Regrading the Biggest MLB Trade Deadline Deals of 2012
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Within a couple weeks of the July 31st trade deadline, major league teams need to determine whether they will be “sellers” or “buyers”. Some wait it out until the last day or two in hopes that their team can get hot and jump back into the pennant race before making a final decision.
In July 2012, several teams tried to improve their chances of securing a playoff spot and going deep into the playoffs by acquiring impact players. In some cases, players who make the biggest impact weren’t the “big names” that made the most noise in the rumor mill.
The acquisition last year of second baseman Marco Scutaro may have had the biggest direct impact on his new team, the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants. At the time, the move didn’t seem like a huge deal. But Scutaro had an .859 OPS over the remainder of the regular season and then won the NLCS MVP.
Let’s revisit some of the bigger trades and discuss how they graded out for the teams that acquired a big name player. Spoiler alert: I don’t hate any of these trades.
Angels Acquire RHP Zack Greinke from Brewers
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Record pre-trade: 55-45
Record post-trade: 34-28
Greinke stats pre-trade: 9-3, 3.44 ERA, 123 IP, 120 H, 28 BB, 122 K in 21 starts
Greinke stats post-trade: 6-2, 3.53 ERA, 89.1 IP, 80 H, 26 BB, 78 K in 13 starts
At the time of the deal, the Angels were four games back in the AL West but had the lead in the wild card race. They finished strong and Greinke did his part. The Rangers matched them, however, while the A’s and Orioles were just much better than anyone else and jumped ahead of Los Angeles and Texas to claim playoff spots.
You can’t blame the Angels for trying. A rotation of Greinke, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, to go along with the Mike Trout-led offense, would’ve been tough to deal with had they made the playoffs.
The Angels basically emptied out most of the talent they had in the upper minors, trading shortstop Jean Segura and right-handed pitchers Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Peña for two months of Greinke. I wouldn’t expect any of the three prospects to make them regret the trade too much, though.
The Angels have shortstop Erick Aybar signed long term, and it’s doubtful Segura, who does have some offensive potential, will outproduce him. Hellweg can throw in the high-90s but he still has some command issues and might end up in the bullpen down the road. Peña could end up in a relief role, as well.
All in all, it was a low-risk move with a potentially very high reward. Not too many teams around the league would’ve passed on that opportunity to acquire Greinke.
Giants Acquire OF Hunter Pence from Phillies
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Record pre-trade: 56-47
Record post-trade: 38-21
Pence stats pre-trade: .271 BA, 17 HR, 59 RBI, 15 2B, 2 3B, 37 BB, 85 K
Pence stats post-trade: .219 BA, 7 HR, 45 RBI, 11 2B, 2 3B, 19 BB, 60 K (.521 OPS in playoffs)
It’s easy to look at Pence’s overall numbers and think this was a bad deal for the Giants. But, sub-.300 on-base percentage aside, Pence was an RBI machine during the time the Giants were pulling away from the Dodgers late in the season. He came over from Philly at the end of July for outfielder Nate Schierholtz, catcher Tommy Joseph and right-hander Seth Rosin.
Winning the World Series and having an extra year of team control definitely bumps up the Giants’ grade. The man he replaced, Nate Schierholtz, had a .698 OPS with the Phillies after the trade with just 16 RBI in 77 games with the Giants, so we can't say it wasn't an upgrade over what they might have had out there.
Pence’s high-energy style and clubhouse presence were also likely to have an impact on the eventual World Series champs. His numbers in the playoffs weren’t pretty, either, but he did go 4-for-10 in the last three games of the World Series.
While Schierholtz was non-tendered this offseason, the Phillies appear to be targeting Joseph as their catcher of the future, possibly as soon as 2014 if Carlos Ruiz departs as a free agent. The Giants have a guy named Buster Posey, so Joseph was blocked in San Francisco, anyways.
Unless Pence has a terrible 2013 season, one in which the Giants are paying him nearly $14 million, or unless Buster Posey suffers another injury that keeps him out of action long term, there is not much to hate about the deal.
Dodgers Acquire SS/3B Hanley Ramirez from Marlins
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Record pre-trade: 53-46
Record post-trade: 33-30
Ramirez stats pre-trade: .246 BA, 14 HR, 48 RBI, 18 2B, 2 3B, 37 BB, 72 K, 14 SB
Ramirez stats post-trade: .271 BA, 10 HR, 44 RBI, 11 2B, 2 3B, 17 BB, 60 K, 7 SB
The Dodgers took advantage of the Marlins’ fire sale early, acquiring Ramirez months before Florida sent much of the team’s core talent packing to Toronto this offseason.
For two-and-a-half years of Ramirez, the Dodgers are paying $39 million and gave up only a low-level relief pitcher, Scott McGough, and starting pitcher Nate Eovaldi, a hurler with mid-rotation potential who wouldn’t have cracked a very deep Dodgers rotation anytime soon.
In fairness to the Marlins, Ramirez had not been a superstar-caliber player since 2009 and his numbers were looking very average after being moved to the hot corner. So they cut their losses and received a major league-ready starting pitcher in return.
Ramirez's numbers (24 HR, 92 RBI, 21 SB overall) don't look so bad, however, once the Dodgers moved Ramirez back to shortstop. It didn’t help the 2012 team, who went from 2.5 games behind the Giants at the time of the trade to eight games back and out of the playoffs completely by the end of the season.
The team's collapse wasn't the fault of Ramirez, though.
At just 29 years of age, Ramirez still has the ability to bounce back and become an elite shortstop once again. Unfortunately, he’ll miss some time with a torn thumb ligament and might not rejoin the team until early June.
Rangers Acquire RHP Ryan Dempster from Cubs
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Record pre-trade: 59-43
Record post-trade: 34-29
Dempster stats pre-trade: 5-5, 2.25 ERA, 104 IP, 81 H, 27 BB, 83 K in 16 starts
Dempster stats post-trade: 7-3, 5.09 ERA, 69 IP, 74 H, 25 BB, 70 K in 12 starts
The trade didn’t do much for Dempster’s ERA, which ended up being over 5.00 with the Rangers. He did, however, have seven quality starts and was the winning pitcher in each of those games.
In his five other starts, he was 0-3 with 30 earned runs allowed in 22.2 innings pitched. Still, the alternatives were inconsistent rookie Martin Perez and veteran Roy Oswalt, who really didn’t appear to have much left in the tank.
In the end, the Rangers won eight of Dempster’s 12 starts and earned a wild-card berth. As deep as their farm system is, they’ll never miss the two prospects they traded for Dempster, third baseman Christian Villanueva and right-hander Kyle Hendricks. So it's hard to complain about the end result.
Tigers Acquire RHP Anibal Sanchez and 2B Omar Infante from Marlins
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Record pre-trade: 52-44
Record post-trade: 36-30
Sanchez stats pre-trade: 5-7, 3.94 ERA, 121 IP, 119 H, 33 BB, 110 K in 19 starts
Sanchez stats post-trade: 4-6, 3.74 ERA, 74.2 IP, 81 H, 15 BB, 57 K in 12 starts
Infante stats pre-trade: .287 BA, 8 HR, 33 RBI, 23 2B, 2 3B, 12 BB, 42 K, 10 SB
Infante stats post-trade: .257 BA, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 7 2B, 5 3B, 9 BB, 23 K, 7 SB
Both players provided a jolt as the Tigers finally surpassed the White Sox late in the season. Sanchez solidified the last rotation spot with 11 quality starts after the trade, including all three of his playoff appearances. Meanwhile, Infante had a .782 OPS in August.
Infante is under contract for one more season, and Sanchez was re-signed for another six years. So trading away a former top prospect who had lost some value in Jacob Turner, major league caliber catcher, Rob Brantly, and Double-A lefty Brian Flynn, shouldn’t come back to haunt the Tigers anytime soon.