Monday, October 29, 2012

Detailing last winter's rotation trades

A.J. Burnett went from persona
non grata with the Yankees
to top-of-the-rotation with
Pittsburgh last winter.
In the Monday print column I said, without going into detail, that last offseason 10 pitchers who had made it through a full season in a major league rotation were traded:

... six of them were traded for one of the others. Two of the other four brought back prospects who themselves wound up in major league rotations during the season.

Which means that only two established starters went in trades that didn’t involve either another established starter or a major-league-ready prospect.

This is where I detail this information. The links are for the starting pitchers involved in the trades.

Trade 1: A.J. Burnett goes from the Yankees to Pittsburgh for a pair of minor leaguers. The Yankees pick up more than half Burnett's salary, and he goes 16-10, 3.51 for Pittsburgh.

Comment: The Yankees wanted to dump Burnett after a couple of frustrating seasons in which the righty racked up ERAs of 5.26 and 5.15. The deal worked well for the Pirates.

Trade 2: Trevor Cahill goes from Oakland to Arizona with Craig Breslow for Jarrod Parker, Ryan Cook and Colin Cowgill. Cahill goes 13-12, 3.78 for the Diamondbacks; Parker goes 13-8, 3.47 for the A's, and Cook makes the All-Star team as a reliever (6-2, 2.09, 14 saves).

Comment: Cahill (and Breslow) did for the Diamondbacks what they expected. Arizona still loses the trade, because Park and Cook are better, younger and cheaper.

Trade 3: Gio Gonzalez and a minor leaguer goes from Oakland to Washington for Tommy Milone, Derek Norris, Brad Peacock and a minor leaguer. Gonzalez makes the All-Star team and goes 21-8, 2.89 for the Nationals; Milone leads the A's in innings, goes 13-10, 3.74, and Norris becomes the starting catcher.

A second trade in which Oakland's Billy Beane traded a young starter about to make big money for younger, cheaper talent. Both sides got what they needed; both teams made the playoffs. 

Trade 4: Colorado trades Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom to Baltimore for Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie goes 3-9, 6.35 for the Rockies and is dumped to Kansas City in an exchange of problems (Jonathan Sanchez, who we'll meet later); for the Royals, Guthrie goes 5-3, 3.16. He's going into free agency. Hammel goes 8-6, 3.43 in 118 innings for Baltimore with some time on the disabled list; he's one of the keys to their surprising season.

Comment: Hammel and Guthrie aren't great, but they are both better pitchers than their career stats indicate. They've generally been on bad teams and often in unfavorable environments. Guthrie has been suggested in some corners as a potential target for the Twins. They could do worse.

Edinson Volquez was once
traded for Josh Hamilton.
Trade 5: San Diego sends Mat Latos to Cincinnati for Edinson Volquez, Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger. Latos goes 14-4, 3.48 for the Reds with a career high in innings pitched and remains under team control for another three seasons. Volquez goes 11-11, 4.14 for the Padres and leads the majors in walks allowed.

Comment: This trade, for San Diego, was about the hitters, Alonso and Grandal. Volquez had had three injury-plagued seasons coming into 2012, and his 180-plus innings was a bonus. Latos was what the Reds sought.

Trade 6: San Francisco trades Jonathan Sanchez to Kansas City for Melky Cabrera. Sanchez was brutal for the Royals — 1-6, 7.76 — and they swapped him in midseason to Colorado for Jeremy Guthrie. Sanchez was even worse in Denver (0-3, 9.53).

Jonathan Sanchez is coming off
two brutal seasons.
Comment: Ugh. Cabrera, of course, was having a huge season for the Giants until he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. But just clearing Sanchez out of their rotation was a plus for the Giants.

Trade 7: Miami sends Chris Volstad to the Cubs for Carlos Zambrano and a lot of cash. Big Z goes 7-10, 4.49 for the Marlins; Volstad goes 3-12, 6.31 with the Cubs.

Comment: It's a safe bet Miami won't pick up Zambrano's option for 2013 ($19 million-plus). The hope there was that Ozzie Guillen would be able to harness his countryman's temper and talent; if there's a market for Zambrano as a free agent, I sure hope it isn't Minnesota. Volstad was waived by the Cubs and picked up by Kansas City last week. They can have him.

So ... Ten established starters plus two "major-league-ready" starters in these trades. I would say that Burnett, Latos, Gonzalez, Cahill and Volquez met or exceeded expectations; that Volstad, Sanchez, Guthrie and Zambrano were disappointments; that Hammel was good but of limited durability; and the rookies, Prker and Milone, met or beat expectations.

Those don't seem to be prime odds for improving your rotation via trades.

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