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What Does Trading a Top Ten Prospect Get You?

The Royals seem intent on discussing Wil Myers in trade talks. Historically, what has a prospect of his caliber been worth on the trade market?


There have been numerous rumors of the Royals discussing uber-prospect Wil Myers in trade talks for a front-line starting pitcher. Myers was the #10 prospect in all of baseball in 2011, and will surely be a top five prospect for Baseball America when their prospect list comes out later this winter.

If the Royals are gauging the market for a top ten prospect, it might be useful to look back at recent deals involving such players. Here are trades of players named top ten Baseball America prospects dealt within a year of being anointed as such.

April 22, 1997 - New York Yankees trade OF Ruben Rivera (BA #9 in 1997), P Rafael Medina and cash for P Hideki Irabu, IF Homer Bush,OF Vernon Maxwell, and OF Gordon Amerson

Before Ruben Rivera was a joke for swiping his teammates' glove, and Hideki Irabu was a joke for being a "fat toad" bust, they were both highly sought after players. Rivera had been a top ten prospect three years running, but was coming off a disappointing 1996 season in AAA Columbus. He hit just .235/.324/.395 after having posted a .944 OPS across two levels in 1995. Still, scouts loved his tools, and his stock had not diminished enough to push him out of the top ten on Baseball America's list.

The Yankees coveted Japanese import Hideki Irabu, who was considered better than Hideo Nomo. The Padres won the auction for Irabu's rights, but Hideki had no desire to play in San Diego. So the Padres were able to trade his rights, along with a few other minor leaguers, for Rivera.

Rivera never produced in San Diego, and three years later they let him go. Irabu was disastrous in his rookie season, and merely servicable in his next two, never matching his hype. The Yankees banished him to baseball Siberia - Montreal.

July 4, 1998 - Los Angeles Dodgers trade 3B Paul Konerko (BA #2 in 1998) and P Dennys Reyes to Cincinnati for P Jeff Shaw

Its hard to remember now since we've seen Konerko terrorizing Royals pitchers in Chicago black for over a decade, but Konerko had stops in Los Angeles and Cincy before coming to the South Side. Konerko absolutely destroyed the Pacific Coast League in 1997. Even with the altitude of Albuquerque, his line of .323/.407/.621 with 37 homers is mighty impressive. Dennis Reyes was no slouch either, being named the #91 prospect by Baseball America before the year.

Jeff Shaw had been picked up off the scrap heap (the Royals briefly had his rights one winter), and made the Reds closer. After leading the league in saves in 1997, the Reds cashed in their chips and luckily had a willing mark in Tommy Lasorda, who was in his brief stint as Dodgers General Manager. Lasorda anointed Shaw the "best reliever in baseball", but he would put up 3.4 WAR in three seasons combined before ending his career due to injury.

July 8, 1999 - Arizona trades P Brad Penny (BA #5 in 1999), OF Abraham Nunez and P Vladimir Nunez to Florida for P Matt Mantei

The Diamondbacks were only in their second year of existence, but thanks to a spending spree on free agents, were already in contention. However they desperately needed a closer and as we have already seen, teams will overpay for closers. The Marlins had acquired reliever Matt Mantei through the Rule 5 draft, turned him into a decent closer, then were able to get the Diamondbacks to fork over the second best pitching prospect in all of baseball for him AND kick in two other minor leaguers to boot. If only the Royals were ever in a position to cash-in a Rule 5 pick-turned-All-Star closer into top prospects.

Penny had a 4.70 ERA in AA El Paso at the time of the trade, but had terrific peripherals and was pitching in the hitter-friendly Texas League. The previous season he had posted a 2.96 ERA in High Desert, one of the toughest places to pitch. He also had some minor shoulder soreness that perhaps led Arizona to believe they could deal him. However, Mantei was never an elite closer, and he struggled to stay healthy. Penny meanwhile put up three 2 WAR seasons in five years for the Marlins before being dealt to the Dodgers.

July 5, 2002 - In a three-team trade, Oakland trades 1B Carlos Pena (BA #5 in 2002), P Jeremy Bonderman, and P Franklyn German, and acquired P Ted Lilly, P Jason Arnold, OF John Ford-Griffin and cash from the Yankees.

We all know from "Moneyball" that Billy Beane had to do this deal because Scottie J. from "Boogie Nights" wouldn't put Andy from "Parks and Rec" in the lineup. And the premise of Moneyball is that you can find cheap talent to replace the big money talent, which is why they dealt a talented rookie making the league minimum in Pena.

Not only did Beane trade away Pena, but he dealt a promising reliever in Franklyn German, and a low level player-to-be-named-later that turned out to be a pretty good pitcher in Jeremy Bonderman. What did the Moneyball guru get in return?

Jason Arnold was in his first full professional season, but was having a terrific year and was already in AA ball. A year later he would make Baseball America's Top 100 list at #96 (although it was with Toronto). John Ford-Griffin was also in his first full professional season, but had put up such great numbers in short season ball that Baseball America named him the #76 overall prospect before the 2002 season. Ted Lilly had been a Top 100 prospect a few years back with the Expos, but by 2002 he was a 26 year old member of the Yankees rotation who was putting up reasonable numbers in his first full season in the bigs. The Yankees however wanted a PROVEN VETERAN, and decided to trade Lilly and get Jeff Weaver from the Tigers in this deal (which promptly exploded in their face).

Pena put up some decent seasons in Detroit, but fell out of favor and was released in spring training of 2006. He bounced around the league for a year before landing in Tampa Bay and becoming an All-Star. Arnold and Ford-Griffin never really lived up to their prospect potential. Lilly however, turned into a serviceable mid-rotation starter, posting 3-4 WAR at his peak.

November 24, 2005 - Boston trades SS Hanley Ramirez (BA #10 in 2005), P Anibal Sanchez, P Jesus Delgado, and P Harvey Garcia for P Josh Beckett, 3B Mike Lowell, and P Guillermo Mota

The Marlins were looking to cut costs (hard to believe, right?) and were shopping Josh Beckett around. Beckett had been a World Series hero in 2003, but had struggled to stay healthy, never making as many as 30 starts in Miami. He had a career year in 2005, winning 15 games with a 3.38 ERA and 3.3 WAR. With two years left before he hit free agency, the Marlins began to shop Beckett around.

The Red Sox outbid the Rangers by not only offering a top ten prospect in Hanley Ramirez, but by taking on the expensive contracts of Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota. Beckett would help the Red Sox win two championships before being shipped off last summer, and Hanley Ramirez would become a super-duper star before he got too expensive and was shipped off last summer.

December 8, 2005 – Atlanta trades 3B Andy Marte (BA #9 in 2005) to Boston for SS Edgar Renteria and cash

January 27, 2006 – Boston trades 3B Andy Marte (BA #9 in 2005), P Guillermo Mota, C Kelly Shoppach, P Randy Newsom and cash to Cleveland for OF Coco Crisp, P David Riske and C Josh Bard

These two trades are still mystifying to me, leading me to believe that teams must have known something about Marte that led them to trade him, and perhaps that something is why Marte never panned out. Marte had long been heralded as a prospect, and in 2005 he was coming off a fine, albeit not outstanding season in AAA. Atlanta needed a shortstop and picked up the 29 year-old Renteria coming off a mediocre .276/.335/.385 season in his only year in Boston. The Red Sox also agreed to pay $8 million of the $26 million owed Renteria.

Boston was apparently just looking for salary relief as they flipped Marte just a few weeks later to Cleveland with Coco Crisp being the major return. Crisp was 26 then, coming off a career season in which he posted a 4.2 WAR season, and was entering his first season of arbitration-eligibility. Andy Marte soon disappeared from the face of the earth, while Renteria and Crisp went on to have long careers as serviceable, but not great, players.

November 28, 2007 – Tampa Bay trades OF Delmon Young (BA #3 in 2007), IF Brendan Harris, and OF Jason Pridie to Minnesota for P Matt Garza, SS Jason Bartlett, and P Eduardo Morlan

Delmon had been a top three prospect for Baseball America since the year he was drafted with the first overall pick by Tampa Bay in 2003. He was still #3 overall before he began his rookie campaign in Tampa, and he would go on to finish second in Rookie of the Year balloting with a .288/.316/.408 season with 13 HR and 93 RBI. Nonetheless, the Rays dealt him after the year to land right-handed pitcher Matt Garza, who had been the #21 prospect by Baseball America before the 2007 season.

Garza made 15 starts for the Twins with a 3.69 ERA and 0.7 WAR in 2007 before going on to Tampa Bay and posting 7.7 WAR over the next three seasons. Young meanwhile put up two replacement-level seasons, before having a breakout season in 2010, finishing tenth in MVP balloting. However, he gave back much of his offensive value when he was asked to put a glove on, and only posted a 1.5 WAR season. Fed up with his defense, his poor plate discipline, and his attitude, the Twins dealt him to Detroit in 2011 for next to nothing.

December 4, 2007 – Detroit trades P Andrew Miller (BA #10 in 2007) , OF Cameron Maybin, P Burke Badenhop, P Eulogio de la Cruz, C Mike Rabelo and P Dallas Trahern for 1B Miguel Cabrera and P Dontrelle Willis

Miller was thought of by many as the top player in the 2006 draft, but bonus demands and health concerns scared some teams off and he fell to the Tigers. He made just thirteen starts in the minors for the Tigers before they shipped him off with a mess of players in a blockbuster deal for Miggy and D-Train.

Cabrera was a four-time All-Star and a former World Series hero who was coming off a sensational .320/.401/.565 34 HR 119 RBI season. He had two controllable years left, but the Marlins were looking to cut costs (hard to believe, right?). They packaged him with Dontrelle Willis, who was a two-time All-Star and former 22-game winner, but was coming off a disastrous season, his first sub-100 ERA+ season. He was a year away from free agency, but immediately signed a three-year extension with Detroit.

Miller would go on to post a 5.89 ERA in 58 games with the Marlins before they let him go. Miguel Cabrera recently became the first player since 1967 to hit for the Triple Crown.

January 13, 2012 – New York Yankees trade C Jesus Montero (BA #6 in 2011) and P Hector Noesi to Seattle for P Michael Pineda and P Jose Campos

Montero had been a top ten prospect for three years running, but was finding it hard to break into the Yankees lineup. New York finally dealt him for right-hander Michael Pineda, after a 2.1 WAR rookie season from the Seattle pitcher. Pineda posted a 3.74 ERA with over a strikeout per inning in Seattle, but suffered from tendonitis in spring training, then suffered an anterior labral tear, causing him to miss the entire 2012 season. He still has four controllable years left.

So what kind of talent should we expect in return for a prospect of Wil's stature? The second column shows total WAR by the prospect in pre-free agency years, just to show what those teams gave up on. The fourth column is the WAR of the player they acquired in the year prior to the trade, and the fifth column is their three-year average. What kind of player did the prospect net? Finally, the last column is the number of controllable years the player acquired had at the time of the trade, whether it was under the reserve clause or a contract. This is part of the value received in the trade.


WAR in Pre-Free Agency Years

Player Acquired

WAR in Season Before Trade

3-Year Avg. WAR Before Trade*

Controllable Years Left

Ruben Rivera


Hideki Irabu




Paul Konerko


Jeff Shaw




Brad Penny


Matt Mantei




Carlos Pena






Hanley Ramirez


Josh Beckett




Andy Marte


Edgar Rentera




Andy Marte


Coco Crisp




Delmon Young


Matt Garza




Andrew Miller


Miguel Cabrera




Jesus Montero


Michael Pineda









*-For the mid-season trades, I pro-rated the partial season as part of the three-year average

What kind of player can the Royals expect to headline a deal for Wil Myers? They should expect a 2-3 WAR player, that has at least three, and probably four controllable years left. Will they get this? Only time will tell.