Analyzing the Deadline Deals: 2005

This year’s deadline trading frenzy never quite materialized, as the rumors surrounding Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez, Texas second baseman Alfonso Soriano, and Marlins starter A.J. Burnett proved to be just that — rumors. As a fan, it was frustrating to read the seemingly endless number of words devoted to what might take place, only to see almost none of it actually happen. As Twins television play-by-play man Dick Bremer said while yesterday’s deadline came and went (and the many Twins-related rumors went up in smoke), “Remind me not to read the newspaper next year.”

There weren’t nearly as many big trades involving as many big names as last year, when shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, shortstop Orlando Cabrera, firstbaseman Doug Mientkiewicz, starting pitcher Victor Zambrano, pitching prospect Scott Kazmir, starter Kris Benson, catching prospect Justin Huber, starter Brad Penny, firstbaseman Hee Seop Choi, catcher Paul Lo Duca, and relief pitcher Guillermo Mota all changed teams at the last minute. And all those trades came after earlier deals involving starter Freddy Garcia, center fielder Carlos Beltran, closer Octavio Dotel, and outfield prospect Jeremy Reed. Still, there’s plenty to talk about …

To Padres:               To Rangers:
Chan Ho Park             Phil Nevin

This is an interesting trade on a few levels, not the least of which is that first baseman Phil Nevin utilized his limited no-trade clause to turn down a deal to the Orioles last week. This time he had no control over being traded to the Rangers and actually seemed very happy about going to Texas. I’m not going to debate the relative strengths and weaknesses of Arlington, Texas and Baltimore, Maryland, but the Rangers and Orioles are essentially in exactly the same shape for a playoff run, hovering around .500 and trying to catch the streaking A’s in the AL Wild Card race.

Either Nevin is simply putting on a good face after not being able to veto this deal or he sees some significant difference between playing the remainder of this season in Texas, rather than Baltimore. Because it seems strange for a player to turn down one deal to a contending team located half way across the country and then get dealt to a nearly identical situation the next week (without having the right to turn it down) and say things like, “I’m excited. I honestly am. I’m just excited to get over there.” Maybe he just likes the thought of playing for a couple months in a great hitter’s ballpark.

I suppose Nevin’s reaction beats the alternative, which is to complain about being traded, but the series of events is an intriguing one. As for the actual trade … well, the Padres must really have wanted to unload Nevin. When you’ve been traded, in separate deals, for both Sidney Ponson and Chan Ho Park in the span of a couple weeks, it might be time to reevaluate your life. As THT’s resident Padres fan, Vinay Kumar, wrote last week, the outspoken Nevin’s relationship with the Padres, and specifically general manager Kevin Towers, has become extremely strained in recent years:

Towers has been trying to trade him for years, twice agreeing to high-profile trades (once for Jeromy Burnitz, and later for Ken Griffey); both times Nevin torpedoed the deals by exercising his no-trade clause.

Nevin’s contract calls for a weaker no-trade clause for this year only (whereas he could formerly refuse any trade, now he can veto deals to just eight pre-determined teams). Towers has been doubling his efforts to deal Nevin now, before Nevin’s stronger no-trade rights kick back in early next year.

Unfortunately for Towers, San Diego’s potential trading partners were limited by Nevin’s no-trade clause and their potential return for Nevin was limited by his poor play of late and declining trade value. In the end, after trying unsuccessfully to unload Nevin for years, Towers basically just said, “Give me a starting pitcher with a pulse from a team Nevin can’t veto and we’ll call it a deal.”

As for who comes out ahead, it’s definitely one of those lesser-of-two-evils situations where you have to look at what the players can still do to help a team at this point, rather than focusing on their flaws. At the very least, Nevin can still be an effective platoon player against left-handed pitching, and adds a little defensive versatility to a roster. In Park’s case, I can’t see what he still brings to the table after stinking for four straight seasons in Texas (including a 5.55 ERA on the road). Park was last an effective pitcher in 2001, whereas Nevin hit .289/.368/.492 in a major pitcher’s ballpark last season.

To Red Sox:              To Diamondbacks:
Jose Cruz Jr.            Kenny Perez
                         Kyle Bono

This deal makes infinitely more sense than the rumored swap involving Red Sox catching prospect Kelly Shoppach and Orioles outfielder Larry Bigbie. With all the rumors about unspectacular outfielders like Tampa Bay right fielder Aubrey Huff fetching big-time prospects, I was curious to see which team ended up with Diamondbacks outfielder Jose Cruz Jr., who was recently designated for assignment by Arizona. It’s not surprising that it was the Red Sox who snatched him up, as General Manager Theo Epstein and company are certainly able to overlook Cruz’s low batting average to see that he has enough plate discipline, power, and defense to still be a solid outfielder.

Of course, Cruz was DFA’d for a reason, and comes along with rumored back problems and a .183 batting average since June 1. He is no great shakes, healthy or not, but can be a good defensive corner outfielder and should handle right-handed pitching well enough (.222/.347/.487 this year, .264/.350/.440 from 2002-04) to sub for Trot Nixon. Considering the alternatives (like giving up top-line prospects for guys like Huff), this is a very nice, low-risk move. The prospects Boston gave up are your typical C-level guys, so I don’t think they’ll ever regret losing either infielder Kenny Perez or pitcher Kyle Bono too much.

To Rockies:              To Orioles:
Larry Bigbie             Eric Byrnes

After acquiring Bigbie from Baltimore, the Rockies were reportedly set to flip him to the Red Sox for Shoppach and outfielder Adam Stern (a nice haul). Boston backed out at the last minute, leaving Colorado having swapped outfielder Eric Byrnes for Bigbie (after dealing swingman Joe Kennedy and reliever Jay Witasick for Byrnes and infield prospect Omar Quintanilla earlier). Being stuck with Bigbie isn’t so much a bad thing as it is pointless, which is the general theme of the Bigbie-for-Byrnes trade.

Colorado at least nearly cashed Bigbie in for a decent prospect like Shoppach, but why Baltimore bothered to deal Bigbie for Byrnes is beyond me. The Orioles seem to be under the impression that Byrnes is a major defensive upgrade, which is misguided, to say the least. Bigbie and Byrnes are both stretched as everyday players and very competent as fourth outfielders capable of platooning. They’re the same player in a different package. Now the Orioles are rid of their left-handed hitting outfielder who can’t hit lefties and they have a new, right-handed hitting outfielder who can’t hit righties.

To Giants:               To Mariners:
Randy Winn               Yorvit Torrealba
                         Jesse Foppert

I like this deal from the Mariners’ prespective, and I’m not sure what the point is for the Giants. At 45-59, the Giants are still technically in the NL West race, I suppose, but that’s just because the Padres refuse to pull away from the rest of the pack. San Francisco is in fourth place, 14 games under .500 and 5.5 games behind Arizona and San Diego, so I’m not sure I see the need to another over-30 outfielder like Mariners left fielder Randy Winn.

Winn is a solid player with decent on-base skills, some speed, and enough defense to play any of the three outfield spots, but he’s certainly not going to make the sort of impact the Giants need to climb back to even .500 on the season. They could keep him beyond this year, of course, and if left fielder Barry Bonds comes back healthy in 2006 they could once again be right back in the division race, but even then I’m not sure Winn represents much of an upgrade over an option they already have, such as center fielder Jason Ellison.

In fact, Winn and Ellison have been nearly identical players this season:

                      G      AVG      OBP      SLG     IsoD     IsoP     SB     CS
Randy Winn          103     .275     .342     .391     .067     .117     12      6
Jason Ellison        99     .279     .335     .390     .056     .111     12      4

Add in the fact that Ellison is 27 years old and making the league minimum, while Winn is 31 years old and making about $4 million, and I’m not sure I see an upgrade at all (altough Winn’s defense is likely better).

For the Mariners, this is a no-brainer. They move an outfielder who was fairly superfluous with Jeremy Reed in center field and outfield prospects Chris Snelling and Shin-Soo Choo waiting in the wings, and in doing so add a solid catcher and a power arm who has a pretty big upside. I once ranked pitcher Jesse Foppert as the seventh-best prospect in baseball, way back before THT was around and Foppert’s right elbow was still intact. Now Foppert is just another former top prospect trying to regain his old form after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

So the Mariners swap a decent outfielder for a decent catcher, dealing from an organizational strength to fill a need, and in the process save money and grab an intriguing power arm. If Foppert never comes all the way back from his injury, this is still a solid deal for Seattle. If he goes on to become even 75% of the pitcher he looked capable of being a few years ago — and he has 50 strikeouts in 52.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this year–this could be a real steal for the Mariners.

To Braves:               To Tigers:
Kyle Farnsworth          Roman Colon
                         Zach Miner

Believe it or not, this might be the only deal involving a player who will have a major impact down the stretch and into October. With former closer Danny Kolb looking like a complete bust, the Braves needed bullpen help and added reliever Kyle Farnsworth, who was dominant with the Tigers. Farnsworth is the epitome of a million-dollar arm with a 10-cent head, so working with pitching coach Leo Mazzone is just about the best-case scenario for his career. Farnsworth has been plenty good on his own in four of the past five years, including a 2.32 ERA, 55-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .192 opponent’s batting average in 43.2 innings this season, and if Mazzone can get him to take the next step he can be one of the best relievers in baseball.

In return for adding a top-notch setup man (and potential closer, should incumbent Chris Reitsma falter), the Braves gave up pitching prospects Roman Colon and Zach Miner. Colon is the better prospect of the two, but the Tigers will be lucky if they end up with one quality middle reliever out of this trade. Considering the price Tampa Bay was reportedly trying to get for closer Danys Baez, Atlanta snagging Farnsworth for this little is a steal.

To Cubs:                 To Pirates:
Matt Lawton              Jody Gerut

This is a strange trade. The Cubs refused to give consistent playing time to outfielder Jason Dubois before dealing him to Cleveland for outfielder Jody Gerut. Then, after holding onto Gerut for about a week, they shipped him to Pittsburgh for outfielder Matt Lawton. Now, I would have just given Dubois a legitimate chance, but he didn’t exactly light the world on fire in the 142 at-bats the Cubs gave him. But if you’re going to trade him for a guy like Gerut and then trade Gerut almost immediately, why do all of it just to get Lawton?

Gerut is 27 years old, making close to the league minimum, under his team’s control for several more seasons, and a career .264/.336/.437 hitter in three big-league seasons. Lawton is 33 years old, making nearly $8 million, a free agent after this season, and a .268/.354/.424 hitter over the last three years. I like Lawton’s odds of being more productive down the stretch, especially considering Gerut is coming back from a major knee injury, but the difference really isn’t all that big and swings heavily in Gerut’s favor over the long term.

To Marlins:              To Mariners:
Ron Villone              Yorman Bazardo
                         Mike Flannery

This trade basically tells you all there is to know about how much of a seller’s market it was this season. When you can get a B-level prospect like pitcher Yorman Bazardo for swingman Ron Villone, it’s a great time to be pawning off veteran spare parts. Villone is your typical southpaw reliever, shutting down left-handed hitters just enough for teams to give him a bigger role that he eventually proves ill-suited for handling. He’s not a bad addition to a contender’s bullpen, but giving up an actual prospect for him is overpaying when left-handed relievers like Alan Embree and Buddy Groom are being snatched up for pennies on the dollar.

To Padres:               To Mariners:
Miguel Olivo             Miguel Ojeda
                         Nathanel Mateo

After getting Torrealba from the Giants in the Winn deal, the Mariners decided to cut bait on Miguel Olivo, who was their “catcher of the future” as recently as last year. In fact, the Mariners got Olivo (along with center fielder Jeremy Reed and infielder Mike Morse) from the White Sox in a deal for starter Freddy Garcia about 11 months ago and I thought they made a great trade. At the time, Olivo was a good defensive catcher with a solid minor-league track record at the plate and was hitting .270/.316/.496. Since then, he has been about as lost offensively as a major leaguer can be.

I’m still holding out hope that Olivo can turn into an above-average starting catcher with a good arm and some power, but it’s tough to be optimistic about a guy who hit .176/.253/.333 with a 104-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio over a 104-game stretch. Seattle’s haul for him isn’t very big–although Nathanel Mateo is an intriguing arm and Miguel Ojeda is a decent backup catcher–so I would have been in favor of giving Olivo a little more time to turn things around at Triple-A. From San Diego’s point of view, this is a nice flier to take with injured catcher Ramon Hernandez‘s pending free agency.

To White Sox:            To Padres:
Geoff Blum               Ryan Meaux

When you’re compiling a list of the weekend’s trades to discuss and infielder Geoff Blum for minor league reliever Ryan Meaux is actually on the list, you know it’s been a slow trading deadline. Back when I was in Little League, my team won a game when the other team couldn’t come up with enough players to put on the field. I remember being happy about the win, but sad that we couldn’t actually play the game. That’s sort of how the Padres should feel about this deal.

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