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Fangraphs Looks Back on Three-Team Blockbuster

This morning, R.J. Anderson at Fangraphs took a look back at the blockbuster three team trade completed at the 2009 Winter Meetings. The trade, which sent Curtis Granderson from Detroit to New York, also saw the Yankees  sent pitcher Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks and pitcher Phil Coke and outfielder Austin Jackson to the Tigers. Detroit also got pitchers Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth from Arizona while sending pitcher Edwin Jackson to the desert. Arizona later flipped their Jackson to the White Sox in exchange for pitcher Daniel Hudson.

The interesting thing about the article is that Anderson characterizes the trade as a big win for Arizona, saying that the Diamondbacks received more value (in terms of WAR) during the 2010 season that the other two clubs. I’m not sure what numbers Anderson was looking at, because from what I’ve seen that’s just not the case.

I will assume that Anderson, since he does work there, used Fangraphs WAR as opposed to Baseball-Reference WAR (the two frequently have much different values). While Fangraphs doesn’t break player values down to partial seasons, which would have been beneficial considering that Edwin Jackson and Hudson switched teams at the trade deadline, Anderson stated in his piece that after that trade, Hudson and the pitching Jackson posted equal WAR totals of 2.0. Assuming his information is correct in that regard, the Diamondbacks got a total of 3.8 WAR from the combination of Hudson and EJax. Certainly not a bad season from that spot in their rotation. Further, Arizona also got a very nice year from Kennedy, who posted a 2.4 WAR campaign in his first year in the desert. That’s a total of 6.2 WAR between the players the Diamondbacks received during the season.

The Yankees brought in only Granderson for their part in the trade. Anderson states in his piece that Granderson posted a five-plus win season. According to his player page on the same site, Granderson’s WAR was markedly lower; he came in at 3.6. Still a very good year, but far from a five-plus campaign as Anderson had stated.

The Tigers, meanwhile, brought in four players in the deal. It stands to reason that unless they all had mediocre years, the Tigers probably got more value in terms of WAR than the other two clubs. Schlereth spent most of the season in the minors, but when he was with the Tigers he contributed 0.1 WAR to the total. Coke was the primary set-up man for Detroit. He contributed 1.1 WAR over the course of the year.

Austin Jackson turned in a remarkable debut season, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year balloting. His 3.8 WAR placed his year better than the man he replaced (Granderson) in centerfield for the Tigers. It also was the best individual season in terms of WAR of any of the players involved in this trade. Scherzer, meanwhile, came in just under that mark, posting a 3.7 WAR season for the Tigers.

By my math, the Tigers got a total of 8.7 WAR from the four players they acquired in that trade. The Yankees, who got only Granderson, collected 3.6 WAR, while the Diamondbacks, with a full season of Kennedy and partial ones from EJax and Hudson, totaled 6.2 WAR. In other words, there’s just no way Arizona got more WAR than their trade partners in 2010. Even if you break it down to an average per player involved (and Schlereth’s partial season hurts the Tigers in this calculation), it was the Yankees getting the best of the deal.

For me, while Granderson was pretty good in new York last year, and Arizona got great performances from the the pitchers they received, the Tigers managed to get one of the top performing right handers in the league and a budding star in centerfield. That Coke is being moved into the rotation (thus giving him a better chance to maximize his value going forward) is simply a bonus.

As far as I can see it, while the trade clearly brought a good deal of benefit to all three clubs, the Tigers got the better end of the deal, based on 2010 stats alone. I’ll admit that Anderson probably has a much better handle on these numbers than I do, but I just don’t follow his logic here.

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Topics: Arizona Diamondbacks, Austin Jackson, Curtis Granderson, Daniel Hudson, Daniel Schlereth, Detroit Tigers, Edwin Jackson, Fangraphs, Ian Kennedy, Max Scherzer, New York Yankees, Phil Coke

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  • Chris Hannum

    When the trade happened, I really thought that the Diamondbacks had gotten a raw deal – exchanging Scherzer for Jackson. It definitely turned out better for them than I would have expected, as Ian Kennedy looks like a stud again. I definitely like what we got too, no mistake, only the Yankees seem to have done badly. And at that I can only chuckle.

    • http://motorcitybengals.com John Parent

      definitely. I mean Granderson is a nice player, but to give up AJax, Coke and Kennedy was an awful steep price to pay. It’s made worse by the fact that only one year later the Yanks are in dire need of pitching. Had they not gotten involved in this trade, they could have Kennedy slotted in their rotation (perhaps even Coke) and had Gardner or Jackson in center. It’s not like they don’t have the money to sign a bat for LF. Perhaps they would have made a play for Crawford. Oops.

  • Nolan

    Baseball is about stats, but when it comes down to it a need is more important than a stat. Yankees needed a centerfielder, tigers needed help in the bullpen, and the diamondbacks needed to rebuild. The Diamondbacks aren’t competing for anything, Ian Kennedy really doesn’t matter unless they get something for him. There good young players like Upton have been on he block, Ian Kennedy is older. You can look at WAR, but it seems irrelevant and it’s one stat. Tigers got a starter, bullpen guy, and a centerfielder. Schlereth hasn’t proved anything yet, but Coke, a young Jackson, and Scherzer who has been dominant and bad are on a team that are going to compete with them.

    • http://sidelionreport.com/ Zac Snyder

      The Yankees thought they needed a centerfielder. It turns out they had one with Austin Jackson. The Yankees come out a big time loser in this trade.

  • Chris Hannum

    Part of it is that the Yankees are (and should be) chronically risk-averse. They felt that they could not take the risk of giving the CF job to Jackson.

    • http://sidelionreport.com/ Zac Snyder

      Interesting take. My only argument to that is that the Yankees have the resources to cover up anything that turns out to be a mistake. Perhaps in this case that just means they can absorb the financial ramifications of getting fleeced in this deal.

  • Christopher

    The numbers look even better for the Tigers when you take salary into account. In 2010, the Yankees 3.6 WAR cost the Yankees $5.5 million. The Tigers 8.7 WAR cost $2.7 million. (The trade makdes the Diamondbacks harder to figure, but still probably comes out worse than the Tigers.) Throw in the fact that none of four Tigers are arbitration eliglble this year and only two are next year, and it becomes Detroit in a rout.