All the excitement of the Hot Stove got me thinking (something has to). What about deals of days gone by?
Every so often until the start of the season I’ll look back at some deals that happened in the recent past and analyze how they turned out for the protagonists involved. Today we dial back to the winter of 2005 when the Braves caused somewhat of a storm by sending perhaps the finest prospect in baseball, Andy Marte, to the Red Sox for $11 million and an aging shortstop, Edgar Renteria, who had become a figure of derision after one year in Beantown.
We’ll examine the trade from all angles and see which team came out on top.
First let’s look back at the Marte/Renteria trade. This is from Sabernomics:
I don’t even want to talk about it. I cannot believe the Braves just traded Andy Marte. Unbelievable. There’s nothing left to say other than this is a very bad deal for Atlanta.
And we have this from Braves Journal:
I am not as down on Renteria as some. He was both hit-unlucky and hurt last year … But Andy Marte… Good God. This is a special prospect. His floor is Matt Williams. His ceiling is the Hall of Fame. I mean, he probably won’t make the Hall, but it’s a possibility. The Braves just got fleeced. If Marte’s stock wasn’t as high as we thought, they should have just hung onto him and traded two guys to get Renteria or Lugo.
And here is some commentary on the Indians/Red Sox deal. This is from Firebrand of the American League:
If you’re trading a player such as Andy Marte, you better darn well be infallible …I like Coco Crisp, I’m not going to deny that. He’s only 26 years old, he’s one of, if not the, best defensive left-fielders in the game, and he can ably cover center field until (or if) Jacoby Ellsbury arrives. I’m not worried about that. I’m also not worried about his offense …
… Marte for Crisp one on one is dicey, anyways. I don’t really know why we have to give up more than Marte to get Crisp. Marte is a future All-Star, a possible Hall of Famer. Someone who can bat around .280 with a .360 OBP and 30 HRs a year, out of the hot corner, where we have somewhere around nothing in the pipeline. This Crisp deal easily makes us better in 2006, but what about beyond? … There’s no question Crisp fills a hole for 2006, and beyond that, but then a huge gaping hole opens at third.
Okay, you get the picture: Andy Marte = best prospect in baseball, or just about. Everyone else sucks.
Before we analyze the winners and losers let’s take a look at how all the players performed post-deal.
Year Team G H HR RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS 2006 Buffalo 96 93 15 46 0.261 0.322 0.451 773 2006 Cleveland 50 37 5 23 0.226 0.287 0.421 708 2007 Buffalo 96 94 16 60 0.267 0.309 0.457 766 2007 Cleveland 20 11 1 8 0.193 0.233 0.316 549
Marte has struggled badly with the big-league club and while his stats at Triple-A Buffalo aren’t terrible there is nothing to portend major league greatness.
Year G H HR BA OBP SLG OPS+ 2006 149 175 14 0.293 0.361 0.436 104 2007 124 164 12 0.332 0.390 0.470 125
Compared to his disastrous tour in Boston, Renteria has exceeded expectations during his time with the Braves. In 2006 he proved a more than adequate replacement for the departed Rafael Furcal, and in 2007 he contended for the batting title—the only down point was a little time on the disabled list.
Year Team IP HR BB SO ERA WHIP 2006 CLE 37.7 9 19 27 6.21 1.699 2006 NYM 18 2 5 19 1.00 0.833 2007 NYM 59.3 8 18 47 5.76 1.365
With a 6.21 ERA Mota was disappointing for the Tribe. It wasn’t too much of a surprise when he was traded to the Mets where he pitched very well (albeit in only a handful of appearances). His second season in Gotham showed him for what he was: a subpar reliever.
Year Tm G H HR BA OBP SLG OPS+ 2006 BOS 105 109 8 0.264 0.317 0.385 77 2007 BOS 145 141 6 0.268 0.330 0.382 83
Boston fans had high hopes for Crisp after a strong 2004 and 2005 season. An added bonus was that at the time of the trade he was only entering his age-26 season. Sadly it wasn’t to be. He struggled to get on base a third of the time and when he made contact it was mostly, despite his speed, for singles.
Now a look at the winners and losers:
Winners: The Braves
The Braves are the unequivocal winners from this swap of talent despite what the doomsayers were claiming at the time of the original Marte/Renteria transaction.
John Schuerholz and the Braves have an uncanny knack for jettisoning seemingly high-ceiling young talent in trades yet always landing on the good side of the deal. Many thought this particular deal would prove Schuerholz’s comeuppance—they were wrong.
The warning signs that Marte may not be quite as advertised surfaced in 2005 when the Baby Braves saw Atlanta sweep to its most recent division title. Marte was promoted to the big-league club but could only muster a .140/.227./.211 line in 70 plate appearances. Meanwhile some of his contemporaries, such as Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann, were blazing far more impressive trails.
Although Marte may still rescue his career, he seems destined to go down that well trodden path where many highly touted prospects go, ne’er to return. In the minors he showed a propensity to hit for power while showing tremendous plate discipline at an extremely young age. It was this trifecta that caused Baseball America to rank him the number one prospect in the game as recently as 2005. However, in recent seasons he has lost power as his walks have decreased—a lethal combination.
With Renteria the Braves acquired a player who was coming off a rotten year yet managed to post two very effective seasons for the Atlanta club. The deal looks even better when you consider that the Red Sox sent $11m in hard cash too. Ultimately the Braves shipped Renteria to the Tigers for a couple of mid-tier prospects (Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez) either of who could make a significant impact at major league level in the next year or two.
The Braves twisted twice and, so far, appear to have hit blackjack (no emails on the inaccuracy of the metaphor, please).
Neutral: The Red Sox
A harsher analysis could paint Boston as losers from this deal because they gave up a couple of years of Renteria at shortstop when he hit well and was on a reasonable contract. However, who knows how effective Renteria would have been had he stayed in Boston. Towards the end of his tenure there he was routinely criticized by fans and the media and that may have had an effect on his play.
Although you could argue that the Sox could have got more than Crisp out of Andy Marte, effectively the Red Sox swapped Crisp for Renteria. From a fan’s eye, two years down the line it looks like they swapped one bad player for another.
It’s worth noting that all this went down during Epstein’s sabbatical so who knows what would have happened had Theo remained at the helm. It’s all moot anyhow: fewer than 24 months after the trade they carted the World Series home.
Losers: The Indians
It may also seem harsh to call the Indians losers but when you give up talent to obtain the number one prospect in the game, who then turns out to be a dud then you have been burned. That Crisp couldn’t replicate his 2004 and 2005 success was at least some consolation for the Tribe.
It is unclear the extent to which general manager Mark Shapiro recognized that Crisp was at the peak of his value. He’d strung together two similarly strong seasons (2004 and 2005) before the age of 26. And despite a weak arm he had speed, which meant he could cover a fair bit of ground in center field. A high batting average disguised a lack of plate discipline and power and Shapiro is wily enough to know that he was trading Crisp at close to peak value.
Indeed, not only did he command a high price in Andy Marte but he also persuaded the Sox to throw in a spare-part reliever in Mota (although whether this was a bonus is still debatable).
There is a chance that the Indians could still make good on this deal if Marte can turn it around. The omens don’t point up. He has now had three shots at the major league level and hugely disappointed each time—for a hitter on the right development track you would expect to see gradual improvement. In all likelihood 2008 will be his final chance as an Indian.
In the currency of wins
Let’s finish by putting the respective performances in terms of wins :
- Braves (+4.5 wins): 2.6 WAA over two years, not adjusting for position. If we rebase everything to center field we can credit Renteria with (roughly) another win per year, given he has been league average with the glove in Atlanta. Although the Braves paid for these wins it was at below market rate because (a) the Red Sox gave the Braves $11m and (b) Renteria was signed to, what was retrospectively, a cheapish deal
- Red Sox (-1.6 wins): Although the Red Sox have done worse than the Indians that is largely down to playing time.
- Indians (-0.8 wins): Marte hasn’t even notched his 300th plate appearances as an Indian and he still cost the team almost a win. Embarrassing!
If there is any past deal that you’d like me to review in a similar manner please drop me an e-mail.
References & Resources
Thanks to Baseball Cube, Baseball Reference for the major and minor league statistics.