Transaction Retrospection Rumors

Transaction Retrospection: Helton & Tulowitzki Deals

Todd Helton recently announced that he will retire after the 2013 season, providing an opportunity to reflect on his excellent career. Helton will spend his entire big-league tenure with one team, a rarity in this era, and that's due at least in part to the gigantic $142MM extension he signed in 2001.

Helton has had a textbook career path. He reached the Majors at age 23, improved through his first three seasons, and peaked from ages 26 through 30, then began a long, gradual decline phase, playing less and less effectively as his power, and then his ability to hit for average, deserted him. His career has also been typical in that he was dramatically underpaid for many of his best years and overpaid for many of his worst ones. Helton produced 8.3 wins above replacement as a 26-year-old in 2000, when he made $1.3MM. He produced between 5.5 and 7.1 WAR in all of the next four seasons, then never topped 4.4 WAR again.

Helton's massive contract did not kick in until 2003, which means that the Rockies paid $142MM and only got two seasons above 4.4 WAR. For the life of the contract, the Rockies received 30 WAR over nine years. That's not a terrible total, but it's not a good one either, given that a win on the free-agent market in, say, 2005 was worth much less than the $5-6MM it's worth now. Fangraphs' dollar values suggest that Helton was worth $105MM over the life of the contract, about $37MM less than he was paid. (Helton would have been arbitration-eligible in 2003, also, which means he also might have made a hair less in that season, one of his best in the entire contract, than the $10.6MM the extension paid him.)

The deal also made Helton one of MLB's highest-paid players even though the Rockies have never really been a high-payroll team, and there were several years in which Helton's contract made up about a quarter of the Rockies' Opening Day payroll. The Rockies made the playoffs twice and had three winning seasons over the life of the contract.

None of that is Helton's fault. He was an outstanding player in his prime and a pretty good one in his 30s, and the Rockies just happened to pay too heavily for him. It was a little surprising, then, that as they watched Helton's decline years unfold, they signed shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to another bank-busting contract.

Tulowitzki's contract was, in a way, even more remarkable than Helton's, in that the Rockies committed to it in late 2010 even though they already had Tulowitzki under control through 2014, after which he would be 30 years old. The Rockies effectively committed $119MM in new money to cover the 2015 through 2020 seasons, ending right around Tulowitzki's 36th birthday. From 2015 through 2019, Tulowitzki will make $20MM per year. For much of that time, they'll also have Carlos Gonzalez's backloaded $80MM contract to contend with. Gonzalez agreed to his deal, which essentially bought out four pre-free-agency seasons at $27MM and three free-agent years for $53MM, five weeks after Tulowitzki got his.

Tulowitzki's performance since he signed the contract has revealed both its potential upside and its potential downside. If he continues to play as he has in 2013, when he has produced 5.5 WAR, the contract will be a bargain. But as he ages, it will be difficult to sustain that level of performance, particularly if he suffers more injuries like the groin strain that caused him to miss much of the 2012 season.

So why did the Rockies sign Tulowitzki to such an enormous extension? "It was the right thing to do," Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd said at the time. "We believe in character, team and integrity."

The extension reportedly grew out of a broader conversation between Tulowitzki and O'Dowd. "The maturity of understanding the continuity and stability of things and what he's trying to become as a man led me to say to our owner, 'I think maybe we should explore this right now,'" O'Dowd said. The Rockies evidently believe that character, maturity and other intangibles are very valuable. Many teams talk about the importance of character, but there's ample reason to believe it when the Rockies are doing the talking.

Of course, keeping a star player in a market surely has financial value in merchandise sales and fan loyalty. That kind of value is difficult to measure for us outsiders, but the Rockies surely have some idea what kind of loyalty value the Helton extension has provided, and how keeping Tulowitzki around for several more years might benefit them beyond just his performance on the field. Regardless, it's difficult to imagine how those sorts of tough-to-measure benefits might compensate for the $37MM the Rockies appear to have overpaid Helton for his performance from 2003 through 2011, and the Rockies' performance as a team over that period hasn't helped answer those questions.

Tulowitzki is a different player, obviously, and his extension may turn out well. In fact, it's less risky than Helton's was. The $20MM annual salaries for 2015 through 2019 are high, but they aren't that high when one accounts for salary inflation. If a win is worth $5-6MM now, it could easily be worth $6-7MM in, say, 2018, which means that Tulowitzki would only need to provide about 3 WAR annually to make the deal a decent one for the Rockies. (It's hard to say for sure how new TV deals will continue to affect the salary landscape, but the Rockies' expires in 2014.) There's also the fact that Tulowitzki plays good defense, or at least he does now — his ability to field at a premium position should prevent the contract from being a complete debacle.

Of course, that assumes he stays healthy. Tulowitzki missed significant chunks of the 2008, 2010 and 2012 seasons with injuries, and players tend not to get healthier as they get older. Sports Illustrated's Joe Lemire points out the parallels between Tulowitzki and Nomar Garciaparra, who suffered from a number of injuries and never put up a star-caliber season after age 29. As Lemire also points out, though, Derek Jeter also had an enormous contract that carried him through his mid-30s, and he played very well until almost the very end of it.

Unless the Rockies substantially raise their payroll in the coming years, the Tulowitzki extension does represent a risk. Tulowitzki's injuries could continue to be a problem as he enters his 30s, a decade that is generally unkind to ballplayers anyway. Unlike Helton's contract, though, Tulowitzki's deal won't make him one of the sport's highest-paid players, and Tulowitzki won't have to perform at quite as high a level as Helton would have to justify the contract.


Transaction Retrospection: The Mark Reynolds Trade

It's been more than two and a half years since Mark Reynolds was traded to the Orioles from the D'Backs, but it was interesting to see each of the key players in the trade pop up in headlines last week. Reynolds was designated for assignment by the Indians, while setup man David Hernandez was optioned to Triple-A Reno by the D'Backs.

Those weren't the only names involved in the trade, of course. Arizona also sent backstop John Hester to Baltimore, who sent right-hander Kameron Mickolio to the D'Backs as well. Let's take a look at each player in the deal and how they panned out with their new teams…

  • Mark Reynolds: Reynolds was 27 at the time of the trade and just a season removed from the finest year of his Major League career. In 2009, he hit .260/.349/.543 with 44 homers and 24 stolen bases in 155 games. ReynoldsWhile he led the NL in strikeouts, the breakout campaign led to lofty expectations, of which Reynolds fell very short in 2010. Reynolds followed up his monster season by hitting .198/.320/.433, prompting GM Kevin Towers to ship him to Baltimore. With the O's, Reynolds hit .221/.328/.458 with 60 homers in two seasons before being non-tendered last November. He hit a blistering .247/.352/.532 with 15 homers in the season's final 52 games last year, helping the O's stave off the Rays and earn a Wild Card berth. But in 22 postseason at-bats, he collected just three hits and struck out 10 times. Reynolds' defensive limitations outweighed his power, as Fangraphs pegged him as a below-replacement-level player in Baltimore (-0.2 WAR).
  • John Hester: Hester never appeared in a game for the O's, who ultimately released him last season. He batted .254/.324/.341 in 82 games for Triple-A Norfolk in 2011 and appeared in 10 more for Norfolk before his release and subsequent signing with the Angels.
  • David Hernandez: Hernandez was outstanding for the Snakes in 2011-12, posting a 2.94 ERA with 11.4 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 137 2/3 innings. He picked up 15 saves while filling in as the closer as J.J. Putz was on the DL in those seasons as well. However, Hernandez has seen his command worsen and his swinging-strike rate drop in 2013, leading to a drop in strikeouts. He's also become increasingly homer-prone, which explains the large discrepancy between his 5.59 ERA and 4.17 xFIP. He's controlled for two more seasons after this one, so he has time to sort things out and return to his status as one of the game's best setup men. Hernandez's 3.5 fWAR from 2011-12 ranked seventh among MLB relievers.
  • Kam Mickolio: Mickolio was one of the pieces that Baltimore received in the Erik Bedard heist with Seattle, but he never caught on in Baltimore and didn't fare any better with the Diamondbacks. He appeared in just six games for Arizona in 2011, allowing five runs on 10 hits and three walks in 6 2/3 innings. He was slightly better at Triple-A, where he posted a 4.97 ERA in 58 innings with the Reno Aces. Mickolio, now 29 years old, has potentially revived his career by posting a 2.65 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 over his past 98 1/3 innings of relief. The only problem for Arizona is that he's done it for the Hiroshima Carp of Nippon Pro Baseball, as he was released following the 2011 season and signed in Japan.

Overall, the trade looks better for the Diamondbacks than it does the Orioles, even if neither of the key components is a factor in the clubs' current playoff pushes. Baltimore received some added pop to its lineup, but that power came at the expense of Reynolds' poor defense, limiting his overall value to the team. Shedding Reynolds' remaining $13MM in salary was a win for Arizona looks now to have been a victory in its own right, and Hernandez's presence tips the scale in their favor rather decisively, even if he never regains the form he showed in his age 26-27 seasons.

Click here for more entries in the Transaction Retrospection series, and remember that you can use MLBTR's Transaction Tracker to look back on trades and analyze them at any time. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Transaction Retrospection: The Jackson-Hudson Trade

It's not often that you see a well-regarded starting pitcher (or any well-regarded player, for that matter) appear on eight different teams prior to his 30th birthday, but that's the situation in which Edwin Jackson currently finds himself. Of course, Jackson inked a four-year deal with the Cubs that should give him some stability, but that's not his first stop in Chicago.

Jackson spent parts of two seasons across town as a member of the White Sox rotation from 2010-11. General manager Kenny Williams swung a midseason deal in 2010 that brought a struggling Jackson from the Diamondbacks to the White Sox in exchange for right-hander Daniel Hudson (23 years old at the time) and minor league lefty David Holmberg (18). It's been nearly three years since that trade occurred, so let's take a look at the players involved…

The Major League Side:Edwin

  • Edwin Jackson: While he had thrown a no-hitter for the D-backs that season, Jackson was struggling at the time of the trade. He'd posted a 5.16 ERA in in 21 starts but was coming off a solid 2009 campaign and had one and a half years of team control remaining. Jackson turned things around with the South Siders in a big way. His K/9 rate soared from 7.0 to 9.2 while his BB/9 dropped from 4.0 to 2.2. Jackson contributed 1.9 WAR (per Fangraphs) to an 88-win season for the White Sox, but they came up short and finished second in the AL Central. He was terrific in the first half of 2011 as well, posting an even 3.0 WAR before being traded to the Blue Jays (who immediately flipped him to St. Louis) in a deal that netted Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart while also freeing the Sox of the remaining $7.2MM on Mark Teahen's contract.
  • Daniel Hudson: Hudson ranked as Chicago's No. 3 prospect, per Baseball America, prior to the 2010 season. He'd struggled in three big league starts that year, but he was a revelation for the Diamondbacks down the stretch. In 11 starts following the trade, Hudson posted a 1.69 ERA, 7.9 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9, cementing his place in Arizona's rotation. He followed up that 2.2 WAR effort with an incredible 4.9-win sophomore campaign for the D-backs, but he was a Tommy John victim after just nine ugly starts in 2012. All told, Hudson has a 3.58 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 347 innings as a Diamondback. He's not yet eligible for arbitration and can be controlled through 2016.

The Minor League Side:

  • David Holmberg: At the time of the trade, Holmberg was BA's eighth-ranked White Sox prospect, but he'd struggled to a 4.46 ERA in eight starts in the rookie-level Pioneer League that season. Holmberg has ascended quickly, however, and now ranks as the D-backs' No. 6 prospect according to BA and the No. 8 prospect according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. BA notes that Holmberg is likely to reach his ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter in the Major Leagues thanks to his plus command and a very strong changeup. His fastball sits 88-91 mph and can touch 93 at times. Mayo notes that while Tyler Skaggs is the lefty who gets all of the buzz in the Diamondbacks' system, Holmberg "isn't that far behind him." Holmberg reached Double-A as a 20-year-old in 2012 and made 15 solid starts. Now 21 years of age, he's opened the 2013 season at the same level and sports a 3.10 ERA 6.3 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 151 career Double-A innings.

Three years later, it looks like the Diamondbacks got a very good return for a talented but struggling starter. It's conceivable that within the next two seasons, 40 percent of Arizona's rotation will consist of the two players they received in this deal. Jerry Dipoto, the D-backs' GM at the time of the trade (he's now GM of the Angels), did well to secure a pair of prospects who ranked in Chicago's Top 10.

The price Chicago paid doesn't seem crazy either, given Jackson's terrific results with the White Sox. Jackson gave them 4.9 wins above replacement, but most fans will look back on this trade in a negative light due to the lack of return for Jackson when they traded him a year later. That's a fair criticism (and also a trade for another post), but Jackson was every bit the pitcher the White Sox were hoping he'd be when they acquired him. This would probably go down as a win-win had the Sox contended in 2011 or made the playoffs in 2010.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Transaction Retrospection: The Mat Latos Trade

The Reds used only six starting pitchers last season — an unheard of feat these days that serves as a testament to the quality and durability of their rotation. Todd Redmond was the only pitcher outside of the Reds' top five arms to make a start, and he made exactly one. Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake and Mat Latos combined to start the other 161 games. Each of those right-handers has been with the Reds organization since 2009 with the exception of Latos, who was acquired from the Padres in December 2011.

Latos never appeared on a Baseball America Top 100 list, but he wasted little time establishing himself as a front-line starter in San Diego. From 2010-11, he led the Padres staff by compiling 379 innings of 3.21 ERA ball with 8.9 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9.

Latos' name had scarcely appeared on the rumor mill prior to December 17, when Ken Rosenthal broke the news that he'd been traded to the Reds. Cincinnati wound up paying a hefty price for four years of Latos by dealing prospects Yonder Alonso (24 at the time), Yasmani Grandal (22) and Brad Boxberger (23) as well as starter Edinson Volquez to the Padres. Let's examine each player in the deal and see how this one looks today…

The Major League Side

  • Mat Latos: Latos instantly became one of the Reds' top two starters alongside Johnny Cueto, and his first season didn't disappoint. Many questioned whether Latos, who is more of a fly-ball pitcher, could succeed in the confines of Great American Ball Park. LatosLatos answered them by pitching to a 3.48 ERA in 209 1/3 innings. He whiffed 185 batters against just 64 walks and allowed homers at a league-average rate (1.07 HR/9). Latos was forced into action in Game 1 of the NLDS following an injury to Cueto and delivered four brilliant innings of relief, but he was unable to replicate that magic in his second appearance. So far this season, the former 11th round pick has a 1.83 ERA with 37 strikeouts and eight walks in 39 1/3 innings so far. He signed a two-year, $11.5MM contract in the offseason that bought out his first two years of arbitration. Assuming another successful two seasons, he'll likely earn well over $10MM in his final year of arbitration eligibility, although the Reds could pursue a long-term contract extension that would delay his free agency. Fangraphs pegs Latos' value to the Reds at 4.0 wins above replacement to this point.
  • Yonder Alonso: Alonso was the No. 33 prospect in the game and the Reds' No. 3 prospect at the time of the deal, according to Baseball America. His first season with the Friars could be considered a disappointment by some due to his lack of power, but the former No. 7 overall pick was still an above-average bat (109 OPS+) thanks to a .278/.348/.393 batting line. He's already homered four times in 2013 after hitting just nine in 2012, so it seems that the alterations to Petco Park's dimensions and another year of experience have done the young slugger some good. Under team control through 2017, the Padres are counting on Alonso to be the first baseman for San Diego's next contending team. So much so, in fact, that they traded Anthony Rizzo less than a month after acquiring Alonso in the Latos deal.
  • Yasmani Grandal: The No. 53 prospect in baseball and No. 4 in the Reds' system at the time of the deal (per BA), Grandal burst onto the scene as the Padres' everyday catcher last season. After raking to the tune of a .335/.443/.521 line in Triple-A, he hit .297/.394/.469 in 60 games for the Padres. That line would be impressive enough for any rookie, but it's particularly impressive for a catcher who spent half his time hitting at Petco Park. Of course, Grandal was slapped with a 50-game suspension this offseason due to an elevated testosterone level, so he has yet to join Alonso in the middle of the Pads' lineup.
  • Edinson Volquez: Volquez's inclusion in the deal gave the Padres an experienced Major League arm to immediately fill Latos' void in their rotation. Volquez came with upside, as he was three years removed from a 3.9 WAR season. He didn't come close to that level, but he did provide 1.1 WAR by hurling 182 2/3 innings of 4.14 ERA ball with 8.6 K/9, 5.2 BB/9 and a 50.6 percent ground-ball rate. He's been worse in 2013, though he did turn in a good start today. The 29-year-old Volquez, who was once traded for Josh Hamilton, will be eligible for free agency following the 2013 season.

The Prospect Side

  • Brad Boxberger: Only Boxberger can still be considered a "prospect" in this deal, and that's a bit of a stretch as he appeared in 24 games for the Padres last season. He still has rookie eligibility, however, and was ranked 15th among Padres' prospects by BA and 18th by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. Boxberger had a strong 2.60 ERA and 10.7 K/9 for the Padres in 2012, but he walked 18 batters in 27 2/3 innings and also hit two. BA writes that Boxberger's fastball sits 91-93 mph and tops out at 95 with hard cutting action. He favors his changeup heavily over his slider, and BA notes the Reds would like to see him incorporate the third pitch more often. Mayo feels that Boxberger has the stuff to eventually succeed as the Padres' closer, provided he can improve his command issues — a feat which he did achieve in Triple-A last season (3.9 BB/9).

Overall, this trade has the makings of a win-win deal. Volquez has provided little value, but he was also the least significant part of the trade for the Padres, given his lack of team control. San Diego GM Josh Byrnes secured three prospects that he can control through at least the 2017 season in exchange for an established arm that will be in Cincinnati through the 2015 campaign. Based on the early results, Alonso and Grandal look like they will be mainstays in a rebuilding Padres lineup, and Boxberger has the chance to become at least a serviceable middle reliever with upside for more.

Latos has already played a role in giving Cincinnati one of Major League Baseball's best rotations, and given his age, he may have more to offer as his prime years set in. Reds GM Walt Jocketty couldn't have been thrilled about the concept of parting with Alonso and Grandal, but the Reds already had Joey Votto at first base and felt confident that Devin Mesoraco could become their everyday catcher. That hasn't happened yet, but Mesoraco is still just 24 years of age and catchers often take longer to develop offensively. Unlike some of the other trades I've examined in this series, both the Reds and Padres have plenty to feel good about following this swap.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Transaction Retrospection: The Mike Adams Trade

Trade deadlines come and go every year, and in looking back we tend to remember the blockbuster deals. Few will forget last year's Hanley Ramirez deal or 2011's Ubaldo Jimenez trade (even if both teams involved would probably like to). Sometimes though, the smaller deals wind up yielding plentiful returns as well.

Such is the case with the Mike Adams trade of 2011. The last-place Padres shipped their ace setup man to the Rangers for minor league right-hander Joe Wieland (21 years old at the time) and left-hander Robbie Erlin (20 at the time). Here's a look at each of the players involved in this one…

The Major League Side

  • Mike Adams: The Padres initially landed Adams from the Indians in exchange for Brian Sikorski — a right-hander who threw 19 2/3 innings for Cleveland in a fourth-place season (whoops). AdamsAdams broke out in San Diego, posting a 1.66 ERA, 10.0 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 217 innings over parts of four seasons. It was more of the same in Texas following the swap, as Adams totaled 78 innings of 2.88 ERA, 8.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 for the Rangers. Adams was controlled through 2012 at just $2.54MM, so GM Jon Daniels was able to secure a dominant relief arm for a year and a half. He proved to be a bullpen workhorse in the postseason, appearing in 11 of the Rangers' 17 games with a 3.24 ERA. Adams hit the open market this offseason, and not surprisingly he wasn't issued a qualifying offer. He signed a two-year, $12MM with the Phillies, ending his time in the Lone Star state.

The Minor League Side

  • Joe Wieland: A fourth-round pick in the 2008 draft, Wieland ranked as the Rangers' No. 22 prospect prior to the 2011 season, per Baseball America. His stock has soared since that ranking. Wieland reached the big leagues last year and ranks as the No. 8 prospect in San Diego according to BA and No. 7 per MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. Wieland's minor league numbers are impressive: a 3.29 ERA, 8.4 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 438 innings. His 2012 season was cut short by Tommy John surgery, but Wieland posted a 4.55 ERA, 7.8 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in five starts. BA praises Wieland's plus command and four solid pitches. He sits 90-91 mph with his fastball and can run it up to 94 when needed. Mayo notes that all four of Wieland's pitches should be average or better, and both outlets agree that he's a mid-rotation starter if he realizes his potential. His surgery took place last July, so he should pitch again sometime in 2013.
  • Robbie Erlin: Erlin was the bigger prospect at the time of the trade, but BA and Mayo both agree that Wieland has leapfrogged him. BA has him 10th among Padres prospects while Mayo ranks him ninth. Erlin missed about three months of the 2012 season with elbow tendinitis, but was dominant in the 52 1/3 innings he did pitch at Double-A; the 2009 third-rounder posted a 2.92 ERA, 12.4 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. Erlin was impressive in the Arizona Fall League following his injury, finishing second the league with 31 strikeouts in 24 innings. He's undersized (5'11", 190 pounds) and lacks overpowering stuff, with BA noting that his fastball tops out at 92 mph. Mayo commends Erlin's approach of attacking hitters, adding that his pitchability and competitive nature allow his average offerings to play up. Erlin profiles as a No. 4 starter who will benefit from Petco Park, according to BA, and Mayo feels that he's on the brink of the big leagues.

Adams proved to be a durable, highly effective late-inning arm for the Rangers, while the Padres have attained a pair of mid-rotation arms if Erlin and Wieland can overcome their respective arm injuries. Wieland's improvements have helped to make this look like a very strong return for San Diego. Time will tell if Wieland and/or Erlin can stick as big league starters, but I'd have to imagine that San Diego would be thrilled with the trade if even one of the two could be a part of the rotation for the next few years.

Baseball America's 2013 Prospect Handbook was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Transaction Retrospection: The First Hunter Pence Trade

The Astros entered 2013 with a shockingly low payroll by today's standards thanks to a number of offseason trades that were intended to boost their farm system. It's nothing new for Houston — a team that hasn't finished above .500 since the 2008 season. General manager Jeff Luhnow and his staff have done a terrific job of amassing young talent to build promise for the future, but the first step may have been taken by Luhnow's predecessor — Ed Wade.

In July 2011, the last-place Astros had a number of desireable pieces on their roster, but perhaps none more appealing than Hunter Pence. The 28-year-old right fielder was hitting .308/.356/.471 with 11 homers when the Astros traded him to the Phillies (along with $2MM) for a package of four prospects: first baseman Jonathan Singleton (19 years old at the time), right-hander Jarred Cosart (21), right-hander Josh Zeid (24) and right fielder Domingo Santana (18).

Let's look at all of the players involved…

The Major League Side

  • Hunter Pence: The Phillies acquired a year-and-a-half of Pence's service in the deal. He slid into the Phillies' lineup and immediately provided a boost. Pence had homered 11 times in 100 games for the Astros but matched that total in just 54 games for the Phils. He closed out the season on a torrid pace, hitting .324/.394/.560 in 236 trips to the plate as the Phillies marched to a 102-win season and a first-place finish. Pence's second season with the Phillies Pence didn't go as well; his Musial-esque 159 OPS+ dropped to 108, and he was eventually traded to the Giants for a package of players highlighted by catcher Tommy Joseph (that trade could be a whole new post). All told, the Phillies parted with four prospects and were rewarded with 676 plate appearances worth of .289/.357/.486 production and average right field defense. Fangraphs pegs Pence's value in Phildelphia at 3.6 wins above replacement.

The Minor League Side

  • Jonathan Singleton: Singleton has emerged as the best prospect in this deal (Cosart, at the time, was regarded slightly higher). Baseball America ranked him as the game's 39th-best prospect prior to 2011, and he now occupies the No. 27 spot on that list. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo agrees with that ranking and places him first among Astros prospects. BA calls Singleton "the best first base prospect in baseball," noting his plus raw power and ability to hit to all fields. Mayo agrees that he's the best first base prospect in the game, and both think that Singleton could be in the Majors as soon as this season. He hit .284/.396/.497 with 21 homers as a 20-year-old at Double-A last season. Houston fans will have to wait, however, as Singleton is serving a 50-game suspension after testing positive for marijuana.
  • Jarred Cosart: Cosart's stock has fallen after a 2012 season that was slowed by recurring blisters on his pitching hand. He still posted a solid 3.30 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 114 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. He's fallen out of BA's Top 100 and ranks as Houston's No. 7 prospect in their eyes, but Mayo is more of a believer; he ranks Cosart No. 89 in the game and No. 4 in the Astros' system. Both feel that Cosart's stock would soar if he could improve his command of a plus curveball with 11-to-5 break, as it would complement what BA refers to an "electric" fastball that sits 96-97 mph. Some feel that Cosart could end up as a closer, but control of his curveball could have him sitting atop Houston's rotation in the near future.
  • Domingo Santana: Santana, the youngest player in the trade, was included as a PTBNL and viewed a high-risk prospect. He's emerged as the team's No. 11 prospect per BA and No. 13 prospect per Mayo. BA writes that he has significant raw power and an advanced opposite-field approach to pair with enough athleticism to develop into a regular right fielder if things break right. Mayo concurs with that analysis and notes that he has "an outstanding arm that fits perfectly in right field, along with his offensive profile."
  • Josh Zeid: Zeid doesn't rank among the Top 30 prospects in Houston's system per BA or the Top 20 per Mayo, but he ranked as Philadelphia's 23rd prospect at the time of the trade. BA credited Zeid with the best slider in Philly's farm system following the 2010 season, noting that his fastball can reach 97 mph when he's serving in a relief role. That's exactly what he's done since coming to Houston, but he posted an ugly 5.59 ERA in 56 1/3 innings at Double-A last season. However, his 10.5 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and strong 3.52 FIP suggest that there are better times ahead for the 26-year-old. He's pitching at Triple-A Oklahoma City to open this season.

The Phillies gave up quite a bit of talent in order to land Pence, and the Astros are clearly better off for it. Twenty percent of the players in Houston's Top 15 prospects were acquired via this trade, and while there are question marks surrounding some of them, Singleton's future looks more certain. Philadelphia, meanwhile, received a boost to their lineup that helped cement a division championship. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was able to flip Pence one year later to recoup some of the prospect value that he gave up in order to land Pence.

The Phillies got precisely what they were hoping for in Pence, but the Astros appear to be better positioned for the long-haul as a result. Scenarios like this are often the case when dealing prospects for short-term help at the Major League level. Had the Phillies won a World Series title in 2011, there wouldn't be much second-guessing the trade. As it stands, Houston picked up enough future upside that they could eventually make Philadelphia fans regret the deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Transaction Retrospection: The Doug Fister Trade

The Tigers opened the 2011 season with a rotation that consisted of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Phil Coke and Brad Penny. With the non-Verlanders of that group (particularly Coke and Penny) underperforming, the team sought help for the back end of the rotation in July.

They got that help by acquiring Doug Fister (and reliever David Pauley) from the Mariners in exchange for four players: 20-year-old third baseman Francisco Martinez, 26-year-old outfielder Casper Wells, 25-year-old southpaw Charlie Furbush and a player to be named later that would be 22-year-old right-hander Chance Ruffin.

It's hard to believe that the Tigers, Mariners or even Fister himself were prepared for the results of this trade, so let's look at it on a player-by-player level…

The Major League Side

  • Doug Fister: Fister was 27 at the time of the trade and had less than two years of Major League service time. He'd been solid but not spectacular in his brief career, as he was the owner of a 3.81 ERA, 5.2 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 378 innings for the Mariners. He was in the midst of his best season when he was dealt, having pitched to a 3.33 ERA in 146 1/3 innings. FisterFister channeled his inner Greg Maddux upon arriving in Detroit though, allowing just 14 earned runs with a 57-to-5 K/BB ratio in 70 1/3 innings for the AL Central champs. He's significantly upped his strikeout rate in Detroit, and all told he's given them 232 innings of 2.95 ERA ball with a 7.5 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9. Fangraphs pegs Fister's tenure in Detroit at a whopping 5.8 wins above replacement. He's under control for another three seasons and is set to earn $4MM this year after being eligible for arbitration for the first time this past winter. 
  • David Pauley: Pauley is perhaps the forgotten man in this trade, although there's probably a reason for that. The right-hander threw just 19 2/3 innings for the Tigers after the trade, allowing 10 runs on 26 hits and six walks with just 10 strikeouts. Pauley was ulimately released by the Tigers the following spring and appeared in just 16 2/3 innings for the Angels and Blue Jays last year.
  • Charlie Furbush: Furbush floundered in Seattle's rotation in 2011, posting a 6.62 ERA in 10 starts. He thrived when moved to a bullpen role in 2012, however, thanks in large part to trading his curveball-changeup mix for a devastating slider to complement his heater. A triceps strain cost him a month of action last season, but when he was healthy he dominated lefties (.404 OPS) and held right-handed hitters in check as well (.637 OPS). Furbush can be a key bullpen piece in Seattle for a long time; he's not eligible for arbitration until the 2014-15 offseason, and he's under team control through 2017.
  • Casper Wells: Wells brought a good amount of power and some excellent defense to the Mariners. He clubbed 17 homers in addition to a .225/.304/.406 batting line (102 OPS+) and was eight runs above average in 893 innings for Seattle, per The Fielding Bible. Wells is capable of handling all three outfield positions, but the Mariners made the questionable decision to designate him for assignment last week to give Jason Bay a chance.

The Prospect Side

  • Francisco Martinez: Martinez was ranked as the Tigers' No. 4 prospect heading into the 2011 season, per Baseball America. He had reached Double-A at just 20 years of age — a rare feat that was a testament to the "live-bodied, athletic" label that BA slapped on him. He hit .310/.326/.481 for the Mariners' Double-A affiliate in 2011 following the trade, prompting BA to rank him as the team's No. 6 prospect entering 2012. BA praised his bat speed, stating that he "all the raw tools to fit the profile of an everyday third baseman, with the added bonus of plus speed." Martinez took a huge step backward in 2012, however, hitting just .227/.315/.295 in his second Double-A stint. He's dropped to No. 22 on BA's list of Top 30 Mariners prospects and No. 19 according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. The Mariners tried Martinez in center field for 15 games in 2012 because of his plus speed, and Mayo notes that he'll play there exclusively in 2013. Mayo also points out that despite Martinez's struggles in 2012, he did improve his plate discipline — an area in which he'd previously struggled. He'll repeat Double-A in 2013, which isn't as grim as it sounds when considering he just turned 22 in September.
  • Chance Ruffin: Ruffin had to be included as a PTBNL because he had been selected by the Tigers in the 2010 draft (48th overall). He had entered the 2011 season as the Tigers' No. 7 prospect, per BA, and he carried the same designation with the Mariners into the 2012 season. Ruffin actually pitched 14 innings for Seattle in 2011 (3.86 ERA, 15-to-9 K/BB ratio) but reported to Triple-A in 2012. The results were ugly. The Texas alum posted a gruesome 5.99 ERA in 70 2/3 innings and saw his K/9 plummet from 11.1 to 6.9, while his BB/9 increased to 4.5. The brutal season was enough to drop him off Mayo's Top 20 list and knock him back to 27th on BA's Top 30 entering the 2013 season. BA cites erosion of his solid command in college and inconsitent mechanics as the reason for his downfall: "He lands on a stiff front leg and throws across his body, hurting his ability to locate his pitches where he wants. His long arm swing in the back and lower release point make it easy for lefthanders to pick up his pitches, and they hit .294/.348/.516 against him last year." The good news is that BA still likes his stuff, praising a 90-93 mph fastball that can touch 95 mph when needed and a plus slider with late break, which BA calls a true out pitch.

It's easy to see why the Tigers look like big winners in this trade, as the two key pieces of the deal for the Mariners have both taken large steps backward in their development. However, Martinez won't be 23 until September — the same month in which Ruffin will turn 25 — and the team does seem to have a solid bullpen piece already at the Major League level in Furbush. Martinez won't be at such a large age disadvantage in the Southern League this year, which could benefit his numbers. Ruffin will also open the season at Double-A as the Mariners plan to convert him to a starting pitcher (hat tip: Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune).

At the time of the trade, ESPN's Keith Law wrote that the Mariners did well to acquire such a strong package for Fister and Pauley, but clearly the scales have tipped in Detroit's favor. A rebound from Martinez or successful to transition to starting for Ruffin would make this trade look fair, but even if that happens I doubt you'll ever hear the Tigers or their fans complaining about the Doug Fister trade.

Baseball America's 2013 Prospect Handbook was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Transaction Retrospection: The Ubaldo Jimenez Trade

The Indians have overhauled their roster via free agency this season, adding the likes of Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Brett Myers and Mark Reynolds on Major League deals while bringing in notable veterans such as Matt Capps and Daisuke Matsuzaka on minor league pacts. At the 2011 Trade Deadline, however, the Tribe addressed its biggest needs in a different manner, dealing a package of four prospects to the Rockies in exchange for then-ace Ubaldo Jimenez

Cleveland traded right-hander Alex White (22 years old at the time), first baseman Matt McBride (26 at the time), righty Joe Gardner (23 at the time) and lefty Drew Pomeranz (22 at the time) to Colorado in exchange for Jimenez, who had at least two and a half years of team control remaining on a low-cost contract. It was a steep price to pay, as Pomeranz and White represented the Indians' first-round picks from the previous two drafts. Gardner, meanwhile, had entered the season as Cleveland's No. 9 prospect, according to Baseball America.

Let's break the trade down player-by-player… Ubaldo

The Major League Side

  • Ubaldo Jimenez: To say Jimenez has been a disappointment in Cleveland would be putting things lightly. In 242 innings with the Indians, Jimenez has a 5.32 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9. He entered 2012 with a career ground-ball rate near 50 percent, but saw that mark plummet to 38.4 percent last year. His once-blazing fastball has dropped from an average of 96.1 mph from 2009-10 to just 92.5 mph in 2012. His 4.8 BB/9 last season was a career-worst, and he led the American League in both losses (17) and wild pitches (16). In spite of all that, Indians GM Chris Antonetti exercised the team's $5.75MM club option on Jimenez this past offseason in hopes that he can rebound to something in the vicinity of the ace-caliber pitcher he once was. Jimenez is just 29 years of age still, and the price was right for Cleveland to give him another shot. His performance in 2013 will be one of they key factors in Cleveland's fate as their revamped roster makes a run at dethroning the reigning AL Central champion Tigers.
  • Drew Pomeranz: Pomeranz has a 5.01 ERA in 115 big league innings for the Rockies. His 1.9 K/BB ratio isn't exactly inspiring, but he was significantly better in a small minor league sample last season. Pomeranz posted a 2.31 ERA, 8.9 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 50 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A (46 2/3 of which were at Triple-A). He's still just 24 years old and is one year removed from entering the season as BA's No. 30 overall prospect and MLB.com's No. 24 ranked prospect. His fastball was down to averaging 91.2 mph season after previously sitting several ticks higher, but BA noted prior to 2012 that his ability to keep the pitch down in the zone and his deceptive delivery allowed the pitch to play at lower velocity. If Pomeranz can regain some of his velocity and/or hone his command of the strike zone, there's still time for him to blossom into the No. 2 starter BA and MLB.com projected him to be.
  • Alex White: Like Pomeranz, White struggled greatly in his Major League time with the Rockies. He posted an unsightly 6.30 ERA in 134 1/3 innings for the Rox from 2011-12. His marks of 5.9 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 were significantly worse than his Triple-A rates of 7.8 and 3.0, respectively. White put the ball on the ground frequently in 2012 (54.1 percent) but lost more than a mile per hour off his fastball, dropping to a 91.2 mph average (identical to Pomeranz's, oddly enough). White was injured at the time of the trade and missed 82 games in the 2011 season with a strained ligament in his finger. How much that impacted his 2012 results remains to be seen, but he'll have a chance to prove he's worthy of a spot in a Major League rotation. It won't be with the Rockies, however, as the team traded White to the Astros along with Alex Gillingham to acquire ace setup man Wilton Lopez.

The Prospect Side

  • Joe Gardner: Gardner ranked as Colorado's No. 25 prospect prior to the 2012 season but dropped off the club's Top 30 list this year. He ranks 18th among Rockies' farmhands according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, however, who calls Gardner's sinking fastball a "groundball machine" and notes that his change-up has some deception that leads to swings and misses. He also features a "slurvy" slider that Mayo grades out to be slightly better than his change but worse than his fastball. Gardner worked primarily as a starter at the Double-A level, but Mayo notes that he was very sharp in a five-appearance bullpen cameo. In total, Gardner compiled a 3.97 ERA, 6.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 in 138 1/3 innings during his age-24 season. Today is his 25th birthday (Happy birthday, Joe!), and should have a chance to crack the big league roster this season with a strong minor league performance.
  • Matt McBride: McBride is currently Colorado's 33rd best prospect, according to BA, though they note that most of his value comes as a utility player due to the fact that he can play catcher on occasion. BA notes that he's a poor defender whether behind the plate, in right field or at first base, and that his ability to make frequent contact is accompanied by a lack of home run power. McBride hit .205/.222/.308 in 81 plate appearances for the Rockies last season, walking only once and whiffing 17 times. He did manage a .344/.365/.535 triple slash line at Triple-A. Still, at 27 years of age, he's not much of a prospect at this point, which was reflected in Colorado's decision to remove him from the 40-man roster in November.

That Joe Gardner and Matt McBride posted the best 2012 numbers of anyone involved in this trade is a telling sign. To be blunt, the deal currently doesn't look good for either side. A rebound campaign for Jimenez or a breakout from Pomeranz would alter that, but surely both teams had visions of aces in their minds when pulling the trigger on this deal — not a host of 5.00+ ERAs. Colorado picked up some value in flipping White for a strong bullpen arm with three years of team control remaining, though that could prove regrettable if White puts it all together as an Astro. For the time being, three teams are simply left hoping that they can squeeze some value out of the once highly regarded talent in this deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Transaction Retrospection: The First Greinke Trade

Zack Greinke made quite a few headlines this offseason by becoming the highest-paid right-handed pitcher in Major League history (Felix Hernandez has since topped him). The former No. 6 overall selection in the draft signed a six-year, $147MM with the Dodgers.

Greinke has long been a high-profile arm, thanks largely to his 2009 American League Cy Young Award. His 9.3 wins above replacement (Fangraphs version) that season were the most by any pitcher since Randy Johnson's 2004 season.

So it's no wonder that Greinke had a long list of suitors when it became evident that the Royals were going to trade him. Nor is it surprising that Greinke commanded a young shortstop, a young center fielder and a pair of right-handers that had both been first-round picks.

On December 19, 2010, the Royals traded Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt to the Brewers in exchange for shortstop Alcides Escobar (24 years old at the time), center fielder Lorenzo Cain (24), right-hander Jake Odorizzi (20) and right-hander Jeremy Jeffress (23). Each player in the deal had recently ranked in Milwaukee's Top 10 prospects, according to Baseball America. Let's take a look at each on an individual basis… Greinke

The Major League Side

  • Zack Greinke: Greinke joined Shaun Marcum as one of two offseason acquisitions for the Brewers that offseason, as the team clearly had an "all-in" mentality entering the final season of Prince Fielder's contract. He broke a rib that offseason playing basketball, limiting him to 171 2/3 innings, but he pitched to a 3.83 ERA with an NL-best 10.5 K/9 when healthy. The Brewers ultimately finished with a 96-66 record, netting them an NL Central Division title. Greinke got his only taste of postseason baseball that year but allowed an unsightly 12 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings. The Brewers lost in the NLCS to the Cardinals, who would go on to win the World Series. Greinke hurled 123 more innings for the Brew Crew in 2012, pitching to a 3.44 ERA, 8.9 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 before being traded to the Angels. GM Doug Melvin landed Jean Segura, John Hellweg and Ariel Pena in that deal, but that's a whole different post.
  • Yuniesky Betancourt: Betancourt hit a paltry .252/.271/.381 with the Brewers but still totaled 584 plate appearances in spite of that sub-par production. His defense was also well below-average, and the result was a mere 0.4 wins above replacement, per Fangraphs. Betancourt did manage to swat 13 homers that season — the second-highest mark of his career — but his lack of plate discipline and poor glove mitigated most of that value. He would go on to re-sign with the Royals as a free agent the following offseason and is now in the Phillies organization as a non-roster invitee.
  • Alcides Escobar: Milwaukee's No. 3 prospect at the time of the trade (per BA) Escobar has blossomed into the Royals' everyday shortstop, posting fWAR marks of 2.2 and 2.6 in his first two seasons with Kansas City. He doesn't walk often (4.2 percent), but he's posted a respectable .274/.311/.368 triple slash line with Kansas City. That includes significant improvement from 2011-12, as his OPS+ jumped from 74 to 98 between the two years. He's developed into an elite base-stealer, collecting 61 swipes in 75 tries (81.3 percent). In 2012, he went 35-for-40 (87.5 percent). The Fielding Bible evaluates Escobar's defense at +12 runs during his time with Kansas City, while Ultimate Zone Rating feels he's been closer to average. Still just 26 years old, Escobar has room for growth.
  • Lorenzo Cain: Cain's arrival as Kansas City's everyday center fielder was delayed by the acquisition of Melky Cabrera. Groin and thigh strains have cost Cain 98 games between his two seasons with the Royals, but he looks poised to take the reins as the team's everyday center fielder in 2013. It's a small sample, but Cain has a .266/.315/.410 batting line in 267 plate appearances with the Royals. His seven homers and ten steals translate to a 162-game average of 17 homers and 25 steals — a well-above average combination of power and speed for a center fielder. In 726 1/3 career innings in center, UZR/150 rates him at 14.4 runs above average, and The Fielding Bible agrees at +15 runs. He's excelled in the Minors for the Royals and is in the midst of an impressive Spring Training showing, but he'll already be 27 on April 13. Kansas City needs to let Cain play in order to determine if they have a long-term piece this season.

The Prospect Side

  • Jake Odorizzi: Odorizzi made his big league debut for Kansas City in 2012, but totaled only 7 1/3 innings. Those will likely be the only innings he ever throws for the Royals, as GM Dayton Moore included the now-22-year-old in the James Shields trade. Odorizzi is BA's No. 92 prospect in all of baseball, and he ranks 45th on MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo's version of the same list. BA ranks him fifth among Rays prospects, praising his four average pitches (fastball, slider, curve, change-up) but noting that he lacks a true out pitch. Both BA and Mayo agree that Odorizzi has a chance to become a reliable No. 3 starter, but his ceiling is limited by average offerings across the board.
  • Jeremy Jeffress: Jeffress' star has fallen considerably since he ranked as BA's No. 100 prospect prior to the 2009 season. Now 25 years of age, the Royals traded him to the Blue Jays for cash considerations this past November. Jeffress pitched 82 innings for Kansas City's Triple-A affiliate and maintained his strong strikeout rate (9.3 K/9) but walked too many (4.7 BB/9) and allowed nearly a hit per inning as well. He received a pair of call-ups to the big league club but walked 24 batters in 26 2/3 innings. He has the potential to be a power arm late in games, but he'll now look to fulfill that upside elsewhere.

In the end, the Brewers got an ace-caliber pitcher and an NLCS berth in exchange for the four prospects they dealt. Greinke managed to net them a trio of prospects including a new, promising shortstop to replace Escobar. Kansas City turned Greinke into an everyday shortstop, a promising center fielder and a pitching prospect that helped them acquire a new ace-caliber pitcher (Shields). However, the Royals are better positioned to compete with this top-of-the-rotation arm than they were the last time they had one.

Both teams fell a bit short of their best case scenarios (Milwaukee didn't win a World Series, and Kansas City cut ties with Jeffress for next to nothing), but this is a trade that definitely reaped benefits for each side.

Baseball America's 2013 Prospect Handbook was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Transaction Retrospection: Garza Heads To Chicago

MLBTR is launching a new series entitled "Transaction Retrospection" in which we'll take a look back on trades that have taken place to see how the players involved — including low-level minor leaguers — have fared in new settings and how the involved teams have been impacted. Last week looked at the Josh Reddick trade, but remember that you can look back on other trades using MLBTR's Transaction Tracker.

Matt Garza has been involved in his share of high-profile moves. Since being drafted 25th overall by the Twins out of Fresno State in 2005, Garza has switched organizations in two marquee deals, and he once again finds himself as a trade candidate. He's been with the Cubs for a little more than two calendar years, but it seems like longer given the amount of trade rumors which constantly contain his name.

On January 8, 2011, the Rays traded Garza to the Cubs along with Fernando Perez and Zach Rosscup in exchange for prospects Chris Archer, Hak-Ju Lee, Robinson Chirinos and Brandon Guyer as well as outfielder Sam Fuld. Let's go player-by-player to see how it's all turned out… MattGarza

The Major League Side

  • Matt Garza: Garza immediately became one of the Cubs' best pitchers following the trade, and he showed it off with arguably the best season of his career. In 2011, Garza tallied 198 innings and established career-bests in ERA (3.32), K/9 (8.95) and HR/9 (0.64). He continued to display strong command and took a step toward establishing himself as an ace-caliber pitcher. Fangraphs pegged his value at a lofty 4.9 wins above replacement. His 2012 effort was derailed by a stress reaction in his pitching elbow after just 103 2/3 innings, however, which is likely the main reason that he wasn't traded at the deadline last July. While his elbow appears to be healed, Garza recently suffered a lat strain while facing live hitters and now stands to miss the first month of the 2013 season. Needless to say, that jeopardizes his No. 9 ranking on Tim Dierkes' free agent power rankings, but if he returns healthy and pitches well he's a midseason trade candidate.
  • Sam Fuld: Fuld's time in Tampa Bay got off to an incredible start, hitting .289/.358/.433 in the month of April. His defensive play, clutch hitting and surprising production spawned the Twitter hashtag "#LegendOfSamFuld," and the 29-year-old developed a cult following. He hit just .218/.292/.327 the rest of the way, however, and didn't improve in 107 plate appearances last season. He's competing for a roster spot with Tampa Bay once again this Spring.

The Minor League Side

  • Chris Archer: Archer came to the Rays as an erratic 22-year-old with an electric fastball. He still battles command issues, but he's progressed enough to rank as the game's No. 36 prospect according to Baseball America and No. 46 according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. BA writes that his fastball sits 92-96 mph and is one of two "well above-average" pitches, the other being a devastating hard slider with "hard, cutting tilt and impressive depth." Mayo prefers Archer's fastball but echoes that both pitches can be plus at the MLB level. The two outlets agree that Archer's change-up development will be what determines if he's able to pan out as a top- or middle-of-the-rotation starter. Archer did make his MLB debut in 2012, firing 29 1/3 innings and whiffing 36 batters.
  • Hak-Ju Lee: Lee is ranked 90th in the game by BA and 56th by Mayo, good for fourth and fifth in the Rays' system, respectively. Mayo writes that defensively, the Korean-born shortstop is more than MLB-ready right now, but he needs more time to develop his line-drive swing. His plus speed is an asset which both Mayo and BA agree upon. Both think he'll be a legitimate base-stealing threat, even if his lack of home-run power limits his overall upside a bit. Lee offers an opposite-field approach at the plate but needs to develop a more patient approach. He stole 37 bases in 46 tries as part of a .261/.336/.360 season at Double-A in 2012.
  • Robinson Chirinos: A catcher by trade, Chirinos came to the Rays having ranked as the Cubs' No. 10 prospect according to BA. He regressed in 2011, however, hitting just .259/.343/.376 in 319 plate appearances — a vast departure from 2010's .326/.416/.583 line. Chirinos had a chance to make the Rays last Spring, but suffered a concussion that prevented him from playing a single game in the minors or Majors. He's with the team again in Spring Training this season, but his stock has obviously fallen.
  • Brandon Guyer: Guyer entered the 2012 season as the Rays' No. 11 prospect according to BA, thanks largely to the .312/.384/.521 triple slash line the outfielder posted at Triple-A in 2011. BA praised his combination of speed and power as well as his throwing arm, noting that he profiled nicely in right field but could handle center field as well. Guyer earned a call-up in early May, but disaster struck after just three games; he suffered a labrum tear that would end his season before he was able to back up his minor league promise.
  • Fernando Perez: Perez wasn't thought of as much of a prospect at the time of the trade, and indeed he never cracked the Cubs' big league roster. After hitting just .238/.312/.337 through 76 games for the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate, he was released. Perez latched on with the Mets, but fared even worse in 40 games for Triple-A Buffalo, hitting .188/.298/.250. He didn't play in affiliated ball last season.
  • Zach Rosscup: Rosscup hasn't cracked one of BA's Top 30 prospect lists for either team, nor has he appeared on one of Mayo's Top 20 lists. Now 24 years old, the southpaw suffered an arm injury midway through a promising 2011 season (2.54 ERA, 9.1 K/9). Upon returning in late 2012, he worked his way to Double-A and showed mixed results. Rosscup whiffed 29 batters in 22 1/3 innings at Double-A but also walked 19 and posted a 4.84 ERA. His 3.87 FIP showed more promise, and he'll likely open the 2013 season at that level.

The Rays have made a habit out of competing in one of baseball's toughest divisions despite having one of baseball's lowest payrolls, and trades like this are a large factor in that success. Executive VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman dealt from a position of strength to acquire a host of prospects — two of which have developed into Top 100 prospects and two of which had their promising offensive potential limited by unforeseeable injuries. The Garza trade also paved the way for Jeremy Hellickson to join Tampa Bay's rotation and win 2011 AL Rookie of the Year honors.

The Cubs, meanwhile, got just the pitcher they were hoping for in Garza, but he too has been slowed by the injury bug. Garza would fit nicely atop Chicago's rebuilt rotation if he can return quickly, and he could net the team prospects this July if pitching well. Garza could also yield a first-round pick in 2014 if he turns down a qualifying offer, but his recent rash of injuries makes that a dicey proposition, as even the healthy Kyle Lohse has struggled to find a home due to his ties to draft pick compensation.

It's too early to say if one side got the better of this trade at this point, as Tampa Bay has yet to receive much value at the Major League level. However, the Rays seem to have positioned themselves for future success by moving a player when his value was near its peak.

Baseball America's 2013 Prospect Handbook was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.