A Trade Review: Looking Back at Some of the Biggest Recent Deals
There have been quite a few blockbuster trades in the MLB in recent years. These deals see headed for greener pastures in return for young players with incredible but unproven upside. These trades are always met with some criticism because you initially have no idea how those prospects will turn out. They could be much better than the player you traded for, like in the Fernando Tatis Jr.-James Shields trade. They could also not pan out to be anything, like when the Marlins traded Christian Yelich for Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, Isan Díaz, and Jordan Yamamoto. It takes a lot of research, strategy, and a little bit of luck to have a trade work out for you. On that note, let’s take a look at 3 of the biggest trades of the last few years and see how they panned out.
The first trade we will examine is the blockbuster trade between the Mets and the Indians (now Guardians) for Francisco Lindor. On January 7th, 2021, the Mets traded IF Andrés Giménez, IF Amed Rosario, RHP Josh Wolf, and OF Isaiah Greene for SS Francisco Lindor and RHP Carlos “Cookie” Carrasco. With all players having since spent two years on their respective teams, let's see how this trade developed, first looking at the Mets. Carlos Carrasco made 26 million dollars over the last 2 years, producing 0.4 WAR total since the trade. Here are Carlos Carrasco’s stats with the Mets:
Carlos Carrasco is not the same pitcher he was in the 2010s. Granted, his 2022 was better than his 2021, which was arguably his worst season ever. However, Carrasco still had a below-average ERA+ in 2022. But as we know, this was not the Carlos Carrasco trade. Let’s look at the main piece: Lindor.
In 2021, Mets fans might have been a little worried, as Lindor had the worst season of his career. To be fair, Francisco Lindor’s worst is league average, so he was not terrible. However, he had just signed his 10-year, 341-million-dollar contract extension, so Lindor was clearly expected to produce a little more. In 2022, he did just that, putting up arguably the best season of his career and placing 9th in MVP voting. I would not worry too much about that first year. We have seen time and time again players struggling in their first season with a new team and then breaking out the next. With the Mets having control of Lindor until 2031, I have a feeling Mets fans are pretty satisfied with this trade. But how do the Guardians feel about trading one of the top players in the game? Let’s look at their return.
First, let’s examine the minor parts of the trade, Josh Wolf and Isaiah Greene. At the time of this trade, both players were not legally allowed to drink alcohol, so the Guardians were taking a real gamble. Here are their stats in the minors for the last two seasons:
Both players are still very young, so there is no need to immediately worry. However, Josh Wolf has had a rough time in Cleveland. Isaiah Greene has been pretty decent, putting up a great walk-to-strikeout ratio. Again, it is still too early to say how these two prospects will turn out. The big pieces of the trade were Andrés Giménez and Amed Rosario.
Amed Rosario has been slightly above average, with an OPS+ of 103 over the past two seasons. His combined salary of around $7 million for those 2 years is not bad. He is cheap, plays above league average, is very consistent, and is versatile in the field. But the best part of this trade comes in Andrés Giménez. He spent most of his first season in Cleveland injured and performed poorly when healthy. In his second season with the Guardians, however, Giménez established himself as a top 3 second baseman. Having a 7.4 WAR season, he found himself 6th in MVP voting and was also one of the main reasons the Guardians made the playoffs. With amazing defense and a stellar bat with sneaky pop, it is an absolute steal that he made less than $2 million combined over the last two seasons. I would not be shocked to see the Guardians extend him this off-season.
I think the Mets are the current winners of this trade, but that is only because they have already extended Lindor. If Andrés Giménez can keep this production and the Guardians extend him, the trade will be just about even.
Next is the infamous Nolan Arenado trade. People realized this trade was lopsided from the moment it was announced. The Rockies gave up a generational talent in exchange for 4 young players who were not even top prospects. Then you add to that the fact that the Rockies also GAVE the Cardinals $51 million. Why this trade happened, no one will ever know. Maybe the Rockies believed the lie that the “Coors Effect” was responsible for Nolan Arenado’s success. Maybe that was somehow the best offer they got. We will never truly know, so let’s instead look at how dominant Nolan has been with the Cardinals.
In 2021, Nolan had a “down year” by the standards he set in Colorado. This “down year” had him as an All-Star and gave him his 9th STRAIGHT Gold Glove. He was also fairly above average offensively, which was the main concern for him leaving Colorado. Then came his 2022 season, which was arguably the best season of his career. Finishing with a career-high 154 OPS+, Arenado was an All-Star, a Gold Glover, a Silver Slugger, and placed 3rd in MVP Voting. He also had one of the best walk-to-strikeout ratios of his career. There really is not one aspect in which he was below average.
To put it simply, the Cardinals are very happy with this trade. They got one of the best players in the league and $51 Million dollars in exchange for a bottom-of-the-rotation starter in Austin Gomber and 4 minor leaguers, the best being their number 8 prospect, Elehuris Montero. Let’s see how those players have turned out.
I would love to say all of these players have very promising futures and the Rockies are going to be fine, but that does not seem to be the case. The highlight of the bunch is Elehuris Montero. After an outstanding season in AAA, he was brought up to the majors for 53 games, where he put up slightly below-average numbers. However, he is still only a rookie. Once he adjusts to major league pitching, he should be a pretty good player. He probably will not be as good as Nolan Arenado, but if he can lower his strikeouts and hit like he did in the minors, he could emerge as the face of the team. The other four players, however, I do not have much hope for. Austin Gomber was supposed to step in as one of the Rockies’ best starters but has since only performed at league average. In terms of pitchers, they also got Jake Sommers, who performed poorly at A+ ball, and Tony Locey, who was decent well at A+ ball, but abysmal in AA. The Rockies continue to struggle to find good pitching. The final player from the trade is Mateo Gil, who is not a terrible player at Low-A ball. He gets on base a good bit, but he has no power. Overall, the Rockies' package is abysmal compared to what they gave up. The Cardinals won this trade by an absolute landslide.
For the final trade, let’s go back to 2020 when Mookie Betts was traded to the Dodgers in a massive 3-team deal. To simplify this 10-player trade, let’s classify it into 2 smaller trades. The Dodgers traded Kenta Maeda, Jair Camargo, and some cash to the Twins in exchange for Brusdar Graterol, Luke Raley, and a 2020 Competitive Round B draft pick, with which they selected Clayton Beeter. The Dodgers also traded Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong to the Red Sox in exchange for David Price, Mookie Betts, and cash.
The Twins' role in the trade was small when compared to the Red Sox’s but still pretty significant. Minnesota received Kenta Maeda and Jair Camargo, along with some cash. Here are their stats with the Twins:
In the shortened season, Kenta Maeda had an insane season, with a WHIP of .75 in 66.2 Innings pitched. Following that amazing season, he played poorly in 2021 and then hurt his arm that September, requiring Tommy John surgery and missing all of the 2022 season. He is hopeful to return late into 2023. Jair Camargo is still quite young and has shown improvement in his 2 years in the Twins’ minor league system, putting up an OPS of .793 between Rookie, A, and AA ball. This trade works out for the Twins if Kenta Maeda can come back and be a strong arm in the rotation and/or if Camargo continues to progress and makes an impact in the majors.
The Red Sox, the main sellers in this trade, thought they were getting a much bigger return than Minnesota. Boston’s package included Dodgers’ prized prospects Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong. Here are their stats with the Red Sox:
In essence, Alex Verdugo was stepping into Mookie’s role on the team - big shoes to fill. His first two seasons were pretty good, but it appears he is regressing. Red Sox fans should not worry just yet, as Verdugo has all the talent to be good, but 2023 will be a crucial season for him to prove himself. Jeter Downs played decent in the minor leagues, and, by a random sequence of events, got the call-up to the majors in 2022. He only played 14 games and did not look good, getting DFA’d soon after. Connor Wong showed promise in his limited time in 2021, but in 27 major league games in 2022, he looked terrible. He was amazing in AAA, however, posting a .839 OPS in 81 games. There is clearly potential. Hopefully, Wong can figure out how to translate his skillset to the majors.
All of that was acquired for Mookie Betts, who has been nothing short of great on the Dodgers. I will not write these players off yet because they have shown glimpses of greatness, but they all have to figure it out sooner rather than later. Until then, the Dodgers have clearly won this trade. From the Twins, they acquired Brusdar Graterol, Luke Raley, and a draft pick that was used on Clayton Beeter, and they got David Price and Mookie Betts from the Red Sox. Here are their stats: