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Grading Performance of MLB's Last 5 Reigning MVPs, Cy Youngs Who Changed Teams

John AltamuraContributor IIDecember 15, 2012

Grading Performance of MLB's Last 5 Reigning MVPs, Cy Youngs Who Changed Teams

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    How have the last five reigning MLB Cy Young and MVP Award winners fared after being traded from their respective clubs?

    That question could now be on people's minds as on Sunday the New York Mets have agreed to trade reigning NL Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey, along with Josh Thole (C) and Mike Nickeas (C) to the Toronto Blue Jays for Travis D’Arnaud (C), Noah Syndergaard (RHP), John Buck (C) and Wuilmer Becerra (OF), according to the NY Post. (see latest story here)

    On Monday, the Blue Jays and Dickey agreed to a two-year $25 million contract extension, according to Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com.

    The Blue Jays receive a knuckleballer who posted a 20-6 record with a 2.73 ERA with the Mets in 2012.

    A team trading a reigning Cy Young Award winner or MVP is not uncommon. There have been five such deals  over the past two decades. Here is a review of those acquisitions and grades associated with those moves.

1. Cliff Lee: 2008 AL Cy Young Award Winner

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    How acquired: Traded with Ben Francisco from the Cleveland Indians to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald and Lou Marson.

    How did the Cliff Lee tenure turn out in Philadelphia?

    The Phillies were the reigning World Series champions when they decided to initiate a trade with the Indians for the 2008 AL Cy Young winner. The trade-deadline move proved to be a wise one for Philadelphia as Lee went 7-4 record with a 3.39 ERA in 12 critical pennant-race starts.

    Lee's presence would be felt for the Phillies in the 2009 postseason as well. He went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA and threw two complete games. His Game 1 wins over the Colorado Rockies in the National League Division Series and the New York Yankees in the World Series set the tone in each respective series. Unfortunately for Lee and the Phillies—his heroic pitching efforts were not enough as the Yankees captured their 27th World Championship in six games.

    Lee would be traded yet again after the 2009 season to the Seattle Mariners for J.C. Ramírez, Phillippe Aumont and Tyson Gillies.

    But his first stint with the Phillies proved to be a successful one as he led the team to the NL pennant and a second-consecutive World Series appearance. For Philadelphia, the trade of Knapp, Carrasco, Donald and Marson to the Indians has not proven to be much of a loss.

    Ultimately, the Lee trade turned out to be successful for Philadelphia.

    Grade: A

2. CC Sabathia: 2007 AL Cy Young Award Winner

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    How acquired: Traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Milwaukee Brewers for Rob Bryson, Zach Jackson, Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley

    How did the C.C. Sabathia tenure turn out in Milwaukee?

    The Brewers were in a heated pennant race with the Chicago Cubs when they decided to make a pre-deadline trade with Cleveland for Sabathia. The move stabilized the Brewers' rotation as Sabathia went 11-2 in 17 starts with an astonishing seven complete games.

    Sabathia's regular-season efforts were not enough for the Brewers to catch the Cubs as they had to settle for the NL Wild Card. The postseason was a different story, however, as Sabathia struggled in his only start in the NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies. Sabathia lasted only 3.2 innings and gave up five runs in a 5-2 Game 2 loss.

    The Brewers would not re-sign Sabathia, who would sign a eight-year, $182 million deal with the New York Yankees the following offseason.

    In retrospect, the deal turned out to be a good one for the Brewers as Sabathia powered them to their first postseason appearance since 1982. Unfortunately, he was not able to deliver the club their first World Series championship.

    As for the prospects the Brewers parted with to acquire Sabathia, none have had too much success on the major league level. Though, keep on eye on Brantley. He had a promising season for the Indians in 2012, hitting .288, with six home runs and 60 RBI.

    As for grading Sabathia's performance, you'd have to say he did quite well for the most part. But a stellar 2008 postseason would have made this trade look much better.

    Grade: B-

3. Alex Rodriguez: 2003 AL MVP Winner

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    How acquired: Traded with cash from the Texas Rangers to the New York Yankees for Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias

    How has the Alex Rodriguez tenure turned out so far in New York?

    The Yankees acquired Rodriguez in a winter 2004 blockbuster trade with the Rangers. The move probably wouldn't have happened if 2003 ALCS hero and incumbent third baseman Aaron Boone didn't suffer a knee injury in a game of pickup basketball.

    Rodriguez had a good first regular season in New York, hitting 286 with 36 home runs and 106 RBI. His cumulative numbers during the 2004 postseason seemed good on paper (.320 BA, 3 HR, 8 RBI), but those numbers are somewhat skewed as he went 1-for-17 in Games 4 through 7 of the 2004 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox. His lack of production contributed to the epic Yankee collapse that led the Red Sox to their first World Championship in 86 years.

    Rodriguez rebounded from his late postseason struggles in 2004 and captured AL MVP awards in 2005 and 2007. He would also redeem himself in the 2009 playoffs, hitting .365 with six home runs and 18 RBI. His contributions at the plate seemed to silence critics and helped the Yankees capture their 27th World Championship over the Philadelphia Phillies.

    The last two seasons have not been as kind to A-Rod. Lingering hip problems have contributed to a dip in games played and offensive production. Rodriguez finished 2012 with average stats (.272 BA, 18 HR, 57 RBI). His disappearing act in the 2012 postseason (.120 BA in seven games) led to speculation that he was on the trading block.

    The loss of Soriano and Arias via trade didn't prove to be much of a loss for the Yankees. Soriano has been a good player but has also been in a state of decline. Arias has bounced around a bit and played with the World Champion San Francisco Giants last season.

    It's safe to say that the Rodriguez tenure with the Yankees has been somewhat of a mixed bag. He has had some great moments (i.e. two AL MVP awards, home run milestones) but has also had plenty of head-scratchers. Rodriguez will probably be in the Hall of Fame someday, but his time with the Yankees will go down less than legendary.

    Grade: C

4. Roger Clemens: 1998 AL Cy Young Winner

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    How acquired: Traded by the Toronto Blue Jays to the New York Yankees for David Wells, Graeme Lloyd and Homer Bush.

    How did the first Roger Clemens tenure turn out in New York?

    The Yankees made waves across New England in the winter of 1999 with the acquisition of Clemens from the Blue Jays.

    The Rocket's arrival in New York could have been seen as a total impossibility a decade earlier as he was entrenched in the Boston Red Sox rotation. However, the Red Sox were unable to re-sign him after the 1996 season and he signed a lucrative four-year, $40 million contract with the Blue Jays.

    Clemens would go on to have a successful two-year stint in Toronto where he was awarded back-to-back AL Cy Young Awards. His success in Toronto spurred the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to pursue a trade for the former Red Sox great.

    His first stint in New York was a good one as he provided the Yankees a top-of-the-rotation anchor to go with Andy Pettitte, Orlando Hernandez and an aging David Cone. He best season by far with the Yankees came in 2001 when he captured his sixth Cy Young Award. Clemens posted a 20-3 record that season,  leading the Yankees to their fourth straight World Series appearance against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

    Clemens would pitch two more seasons with the Yankees after their World Series loss to the Diamondbacks. It seemed like Clemens was headed for retirement after the Yankees' 2003 World Series loss to the Florida Marlins, but he chose to come back and pitch for the Houston Astros.

    The first Clemens stint with the Yankees was successful as he captured another Cy Young Award and helped lead the Yankees to two World Series championships. He finished his first go-around with a 77-36 record and a 3.99 ERA.

    The Yankees didn't lose much in the trade with Toronto, either. Wells and Bush both wound up finding their way back to the Bronx. Lloyd was a key part of the Yankees' 1996 World Championship team, but had fallen down the pecking order in the bullpen with the emergence of Mike Stanton and Jeff Nelson.

    Most Yankees fans will agree that the first Clemens go-around was successful. It probably would have been more successful if he had stayed in the Bronx and not taken a detour to Houston.

    Grade: B

5. David Cone: 1994 AL Cy Young Award Winner

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    How acquired: Traded from the Toronto Blue Jays to the New York Yankees for Jason Jarvis, Mike Gordon and Marty Janzen

    How did the David Cone tenure turn out in New York?

    The Yankees were in the midst of a 14-year postseason drought when they made a pre-trade deadline deal for the 1994 AL Cy Young winner. Cone would play a huge rule down the stretch for the Yankees, compiling a 9-2 record with a 3.82 ERA. His addition to the top of the rotation helped the Yankees capture the inaugural 2005 AL Wild Card.

    The Yankees would play well in the wild-card round but lose a five-game heartbreaker to the Seattle Mariners. Cone pitched in two starts against Seattle, posting a 1-0 record with a 4.60 ERA.

    He would miss most of 1996 with an aneurysm near his right armpit, but would return in September to help lead the Yankees to the postseason. His biggest start with the Yankees came in the 1996 World Series—as he pitched six strong innings against the Atlanta Braves at Fulton County Stadium. The Cone start was a turning point in the series and helped the Yankees capture their first World Championship since 1978.

    Cone pitched well in the next two seasons—going 20-7 in 1998. His pinnacle moment as a Yankee came on Yogi Berra Day in July 1999 when he pitched the 16th perfect game in major league history. Ironically, both Berra and Don Larsen, who were battery mates for the 1956 World Series perfect game, were present in the stadium to witness the feat.

    The perfect game was the last bellwether moment for Cone as his stats would enter a precipitous state of decline. He left the Yankees for the Boston Red Sox after the 2000 season. Cone finished his Yankee career with a 64-40 record with a 3.91 ERA.

    The Cone tenure with the Yankees was undoubtedly a successful one. He provided a stabilizing force at the top of the rotation. The Yankees didn't lose any blue-chip prospects  to acquire Cone as Jarvis, Gordon and Janzen never amounted to much in the majors. It's hard to imagine the Yankees being able to capture all four World Series championships without Cone.

    Grade: A

     


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