Spreadsheet Baseball: the Deadline in Review

Okay, first of all, I'm sorry that I'm posting this article on August 9th. That's really not good considering the Trade Deadline was the 31st of July and this should've been up eight days ago. I have had an extremely weird past week (including a computer crash. fun.), but that's really not an excuse so sorry for delaying the hell out of this. It should not been a problem with my next article.

So anyway, another July 31st came and went, and with it the MLB non-waiver trade deadline. Even with a relatively quiet deadline, there's still plenty to talk about; a lot of the trades made are very polarizing, and there's a distinct possibility this year that a significant number of a player could moved before the August 31st waiver deadline. For the sake of keeping things current and keeping this article under 200 pages, I'm only going to look at the trades that have already been made--extending back through the last couple weeks--rather than preview any trades still yet to come.

If you're one of those people wondering "why didn't more trades occur this year?" there are really three reasons:

  1. It was a seller's market
  2. The sellers were generally not selling anyone good
The thing is, when the seller knows it's a seller's market, they ask for more. Example: at one point it was rumored that Baltimore could get two prospects, one good, for Steve Trachsel if the market stayed the course. When they ask for more, it becomes a matter of how much of their future any given buyer wants to give up to do well this year. And this year, it seemed like not a lot of teams thought it was worth it. Looking the whole thing objectively, I can't blame them for that line of thinking.

This doesn't mean there weren't losers and winners, of course. There are still a couple of "WTF?!" deals every single season, and there were also some neat little low-risk pick-ups as well as the Teixeira extravaganza. Since the Dotel trade is all the rage right now at Royals Review, I'll start with that.

Atlanta Braves send SP Kyle Davies to the Kansas City Royals for RP Octavio Dotel

My initial reaction to this return for Dotel was disappointment. However, it's important to keep things in perspective; trade rumors are vicious, as they can raise the expectations of what one team or another can get for whoever's on the block. This definitely seems to be the case here, as my knee-jerk reaction of being displeased wasn't the only one.

Still, objectively, this is not a bad trade, just not one that I personally like all that much. While the Royals signed Dotel this off-season, after a year lost to TJ surgery for the former Houston set-up man/closer. At the time, it was speculated that the way that the deal was most likely to pay off was that Dotel could give the Royals bullpen help in the first half and then flip him for some pretty good prospect at the deadline. Surprise! It happened, as the Royals, while markedly improved from last year, are not contenders and acted accordingly when it came to Dotel. After rumors that the Dodgers, Red Sox, Mariners, and Braves were all interested, it was Atlanta who ended up winning the sweepstakes.

There is no question in my mind that Royals will get more out of the this deal long-term, and that's usually the good thing about being the seller at the deadline-whoever you get has a chance to help out for the next four or five or six years while still being "baseball cheap." Davies is ten years younger than Dotel, has shown considerable promise amid rocky results, and will be under the Royals control for the next four seasons. In return, the Braves get an average-plus reliever who throws hard. If you think that's an unfair representation of Dotel's abilities, consider this:

VORP of relievers at time of Dotel trade:

20.3

16.7

16.3

13.5

5.8

4.2

3.2

Which one is Dotel? C'mon, guess: it's fun. Give up? Dotel is that "4.2," beating out only John Bale when it comes to value to his team. For you curious fans, the order above him is Riske, Peralta, Soria, Greinke, Gobble. If you want to really trash Dotel's contributions to the team, you could note that Brandon Duckworth had a higher VORP at 6.3.

Octavio Dotel is not a horrible pitcher. The point here, instead, is that just wasn't here that often (23 innings) or lights out (3.91 ERA) enough for him to acculmulate a lot of value. When you look at it from this perspective, it doesn't seem bad at all that Kyle Davies was the return for Dotel. I mean, sure, Octavio had some name-brand value, but the fact of the matter is that a good GM like Schuerholz is going to look at actual performance before he trades a potentially good young starter for a rental of a reliever.

Another topic brought up on RR lately is that the Eric Gagne and Scott Linebrink deals were far more rewarding for the selling team. Thus, I present the comparison below:

Dotel: 23.0 IP, 3.91 ERA, 11.35 K/9, 4.30 BB/9, 1.17 HR/9, 9.39 H/9, 4.2 VORP

Gagne: 34.0 IP, 2.16 ERA, 7.83 K/9, 2.97 BB/9, 0.54 HR/9, 6.21 H/9, 14.2 VORP

Linebrink: 45.0 IP, 3.80 ERA, 5.00 K/9, 2.80 BB/9, 1.80 HR/9, 8.20 H/9, 8.9 VORP

In other words, the Royals were never going to get as much for Dotel as the other two teams were going to get for their trade-chip relievers. Gagne was about three times as valuable to his team until being traded to the Red Sox, and Linebrink...well, Linebrink is toast, quite frankly, but no one's really noticed yet. Suffice to say that the Rangers should've got the best return, but the Padres just lucked out and got three minor leaguers for an obsolete relief pitcher. In any case, Linebrink's VORP was still twice as high as Dotel's, so, again, the Padres had more leverage.

Whether you like this trade or not comes down to whether or not you think Kyle Davies' recent performance ('06 and '07) is an aberration as opposed to his true performance level. He showed a good deal of promise in the minors and when he first came up with the Braves, but it's been a bit of nightmare since then for Davies. Having three good pitches is nice, but you've got to turn them into results. I don't see the Royals as organization particularly good at working with projects, and I don't think Davies was much of a high upside guy to begin with.

So I don't like the deal. I would rather the Royals have picked up one or two guys in the lower minors--young players who are still developing, as opposed to a project who's hit a wall in the majors the last two years. I'd rather the Royals have traded for a potential solution for first base or left field for Dotel. On the other hand, I also wanted Justin Huber to get a shot, so maybe I'm just wrong. In the situation the Royals are currently in, I really don't think we need another young pitcher who might possibily maybe be average in the AL if all breaks right: I thought we already had that in Jorge de la Rosa.

This all said, I see why the trade made; it's hard to think that Davies will contribute less in four years than Dotel will for the Braves in two months (his option year doesn't factor in this equation), and there is certainly room in the Royals rotation for a good pitcher, and Davies has shown some indication he could be one. They say that a low-defensive spectrum hitter is the easiest type of player to find, so maybe that explains why Moore didn't target a young first base men or outfielder over a starting pitcher. It's just that the Royals sure as heck have had trouble at the power positions, so I don't see why anyone would follow the general rule of thumn when the needs of their team seem to be directly in conflict with it.

I hope Davies proves me wrong, but I've thought about this a lot after my initial knee jerk reaction, and I still don't think this will end well.

Short Term Winner: Braves

Long Term Winner: There Isn't One

1B Mark Teixeira and LHRP Ron Mahay to Braves, C-1B Jarrod Saltalamacchia, SS Elvis Andrus, RHP Neftali Feliz, LHP Matt Harrison to Rangers

I like this trade for both sides, really. A lot of people seem to be on the Saltalamacchia bandwagon, decrying the Braves' trade as one where they barely upgraded and gave up too much. If you're like me, you think that Saltalamacchia's bat will be a big plus at catcher and just flat out average at first. This is really the classic deadline blockbuster that we really haven't seen much of the last couple years: one team trades for a legitimate bopper that can really help its surge for the postseason, the other team acquires some great young prospects help the rebuilding process.

Teixeira, including his first week in a Braves uniform, is hitting a sweet .294/.394/.535 this system despite nagging injuries. Ron Mahay is not an elite relief pitcher, but he's a good lefty arm out of the pen (this year, anyway). For a team that was running Scott Thorman out to first base for much of the year, getting Teixeira is a big boost. The Braves' slump since acquiring Teixeira has nothing to do with him: he's slugging over .600 since coming to Atlanta.

As for the return package, the Rangers did an excellent job of selling high on a player who is definitely going to test the market after the 2008 season. Saltlamacchia will be a very, very good long-term solution catcher if the Rangers just let him play there. With his ability to be servicable at first, they have the option of playing him there instead of DHing him to give him a semi day off while still allowing him to shift back to catcher should an injury occur. Andrus is a 19-year-old shortstop who has no power yet, but has flashed some good tools; it's way too earlier to give up on him. Feliz is another 19-year-old who K'd 28 batters in 26 Appy League innings before being called up a level. Both have considerable promise, and I personally love Feliz's potential. Harrison is more of a throw-in, but he's managed to most an ERA in the low-threes this year.

The Braves gave up a lot for a year and a half of a slugger, but Teixeira is a great hitter and he should continue to take n' rake for them until he signs a big deal with someone for 2009 and beyond. Really the debate of this deal centers on whether or not you think Saltlamacchia could hit enough to play first. I don't think so, so I'm calling this one just about even.

Short Term Winner: Braves. Teixeira is a big boost.

Long Term Winner: Rangers. Saltalamacchia is big league ready, Feliz has great potential, Harrison could be servicable, and Andrus is much too young to give up on. A great job by the Rangers' FO of getting key parts to help them rebuild. Hopefully now they realize they're rebuilding...

RP Eric Gagne to Red Sox, SP Kason Gabbard, OF David Murphy, OF Engle Beltre

This is a little more of what I think a lot people in the RR community were expecting out of the Dotel deal. Three young players for a relief pitcher is a pretty good haul, though this deal wasn't as good as it looked for the Rangers. Don't get me wrong: it was the right thing to trade Gagne, but Gabbard's forty-odd innings with the Red Sox had his value about as high as it was likely to get, Beltre was hitting .215 in the low minors at the time of the deal, and Murphy looks to be a fourth outfielder with good defense.

Gagne is a good pick-up for the Red Sox, bolstering an already very good bullpen by ostensibly keeping Mike Timlin and Julian Tavarez the hell away from the seventh and eighth innings. He's had a couple bad outings with the Sox, but he's still a very good relief pitcher if nothing like as dominant as he was in his glory days.

Gabbard looks like the prize of this deal for the Rangers, a young pitcher whom the Rangers have control of for the next five years who was posting an ERA under four with the Sox. The problem is that Gabbard forged his low ERA by back-to-back great outing against two of the league's weaker offenses--the Royals, who are not good against lefty starters this year, and the White Sox, who just generally don't hit--and beyond those sixteen innings his ERA is now a hefty 5.47. Maybe Gabbard isn't that bad, but an ERA in the high-fours low-fives is a much more reasonable expectation for him, what with his totally underwhelming stuff and history of low K-rates.

Murphy is one of those guys that every system has, who hits well enough to move up each year but never does anything that would suggest to the FO that he's starter material. He can play a good centerfield and he's got a little pop, but he was totally blocked by Jacoby Ellsbury and Coco Crisp in Boston. If he's going to have a career, he'll need to make a good first impression with the Rangers. Otherwise, he'll just end up wandering through AAA teams.

Overall, three players for a reliever is good, but the Rangers have grabbed two MLB-ready players who really aren't that good and one, ine Beltre, that will have to seriously pick it up if he ever wants to sniff the majors.

Short Term Winner: Red Sox

Long Term Winner: Rangers, but one wonders if they could've held out for a better centerpiece to this deal. Gabbard looks like a LAIM at best (I saw him play at Portland, so that's kind of cool, though).

Scott Proctor to Dodgers, Wilson Betemit to Yankees

I don't get what the Dodgers thought they were doing here. Well, I sort of do, but not because I think it made any sense. On the surface it seems like the Dodger's GM, Ned Colletti (also known as the guy who thought signing Juan Pierre to a five year deal was a good idea), got cranky with Betemit's low batting average and decided he was not the best option at third (he was) and that he was expendable. The difference between Nomar Garciaparra's performance and Wilson Betemit's, and the perception of both by their FO illustrates that some people really still don't completely get this whole "batting average is not a reliable stat by itself" thing.

Betemit before departing to NY: .231/.359/.474

Garciaparra (now playing third): .279/.326/.364

...and they traded Betemit. Well done, Dodgers. Nomar is replacement-level this year, as his power has dried up. Betemit had a terrible start to the year but his secondary skills (power, patience) were and are completely intact. Those skills make him a fine regular at third even when his batting average is low, given that he's still being paid next to nothing. Now Betemit's got a .241/.362/.482 line on the year, which is definitely helping. Garciaparra continues to suck up outs, and all the Dodgers got for a young, flawed-but-still good third baseman was a good middle reliever whose arm has been abused by Joe Torre. Proctor's had an "okay" season, but a 3.81 ERA and a 37:29 K:BB ratio in 57 innings before the trade should not have pegged him as the type of guy you want to go out and get. Really, if you can't trust a reliever to some extent in high-leverage situations, what's the point of acquirin him?

Short Term Winner: Yankees

Long Term Winner: Yankees, but if they think Betemit is the long term solution at first (or a replacement for A-Rod), they're kidding themselves.

Morgan Ensberg to the Padres, player to be named later to the Astros

Ensberg will never approach his peak of 2005, but this was a neat little pick-up by Kevin Towers, the GM of the Pads, to pick up Ensberg for virtually nothing. He's only hitting .234/.318/.398 this season, and the jury's still out about whether his shoulder's to blame or if he's just declined rapidly, but his ten homers this season make him a good power option off the bench. The Padres maintain that Kevin Kouzmanoff, himself mired in a tough rookie year (he can't hit righties: the split is .198 to .317 against lefties), is still the third basemen, but it never hurts to have a contingency plan in case of injury. The Astros ditching a guy who had been one of their better players over the last four years and picking up Ty Wigginton to replace him is a bizarre way of doing business. In any case, Ensberg still hits lefties (800+ OPS before trade) well enough to be useful.

Short Term Winner: Padres, of course

Long Term Winner: Padres, though it's hard to see Ensberg being around in any role except bench player

Rob Mackowiak to the Padres, RP John Link to White Sox

Mackowiak is nothing special, but he gives the Padres versaltility off the bench--he'll stand around a variety of positions--and a decent bat for a pinch-hitting and spot starts (.277/.348/.404). Link is a reliever in A-ball, and he's pretty good there, but the odds are against him simply because he's already a reliever, he's 23, and he's not even at double A yet.

Short Term Winner: Padres, though Rob's just a utility guy.

Long Term Winner: I can't really say there's any long term winner to a deal involving an aging utility man and a reliever in A-ball.

SP Matt Morris to the Pirates, Rajai Davis to the Giants

It is verrrrrrry hard to get taken to the cleaners by Brian Sabean, the GM of the Giants who has constructed the now-famous "lose now" strategy with San Francisco. Nonetheless, GM Dave Littlefield of the Pirates managed it: Matt Morris is an aging, below average starting pitcher with a $9 mil a year price tag. The Pirates need him like Julius Caesar needed more "friends." Littlefield continues to demonstrate his steadfast committment to stagnating, and the Pirates fans are left wondering what the hell the point is. Davis is light on power and is already 27, but he's had a .380 OBP between AAA and the majors this year. A fourth outfielder? Yeah, but a neat one. I couldn't get the salary info on this deal, but even if the Giants pay more than half Morris's salary, this is still a losing idea for the Pirates. I'm sorry, I made that seem as if they have had any winning ideas.

Short Term Winner: the Giants, by default

Long Term Winner: Uh...the Giants, for not having Matt Morris on their team anymore?

Luis Castillo to the Mets, OF Dustin Martin and C Drew Butera to the Twins

I would really hate this deal if the Mets gave up anything to get Castillo, but since Martin is too old for the FSL that he plays in and Butera is a no-hit catcher, there's not much a can say that's negative about the deal itself. Neither player the Twins acquired has a future in the majors, and that's a mistake by Terry Ryan to get nothing for his starting second basemen.

Then again, maybe he realized how little Castillo was worth. Castillo is now hitting .307, but he's only had sixteen extra base hits this season for an overall line of .307/.355/.357 with no home runs. That's acceptable--not a plus, acceptable--because of the OBP, but it does virtually towards making the Mets better. The Cloud Nine version of Ruben Gotay is hitting .344/.379/.496 with four home runs in less than half the PAs of Castillo, Damion Easley is hitting .269/.340/.445, and the Mets just got Marlon Anderson back. I mean, crimony, what was the problem with starting Gotay? Or at least platooning Easley and Gotay? And with Anderson, there's a guy who's got a track record of playing a decent second and having some fluky power years. Castillo is totally redundant, and is blocking a player is Gotay who ought to get a shot at holding down a starting job. I'm aware many of you will disagree with me about that, BUT HE'S HITTING .344!

Short Term Winner: the two Mets' fans who desperately wanted Luis Castillo on the team

Long Term Winner: No.

RHSP Kyle Lohse to the Phillies, LHP Matt Maloney to the Reds

Lohse is one of those guys who us statheads have been telling people would collapse for a couple years now. Lo and behold, he did, but now he's back to being his good ol' servicable self. Lohse is average, average-minus, but can give you innings in the four-ERA range and he won't complain about it. That's worth something, and this was the second of two nice pick-ups by Pat Gillick (of all people, Stand Pat comes through) at the deadline. Maloney was doing okay in the Eastern League (AA) despite iffy DIPS numbers. He's by no means a sure thing, and seems like the kind of pitcher who would've been murdered in Citizens Bank Park. Whether Great American Ballpark is any better remains to be seen.

Short Term Winner: Phillies

Long Term Winner: Phillies, actually. They get Lohse for another year at below what they'd have to pay for a FA of his caliber. I'm far from sold on Maloney.

I was planning on going further back, all the way to the Linebrink deal, but this is already pretty long. I might just add that in the comments section. Sadly, I have to go to work.

Anyway, the Game Thread is up right now, but when you get around to reading this, comments/questions are welcomed/encouraged. I am very sorry for the delay. Enjoy!

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