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A week ago, Mike Glab weighed in on Jim Bowden’s tenure as Reds’ GM. Today, he takes on Bowden’s trade work with the Nationals below.
At last, Jim Bowden will be working in a relatively stable environment in Washington. Ownership issues are settled, his title is no longer qualified by the interim tag and the Nats open their new ballpark in March.
Bowden’s taking a different tack in opening a stadium this time around. Last time, when the Reds were gearing up to open Great American Ballpark, Bowden shot for the moon in 2000 and traded for Ken Griffey, Jr. hoping the superstar would lead the team to glory just as the new place opened its doors in 2003. Sadly, the plan flopped and Bowden was canned midway through GAB’s inaugural season.
This time, though, Bowden seems to be going in the opposite direction. That is, accumulating young, unproven phenoms to populate a roster that last year lost 89 games and avoided the cellar by a mere two games. During the off-season, Bowden snared outfielders Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge as well as beanpole righthanded pitcher Tyler Clippard, none of them older than 23. Only Paul Lo Duca, Aaron Boone and Dmitri Young on the 40-man roster have reached their mid-30s. Clearly, Bowden hopes the new facility will draw fans while the young players gel.
Now, working without Marge Scott breathing down his neck nor being saddled with an orphaned organization, Bowden will show us what he’s got.
Like any good GM, Bowden caught lightning in a bottle last year with the late-career resurgence of Young. The first baseman put up some decent numbers in the hitters’ mausoleum that was RFK Stadium. Nationals Park can’t help but be a better environment for offense and Bowden showed faith in Young by rewarding him with a $10M, two-year contract. The pact won’t be the albatross Griffey’s deal was for the Reds; Bowden will have some financial latitude to tweak or even remake his roster if needed.
Bowden’s made 29 deals since taking over the Nats in early November 2004 (Download nats_trades_under_bowden.xls here). He hasn’t shown any tendency to favor one opposition GM over another in his second go-round running a team. He has made three deals with Boston’s Theo Epstein and two each with the Giants’ Brian Sabean, the Rockies’ Dan O’Dowd, the Brewers’ Doug Melvin and the Snakes’ Josh Byrnes. The O’Dowd swaps are a continuation of a favorite relationship initiated when Bowden was in Cincy.
He’s spent a lot of time ridding the Nats roster of ancient or no-longer bankable names like Tomo Ohka and Royce Clayton as well as players who had a little bit left in the tank but were of no value to a perpetually rebuilding team. These included Jose Vidro, Livan Hernandez and Daryle Ward.
As in Cincinnati, Bowden split his deals almost equally between leagues and favored doing business with the National League West and the American League East.
His biggest trade, for Alfonso Soriano, could be construed as being in the vein of the Griffey deal. Bowden hooked up with Jon Daniels of the Rangers in December 2005 to bring Soriano to Washington for his walk year in exchange for the youngish Brad Wilkerson and Terrmel Sledge as well as Armando Galarraga. Bowden made noises indicating he’d like to sign Soriano long-term although nobody but a fool would’ve bet Washington could win a bidding war for him. After losing Soriano in the fall of 2006, the Nats selected pitchers Josh Smoker and Jordan Zimmerman in last year’s amateur draft as compensation.
The entire Soriano experience may reveal more about the presence of Stan Kasten as the Nats president than Bowden’s acumen. Bowden swung the deal with Daniels before Kasten was hired by Washington. Kasten has made it clear his team won’t be backed into a gargantuan no-trade deal, which is precisely what Soriano received on the open market.
Bowden got himself into hot water with the one trade he has made with his old club. In July 2006, Bowden shipped a package of five players to his Cincinnati successor, Wayne Krivsky, for Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez and Ryan Wagner. Soon after the trade, Krivsky learned that one of the pitchers Bowden had sent over, Gary Majewski, had been given a cortisone shot in his pitching shoulder prior to the deal. Krivsky filed a grievance with MLB, claiming Majewski was damaged goods. Each of the two GMs exchanged charges in the media that the other was playing fast and loose. “It’s in the hands of our lawyers,” Krivsky told ESPN. The case is still being decided as of this late date. It’s a safe bet, though, that Krivsky and Bowden won’t be doing much business together for the foreseeable future.
Looking at Bowden’s overall record, including 10 ½ years with the Reds and three and a half with Washington, it’s hard to ascertain if he’s a miracle worker or a bum. Cincinnati almost won a division title in the strike year, 1994 and did win the demi-flag the next year. The Reds spent seven years in the upper half of their division during his term and four years in the bottom half. The Nats under Bowden have done nothing but fight for last place. Of course, the Nats under a brain trust of Branch Rickey, Dave Dombrowski and Albert Einstein wouldn’t have done much better.
It’s likely that Bowden is a middling GM, one who won’t single-handedly destroy a team but who probably can’t raise the dead either. The Nats right now are the dead. It’s Bowden’s moment to discover if he has a magic touch.
If James Gordon Bowden III knows how to do anything, it’s working under circumstances that would make most people run, screaming, for the door. From the time the mercurial Marge Schott hired him to run the Cincinnati Reds to the start of his current term as GM of the orphaned Washington Nationals, he has been able to remain focused on wheeling and dealing.
We’ll split Bowden’s tenures with the two teams into separate posts, starting today with his Cincinnati tenure. Download reds_trades_under_bowden_iii.xls here - a spreadsheet listing all of Bowden’s trades as the Reds’ GM.
For a guy who eventually earned the nickname “Trader Jim,” Bowden’s career as a trafficker in baseball players began inauspiciously. His first deal after taking over the Reds in 1992 sent outfielder Paul O’Neill to the Yankees. O’Neill, a key member of Cincy’s 1990 World Series champions, went on to become the heart and soul of the end-of-the-century Yankees’ dynasty.
Bowden was only 31 years old when Schott hired him. At the time, he was the youngest general manager in Major League history. Perhaps his inexperience provided a built-in alibi for the swap, which sent O’Neill and a minor-leaguer to New York for the eminently forgettable Roberto Kelly.
If Bowden’s first deal was a disaster – try to find a Reds fan who doesn’t think it was – it didn’t stop him from making 100 other trades in his 10½ years at the Cincinnati helm.
Former Mets GM Steve Phillips once told Tim Kurkjian of ESPN: The Magazine, “Jim Bowden is the guy who will call you at 1:30 in the morning and say, ‘I have the deal that will win the World Series for you.’”
Bowden took over a 90-win team and watched them lose big in 1993. Then the Reds ruled the newly-formed NL Central for a couple of years. They won the division in ’95 with a top-tier salary structure but Schott ordered a payroll cut in the off-season and drove manager Davey Johnson out of town.
Bowden managed to keep the Reds’ core together but Cincinnati dropped to a .500 record in 1996 on the way to a stretch of sub-mediocrity until a brief revival five years later. After this blip, the Red spent the 2000s far out of contention.
In 2002, Bowden came under heavy fire for comparing a potential players walkout to the 9/11 attacks, with the public pillorying him for insensitivity to the victims of terrorism and MLB thrashing him for speaking publicly about labor negotiations.
He was fired along with manager Bob Boone in July 2003 and then spent a year and a half doing occasional studio analysis for ESPN until the Montreal/Washington opportunity opened up.
As the Reds’ GM, Bowden established some productive relationships with a handful of other GMs, notably John Hart of the Indians, Woody Woodward of the Mariners, Randy Smith of the Tigers and John Schuerholz of the Braves, all of whom are out of the business as of this time.
Several of Bowden’s preferred trading partners in the Reds years still run MLB teams, though. Bowden engineered six swaps each with Dave Dombrowski (five with the Marlins and one with the Tigers) and Dan O’Dowd of the Rockies. Bowden also worked four deals with Bill Bavasi, GM of the Angels at the time.
O’Dowd clearly was a favorite dance partner. During a year and a half span after O’Dowd took over the Colorado operation in 1999, he and Bowden traded a total of 17 players.
The Rockies (nine trades) were Bowden’s favorite team to deal with overall from 1993 through 2003. The Indians came in a close second with eight trades. As a trader, Bowden split his deals evenly between the leagues (51 with the AL; 49 with the NL.) He swung 21 deals with teams in the National League East teams (19 after the six-division set up was introduced), his favorite division.
Bowden seems not to be terribly shy about acquiring controversial or troubled players, dealing for Deion Sanders in Cincy and Jose Guillen in Washington. He often sought established veterans whose better days had passed, including Kevin Mitchell twice, Lee Smith, Ruben Sierra, Greg Vaughn and Dante Bichette. Only Bichette and the second Mitchell acquisition could be considered stretch drive deals.
Sean Casey and Danny Graves flowered after Bowden trades brought them to Cincy. Bowden missed recognizing Paul Konerko’s potential, getting him from the Dodgers, then sending him to the White Sox for Mike Cameron. After one year, Bowden turned Cameron around, peddling him, Brett Tomko and a couple of palookas to the Mariners for Ken Griffey, Jr.
The February 2000 Griffey deal was Bowden’s biggest in Cincinnati. A native of Cincinnati whose father was part of the Big Red Machine, Griffey was brought in to jumpstart a revival that, it was hoped, would put a contender in Great American Ballpark when it opened in 2003. It wasn’t a bad gamble, considering that Griffey at the time of the trade was acknowledged as one of the two or three top players in the game. Additionally, the Reds had just come off two straight second-place finishes. Griffey’s subsequent streak of injuries played a part in Bowden’s demise in Cincinnati.
Bowden called the shots in 11 entry drafts for the Reds. Only Austin Kearns (1998) became a productive big leaguer. (Incidentally, C.J. Nitkowski, selected in 1994, started one of the very first pro athlete personal websites, offering stream-of-consciousness in diary form that presaged blogs.) Among Bowden’s later Reds draft choices, only Jeremy Sowers (2001, first round) and Joey Votto (2002, second round) seem to offer promise. Bowden apparently was impressed with a Long Island high school left handed pitcher named Nick Markakis, drafting him twice, in 2001 and 2002. Markakis declined to sign both times, converted to the outfield in college and eventually signed with the Orioles.
Tainted by the 9/11 remark and saddled with a team that would go on to lose 93 games, Bowden was fired in mid-season 2003 along with manager Bob Boone. His reputation as a glib bargainer was well-established, his survival through the Schott years was a testament to his resilience, but even after a decade at the helm, no one could say if Bowden had the capability of building a contender with staying power.
Next up: the Washington experience.
"Houston, you have a problem" was probably the initial reaction anyone who follows the Phillies, or baseball for that matter, had when they heard that the Houston Astros had hired Ed Wade to be their new general manager.
Wade was fired from that same post in Philadelphia two years ago after failing to compose a team to reach the playoffs — and brutally suffering for it publicly — during his eight year tenure in town (1997-2005).
Even a few years out from Wade, the Phillies’ last October appearance dates back to the mullets and beards of 1993.
But that’s another story. The issue at hand is whether or not Wade is a good hire for the Astros. That’s hard to say unless you were one of the lucky fans chosen at random to sit in on the interview process, but it is possible to judge Wade’s history with Philadelphia and then consider if his strengths and weaknesses are suitable to the Astros’ needs.
If you scan the field at the start of a Phillies home game, you’ll see that six of the starting "everyday eight" were acquired under Wade’s watch, and they make up the most potent lineup in the National League
- Pat Burrell was drafted, developed, and, for better or worse, signed to a long-term contract.
- Shane Victorino was acquired in the Rule 5 draft.
- Jimmy Rollins, a strong contender for this year’s MVP award was developed and signed to a bargain of a long term contract.
- Another MVP candidate and the best second baseman in baseball, Chase Utley, was drafted and developed under Wade and signed to a long term contract under Wade’s successor, Pat Gillick.
- First baseman Ryan Howard was drafted and developed well enough under Wade to win a Rookie of the Year award and then an MVP award in the two years since Wade left.
- Rookie starting catcher Carlos Ruiz was signed by Wade as a 19-year old out of Panama.
Wade also drafted the Phillies’ three best pitchers: Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, and Brett Myers, and at one time, traded away their worst, Adam Eaton, only for him to be re-acquired under Gillick’s regime. Let’s not forget, before he was general manager, Wade campaigned hard within the Phillies to trade for Bobby Abreu before anyone knew who he was (Kevin Stocker was the "bait" that eventually landed him). That’s quite a nucleus, no doubt about it. [An aside: Critics will point out that one of Wade's assistant GM's, Mike Arbuckle, who's still an assistant in Philadelphia, was responsible for acquiring that nucleus, not Wade. That might be true, but consider these two points: even if Arbuckle did acquire all of that talent, Wade was smart enough to let him do it, and second, when general manager vacancies arise, Arbuckle is almost never a name that comes up, at least not publicly.]
After that nucleus however, the bullet points in Wade’s resume are a little harder to come by. In ballyhooed off-season moves, Wade acquired Jim Thome, Billy Wagner, David Bell, Eric Milton, Kevin Millwood and Andy Ashby, none of whom were able to get the nucleus over the hump and into the playoffs. Prior to that he got very little in return for Curt Schilling and Scott Rolen, both players having made it clear they wanted out of Philadelphia. The best piece from both of those deals, Placido Polanco [apologies to all of you who still think that some day Vicente Padilla is going to finally "get it"], was eventually dealt to the Detroit Tigers, where he’s flourished, for Ugueth Urbina (currently playing as number 283948 in the Venezuelan Penal League) as a rental in 2005.
Other water that flowed under Wade’s bridge were several trades where the Phillies gave up several forgettable minor leaguers (to name a few: Taylor Bucholz, Eaton, Elizardo Ramirez) for several forgettable relievers (to name a few: Todd Jones, Terry Adams, Mike Timlin) and his penchant for handing out no-trade clauses in contracts, an obstacle Gillick has had to deal with on numerous occasions.
The trend is clear: Wade was able to develop a very fine nucleus, one that is scoring runs for the Phillies in bunches, but was unable to add the necessary supporting pieces, even after he was given an adequate budget to do so in the later years of his tenure.
In other words, Houston, he’s shown he can get you to the launch pad, but don’t hope for the moon.
Tom Goyne is the author of Balls, Sticks, & Stuff ("Phillies, Eagles, golf, and other matters of great importance…") and maintains the Phloggers’ Pheeds page, a source for the latest commentary from around the "phlogosphere"..
Omar Minaya’s made so many trades in recent years that I decided to break up his trade profile into two posts. I covered his 25 deals as the Expos’ GM here. Minaya jumped to the large-market Mets in 2004, and by my count has made another 25 trades. Download new_york_mets_minaya.xls; it should be Minaya’s entire trade record.
Minaya kicked off the new year in 2005 by sending backup catcher Vance Wilson to the Tigers for infielder Anderson Hernandez. The Mets already had Mike Piazza and Ramon Castro on hand to catch that year. Wilson went on to become a 150 AB-a-year backup for the Tigers with mixed results, while Hernandez has gotten a few cups of coffee as a glove man. I’ll call it a wash.
Not thrilled about switching to right field to accomodate Carlos Beltran, Mike Cameron requested a trade in January of 2005. Though Cameron was coming off wrist surgery, the Diamondbacks had interest. The A’s liked him too, and a deal was on the table that would’ve brought Eric Byrnes and saved the Mets $2.5MM to use on Carlos Delgado. The Mariners, Pirates, Astros, Tigers, and Rockies were in on Cameron as well, but Minaya couldn’t get anything done. Cameron rescinded his trade demand in March and reluctantly moved to right field. The Padres, Orioles, and Yankees all expressed interest in Cameron that summer, with even Gary Sheffield on the table. But Cameron’s Mets career ended in August after a terrible collision with Beltran. We’ll pick up this story later in the post.
Minaya had to go with a glove man at first base in ’05, getting Doug Mientkiewicz from Boston for a first base prospect who never panned out plus some cash. Minky was the backup plan after Minaya failed to sign Carlos Delgado. A torn hamstring injury and a back bruise limited Mientkiewicz’s playing time, but he turned out to be a pretty lousy Plan B. Mets’ first basemen hit just .227/.303/.391 on the season. Delgado, meanwhile, was a seven-win player for the Marlins. The Mets finished the season six games out for the Wild Card and seven games out for the division title, making the failure to sign Delgado loom large.
In March of 2005, Minaya sent catcher Jason Phillips to the Dodgers for southpaw Kaz Ishii. The Mets couldn’t fix Ishii, and he was demoted in August after making 16 starts. He’s since returned to Japan. Phillips was no big loss, but Ishii didn’t help at all.
Minaya’s first year as Mets GM was not a success in terms of trades. Cameron again asked for a trade in November of ’05, and Minaya sent him to San Diego for Xavier Nady. Nady would later be used in one of Minaya’s best deals. Swapping him for Cameron straight up was fairly even, though it would’ve been nice to add Akinori Otsuka as had been rumored.
A week later Minaya got his man, acquiring Delgado and $7MM from the Marlins for Mike Jacobs, Yusmeiro Petit, and Grant Psomas. The Mets were essentially on the hook for $41MM over the 2006-08 period for Delgado. Delgado, while currently a burden, had a nice ’06 and definitely helped the Mets get to the playoffs. Minaya pretty much sold high on Petit and Jacobs. Even though two-thirds of Delgado’s tenure may be less than acceptable, I have to call the trade a success.
Minaya hit up the Marlins again in December, getting Paul Lo Duca instead of signing Ramon Hernandez or Bengie Molina. Pitcher Gaby Hernandez was the main piece for Florida. I think Hernandez will reach the Majors in 2008 and could settle in as the Marlins’ #4 starter. But Lo Duca was solid in ’06 and it’s another win-now move. I consider it a good trade for both clubs.
Minaya’s roll continued when he got Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll from the Dodgers for Jae Seo and Tim Hamulack in January of ’06. It was the perfect sell high on Seo, and I have to admit I thought he was going to be pretty good in ’06. Sanchez was a very good late-inning reliever until his July injury.
Another gem: Minaya snagged Jorge Julio and John Maine from the Orioles for Kris Benson later in January. As you know, Maine blossomed into a legitimate cheap #2 starter (actually #1 might be fair; he’s been the seventh best starter in the NL this year according to VORP). Huge win for Minaya.
Better still, Julio was spun into Orlando Hernandez. El Duque will miss a start here and there, but he’s been excellent for the Mets.
By June, Minaya had almost no choice but to unload Kaz Matsui. While he’s had some success for the Rockies, I wouldn’t argue that he could be succeeding as the Mets’ second baseman right now. I just don’t think New York worked for him.
In July of 2006, Minaya made a minor move to get Ruben Gotay from the Royals for Jeff Keppinger. Both players seem to be over their heads this year, but who knows, either guy could have a decent career. I’ll call it even for now.
Another huge steal came on deadline day last year, as Minaya traded Nady for Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez. The Pirates had given up on Perez, but he’s already back to form with the Mets. Three-fifths of the current rotation came via shrewd trading by Minaya.
Minaya was active in August as well, getting Shawn Green and Guillermo Mota. The trades were helpful, and nothing of value was surrendered.
The 2006 season ended a success. Since then, though, Minaya’s made only three major trades and all appear questionable.
In November, he sent Heath Bell and Royce Ring to the Padres for Ben Johnson and Jon Adkins. Bell’s been awesome this year, with a 2.49 ERA in 61 innings for the Padres. He’s now Trevor Hoffman‘s setup man. You can argue that the Padres always do this with relievers and it’s their home park, but Bell has a 1.93 ERA on the road this year so the potential’s been there all along. I’m sure the Mets would love to have him back.
A few days later Minaya sent hard-throwing relievers Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom to the Marlins for lefties Jason Vargas and Adam Bostick. Owens has been hurt much of this year, but Lindstrom has been decent. Vargas and Bostick have not impressed. This one’s too early to call but the Fish have the early advantage.
In December Minaya acquired a live bullpen arm in Ambiorix Burgos from the Royals for starter Brian Bannister. Burgos throws hard; he definitely is the upside play. But Bannister, while less of a scout’s dream, has thrown 100 solid innings for the Royals this year. Hindsight is 20/20, but if Bannister received the 13 starts that went to Mike Pelfrey, Jason Vargas, Chan Ho Park, and Dave Williams this year, the Mets would probably have a couple more wins.
The only deal I can find made by Minaya this calendar year was the minor acquisition of Jake Gatreau (that deal is oddly absent from MLB.com’s transaction log, so leave a comment if I’ve missed any other 2007 trades by the Mets). Minaya added many players via trade in 2006, but seems content to go to battle with the group he’s got this year. They’re the best team in the National League, so who am I to question his inactivity?
Omar Minaya had a fine run making trades from November ’05 to August of ’06. He’s in a bit of a slump, though, and the results of his Mets tenure have been a mixed bag overall.
Omar Minaya has done so much wheeling and dealing through the years that I’ve decided to break up his trade profile into two parts – Expos and Mets. The vast difference between the two situations is another reason to separate the posts. Click here to Download new_york_mets_minaya.xls, an Excel file with Minaya’s entire trade history.
The 2002-04 Expos were owned by the other 29 baseball teams, with Minaya at the helm. It was a unique and bizarre situation. Probably a conflict of interest, too – Bud Selig did not allow the playoff-contending 2003 Expos to add September call-ups that year because it was deemed too expensive.
Anyway, Minaya made 25 trades in his three years as GM of the Expos. Let’s analyze some of the bigger deals.
- 3/23/02: Sent Guillermo Mota to the Dodgers for Matt Herges. Since Mota went on to have a couple of dominant seasons for L.A., we’ll give the advantage here to Dan Evans, then the Dodgers’ GM. Herges was later spun by Minaya to the Pirates for Chris Young. I still can’t credit Minaya though as he subsequently gave Young to John Hart and the Rangers for junk in April of ’04.
- 3/25/02: Sent Jason Bay and Jim Serrano to the Mets for Lou Collier. I’d dock some points from Minaya for this one or give Steve Phillips props, but no one respected Jason Bay in 2002. He was traded two more times before ending up a Pirate.
- 7/11/02: Sent Carl Pavano, Graeme Lloyd, and others to the Marlins for Cliff Floyd, Wilton Guerrero, Claudio Vargas, and cash. Floyd was quickly spun to Boston for Sun Woo Kim and Seung Song. Essentially Minaya gave up Pavano and Floyd for Vargas. Vargas never did much in Montreal, so I’ll give this one to Larry Beinfest and Mike Port (Red Sox GM at that time).
- 7/28/02: The big one: Acquired RHP Bartolo Colon and minor league RHP Tim Drew from Cleveland in exchange for 1B Lee Stevens, minor league SS Brandon Phillips, minor league LHP Cliff Lee and minor league OF Grady Sizemore. Even with the future of the franchise in question and a desire to win now, this was just too much to give up for Colon. You have to give this one to Mark Shapiro.
- 1/15/03: Big three-team deal: Acquired RHP Orlando Hernandez and RHP Rocky Biddle, INF/OF Jeff Liefer and an undisclosed amount of cash from the Chicago White Sox in a three-team trade involving the New York Yankees, while sending RHP Bartolo Colon and INF Jorge Nunez to the White Sox. I lack the full context of this deal, but it appears that MLB wanted Minaya to trade Colon because of his $6MM salary. I’m a little skeptical of that though because El Duque was paid $4.1MM in ’03. Biddle and Liefer were already looking like failed prospects at the time, so Kenny Williams won there. The Expos also missed the boat on El Duque, as he soon developed shoulder problems and needed rotator cuff surgery. He never pitched a game for Montreal and was non-tendered the following winter.
- 3/24/03: Traded RHP Jim Brower and a player to be named for RHP Livan Hernandez, catcher Edwards Guzman and cash. This is clear ownage of Brian Sabean, as Hernandez became the team’s ace and the premiere innings-eater in baseball for a three-year span.
- 12/4/03: Traded RHP Javier Vazquez for the Yankees’ 1B Nick Johnson, OF Juan Rivera and LHP Randy Choate. Just an awesome deal for Omar, maximizing the return for Vazquez. A huge bounty was expected though as Vazquez was 27 and coming off his career year. As you’ll later see, Choate became John Patterson. So that’s three bona fide solid big leaguers for Vazquez.
- 12/15/03: Traded C Michael Barrett to the A’s for minor league pitcher Jonathan Brett and a player to be named. You can dog Omar for this one, though Billy Beane turned around and sent Barrett to the Cubs for junk. Plus, Barrett had been terrible in ’03. Credit goes to Jim Hendry for recognizing his talent.
- 1/5/04: Minaya acquired two still-useful players from the Indians in Ryan Church and Maicer Izturis for reliever Scott Stewart. Stewart, a 28 year-old southpaw, had posted two fine seasons for the Expos but flamed out shortly thereafter. Perhaps not full revenge on Mark Shapiro for the Colon deal but it was a start.
- 3/25/04: Snagged John Patterson for Randy Choate. Patterson’s pretty messed up these days but you can’t deny the value of 198 innings of 3.13 ball in 2005. That’s more than Choate ever game the Diamondbacks; advantage Minaya.
- 7/18/04: Acquired RHP Jon Rauch and RHP Gary Majewski from the White Sox for OF Carl Everett and cash. Jurassic Carl was always pretty average for the White Sox, while the Nats’ are still enjoying the fine work of Rauch. Doesn’t top Kenny Williams’ Colon fleecing (ewww, gross) but it’s a start. And Majewski? Jim Bowden later used him as a major piece in order to acquire Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez, and Ryan Wagner. Another fine move by Omar.
- 7/31/04: Another three-team blockbuster: Traded SS Orlando Cabrera to the Red Sox. Acquired SS Alex Gonzalez, minor league RHP Francis Beltran and minor league 3B Brendan Harris from the Cubs. Beltran never panned out, but Minaya saw something in Harris that many GMs missed. Harris found his way to Tampa Bay and is currently sixth in VORP among rookies this year.
Looking at this progression of trades, you can see Minaya kind of learning his way. He got burned quite a bit on his trades from 2002 through the Colon to the White Sox deal. But then Minaya went on a major winning streak and managed to acquire some talent for the Montreal/Washington franchise on his way out. Your thoughts, and did I misinterpret any of these trades? We’ll cover Omar’s Mets deals next time.
Jim Hendry took over as the General Manager of the Cubs on July 5th, 2002. The team was awful that year, finishing 67-95. However, the team’s Pythagorean record of 76-86 indicated better things to come. Let’s take a look at Hendry’s deals over the years, and try to determine his tendencies and favorite trading partners. He’s been quite active, making 48 trades by my count.
One trend I noticed is that Hendry hasn’t gotten much in return when trying to dump veterans from out-of-contention clubs. He failed to trade Fred McGriff in ’02, opting to send off Darren Lewis for Chad Hermansen at the July deadline. That year, Hendry preferred to dump off his vets in August, ditching Tom Gordon, Jeff Fassero, and Bill Mueller for nothing of consequence. (He later dumped many vets like Matt Lawton, Greg Maddux, Todd Hollandsworth, Phil Nevin, Scott Williamson, Todd Walker, and Neifi Perez without receiving useful players.)
Hendry’s first offseason was a success. He revamped his catching corps by getting Damian Miller and Paul Bako, and somehow managed to send off Todd Hundley for two helpful players in Mark Grudzielanek and Eric Karros. The Cubs netted about six wins in ’03 with the acquisitions. Hermansen was in that deal so maybe we can say Hendry acquired one useful player in a salary dump trade.
You’ll notice that much of the core of the current Cubs team came from Hendry’s generally fine trading skills. He fleeced Dave Littefield for Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton in July of ’03, and went back to grab Randall Simon in August. Ramirez was only 25 at the time of the deal and had hit 34 HR as a 23 year-old. Unbelievable that Bobby Hill could get this done.
Hendry’s finest trade came in the winter of ’03, when he acquired Derrek Lee for Hee Seop Choi during the Marlins’ fire sale. Choi never panned out, while Lee blossomed into a star. Marlins GM Larry Beinfest exacted his revenge on Hendry two years later in the Juan Pierre deal – one of Hendry’s few trade missteps. Hendry surrendered useful young pitchers Ricky Nolasco, Sergio Mitre, and Renyel Pinto for Pierre. A month after the Lee trade Hendry acquired Michael Barrett from Billy Beane for Damian Miller - another win.
The Cubs didn’t give up anything too useful in their blockbuster trade of the summer of ’04, acquiring Nomar Garciaparra and Matt Murton. Even though Nomar didn’t help the Cubs, they came out ahead with Murton. Hendry has quietly gotten the better of Billy Beane and Theo Epstein.
The Sammy Sosa trade in February of ’05 didn’t bring the Cubs anything useful; Jerry Hairston Jr. never panned out. But that was a salary dump, and Hendry did the best he could with a player he simply had to trade away. A year later the Cubs couldn’t stand another minute with Corey Patterson, and he became an Oriole too. That one made Hendry look foolish. A third trade of the same variety was made in May of ’05, when Hendry sent the much-maligned LaTroy Hawkins to the Giants for Jerome Williams and David Aardsma. That was his only "forced" type trade that resulted in useful players.
Hendry waited a while to find a replacement for the injured Lee in ’06, eventually settling on a league average Phil Nevin from Texas. The Cubs soon became sellers that year, and the best Hendry could do for Greg Maddux was Cesar Izturis. He’s generally much better as a buyer than a seller, except for the Pierre deal.
Hendry’s favorite trading partners are Theo Epstein and Dave Littlefield; he’s made four deals with each. He also enjoys dealing with the Orioles’ braintrust, Larry Beinfest, Dave Dombrowski, Doug Melvin, and Dan O’Dowd. His one and only crosstown trade came this winter with the Neal Cotts-David Aardsma deal; that one’s too early to call. Click here to Download chicago_cubs_hendry.xls – Hendry’s entire trading record in a spreadsheet.
While Hendry’s free agency record is questionable, he comes out as a strong trader upon review. Cubs fans should have confidence that he’ll add some helpful players in July and August if the team is in the race.
Diamondbacks General Manager Josh Byrnes has made 13 trades since taking over in October of 2005. You can Download arizona_diamondbacks_byrnes.xls to see all the moves. The jury is still out on many of them, but he’s done a first-class job in my opinion.
His first deal was to send a couple of relievers to the Braves for catcher Johnny Estrada in December of 2005. Estrada had a respectable, resurgent year for the Diamondbacks in ’06, but Oscar Villarreal gave the Braves 90 solid innings. Lance Cormier was less impressive but may earn a rotation spot this year once healthy. John Schuerholz may have won this one, slightly. Estrada was one of many players that Byrnes traded for and then traded away the following year.
A few weeks later Byrnes made an excellent trade, nabbing El Duque, Luis Vizcaino, and Chris Young from the White Sox for Javier Vazquez. It was a move that may sting the White Sox, as Young appears on the path to stardom as the Diamondbacks’ center fielder. Hindsight is 20/20 – I loved the move for the White Sox at the time and a couple of strong seasons from Vazquez would make it completely worth the price. We may be able to say that both teams benefitted here. Kenny Williams won a smaller deal a few months later in acquiring Alex Cintron.
Byrnes’s third deal that month was to acquire Miguel Batista and Orlando Hudson for Troy Glaus and a prospect. I think he beat J.P. Ricciardi here, as Batista was a credible back-rotation starter and Hudson blossomed into one of the game’s better 2Bs. Some stats say that Hudson had a significantly better 2006 than Glaus, positions considered.
Byrnes made two more very strong deals before the ’06 season began, netting Alberto Callaspo and Juan Cruz without giving up much. The Callaspo trade was particularly egregious for Bill Stoneman, who only got Jason Bulger in return. Callaspo could start at second for many teams.
In May of ’06 Byrnes acquired Jorge Julio from the Mets for Orlando Hernandez. El Duque was slightly more useful that year, but spinning Julio into Yusmeiro Petit last month was masterful.
Byrnes unloaded Shawn Green last August, getting him to waive his no-trade clause. The D’Backs had to eat half of Green’s contract to get Evan MacLane, a soft-tossing southpaw prospect. The move cleared a path for Carlos Quentin. It wasn’t an impressive bounty but Green obviously had to go. The other August trade was the acquisition of Livan Hernandez for Garrett Mock and Matt Chico. It’s still unknown as to whether Hernandez can replicate his ’06 Arizona success. With the price of pitching as it is it’s an OK deal.
This offseason, Byrnes revamped his rotation by trading for southpaws Randy Johnson and Doug Davis. I love the Johnson trade and like the Davis trade for Arizona. I just don’t think any of the players sent away (Estrada, Greg Aquino, Claudio Vargas, Vizcaino, and prospects) will be missed by the Diamondbacks. Dana Eveland was the icing on the cake; he’ll make a decent back-rotation guy one day.
In case you hadn’t noticed, I really like Byrnes’s trading strategies. He’s snagged some very promising young players for unwanted/expensive veterans and has never given up his best prospects. If I were a Diamondbacks fan I’d have faith in Byrnes to swing a smart deal for a scary-monster type hitter this July if the D’Backs are in the thick of the race.
Tonight I decided to take a look at the trading habits of Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi, who was hired in November of 2001.
Ricciardi made an array of trades soon after his hiring: out were Billy Koch, Alex Gonzalez, Paul Quantrill, Cesar Izturis, and Brad Fullmer. His only notable returns from those five were Eric Hinske and Felix Heredia. The Koch for Hinske deal was fairly even, as both players performed well in 2002. I’d consider the Heredia acquisition a mild win. Ricciardi lost in the Izturis/Quantrill deal, in that highly regarded young pitcher Luke Prokopec broke down. He also lost the Fullmer trade, as Fullmer helped the Angels win the World Series while the pitcher Ricciardi received was a bust. [edit: Just got an email outlining the circumstances surrounding the Fullmer trade, and it sounds like Ricciardi won. The salary dump cleared the way for Vernon Wells, and interest in Fullmer was minimal.]
Ricciardi wasn’t too active at the trading deadline in ’02, shipping Raul Mondesi off to the Yankees. The return was a young reliever who did not pan out. He made a decent move in the winter of ’02 to get Cory Lidle for a couple of prospects, though Lidle was pretty lousy for the Jays. Ricciardi traded away shortstop Felipe Lopez a month later, a regrettable move.
At the trading deadline of ’03, Ricciardi sent Shannon Stewart to the Twins for Bobby Kielty. I wonder if he could’ve gotten more for Stewart, but the trade was redeemed when he snagged Ted Lilly from the A’s for Kielty. In the winter of ’03 he stole Justin Speier from the Rockies for Mark Hendrickson and a PTBNL as part of a three-way deal. That fleecing of Dan O’Dowd stands as one of Ricciardi’s best trades. A few months later Ricciardi picked up Jason Frasor for Jayson Werth, a pretty solid move.
Getting Frank Menechino from the A’s for junk was a nice move in May of ’04. Ricciardi made small acquisitions until January of ’05, when he snagged Shea Hillenbrand for a prospect. Say what you will about Hillenbrand, but the prospect sent to Arizona was a complete bust. Of course, Joe Garagiola was manning the club at the time, so it’s not a shock.
Ricciardi kept his John McDonald crush alive in the winter of ’05, re-acquiring him from Detroit. That December he made two big deals: Lyle Overbay for Dave Bush and Gabe Gross, and Troy Glaus for Miguel Batista and Orlando Hudson. I consider both to be losses for the Jays. I think this team would be better right now with Bush and Hudson on it.
The jury’s still out on various dump trades Ricciardi made last summer involving Hillenbrand, Scott Schoeneweis, and Eric Hinske.
Judging Ricciardi solely on trades, I think his record is close to .500. Some good, some bad. He loves dealing with old pal Billy Beane, making 8 of his 34 trades with him. Other GMs with whom he’s made more than one trade: Mark Shapiro, Theo Epstein, Doug Melvin, and Dan O’Dowd.
I haven’t looked closely yet but I think once you evaluate Ricciardi’s other GM decisions in tandem with his trades, he’ll come out looking quite bad. He’s let some good players go for little to nothing in Chris Carpenter, Felipe Lopez, Brandon Lyon, and Trever Miller. There are some pretty bad signings on his record too, and the Jays’ farm system is among the worst in the game. Nonetheless, his contract runs through 2010.
Given all the speculation of Kenny Williams’s next move to fix his stumbling White Sox, I thought it would be useful to pull together a history of all the trades he’s made since 2001. Download chicago_white_sox_williams.xls to take a look at that in an Excel file.
As far as Kenny’s July tendencies, he’s made such acquisitions as Roberto Alomar, Carl Everett, Scott Schoeneweis, Carl Everett again, and Jose Contreras in the past. But Williams’s signature trades have come in the winter: David Wells, Todd Ritchie, Billy Koch, Bartolo Colon, Juan Uribe, Scott Podsednik, Jim Thome, and Javier Vazquez.
The exception, and Williams’s biggest summertime trade, was his acquisition of Freddy Garcia in late June of 2004. The Sox smartly made this trade with three full months left in the season. Williams surrendered highly touted outfield prospect Jeremy Reed in the deal, and he certainly got the best of Bill Bavasi so far. Ditto for his other swap with Bavasi – Joe Borchard for Matt Thornton.
Williams doesn’t really have any favorite GM buddies to lean on for trades; his 38 deals since ’01 are spread out among many. Jim Bowden is in the lead with three trades, but all were minor (Anthony Sanders, Scott Dunn/D’Angelo Jimenez, Jerry Owens/Alex Escobar). Among current GMs, Williams has a history with Bowden, Bavasi, Brian Sabean, Dave Littlefield, Bill Stoneman, Kevin Towers, Billy Beane, Josh Byrnes, Brian Cashman, Omar Minaya, Dan O’Dowd, Ned Coletti, Theo Epstein, Pat Gillick, Doug Melvin, and Dayton Moore. He’s definitely shown a tendency to trade with newly anointed general managers like Moore and Gillick, among others.
One thing’s for sure: Sabean is due to make some deals. He’s yet to make a single trade in 2006. He waited til May last year, but ended up making eight trades in 2005. Sabean typically makes about five trades per calendar year.
Of his 26 trades since 2001, Sabean has dealt with 18 different GMs. He’s not one to just stick to his buddies. As far as popular trading partners, Doug Melvin tops the list. Melvin has completed four trades with Sabean, all fairly minor (Doug Mirabelli, Eric Young, Wayne Franklin, Dave Burba). Sabean has also made multiple trades with Mike Flanagan, Jim Hendry, Bill Stoneman, and Kenny Williams.
The Giants need some help at first base, with Todd Walker and Phil Nevin surfacing as options. Sabean is not afraid to make a splash at the deadline, with such acquisitions as Jason Schmidt, Kenny Lofton, Sidney Ponson, and Randy Winn under his belt from previous Julys.
Sabean beat out the Cubs and Twins for Schmidt in ’01. To get Ponson in ’03, Sabean dealt with competition from the Braves and traded one of his best prospects in Kurt Ainsworth.