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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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