Monday, July 27, 2009

Take Care This Trade Deadline... (Part II)

Ahh, but 'caveat emptor' has a lesser known cousin, especially in terms of baseball's trading deadline.

'Caveat venditor.'

Seller beware.

Just because you have a stud pitcher or a game-changing middle of the lineup hitter to trade does not guarantee that you will do so successfully. Oh, you'll be able to move your player, but while you think you're getting a huge return (like Cleveland for Bartolo Colon), you're actually getting close to nothing. Shall we take a look at a few examples?

-July 18, 1993- San Diego trades first baseman Fred McGriff to Atlanta for Donnie Elliott, Melvin Nieves and Vince Moore. In what may be the original in-season fire sale, the Padres shipped the Crime Dog east for three minor leaguers. McGriff ignited an Atlanta team that went 51-18 down the stretch to take first place from the Giants on the last day of the regular season. He went on to play for more years for the Braves, hitting 130 home runs and helping the Braves to two more World Series. On San Diego's end, Moore never played in the Majors, Elliot appeared in 31 games over two years and Nieves hit .207 over three years with the Padres. Yuck.

-July 31st, 1997- Oakland trades first baseman Mark McGwire to St. Louis for Eric Ludwick, T.J. Matthews and Blake Stein. Whatever the source of the power, Mark McGwire was one of the best home run hitter the game of baseball has ever seen. So with the A's languishing and McGwire threatening to make a run at Roger Maris' single-season home run record (he would break it the next year), Oakland unloaded the gigantic first baseman to the midwest. While St. Louis never advanced to a World Series with McGwire, the buzz and interest he created for them during his tenure is almost unprecedented. During his five seasons in the Gateway to the West, Big Mac hit 220 home runs, including single season totals of 58 (split season), 70 and 65. Meanwhile, Ludwick complied an 8.35 ERA in 31 career games, Stein went 5-9 with a 6.60 ERA for Oakland, and of Matthews' 32 career victories, eight came with the Cardinals anyway. In a fun bit of irony, Ludwick's younger brother, Ryan, has become a St. Louis fan favorite as an outfielder for the Cardinals since arriving before the 2007 season.

-July 26th, 2000- The Philadelphia Phillies trade pitcher Curt Schilling to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Travis Lee, Vicente Padilla, Nelson Figueroa and Omar Daal. In exchange for the pre-eminent postseason pitcher of this generation, the Phillies received what was recently described by a friend of mine as "a poo-poo platter." In what my opinion is the most lopsided of these deals, Schilling left Philadelphia, ego, blogging skills, mouth and right arm in tow, and went on to win 103 games and two World Series in Arizona and Boston, not to mention a 10-1 record in the playoffs and a Co-MVP Award in the 2001 Series. The Phillies haul consisted of a guy who had five up and down years before being given away for a box of baseballs (Padilla), a guy that almost lost 20 games (Daal) and two guys that stink (Lee and Figueroa). The Phils GM at the time, Ed Wade, is now working his magic in Houston.

So it's not just the teams looking to add that pay a dear price at the trading deadline. The sellers can get ripped off just as easily. So keep that in mind as Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Chad Qualls, Jarrod Washburn et al are discussed this trading season. And when you're thinking about Kyle Drabek or Clayton Kershaw or Brandon Wood, that the likes of Blake Stein and Donnie Elliott were once untouchable, can't miss prospects too.

Should be fun. 4 pm on July 31st will be here before we know. Like Christmas in July for baseball nerds.

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