Last time, we took a look at the first moves in July that teams were taking to make their push to the 2006 playoffs. Sometimes, striking early can pay off, because the market hasn't really been set and the whole range of potential trade targets is available. Additionally, you get those extra few weeks with your new player, giving him time to adjust to his new team and reaping the benefits of your upgrade.
And we hit the ground running again...
- Cincinnati Reds acquire P Gary Majewski, P Bill Bray, SS Royce Clayton, and minor leaguers Brendan Harris (INF) and Daryl Thompson (P) from the Washington Nationals for SS Felipe Lopez, OF Austin Kearns, and minor leaguer Ryan Wagner (P)
I wrote an entire post about how bad Wayne Krivsky (then Cincinnati GM) was back in December of '06 after this deal somehow managed to get worse for Cincinnati. Some five years later, it's not as bad, but to this day it didn't make sense.
A week previous (see Part 1 of this article), Krivsky had swung a deal for closer Eddie Guardado, which was a low-risk investment of a fringe prospect for a future free agent. A half-game out of the wild card and four games out of first in the NL Central, Cincinnati felt that they had a legit shot at the playoffs. The thing holding them back, Krivsky believed, was their bullpen. Picking up Guardado was a start, but they needed more. So Krivsky reached out to Washington GM (and former Cincinnati GM) Jim Bowden and picked up two young middle relievers in Majewski and Bray to improve his bullpen, but in the process gave up their starting shortstop and right fielder, with no one waiting in the wings to take their place. Krivsky would later justify the deal by saying that Clayton (also acquired in the deal) was a defensive improvement at short over Lopez, while Ryan Freel and Chris Denorfia could fill Kearns' slot.
So how'd that work out?
Krivsky got ripped for making the deal, and the end results didn't help much. Clayton slugged 130 points less than Lopez (who was having an off year) and ended up losing playing time to Rich Aurilia, who was having a great year. Bray didn't pitch badly for the Reds, but Majewski (who was the key player Krivsky was aiming for) seemed to implode the moment he put on a Cincinnati uniform. The pitcher posted an 8.40 ERA over 15 innings pitched, giving up 30 hits in the process, and by August was put on the DL for a "tired arm". Majewski would pitch parts of two more seasons for Cincinnati, not faring much better in either of them.
The thing was that Washington didn't really make out either, especially considering what everyone thought they were getting. Kearns never hit as well in Washington as he did in Cincinnati, and struggled through two injury-plagued seasons before he left as a free agent after the 2009 season. Lopez struggled the season after he was traded to Washington and continued to decline until finally being released by the Nats midway through the 2008 season. He has played for five other teams (including St. Louis and Milwaukee twice!) since, and was recently designated for assignment by the Brewers, making a trip to the Atlantic League only a matter of time.
A WINNAR IS: Tampa. The Reds didn't seem to care about Harris, who sat in AAA until the Rays bought him from the Reds that offseason. Harris would then put up a .286/.343/.434 line in a career year starting at second and short for the Rays in 2007 (better than Clayton or Lopez would put up). The Rays then flipped him the following season with Delmon Young for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett, who would help them get to the World Series the next year.
So the Braves, despite being 12 games behind the Mets in the NL East, realized (like good teams do) that 1) they were a better team than their record and 2) the NL as a whole wasn't that good, so knowing that their bullpen was worse than Cincinnati's, they went out and got themselves a closer. Wickman had led the AL in saves the previous season, but Cleveland wasn't winning any games in 2006 (as possibly the unluckiest team in baseball that season), so a 37-year-old closer in the last year of his contract seemed unnecessary. Ramirez was a good hitting catching prospect in low-A ball blocked by Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia so he was expendable.
So how'd that work out?
Great for the Braves - just not enough. Wickman put up a 1.04 ERA with 18 saves in 28 appearances for Atlanta, but the Braves couldn't put all the pieces together and only went 34-33 after the trade - not good enough to nab the wild card. Ramirez hit great in the minors but struggled with the glove. Cleveland would send him to Texas the following season for Kenny Lofton, who would give him his only major league experience. This season, Texas would lose him on waivers to Boston, who would lose him on waivers to the Cubs five days later. The Cubs would then release Ramirez in May, where he would then sign with Houston (who would release him), and now finally San Francisco, where he is currently putting up good numbers in AAA.
A WINNAR IS: Atlanta. The Braves never would have come close to the playoffs had they not picked up Wickman, and Ramirez would still be stuck behind McCann.
- San Francisco Giants acquire 1B/3B Shea Hillenbrand and P Vinnie Chulk from the Toronto Blue Jays for P Jeremy Accardo
It'd be nice to say that the Giants went out and got Hillenbrand from the Jays, but in reality Shea was already designated for assignment, so the Giants "acquired" Hillenbrand the same way you'd "acquire" an old futon on the curb on trash day. Shea, pissed off because the Blue Jays didn't send him a flower and candy assortment after he and his wife adopted a child, wrote negative comments about the team on a bulletin board in the team clubhouse, causing manager John Gibbons to challenge Hillenbrand to a fight. While Gibbons getting into fights with players happened every few months or so, the gift basket pissyness was apparently a dealbreaker, and Shea was told not to come back. The Giants, who were a half-game out of first in the NL West, figured having a complete dick at first base was still better than Mark Sweeney and Lance Niekro, so they swung a deal with Toronto before Hillenbrand was released.
So how'd that work out?
Having a complete dick at first base turned out not being better than Mark Sweeney and Lance Niekro. Hillebrand would put up a slash line of .248/.275/.415, which was slightly better than Niekro but worse than Sweeney. The Giants went 26-38 after the deal and quickly dropped out of playoff contention.
A WINNAR IS: The Blue Jays. They didn't get much out of Accardo that season (5.97 ERA in 28.2 innings), but dumping off Hillenbrand had to be considered a plus. Accardo would bounce back the following season, flourishing in the closer role after the departure of B.J. Ryan. He'd get hurt the following season and struggle after that, but that's still a decent haul for a player who was going to be released.
- Seattle Mariners acquire 1B/DH Ben Broussard from the Cleveland Indians for OF Shin-Soo Choo and a player to be named later (P Shawn Nottingham)
Call this delayed karma from the Jay Buhner/Ken Phelps trade 18 years earlier. (Side note: holy crap - really? 18 years?) Seattle was in a battle for the AL West crown that no one really wanted to win (not unlike the NL Central). They didn't necessarily want to be, having shipped off Eddie Guardado some 20 days earlier, but without any other team running away with the division, Bill Bavasi ignored a cardinal rule for GMs - be a buyer or a seller, but not both. Doing a 180 degree turn, Bavasi looked at his team, saw Dinosaur Carl Everett at DH, and felt this was something that needed to be corrected. So he reached out and offered his system's #7 prospect to Cleveland for their first baseman. Broussard was a good hitter against righthanded pitching, and had a .321/.361/.519 slashline with 13 HR at the time of the trade. But the knock on Broussard was that he had difficulties with lefties.
NOT TO WORRY, because Bavasi had already traded the team's #6 prospect a month earlier to those same Cleveland Indians to get the player Broussard was platooning with at first base, Eduardo Perez. So, in the course of one month, Bavasi had gone from buyer to seller to buyer again.
So how'd that work out?
About as well as every other deal Bavasi did during his time with the Mariners. Broussard put up a .238/.282/.427 line the rest of the season with the M's (admittedly better than Perez's .195/.304/.241), which was made all the worse by Cleveland, who let Choo play in the majors and watched him put up a .295/.373/.473 line himself. Sometimes you have to wait several years to see if prospects will develop to be better players than the vets they are traded for. In this case, the prospect was better than the veteran AT THE TIME OF THE TRADE. Shockingly, Seattle would not make the playoffs that season, nor would they in any season since Bavasi was hired as GM in 2003.
A WINNAR IS: Like you have to ask. PS - the prospect the Indians got for Perez in the earlier deal? Asdrubal Cabrera, who made his first AL All-Star Team this year. Choo and Cabrera have a 27.5 WAR during their time with Cleveland, estimating that having those two players has won the Indians at least twenty-seven games they might not normally have won with an league average player. Broussard and Perez? -1.6 WAR, meaning that playing those two actually made the Mariners worse.
NEXT TIME - The Yankees get involved, the Brewers shake it up, and the Mets set themselves up for disaster.