July 30, 2009


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LONGSHOTS: Trading places not as simple as “I’ll take the old guy”
by Dave Long

Baseball’s trading deadline arrives on Friday and it’s always a curiosity to me. I love trades. Probably because of the risk and the challenge to get it right. Especially when established players are being traded for young guys because they’re in many cases a mystery for both the taker and the giver.

Given that the Red Sox lost six of eight after the All-Star break just as the Yankees started rolling, this should be an intriguing week for Theo Epstein. He must decide if the problems are a temporary slump or issues that could linger through the year. Complicating it further is the looming presence of Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay, who many feel is the best pitcher in baseball. Because while Theo may feel the Sox have enough pitching to get it done and a bopper or a shortstop upgrade (my choice) is a bigger need, he also knows the surging Yankees are lurking with the spare cash to make any deal and a history of going for it, the future be damned. Especially when they may view it as a knockout blow to their ancient rival. Theo has his own history of pulling the trigger on major deals, having sent Nomar Garciappara and Manny Ramirez out of town at the deadline. But this time he may have to play defense while solving needs as well.

Making it a more interesting puzzle is that with Halladay signed through 2010, GM J. P. Richardi has two more opportunities (over the winter and at next year’s deadline) to deal him. So he’ll be trying to extract blood from a stone in getting his desired four top prospects or major-league-ready talent. And while Theo has the young guys to deal, he’s reluctant to give up the future as its his hedge to compete against the mega-payroll Yankees. Lower salaries to young emerging stars like Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester gives the cap space to try and sign big-time stars like Mark Teixeira or Halladay when they hit the free agent market. Plus the Yanks won the Teixeira sweepstakes last winter, when they quietly lurked in the weeds until pouncing in the final moments, and that it could happen again has to be going through Theo’s mind as D-Day nears.

As I said earlier, trading young for established can be tricky. Some, like my friend Dick Lutsk, have a hard and fast rule that says always go for the proven quantity over unproven kids. I’m more of a case-by-case guy. For instance, suppose before 1951 the ready for prime time New York Giants were offered Warren Spahn by the Braves in return for AAA outfielder Willie Mays — would you do it? Spahn had already won 20 three times, while Mays was a talented but unknown quantity. In retrospect, since Mays went on to hit 660 homers and Spahn won 20 an astonishing 10 more times and 363 overall, it would have worked out for both teams. But then again Mays won an MVP after Spahn was done, and those ’51 Giants went to the series anyway after catching the Dodgers down the stretch. The truth is it’s a crapshoot where the team giving up the young guys had better know EXACTLY what it is giving up or it could be a disaster.

Here are a few examples of how it’s gone in these types of deals over the years.

Win-Win: The Marlins got a bright young star in Hanley Ramirez and a no-hitter out of Anibal Sanchez, while Boston got a mid-20s Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell in their winter 2005 deal which produced one World Series win and has them in contention for another this year.

Curt Schilling and Brady Anderson for Mike Boddicker: The Red Sox needed a starter so they sent Schilling and Anderson for Boddicker. He went 7-3 as they won the AL East, then won 15 and 17 in 1990 when they won the East again. Schilling lasted in Baltimore two years until a horrible trade for Glen Davis sent him to Houston. Anderson was a very good player for many years in Baltimore.
Worked for One but not the Other: That’s how it went for Dan Duquette when he got Pedro Martinez from the Expos in a salary dump for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. Pedro was dynamite in Boston, but unless you call giving up Mark McGwire’s 70th homer in 1998 it was forgettable for Montreal. 

Sort of Worked for Both: The Tigers needed an impact starter in late summer 1987 and got one as Doyle Alexander went 9-0 after arriving from Atlanta as Detroit caught the Blue Jays in the final week to win the East. The cost? A minor-leaguer who went just 2-7 the following year before turning into the John Smoltz who won 209 games and saved 154 as Atlanta dominated the NL for 20 years. Was that worth it, Detroit?

Larry Anderson for Jeff Bagwell: A second sort-of-worked-out deal that gets bad ink, but it actually worked out as intended.  Anderson had a 1.23 ERA in 15 games as the Sox won the East. In giving up Bagwell, who was the NL Rookie of the Year, 1994 MVP and hit 443 homers, Lou Gorman’s mistake was keeping AAA Scott Cooper over him because he was closer to being ready.

A Complete Bust: The hitting-challenged New York Mets needed an infield bat. With future 300- and 200-game winners Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman on the staff already and a slew of young’ns in the pipeline, they got former All-Star Jim Fregosi and gave up wild high flame-thrower Nolan Ryan. Fregosi was a bust while the 22 year-old Ryan went on to win 325 games, become the all-time strikeout leader and throw seven no-hitters — which, oh by the way, is seven more than the Mets have in their 47-year history!

Most Like the Halladay Deal: The Mets were going nowhere, Tom Seaver wanted out and the hard-hitting Reds needed an ace. The Mets got prospects Steve Henderson, Doug Flynn and righty Pat Zachary. Seaver was solid but never won 20 again, while the Cincy three were mediocre at best as the Mets were never the same.

There are a host of others — like Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek for Heathcliff Slocumb, or Bartolo Colon to the Expos for Grady Sizemore and Cliff Lee, or that Hall of Famers like Randy Johnson, Lou Brock and Ryne Sandberg have been part of these deals as young “unproven” players. Or that of all his guys, Daniel Bard is Theo’s most untouchable young guy.

But it’s a pretty good cross section to show it is a crapshoot, and no one hard and fast answer applies when it comes to dealing youth for established players.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.

7/23/2009 Mailbag delivers some interesting questions and answers

7/16/2009 Random thoughts for a lazy summer day
7/9/2009 Season's second half is when it'll get interesting for the Sox
7/2/2009 Declaring independence of how others play the game
6/25/2009 Finding the right plan is as easy as A, B, C with Celtics
6/18/2009 A great experience came in the Knick of time
6/11/2009 Ripping key to Rodney's broadcast success?
6/4/2009 The Mt. Rushmores of the red Sox-Yankees rivalry
5/28/2009 First-place Sox are making the grade
5/21/2009 NBA rivalries have no rival in other team sports
5/14/2009 Lying from baseball's Pinocchio prompts questions
5/7/2009 Celtics bull their way into round two — finally!
4/30/2009 Tanked from the headlines, the Fenway series yanks it back
4/23/2009 Draft winds blow NFL teams to make interesting decisions
4/16/2009 Spring cleaning of a cluttered sports mind
4/9/2009 Red Sox Nation springs back to life
4/2/2009 Climbing sports Mt. Rushmore
3/26/2009 Mount Rushmore offerings and other spring thoughts
3/19/2009 B-Ball, Coach B and Baseball in the mailbag today
3/12/2009 Great talent a rush but not all it's cracked up to be
3/5/2009 In Bill we still trust?
2/26/2009 A mountain over this molehill
2/19/2009 Steroids muscle in on game's strength
2/12/2009 Bonner bombs away on Cs in garden party homecoming
2/5/2009 Nation's angst ends as V-Tek says what the heck and rejoins flock
1/29/2009 Super Bowl Sunday brings to mind past and present
1/22/2009 The elusive quality of greatness is the topic of the day
1/15/2009 Spring cleaning of the sports mind a little early
1/8/2009 Will hall have Rice on the menu come July
1/1/2009 Predictions and wants for the year ahead
12/25/2008 A look in the rear view mirror at 2008
12/18/2008 The Pats' playoff run and new Yankees contracts make big news
12/11/2008 Random thoughts and associations
12/4/2008 Pats should consider options when it comes to Cassel and Brady
11/27/2008 Putting the thanks in Thanksgiving
11/20/2008 News of the week has people talking
11/13/2008 Cassel's in the clouds compared to early expectations11/6/2008 Mail bag delivers some interesting questiont10/30/2008"Yankees Suck" - like mentality fuels political discontent10/23/2008 No ray of hope as season closes in Tampa Bay
10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
10/9/2008 C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day
9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
9/11/2008 After disaster Brady's bunch won't pass on season
9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial — stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK — it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did
02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat