Question 1: What is Dan Haren or Joe Blanton worth in a trade?
As these two SP are the most marketable trade chips on the Oakland roster it behooves us to know what they're worth to other teams. The general consensus is that since they are young, established talents 3 years removed from free agency they'd be worth more than their talent or numbers might suggest. I'm not trying to knock either pitcher but neither one of our guys is as good as Johan Santana. Yet there are those that would argue that Haren or Blanton would be worth considerably more in a trade because Santana is only 1 year away from free agency. How realistic is this desire? Using the past few seasons as a guide, I've tried to establish a going rate for a trade involving one of Blanton or Haren. (FYI, prospect letter grades are from Sickels.)
(2005) Mark Mulder for Haren, Calero and Barton
The standard by which all our expectations are set.
But what did the A's really get in exchange for 2 years of a reputed Ace SP?
Haren was a 24 year old SP who had bounced between AAA and the Show for the previous 2 seasons. He was big league ready arm with a lot of potential even if he had technically lost his prospect status. Haren was the big money prize.
Calero had also spent the 2 previous seasons splitting time between AAA and the Show. While he has put up good numbers he was also a 30 year relief pitcher who had yet to spend a full season on a big league roster. A good arm to be sure, Calero was more an add on than a principal component. He certainly wasn't the equivalent to landing a Grade A prospect.
Barton was a Grade A prospect, a consensus Top 50 prospect in all the minor leagues, but he was also a defensively challenged Catcher who had spent the 2004 season in Low-A ball. He was a position switch and 2-3 years of development away from the big leagues.
Total return: 1 AAA/Grade A-/B+ (or equivalent) prospect, 1 Low-A/Grade A prospect, 1 AAA/Grade C+ (or equivalent) prospect.
(2006) Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell & Guillermo Mota for Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Harvey Garcia & Jesus Delgado
Bear with me on this because I'm going to try and boil this down to the relevant part, Josh Beckett.
Beckett was 2 years from FA and had put up some dominant numbers for Florida but he also had a history of blister problems that cost him playing time. Lowell was a salary dump for Florida, pure and simple. He was an obligation the Red Sox had to pick up in order to acquire Beckett, he did not cost the Red Sox anything in terms of the prospects they were expected to part with. Mota was a useful bullpen arm.
Ramirez and Sanchez were top prospects in the Red Sox system before heading to Florida. Ramirez had spent all of 2005 in AA while Sanchez had split the year between High-A and AA. Garcia and Delgado were relief pitchers who had spent 2005 in Low-A ball. For the sake of this diary I'm concluding that Garcia and Delgado were the cost of doing business to acquire Mota.
So the trade for Josh Beckett essentially boils down to two AA prospects. Ramirez was the more advanced of the two prospects, but even he was not a lock to play for Florida at the start of the 2006 season. (In fact, his star had fallen a little after posting a 720 OPS in AA. He had the tools, where was the production?) As it turned out, Ramirez started from Day 1 and went on to win the NL Rookie of the Year. Most scouts figured (correctly) that Sanchez needed at least another half year of minor league seasoning before he'd be ready for the Show.
Total return: 2 AA/Grade B/B+ prospects that were expected to be at least half a season away from contributing to the big league club.
(2007) Mark Teixeira & Ron Mahay for Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones
Saltalamacchia came from Atlanta, where he was splitting time between 1B and C. Salty entered 2007 as Atlanta's top prospect but he was not a consensus Top 50 pick. Sickels, for example, gave him a B grade.
Andrus was the Braves #2 prospect according to BA while Sickels gave him a B+ but he was assigned to High-A ball at the time of the trade. A good prospect but 2-3 years away.
Harrison was ranked #3 by BA and earned a B grade from Sickels. Shortly after the Teixeira negotiations began Harrison got hurt. He was in AA at the time but his injury would knock him out for the season.
Jones had just earned a promotion to High-A where he was pitching out of the bullpen. Feliz was working out of the pen in Short Season.
Again, to narrow the focus on to Tex and what it cost the Braves to acquire him for a season and a half; I'm going to say that Ron Mahay was acquired at the cost of Feliz and Jones. Both were A-ball bullpen arms a minimum of 2 years away, their impact in acquiring Tex would have been extremely low.
Total return: Teixeira, one of the top 1B in baseball, was acquired for Saltalamacchia, an A-ball SS and a hurt AA SP. The Rangers got 1 major league ready player/prospect in the deal and depending on Harrison's recovery they may not see an additional return until 2009.
So what can the A's realistically expect to get in return if they deal one of Blanton or Haren? 2007 saw a change in how teams did business, very few teams were willing to give up their high end prospects in trade. None of the three deals I mentioned included more than 1 high grade, big league ready prospects and there is little reason to think that trend would change even for the promise of 3 cost controlled years of Dan Haren. And let's be honest, Joe Blanton is a notch below Haren. It will be nearly impossible to find a team willing or even able to part with 2 or more big league ready prospects in exchange for Haren. Therefore the price Beane is likely to get in a deal for either SP (in terms of available upper level talent) is going to be roughly similar regardless if he deals them with 2 or 3 years remaining on their contracts. I'm certain Beane could get a slew of high grade A-ball level prospects for either Blanton or Haren but we could not expect more than two B grade or better prospects with 2008 ETAs.
Now, with all the whispering going on, some may have expected me to post a diary full of potential trade ideas. Ideas I have, it's focus I lack. So I'm including a poll that will let AN help me decide if the A's should make deals with the intent of going for the playoffs or deals that scream re-build.
But I will share one idea I've had. Hopefully this won't skew the poll but...
If the A's decide to trade Dan Haren than Bobby Crosby goes along with him. This would be a non-negotiable point with any perspective buyers. Crosby's inclusion would undoubtedly weaken the return package but his departure saves the A's $8.75 million over the next two years.
Plus it would make me so happy.
EDIT: There seems to be some confusion about the price tags I'm placing on our pitchers. I'll try to clarify.
When the A's traded Mulder they received 2 players that were ready to produce from Day 1 and an A grade prospect who was in the lower minors. If the A's waited to trade Haren until next year they'd probably get the same return. Trading Haren now would net them 2 players ready to produce in 2008 and 3 A grade prospects that were in the lower minors.