As the July 31st trade deadline approaches each MLB season, every general manager has one immensely important, yet repetitive decision to make concerning the future path of his respective franchise. Is it worthwhile to trade elite prospects for major league ready talent in hopes of winning a pennant race, or should the team do the exact opposite in hopes of building for the future?
For some teams the answer is readily apparent, while for others it must be a calculated, meticulously thought out decision. With those decisions, come mistakes that team's will regret down the road.
In 2012, we saw several high impact major leaguer's on the move from bottom-dewllers to contenders. In return, several coveted minor league prospects made their way to the farm system of teams hoping to be competitive within the next few seasons.
Let's take a look at seven specific players that team's will eventually regret moving at this year's trade deadline.
In baseball, as in any sport, it's important to have a distinct organizational philosophy that defines how the franchise builds a winning team.
For the Miami Marlins, the idea has always been to develop young talent from within and either keep those players from hitting the open market for as long as possible, or trade them for more young talent once they become unaffordable (think Miguel Cabrera/ Dontrelle Willis).
Although this strategy may not always be popular with the fans, it has been successful in helping the organization win two World Series Championships since its inception in 1993.
However, this offseason Miami deviated from their grass-roots philosophy.
After flirtatious escapades with high profile free agents in Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the Miami Marlins opened up the checkbook and added free agents Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle, and traded for Carlos Zambrano. These additions brought the teams expenditures from the 24th highest payroll ($56.527 million) in baseball to the sixth highest ($124.98 million) over the span of just one offseason.
To make a long story short, the Marlins are among the biggest disappointments in baseball this year. At the July 31st trade deadline, the team was a dismal 47-56, while sitting twelve games out of the Wild Card hunt. This caused general manager Michael Hill to sell off the farm, and trade 3B Hanley Ramirez and 2B Omar Infante, among others.
The problem with the Marlins decision to sell at the deadline is that they did not give their offseason investments a chance to fulfill their full potential. Granted, at the trade deadline, the outlook was bleak and there seemed to be no end in sight.
In particular, Hanley Ramirez, Omar Infante, and Jose Reyes had the ability to transform into one of the most dynamic infields in all of baseball. With Ramirez currently on the Los Angeles Dodgers and Infante on the Detroit Tigers, those aspirations are gone.
With that, the team is now in flux. Although Miami received some elite prospects in their trade deadline acquisitions, they still owe a combined $150 million to Reyes, Bell, and Buehrle in virtually untradable money. So even if their new prospects turn out to be good players, the team is going to be extremely cash strapped for the foreseeable future, which will make it nearly impossible to supplement their roster with any free agents.
In short, by trading key assets in Hanley Ramirez and Omar Infante, the Miami Marlins not only set their organization back several years, but they ruined what could have been one of the most talented infields in the MLB.
Although it's way too early to judge the San Francisco Giants acquisition of right fielder Hunter Pence from the Philadelphia Phillies for right fielder Nate Schierholtz and catcher Tommy Joseph as a success or failure, the outlook is bleak at best.
To put it plain and simple, Pence has always generated a tremendous amount of his production through home runs, which has served him well up until this point of his career. In fact, the only time he has ever hit less than 22 home runs in a single-season was his 2007 rookie campaign, in which Pence knocked out 17 long balls over just 108 games.
However, the San Francisco Giants play at AT&T Park, which happens not only to be one of the biggest stadiums in all of baseball, but by far the biggest ball park Pence has ever called home. As a right-handed hitter, Hunter Pence is most likely going to see a significant decrease in his home runs, which, in turn, will decrease his runs batted in totals.
On the other hand, Nate Schierholtz is an average left-handed hitter who is also a decent right fielder. As a member of the Giants this season, he hit .251 with and OBP of .321. Although Pence will most likely prove to be a slight upgrade over those numbers, consider that Schierholtz was not the centerpiece of this transaction. In fact, he was merely a throw in.
The player that made this deal go through was 21-year-old catching prospect Tommy Joseph. Joseph, who spent most of his 2012 campaign playing in Double-A, was recently ranked by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in the Giants farm system.
Although Joseph has not developed offensively yet, he projects to be an everyday starting catcher within the next few seasons. He would have been a prime candidate to become the everyday starting catcher for the Giants, allowing them to move franchise cornerstone Buster Posey to a less injury prone position.
So not only are the Giants stuck with a player who will cost them a pretty penny in arbitration this summer, they are stuck with a guy whose skill set does not fit their home ballpark. With that, they gave up an outfielder who, at least this season, was not much of a downgrade, plus their most viable option to take over their everyday catching position.
By making this move, the Giants put the health of Buster Posey, their franchise player, at risk. This could come back to haunt them in the near future.
With the amount of money the Los Angeles Angels spent this offseason on first basement Albert Pujols and pitcher C.J. Wilson ($329.5 million to be exact), they had to find a way to produce some tangible results this year.
At the 2012 trade deadline, the team was trailing in the division by three games, while holding a narrow two game lead in the Wild Card standings. In order to bolster the team's pitching rotation and attempt to secure a playoff berth, general manager Jerry Dipoto acquired Zack Greinke from the Milwaukee Brewers. However, he did so by giving up several high-level prospects.
Although Zack Greinke has pitched to a more than respectable 9-4 record and a 3.74 ERA so far in 2012, he is more than likely going to be a three month rental for the Angels. With the amount of money already invested in Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, there is little hope that the Angels will be able to compete for Greinke's services on the open market this coming offseason.
Furthermore, Greinke has never pitched in a big market, nor has he ever succeeded in high pressure, playoff situations. So when word came out that the Angels traded middle infielder Jean Seguro, who Baseball America had ranked as the No. 2 prospect in their farm system behind Mike Trout, to Milwaukee for Greinke, it raised several red flags about the merits of this trade.
In short, Segura is a rare talent that has the potential to be an All-Star caliber shortstop or second basemen. He could be a guy who consistently hits .300, while hitting 15 home runs a year along with over 20 stolen bases by the time he gets to the big leagues. Furthermore, he would be able to hit at the top of the Angels order along with Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo, and Albert Pujols. Needless to say, that would be a devastating combination.
If the Angels do not win with Greinke this season, and fail to resign him in the offseason, this trade could be one of the worst moves in recent history.
Former Los Angeles Dodgers' reliever Josh Lindblom.
The Los Angeles Dodgers went "all in" at the 2012 trade deadline. By acquiring third basemen Hanley Ramirez and left fielder Shane Victorino, the front office sent a message not only to the team, but to the rest of the league that they were chasing a World Series ring this season.
Although Shane Victorino is clearly an upgrade in left field for the Dodgers, he is currently 31 years old, and is hitting nearly 15 points below his career batting average of .277. As a player who is not only in a contract year, but whose skills are likely in decline, the Dodgers gave up some young, valuable assets to acquire his services.
Josh Lindblom is a strong-armed, 25-year-old reliever who had struck out 43 batters in 47 innings, while compiling an ERA of 3.08 at the time of the trade deadline. He has clearly shown the skill to become a viable reliever on a major league roster.
Furthermore, Ethan Martin is a 23-year-old starter who had a 3.58 ERA in 20 Double-A starts at the time of the trade deadline. He had pitched 118 innings, while striking out 112. He has the ability to develop into a middle of the rotation pitcher in the near future.
If the Dodgers win with Victorino this season, the trade is obviously worth it. But there will most likely come a day when Shane Victorino is long gone, when Josh Lindblom and Ethan Martin are contributing to other teams, and the Dodgers may be thinking about what could have been.