Over the past two years, Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes has
made a name for himself as one of the shrewdest front office executives in the
game of baseball. On December 14th, Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane
showed why he's still the top dog when it comes to making trades.
Dan Haren came packaged along with Connor Robertson, a 26-year old minor
league reliever who ranked #39 among OaklandClubhouse.com's
Top 50 Oakland
Athletics prospects. The Diamondbacks gave up outfielder Carlos Gonzalez (ranked #1 in the
southpaw Brett Anderson (#3), outfielder Aaron Cunningham (#6), first baseman
Chris Carter (#7), southpaw Greg Smith (#10), and southpaw Dana Eveland (NR).
It doesn't take a psychoanalyst to determine that this trade was unbalanced.
At the very least, this six-player package offered by the Diamondbacks here
matched the Detroit Tigers' package of six sent to the Florida Marlins to
acquire Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Does anyone really think that
Haren and Robertson are worth as much as Cabrera and Willis?
Just in case someone does, we'll begin by comparing Haren to Willis. The
Diamondbacks control Haren's contract for the next three years, while the Tigers
only control the D-Train's contract for two. Haren will also likely make a
similar amount of money over his three-year contract as Willis will in
arbitration over the next two years. This is a big-time financial edge for
Haren and the Diamondbacks.
In terms of career performance, Willis has gone 68-54 (.557) with a 3.78 ERA,
6.7 K/9, and 3.0 BB/9. Haren has gone 49-44 (.527) with a 3.82 ERA, 7.0
K/9, and 2.2 BB/9. Slight advantage to Haren again, until we factor in how
well each pitcher performed outside of their pitcher-friendly ballparks.
On the road, Willis is 35-23 (.603) with a 3.71 ERA and .743 OPS against,
while Haren is 28-23 (.549) with a 4.09 ERA and .763 OPS against. Slight
advantage to Willis.
One big argument in Haren's favor is that he performed better in 2007, and
it's not even close. It's worth noting, however, that by almost any
measure, the A's featured one of baseball's best defensive units last year while
the Marlins' defense was nothing short of pathetic. Oakland finished
second in the AL in
third in zone range, and fourth in fielding percentage. Florida ranked
last in the NL in all three measures.
Haren only impressed in the first half of the season despite the top-notch
defense behind him. His second half ERA was 4.15 in 2007, and rests at
4.11 for his career. His value as a workhorse could be adversely affecting
his overall value.
Lastly, we'll look at age. Dontrelle Willis is nearly a year-and-a-half
younger than Haren is. By no means do the Diamondbacks have Haren under
contract for the decline phase of his career, but the Tigers can realistically
expect Willis to improve over the next two seasons, while Haren isn't likely to
perform any better than he has in the past.
Overall, it's safe to say that if these pitchers do not have equal value,
than Haren's only wins out by the slightest of margins. With all due
respect to Connor Robertson, who has a chance to be an effective major league
reliever, he does not come quite as close to matching the value of a Miguel
Cabrera. So if the Diamondbacks indeed put up a prospect package equal or
greater to the one that the Detroit Tigers shelled out, then the Diamondbacks
came away with far less value for it than the Tigers did.
Ah, but money's an issue still, isn't it? Miguel Cabrera made $7.4
million in 2007, and will likely command a salary of around $10 million in 2008.
The Diamondbacks could never afford such a salary for an outfielder, could they?
Apparently, they can. Eric Byrnes is due to make an average of $10
million per season over the next three years. Byrnes remains a fan
favorite in Arizona, but if he had the same price tag as Miguel Cabrera did, how
many Diamondbacks fans do you think would prefer Byrnes? Particularly
since Byrnes has an even worse history of second-half nosedives that Haren has?
The Diamondbacks were willing to risk the loss of five top
prospects. Instead of getting a historically great young hitter and a good
young pitcher in return, they got merely a good pitcher.
All of this is hypothetical, of course. Signing Eric Byrnes to that
three-year deal crowded the Diamondbacks outfield, so they needed to trade
some of their outfield prospects and couldn't take on much extra salary.
That was mistake #1. Then, they added two fantastic pitching prospects and
a powerful first base prospect to a package with their two best outfield
prospects, and didn't get anywhere near equal value in return.
So we move from hypothetical to tangible. How much does Dan Haren add
to the Diamondbacks' chances of making the postseason, and perhaps the World
Series, over the next three seasons? What exactly are the Diamondbacks
losing with these six players for both 2008 and beyond?
Premium FutureBacks.com members can find answers to these questions in Part
of our trade analysis.
Are you a premium member of
FutureBacks.com? If not, then you are missing out on the top
Diamondbacks coverage we provide to our premium members, as well as full
access to over 400 other Scout.com sites.
Join us today!