Hindsight is always 20/20 as they say, and that certainly holds true when wheeling and dealing. Trades excite fans from coast to coast, yet many times teams end up sacrificing their future for a shot at a proven commodity in hopes of a title run. While the Rangers recently acquired Cliff Lee, it is still too early to measure the impact of that deal. This piece sets out to shine the spotlight on some of the most notable Texas Rangers trades since 2005 utilizing statistical analysis and the sabermetric WAR.
WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement and is a relatively complicated formula that in the end answers the question, “How much value would the team lose if a replacement player took his spot?” The calculation turns out an approximate win total the player holds. Now on to the trades:
Best Trade: July 31, 2007: Texas trades Ron Mahay and Mark Teixeira to the Atlanta Braves for Beau Jones, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. (Rangers Net WAR Loss: -15, but WAR value of trade is rising rapidly)
In short, the Rangers managed to pick up their starting shortstop, closer, a capable starting pitcher and a capable albeit vulnerable catcher in Jarrod Saltalamacchia. This has to be one of the most successful trades in the past five years and perhaps longer.
Teixeira had the best season of his career in a Rangers uniform, tallying 43 home runs and 144 runs batted in. He’s also been a cornerstone defensively as well, adding back-to-back Gold Glove awards. Replacing Teixeira (17 WAR with Texas, 17.6 WAR since departure) is short of impossible, but what Texas got in return has allowed them to become better defensively.
Elvis Andrus (3.5 WAR) tallied a league-high 261 putouts at shortstop last season. He also received the highest range rating among shortstops (4.61), enabling the Rangers to move Michael Young over to third. Neftali Feliz (1.8 WAR) has solidified the back end of the bullpen and is second in the AL in saves this season (23) and has a 1.06 WHIP.
In some instances, WAR doesn’t paint the true value returned, and this is one of those instances. In five years, this deal will seem a lot better from a WAR standpoint.
Honorable Mention: July 28, 2006: Texas trades Julian Cordero, Francisco Cordero, Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix to the Milwaukee Brewers for Nelson Cruz and Carlos Lee. (Rangers Net WAR Loss: -1.5, but WAR value of trade is rising steadily)
While they lost Francisco Cordero (7.4 WAR since departure), the franchise’s single-season leader for saves (49), the Rangers acquired premier talent. Everyone is familiar with Carlos Lee, but Nelson Cruz (6.1 WAR with Rangers) turned out to be a true diamond in the rough.
Cruz was one of only three players in 2009 with 30 home runs, 20 steals, and 20 doubles (Curtis Granderson and Ryan Braun were the others). He also thrived defensively, finishing second in the AL with 11 outfield assists, behind only Nick Markakis of the Baltimore Orioles.
The Lee experiment didn’t work out so well, though. Lee accumulated a 16.7 WAR in his career before coming to Texas, where he produced a mere 0.8 WAR. After averaging a home run every 15.5 plate appearances before the trade in 102 games with Brewers, his feverish pace dipped to a homer every 28.8 plate appearances in 59 games with the Rangers.
Worst Trade: January 6, 2006: Texas trades Adrian Gonzalez, Termel Sledge and Chris Young to the San Diego Padres for Billy Killian, Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka. (Rangers Net WAR Loss: -23.1)
This doesn't need much explanation, as the Rangers gave away Adrian Gonzalez (21 WAR with San Diego), who is now one of the best first basemen in the league, both offensively and defensively. Gonzalez has made three consecutive All-Star appearances while missing only three games total from 2007 to 2009. A multiple Gold Glove winner, Gonzalez also led the majors with 119 walks in 2009.
Chris Young (6.9 WAR with San Diego) has managed to earn himself a solid, albeit injury-plagued career. Young is 47-34 with a 3.84 ERA and has held opponents to a .221 batting average in his career. Meanwhile, the Rangers acquired Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka, both of whom are out of Major League Baseball and totaled a combined WAR of 4.3 with the team.
Dishonorable Mention: December 12, 2005: Texas trades Alfonso Soriano to the Washington Nationals for Armando Galarraga, Termel Sledge and Brad Wilkerson. (Rangers Net WAR Loss: -11.4 and rising)
This deal wouldn't have been that bad had Texas held onto Armando Galarraga (3.1 WAR since trade), who has had bouts of success with the Tigers. The Rangers' starting pitching has been horrendous for the better part of the last decade, and since 2005 they have managed to trade Armando Galarraga, John Danks (15.1 WAR), Francisco Cordero (7.4 WAR), Chris Young (6.9 WAR) and Edinson Volquez (5.1 WAR).
Alfonso Soriano went on to a very solid career with Washington and then on with the Chicago Cubs, where he combined for a 12.5 WAR. This trade didn’t cripple the franchise, but they really didn’t get much long-term value in any of the three players they acquired.
Best Trade for Both Teams: December 21, 2007: Texas traded Danny Herrera and Edinson Volquez to the Cincinnati Reds for Josh Hamilton. (Rangers Net WAR Gain: 4.9 and rising, slowly)
Both teams fared well in this deal, with the Rangers picking up one of the most potent bats in the league while Cincinnati received one of the best young arms in the league. Volquez didn't do much in a Rangers uniform, winning only three times in 17 starts over three seasons. In his first season with the Reds, he won 17 games while finishing second in strikeouts (207). Since joining the Reds, Volquez has a 5.1 WAR.
Josh Hamilton was once considered a five-tool player, and while the running aspect hasn't been a major part of his game so far with only 27 career stolen bases, his ability to drive in runs has far surpassed expectations. In 2008, Hamilton led the AL with 130 RBIs, and since joining the Rangers he has accumulated a 10.1 WAR.