We may be coming up on the last month of seeing Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain in a Royals uniform as both players are eligible for free agency at the end of the year. The two have been a huge part of the recent run of success, each winning an American League Championship Series MVP.
The two players were part of a huge, six-player trade with Milwaukee back in 2010, that also netted the Royals pitchers Jake Odorizzi and Jeremy Jeffress in exchange for infielder Yuniesky Betancourt and former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke. With their service with the Royals possibly coming to an end, I wanted to evaluate how great this trade was in terms of the haul the Royals got for an established player in his prime.
I went back and looked at all trades of established players for prospects from 2000-2014 (more recent trades likely haven’t produced much fruit yet). For these purposes I only looked at trades that sent one or two veterans (three years or more) in exchange for prospects or young players (less than three years of service). I am not looking at “challenge” trades where two young players are swapped, or when two veterans are traded for each other.
I examined the values for the young players in the seasons before they would have become eligible for free agency or were released, and did not include the values of any veterans included in the deal. I gave no consideration to if a prospect was later traded, or what they were traded for. I gave no consideration to what was given up. I simply wanted to know how much value a team got from its package of prospects had they kept all of them through their reserve years. Here are the top ten prospect hauls from trades since 2000.
10. The Oakland Athletics acquire Carlos Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, Greg Smith, Chris Carter, Dana Eveland, and Aaron Cunningham from the Arizona Diamondbacks for Dan Haren and Connor Robertson (December 14 ,2007)
Haren was dealt for six players in this deal, then three years later was shipped to the Angels for four players. Haren was a 6+ WAR pitcher the next two seasons for Arizona, but they may have regretted giving up Carlos Gonzalez, who didn’t stick in Oakland for long, getting sent to the Rockies in a trade for Matt Holliday and flourishing as an All-Star. Gonzalez accumulated 20.9 WAR through 2014, which is when he would have been eligible for free agency had he not signed a long-term deal. Brett Anderson added another 6.5 WAR. Chris Carter would lead the league in home runs eventually, and the rest of the players would be role players at the big league level. In all, the package of players produced 29.2 WAR through their reserve years.
9. The Oakland Athletics acquire Josh Donaldson, Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, and Eric Patterson from the Chicago Cubs for Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin (July 8, 2008)
It’s that wheeling-and-dealing Billy Beane at it again! Donaldson was a “B-” catching prospect who ended up being an MVP candidate at third, with 35.9 WAR by himself. The rest of the role players actually had negative value, giving this prospect haul 33.4 WAR.
8. The Tampa Bay Rays acquire Ben Zobrist and Mitch Talbot from the Houston Astros for Aubrey Huff and cash (July 12, 2006)
The value of this trade is entirely on Zobrist, who was a utility infielder who learned to hit for power and became an enormously valuable player for the Rays for several seasons, accumulating 36.6 through 2014. Mitch Talbot was below replacement value, giving this trade 36.1 WAR for the Rays.
7. The Baltimore Orioles acquire Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, George Sherrill, Kam Mickolio, and Tony Butler from the Seattle Mariners for Erik Bedard (February 8, 2008)
Much like the Zack Greinke deal, the Erik Bedard trade was a big part of vaulting the Orioles from cellar-dweller to contender. Mariners GM Bill Bavasi has a legacy of really awful trades (the Shin-Soo Choo trade almost made this list), but this is the biggest stinker, giving up an MVP candidate in Adam Jones (23.4 WAR) and an All-Star pitcher in Chris Tillman (11.9). In total, the Mariners gave up 37.1 WAR for the oft-injured Bedard.
6. The Oakland Athletics acquire Dan Haren, Daric Barton, and Kiko Calero from the St. Louis Cardinals for Mark Mulder (December 18, 2004)
Hey, it’s Dan Haren again! Haren put up 27.3 WAR with the A’s and Diamondbacks before what would have been his free agent year. Barton and Calero had nice, short careers as role players, giving his package 38.2 total WAR.
5. The Texas Rangers acquire Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, Neftali Feliz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Beau Jones from the Atlanta Braves for Mark Teixeira and Ron Mahay (July 31, 2007)
This was considered a monster haul at the time, and it largely lived up to that billing. Elvis Andrus (once scouted by a young Dayton Moore when he was with the Braves), had 18.2 WAR in his first six seasons. Neftali Feliz won Rookie of the Year, Matt Harrison won 18 games once as an All-Star, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia was a below-average starting catcher. In all, the Braves gave up 40.7 WAR for All-Star slugger Mark Teixeira.
4. The Florida Marlins acquire Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado, and Harvey Garcia from the Boston Red Sox for Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, and Guillermo Mota (November 24, 2005)
The Marlins are known for their firesales, and this one came just two years after the team was crowned World Champion. They gave up two big parts of that championship team in Beckett and Lowell, but were able to pry one of Boston’s top prospects, Hanley Ramirez, who was a 27.6 WAR player through his reserve years. Anibal Sanchez turned into a pretty solid pitcher, putting up 14.9 WAR before he became a free agent. The other two pitchers were replacement level, giving the Marlins a total haul of 42.5 WAR.
3. The Kansas City Royals acquire Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi, and Jeremy Jeffress from the Milwaukee Brewers for Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt (December 19, 2010)
Zack Greinke was tired of losing, and asked Dayton Moore for a trade. Moore originally had a deal with the Washington Nationals for a package that was rumored to include Jordan Zimmermann, Drew Storen, and possibly Danny Espinosa, but Greinke balked at going to Washington, who was then a last place club. So Dayton Moore set his sights for Milwaukee.
Lorenzo Cain turned into one of the game’s best defenders, and finished third in MVP voting in 2015. Alcides Escobar has been a light hitter, but his defense has provided significant value. And Jake Odorizzi, who the Royals used to acquire James Shields, has been a very solid pitcher. This trade would look even better had Jeremy Jeffress figured things out earlier - he was let go before becoming a solid reliever. In all, the package Dayton Moore got from Milwaukee produced 42.8 WAR through their reserve years, with Cain and Odorizzi still accumulating value (Escobar is already past his reserve seasons).
2. In a three-team trade, the Detroit Tigers acquire Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth from the Arizona Diamondbacks and Austin Jackson and Phil Coke from the New York Yankees for Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson (December 8, 2009)
At the time, this seemed like a bit of a head-scratching move by Detroit. They were looking to contend, but traded away one of their best position players and a solid starting pitcher to get a young pitcher and young centerfielder. And why was Arizona giving up on Scherzer anyway? The former Mizzou pitcher ended up becoming a 21.5 WAR pitcher for the Tigers, while Jackson was a valuable 22.2 WAR player until he hit free agency. In all, the Tigers got 44.9 WAR out of the deal.
1. The Cleveland Indians acquire Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, and Lee Stevens from the Montreal Expos for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew (June 27, 2002)
This trade killed the Montreal Expos. It was engineered by Omar Minaya, serving as GM for MLB as they looked for someone to buy the team. The Expos were surprisingly competitive in 2002, so Minaya went all-in, giving up three future All-Stars to get Bartolo Colon. The Expos won 83 games and were in Washington three years later.
The Indians didn’t even benefit from Phillips, flipping him to the Reds for Jeff Stevens because of a perceived attitude problem. Phillips would become a 22.7 WAR player for the Reds through what would have been his reserve years. Cliff Lee took awhile to become “Cliff Lee”, even getting demoted at one point, but he was still a 22.1 WAR pitcher, including a Cy Young season. Injuries robbed Grady Sizemore of a long career, but he was a three-time All-Star with 27.5 WAR for the Indians, giving them a grand total of 72.3 WAR in this highway robbery of a trade.