Several players are making a lot of noise these days in Fantasy Baseball circles that were once afterthoughts not too long ago. They were brought over in baseball trade deadline deals that seemed to be one-sided (solid veteran for questionable youngster), but later on became one-sided the other way. Just like the recent deal with Hanley Ramirez going to the Dodgers for young pitchers Nate Eovaldi and Scott McGough.
For historical comparisons, think of Larry Andersen going from Boston to Houston for Jeff Bagwell or Doyle Alexander going from Atlanta to Detroit for John Smoltz. Both moves were made in late summer to help a team pushing for the playoffs.
Alexander was a 16-year veteran starting pitcher that went 9-0 with the Tigers in 11 starts to help them win the AL East. Unfortunately, he lost both Games 1 and 5 of the five-game ALCS against the Twins.
Andersen was a solid reliever with a 1.95 ERA and seven saves with Houston before coming to Boston, where he posted an even better 1.23 ERA in the regular season. However, he lost Clemens’ win in Game 1 of the ALCS against Oakland and Boston never recovered.
Bagwell and Smoltz, of course, moved on to bigger and better things in the ‘90s – the latter becoming a future Hall-of-Famer as the only pitcher with 150 saves and 200 wins.
So let’s scan over the current list of Fantasy players and see what might have been elsewhere (I edit out no-name players that were also involved in the deal):
Baseball trade deadline deals in the rear-view mirror
Dan Haren, SP, L.A. Angels
Transaction: December, 2004 – Traded to Oakland for Mark Mulder.
Reality: The A’s bailed on Mulder one year early (he went 16-8 in his first Cardinals season), but he threw a total of 105 major league innings after that. Meanwhile, Haren moved on to Arizona and now Anaheim, where he is working on his eighth-straight season with at least a dozen wins. He’s already at 10.
Imagine if … the Cards were able to hold on to Haren, to go with Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn.
Andre Ethier, OF, L.A. Dodgers
Transaction: December, 2005 – Traded to L.A. from Oakland for Milton Bradley.
Reality: Bradley played just 115 games with the A’s, mostly due to injuries and attitude problems. He was eventually designated for assignment – and then traded to the Padres. Ethier, meanwhile, is always among the NL leaders in batting average.
Imagine if … Milton Bradley wasn’t such a headcase? I know, it’s hard, right?
Jason Bartlett, SS, San Diego and Matt Garza, SP, Chicago Cubs
Transaction: November, 2007 – Traded to Tampa Bay from Minnesota for Delmon Young.
Reality: Garza was the Rays’ most consistent pitcher over three seasons and Bartlett was named the Rays’ MVP in 2008 – when they went to the World Series. Young, meanwhile, has since moved on to Detroit, and he has hit over 13 homers just once in his 10-year career.
Imagine if … the Rays didn’t have a few stinkers with their early draft picks going back to 2001 (Wade Townsend (eighth overall in 2005), Dewon Brazelton (third in 2001) and Josh Hamilton (first overall in 1999).
Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF, Tampa Bay
Transaction: July, 2006: Traded to Tampa Bay from Houston for Aubrey Huff.
Reality: Zorilla was the Rays’ MVP in 2009, leading the team with three grand slams and finishing the season among the league leaders in slugging. Huff, meanwhile, played just 68 games with Houston, then signed with the Orioles as a free agent the following winter (and the Giants in 2010). He’s an average first baseman that has been on five teams in the past seven years.
Imagine if … Rocco Baldelli doesn’t get sick, Delmon Young doesn’t get traded and Akinori Iwamura doesn’t get injured. Zobrist would likely have been traded to another club.
Nelson Cruz, OF, Texas
Transaction: July, 2006 — Traded to Texas from Milwaukee along with Carlos Lee for Francisco Cordero and Kevin Mench.
Reality: The Brewers were hoping to make a playoff push, but they ended up 12 games under .500 that year. Lee signed with Houston in the following offseason. While Cruz has been often injured, he has emerged into a huge power threat for the Rangers, with 107 homers since the start of the 2009 season (to go with 53 SBs). Cordero saved 44 games for Milwaukee in 2007, then signed with Cincinnati.
Imagine if … Cruz was still in Milwaukee during the Prince Fielder-Ryan Braun-Rickie Weeks era? Or – imagine if the Mets and A’s hadn’t both traded Cruz as a minor-leaguer for nobodies like Jorge Velandia and Keith Ginter!
Adam Wainwright, SP, St. Louis
Transaction: December, 2003 – Traded to St. Louis from Atlanta for J.D. Drew.
Reality: Wainwright was third in NL Cy Young voting in 2009 and second in 2010, winning 39 games and throwing back-to-back 230-inning seasons. Drew’s last excellent season (.305-31-93-118-12) was his only season in Atlanta in ’04. This was actually one of the bigger baseball trade deadline deals of the year.
Imagine if … Atlanta held onto Waino, to go with other young pitchers like Brandon Beachy and Tommy Hanson. A poor man’s version of Maddux/Smoltz/Avery? OK, maybe not.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Boston
Transaction: January, 2006 – Traded to San Diego with SP Chris Young for Adam Eaton And Akinori Otsuka.
Reality: Gonzalez emerged into an RBI machine with the Padres and now Red Sox, despite batting in a pitcher’s paradise at Petco Park for most of his career. Eaton, meanwhile, started just 13 games for Texas in ’06 because of a finger injury. Otsuka needed elbow surgery after two decent seasons in Arlington.
Imagine if … the Marlins didn’t trade Gonzalez, the No. 1 overall pick in 2000, to Texas for closer Ugueth Urbina. Uggy wouldn’t have gotten the Marlins four post-season saves, including two during the World Series against the Yankees … and Derek Jeter might be wearing six World Series rings.
Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati
Transaction: June, 2002 — Traded to Cleveland along with Cliff Lee and Grady Sizemore for Bartolo Colon.
Reality: Phillips had averaged more homers and RBI between 2007-09 than all second basemen except Chase Utley. This was one of a few blockbuster baseball trade deadline deals.
Imagine if … Montreal could support the Expos and they were able to hold on to all of the talent they gave away in the ‘90s (including Vlad Guerrero, Moises Alou and Pedro Martinez). Oh yeah, and imagine if the Indians didn’t trade Phillips to Cincy for player-to-be-named-later Jeff Stevens in 2006.
And that’s not even mentioning players like Bobby Abreu, Josh Hamilton, Johan Santana, Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth, who were basically let go for free by their former owners. (Don’t just blame the Rays for missing out on Abreu and Hamilton – the Astros left Abreu unprotected and the Cubs picked up Hamilton in the Rule 5 draft only to trade him to Cincinnati on the same day.)
So what lesson do you take away from all of this? Don’t be too quick to judge teams after some of the upcoming baseball trade deadline deals this summer, just because one team is losing what you think is an integral piece to their future.
Eovaldi could be awesome some day!!! (But probably not.)