Whenever people are discussing trading prospects, I always come down on the side of doing it. (Within reason, of course.) I figure if you can trade potential talent for actual talent, why wouldn’t you do it? To help my case, I usually fall back on two examples.
The first is the Pedro Martinez trade. In that move, the Sox gave up Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. They were both highly touted pitching prospects. Pavano was probably the best the Sox had. But, they gave them up to acquire Pedro. And it worked. Even though both Pavano and Armas went on to have decent major league careers, nobody could possibly argue that the Sox didn’t make the right decision in grabbing Pedro.
The other example I use is the Josh Beckett deal. In this case the deal was, basically, Beckett for Hanley Ramirez. This is probably the most extreme case I can think of. Hanley was a rare talent. People knew he was going to be good. And, as it turns out, they were absolutely right. You could argue that he ended up being every bit of the player they expected him to be. A perennial MVP candidate. Even in that case…do the Sox win the championship in 2007 without Beckett? I don’t think so. So, even in the case where the prospect the Sox traded away lived up to everything he was hyped to be, trading him away was the right move.
Or, was it?
Watching Hanley back in Town this spring has made me wonder. Watching him with David Ortiz makes me know he would have fit in here. (Imagine the Ortiz-Ramirez-Ramirez trio both on and off the field) But, should the Sox have kept him after all? It’s an interesting question in that there aren’t a lot of “ifs” that you need to take into account. Basically the Sox had a revolving door at short since he left, so it’s not like “If they kept Hanley, they wouldn’t have had this guy at short.” So, did Hanley do better than the stiffs the Sox replaced him with?
Since he was traded, Hanley has had a (b-r) WAR of 36.4. Those stiffs? 14.5. So, clearly, Hanley would have been the better choice at short…by a factor of two. But, of course, the Sox added someone when they got rid of Hanley. Josh Beckett contributed a bit to the Sox, as I mentioned. During his time with the Sox, he put up a 22.6 WAR of his own. So, Beckett and the stiffs combined to 37.1. (Yes, I know Mike Lowell was part of the deal. But, his success was such a surprise, I find it hard to use him as part of the argument…even though it helps my case. I’m also not including Alvarez or Sanchez even though I probably should. The fill in pieces are too random to be used in an argument.)
So, the trade worked. 37.1 to 36.4. There you go.
I will add in one “what if” into the comparison, though. At the time of the trade, John Henry said he was against it. He’d rather have kept the prospects and just signed AJ Burnett in the offseason. In that case, he would just be spending money. (A similar argument is being used against a potential Cole Hamels deal. Why trade prospects AND spend money if you can just sign a guy this off-season, and just spend money.) So, what if the Sox had done that? AJ Burnett, since the trade has a 12.7 WAR. So, Hanley plus AJ is 49.1, while Beckett and the stiffs were 37.1. About a game less per season. So, IF the Sox had done that, it might have worked out better.
Of course, that includes a big if, in that they actually signed AJ. And that he stayed with them. (It also ignores the fact that nothing was preventing them from signing both Beckett and AJ.)
I also have to look at 2007. Beckett had a 6.4 WAR that year (and Julio Lugo added in 0.6 of his own). Hanley and Burnett combined to a 6.7. So, you could argue that the Sox would have finished with the same record with either pair. But, do the Sox win the ALCS with Burnett as the ace instead of Beckett?
Hard to say that they do. But, who knows? Maybe Hanley’s bat would have made Burnett’s pitching enough. Maybe not. Does it matter?
If the best case you can make against trading a prospect is that maybe they might have been a little better if everything else worked out to plan…is that really a case in your favor?
Should Hanley have stayed?