Thursday, July 21, 2011
Do future stars get dealt at deadline?
By David Schoenfield
Baseball fans are more hyped up this time of year than a bunch of 6-year-olds chewing down an endless supply of Skittles.
If your team is a contender, you hope your general manager can find that missing piece of the puzzle (but not give away anything of value). If your team is out of it, you hope your general manager can make a move for the future. You're buzzed on trade rumors and prospects.
But how many of those prospects actually turn into stars?
I did a quick search of the best players in baseball to see how many were once acquired at the trade deadline while prospects. I looked at 124 hitters and 70 pitchers -- any players with 5.0 or more WAR (wins above replacement) from Baseball-Reference.com.
- Shin-Soo Choo, Indians. Acquired in 2006 from the Mariners for Ben Broussard. Baseball America's No. 51 prospect before 2005 (and Seattle's No. 7 prospect entering 2006), Choo was hitting .323/.394/.499 at Triple-A Tacoma.
- Ben Zobrist, Rays. Acquired in 2006 (with Mitch Talbot) from Astros for Aubrey Huff. Never rated as a prospect, but was hitting .327/.434/.473 at Double-A, although he was 25.
- Nelson Cruz, Rangers. Acquired in 2006 (with Carlos Lee) from Brewers for Francisco Cordero, Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix. The Brewers were already Cruz's third organization. Like Zobrist, he was 25 but was hitting .302 with 20 home runs at Triple-A.
- Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians. Acquired in 2006 from the Mariners for Eduardo Perez. This trade actually happened in late June, before the Choo trade. Not a good summer for former Seattle GM Bill Bavasi. Cabrera was Seattle's No. 6 prospect entering the season and was hitting .236 at Triple-A. BUT ... he had skipped Double-A and was just 20 years old. An unbelievably bad deal considering Perez was nothing more than a platoon first baseman/DH. (He hit .195 with one homer for the Mariners and then retired.)
- Michael Young, Rangers. Acquired in 2000 from the Blue Jays for Esteban Loaiza. Young was 23, playing second base in Double-A and hitting .275/.340/.426. He certainly wouldn't have projected as a future seven-time All-Star.
- Elvis Andrus, Rangers. Part of the haul in 2007 from the Braves for Mark Teixeira, he was Baseball America's No. 65 prospect before the season, and would be No. 19 before the 2008 season.
- Daniel Hudson, Diamondbacks. Acquired in 2010 from the White Sox for Edwin Jackson. BA's No. 66 prospect before 2010, he had made five big league starts when traded.
- Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips. The Indians acquired Lee and Phillips and Grady Sizemore from the Expos for Bartolo Colon in 2002, although they eventually traded Phillips to the Reds for Jeff Stevens.
So that's nine out of 214 players -- about 4 percent. We could also include Carlos Santana, Neftali Feliz and Wilson Ramos, who haven't been around long but I would argue are among the top 214 players in baseball. You could also include Justin Masterson, although he was already an established major leaguer when traded for Victor Martinez.
For the sake of comparison, by my count 89 of the 214 players are still with the team that originally drafted or signed them -- 42 percent. (Note that a few other top players were acquired in the offseason while still prospects, including Jair Jurrjens and Michael Bourn.)
The important note from above is that several of the guys who did develop were older guys -- Zobrist and Cruz were 25; Choo and Young were 23. Hudson was considered more of a fifth-starter type. None of those guys were elite prospects when dealt. Certainly, Andrus, Santana and Feliz would fit that billing of "elite" when traded. Santana had come out of nowhere for the Dodgers in 2008 to put up monster numbers at Class A. Cleveland stole him for Casey Blake. Andrus and Feliz were very young but scouts loved the raw talent.
Add it all up and as you see all the names being moved over the next 10 days, the odds are that most of the prospects traded won't develop into anything.
But it's that lure and small chance of acquiring the next Choo or Santana that makes this time of year tastier than a bag of Skittles.
Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.