Acquiring Young Talent through Trades—Part One: The Pitchers

On Tuesday I tried to make you feel good about the 2011 Indians.  I told you how if things go just right, this team can compete in the AL Central.  It was a shiny, happy day.  Today I might end up making you feel sort of crummy about the 2007 Indians.  Yes, it’s a weird exercise, but bear with me.

Let’s start with the sell-off that was precipitated by those 2007 Indians underperforming in 2008, taking a team from within one game of the World Series to competing with the Royals for last place.  By and large, there seemed to be two major reactions to the moves of CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Victor Martinez.

The first reaction was one of alienation from MLB as a whole and the Indians in particular.  Any system that encourages the sort of talent-exodus that took place in Cleveland cannot and should not be supported, or so the argument went.  This reaction was manifested in a number of emotions: anger, grief, disgust, disdain, withdrawal, and, I’m certain, quite a few more.  This reaction creates a significant legitimacy crisis for Major League Baseball, and one that gets talked about quite a bit by people smarter and better informed than I.  To be brief, I can offer these folks no comfort.  What happened to the Indians, beginning with the CC trade and culminating with Victor, sucked eggs, and I would never try to tell anybody that it didn’t.

There was a second group to react to those trades though.  This group of people had largely come to terms with the fact that, for better or worse, the Indians had to trade those players—that it was probably the prudent thing to do.  This group, while not happy about that reality, knew that if they were going to continue to follow baseball, they’d have to come to terms with those trades because they couldn’t envision a life devoid of Major League Baseball, and that Shapiro’s decision to move those guys, while a major bummer, was probably closer to “smart” than “dumb”.

However, that’s not to say this second group didn’t voice some major complaints.  I’ve heard them from plenty of smart people: It’s not that they traded those guys, but that they got so little in return.  We should have gotten so much more for our big prizes. Or: If we couldn’t get Kyle Drabek or Domonic Brown or Clay Buchholz, why bother trading them at all?

I think this sentiment comes from a few places.  The first is a general appeal to fairness.  Even if the complainants didn’t couch their argument in terms of WAR, what they meant was that giving up CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez cost the team wins and that those lost wins should be balanced (maybe not immediately but certainly someday) by the players acquired in return.  Another source for the frustration—especially the stuff about Kyle Drabek and Domonic Brown and Clay Buchholz—was that the press had decided that there were only a few players “worth” what we were giving up, and that Lou Marson was not one of them.*  Finally, there is always the spectre of the Bartolo Colon trade hanging over any move the Indians make.  It was a blessing to get so much talent in that trade (Sizemore, Lee, and Brandon Phillips), but the corresponding curse is that many fans now feel that all trades should be that good.  Anything less is a failure.  It’s quite an unreasonable measuring stick.

*The press is always right, by the way.  Always.

And it’s not that I disagree with these points on an emotional level—I would have loved to have gotten more in return for our trades, especially considering the sub-par debuts of LaPorta, Brantley and others.  If we could have a 25-man roster filled with the best prospects in baseball all being paid the league-minimum?  Well, you think I’m optimistic now…

But trades just don’t work this way, not in any sport and especially not in baseball.  You never get what you think is fair—be it “equal value” or what the press thinks or what you remember as a kid.  You get what the market will pay.  You don’t get a team’s best prospect just because you want it; you get what the team is willing to offer.  Markets tend to be efficient like this: what you get is largely what you deserve.

Nevertheless, there is still a cloud hanging over the Indians.  We gave up two Cy Young winners and the heart of the franchise, and we’ve yet to see any real contribution from what we got back.  Did we get duped?

I thought I’d take a look into the past, to answer that question.  Today I want to spend some time looking at the pitching that came back in the deals (we’ll do hitters another time).  If we really were supposed to get top-end, young pitching talent for our trades, then there should be a precedent out there somewhere. Right?

So here’s what I did.  I grabbed all starting pitchers from 2010 and sorted them by WAR (high is good, low is bad).  Then, to try to identify young players, I insisted that they be no older than 28.  The point of this is simple: I’m not interested in how a team acquires Cliff Lee—I already know that.  I’m interested in whether there’s a precedent for acquiring young, affordable pitching talent through trades, preferably pre-free-agency players.

Here’s what I found:

Name Age Team IP WAR Salary Acquired
Ubaldo Jimenez 26 COL 221.2 7.1 $1,250,000 Amateur Free Agent
Josh Johnson 26 FLA 183.2 6.4 $3,750,000 Amateur Draft
Felix Hernandez 24 SEA 249.2 6 $7,200,000 Amateur Free Agent
Adam Wainwright 28 STL 230.1 5.7 $4,837,500 Traded
Jered Weaver 27 LAA 224.1 5.4 $4,265,000 Amateur Draft
Clay Buchholz 25 BOS 173.2 5.4 $443,000 Amateur Draft
David Price* 24 TBR 208.2 5.3 $1,834,671 Amateur Draft
Jon Lester* 26 BOS 208 5 $3,750,000 Amateur Draft
John Danks* 25 CHW 213 4.9 $3,450,000 Traded
Cole Hamels* 26 PHI 208.2 4.7 $6,650,000 Amateur Draft
Francisco Liriano* 26 MIN 191.2 4.6 $1,600,000 Traded
Clayton Kershaw* 22 LAD 204.1 4.4 $440,000 Amateur Draft
Gio Gonzalez* 24 OAK 200.2 4.3 $405,000 Traded
Justin Verlander 27 DET 224.1 4.2 $6,850,000 Amateur Draft
Trevor Cahill 22 OAK 196.2 4.1 $410,000 Amateur Draft
Matt Cain 25 SFG 223.1 3.9 $4,583,333 Amateur Draft
Shaun Marcum 28 TOR 195.1 3.8 $850,000 Amateur Draft
Brian Duensing* 27 MIN 130.2 3.7 $417,500 Amateur Draft
Tim Lincecum 26 SFG 212.1 3.5 $9,000,000 Amateur Draft
Jonathan Sanchez* 27 SFG 193.1 3.4 $2,100,000 Amateur Draft

Here’s a google.doc spreadsheet with all the data, if you’re interested.

So what do I see here?  Well first of all, look at that “Acquired” column on the right.  It tells us how a player’s current team added him to the organization.  Out of the top twenty pitchers 28 or younger, only four were acquired via trade: Adam Wainwright, John Danks, Francisco Liriano, and Gio Gonzalez.  Two were signed as amateur free agents (Latin American signings) and the remaining 14 were drafted.*

*For those who don’t want to click on the link, Fausto appears at 49th with a 1.9 WAR (Amateur Free Agent) and Masterson doesn’t make the list: according to Baseball-Reference his WAR was negative.

Now, let’s look at those four who were acquired by trade, because that’s we want our assets to become.

Adam Wainwright was acquired by St. Louis from the Atlanta Braves for J.D. Drew and Eli Marrero in 2003.  This was a great trade for the Cardinals: not only was Drew about to become expensive through the arbitration process, but he also butted heads with Manager Tony LaRussa.  St. Louis was able to capitalize on Atlanta’s desire to continue their run of dominance in the NL East, and pried away Wainwright, who was widely viewed as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball.  I’m not sure a pitching prospect as big as Wainwright has been traded since.

John Danks was traded from Texas to the White Sox in 2006.  The big piece moving to Texas was prospect Brandon McCarthy.  McCarthy was probably the biggest name in that trade, and everyone thought Texas got the better of the deal.  Despite Danks’ success in 2010, his closest comparison on baseball-reference.org is Donovan Osbourne—hardly a dominant force.

Fransico Liriano was barely 20 years old when he was traded from the Giants to the Twins in 2003.  He, Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser were traded for A.J. (freakin’) Pierzynksi.  The big name was, believe it or not, Bonser, who was thought to be a viable, cheap starter.

Gio Gonzalez was acquired by the A’s from the White Sox in a deal that sent Nick Swisher to the South Side in 2008.  Ryan Sweeney was the big name in that trade.  Gonzalez had already been traded two other times since 2006, indicating, at least to me, that teams thought he was largely expendable.

Sorry to bore you with all this minutiae, but hopefully you’re starting to see my point.  It’s exceedingly rare for teams to acquire front-end pitching talent via trades, and most of those who end up as dominant guys weren’t thought of terrifically highly when they were originally traded.  Young pitchers are a crapshoot: you just don’t know whether a guy will turn into Francisco Liriano (rare) or Daniel McCutchen (common).

So what did the Indians do?  They acquired a guy with a high pedigree in Carlos Carrasco, hoping he might turn into Adam Wainwright.  They acquired some guys with high upside who were a long way away in Bryan Price and Nick Hagadone, hoping they might become Lirianos.  They added a fairly sure thing, in Justin Masterson, whose impact will likely top out at a middle-of-the-rotation.  In other words, they looked at the sort of pitchers who are acquired in trades, and cast a wide net, hoping a few might hit.  A buckshot approach.

Does this vindicate the front office for the meager contributions of these additions?  I don’t think so, at least not entirely.  They’re still supposed to be hitting more than missing.  And we don’t yet know whether there have been any hits from these trades.

But when I hear people complaining that we didn’t get enough for our guys?  I’m not quite convinced.  The deck is stacked, especially when it comes to pitching, and you get what you can, not what you deserve.  Or, to put it another way: where are all these impact pitchers that have been acquired via trade?  If the market doesn’t deliver them up, it’s hard to fault the organization for not acquiring them.

So if you think we could have gotten more, you’ll have to show me a team that did get more.  Did the Phillies do much better than we did when they traded Lee to Seattle?  Did Seattle get a top-tier return when they moved him to Texas?  Did Minnesota get a strong return when they shipped Johan Santana to the Mets?*  Show me the market that Shapiro swung and missed on, and maybe I can cast some disdain, but until then, I think we probably did what we were supposed to do: get what we can, while we can.  Even though they weren’t perfect deals, they were better than the alternative–losing our guys to free agency.

Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself this winter.

*The answers, for the record, are “no” and “no” and “NOOOOOO”.

Sometime soon, I’ll look at position players, and I think we’ll see that the conclusions will be quite different.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-6513-Cleveland-Sports-Examiner clevexaminer

    Nice article. Totally agree with you about the Colon trade; it set the bar too high for the other 3 major trades Shapiro made. Nevermind the fact that the Tribe was fleecing a team that was about to disappear. But I’m starting to get nervous about the CC trade… this season should determine if it’s a bust. Too early to tell in the Lee and Martinez trades.

    But I like the fact that the Indians have been investing so heavily in pitching these last few drafts, especially after seeing your list. Pretty obvious this is the only way we’ll ever compete again. MLB forces teams like the Indians to adopt a college football strategy, constatnly reloading because they know players will be “graduating” to the Yankees or Phillies.

  • mgbode

    Supporting document: http://blog.seattlepi.com/baseball/archives/213072.asp?source=rss

    Basically a writer trying to calm down Seattle fans before they traded Cliff Lee for more prospects that they wouldn’t be completely enamored with.

  • Matt S

    Fantastic article, Jon. I think a lot of people forget that there’s always context to these trades. In the Colon trade, you had the Expos trying to save their franchise from contraction/relocation… so they didn’t care that they were giving up the farm in that trade. That’s why it was so good for the Indians. That’s why the Colon trade is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of trade.

    Really, if you look at the “blockbuster” trades of the past – ESPECIALLY one for ace pitchers, you’ll see that you never get back much more than the Indians did on these trades. Look at the Curt Schilling trade, for instance. Or the Mark McGwire trade (Oakland got almost nothing).

    Really, even if Hagadone only becomes a reliever (he’d be a really good one with his fastball, but obviously you hope he’d develop into a starter), and even if Masterson does the same… that’s a great trade for an aging V-Mart (especially with Santana in the system). Best case scenario: 2 starters and a reliever (Price) for the big league team, cheap and under control. Worst case scenario, 2 solid back-end bullpen guys.

    I don’t know what to think on the Lee trades anymore. If Knapp and Carrasco pan out, we probably have the best package of the 3 trades. It’s just as likely, though, that we end up with the worst of the three. Way too early to tell. What it does show, though, is that even a guy like Cliff Lee only gets you so much, and that context mattters. The three teams acquiring Lee knew that he was probably a hired gun, and would leave. By contrast, the package for Halladay is considered much better, as the Phillies knew they could sign him long-term.

  • NJ

    You know, I have a lot of respect for sabermetrics, but something always seems off to me with WARs for pitchers.

    I mean, I’m to believe that a full year with Fausto (3.77 era, 1.307 WHIP) starting would basically result in just one or two more wins than starting Kyle Davies (5.34 era, 1.557 WHIP). Or you’re a 90 win team with Tim Linceum but only an 87 win team replacing him with Paul Maholm.

    I’m probably taking it too literally, but still. Something just seems off about it to me.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com DP

    Or the Mark McGwire trade (Oakland got almost nothing).

    Kent Bottenfield is TICKED at this assertion!!

    Seriously, though, it seems sometimes that the “smaller” trades are the ones that work out the best. Recent memory? How about Mark DeRosa for Pure Rage Perez (and Jess Todd) or Casey Blake for Carlos Santana.

    Really, Jon, the only other trade that needs to be compared is to see what Toronto got for Halladay, since some of the same guys people were pining for traded places there. It will be interesting to see how those guys do.

  • VooDoo

    Blake for Santana was probably going to be a bigger steal for the Indians then the Colon trade but Santana got injured. I hope the kid can bounce back but that was a bad injury.

    Shapiro has made some nice trades for young positional players but his track record when it comes to pitching is almost completely the opposite. I also believe coaching has alot to do with the failures too. Especially coaching at the major league level.

  • Dan C.

    I’m not very smart on this kind of stuff but I do have a question…If we had just let these guys walk in free agency wouldn’t we have gotten strong draft pick compensation in return? Since your research shows that most good, young, starters are drafted, not traded for, wouldn’t it have made sense to just hold onto CC, Cliff, and Victor, not piss off the fans, and then take your chances in the draft (or hope one of your studs takes a hometown discount)?

  • dwhit110

    Great analysis Jon. Seems like the thesis is something like “You don’t trade for young pitching talent, you draft it.” which thankfully we’ve been doing with White and Pomeranz now that someone competent is in charge of the Amateur Draft.

    Given that, it’s ironic that the trade that is starting to look the most concerning is the one that centered around hitters, Laporta and Brantley. Hopefully those two make some strides this year.

  • Bryan

    This analysis does not control for the fact that the amateur draft brings hundreds of young pitchers into MLB every year, while trades bring much less. Given that fact, it seems completely unsurprising that most successful young pitchers come to their team via the draft rather than a trade – the draft is a much more common way to acquire players.

    I think the questions of interest you are trying to answer are:

    1) If you are going to make a trade for a young pitcher, what is the probability that that pitcher will develop into a “top-level” pitcher?

    2) If you are going to draft a young pitcher, what is the probability that that pitcher will develop into a “top-level” pitcher?

    To make an attempt to estimate these probabilities you need to account for (at a minimum) the volume of pitchers that enter the league through the two channels.

  • dwhit110

    That said, here’s the problem that I’m having with the above analysis, Jon. You make the following point:

    “It’s exceedingly rare for teams to acquire front-end pitching talent via trades, and most of those who end up as dominant guys weren’t thought of terrifically highly when they were originally traded.”

    A: I think your sample size is far too low to make that conclusion. We’d have to look at additional years.

    B: Even beyond sample size, I think this point is more important. There are more than 1,000 players selected in each year’s amateur draft Meanwhile far fewer players change teams due to trades. So you found that 4 of the Top 20 under 28 pitchers in 2010 were acquired by trade (10%). I think we’d need to go beyond that and determine how each under 28 pitchers last season reached his current team and compare those findings to what you did above, to see how different your 10% finding is vs. how all under 28 pitchers get to a team.

    Based on this, we still really don’t know if the low number of effective young pitchers acquired through trades is a product of trades for young pitching not working out, or if there just aren’t that many trades for those types of players happening because teams are lax to move their top end pitching talent.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Jon

    @Bryan

    You’re right, but you’re also arguing a slightly different point than I am.

    What I hope to show here is that when young pitchers DO get traded, they’re rarely top-tier guys. I do agree that there is some sampling bias, though.

    But consider this: when I do the same sort of exercise for position players (28 or under, sorted by WAR)? Three of the top four (Choo, Miguel Cabrera, and Adrian Gonzalez) have been traded. The point is that it’s easier to add premium position players in a trade than pitchers.

    And now I don’t have to write my next post. Thanks!

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Jon

    @ dwhit:

    It’s not a sample size issue per se. I’m looking at every single player who played in the league in 2010 who hadn’t turned 29. That’s thousands of years of transactions and player movement. Sample size should be good, unless you’d like to measure career WAR rather than 2010 WAR (though because most are young, that shouldn’t be a huge issue).

    I like what you and Bryan are suggesting, but keep in mind that you are suggesting a DIFFERENT exercise from what I’m interested in here. I don’t care in this piece that trades are relatively rare (I don’t even know if that’s true). I care about looking at the pool of traded players, and evaluating THEM. Out of the four mentioned in this piece, only one was a stud prospect who developed into a stud pitcher, and that was eight years ago, when teams valued prospects differently than they do now.

    In other words, I don’t care (in this piece) that four out of twenty were trade acquisitions. I care that one out of four was a “sure thing”. Make sense?

  • Bryan

    Jon:

    A quick example to illustrate my point:

    Suppose the Indians acquired 5 young arms via trades in the last 5 years, and they acquire 15 young arms via the draft in that same period. Further, suppose that 2 of the 5 young arms from trades turned into top-notch guys, and 5 of the young arms from the draft did.

    Your analysis would conclude that the draft is a better avenue for getting young talent because 5 is greater than 2. However, the PERCENTAGE of young arms from trades that turned into top notch pitchers is actually higher (40% vs. 33.33%). When deciding whether or not to make a trade, its the percentage that matters

    For your analysis, it would be cool if you could get data on the total number of young arms traded and drafted in, say, the last 5 years, and then assess whether the percentage of “top-notch” guys from trades is higher or lower than the percentage from the draft.

  • Harv 21

    Want to address one small point: for many of us, the disgust with the tribe came not with the CC or Martinez trade but with the Cliff Lee deal. The Dolans own lack of funds – not cheapness, there is no evidence of that- meant they could not pay him his relatively modest salary for another 1 1/2 seasons. Their cash-flow problems put a gun to their own head a season early, and they settled for what they could get then.

    Yes, “MLB System Sux.” But if any owner cannot pay $7M to keep your stud player until the next off-season or trade deadline (as Shapiro admitted), it says your competitive “window” is held open only as well and as long as the lowest-priced priced players can hold it. I.e., not well or not long. Attendance boosted by season ticket sales won’t significantly increase owner income because you won’t be able to sustain even modest success.

    Jettisoning Lee that year did not show they were playing the system the only fiscally responsible way. It demonstrated they were having trouble making payroll. Show me there’s a way for the owner who has no other significant revenue stream to climb out of this death spiral and I’ll care again. Otherwise, for me it’s just an exercise in suspending belief that there will be a competitive product on the field again.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Jon

    Right Bryan. That would be cool.

    Just wanted to make it clear here that I’m not trying to argue that drafting is a better way to add pitching talent than trades. That may or may not be true (it probably is), but it doesn’t concern me in this piece.

    What concerns me here is looking only at those young pitchers acquired in trades, and then evaluating that pool independently. The table was just to demonstrate where they fall in the whole league, not to suggest anything about the value of trades versus drafts.

    The question I had when I was thinking about this piece was: “Is it realistic to add great, young, cost-controlled pitching by way of trades?” I argue, albeit in a roundabout way, that it’s not–at least not with any reliability.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Jon

    @ Harv:

    Like I said, I understand the disgust. And I have nothing that will make any of us feel any better about it.

    Can you send me a link to the quote from Shapiro admitting that the Dolans couldn’t afford Lee in 2009? In everything that I heard from him at the time he was adamant that that WASN’T true. He seemed to go out of his way to say that the Lee trade was because he thought that they didn’t have a championship team in 2009 regardless of Lee, and wanted to maximize his return by trading him early.

    If you’re right, that definitely sheds a different light on things.

    –Yes, I’ll stop hijacking my own comment thread at some point.

  • dwhit110

    Jon,

    I do hear the difference between the point that you’re making and the point that Bryan and I are making, and I think that’s where sample size comes in. Let’s concentrate on your point (since you made it first, and you are the actual blogger and all)

    To look at 4 young pitchers who came through trades, who were effective last year, and to make any conclusions on the nature of the trades that got them to their current clubs seems lacking.

    I hear your point about the 1000’s of pitchers and transactions each year, but when we cross-tabulate that with age and Top 20 WAR we end up with a very small sample. To paraphrase a popular movie quote, what I hate about starting pitchers is this year’s 29 year olds are last years’ 28 year olds. 2010 could have been an outlier and I think without data from other seasons it’s impossible to conclude much.

    All of that said, I didn’t even think about looking at the numbers in this sort of way to make the type of conclusions that you’re driving towards until you took the first shot at it above. I think this was a really thought provoking post, regardless of my methodology suggestions.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Jon

    I think you’re right, dwhit. What I should have done is grabbed the top 20 (or 50 or 100) players 28 and younger and grabbed their career WAR (rather than for just one season). In fact, I’m going to do that right now….

    /working….

    OK, here they are–again, under 29 and active:

    RK NAME – Career WAR (Acquired?, AGE)

    1. Felix Hernandez – 24.20 (Amateur Free Agent, 24)
    2. Zack Greinke – 22.80 (Drafted, 26)
    3. Matt Cain – 20.90 (Drafted, 25)
    4. Jered Weaver – 20.00 (Drafted, 27)
    5. Tim Lincecum – 18.70 (Drafted, 26)
    6. Justin Verlander – 18.70 (Drafted, 27)
    7. Adam Wainwright – 18.20 (Traded, 28)
    8. Jon Lester – 18.10 (Drafted, 26)
    9. Scott Kazmir – 17.30 (Traded, 27)
    10. John Danks – 17.20 (Traded, 25)
    11. Cole Hamels – 17.00 (Drafted, 26)
    12. Josh Johnson – 16.30 (Drafted, 26)
    13. Rich Harden – 15.60 (Traded, 28)
    14. Ubaldo Jiminez – 15.60 (Amateur Free Agent, 26)
    15. Dontrelle Willis – 13.20 (Traded, 28)
    16. Chad Billingsley – 12.80 (Draft, 25)
    17. Joakim Soria – 12.80 (Rule 5, 26)
    18. Ervin Santana – 12.60 (Amateur Free Agent, 27)
    19. James Shields – 11.60 (Drafted, 28)
    20. Scott Baker – 11.40 (Drafted, 28)

    The problem with going further than that is that I wouldn’t call someone worse than Scott Baker “top-tier”, and I’m interested in teams adding front of the rotation starters. I can take the list to 100, but then we’re going to get some pretty crummy people, and hey, the Indians already have plenty of those guys.

    Anyway, you can see that the guys who were acquired in trades were: Wainwright, Kazmir, Danks, Harden, and Dontrelle Willis (!). A slightly different list than before, but still, pretty underwhelming. Kazmir was a quality trade when he went from NYM to TB, but not the second time. Harden was traded after he was hurt, same with Dontrelle. Wainwright still looks like the only real ace.

    I’m standing by my argument that adding young, affordable, dominant pitching through trades has become almost impossible given the way that teams value their own pitching prospects these days.

  • dwhit110

    We’re a step closer, but my problem still would be that these are all today’s 28 year olds. Go back 5 years and you have a completely different crop… Though you could be right, maybe looking at career WAR does enough to make this a solid sample. I’m going to need to stew on it for a while.

    Next question… what round were the Amateur Draft guys drafted in? Because if a bunch of these guys were low rounders, you’re going to have a similar finding as you did on the guys who were traded, that most of the guys who turn into studs weren’t thought of terrifically highly at the point of acquisition. Ok, I’ll play along on this one.

    /working…

    1. Felix Hernandez – 24.20 (Amateur Free Agent, 24) – n/a
    2. Zack Greinke – 22.80 (Drafted, 26) – 1st round
    3. Matt Cain – 20.90 (Drafted, 25) – 1st round
    4. Jered Weaver – 20.00 (Drafted, 27) – 1st round
    5. Tim Lincecum – 18.70 (Drafted, 26) – 1st round
    6. Justin Verlander – 18.70 (Drafted, 27) – 1st round
    7. Adam Wainwright – 18.20 (Traded, 28) – 1st round
    8. Jon Lester – 18.10 (Drafted, 26) – 1st round
    9. Scott Kazmir – 17.30 (Traded, 27) – 1st round
    10. John Danks – 17.20 (Traded, 25) – 1st round
    11. Cole Hamels – 17.00 (Drafted, 26) – 1st round
    12. Josh Johnson – 16.30 (Drafted, 26) – 4th round
    13. Rich Harden – 15.60 (Traded, 28) – 17th round
    14. Ubaldo Jiminez – 15.60 (Amateur Free Agent, 26) – n/a
    15. Dontrelle Willis – 13.20 (Traded, 28) – 8th round
    16. Chad Billingsley – 12.80 (Draft, 25) – 1st round
    17. Joakim Soria – 12.80 (Rule 5, 26) – n/a
    18. Ervin Santana – 12.60 (Amateur Free Agent, 27) – n/a
    19. James Shields – 11.60 (Drafted, 28) – 16th round
    20. Scott Baker – 11.40 (Drafted, 28) – 2nd round

    Now we’re getting somewhere. So 16 of the 20 came into the league through the draft. 11 of those 16, and all of the top 10 were 1st rounders. Of the 5 who were acquired through trades Wainwright, Kazmir and Danks were 1st rounders.

    Your point is looking pretty sound based on this year’s crop of young guys anyways. I’d make the point that teams are very lax to trade their #1 pitching prospects (hello Jaret Wright for Pedro Martinez) and that if you want to build solid pitching you should be taking SPs in Round 1 of the amateur draft.

  • Joe

    Great article I would also like to point out that the Indians also were able to save money down the road in order to go after higher celling draft picks that they would actually have the money to sign higher risk players. The Indians are going to have to continue to put more money into drafting high talented picks, along with putting money into scouting and coaching. Maybe not a fair system but looks like the Indians are moving in the right direction. I am hopeful and like always looking forward to the Indians in the future. Die hard tribe fan for life.

  • Harv 21

    Jon: the Shapiro quote that made me certain about payroll concerns was on a drive-time radio show, maybe a Trivissono interview, and was actually after the Pavano trade a week later (but said in the context of the overall bloodletting – DeRosa, Betancourt, Garko, Lee, etc). He let the corporate speak slip for a second and said that when a season’s incoming revenue is less than expected immediate moves might be dictated and they can pay what they can pay. I’m sure he never said, “We are flat-broke.” But that is how I read those comments.

    Here is a link to the ABJ summarizing Shapiro’s more calibrated, happy-future talk quotes at presser after the Lee trade:

    http://www.ohiomm.com/blogs/mcmanamon/2009/07/29/mark-shapiro-explains-the-cliff-lee-trade/

    Is interesting to note his expectations as to when we should be looking for the Lee trade dividends. That would be this year. Also interesting that Shapiro promised that these moves would make the Tribe “competitive window” stay open a long time. Do not think that is what FO says now.

  • Harv 21

    Jon: a reference with link and my lengthy response was just eaten when I hit submit comment. Will do it again when I have time.

  • Gbwoy

    The argument of letting Lee, CC and Victor walk for draft picks has some merit. Assuming all three were considered type A free agents, it would have net the Indians some very high compensation picks in between the 1st and 2nd rounds. I am way too lazy to do look up all the info, but it seems like kind of a no-brainer that pitchers drafted in the first 1-5 rounds have a MUCH greater chance of developing into an “ace” type starter than later rounds.

    The major issue with this as I see it would be the amount of time it takes to develop the draftee’s. But this is a valid theory. Take Tampa Bay for example…I think they have 5 comp picks this year, which is unreal (along with more assuming Rafael Soriano and Grant Balfour get signed early enough). 5 extra picks at the top of the draft can really turn an organization around, provided you don’t cheap out on all the picks and take pure signability guys. This is the way I would have preffered to go, but I tend to side with aquiring talent through the draft whenever possible.

  • Gbwoy

    And excellent article Jon. Really enjoy reading your baseball columns on this site.

  • AZDave

    it’s great to read such an informative article followed by intelligent comments, thanks to all

  • barry

    too bad you didn’t go back far enough to allow johan santana to be included in the mix. one might speculate that a coup like santana prompted other teams to be more careful in who got traded.

    also, there’s no such thing as a pitcher blocking the progress of another like there is in position players – we could afford to trade a sean casey because we had jim thome. the brewers could afford to trade laporta because they had prince fielder, etc.