A Look Back At The Tony Graffanino Trades

Trades are extremely fun. I dream about trades. I would absolutely love it if the Royals made a trade this afternoon. When a trade gets made, I quickly scan all the primary analysis hubs and team blogs. Trades spur people to commentary. As do imaginary trades. At this very moment, someone is posting a trade idea on a blog or message board and in short time that idea will generate fairly intricate and invested replies.

There's seemingly more interest in obscure baseball players than ever before, fueled perhaps by the wealth of information out there. Nobody's merely "a prospect" or "a backup" or "a young player" anymore, not with so much biographical and statistical information available.

Nevertheless, many trades end up being nearly entirely pointless, no matter how much we want them to produce some kind of result. It'd be a mistake to just be extremely agnostic or skeptical about every single non-blockbuster trade, but you'd nevertheless end up being right a lot of the time if you were. This is probably especially true if you happen to follow a bad team, which by definition doesn't have many good players.

To illustrate this, let's look at trade from nearly five years ago when the Royals sent IF-Tony Graffanino to the Red Sox in exchange for P- Juan Cedeno and OF-Chip Ambres.

Graffanino was basically Allard Baird's Willie Bloomquist, except that he could hit a little better. When the Royals traded Graffanino during the 2005 season, Graffy was a career .263/.334/.388 hitter who could play a variety of positions making about $1 million per season.

So why did he end up in Boston? Essentially, Graffy replaced Mark Bellhorn in Boston. Bellhorn had been one of the many stat-head heroes who helped build a potent offense, but by 2005 Bellhorn was done, eventually being traded to the Yankees. Two days later the Red Sox acquired Graffanino, who hit well for them, posting a .319/.355/.457 line for them in exactly 200 PAs. Although Boston failed to repeat as World Series champions, the Graffanino trade did give them a small boost.

So what did the Royals get in return?

Juan Cedeno went straight to AA Wichita (remember them?) were he was awful for three seasons. In 2007, his last with the organization, the Royals tried him primarily as a reliever, and he posted a 6.33 ERA as a 23 year old. By 2009, Cedeno was pitching in Korea. In short, the Royals got nothing out of him.

The headliner of the Graffanino trade, I suppose, was Chip Ambres, who was a first round pick by Florida back in 1998. At the time of the trade, Ambres was hitting .294/.401/.495 at AAA Pawtucket. With a pedigree, decent AAA numbers, and a connection to a good farm system, Ambres looked like an interesting player. Maybe not a star, but someone who might contribute. The Royals plugged him into the K.C. outfield, where he made his Major League debut at the age of 25. Ambres wasn't a total flop, but he didn't exactly impress either, hitting .241/.323/.379.

Prior to the 2006 season, the Royals signed Reggie Sanders. It was a relatively meaningless move that did little for anyone other than Reggie Sanders. However, that move severely hurt Ambres's chances of making the Royals Opening Day roster, which he indeed didn't do. Royal outfields have been messy for years now, so it's hard to sort out who really took whose playing time. Some combination of Sanders/Costa/Robinson/Guiel crowded out Ambres for the 3rd-5th outfielder spots (DDJ and Emil were locked in). Ambres eventually got injured in Omaha, and moved on to the Mets in 2007. Ambres got a cup of coffee with the '07 Mets and some decent playing time on the '08 Padres, and at present does not appear to be playing baseball in North America.

The weirdest aspect of this trade was that the Red Sox released Graffanino after the 2005 season, opting for Mark Loretta as their second baseman. Graffanino was then promptly claimed by the Royals again. The next season, Graffanino hit .268/.346/.409 for the Royals, before being traded again, this time for Milwaukee's Jorge de la Rosa. JDLR was an even more intriguing young arm, who nevertheless gave the Royals very little during his time in Kansas City.

By 2008, everyone directly associated with both Graffanino trades, including Graffanino, were out of the organization, and most were on their way to oblivion. Jorge de la Rosa eventually begat Ramon Ramirez, who was an effective bullpen arm for the Royals in 2008. Ramirez begat Coco Crisp, who was ok for the Royals for about one month. And there, the entire lineage of Tony Graffanino goes cold. In 2010, there is no trace of Tony Graffanino left on the roster.

Did the Royals lose the Graffanino trade? Sort of. The Royals got generally bad at bats from Ambres, while the Red Sox got a mild upgrade at 2nd base, in a pennant race. The Royals saved about half a million with the trade, but lost most of that savings by claiming Graffy on waivers four months later. In the long run, was it worth it for any Royals fan to have paid any attention to the Graffanino trade? Probably not. Juan Cedeno was horrible and Chip Ambres was just another body briefly passing through the revolving outfield door.  What about the second Graffanino trade? Maybe, since de la Rosa was always supposed to be promising, and it's hard not to notice a guy who starts with some regularity. Then again, dude was never that good in KC, and after 1.5 seasons was gone.

So what, then, is the implication of all of this? I'm not sure. Mostly, I suppose, there's a realization that we probably care too much. But please keep reading RR for all your information on obscure Royals prospects and crucial IN-DEPTH analysis of all transactions!!

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