Monday, April 7, 2008

A Far-Reaching Trade

I read today that the Arizona Diamondbacks have reached a six year agreement with their young outfielder, Chris Young. Young is an extremely talented young player - he hit 32 homeruns and stole 27 bases last season as a 23 year old rookie. His on-base skills have yet to develop at the major league level, but his minor league history seems to indicate that he will improve in that area.

While Chris is an interesting ballplayer and I think the D-Backs will get good value out of this contract, what I find most interesting is how he got here. Chris was drafted out of high school by the Chicago White Sox and was their top prospect. After the 2005 season, however, the White Sox traded Chris to Arizona. You may recall that the White Sox won the World Series in 2005. Apparently, they believed that the key to maintaining their success was to upgrade their pitching. So they traded Chris, Orlando Hernandez (a key to their pitching staff, but one that was already at least 39 years old), and Luis Vizcaino to Arizona for Javier Vazquez. Vazquez was enigmatic, pitching well for Montreal from 2001-2003, but struggling with the Yankees and Arizona thereafter.

Two months into the 2006 season, the D-Backs flipped Orlando Hernandez to the Mets for Jorge Julio. Julio finished the season with Arizona, but they then traded him to Florida in exchange for Yusmeiro Petit. At the time Petit was a young starting pitching prospect with a lot of upside, but his K/9 rate has dropped his last two seasons in the minors (in truth his rates began deteriorating much earlier - maybe Florida knew something before they traded him).

Luis Vizcaino, the other piece the D-Backs received with Young, was flipped to the Yankees before the 2007 season as part of the trade to acquire Randy Johnson. So, to sum up, the Diamondbacks gave up a talented, but enigmatic starter in the prime of his career for a potential 30/30 outfielder just about to break into the major leagues, a fringy pitching prospect at the cusp of the major leagues, and a spare part used to acquire a once-dominant hero of the franchise that could still be a quality starting pitcher if used properly.

I would say that the D-Backs "won" the trade, although it is certainly a defensable move by the White Sox if Vazquez becomes an anchor of their staff and leads them to the playoffs. How much better would the Sox have been last year if they had Young in the outfield instead of Scott Podsednik, Jerry Owens, etc.? How much better would they be this year with Young? Instead, they were forced to trade four prospects to shore up their outfield: three to Oakland for Nick Swisher and one to Arizona for Carlos Quentin.

Trades like this one fascinate me because of the domino effect with the other trades that occurred and because so many of the names involved are impact players.

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