First off, let me clear up a few loose ends from last time.
- When making the point about the Royals’ future defense, I was remiss in not pointing out the most obvious evidence that defense was Mission 2012’s weakness: the Royals recently announced their minor league award winners, and the winner of the Frank White Defensive Player of the Year Award was…Eric Hosmer. A first baseman. A good defensive first baseman, but we’re not talking about Keith Hernandez here. That’s a pretty clear sign that if Escobar and Cain were still minor leaguers, they’d be the two best defensive players in the system (among prospects who actually project to hit).
- I adore this tweet from Baseball America’s Ben Badler: “Looking at our Royals top 30. They have 18 players I'd take over the Brewers No. 1 prospect.” I know, it’s not a fair comparison, the Brewers just decimated their system to win now…but still, that’s just cool. I’m sure my Brewer friends would like to reply with a witty comeback, but unfortunately they’re all busy waiting in line to buy playoff tickets.
- A perhaps under-appreciated aspect to the deal is the fact that Greinke had the Brewers on his no-trade list, and had to be persuaded to waive it. Not only did he do so, he didn’t receive any compensation in return.
If you’re a Brewer fan and don’t love the guy already, you’re nuts. One of the best pitchers in baseball has the right to block a trade to the smallest market in baseball, and gives it up – for nothing in return. A superstar player wants to join your team. The same thing that made Greinke so popular in Kansas City – that he was the rare superstar who was perfectly happy playing in a small market, at least until the losing became unbearable – should make him the same way in Milwaukee.
The flip side to this, though, is that Greinke didn’t receive a contract extension when the trade was made. He can be a free agent in two years, and while the Brewers certainly have a better shot at re-signing him than they did with, say, C.C. Sabathia (or, next winter, Prince Fielder,) it’s not a guarantee.
Now, if the Brewers get off to a great start next season and are fighting for first place in August, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the team announces a contract extension that keeps Greinke in Milwaukee until 2016 or so. But if I’m Greinke’s agent, I’m advising him to take a wait-and-see attitude. Greinke already has enough guaranteed money in his current contract to retire on – he’s famously tight with his money. If winning is his top priority going forward, well, the 2011 Brewers ought to be a good team, but by 2013 Fielder will have gone elsewhere, everyone else will be two years older, and there are few if any reinforcements coming up from the farm.
This may be an interesting story to watch. If Greinke doesn’t sign an extension with the Brewers, he goes into the 2012-13 off-season as perhaps the most coveted free agent of the winter. And while the usual suspects from the Northeast will be in the hunt, we already know that Greinke will give fair consideration to small-market teams in the Midwest. Particularly one that is already in contention, that has a young and talented roster that only figures to get better, and that by virtue of having a young roster has plenty of payroll space to pay Greinke top dollar. Particularly one that’s embraced Greinke once before, and might be ready to do so again.
It’s not a particularly likely scenario. But I’m keeping that jersey hanging in my closet just in case.
- A quick Chiefs’ playoff odds update, as the math gets easier to figure out with just two weeks left on the schedule:
The Jets’ win over the Steelers eliminates any chance that the Chiefs have of qualifying for the playoffs as a wild-card team, so it’s division or bust. In terms of the division, the math is simple.
The good news is that the Chiefs’ Magic Number for winning the division is 2 – any combination of 2 wins by the Chiefs, or 2 losses by the Chargers, and the Chiefs win the AFC West. The Magic Number with regard to the Raiders is 1. (And more good news is that for purposes of the magic number, a tie works in the Chiefs’ favor.)
The bad news is that the Chargers’ Magic Number over the Chiefs is 3.
If the Chiefs win out to finish 11-5, they are guaranteed to be no lower than the #3 seed. They can be the #2 seed and get a first-round bye only if the Steelers and Ravens lose their last two games.
So getting back to the point of this article…I ended my last article with a suggestion that the Greinke trade may have actually brought the Royals more talent that the Rangers got for Mark Teixeira. I’ll get back to that in a bit. But first, I want to explore in more detail whether the Royals really got a fair deal for Greinke or not.
It can’t be stressed enough that when determining the fair value of Greinke in a trade, you can’t simply look at his performance and say “he’s worth X amount of wins”, and if the Royals don’t get that in a trade they got screwed. If not trading Greinke was a viable option, then that would be the case. But it wasn’t. Greinke wanted out, and if the Royals had kept him, pretty much everyone thinks he would have been disappointing yet again – and even if he wasn’t, the Royals were so unlikely to win in 2011 that it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.
So if we accept that the Royals had to trade Greinke, the only way to determine his value is to know what the market was willing to offer for him. If I put my house on the market and ask for $500,000, because I paid $500,000 for it last month, and it’s appraised at $500,000, and the best offer I get is $400,000, guess what? The value of my house is $400,000, and holding my breath until I pass out is not going to change that fact.
It is of course difficult to know what the market was willing to offer for Greinke, because we only know what one team – the Brewers – was truly willing to offer. And even if no other team was willing to make a better offer now, we don’t know whether some team might have changed their position between now and spring training.
But we do know what other teams were able to receive for their ace pitchers on the trade market, and we can use that information to develop a rough estimate of Greinke’s value. So let’s take a look at all the trades in recent memory in which a team traded a top-tier starter near the end of his contract for prospects.
Here’s a list of the nine recent trades that I found where a team traded a clear #1 starter who was coming to the end of his contract for prospects. (There are only six different pitchers involved, as Cliff Lee was traded three times, and Danny Haren twice.)
Pitcher: Danny Haren
Contract Status: $8.25M for 2010, $12.75M for 2011 & 2012. $15.5M/$3.5M club option for 2013.
Trade: Haren from Arizona to Los Angeles Angels for Joe Saunders, Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin, and Rafael Rodriguez
You want to know what a bad trade looks like? That’s what a bad trade looks like. Actually, that’s what an awful trade looks like. The Diamondbacks, who had traded six different players to acquire Haren less than three years earlier, traded him to L’Anaheim for an innings-eating veteran in Saunders, and three prospects, none of whom are as highly rated as any of the four guys the Royals got for Greinke.
Haren isn’t the pitcher that Greinke is, but he’s a damn good pitcher. At the time of the trade he had a 4.60 ERA, but that was a fluke – he had struck out 141 batters in 141 innings, against just 25 unintentional walks. In 2009, he had led the NL in WHIP. And while the Brewers are getting Greinke for two years, the Angels got 2.5 years of Haren, for roughly the same salary that Greinke is getting – plus they have a very reasonable option to keep him for a third full season.
Given their contract status, Haren and Greinke should have very similar trade values on the market. But whereas Greinke netted the Royals four young players who all project to be at least average major leaguers, the Diamondbacks got an established veteran pitcher who’s already into his arbitration years, and three second-tier pitching prospects. The Diamondbacks were savaged for the trade – and rightfully so. But in all honesty, some of the criticisms I’ve heard about the Royals approach the criticisms of the Haren trade. Which is ridiculous; the Royals got real talent, while the Diamondbacks got a flaming bag of dog poop on their front door.
Pitcher: Cliff Lee
Contract Status: $9M for 2010.
Trade: Lee and Mark Lowe from Seattle to Texas for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, and Matthew Lawson
The Mariners got a decent haul of talent for Lee, given that there were only three months’ left on his contract. Smoak is a potential All-Star at first base, and is probably better than any of the four guys the Royals got. (Although it’s very debatable – you could argue that you’d rather have Escobar right now than Smoak. Both were disappointing as rookies, and while scouts are still optimistic Smoak will hit, his value is almost entirely in his bat, while Escobar’s value is primarily in his glove.)
The other three guys are just filler. Beavan has outstanding command of very pedestrian stuff; he could be a #4 starter in a Nick Blackburn/Kevin Slowey kind of way. Lueke is a criminal – not a Jeremy Jeffress kind of criminal, a real criminal – and the fact that the Mariners were unaware of his history got the scouting director fired. (I refuse to believe they were unaware of his history. I knew about his history, and that was simply from reading Baseball America.) Lawson is a utility guy in the making.
For three months of Lee, it’s a good deal, although I still have no idea why the Mariners preferred Smoak to Jesus Montero.
Pitcher: Cliff Lee
Contract Status: $9M for 2010.
Trade: Lee from Philadelphia to Seattle for Phillippe Aumont, J.C. Ramirez, and Tyson Gillies
The Mariners got considerably more for a half-season of Lee than they gave up to get a full year of Lee in the first place. The Phillies panicked, trading Lee the same day they acquired Roy Halladay to save money, and accepting a pathetic return on a #1 starter. Aumont is a future reliever at best; Ramirez is a #4 starter if he’s lucky; Gillies is a Jarrod Dyson/Joey Gathright type, who hit .341 in 2009 because he was playing in the pinball machine that is High Desert. Every player the Royals received for Greinke is worth more than these three players combined.
Pitcher: Roy Halladay
Contract Status: $15.75M for 2010. As part of trade agreed to 3-year, $60M extension with vesting option of $20M for 2014.
Trade: Halladay from Toronto to Philadelphia for Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor, and Travis D’Arnaud
This is the trade that the Greinke deal gets compared to a lot, because Halladay had a full season-and-a-half left on his deal, and because the Blue Jays got three very good prospects, including a potential stud starter in Drabek.
The prospect hauls that both teams got are comparable. Drabek is better than anyone the Royals got, and it’s telling that the Blue Jays were unwilling to give up Drabek in a potential Grienke deal. Taylor was putting up outstanding numbers (.333/.408/.569) in Double-A at the time of the trade; the Jays immediately traded him to Oakland for Brett Wallace, which on the one hand was smart because Taylor has struggled since the trade, but on the other hand wasn’t smart because Wallace isn’t all that good. The Jays traded Wallace to Houston for Anthony Gose, a very athletic 19-year-old outfielder who’s still learning how to hit. D’Arnaud was a 20-year-old catcher who projected to be an average-plus everyday catcher in the majors. He was hurt for much of 2010 but is still thought of highly.
The Jays got two five-star prospects and a three-star prospect for Halladay; the Royals got two four-star prospects (Jeffress and Odorizzi), and two guys who would probably be four-star prospects if they were still rookie-eligible (Cain and Escobar) for Greinke. You can certainly argue that the Jays got more for Halladay than the Royals got for Greinke. But remember: as part of the trade, Halladay agreed to a three-year extension at below-market value, making him a vastly more valuable commodity to the Phillies than Greinke was to the Brewers (or anyone else). That the Royals got roughly as much for two years of Greinke as the Blue Jays got for 4.5 years of Halladay is a reason to praise the Royals, not criticize them.
Pitcher: Jake Peavy
Contract Status: $11M for 2009, 3-year, $48M contract for 2010-2012, $22M/$4M option for 2013.
Trade: Peavy from San Diego to Chicago White Sox for Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Adam Russell, and Dexter Carter
This was a weird deal; the White Sox had almost traded this exact package to the Padres for Peavy before the season, and even though Peavy was on the DL at the time, they made the same trade at the trading deadline. No one ever accused Kenny Williams of being timid.
While Peavy was under contract for 3.5 seasons, his contract also called for a significantly higher salary than Greinke’s or Lee’s – and the injury concerns were very real, to the point where some argued that the Padres were fortunate just to be rid of his contract. In that light, it’s not a surprise that they didn’t get much for him on a pure talent basis. Richard was a #3/#4 starter who, like a lot of pitchers, has taken advantage of Petco Park to reach his full potential. Poreda is a lefty with a massive fastball and massive control issues. Russell and Carter are middle relievers at best.
Pitcher: Cliff Lee
Contract Status: $5.75M for 2009, $9M option for 2010.
Trade: Lee and Ben Francisco from Cleveland to Philadelphia for Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, and Jason Knapp
The first Lee trade came at a comparable point in his contract to Greinke – Lee had 1.5 years remaining on his deal, and at an insanely low price tag. Keep in mind that the Indians threw in Ben Francisco, an excellent fourth outfielder type who has hit .272/.323/.471 in 301 plate appearances since the trade. (He might be better than any outfielder currently on the Royals.)
In exchange the Indians got Carlos Carrasco, a potential #2/#3 starter in the majors who pitched well in a late audition this year after a terrible debut in 2009. Donald, who’s most famous for being the player that Jim Joyce called safe to ruin Armando Galarraga’s perfect game, will probably have a long career as a utility man but doesn’t quite hit enough to be a starting middle infielder. Marson is a catcher with no power but excellent on-base skills in the minors – Baseball America ranked him the #66 prospect before the 2009 season – but has been terrible since the trade; he hit .195/.274/.286 as a rooke this year. Knapp was just 18 at the time of the trade, a kid down in the South Atlantic League with a terrific arm but some serious injury issues. A lot of people expect him to be a reliever in the end, although a potential impact one.
It’s close, but I’d rather have the Greinke package. Odorizzi and Carrasco are comparable, though Carrasco is a safer bet; Jeffress and Knapp are comparable, though Jeffress is a safer bet. But Escobar/Cain is a much better package than Donald/Marson. And the Indians threw in a valuable extra player; the Royals threw in Yuniesky Betancourt. Win.
Pitcher: C.C. Sabathia
Contract Status: $9M for 2008 (reached $11M with bonuses)
Trade: Sabathia from Cleveland to Milwaukee for Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Michael Brantley, and Rob Bryson
The last time the Brewers traded for an ace, they gave up four players for just three months’ worth of Sabathia. LaPorta was the big prize, a former #7 overall pick who has a career .296/.390/.563 line in the minors. He was already 23 and still in Double-A at the time of the trade, though, and he has to mash to have value, as he has next to no defensive value. He hasn’t mashed yet; in 162 games in the majors he’s hit .232/.307/.388. There’s still time.
Jackson was a finesse lefty, a former supplemental first-round pick who hadn’t panned out in the pros, and had a 7.85 ERA in Triple-A at the time of the trade; he hasn’t pitched much better since. Michael Brantley was a prototypical leadoff type who hit .319/.395/.398 in Double-A before the trade, at the age of 21. Even then there were concerns that his lack of power would expose him at higher levels, and in 100 games in the majors, he’s hit .264/.313/.333. Bryson was just a live arm pitching down in the South Atlantic League at the time of the trade; he pitched his way to Double-A this season, and might top out as a set-up man if all goes well.
The Indians didn’t get nearly the same amount of talent for Sabathia as the Royals did for Greinke; while LaPorta compares favorably with any of the four guys the Royals got, the other three guys were mostly filler. Still, given that Sabathia only had a half-season left under contract, the Indians did as well as could be expected.
Pitcher: Johan Santana
Contract Status: $13.25M for 2008 – agreed to replace contract with 6-year, $137.5M contract as part of trade.
Trade: Santana from Minnesota to New York Mets for Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulver, and Deolis Guerra.
Bill Smith was hired as the Twins’ new GM in September of 2007, and the Santana trade was his first major move since taking office. I can say that, as a Royals fan, I was absolutely delighted when I heard about the trade. I was stunned that the Twins would accept such a ridiculously pedestrian package for Santana, who was probably even more highly-regarded at the time than Greinke is today. (Santana had just led the AL in WHIP four years in a row, finishing 1st, 3rd, 1st, and 5th in Cy Young balloting from 2004-07.)
Santana had only one more season on his contract, but agreed to a six-year deal with the Mets as part of the deal. While he was getting paid market-value, the opportunity to lock in arguably the best pitcher in baseball to a long-term deal was worth a tremendous amount to the Mets.
And what did they give up for him? Carlos Gomez, the big name in the deal, had made his debut with the Mets in 2007 as a 21-year-old. On the other hand, Gomez hadn’t really hit all that well in the high minors – the Mets are notorious for rushing their players to the majors at an early age. Baseball America ranked him the #52 prospect in baseball at the time of the trade; he was a good prospect, but not a great one. Since the trade he’s been a glorified defensive replacement; he’s a Gold Glove-caliber centerfielder, but his career line is .246/.293/.349.
Philip Humber was the #3 overall pick in the 2004 draft, but like a lot of Rice pitchers he never showed the same stuff in the pros that he had in college. By the time of the trade he was 25 years old and projected as a #5 starter at best. He’s spent the last three years mostly toiling in Triple-A; you might have seen him in the Royals bullpen this summer. Mulvey was Humber’s doppleganger, another college pitcher who was long on polish but short on stuff. Over the last three years, Mulvey has made 78 starts in Triple-A (Humber has 75), but has thrown just 27 innings in the majors (Humber has 51).
Guerra was the potential prize of the trade; he was ranked the #35 prospect in baseball by Baseball America. He had pitched well in the Florida State League in 2007, at the age of just 18, and was thought to have some ace potential. He’s been an unmitigated disaster since the trade, though; he had a 6.36 ERA last season between Double-A and Triple-A. I think he was overrated at the time, on account of his age – again, the Mets are very aggressive about promoting their Latin American prospects up the chain, which can make them look better than they are. (Last year, for instance, the Mets brought 20-year-old Ruben Tejada to the majors, even though Tejada was hitting just .280/.329/.344 in Triple-A.)
I thought it was a bad trade at the time, and it looks much worse today, owing to the fact that Guerra fell apart. Really, the only value the Twins got for Santana was J.J. Hardy’s 2010 season, after they traded Gomez to the Brewers straight up for him.
The trade looks even worse when you consider that, unlike the Royals, the Twins were actually a competitive team at the time. They had just gone 79-83 in 2007, but that was their first losing season since 2000 – they had won 96 games and the division in 2006.
In 2008, the Twins finished 88-74, tied for the AL Central crown with the White Sox, and lost a one-game playoff. Meanwhile, Santana led the NL in ERA. The decision to trade Santana cost the Twins a playoff spot, and the players they got in return weren’t even worth the draft picks they would have gotten once Santana left as a free agent.
Pitcher: Danny Haren
Contract Status: $4M for 2008, $5.5 for 2009, $6.75M/$250K option for 2010.
Trade: Haren and Connor Robertson from Oakland to Arizona for Brett Anderson, Chris Carter, Aaron Cunningham, Dana Eveland, Carlos Gonzalez, and Greg Smith.
Now this is how you net prospects for Danny Haren. The A’s, who just three years earlier had acquired Haren and Daric Barton and Kiko Calero from the Cardinals for Mark Mulder (who had one good season before his career was destroyed by injuries), flipped Haren for six players. This sequence of events – flipping one pitcher at the precipice for three prospects, one of whom is an immediate improvement on the pitcher traded away, and who three years later is traded for six more prospects – might be the signature move of Billy Beane’s career.
In exchange for Haren, the A’s got Brett Anderson, who had a 2.80 ERA this season, as a 22-year-old southpaw. He’s on the short list for the best young pitchers in the game. They got Carlos Gonzalez, who led the NL in batting average and was an MVP candidate this season. They got Chris Carter (who the Diamondbacks had just traded Carlos Quentin for straight up), who was a Top-50 prospect last year, and despite a bit of an off-season is still a Top-100 prospect this winter. They got Greg Smith, who as a rookie in 2008 gave the A’s 32 starts with a league-average ERA. They got Aaron Cunningham, a tweener outfielder who helped them acquire starting third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff from the Padres last winter. And they got Dana Eveland, who like Smith was a league-average starter for them in 2008 before tailing off.
Now that’s a f**king-A trade.
For the A’s, the impact of the deal is muted by the fact that Gonzalez (and Smith and Huston Street) were traded to Colorado the following winter for Matt Holliday. While the A’s sold high on Smith, who immediately got hurt, they sold very low on Gonzalez, who is now one of the most valuable commodities in baseball. Holliday didn’t work out in Oakland, and was sold off the next summer to St. Louis for Brett Wallace, who turned into Michael Taylor, who was a big disappointment in Triple-A this year. But the trade itself might go down as one of the greatest stars-for-prospects trades of all time. If this is the standard by which you want to compare the Greinke trade, then the Greinke trade was a failure. It shouldn’t be.
(The other side of this trade is a cautionary tale for the Royals. By some measurements, the Royals’ farm system today is matched by only a few farm systems in the past decade – one of them, notably, being the 2006 Diamondbacks. Arizona lost 86 games in 2006, but won the NL West title in 2007. But after trading so much talent to Oakland for Haren that winter, the organization has gone backwards three straight seasons, finishing 82-80, 70-92, and 65-97. The moral is clear: having an abundance of talent does not give you license to throw players around like twenties at a strip club.)
Alright, take a look at those nine trades. The A’s got more for Danny Haren than the Royals got for Greinke, but aside from the fact that Haren still had three years left on his contract – that was a ridiculous trade. The Blue Jays’ haul for Roy Halladay was comparable to what the Royals got for Greinke – but the Phillies were trading for four years of Halladay, with an option for a fifth.
But in the other seven trades above, the team netting the prospects got less talent – in most cases, considerably less talent – than the Royals got for Greinke. Two of those trades (the last Lee trade and the Sabathia deal) involved a pitcher who was just months away from free agency, so those two deals are not directly comparable (and both teams did well, getting at least one Top-50 prospect in each trade.) But the other five deals all involved an ace starter with at least one season left on his contract. None of those deals come close to what the Royals got for Greinke. In particular, the Lee trade to Seattle brought back no impact players, the Santana deal was an enormous missed opportunity for the Twins, and the Haren deal this summer looks like a catastrophic waste of a #1 starter.
I have no way of knowing whether Dayton Moore could have gotten more for Zack Greinke than he did. But I can say with complete confidence that, based on the established market for #1 starters set over the past four years, Moore got market value for Greinke, and then some. If you want to argue that the Greinke trade was bad for Kansas City, go right ahead. Just be prepared to acknowledge the notion that virtually every team that has traded an ace starter in the last four years made an even worse deal.
And this leads me to the claim I made at the end of my last column, that the Royals very well might have done better than the Rangers did in their fabled Mark Teixeira trade.
A key point to my claim is this: the Teixeira trade wasn’t nearly as good as everyone thinks.
I don’t know what it is about Texas that makes people ignore the facts in favor of a neat storyline. Everyone talks about how the Rangers turned their pitching staff around because Nolan Ryan told the organization to stop babying their starters and make them throw 250 pitches every time out, just like he did. Never mind that the Rangers averaged just 98 pitches per start (sixth in the AL), and averaged just 5.87 innings per start (11th in the AL). Nolan Ryan made some strong statements about how men are men and pitchers should complete what they start, so the Rangers must be doing something differently, even if all the data tells us they’re not.
And everyone talks about how the trade of Mark Teixeira catapulted the Rangers onto an upward trajectory that led them to the World Series this year. Well, let’s look at that trade:
Pitcher: Mark Teixeira
Contract Status: $9M for 2007, arb-eligible for 2008 (signed 1-year, $12.5M deal).
Trade: Teixeira and Ron Mahay from Texas to Atlanta for Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Matt Harrison, and Beau Jones.
It’s a good trade. The Rangers got Elvis Andrus, then an 18-year-old who was struggling to hit in the Carolina League, but with undeniable tools. The next year Andrus took a step forward, hitting .295 and stealing 54 bases in Double-A. He started last season as the Rangers’ everyday shortstop, and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. He’s a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop who gets on base, and he just turned 22.
He also slugged .301 this season.
I’m not dissing Andrus; I think he’s one of the better shortstops in the league, and I think he’s young enough to develop into a star. But first he has to show some ability to drive the ball. It’s possible he could be the new Ozzie Smith, who became an on-base machine in his early 30s despite never hitting for power. But I’d like to see him slug better than .301 before I consider him a star.
The Rangers also got Neftali Feliz, who at the time of the trade was a 19-year-old still toiling in rookie ball, although the scouting buzz on him was just taking off. In 2008 he tore through the system, reaching Double-A while striking out 153 batters in just 127 innings. In 2009 he pitched well in Triple-A, then was moved to the bullpen in preparation for his major league debut, which was electrifying – he allowed just 13 hits in 31 innings, which was the lowest hits per 9 innings ratio in major league history for someone with 30+ innings. (Or it would have been, had Mike Adams not allowed just 14 hits in 37 innings the same year.) In 2010, he took over as the Rangers’ closer, saved 40 games, and won the Rookie of the Year.
He’s also a reliever.
I’m not dissing on Feliz; he’s an outstanding pitcher with some of the best stuff in the game. And if the Rangers elected to move him back into the rotation, he certainly has a chance to become a #1 starting pitcher. But as long as he’s used as a closer – and there’s no indication they’re going to move him out of that role , there’s a limit to how valuable he can be no matter how effective he is.
The Rangers did a tremendous job of scouting both Andrus and Feliz, because neither player projected to be this good at the time of the trade. But it’s worth mentioning that, according to Baseball Reference, Andrus was worth 1.0 Wins Above Replacement this season. Felix was worth 2.4 WAR. The Rangers won the division by nine games. I know this is heresy to say, but I think they would have won the AL West even if they had never traded Teixeira.
The other thing to keep in mind is that, while the Rangers hit big on Andrus and Feliz, they whiffed even bigger on Saltalamacchia. Saltalamacchia was supposed to be the key to the trade – a 22-year-old rookie switch-hitting catcher who was already hitting .284/.333/.411 in Atlanta. Instead of turning into an All-Star catcher, though, Saltalamacchia stopped hitting, he developed a mental block about throwing the ball back to the pitcher, and he’s now in Boston, having checked into the Red Sox Convalescent Home For Washed-Up Phenoms. (I believe they gave him Jeremy Hermida’s old room.)
Harrison was a potential #4/#5 left-handed starter who has yet to reach even that modest ceiling, and Jones was a pure throw-in who might wind up a LOOGY when all is said and done. Which means the Rangers turned Teixeira into an excellent defensive shortstop who can get on base, and an elite closer. It was a great trade for them, to be sure. But it was hardly a franchise changer. The Teixeira trade doesn’t compare with the Bartolo Colon trade, for instance, or even the A’s trade of Danny Haren.
And I think there’s a chance that the Royals’ haul for Greinke can match, if not exceed, what the Rangers got for Teixeira. A year ago, Alcides Escobar and Elvis Andrus were considered the two best young shortstops in baseball, and it wasn’t entirely clear who you’d rather have going forward. Both are considered elite defensive shortstops – Andrus maybe a little better, but it’s close. Both run very well. Andrus walks a lot more, but Escobar should hit for a higher average, and has a little more juice in his bat. (Even with his wreck of a rookie season, Escobar’s career slugging average of .335 is higher than Andrus’ .333.)
I don’t think Escobar is as good as Andrus. But if bounces back, he won’t be far behind.
Jeffress is unlikely to be as good as Feliz is, but they have a similar skill set – an electric fastball and an outstanding breaking ball, the slider for Feliz, the curveball for Jeffress. Feliz is special because his fastball has so much late movement, while Jeffress’ fastball is pretty straight. But while Jeffress is unlikely to be the pitcher that Feliz is, if Jeffress reaches his potential, again, he won’t be far behind.
And that leaves Cain and Odorizzi. If Cain becomes an average-plus everyday centerfielder, or if Odorizzi becomes a #3 starter in the majors, that’s considerably more value than the Rangers got from the other three guys in their trade. Really, if either Escobar or Cain becomes a quality everyday player, and either Jeffress becomes an elite reliever or Odorizzi becomes an above-average starting pitcher, then the Greinke trade will have yielded as much talent as the Teixeira trade. And if the Royals hit on three out of four, I’d argue that they did better than the Rangers.
It will be years before we know how this plays out. But the mere fact that I can argue with a straight face that the Royals may have received more for Greinke than the Rangers did for Teixeira should make it clear that the Royals didn’t get taken. I liked the trade when it was announced last weekend, and I like it even more today. Considering the price that other teams sold their ace starters for, Dayton Moore did as well as we could have expected. He might have done even better.
Happy Holidays, everyone. See you back here next year.