Who Wins Blockbuster 'Superstar for Top Prospects' Trades Most in MLB?

Jason Catania@@JayCat11MLB Lead WriterJuly 25, 2013

Who Wins Blockbuster 'Superstar for Top Prospects' Trades Most in MLB?

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    In baseball, as in life, you have to give up something to get something.

    With the July 31 trade deadline looming, it's the perfect time to take a look back at a bunch of top propsects-for-superstar deals from the recent past and see how they turned out.

    The goal? To determine whether it's worth trading promising prospects for big-name big leaguers.

    Which side wins out: prospects or production?

    To find out, we explored the five-season stretch from 2005 through 2009 and looked at noteworthy trades involving at least one prospect who made a Baseball America Top 100 Prospects list in the season prior to, during or immediately after the deal. From there, we looked for returns that included a major leaguer who had at least one All-Star-caliber campaign (i.e., 4.0 WAR+, per FanGraphs) in the two seasons prior to the deal—and who also passed the superstar "sniff test."

    If these criteria were met, that deal is dissected below.

    Here are a couple of examples to help clarify:

    1. This method didn't count any prospect-for-non-superstar deals, like the July 2008 deal in which the Los Angeles Dodgers gave up elite catching prospect Carlos Santana for third baseman Casey Blake, who was a fine player but not really worthy of "superstar status," as his WARs from 2006 (1.8) and 2007 (2.8) prove.

    1A. As to the "sniff test" corollary: With apologies to players like Joe Blanton (traded by the Oakland Athletics in July 2008 to the Philadelphia Phillies for top infield prospect Adrian Cardenas, Josh Outman and Matt Spencer) and Mark DeRosa (traded by the Cleveland Indians in June 2009 to the St. Louis Cardinals for closer prospect Chris Perez and Jess Todd), who met the 4-WAR threshold—barely—in one of the two seasons prior to their trades, they just weren't legitimate superstars. There were other examples of this type of situation, but when in doubt, they weren't counted.

    2. You also won't find any prospect-for-prospect type deals, such as the December 2009 swap that sent infielder Brett Wallace from the Oakland Athletics to the Toronto Blue Jays for outfielder Michael Taylor, even though both players were top-30 prospects at one time, according to BA. We will, though, check back on a previous trade that included Wallace...

    Now, there have been plenty of top prospect-for-superstar trades since 2010, obviously, but for the purposes of this piece, we need to have some way of evaluating the success or failure of the prospect(s) involved relative to the major league player(s)—and trying to do so without a legitimate sample of big-league performance by the prospect(s) to this point wouldn't be fair.

    In other words, sometimes it's just too soon to tell.

    For yet another example, take the July 2011 trade that sent Hunter Pence from the Houston Astros to the Phillies for prospects Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Domingo Santana and Josh Zeid.

    Sure, Pence helped the Phillies over the final few months of that season—they finished with an MLB-best 102-60 record—so you could argue that they "won" the trade. Except on the other side of the transaction, only Cosart has even made it to the big leagues so far, so there's still a good chance the deal could wind up being better for Houston in the long run.

    The long run is, after all, what acquiring prospects is all about. The nature of the vast majority of trades built around high-end prospects is that one team is playing for now—and thus willing to sacrifice prospects—and the other team is playing for the future—and thus willing to sacrifice production.

     And by the way, declaring a "winner" in these deals isn't as easy as you might think, especially the more recent ones. Given the fluctuations of player performance from year to year—and even month-to-month—a trade might look like a clear win for one club and a horrible loss for the other...only to completely reverse course over time for one reason (i.e., performance, injury) or another (contract status, free agency, etc.).

    But enough chatter. Let's dive in, going in reverse chronological order from most to least recent trades.

     

The Cliff Lee Trade (to the Mariners)

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    Trade Date: 12/16/09

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/TEAMTRADE WAR
    MARINERSCliff Lee3.73.7
    PHILLIESPhillippe Aumont (#93, 2009)0.10.1
     J.C. Ramirez0.0 
     Tyson GilliesN/A 

     Since this is the first chart, let's explain a few aspects briefly:

    • WAR totals only take into account a player's time with that team
    • "N/A" means the player did not contribute at the major league level with that team
    • Players are listed in order of most WAR compiled per team
    • Numbers in parentheses indicate a prospect's top-100 ranking that year (per Baseball America)

     

    Recap: While the deal didn't work out much for the Seattle Mariners—they wound up spinning Lee at the July 2010 deadline (just seven months later) for Justin Smoak and others on their way to a 61-101 campaign—the Phillies really couldn't have done a worse job of getting back young impact talent, as relievers Phillippe Aumont and J.C. Ramirez have combined for all of 40 or so innings in their Philly "careers."

    Winner: Mariners, even if they didn't actually do much winning with Lee—and didn't get much for re-gifting him either.

    Production vs. Prospects: Production so far, and it's unlikely to change, given what's left on Philly's side of the ledger, which is a sad state.

The Max Scherzer-Austin Jackson Trade

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    Trade Date: 12/8/09

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/ TEAMTRADE WAR
    TIGERSMax Scherzer14.931.2 
     Austin Jackson (#36, 2009) 13.4  
     Phil Coke 3.6  
     Daniel Schlereth-0.7  
    YANKEES Curtis Granderson 12.6 12.6
    DIAMONDBACKS Ian Kennedy 10.9 12.5 
     Edwin Jackson 1.6  

     

    Recap: This one was a doozy of a three-teamer, especially considering that all three clubs wound up getting something productive back—which is rare enough, even when only two clubs are involved. The prospect get was Austin Jackson, who has transformed himself into one of baseball's best leadoff men, but Max Scherzer—perhaps the frontrunner for the 2013 AL Cy Young Award—was also barely a big leaguer at the time, with only a season-and-a-half under his belt before the trade.

    Winner: Tigers, who still have three of the players on their 25-man roster, each one covering a different area: lineup, rotation, bullpen. Neat.

    Production vs. Prospects: Speaking of rarities, Detroit won this deal by obtaining both potential (Jackson) and production (Scherzer). Not every day the same club gets the prospect and the superstar in the end.

The Jake Peavy Trade

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    Trade Date: 7/31/09

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/ TEAMTRADE WAR
    WHITE SOX Jake Peavy11.2 11.2 
    PADRES Clayton Richard0.8 1.0
     Adam Russell 0.3  
     Aaron Poreda (#63, 2009) -0.1  
     Dexter Carter N/A  

    Recap: The Padres were looking to unload Jake Peavy's contract more than anything, which is why they took such a pittance—of the four young arms, only Clayton Richard has done anything for San Diego, and he has an ERA north of 7.00 this season—in return for a guy who won the NL Cy Young two years earlier.

    Winner: Even with only one healthy season from Peavy, the Sox take this one, especially since they're likely to get a better return if they deal the right-hander this month—despite four years and more injury issues added to Peavy's career.

    Production vs. Prospects: Even injury-riddled production outweighs potential that never manifested—or was ever really there in the first place.

     

The Cliff Lee Trade (to the Phillies)

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    Trade Date: 7/29/09

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/ TEAMTRADE WAR
    PHILLIESCliff Lee 2.33.2
     Ben Francisco 0.9  
    INDIANS Lou Marson (#66, 2009) 2.3 3.8 
     Carlos Carrasco (#52, 2009) 0.9  
     Jason Donald (#69, 2009) 0.6  
     Jason Knapp (#64, 2010) N/A 

    Recap: Cliff Lee's first trade after he became a standout pitcher is a big reason why the Phillies were able to get back to the World Series for a second straight season. The package of players the Indians got, meanwhile, turned out to be spare parts, and Jason Knapp's big league career was over due to injury before it even had a chance to get started.

    Winner: The Indians earned more WAR (barely), but it's taken about four years for that mish-mash group to surpass the total Lee put up in just 12 starts. Edge? Phillies. 

    Production vs. ProspectsUnless Carlos Carrasco has that long-awaited breakout—any year now!—production wins the day. Again.

     

The Matt Holliday Trade (to the Cardinals)

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    Trade Date: 7/24/09

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/ TEAMTRADE WAR
    CARDINALSMatt Holliday 19.819.8 
    ATHLETICS Clayton Mortensen -0.1 -0.3 
     Shane Peterson -0.2  
     Brett Wallace (#40, 2009) N/A  

    Recap: Not one of A's general manager Billy Beane's better moves, huh? Matt Holliday was never going to sign on to stay with small-market Oakland, though, so the club had to get what it could, while it could. Wallace, though, never got to wear the green and gold because he was dealt to the Blue Jays five months later (in the trade mentioned in the intro).

    Winner: Cardinals take this handily, especially when you realize that Michael Taylor, the prospect the A's received from Toronto for Wallace, has basically become a Triple-A veteran.

    Production vs. ProspectsFewer players embody consistent big league production more so than Holliday.

The Javier Vazquez Trade

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    Trade Date: 12/4/08

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/ TEAMTRADE WAR
    BRAVESJavier Vazquez6.26.2
     Boone Logan0.0  
    WHITE SOX Tyler Flowers (#99, 2009)1.6 1.2 
     Brent Lillibridge (#93, 2007)-0.4  
     Jon Gilmore N/A  
     Santos Rodriguez N/A  

    Recap: The Braves didn't have a spot for catching prospect Tyler Flowers to play—what with Brian McCann entrenched behind the dish—so that made him an easy chip to flip for a rotation upgrade. Even if you don't buy into Javier Vazquez as a true "superstar" by definition, the right-hander registered 4.0 WAR or more in seven of nine seasons leading up to this trade.

    Winner: Braves, who got a career year from Vazquez at age 32, as he finished fourth in the Cy Young voting.

    Production vs. ProspectsFlowers had a real chance to help the prospects side in his first full year as the start in 2013. However, he is now 27 years old and a career backup. 

     

The Matt Holliday Trade (to the Athletics)

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    Trade Date: 11/10/08

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/ TEAMTRADE WAR
    ATHLETICSMatt Holliday 2.8 2.8 
    ROCKIES Carlos Gonzalez18.5 21.6
     Huston Street3.1  
     Greg Smith 0.0  

    Recap: Man, Billy Beane really didn't get it right when it came to Matt Holliday. As we saw in the earlier trade, the return for Holliday was rather pitiful, and yet the cost to acquire him for all of a half-season was enormous. Carlos Gonzalez didn't do all that much as a rookie in 2008 (.634 OPS), so maybe Beane was discouraged, but the outfielder has turned out just fine, as his back-to-back All-Star seasons prove.

    Winner: Rockies, and it's only going to continue, as Gonzalez is inked through 2017. Finders keepers. 

    Production vs. Prospects: Holliday produced well enough in Oakland (.286 BA, 11 HR, 54 RBI in 346 ABs), but Beane misjudged Gonzalez as a prospect.

The Manny Ramirez Trade

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    Trade Date: 7/31/08

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/ TEAMTRADE WAR
    DODGERSManny Ramirez6.36.3 
    RED SOX Jason Bay 5.65.6 
    PIRATES Andy LaRoche (#31, 2008) 0.9 -0.4 
     Brandon Moss -0.3  
     Bryan Morris -0.5  
     Craig Hansen -0.5  

    Recap: By the middle of 2008, the Red Sox just wanted Manny to be Manny somewhere else, so they shipped Ramirez to the Dodgers—remember "Mannywood"?—as part of a three-team deal that brought back Jason Bay, who went on to smack 45 homers and drive in 156 in a season-and-a-half in Boston. The Pirates, meanwhile, managed to get next to nothing back.

    Winner: Dodgers and Red Sox are neck and neck in this toss-up.

    Production vs. Prospects: Maybe if Andy LaRoche could've managed to equal his big brother's major league career, this one wouldn't look so bad for the prospect portion. Production all the way. 

The CC Sabathia Trade

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    Trade Date: 7/7/08

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/ TEAMTRADE WAR
    BREWERSCC Sabathia 4.3 4.3 
    INDIANS Michael Brantley 4.5 3.6
     Matt LaPorta (#23, 2008) -1.4  
     Zach Jackson 0.5  
     Rob Bryson N/A  
        
        

    Recap: Trading for CC Sabathia was a calculated risk—it was a foregone conclusion the free-agent-to-be would not sign with Milwaukee—but the Brewers were desperate for their first postseason trip since 1982, and they rode the southpaw to that destination. On the Indians' side, let's just say thank goodness for the ubiquitous PTBNL (that's "player to be named later"), which just so happened to be Michael Brantley in this swap. 

    Winner: Brewers, because knowing how things turned out, they would make this trade 100 times out of 100.

    Production vs. Prospects: A hitting machine in the minors (.923 minor league OPS), Matt LaPorta proved to be more suspect than prospect after all (.694 MLB OPS).

     

The Erik Bedard Trade

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    Trade Date: 2/8/08

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/ TEAMTRADE WAR
    MARINERSErik Bedard4.04.0 
    ORIOLES Adam Jones (#28, 2007)15.319.8 
     Chris Tillman (#22, 2009)2.6 
     George Sherrill 1.5  
     Kameron Mickolio 0.4  
     Tony Butler N/A  

    Recap: With Erik Bedard coming off a season in which he led the league in hits allowed per nine (7.0) as well as strikeouts per nine (10.9) and finished in the top five in AL Cy Young voting as a 28-year-old, it might seem a little easier to understand why the Mariners parted with so much to get him. Except Seattle's package was considered, well, generous to a fault even at the time—and it's the gift that keeps on giving with a pair of All-Stars in 2013.

    Winner: Orioles, no contest, especially considering that Bedard missed all of 2010 with injury and managed all of 46 starts in three-and-a-half years as a Mariner.

    Production vs. Prospects: When the prospect side wins, as it did here, it tends to win big. Like, really big.

The Johan Santana Trade

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    Trade Date: 2/2/08

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/ TEAMTRADE WAR
    METSJohan Santana 12.5 
    TWINS Carlos Gomez (#52, 2008) 3.4  
     Kevin Mulvey 0.0  
     Philip Humber (#73, 2007) -0.3  
     Deolis Guerra (#35, 2008) N/A  
        
        

    Recap: As is the case with more than a few of these transactions, the superstar (i.e., Johan Santana) was all but gone once he reached free agency, so the Twins were backed into a corner when it came time to move the two-time Cy Young winner. Still, you'd like to think Minnesota could've done just a little better. Or at least held onto Carlos Gomez a bit longer.

    Winner: Despite getting only one fully healthy season from Santana, the Mets also got their first no-hitter in team history out of this one, so who do you think won?

    Production vs. Prospects: Even if he never throws another pitch, Santana's production will hold up, especially with reliever Deolis Guerra—the lone remaining prospect piece from this deal—recovering from surgery to fix a blood clot.

     

The Dan Haren Trade

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    Trade Date: 12/14/07

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/ TEAMTRADE WAR
    DIAMONDBACKSDan Haren14.114.0
     Connor Robertson -0.1  
    ATHLETICS Brett Anderson (#36, 2008)8.3 12.8
     Dana Eveland2.5 
     Greg Smith 1.7  
     Carlos Gonzalez (#22, 2008) 1.0  
     Aaron Cunningham -0.3  
     Chris Carter-0.4 

    Recap: Before Dan Haren priced himself out of Oakland, the A's decided to cash in. They got quite a haul in exchange for a 27-year-old righty who'd been uber-consistent and durable to that point, with 660 innings with a 3.64 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP over the three previous seasons. While Carlos Gonzalez became the real gem once he was re-packaged to Colorado (as previously discussed), left-hander Brett Anderson isn't a bad consolation prize (when healthy).

    Winner: Oakland has club options on Anderson that could keep him around long enough to surpass Haren's WAR with Arizona, but the D-backs get the "W" because they got Haren's best seasons then swung a wicked return when trading him to the Angels in July 2010: lefties Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs.

    Production vs. Prospects: If either Gonzalez had stayed or Anderson wasn't on the disabled list quite so often, this one would be a prospects victory, but production continues to steamroll.

     

The Miguel Tejada Trade

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    Trade Date: 12/12/07

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/ TEAMTRADE WAR
    ASTROSMiguel Tejada 5.5 5.5 
    ORIOLES Luke Scott5.5 8.3 
     Troy Patton (#58, 2007) 1.6 
     Matt Albers (#85, 2007) 1.1  
     Dennis Sarfate 0.1  
     Mike Costanzo N/A  

    Recap: By dealing Miguel Tejada, the Orioles were mainly trying to cut their losses—or stop them from happening so often—while also saving some money. In Houston, bringing aboard a then-33-year-old Tejada was a last-gasp attempt to make something happen with the core that remained, including Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee, Michael Bourn and Roy Oswalt. And while it wasn't a smashing success, hey, Houston did go 86-75 in 2008—its last winning season.

    Winner: This one is pretty even, as Tejada's 5.5 WAR over two-and-a-half seasons with the 'Stros was matched by lefty slugger Luke Scott's output across four years in Baltimore. Give it to Houston, though, because the O's never won more than 69 in that span.

    Production vs. Prospects: Prospect Troy Patton was supposed to be the key get for the O's, and while he's the only one still helping on either side, he's just a lefty reliever now. The best players in this one were Tejada and Scott, both of whom were established big leaguers, so production wins out again.

The Miguel Cabrera Trade

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    Trade Date: 12/4/07

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/ TEAMTRADE WAR
    TIGERSMiguel Cabrera33.532.8 
     Dontrelle Willis -0.7  
    MARLINSCameron Maybin (#6, 2007) 2.4 5.3
     Burke Badenhop 2.0  
     Andrew Miller (#10, 2007) 1.8  
     Frankie De La Cruz -0.2  
     Mike Rabelo -0.7  
     Dallas TrahernN/A 

    Recap: During the offseason between the 2007 and 2008 campaigns, everyone knew Miguel Cabrera, whose salary jumped from $472,000 to $7.4 million in his last year in Florida, was going to be on the move from the frugal Marlins—it was only a question of where he'd land. When the Tigers offered a pair of recent first-round draft picks who were top-10 overall prospects, Detroit became his new destination.

    Winner: Even though they took on former Rookie of the Year-turned-flameout Dontrelle Willis—and then misguidedly signed him to a three-year, $29 million deal—the Tigers still came away with Cabrera, who was already great and has since become the best hitter in the sport. The decision to lock him up for eight years right away? Much less misguided.

    Production vs. Prospects: Yes, outfielder Cameron Maybin and lefty Andrew Miller were elite prospects, but neither turned into anything for Florida. Poor Jeffrey Loria

     

The Mark Teixeira Trade

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    Trade Date: 7/31/07

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/ TEAMTRADE WAR
    BRAVESMark Teixeira5.6 5.9 
     Ron Mahay0.3  
    RANGERS Elvis Andrus (#19, 2008)13.927.0
     Matt Harrison (#90, 2007) 8.8  
     Neftali Feliz (#93, 2008) 4.8  
     Jarrod Saltalamacchia (#36, 2007) -0.5  
     Beau Jones N/A  

    Recap: This has turned out to be as much of a fleecing as the Tigers-Marlins swap—but in reverse. Much like Cabrera, Mark Teixeira was the superstar who was getting expensive and approaching free agency, so the Rangers—in the middle of a third straight losing season in 2007—went bold and sold. The result? Arguably the best prospect-turned-productive major leaguers haul in the past decade.

    Winner: While Teixeira's performance with the Braves over the second half of '07 was certainly superstar-caliber (.317/.404/.615), Atlanta fell short of the postseason, then spun the first baseman for a much, much worse return (basically, Casey Kotchman) at the 2008 deadline.

    Texas? Oh, it made two straight World Series (2010, 2011) and are en route to a franchise-best fifth straight winning season.

    Production vs. Prospects: While none of the prospects the Rangers received have turned into true stars, Texas has gotten significant contributions from each of shortstop Elvis Andrus, left-hander Matt Harrison and reliever Neftali Feliz over the past handful of years. Hey, score one for the prospects!

     

The Jim Thome-Aaron Rowand Trade

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    Trade Date: 12/8/05

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/ TEAMTRADE WAR
    WHITE SOXJim Thome10.5 10.5 
    PHILLIES Aaron Rowand 7.0 7.0 
     Gio Gonzalez (#73, 2006) N/A  
     Daniel Haigwood N/A  

    Recap: This was more about the big leaguers on either side than the prospect involved, but it counts because Gio Gonzalez—the PTBNL here—was a top-100 youngster per Baseball America. The Phillies needed outfield help and were ready to hand the first base reins over to 2005 Rookie of the Year Ryan Howard, so they swapped Thome for Aaron Rowand, who had just helped the White Sox win it all. For their part, the Sox needed to replace Carl Everett (.251, 23 HR, 87 RBI) at DH, a job Thome was tailor-made for.

    Winner: Not much separates the two sides here, but Chicago takes it because Thome was slightly more productive in his time with the White Sox, although Rowand was fantastic in 2007 (.309/.374/.515), his final year with Philly. Maybe the Phillies would have won this one outright if they'd hung onto minor league strikeout artist (10.3 K/9) Gonzalez...

    Production vs. Prospects: ...who was sent back to the White Sox in December 2006—one year later—along with fellow pitching prospect Gavin Floyd for righty Freddy Garcia (who just missed qualifying as a "superstar" by our standards). Still, Gonzalez didn't break into the bigs until heading to the Athletics in another trade, so this one was all production.

     

     

     

The Josh Beckett-Mike Lowell-Hanley Ramirez-Anibal Sanchez Trade

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    Trade Date: 11/24/05

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/ TEAMTRADE WAR
    RED SOXJosh Beckett 25.835.2 
     Mike Lowell 9.4 
     Guillermo Mota N/A  
    MARLINS Hanley Ramirez (#30, 2005) 30.5 43.2
     Anibal Sanchez (#40, 2006) 12.9  
     Jesus Delgado-0.1  
     Harvey Garcia -0.1  

    Recap: The Red Sox went for the jugular with this move, giving up two big-time prospects in Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez and getting back young stud right-hander Josh Beckett and veteran third baseman Mike Lowell, who were ready to help the core of Boston's 2004 title-winning club make another run. The Marlins were—surprise, surprise—looking to get out of the rest of Lowell's contract and unload Beckett before his salary jumped too much via arbitration while also bringing in young (and cheap) talent.

    Winner: Kind of depends on your perspective, right? The Marlins got exactly what they hoped for in Ramirez, who became a breakout star at shortstop, and a quality mid-rotation arm in Sanchez. The Red Sox, you'll recall, did capture their second championship in four seasons in 2007, thanks in large part to Beckett (20-7, 3.27 ERA) and Lowell (.324, 21 HR, 120 RBI).

    (Note: Boston also picked up reliever Guillermo Mota, but he never pitched for them because the righty was dealt to the Indians later in the 2005-2006 offseason.)

    Production vs. Prospects: Again, this deal really was a win all around, so let's give a nod to both production and prospects.

     

The Carlos Delgado Trade

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    Trade Date: 11/24/05

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/ TEAMTRADE WAR
    METSCarlos Delgado 5.95.9
    MARLINS Yusmeiro Petit (#69, 2006)-0.2 -1.0 
     Mike Jacobs -0.8  
     Grant Psomas N/A  

    Recap: On the very same day that the Marlins sent Beckett and Lowell packing for Boston, they also jettisoned first baseman Carlos Delgado—and what was left on the four-year, $52 million contract he'd inked just 10 months earlier—to the Mets. Pitcher Yusmeiro Petit had always posted good numbers in the minors to help his prospect status, and it looked like Florida had found Delgado's replacement in Mike Jacobs, who hit .310 with 11 homers in his first 100 big league at-bats in 2005.

    Winner: While Jacobs did have considerable power—he hit 69 homers in three seasons with the Fish—he was also strikeout-prone, inept against lefties (.648 OPS career) and a brutal defender. As for Petit, he never amounted to anything in the majors, so Delgado would have won this for the Mets by default.

    Production vs. Prospects: Petit may be the poster boy of don't-scout-the-boxscore prospects, so maybe the Mets saw it coming and had no fear over giving up his "potential" for Delgado's big bat.

The Randy Johnson Trade

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    Trade Date: 1/11/05

    TEAMSPLAYERSWAR W/ TEAMTRADE WAR
    YANKEESRandy Johnson7.97.9 
    DIAMONDBACKSJavier Vazquez 3.46.2
     Brad Halsey 1.9  
     Shawn Green 0.9  
     DODGERSDioner Navarro (#41, 2004) 0.60.6
     Beltran Perez N/A  
     William Juarez N/A  
      Danny MueggeN/A  

    Recap: While not technically a three-team trade, the breakdown above essentially boiled down to just that for the Yankees, who had long coveted Randy Johnson to be their ace; the Diamondbacks, who needed to shake things up after a worst-record-in-baseball 51-111 season in 2004; and the Dodgers, who were searching for catching and pitching help and were willing to dangle Shawn Green.

    Winner: While Yankees fans would probably say otherwise because the Big Unit wasn't quite himself in the Big Apple (4.37 ERA), their team won this one, as none of the other players did much for their new teams.

    Production vs. Prospects: Catching prospect Dioner Navarro was the primary target for the Dodgers, but he wasn't as big-league ready as they'd hoped, so let's chalk up one final victory to good old production. 

Conclusions

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    Now that we've reviewed the 19 key prospects-for-superstar trades over the five-season period from 2005 through 2009, let's lay out the cold, hard facts.

     

    Team Winners

    • The Tigers for acquiring Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson. Just wow.
    • The Red Sox for the gutsy Josh Beckett-Mike Lowell package that paid off and for finding a suitable replacement for Manny Ramirez in Jason Bay at just the right time.
    • The Mets for landing Johan Santana and Carlos Delgado in separate moves three years apart and not regretting either one.

     

    Team Losers

    • The Athletics for giving up too much for Matt Holliday, then not getting enough back by shipping him out. Ouch. Especially for a team without much financial wiggle room.
    • The Indians for dealing back-to-back Cy Young winners at consecutive trade deadlines and having a bunch of quantity and no quality to show for it.
    • The Mariners for wasting Cliff Lee and essentially setting up the Orioles for years.
    • The Marlins for, well, being the Marlins. If Hanley Ramirez hadn't turned into a star, they would have had a dreadful return in all three blockbuster trades.

     

    Production vs. Prospects

    In case you weren't keeping score along the way, this exercise was a big, big win for production over prospects, as 14 of the 19 trades were "won" by the side getting the big league help, even if it meant giving up potential.

    By comparison, only three trades were on the prospects side of the ledger—the Rockies getting Carlos Gonzalez for Matt Holliday, the Orioles landing Adam Jones and Chris Tillman for Erik Bedard and the Rangers gobbling up Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz for Mark Teixeira.

    As for the remaining two deals, the Tigers are still enjoying both sides in Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson, while the Red Sox-Marlins swap really depended on your point of view. Whether the production side or the prospect side take the cake is too close to call.

     

    The Lesson

    While everyone loves to cite the Orioles' and Rangers' prospect hauls as finger-wagging warnings—"Don't trade your prospects!"—perhaps teams shouldn't be so afraid to trade away what amounts to a little maybe down the line in exchange for a heap of certainty in the present.

    After all, potential is great, but production is better.