Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Trade String - Bartolo Colon

Note: This post uses links from baseball-reference.com. I'm still not pleased with their advertising system, as it still punishes your entire computer if you even just keep a browser window open for too long, or try to open more than one window from the site. I just wanted to provide links to some older players, and that's more easily done through Baseball Reference than through other sites.

I've always been fascinated with trades. When I was a kid, I used to trade baseball cards, not really knowing anything about their values, just swapping this guy for that guy. I remember trading a lot of nobody players (mostly non-Orioles to get Orioles), but I also remember doing trades involving cards of Gary Sheffield, Nolan Ryan, and for some reason Gregg Jefferies.

My love of trades has continued into adulthood, moving from sports cards to fantasy players, Steam games, and whatever else I've got in my life, physical or digital. When I moved back to the area from college, I remember I traded my desk, a microwave, and a bookshelf for a PS2 console, a couple accessories, and some PS2 and N64 games. I was pleased, the other guy was pleased, it was a great experience. And my interest in bartering grew.

I've also always been interested in trades that real-life sports teams make. When I was little, I remember writing a letter to the Baltimore Orioles (I don't know if I wrote it to someone in particular), listing out a number of players I thought they should trade for. I don't know if the letter ever got mailed or read, but I don't think I ever got a response. I still believe they should've traded for Julio Franco. I'll believe that 'til the day I die.

Anyways, all of this is leading into what this new "segment" will be about: trades. The question that these posts will seek to answer is, "What did they really end up getting for _______?" Mostly, it will focus on players who were involved in large trades that sent them alone from one team to another in exchange for a variety of veterans, rookies/minor leaguers, and draft picks. The articles will delve into what those assets actually were, and, if they were subsequently traded, for whom they were traded. The idea here is that when a deal is made, you create a string connecting the involved players; these posts will follow those strings to see the "end result" of those trades.

Here's our first one.

June 27, 2002: Montreal Expos Acquire Bartolo Colon

On the morning of June 27th, the MLB-owned Montreal Expos were 40-36, and Major League Baseball was under scrutiny for its management of this league asset. There were questions abound as to whether or not this arrangement was creating an unfair situation for other teams in the league; were the Expos, without an ownership group behind them, still pursuing victories as aggressively as other teams?

Perhaps as an answer to these contentions, and perhaps in a genuine attempt to make a push for the playoffs over the summer, the Expos traded a few young prospects and Lee Stevens to the Cleveland Indians for Bartolo Colon. Were they important prospects? Well, who can know?

We can, duh, that's what this is all about. Here's the full list of players involved in the trade:

Cleveland Indians trade
to the Montreal Expos for

Oh god.

Cliff Lee was one of Cleveland's strongest starting pitchers in twenty years, going 83-48 from 2002-2009, and capturing the 2008 Cy Young award. Phillips never amounted to much for the Indians, but since being shuffled off to Cincinnati has been named to three All-Star teams, and has netted four Gold Gloves. Grady Sizemore was one of baseball's most prolific power-speed combo guys for several years, and he won a pair of Gold Gloves, although truthfully he may have been more useful as a fantasy player than a real-life player. Lee Stevens was past his prime by 2002, and didn't play in the majors beyond that season.

The problem for the Indians, of course, is that they didn't make the most of these assets. As the other Joe will constantly point out, Cleveland has a notorious history of poor player evaluations, and the fact that they couldn't find a way to get Brandon Phillips more than 12 games between 2004 and 2005 is criminal. They traded him to the Reds for a player to be named, who ended up being Jeff Stevens. If the name doesn't ring a bell, don't worry. He was a small-time reliever who didn't play in the majors until 2009...with the Cubs.

They did have four really good years with Grady Sizemore, and four-and-a-half with Cliff Lee. Sizemore suffered a variety of injuries and missed the 2012 and 2013 seasons altogether and being granted free agency by Cleveland. He signed with the Red Sox last offseason, played up and down for a couple months and was released. He caught on with the Phillies, and figures to be in a platoon or serving as a 4th outfielder for them next year.

Lee was traded along with Ben Francisco to the Phillies in a deadline deal that brought back Carlos Carrasco as well as three non-factor players (Jason Knapp, Jason Donald, and Lou Marson. Carrasco was supposed to be the jewel of the deal, but didn't produce right away. Things are finally looking up a little bit after five years; he pitched in middle- and late-relief during the dog days of summer last year, and finished strong and back in the rotation. He's still under his rookie contract until 2018, so the Indians have some time to figure out if he's for real.

What about those 2002 Expos? They finished 83-79 and missed the playoffs. Colon went 10-4 with 3.31/1.32 averages, fine numbers, but not nearly as good as they were with the Indians prior to the trade. At the end of the season, Montreal traded Colon and minor leaguer Jorge Nunez to the White Sox for Rocky Biddle, Orlando Hernandez, and Jeff Liefer, none of whom had a noticeably positive impact on the Expos.

This was a curious case, where one of the most valuable pieces (Phillips) ended up being particularly valuable, but not for the team he was originally traded to. Still, the Indians were able to get four great years of production from Sizemore and Lee in exchange for an over-performing starting pitcher.

Endgame Winner: Cleveland Indians
(sub-winner: Cincinnati Reds)

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