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On Roy Oswalt, Trades and Groupthink

In Orem's article about Dan Haren, one of the comments talked about avoiding the "groupthink" of the main stream opinions about a trade or prospect rankings. Since groupthink is a concept I find fascinating and try to avoid as much as possible, I thought it'd be informative to analyze the last few trades of big-name pitchers.

I looked at what kind of return the teams got, whether they traded for more pitchers or hitters, whether they traded for more major leaguers or prospects and whether any of those prospects were on the Top 100 lists. The question I was specifically trying to answer was if Ed Wade's trade demands were as ridiculous as people are making them sound. 

For reference, it's been reported that Wade is looking for one or two major leaguers and two blue-chip prospects in return for Roy Oswalt and his contract. I take "blue chip" to refer to two Top 100 guys and that's what I'm going to use in this analysis. I also looked at the age of the players at the time of the trade and how many years and dollars left on their contracts.

In all, there were 11 trades that I looked at. Three of those happened this past winter, but the rest were trades from the July deadline over the past five years. There were eight of those, including the Dan Haren deal from Sunday. It's not a huge sample size, I know, but it does give us an idea of what was acceptable in these trades and can start to show a pattern. What that pattern may be is after the jump...

Let's look at the three trades over the winter to establish a base line.

Roy Halladay (33), 1 pitcher, 3 hitters, 0 MLB, 3 prospects, 3 Top 100 guys, 1 year, 15.45M left

Cliff Lee (31), 2 pitchers, 1 hitter, 0 MLB, 3 prospects, 1 Top 100 guy, 1 year, 9M left

Javy Vazquez (34), 2 pitchers, 1 hitter, 2 MLB, 1 prospect, 1 Top 100 guy, 1 year, 11.5M left

The returns here look like they could be a little lopsided. After all, the trading team is getting a bit more value, having the pitchers for an entire season. Each deal featured a Top 100 guy and all three contracts only had a year remaining. The Blue Jays obviously got the best end of their deal, with three top prospects but none close to the majors. Also, all three pitchers are over 30, which will be a rare occurence at the deadline, as we'll see in a minute.

What are the other eight deals?

2008: CC Sabathia (27), 3 pitchers, 1 hitter, 2 MLB, 2 prospects, 1 Top 100 guy, 1 year, 9M left

2008: Rich Harden (26), 1 pitcher, 3 hitters, 1 MLB, 3 prospects, 1 Top 100 guy, 1 year, 4.5M left (option for 7M)

2008: Joe Blanton (27), 1 pitcher, 2 hitters, 1 MLB, 3 prospects, 1 Top 100 guy, 1 year, 9M left

2009: Jake Peavey (28), 4 pitchers, 0 hitters, 3 MLB, 1 prospect, 1 Top 100 guy, 1 year, 8M left

2009: Cliff Lee (30), 2 pitchers, 2 hitters, 2 MLB, 2 prospects, 4 Top 100 guys, 1 year, 5.75M left (option for 9M)

2009: Scott Kazmir (25), 1 pitcher, 2 hitters, 1 MLB, 2 prospects, 0 Top 100 guys, 3 years, 26M left (option for 13.5M)

2010: Cliff Lee (31), 3 pitchers, 1 hitter, 1 MLB, 3 prospects, 1 Top 100 guy, 1 year, 9M left

2010: Dan Haren (29), 4 pitchers, 0 hitters, 2 MLB, 2 prospects, 0 Top 100 guys, 3 years, 33.75M left (option for 15.5M)

Only three pitchers show up with multiple years left on their contracts and both of those guys are under 30. Both guys also had option years, meaning they were under team control for three seasons after the trade. Only Blanton was eligible for arbitration, giving Philly two years with him under team control at the time of the trade. The contract part does not speak well for a possible Roy trade. Also, Cliff Lee is the only 30+ player on the list. Most of these guys were traded because their teams couldn't keep them financially (Cleveland, Oakland, San Diego, Tampa Bay) while a couple were just rebuilding (Seattle, Arizona).

Every team got at least one Top 100 prospect back except for the Haren and Kazmir deals. Both were struck with the Angels, which could explain it. The Kazmir trade also happened after the July deadline and was two days before the August deadline, so the players who could be moved had to have cleared waivers. Generally, Top 100 guys don't slip through that waiver wire. Los Angeles has also caught heat lately after their farm system has been depleted by constant major league promotions. Still, the possible PTBNL in the Haren deal is Tyler Skaggs, who was a supplemental first round pick in 2009. He's not a Top 100 guy yet, but he definitely has some talent.

I was also surprised that there weren't more pitcher-heavy deals. Every deal on the list had at least one pitcher included. That's probably with the hope that the new guy will one day replace the old one. On the other hand, there were two deals that didn't feature any hitters. It seemed like I remembered more trades like that, but nearly half featured as many or more hitters than pitchers. 

Finally, in every one of the in-season trades, there was at least one major leaguer included. Many times, the included player was young and may have had limited MLB experience, but it does give more credence to Wade's demands. There is a precedent, after all. 

The average deal here breaks down like this: 1 major league player, 1 Top 100 prospect, 1 other prospect. That's basically what Ed Wade is asking for. If the latest Jayson Stark report is to be credited, Wade is holding out for Jonathan Singleton to be included in any trade. That would give the Astros two Top 100 prospects in the deal plus a major leaguer (J.A. Happ). The haul would be smaller than the average deal, but given the years and money left on Oswalt's contract, two Top 100 guys would be a very nice return for Wade.

The money is a good thread to pull as an ending, too. Wtih the exception of Haren and Kazmir, every other trade was done when the trading team had little control over the player left. Usually, there was just a year left on the contract. Basically, the team was backed into a corner and risked losing the player for draft picks. Instead, they picked up major leaguers and a few good prospects. With Oswalt, the scenario is different. I think that's what's throwing so many national writers and reporters. There hasn't been a trade quite like this in a while. I think ultimately, Wade will get his price, but he won't get two Top 100 guys. Is that good enough for you to make a deal?