This Date In Transactions History Rumors

This Date In Transaction History: DeJesus, Castro

It was on or around this date when a couple of interesting transactions occurred over the last two seasons. Together, they show some of the possibilities that we could still see over the last dozen or so days of the month.

Last year, the Nationals completed the acquisition of outfielder David DeJesus from the Cubs on August 19th after claiming him off revocable waivers in the days before. And on today’s date in 2012, the Cubs reportedly reached agreement with shortstop Starlin Castro on a seven-year, $60MM extension.

The DeJesus transaction was somewhat curiously received at the time — there was even a suggestion that it had been a mistake — but makes better sense in retrospect. Though the foundering Nats would go on to make a decent but too-late run at postseason contention, the club was well out of the race at the time. And the veteran DeJesus had roughly $2.5MM in guaranteed money left on his deal (including a buyout of a $6.5MM option for this season). As it turned out, DeJesus was placed back on waivers almost immediately and was claimed by the Rays, who ultimately shipped minor league pitcher Matthew Spann to D.C. for the outfielder.

In various comments, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo explained that he had been making use of the team’s “positioning on the waiver wire,” believing that the club could add a prospect by making the claim. Though Spann was not a major add, Rizzo said that he was pleased to add system depth and believed he might have done better if DeJesus had cleared. He also indicated that the team would have been comfortable keeping DeJesus and intended to pursue him in free agency if his option were to be declined. (DeJesus ultimately had his option picked up and signed an extension with Tampa.) Indeed, Washington went on to sign left-handed hitting outfielder Nate McLouth to a two-year, $10.75MM free agent deal that was nearly identical to the two years and $10.5MM that DeJesus got from the Rays.

Let’s turn to Castro, who was just 22 years of age at the time of his deal and signed away the remainder of his twenties for a nice guarantee. Castro was to qualify for arbitration as a Super Two player at the end of the 2012 season, and the extension covered all of his arb eligibility while also buying up three projected free agent-eligible seasons. That deal looked questionable last year, when Castro slumped to a .245/.284/.347 campaign, but Castro has restored his shine in 2014. Over 528 plate appearances, he owns a .286/.333/.433 triple-slash with 13 home runs. He has been valued at 1.7 rWAR, though a more favorable defensive rating from UZR (as opposed to the Total Zone metric utilized by Baseball-Reference) boosts Castro’s fWAR to a strong 2.6 mark.

As things stand, the contract looks to be a solid asset, and it will be interesting to see whether Chicago ultimately looks to cash it in for an alternative, such as young pitching. Though Castro is still just 24, and could be an important anchor for the team’s hoped-for renaissance, the Cubs also have a much-championed assortment of talented, even younger middle infielders filtering up. Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez have already reached the bigs, while the recently-acquired Addison Russell is playing at Double-A. While there is certainly no rush for the team to make any moves, and plenty of options remain for allocating those young bats around the field, Castro’s extended control makes for ample flexibility.


This Date In Transactions History: June 19th

Here’s a look back at some of the more important and interesting transactions that have taken place on June 19th..

  • On this date in 2006, the Red Sox designated J.T. Snow for assignment.  Snow, who had a very notable career with the Giants, had a rather forgetful partial season in Boston.  After batting .205/.340/.205 in 38 games and seeing sparse playing time, Snow requested to be DFA’d.  That marked the “real” end of his playing career, though San Francisco signed Snow to a one-day contract in September of 2008.  Snow took the field on September 27th against the Dodgers and was removed before the first pitch to allow him to retire as a member of the Giants.
  • On June 19, 1999, the Dodgers signed Hong-Chih Kuo to a free agent contract with a $1.25MM bonus.  Unfortunately, elbow problems kept Kuo from taking the mound for the Dodgers until the 2006 season.  Kuo proved to be well worth the wait.   From 2005-2010, the left-hander posted a 3.19 ERA with 10.5 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 and even earned an All-Star selection in ’10.
  • On this date in 1995, Darryl Strawberry signed with the Yankees after serving a suspension stemming from cocaine use.  In 32 regular season games for the Bombers that season, Strawberry posted a .276/.364/.448 slash line.  Over parts of five seasons with the Bombers, Strawberry slashed .255/.362/.502.

This Date In Transactions History: Yogi Berra

On this date in 1965, Yogi Berra’s playing career, and his brief stint as a player for the Mets, came to a close.  If you don’t remember Yogi’s time playing for the Mets, there’s a good reason for that.

Berra first retired following the Yankees’ 1963 World Series loss to the Dodgers and took over as manager for the Pinstripes in 1964.  When he was fired from the job despite guiding the Yanks to the AL Pennant, Berra decided that he would return to the field for the Mets’ crosstown rivals in a player-coach role.  The soon-to-be 40-year-old inked a deal with the orange and blue in late April and made his debut on May 1st against the Reds as a reserve.

Berra’s playing stint for the Mets lasted a grand total of four games and he notched two hits in his nine plate appearances.  His time on the field for the Mets wasn’t all that memorable but it did add another fun wrinkle to the Hall of Famer’s resume.  It also helped give birth to yet another Yogi-ism.  As legend goes, when he was asked if he and teammate Warren Spahn were the oldest battery in baseball, Yogi responded, “I don’t think we’re the oldest battery, but we’re certainly the ugliest.”

The first half of Berra’s player/coach title didn’t work out as planned and the Mets “released” him after he saw time in just four May games on this date 49 years ago.  However, Berra would stay with the organization for the next eight seasons as a coach until 1972, when he became manager after the passing of Gil Hodges.

Yogi’s short time on the field became an entree to a post-playing career with the Mets, but it also delayed is eligibility for the Baseball Hall of Fame by a couple of years.  After garnering just 67.2% of the vote in his first try in 1971, Berra cruised to a nomination in 1972 with 85.6% approval, putting him only behind Sandy Koufax in that year’s class.



This Date In Transactions History: Dave Winfield

On this date in 1990, the Yankees traded future Hall of Famer Dave Winfield to the California Angels for right-hander Mike Witt.  However, the deal was not truly consummated until almost a week later when the rightfielder would finally give the deal his blessing.  Winfield’s situation was a complicated one: the veteran had ten-and-five rights and therefore had the right to reject trades.  However, his contract included a list of seven teams that he would agree to be traded to and the Angels were on it.

This has nothing to do with the California Angels. I respect them, like them, the city, the weather,” said Winfield on May 12th, according to Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times. “I played with [Angel Manager] Doug Rader [in San Diego]. Everything’s cool. I have nothing bad to say about the Angels. I’m going to play a lot of years for somebody, but it isn’t going to be determined today where or when..

Donald Fehr, the executive director of the Players Association, argued that the list was given to the Yankees under protest and the club was aware that Winfield had final say over any trade.  Fehr cited another botched deal from 1988 which would have send the outfielder to the Astros until it was rejected by Winfield.  One could assume that Winfield’s refusal to sign off on on the trade stemmed from his infamous rift with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, but there was a much simpler explanation for his veto.  The outfielder was in the final year of his ten-year, $20MM deal and was looking for a contract extension from the Halos.

The Angels were now in an awkward position and ultimately decided to give in to Winfield’s demands.  On May 17th, the club agreed to a three-year, $9.1MM deal with Winfield that was only guaranteed for the first season.  If released before the ’91 campaign, Winfield would receive a buyout of $2MM plus an additional $450K to cover the following year.  With that, the deal was finally put through.

For his part, Witt was excited by the prospect of joining the Yankees and resuming his role as a starter.  The 6’4″ hurler turned in a 4.47 ERA with 5.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 16 starts for the Bombers that season.  As for Winfield, he bounced back in spectacular fashion after getting off to a slow start in the first 20 games of the season.  Upon joining the Angels, Winfield hit .275/.348/.466 in 112 games and won the 1990 MLB Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Winfield would call it quits after the 1995 season, capping off a spectacular 22-year major league career.  The right fielder was inducted into Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility of 2001 and became the first player to go into the Hall as a San Diego Padre.

This post was initially published on May 11th, 2012.


This Date In Transactions History: January 8th

On this date in 2011, the Cubs traded minor leaguer Hak-Ju Lee, Chris Archer, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld ,and Brandon Guyer to the Rays for Matt Garza, Fernando Perez and Zac Rosscup.  Garza would go on to post a 3.45 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 across two years and change (60 starts) for the Cubs.  After finishing the 2013 season with the Rangers, Garza now finds himself as one of the top starting pitchers available on the open market.  Here's a look at other significant moves that have gone down on 1/8..

  • In 2010, the Astros signed Brett Myers for one-year and $5.1MM guaranteed. He rewarded them with a 3.14 ERA in 223 2/3 innings, so they rewarded him with two-year, $21MM extension.
  • That same day, the Royals inked Scott Podsednik to a one-year, $1.75MM contract. He hit .310/.353/.400 with 29 steals in Kansas City before being traded to the Dodgers for a pair of minor leaguers before the deadline.
  • Long-time Padre Trevor Hoffman agreed to a one-year, $6MM contract with the Brewers in 2009. He was fantastic in 2009, pitching to a 1.83 ERA with 37 saves in 54 innings, though 2010 didn't go so well and wound up being his final season.
  • The Angels finalized their one-year, $6MM contract with Shea Hillenbrand on this date back in 2007. Not only did he hit .254/.275/.325 in 204 plate appearances for the Halos, but he also made some disparaging remarks about the team. He was cut that June.
  • In 2005, the Indians signed Kevin Millwood to a one-year, $7MM contract. He led the league with a 2.86 ERA in 192 innings, but only had nine wins to show for it. 
  • The Tigers acquired Carlos Guillen from the Mariners on this day in 2004, sending Ramon Santiago and a minor leaguer to Seattle. Guillen has hit .299/.369/.480 in seven seasons with Detroit, while Santiago was released (only to re-sign with the Tigers) a year later.
  • A three-team trade was completed back in 2001. The A's acquired Johnny Damon, Mark Ellis, and Cory Lidle, while the Royals acquired Angel Berroa, Roberto Hernandez, and A.J. Hinch. Tampa Bay walked away with former Rookie of the Year Ben Grieve. In hindsight, Oakland was the clear winner here.
  • Some other players involved in transactions on this date: Rocco Baldelli, Mark Loretta, Doug Mientkiewicz, Braden Looper, Julio Franco, two different Juan Gonzalezes, Harold Baines, Darryl Strawberry, and Rich Aurilia twice.

Mike Axisa's post from 2011 was used in the creation of this post.


This Date In Transactions History: January 1st

New Year's Day isn't typically a hotbed of activity in baseball, but we have seen a few significant moves go down on January 1st.  The biggest 1/1 transaction happened in 2012, when the Blue Jays acquired Jason Frasor from the White Sox in exchange for right-handed pitchers Myles Jaye and Daniel Webb

Beyond the fact that the White Sox and Blue Jays didn't take a holiday (much like MLBTR), it was an interesting deal for a number of reasons.  For starters, Frasor returned to Toronto just five months after he was shipped to Chicago in a July deal.  That trade saw him packaged with right-hander Zach Stewart in exchange for right-hander Edwin Jackson and utility man Mark Teahen.  Of course, Jackson's tenure with the Blue Jays was short-lived as he was flipped to the Cardinals for center fielder Colby Rasmus later that day.

The deal was also notable because Frasor just had his $3.75MM club option exercised on Halloween of 2011. The White Sox's return on this trade wasn't spectacular – neither Jaye nor Webb were considered to be strong prospects and had yet to advance to Double-A.  However, (then) General Manager Kenny Williams would have gotten absolutely nothing had he declined Frasor's 2012 option.  It would appear that Chicago exercised Frasor's option year for the express purpose of trading him.

Frasor had a decent year in his second act north of the border, turning in a 4.12 ERA with 10.9 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in 50 appearances.  After leaving Toronto for the Rangers last year, Frasor posted a stellar 2.57 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 61 games, and recently re-signed with Texas.

Meanwhile, the 6'3" pitchers sent to Chicago both spent 2012 in Single-A Kannapolis before moving up in level for 2013. Webb, 24, put up a 1.87 ERA last year, most of it spent at the Double-A and Triple-A level, and could soon be ready to contribute to a MLB pen. Jaye, 22, managed to crack Baseball Prospectus's organizational top ten list before the year, and threw well enough at High-A (4.11 ERA in 118 1/3 innings pitched) to earn a single Double-A start.

This post was adapted from a January 1, 2013 post written by MLBTR's Zach Links.


This Date In Transactions History: November 28th

Expecting a quiet day on Thanksgiving?  it's true that things tend to slow down on the major holidays, but the business of baseball never stops.  Thanksgiving itself might not have a lengthy trade history, but we've had some notable transactions go down on November 28th..

  • The Rays and Twins completed a six-player trade on this date in 2007.  The Rays received Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, and Eddie Morlan while Minnesota received Delmon Young, Brendan Harris, and Jason Pridie. The Rays were the winners of the trade with Garza and Barlett helping their new team to its first World Series in 2008.  The Twins didn't come away totally empty-handed, however.  It's easy to forget now, but Young had a career season in 2010, hitting .298/.333/.493 with 21 homers.  Today, Garza finds himself as one of the most desirable starting pitchers on the free agent market.
  • On the same day, the Reds signed Francisco Cordero to a four-year, $46MM deal.  Cordero pitched to a 2.96 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in four seasons with Cincinnati, but he's had a rough time ever since.  Cordero has been derailed by injuries and at last check, the reliever is shooting for a return in 2014.
  • On this date in 2003, the Red Sox acquired Curt Schilling from the Diamondbacks for Casey Fossum, Brandon Lyon, Jorge de la Rosa, and minor leaguer Michael Gross. Schilling helped Boston to World Championships in 2004 and 2007, and other than Lyon (4.03 ERA in 232 IP), Arizona didn't get much out of this trade.
  • The Mariners signed David Ortiz, a young slugger out of the Dominican Republic, on this date in 1992, and eventually traded him to the Twins four years later.  Of course, Big Papi would go on to find his greatest success in Boston.

Mike Axisa's post from 2010 was used in the creation of this post.


This Date In Transactions History: Alex Rios

Ever get the sense of deja vu?  It's a feeling that Alex Rios probably experienced this week.  On this date in 2009, the White Sox selected Alex Rios off of waivers from the Blue Jays.  At the time, Rios was 28 and was owed $60MM more on his contract.  For the rebuilding Toronto club, it was an opportunity to shed payroll with an eye on the future while the White Sox took a gamble to help bolster their club for the short and long-term. 

At the time, Rios was hitting .264/.317/.427 with 14 homers in 479 plate appearances for the Blue Jays.  While the Blue Jays weren't having a dismal season, their 54-57 mark at the time was good for fourth in the American League East and had them 14.5 games behind the first place Yankees.  And while Rios' offensive production wasn't anything to sneeze at, it wasn't on a par with the .299/.352/.505 combined slash line that he turned in during his All-Star seasons in 2006 and 2007.

Meanwhile, the acquisition of Rios continued a rather expensive summer for White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf as it was just days after landing Jake Peavy at the deadline for Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Adam Russell, and Dexter Carter.  Between the two, Chicago agreed to take on more than $100MM in future commitments.  Strangely enough, the summer of 2013 saw both players jettisoned from Chicago.  

This time around, it was the White Sox who found themselves as sellers and it only made sense for them to purge some of their more desirable veterans from their payroll.  The August 2013 Rios deal seemed like a longshot to happen, but ultimately the outfielder was sent to Texas along with $1MM for a player to be named later.  The Rangers hope that Rios can be the big bat that they need for their playoff push and the White Sox hope that they can use their new found flexibility to help build for the future.


This Date In Transactions History: January 1st

New Year's Day isn't typically a hotbed of activity in baseball, but we have seen a few significant moves go down on January 1st.  The biggest 1/1 transaction happened just last year when the Blue Jays acquired Jason Frasor from the White Sox in exchange for right-handed pitchers Myles Jaye and Daniel Webb

Beyond the fact that the White Sox and Blue Jays didn't take a holiday (much like MLBTR), it was an interesting deal for a number of reasons.  For starters, Frasor returned to Toronto just five months after he was shipped to Chicago in a July deal.  That trade saw him packaged with right-hander Zach Stewart in exchange for right-hander Edwin Jackson and utility man Mark Teahen.  Of course, Jackson's tenure with the Blue Jays was short-lived as he was flipped to the Cardinals for center fielder Colby Rasmus later that day.

The deal was also notable because Frasor just had his $3.75MM club option exercised on Halloween of 2011. The White Sox's return on this trade wasn't spectacular – neither Jaye nor Webb were considered to be strong prospects and had yet to advance to Double-A.  However, (then) General Manager Kenny Williams would have gotten absolutely nothing had he declined Frasor's 2012 option.  It would appear that Chicago exercised Frasor's option year for the express purpose of trading him.

Frasor had a decent year in his second act north of the border, turning in a 4.12 ERA with 10.9 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in 50 appearances.  The right-hander is still on the open market and is said to be receiving interest from the Brewers.  Meanwhile, the 6'3" pitchers sent to Chicago both spent 2012 in Single-A Kannapolis.  Webb (23) and Jaye (21) didn't set the world on fire, but the youngsters still have plenty of baseball in front of them.


This Week In Transactions History: Messersmith-McNally Decision

The game of baseball changed forever this week in 1975. No, not how the game was played on the field, but how the game was played off the field. Thirty seven years ago this week, arbitrator Peter Seitz issued his historic decision making pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally true free agents. Federal district and appeals courts both upheld Seitz's opinion, effectively voiding baseball's reserve clause.

The reserve clause allowed teams to renew a player's contract "for the period of one year on the same terms," except that the salary could be cut by as much as 20%. Players generally signed new contracts, so the process had the effect of holding the player to the team with which he first signed indefinitely. This eliminated competition and suppressed salaries to the benefit of the owners and to the dissatisfaction of the players.

In 1975, Messersmith and McNally were the only two players bound to their teams, the Dodgers and Expos respectively, on the basis of the reserve clause. Since neither signed a contract during that option year, both insisted that they were free to sign with other teams the following season. The owners disagreed.

The grievance was submitted to arbitration with MLBPA executive director Marvin Miller and players Joe Torre and Jim Bouton testifying for the players. Meanwhile, commissioner Bowie Kuhn, NL president Chub Feeney, and AL president Lee MacPhail testified for the owners. The hearing lasted three days and produced an 842-page transcript with 97 exhibits. Seitz sided with the players, ruling owners could not maintain a player's services indefinitely. Messersmith went on to sign a three-year deal with the Braves worth $1MM while McNally, who quit baseball in June 1975, remained retired. 

The decision created a true free agent market and salaries skyrocketed. According to Baseball Almanac, the average salary in 1975 was $44,676. Today, the Associated Press (via ESPN.com) reports the average salary is over $3.2MM, an increase of nearly 7,100%.

The free agency windfall has continued this offseason with the top five richest free agent contracts, based on MLBTR's Free Agent Tracker, totaling nearly $500MM. This includes the richest contract ever given to a right-handed pitcher (Zack Greinke's $147MM), a record average annual value (AAV) for any pitcher on a multiyear contract (also Greinke at $24.5MM), and the fifth player in MLB history to receive a contract with an AAV of at least $25MM (Josh Hamilton at $25MM). The Indians recently agreed to sign Nick Swisher to a four-year, $56MM contract, but Swisher's AAV of $14MM doesn't even crack the top 50 list of the highest-paid players in baseball history (based on AAV), as compiled by Cot's Baseball Contracts.

In his opinion, Seitz summarized the owners' argument that eliminating the reserve clause "would encourage many other players to elect to become free agents at the end of their renewal years, that this would encourage clubs with the largest monetary resources to engage free agents, thus unsettling the competitive balance between the clubs, so essential to the sport…that driven by the compulsion to win, owners of franchises would overextend themselves financially in improvident bidding for players."

It could be argued that the owners weren't far off the mark. The George Steinbrenner reign of the Yankees featured some lavish spending and the next few Dodgers teams are poised to set National League payroll records under the ownership of Guggenheim Baseball Management. 

What was Seitz's reward for changing the game of baseball? He was fired the same day he issued his opinion by the owner's representative in labor matters and asked to refrain from writing or discussing the historic decision. However, on the day of his ruling, Seitz put his decision in context saying, "I am not Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation."  

Seitz may have downplayed the effect his ruling would have on baseball, but no decision in the last half century has had such a profound impact on the business side of the sport.

Thanks to Sports Illustrated for some historical information.