So it appears that the Florida Marlins, a team not known for friendliness to Twitterers, have acquired Ozzie Guillen, one of the most outspoken Twitter users in MLB. It's going to cost the Marlins a pair of prospects: Osvaldo Martinez, an infielder, and Jhan Marinez, a relief pitcher. The two rated among Florida's top five prospects to begin 2011, though both have arguably taken steps back this year.
Still, to get a pair of young, cost-controlled players for a manager represents a pretty significant return. Martinez the infielder profiles as a plus glove at second base and shortstop; Marinez the pitcher struck out 11.5 batters per nine innings this season as a 22-year-old in Double-A.
Given the nature of a manager's contributions, it is hard to see any team swapping players for a manager and coming out ahead. Let's take a closer look at how this value measures up to the other manager-based swaps at the time they occured.
The most recent player/manager swap happened back in 2002, when the Mariners traded Lou Piniella to the Tampa Bay then-Devil Rays. However, this swap had players on both sides. Seattle also sent minor league infielder Antonio Perez to Tampa Bay, receiving outfielder Randy Winn in return. Winn, entering his age-29 season, was clearly a superior player at the time to either player in today's deal. But he was also a good deal more expensive, costing Seattle $3.3MM in salary in 2003, then a three-year, $11MM deal to retain him following the season.
Antonio Perez, incidentally, compares well with Osvaldo Martinez. Perez, at the time of the trade, had posted a .645 OPS in Double-A at the age of 22. Martinez just put up a .618 OPS in Triple-A at age 23. Both impressed with defensive ability, and both had suffered through their share of injuries. Perez appeared to have power Martinez doesn't have, but he'd yet to translate it into performance.
Ultimately, if you take Lou Piniella out of the equation, this sounds a bit like a modern-day Tampa trade, an about-to-be-expensive outfielder for an infielder with upside. That they received a manager as well – they paid Piniella more than Winn, giving him a four-year, $14MM contract - undoes the value completely. It is fair to say that Seattle won this swap, and received the best player in the deal. As for Tampa Bay, receiving Perez mitigates the deal overall, making the Devil Rays come out ahead of the Marlins on the manager end of the comparison.
The deal that saw Oakland send manager Chuck Tanner to the Pirates in November 1976 for catcher Manny Sanguillen and $100K is much easier to evaluate. Tanner was a fine manager; a 1976 Pirates team that won 92 games without him won 96 games with him. Oakland, however, received Manny Sanguillen and enough money that he effectively cost the Athletics $45K for the season. Though he only posted an OPS+ of 81, his versatility at that price was a substantial reward.
A year later, Oakland managed to deal Sanguillen back to the Pirates for three more players – outfield prospect Miguel Dilone, infielder Mike Edwards, and pitcher Elias Sosa, who led the Oakland bullpen with 2.2 wins above replacement in 1978. For his part, Oakland owner Charlie Finley thought the deal was entirely appropriate. "If I'm going to run a finishing school for managers, I want to be paid for it," Finley told the Associated Press. Clearly, Oakland got more for Tanner than Chicago got for Guillen. But the lesson with Tanner, just as with Piniella, is that dealing players for a manager almost never makes sense for the team obtaining the skipper.
There is that time, however, where it seemed to work out perfectly. Back in October 1967, the Mets traded pitching prospect Bill Denehy and $100K to Washington in exchange for manager Gil Hodges. Denehy had just struggled in both his Triple-A and Major League stints as a 21-year-old, but considering his youth and strikeout rates in the minor leagues, still held a good bit of promise. That he did so as a starter gave him more potential upside than Jhan Marinez of the Guillen deal. The $100K meant that in 1968, the Senators received Frank Howard's 170 OPS+ and Camilo Pascual's 109 ERA+ – the team's best hitter and pitcher – for free. Howard made $50K in 1968, Pascual made $42.5K.
Still, no one associated with the Mets at the time regrets the deal. Hodges lifted the Mets to ninth in 1968, then to the World Series in 1969. Many of his players, Tom Seaver included, credit Hodges with being a difference-maker at the helm. New York's talent in 1969 was undeniable, yet it would be a mistake to dismiss Hodges' impact. But a farm system producing players like Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Jerry Koosman and many others has to be considered the dominant factor. It even produced enough pitching that a prospect like Denehy could be dealt.
Ultimately, if Ozzie Guillen manages the Marlins to a World Series victory by 2013, no one in Florida will mind if both prospects they traded turn into stars. From a value perspective, however, it just isn't clear that making such a trade ever makes sense.