Trade review: Andy Marte and Edgar Renteria

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.

Marte didn’t stay long in Boston as he was flipped to the Cleveland Indians in short order for Coco Crisp, with Guillermo Mota thrown in as a sweetener.

We’ll examine the trade from all angles and see which team came out on top.

Critical reaction

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.

Performance

Before we analyze the winners and losers let’s take a look at how all the players performed post-deal.

Andy Marte

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.

Edgar Renteria

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.

Guillermo Mota

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.

Coco Crisp

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!

A request
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.

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