The major league baseball deadline has passed and many teams have positioned themselves for the stretch run. The Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, and a few other teams, have made acquisitions they hope will put them over the top and into the playoffs. But, there are also so teams who did not position themselves well. They have completely shredded their team by not getting enough in return for the players they dealt. Or maybe they just didn’t make a deal and should have. For me, the Pittsburgh Pirates really have dropped the ball and owe their fans an apology.
This all started last year at the trading deadline last year. Actually, in truth, you could say it started at the end of the 1992 season when the Atlanta Braves knocked off the Pirates in a dramatic Game seven of the NLCS. Perhaps when Sid Bream slid into home plate, he literally kicked the life out of the Pirates’ organization because since that game the Pirates have yet to contend. Last year, they traded outfielders Jason Bay and Xavier Nady at or near the deadline, and earlier this year they traded outfielder Nate McLouth and first baseman Adam LaRoche. At the deadline this year they traded away longtime fan favorite in shortstop Jack Wilson, starting pitcher Ian Snell, second baseman Freddy Sanchez, and rehabbing starting pitcher Tom Gorzelanny (who Sports Geek and I have seen start a game in person… and pitch well) and reliever John Grabow. In fact, only one player is left in the starting eight (minus the pitcher) from Opening Day last year and that is catcher Ryan Doumit. With the way things are going up in the Steel City, he better not be getting too comfortable.
Yes, it’s true that they unloaded a lot of salary and they unloaded some players that either had fallen out of favor within the organization (Snell) or had struggled offensively on the field (Wilson). But, Wilson has long been a fan favorite of Pirates fans (which are dwindling… see attendance figures. That’s a shame because PNC Park is a beautiful baseball stadium. Sanchez was perhaps the most recognizable name on that team. Without him, the casual baseball fan possibly couldn’t name a single player on the Pirates team today.
Even more frustrating for a Pirate fan is the fact that this team has been in rebuilding mode for quite some time now. I’m all for rebuilding when it is necessary, but how much rebuilding actually has to take place before something actually gets built? How long do Pirates fans have to suffer? Remember the early 1990’s when the Pirates made the NLCS three straight years with a young and significantly smaller left fielder named Barry Bonds? Those days are long gone!
As a baseball fan, and someone who sympathizes with Pirates fans, I really hope the city of Pittsburgh has a winning baseball team to support. But from the looks of things, the rebuilding cycle is going to be stuck on repeat.
You have to love baseball. For starters, the silly season lasts forEVER. First there is the off-season where players change organizations, highlighted by the winter meetings. Then there is the entertaining search for “that last player” a team needs to dominate a season during Spring Training. Then, the non-waiver trading deadline of July 31 comes, the best time to trade a player before passing them through waivers. Then the waiver-trading deadline a month later at the end of August.
For most teams it is a chance to make the team better for the remainder of the season. For others, they are preparing to be a contender for the following season.
For the 2009 Cleveland Indians, apparently they are preparing for contention in the 2012 season – maybe.
The season started with the Indians trading for versatile and consistent slugger Mark DeRosa and signing fireballing free agent closer Kerry Wood.
High hopes, right?
A couple of injuries later the season is derailed. Designated hitter Travis Hafner’s mysterious shoulder fatigue injury, an elbow injury to center fielder Grady Sizemore, some really awful pitching out of the bullpen, and a lack of consistent and timely hitting turned this season into a wash. Despite general manager Mark Shapiro’s best efforts, the Indians were no longer competitive in 2009. Time to sell off the players necessary to restock for 2010, right?
Wrong. Shapiro has done a great deal of damage to the team’s chances at competing for the next several years. Despite his weak reassurances and high-brow “I don’t need applause right now” comments, the Indians traded away enough talent to make it obvious that not only were the Indians in no position to compete in 2010, the talent received in return puts the team even farther behind.
Let’s take a quick look at some the trading season deals from the Indians that set them back so much.
Just last week the trade between the Indians and St. Louis Cardinals was finalized where the Tribe sent Mark DeRosa over for relief pitchers Jess Todd and Chris Perez. Something about Cleveland has not agreed with Perez as his performance in Cleveland has been spotty and subpar. Todd, who has decent numbers in Triple A this season, probably will not make his major league debut until September.
Formerly solid middle reliever Rafael Betancourt was traded to Colorado for minor league pitcher Connor Graham, who is not likely to reach the majors until 2010 at the earliest (if ever).
Next is first baseman Ryan Garko, a player who is arbitration eligible at the end of the season. The Indians traded Garko to the San Francisco Giants – straight up – for a Single A pitcher, left-hander Scott Barnes. While Barnes is excellent – in Single A ball – the move does not show the aggressiveness needed to compete in 2010. It’s also a suspicious trade considering Garko knocked in 61 and 90 runs respectively in the last two seasons – all without consistent playing time. Apparently those numbers are only good enough to get a Single A prospect in return. For fans, I am sure it is hard to understand how an established major leaguer is worth the same as a Single A player… who could fall victim to any number of problems in his still developing career that prevent him from ever making his major league debut.
Then, of course, there are the big trades. For the second consecutive season the Indians traded the reigning American League Cy Young award winner, this time left-hander Cliff Lee (along with outfielder Ben Francisco) to the Philadelphia Phillies. The return on Lee (or, ROL) was no cache of major-league ready players primed to make the Indians contenders in 2010. They received pitchers Jason Knapp and Carlos Carrasco, infielder Jason Donald, and catcher Lou Marson. Of course no one knows the names. But, that’s not why there’s an issue with this trade. Lee did not have to be traded. He was under contract for next season (at an affordable $8M… good for a Cy Young winner – in Cleveland or anywhere). His value was not at its peak. More, the prospects Cleveland received in return did not include any of the big name pitchers in the Phillies minor league system. A Cy Young winner for a group of “might bes…” not even “probably wills.”
Last, the trade of catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez yielded just Justin Masterson – a reliever the Indians are going to convert to starter – pitcher Bryan Price, and pitcher Nick Hagadone. Price and Hagadone have had good seasons, but they are also single A players. It is unlikely that those players make an impact in 2009 or 2010. Plus, Martinez is under contract next season, and he was willing to stay with the Indians. He was a clubhouse leader the Indians badly needed, and a willing one at that. Instead, the future was traded for… the farther out future?
The entirety of the trade season, and the pieces Shapiro went after, do not indicate that the Indians are close to a World Series. Rather than trading for consistent bats (the Indians primary need along with the bullpen), Shapiro targeted a lot of relievers. It’s a misdiagnosis of the issues with the team. The Indians are not in need of a couple of relief pitching pieces to get over the hump, especially without rotation anchor Lee and star of the future Martinez.
Sure, Shapiro saved the Indians $16M in payroll for next season. But, at what cost… the cost of being a respectable, competitive major league baseball team next season? The cost of the present proved too high for the Indians, and they’ll again begin grooming the stars of tomorrow – who will likely blossom with another team. Look no further than Franklin Gutierrez’s success in Seattle this year for evidence of poor decision-making on talent in Cleveland.
Claiming competitiveness many years down the road is not acceptable to fans – whether they are season ticket holders or not. It’s offensive. The organization is taking the fan’s money for granted, showing they do not have to field a competitive team every year to get the fan’s money. Safe to say, even the penny-pinching Dolan family (who own the Indians) will not be able to accept another failure in 2010. The best way for them to get to that realization is by fans refusing to shell out their cash for an inferior product. It’s time for some accountability in Cleveland!
Well, the trade deadline has come and gone on for another season in Major League Baseball.
To celebrate, the bundles of sunshine and positivity that are the staff here at TSD decided to take a look back on the 2009 MLB trade season and discuss which team in the league had the worst trade season. Let’s be honest – they can’t ALL be winners, right?!
So, in the quest for identifying the owner of this dubious distinction, each of us are writing about the team we feel did themselves the most harm in their actions leading up to last Friday and the MLB trade deadline.
Sports Geek will arguing that it was the Cleveland Indians and their fire sale which was the worst of the season.
Loyal Homer will argue that the annual purge of Pittsburgh Pirates talent sits atop the mountain as most damaging.
For Bleacher Fan, I looked to John F. Kennedy for guidance, who once said, “There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction”.
The Toronto Blue Jays are about to learn that lesson the hard way!
For weeks leading up to the trade deadline of the 2009 MLB season, it seemed that you couldn’t turn on ESPN, pick up an issue of Sports Illustrated, or go to any sports news source without finding at least one mention about Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay and which new city he would be pitching in when August first rolled around. Everyone (including the folks in Toronto) acted as if it were inevitable that Halladay would be pitching elsewhere by the end of the season, and the only mystery appeared to be where that would be.
The frenzy began when Halladay, a six time All Star and former American League Cy Young Award winner, expressed interest in testing free-agency next year following the expiration of his most recent contract extension in Toronto, a three year deal signed in 2006 that was worth $40M.
In response to his comments, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi decided to shop Halladay around to the other teams in the league, all in an effort to make a deal that would still net some value to the Toronto organization upon Halladay’s seemingly inevitable departure. When you consider the year that Halladay has had so far, there was little doubt that Ricciardi would have any difficulty in finding teams interested in the ace.
Halladay, who has been undoubtedly among the best pitchers in the American League for the past several years, has so far pitched in the 2009 season to an 11-4 record, a 2.68 ERA and 129 strikeouts to only 11 walks. He also was named the starting pitcher for the American League All-Star team when they took the field last month. With those kind of numbers, there were many teams interested in dealing with Toronto to bring Halladay on board.
So what does Ricciardi do? He prices himself right out of the market. Rather than face the fact that Halladay will likely be gone from the organization by the end of 2010, Ricciardi foolishly states that he wants to be “blown away” by a trade offer if he’s going to deal Halladay. Essentially, Ricciardi had set too high a price for any team to seriously consider working with Toronto.
The Philadelphia Phillies, who seemed like the leading contenders to land Halladay, decided to look elsewhere when they were unwilling to meet Ricciardi’s demands. They didn’t have to look far, though, as they found the Cleveland Indians, who were willing to deal reigning Cy Young winner Cliff Lee for a minor league prospect and a free coupon from Subway. When Lee was traded to the Phillies, Ricciardi should have realized that his price was, perhaps, too high. Instead, he persisted on demanding top value for his ace.
In fairness, I have no problem with Ricciardi trying to retain as much value as possible for a proven ace like Halladay. But, with other talent on the market like Lee, or Jake Peavy who FINALLY has been moved to the South side of Chicago, the going rate for pitchers just was not as high as Ricciardi hoped it would be. He made his mistake in either the refusal or the inability to read the writing on the wall and to adjust his expectations accordingly. As a result, the Blue Jays organization will suffer.
Now, instead of seeing some kind of return on investment for Halladay, the Blue Jays are going to keep him through the remainder of the 2009 season, which is like winning the sportsmanship trophy in high school. It means nothing, because the season is all but over for Toronto as they currently sit 12 games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East. As they move into the 2010 season, Ricciardi will likely try to shop Halladay around again, but next year the buyers will be holding all the cards because they know that they will have a shot at Halladay for nothing at the end of the season.
Ricciardi’s inactivity, and his unwillingness to make any concessions when the pressure was on for him to make a deal will ultimately cost the Blue Jays much more next year, when they watch Halladay just walk away from the team and have nothing to show for it.