Print and Go Back ESPN.com: SweetSpot [Print without images]

Sunday, September 4, 2011
A three-team trade that paid three ways

By Joe Janish



Generally speaking, when two Major League Baseball teams make a trade, the idea at the time is that both teams "win" as a result. Some fans might prefer to see their favorite team steal players from other organizations, but in reality general managers usually try to make deals that work for both sides. (If a GM gets a reputation of thievery, it's hard to make trades in the future.) It doesn't always work out that way; after time passes, it often works out that one team "wins" while the other "loses." Even if it's not on the scale of Broglio-for-Brock or Ryan-for-Fregosi, looking back many trades will favor one team over the other.

While it's hard enough for both sides to benefit from a conventional two-team trade, how often do you see three clubs win in a three-team deal? Not as often as you see three-team deals, and they're fairly rare to begin with. However, looking at the Dec. 8, 2009, swap made among the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, and Arizona Diamondbacks, it could be argued that all three organizations have come away as winners.

It might not have looked that way in 2010, but each of those clubs would probably make the same deal again today, even with the benefit of hindsight. The marquee name in the trade was Curtis Granderson, who is having an MVP-like season for the Yankees, so they are certainly happy with their return.

To get Granderson, the Bronx Bombers sent Austin Jackson and Phil Coke to Detroit and Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks. Additionally, the D-backs traded Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth to the Tigers, and Detroit swapped Edwin Jackson to Arizona. Though none of the players the Tigers received are having an MVP-caliber year, it's fair to say the deal worked out well for them as well. After all, they are currently leading the AL Central by 6.5 games, with roughly one-sixth of the team's 25-man roster filled by players obtained in that deal -- including their starting center fielder and their No. 2 starting pitcher.

Then there are the Diamondbacks, who didn't look like winners until very recently. The original trade left Arizona with two starters who were disappointments in 2010. One of them -- Jackson -- was flipped at the deadline last year in return for Daniel Hudson, who is now 14-9 and showing the type of dominant stuff needed to be a postseason starter.

There is also Kennedy. After going 9-10 with a 3.80 ERA in 2010, did anyone think Kennedy would come close to 20 wins in 2011? Yet here he is, winning his 18th against the second-place Giants and beating Tim Lincecum on a night that "The Freak" recorded his 200th strikeout of the season. At the end of the year, we may look back at this game in particular as the one that took the wind out of San Francisco's sails, as it set them a solid six games back and sent their ace to the showers after only five frames. At the same time, it solidified Kennedy's status as a Cy Young candidate.

That's right -- Kennedy has entered the conversation, if he wasn't there already. While all eyes have been on Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee in Philadelphia, and a groundswell of support has organized behind Clayton Kershaw, it is the oft-forgotten right-hander in Arizona who stands atop the NL in wins. This is not necessarily one of those cases of a pitcher being lucky enough to be on a great team or get obnoxious levels of run support -- Kennedy is pitching well enough to win for anyone.

Look beyond the 18 wins and you see someone who has pitched 194 innings -- tied for third with Lee, behind Kershaw's 199 and Halladay's 196. Kennedy's 2.96 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 167 strikeouts are all among the top 10 in the NL. The Diamondbacks average 5.51 runs per game when Kennedy is on the mound -- compare that to the 5.99 afforded Halladay and the 5.75 the Dodgers score for Kershaw. You may not think of Kennedy as a stud, and you'd probably prefer to have Halladay, Lee and Kershaw on the mound in a big game, but at the same time, it's impossible to dismiss the Diamondbacks' ace from Cy Young consideration at this point. Additionally, he and Hudson are shaping up to be a formidable one-two punch that can match up with the Brewers' Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo, and may even be just good enough to compete with the otherworldly aces thrown by the Phillies.

What do you think? Does Kennedy deserve to be mentioned when people talk about the Cy Young Award? Do you agree the Diamondbacks, Yankees and Tigers were "winners" in that three-team deal from the winter of 2009 -- or does one team's take stand out above the rest?

PHOTO OF THE DAY
Edgar Renteria
The force was with Edgar Renteria and he flies like CGI Yoda, but he didn't deliver a DP.
Joe Janish is the founder of Mets Today, a SweetSpot network affiliate, and has thrown BP to Don Mattingly, caught Jim Bouton's knuckleball, and eaten a meal prepared by Rusty Staub. You can follow him on Twitter here.