MLB Trade Deadline 2012: The Most Overrated Players Traded Before the Deadlines
Major League Baseball teams routinely look to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline(s) to help make a late-season push towards the playoffs. But they often end up looking for love in all the wrong places.
Many believed that the addition of the second wild card team in each league would lessen trade activity around this year's deadline. With more teams believing they had a chance to duplicate the efforts of the 2011 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, fewer players were expected to be moved.
Fortunately for baseball fans—particularly those in Los Angeles—there would be plenty of activity to reflect on.
Led by the Los Angeles Dodgers—who have made five trades over the past six weeks, including last weekend's nine-player deal with the Boston Red Sox—a number of teams made deals to acquire some marquis names.
Here's a look at the most overrated players traded this season—including those moved after July 31—based on what they've contributed to their new teams thus far, and what they can expected to deliver over the duration of their entire contract.
Carl Crawford, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers*
New Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford gets the asterisk here because it'll be another 7-to-10 months before we begin to see how much he'll help his new team. After an injury-riddled 18-month stint with the Boston Red Sox, Crawford will look to revive his MLB career in 2013 in Los Angeles.
Big things were expected from Crawford when he signed a seven-year, $142 million contract to join the Red Sox after nine years with the Tampa Bay Rays. But his two seasons in Boston were highlighted by missed games and lackluster play, which led to him being pawned off to the Dodgers for pennies on the dollar.
Crawford only played in 31 games for Boston this year as he was slow to recover from offseason wrist surgery. But during that small sample size, he managed to hit .282 with three home runs, five stolen bases, 19 RBI and 23 runs scored before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery on his left elbow.
His days of hitting over .300 with 50-plus stolen bases may be well behind him, but the Dodgers don't necessarily need that player. Crawford can still be a reliable leadoff hitter who sets the table for what is now one of the best lineups, three through six, in all of baseball.
Crawford's performance will likely never match the gargantuan contract he received from Boston two winters ago. But for a Dodgers team that badly needs a dependable left fielder and leadoff hitter in 2013 and beyond, he kills two birds with one stone.
The media scrutiny will be substantially more subdued in Los Angeles. And being in a lineup that includes Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Hanley Ramirez and former Boston teammate Adrian Gonzalez will prevent Crawford from being looked at as a franchise savior.
Hanley Ramirez, 3B/SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
Dodgers third baseman/shortstop Hanley Ramirez pouted his way out of Florida and into Hollywood in a manner that would make Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard proud. But both Ramirez and Los Angeles are already better off for having made the move.
Ramirez finished second behind then St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols in the 2009 NL MVP voting. Then just 25, Ramirez's rare combination of speed and power seemed destined to make him one of Major League Baseball's top-five players for years to come.
But an elbow injury that prematurely ended another stellar campaign in 2010, began to dim the glow on Ramirez's bright future.
He hit just .243 during an injury-plagued 2011 season. Ramirez also famously drew the ire of then Florida Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez when he failed to hustle after a misplayed ball that rolled into the outfield.
Ramirez also initially bristled at the idea of moving to third base to accommodate the free-agent signing of fellow Dominican shortstop Jose Reyes this past offseason. That act, coupled by another season of poor play, and failing to respond to the in-your-face managerial style of new skipper Ozzie Guillen, precipitated Ramirez's exit out of Miami this past July.
The Dodgers picked up all of the remaining $38 million dollars that Ramirez is owed through 2014 in exchange for a pair of marginal prospects.
The initial buzz surrounding the trade was split between those who believed that his days as an All-Star caliber player were behind him, and those who believed that the change of scenery was exactly what Ramirez needed to reignite his career.
If his first 30 games with the Dodgers is indicative of his future performance—.286 AVG, 6 HR, 31 RBI and 18 R—it appears that Ramirez is back to being the three-time All-Star that baseball fans have been accustomed to watching. Those of us on the East Coast will just have to stay up a few hours later to see him put in work.
Ichiro Suzuki, LF, New York Yankees
Calling 38-year-old, New York Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki overrated is like using the same word to describe a Honda Accord: What more did you expect?
It was surprising to see the Seattle Mariners send Ichiro away from the only MLB city he'd ever called home. But it did save them from the potential public relations nightmare of having to deal with his pending free agency after this year.
For the Yankees, Ichiro fills a short-term need on their roster, caused by the season-long absence of left fielder Brett Gardner. New York's offense, while prolific, is heavily dependent upon the long ball. Ichiro allows the team to better manufacture runs, and adds some much-needed speed to the lineup.
With Gardner expected back in 2013, it would be surprising if Ichiro were back in the Bronx next season. But for now, he does provide a spark for a team looking to win their first World Series since 2009, an eternity in Yankees years.
Hunter Pence, RF, San Francisco Giants
Hunter Pence's value to the San Francisco Giants is directly linked to the answers to these two questions: Did the Giants know about Melky Cabrera's suspension before trading for Pence? And how much are they willing to pay the soon-to-be free agent to keep him in San Francisco?
If the answer to the first question is yes, then you have to give San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean a lot of credit for taking the preemptive measure.
Cabrera's bat will certainly be missed. But the addition of Pence makes up for most of the loss, and even adds a bit more power to the Giants lineup. Given the binge-trading that the arch-rival Dodgers have done to improve their roster, adding Pence was the least that San Francisco could do to protect its NL West lead.
How much the Giants are willing to pay Pence to bring him back to San Francisco long-term can not be ignored in this evaluation.
Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier's recent five-year, $85 million contract is a decent barometer for what Pence might get. Pence has only made one All-Star appearance versus two for Ethier. But he is also two years younger, and considerably more durable, having played in no less than 154 games since the 2008 season.
Many people believe that Ethier was overpaid. But given Los Angeles' newly-found riches, the financial impact of his contract is relative. The Giants' pockets are not nearly as deep, so if they gamble on Pence long term and lose, the negative implications could be severe.
Josh Beckett, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Josh Beckett had been public enemy No. 1 in Boston since his chicken and beer parties became national news at the end of last season. So it'd be somewhat of a surprise if the often surly Texan doesn't welcome the move to Los Angeles with open arms.
Fair or not, Beckett and fellow starting pitcher Jon Lester took a lot of heat last season for creating a toxic Red Sox clubhouse that contributed to Boston's historic collapse. The team finished 7-20 last September, costing the team a playoff berth on the season's final day, and manager Terry Francona his job.
What was lost in all the controversy, however, was that Beckett had a spectacular 2011 season. After an injury-plagued 2010 that limited him to a 5.78 ERA, 1.54 WHIP and a -1.1 WAR in 21 starts, he bounced back to post a 2.89 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and a 5.5 WAR in 30 starts last season.
But the 2010 Beckett has returned in 2012, leading to a 5-11 record, a 5.23 ERA and a very appropriate WAR of 0.0 in 21 starts for the Red Sox, before being traded to the Dodgers this past weekend.
That performance—along with the $35.1 million that Beckett is owed through the 2014 season—has many feeling like Los Angeles is getting a vastly overrated pitcher on the downside of his career. But there may well be light at the end of the tunnel.
Like Crawford, Beckett is unlikely to earn the $35.1 million owed to him over the next two-plus seasons. His numbers should improve simply by leaving the band boxes and stacked lineups in the AL East for the mostly pitcher friendly confines of the NL West. But it's unlikely that Beckett will pitch like the No.1 starter he's being paid to be.
The Dodgers have a certified staff ace in 2011 NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. They also have starters Chris Capuano, Chad Billingsley and Aaron Harang all signed through 2013. But what they don't have is a lot of playoff experience, something that Beckett has in spades.
He is still just 32 years old. And with two World Series rings, an ALCS MVP and a World Series MVP to his credit, there's little question that Beckett can help the Dodgers tremendously should they manage to make it to the postseason in any of the next three seasons.
Zack Greinke, RHP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim RHP Zack Greinke would be the last guy you'd expect to struggle with the transition from the National League to the American League.
Greinke spent his first seven MLB seasons in the junior circuit, and even won the 2009 AL Cy Young award. But he hasn't helped the Angels much since returning to the AL in a July 28 trade with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Greinke has a 5.22 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP in six starts since joining Los Angeles. Not exactly the type of impact the 28-year-old, free-agent-to-be was expected to have on his new team.
There have always been questions about Greinke's mental toughness and ability to handle the pressures of pitching in a major market. Unless he straightens himself out soon—and last Friday's start at Detroit was a good start—he could cost himself a few dollars this winter.
Ryan Dempster, RHP, Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers should receive an award for their July 31 trade for Chicago Cubs RHP Ryan Dempster. The deal should be recognized as the "Worst Reactionary Trade to Counter a Division Rival's Preemptive Strike."
The Angels made the first move by acquiring Zack Greinke from the Brewers just three days earlier. And the Rangers, feeling that they had to do something to keep up with the AL West arms race, made the Dempster move shortly before the 4 p.m. ET MLB non-waiver trade deadline, seemingly out of desperation.
Most players in Dempster's shoes would be ecstatic to be moving from the National League cellar to the American League penthouse. But the soon-to-be free agent had to secretly be kicking himself for overplaying his hand.
Dempster used his 10-5 rights to veto a trade to the Atlanta Braves, claiming that he wanted to be closer to his family—in Vancouver, British Columbia mind you—by joining the Dodgers. That move backfired when Chicago and Los Angeles were unable to agree to trade terms.
Now the 35-year-old right hander, who was miraculously having a career year in Chicago, stands to lose millions in free agency by moving to arguably the most hitter-friendly ballpark in Major League Baseball.
In five starts since moving to the American League, Dempster has a 5.46 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and .298 BAA. That's a far cry from the 2.25 ERA and 1.04 WHIP that he delivered in 16 starts with the Cubs early in the year.
The Rangers aren't totally at fault for rolling the dice on Dempster, as season-ending injuries to RHPs Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz sort of forced their hand. But if the early returns are any indication, Dempster isn't the difference-maker that Texas needs to get back to the World Series for the third straight season.