Rodriguez (0P), Dustin McGowan (0P), and Yuniel Escobar (0P)Team B trades: Jose Bautista (2s3), Scott Downs (0P), and Doug Brocail (0P).

There is simply no justification for this one. More on this trade below.

4. Team A trades: Rob Mackowiak (SD) 0 L9
Team B trades: David Wells (SD) 4 s3

In sum, Team A (and let’s call them The Cleveland Spiders) traded:

Thomas, Linebrink, Michaels, Rogers, Lyon, Lowe, D. Lee, Tavares, Lackey, V. Martinez, Jose Lopez, Rich Aurilia, Payton, Ramon Hernandez, Chad Cordero, Todd Jones, Millar, Spilborghs, Wandy Rodriguez, McGowan, Y. Escobar and Rob Mackowiak. That is an astounding 22 players in two weeks.

This includes two top closers, two good young pitchers, a few cheap NL keepers who are undervalued like Spilborghs and Escobar, an everyday catcher, and some others. These are not the moves of a rebuilder unless he is just a total fool. Any of these guys could have been traded piecemeal and a lot more value obtained. He gave a team mired in a close race all it needed to gain about 50 points.

What did this alleged rebuilding team get? Lets call Team B The St. Louis Perfectos, who gave up:

Utley, Freel, Baek, Cano, Gload, Garza, W. Pena, Arroyo, Slowey, Loney, Cairo, Laird, Shealy, Moseley, Cruz, Jacque Jones, Baker, David Wells, Jose Bautista, Scott Downs, Doug Brocail (!)

Here we have absolute zeroes in Cairo, Brocail, Downs and Bautista, a few backup fantasy types in Pena, Shealy and Laird, two over the hill outfielders in Jones and Cruz, the beleaguered Arroyo and the now released David Wells. Freel, Gload and Baek are not good keepers. The rest are all decent to excellent (Cano, Garza, Slowey, Loney and Utley).

One could generously argue that adding Utley, Pena, Slowey, Garza, Loney, Shealy and Moseley is a net positive for a rebuilding team. That’s fine in a vacuum. But do you need to trade 22 players to get them?? Given the totality of the circumstances it is difficult to see anything here other than a boogeyman.

Of course, being in the front lines, perhaps I am biased, so any readers who want to comment should feel free to e-mail me or comment.

It should be obvious that these are not fair deals. It should be obvious that the trading of this many players in two or three weeks is not healthy for a league, and by itself is evidence of collusion. What is worse, this onslaught resulted in other teams doing the same thing, trading over 20 players in the short two week run up to our trade deadline. More on that next week. Trade three stands out in my mind as particularly egregious and bald faced cheating with no possible explanation to justify it, though it just barely nudges out trade two in this respect.

What is worse is that an owner competing with The Perfectos offered the Spiders Lastings Milledge for McGowan and Wandy and Team A would only do the trade for one of the pitchers. Fair enough. But to then do the above trade means that the Spiders’ owner thought Milledge wasn’t good enough for both, but Bautista was good enough for the two AND Escobar, since Downs and Brocail are zeroes. I should mention that the owner who offered Milledge wasn’t just competing but was virtually tied with Team B, who is now a serious contender to win the league. So it is no surprise that Team A refused to trade the two pitchers to him.

To say that these deals aren’t collusive is really to say that an owner must decide that he would rather have Bautista, Downs and Brocail rather than Milledge. Of course no sane owner would prefer those three to Milledge.

There is plenty of blame to go around. The commissioner did not act quickly enough, for example. But the fact remains that it all comes down to ethics. The owner’s didn’t have to collude, they decided to do so. Whether the commissioner acted appropriately is a separate question. Just because something may be doable doesn’t mean it should be done.

What makes it even worse is that I guarantee that neither owner thinks they did anything wrong and both continue to justify the deal even to this day on our league message board, though at least they didn’t think we were all foolish enough to accept any justification for deal three above, and they have offered none.

The real life Spiders/Perfectos debacle led to contraction of the National League and a vigorous challenge by the upstart American League. Some things never change, as these ludicrous dealings may lead to contraction as well, only of a fantasy league.

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