Early Winners, Losers of MLB's Biggest Offseason Trades

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2013

Early Winners, Losers of MLB's Biggest Offseason Trades

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    If we were to only look at a team's record and place in the standings, picking the winners and losers of the biggest trades made this past offseason in baseball would be simple.

    The biggest winner would be the Atlanta Braves, who at 13-4 sit in a tie with the Colorado Rockies (seriously) for the best record in baseball. The biggest loser? The Miami Marlins, with the worst record in the game at 4-14.

    But there's no fun in that.

    From All-Stars to MVP candidates to Cy Young Award winners, players who run the gamut of individual success at the major league level—and some who have yet to get a taste of big league action—found themselves on the move this past winter.

    Let's take a closer look at the people involved in these deals—both on and off the field—and see which ones are the biggest winners and losers so far in this early 2013 MLB season.

     

    All statistics are through April 20 games.

Arizona Trades Justin Upton to Atlanta

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    Atlanta Received: 3B Chris Johnson and OF Justin Upton

    Arizona Received: SS Nick Ahmed, RHP Randall Delgado, IF Brandon Drury, RHP Zeke Spruill and IF/OF Martin Prado

     

    Justin Upton: Winner

    A change of scenery has rejuvenated Justin Upton, who is off to a torrid start in Atlanta and looking very much like the player who many believe he is capable of becoming.

    Via @eliassports - Justin Upton is 1st player in @braves history with 9 HR in team's first 15 games of season

    — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 19, 2013

    While his nine home runs lead all of baseball, it's not just his power that has people buzzing.

    Upton leads the National League in slugging percentage (.797), is third in OPS (1.180) and is getting on base nearly 38 percent of the time—a major reason why he's tied for fourth in runs scored with 15.

    For Upton and the Braves, their relationship couldn't have gotten off to a better start.

     

    Randall Delgado: Loser

    If Randall Delgado was going to be traded away from the pitching-rich Atlanta Braves, the last possible place he could have wanted to go was to another pitching-rich club.  

    But that's exactly what happened.

    Delgado didn't make the club in spring training and has struggled badly with both his command and control at Triple-A Reno—his first experience in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

    In just over 13 innings of work, Delgado has allowed 13 earned runs while walking seven, resulting in a bloated 10.03 ERA and 1.71 WHIP. The free passes are a concern, as it continues a trend of rising walk rates that have kept Delgado from reaching his potential.

    With a big league rotation comprised of five pitchers in their 20s and prospects like Tyler Skaggs (and eventually Archie Bradley) also in the mix, Delgado is in danger of becoming an afterthought with the D-Backs.

     

    Martin Prado: Winner

    Martin Prado has struggled at the plate with an uncharacteristic .239/.286/.408 slash line through 16 games, yet he comes out as a winner in this deal, because he got something from the Diamondbacks that he wasn't guaranteed to get from the Braves: a long-term commitment.

    BREAKING: @dbacks, Martin Prado avoid arbitration with 4-year deal.

    — MLB (@MLB) January 31, 2013

    With Brian McCann, Paul Maholm and Tim Hudson set to become free agents at the end of the 2013 season, and raises in arbitration due to most of Atlanta's young core, the Braves' finances are going to be stretched. 

    That the Braves would have—or could have—given Prado a deal similar to what he would have gotten on the open market simply isn't a sure thing.

    While Prado gave Arizona a bit of a discount on his four-year, $40 million extension, he has peace of mind knowing where he'll be playing for the foreseeable future.

3-Way Sends Choo Down I-71

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    Arizona Received: 1B Lars Anderson, SS Didi Gregorius and LHP Tony Sipp

    Cincinnati Received: OF Shin-Soo Choo, IF Jason Donald and cash

    Cleveland Received: RHP Matt Albers, RHP Trevor Bauer, RHP Bryan Shaw and OF Drew Stubbs

     

    Shin-Soo Choo: Winner

    In the last year of his contract, Shin-Soo Choo went from hitting in a decent lineup in Cleveland to leading off for one of the most dangerous lineups in all of baseball with Cincinnati.

    The 30-year-old outfielder is putting up the best numbers of his career, hitting .339 with a .469 on-base percentage and 1.041 OPS—on pace to shatter his career highs in nearly every offensive category.

    While he's being exposed defensively by playing out of position in center field, a monstrous season at the plate (as it appears he's destined for) is only going to aid him in a free-agent class that boasts some big names in the outfield, including Jacoby Ellsbury and Curtis Granderson.

     

    Cleveland Indians: Winners

    The Indians knew that Choo was going to walk as a free agent following the season, and landing a pitching prospect the caliber of Trevor Bauer was a major victory for the club—something that wasn't lost on ESPN's Buster Olney:

    It really is amazing that the Indians ended up with Trevor Bauer essentially in return for a one-year rental, Shin-Soo Choo.

    — Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 12, 2012

    Even if Bauer winds up being a back-of-the-rotation arm and not the future ace of the staff who many believe he is destined to be, the Indians still come out ahead in this deal.

     

    Trevor Bauer: Potential Loser

    I include the 22-year-old right-hander as a potential loser because of the expectations placed upon him by the Indians and their fans.

    Even if nobody comes out and says it word-for-word, Bauer is expected to be the ace of Cleveland's staff sooner rather than later. When you look at the numbers that the team's current group of starters is putting up, it's easy to understand why that's the case.

    Performances like what Bauer put forth in his first start in an Indians uniform earlier this month against Tampa Bay simply won't cut it:

    Trevor Bauer is the 1st pitcher to walk the 1st 4 batters of a game since John Danks did so in 2009

    — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 6, 2013

    Bauer would finish that game against Tampa Bay with seven walks in five innings of work—not much better than what Cleveland is already getting from its current group of underachievers.

    Once considered one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, Bauer's star isn't shining quite as brightly as it once was. That said, he's fully capable of becoming the ace of the staff who Cleveland hopes he will become.

    It'd just be nice to see him contributing at the major league level at this point, especially with the mess that is the team's starting rotation.

The Big 1

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    Miami Received: RHP Henderson Alvarez, RHP Anthony DeSclafani, SS Yunel Escobar, IF Adeiny Hechavarria, OF Jake Marisnick, C Jeff Mathis, LHP Justin Nicolino and cash

    Toronto Received: IF/OF Emilio Bonifacio, C John Buck, LHP Mark Buehrle, RHP Josh Johnson, SS Jose Reyes

     

    Jeffrey Loria: Winner

    Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria might be right when he says that the Marlins are going to be an excellent team in two or three years.

    Between the young talent that the team already had in the system (Giancarlo Stanton, Rob Brantly, Christian Yelich and Jose Fernandez) and the prospects that the Marlins got from Toronto, the future in Miami does look like it could be a bright one.

    But in the here and now, Loria stands as the only person in Miami who can be classified as a winner in the team's latest salary dump. As pointed out by Fox Sports' Jon Morosi shortly after the trade went down, the savings for Loria in 2013 are substantial:

    #Marlins opened season with a payroll of roughly $100MM. After this trade, non-arb 2013 obligations will be ~ $16MM. Historic salary dump.

    — Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 13, 2012

    In fairness to Loria, his savings weren't quite that big.

    According to ESPN's payroll figures for every MLB team, Miami sits with a payroll of $35,720,400—$14 million ahead of Houston for the lowest payroll in baseball and well below the MLB average, which sits at just under $102 million per team.

    Still, Loria sits with a team that looks to be well on its way to a 100-loss season, a 37,000-seat stadium that's a year old but struggles to draw half that many fans to home games and a fanbase that dreams of a day when he no longer runs the team.

    But he's got more money—the only thing that really matters to the most unpopular man in Miamiin his pocket than he did at this time last year.

     

    Alex Anthopoulos:: Potential Big Loser

    Even if Toronto fails to make the playoffs in 2013, I can't imagine that GM Alex Anthopoulos' job is going to be a point of contention in baseball's only city north of the border.

    That said, things have gone just about as badly as they could have for Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays.

    Jose Reyes, the best player involved in the deal, is currently on the disabled list with a nasty ankle injury suffered against the Kansas City Royals, and he might not return to action until after the All-Star break.

    Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, who are expected to bolster the team's starting rotation, have struggled.

      W-L ERA WHIP IP H BB K
    Buerhle 1-1 6.26 1.61 23 31 6 16
    Johnson 0-1 6.91 1.81 14.1 20 6 15
    Totals 1-2 6.51 1.69 37.1 51 12 31

    Emilio Bonifacio, who over the past four years has hit .271 with 26 stolen bases a season, is hitting .192 and has yet to attempt to steal a base.

    Pegged as a preseason favorite to not only win the AL East but to contend for a spot in the World Series, Toronto's 7-11 record and fourth-place showing in the division doesn't give you a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

    If the team continues to flounder and the newcomers continue to struggle, some are sure to question Anthopoulos' decision to jettison many of the prospects he's spent the past few years stockpiling for veterans who, at this point, appear to be past their primes.

    Bauer would finish that game against Tampa Bay with seven walks in five innings of work—not much better than what Cleveland is already getting from its current group of underachievers.

    Once considered one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, Bauer's star isn't shining quite as brightly as it once was. That said, he's fully capable of becoming the ace of the staff who Cleveland hopes he will become.

    It'd just be nice to see him contributing at the major league level at this point, especially with the mess that is the team's starting rotation.

R.A. Dickey Gets Traded to Toronto

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    New York (NL) Received: C John Buck, C Travis d'Arnaud and RHP Noah Syndergaard, OF Wuilmer Becerra

    Toronto Received: RHP R.A. Dickey, C Mike Nickeas and C Josh Thole

     

    John Buck: Winner

    The 10-year veteran bounced from the NL East to the AL East and back again this winter, but it's clear John Buck wound up where he was meant to be.

    Buck leads the National League with 21 RBI and is tied with Baltimore's Chris Davis for the most in baseball, while his six home runs on the season have him among the league leaders. Less than a month into the season, Buck has already eclipsed the numbers of Josh Thole, last year's starter in Flushing.

      G HR RBI
    Buck 16 6 21
    Thole 104 1 21

    Buck's hot start has taken pressure off of David Wright and Lucas Duda, and it has made Ike Davis' slow start to the season less of an issue.

    Had he remained in Miami, Buck would have been part of baseball's most anemic offense, while Toronto would have seen him, at best, splitting time with J.P. Arencibia. Things couldn't have gone any better for Buck or the Mets.

     

    R.A. Dickey: Loser

    Whether Dickey remained in Flushing or not, the NL's reigning Cy Young Award winner faced a no-win situation this season. Unrealistic expectations have a way of doing that to a player.

    While you can never fully discount the reigning champion's chances of a repeat performance, especially when his numbers from a year ago are so far from anything he's done before, the odds aren't great for a 38-year-old pitcher.

      W CG IP H/9 K
    2012 20 5 233.2 7.4 230
    Next Best 11 2 208.2 8.5 134

    Granted, his arm has less wear and tear on it than your typical 38-year-old starter, thanks to the knuckleball, but he's still pushing 40. Last season wasn't R.A. Dickey's breakout season—it was his career year.

    That makes all the difference in the world.

'Big Game' James Gets Shipped to Kansas City

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    Kansas City Received: RHP Wade Davis, IF Elliot Johnson and RHP James Shields

    Tampa Bay Received: LHP Mike Montgomery, IF Patrick Leonard, OF Wil Myers and RHP Jake Odorizzi

     

    Roberto Hernandez: Winner

    Removing James Shields from the equation opened up a spot in Tampa Bay's starting rotation, and despite having top pitching prospect Chris Archer ready, willing and able to fill the empty spot, manager Joe Maddon gave the nod to Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona).

    Hernandez, who missed much of the 2012 season to deal with visa issues and serve a three-week suspension for falsifying his identity, hasn't pitched an ERA below 5.25 since 2010 and is the shell of the pitcher who went 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA for the Cleveland Indians back in 2007.

    He hasn't been particularly impressive in any of his three starts so far, as noted by the Tampa Tribune's Ira Kaufman:

    Roberto Hernandez has been disappointing for the Rays through 3 starts, yielding 19 hits and 7 walks in 18.2 IP. He's 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA

    — Ira Kaufman (@IKaufmanTBO) April 21, 2013

    With a plethora of minor league options available, Hernandez may be pitching on borrowed time.

    Still, the fact that Hernandez even broke camp with the Rays, when you consider that other teams weren't eager to give him a shot at redemption, makes him a winner in the deal regardless of how it ultimately plays out.

     

    Wil Myers: Loser

    While expectations would have remained high had Wil Myers remained in Kansas City, he would have been viewed completely differently than he's going to be in Tampa Bay.

    With the Royals, Myers would have been just another piece of the puzzle, joining youngsters like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas as the future stars of the once proud franchise.

    With the offensively challenged Rays, who are hitting .222 as a team and have scored fewer runs this season than the San Diego Padres, Myers, when he does eventually make his major league debut, will be expected to contribute immediately.

    The Rays need him to be their version of Bryce Harper or Mike Trout. 

    Myers, who hit .314 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI combined at Double-A and Triple-A in 2012, is as good a prospect as you'll find in baseball.

    But he's not going to make the kind of impact that those two did for their respective clubs in 2012, Expecting anything along those lines is simply unfair to Myers and will ultimately disappoint those who expected great things off the bat from the 22-year-old outfielder.