It seemed like a no-brainer at the time, and yet it has plagued us throughout the season, and what's worse, a careful glance at the offensive statistics of the player in question could have led us all to foresee what was going to happen.
But it wasn't the bad trade that doomed us, it was low-balling Gomes and then letting him walk.
Yes, I'm talking about the Chris Young trade. Everyone at the time convinced me that this was the coolest thing Billy had ever done, stealing Chris Young for just Cliff Pennington, because Chris Young was a great defender and it should be easy to replace Pennington, because he was such a lousy hitter, and not all that great at shortstop anyway. Well, it's true that Cliffie is and was a lousy hitter. However, we really don't have a shortstop this year, because we have the anti-Pennington at shortstop: great hitter, lousy defender; and it's been a problem all year. Numerous pretty intelligent people were opining that we should trade for Alexei Ramirez and/or Brendan Ryan at the deadline. Both of them are better defenders than Cliff, and Ramirez is a better hitter, but if we still had Cliff, we might not have been talking about those trades at the deadline. He's good enough at SS. Of course, he hasn't hit for anything this year, so maybe we still would have wanted to trade for them. We aren't as efficient on the infield as we once were, just missing lots of double-plays we'd have converted with a plus shortstop. I like Jed, but he's not much as a shortstop. I don't know that Lowrie would be acceptable at 2nd, either, and if we had kept Pennington all year, and played Lowrie all year at second, it might have just been a wash versus the current situation, because at best Sogard would have just been a backup.
But that's only half the problem!
Even if the infield would have just been rearranged, we'd have at least one other bat that had proved to be pretty clutch for us in 2012, and has proven to be pretty clutch for the RedSox in 2013, and that's Jonny Gomes! The A's made him a ridiculous low-ball offer; he fired his agent shortly after that. I've got to think that there was some sort of massive miscommunication. That was mistake number one, in my book. It's not like 2yrs/10MM is much of an overpay, really. He was worth about $10MM for 2012 alone at the going rate for free agents, for which we paid him $1MM or so; think of the value as overall, 3 years at $11MM, and I'd think even Billy would consider that fair. If I remember correctly, the non-signing came first. When we couldn't come to an agreement with Gomes, Billy traded our shortstop for Young. Looked great on paper! Young had been worth over 4 fWAR in the two years prior to his injury. If I've got the sequence of events backwards, then the Young trade looks even worse, because it directly led to low-balling Gomes.
Just comparing Gomes and Young as hitters (because no matter what you or I or anyone else thinks about Young's fielding this year, it is still bound to be better than Gomes'), there's no question that Gomes is the better hitter, with a career wRC+ of 109, wOBA of .341. Young: 94 and .326. Both of these count this year, which has been a down year for both players. Plus, many of the hitting flaws that are evident from Young's history are exacerbated at the Coliseum. He's always hit a LOT of IFFB's- and this year is no exception: 20%. He's always had a pretty low BA for his productiveness, because his value is pretty much due to his homers, and he played in a band box in Arizona. Of course his BA and HR power were going to suffer at the Coliseum, compared to his performance at AZ.The Coliseum is especially tough on RH power hitters, so they've got to have a bit more oomph to club it out- Gomes had that oomph as did Carter, as do Donaldson and Cespedes.
And, Young seems like a very nice guy, soft-spoken and a quiet clubhouse presence, whereas Gomes is a true clubhouse leader and is credited as just that by the Redsox, too. This would be extremely valuable right now to a team that is scuffling.
Bottom line: I really wish we had kept Gomes, and not signed Young. And, of course, we could have still ended up with the same infield we have now, because Pennington wasn't hitting at all for Arizona early in the year, and so I can see Lowrie getting SS and Sogard getting 2nd, anyway. Plus, with such a dearth of acceptable shortstops, we might have gotten something decent out of Pennington...
What do you think? If you could go back in time, which of these seems like a mistake? I say both were. Even though "you always make the trade for a more valuable player". it's that last part that rankles. it's not the case every time, just as it's not always the case that a bunt is a bad idea (see Sam Yam's great article on same). Context matters, and in the context of the Coliseum and moving to part-time playing, Chris Young was a bad fit. And Jed Lowrie is a hitter, but not a shortstop. Period.