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Aren't You Glad You Traded For That Relief Pitcher? (Part 2)

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JULY 22:  Pitcher Kyle Farnsworth #43 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws in relief against the Seattle Mariners July 22, 2012 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Seattle won 2 - 1. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JULY 22: Pitcher Kyle Farnsworth #43 of the Tampa Bay Rays throws in relief against the Seattle Mariners July 22, 2012 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. Seattle won 2 - 1. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
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In Part 1 of this article, I looked at all the near-deadline deals for relief pitchers that have occurred since 2011, going all the way back to 2009. Now, I'll take a look at the previous seven years, from 2002 to 2008, in reverse chronological order. At the end, I'll share a few takeaways about what it means to make a deadline deal for a reliever, and who seems to win out in the end.

But for now, the deals!

July 30, 2008 - The Yankees traded LaTroy Hawkins to the Astros for Matt Cusick

The Astros win this deal, since Cusick (as mentioned before, in Part 1) never panned out. Hawkins was phenomenal in 21 innings with the Astros in '08; I mean, he was really good. Hawkins was worth 0.8 fWAR in just those limited innings, with nine shutdowns and zero meltdowns and a 1.47 FIP. That was good enough to earn a free agent contract with the Astros in the offseason and, again, good enough for the Astros to handily win the trade.

July 30, 2008 - The Yankees traded Kyle Farnsworth to the Tigers for Ivan Rodriguez

The other 2008 deadline reliever deal by the Yankees swapped Kyle Farnsworth for Pudge. This was a classic junk-for-junk deal, as each player was worth -0.1 fWAR after the trade for their new squad, and each player left the team via free agency at the end of 2008. Farnsworth had an FIP of 5.08, and had six shutdowns and five meltdowns. Meanwhile, Rodriguez appeared in 33 games, hit about 46% worse than league-average (54 wRC+) with a .257 OBP. Each team filled a need, and did it poorly.

July 22, 2008 - The Nationals traded Jon Rauch to the Diamondbacks for Emilio Bonifacio

Rauch was not particularly good for the D-Backs after the deal. The big righty pitched for the D-Backs for parts of 2008 and 2009. In 2008, he was pretty bad, notching -0.3 fWAR with six shutdowns and eight meltdowns. In 2009, he was pretty good, managing 0.4 fWAR with 10 shutdowns and 14 meltdowns. Well, I suppose he was pretty good in non-leverage situations. On the bright side, he did bring back Kevin Mulvey in a trade during the 2009 season. On the darker side, Kevin Mulvey was not very good for the Snakes.

Bonifacio has turned into a solid ML regular, playing a super-utility role for the Miami Marlins. But Boni's time with the Nationals was unimpressive. He had 174 PA in 2008 with the Nationals, and posted a 67 wRC+ and -0.1 fWAR. Bonifacio, like Rauch, was part of a trade shortly after this deal was made. Bonifacio would be part of the deal that brought Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen over from Florida, so one could say that he served a greater purpose than Rauch overall, despite similar fWAR in his time with the Nats. But the Nats and Diamondbacks both likely wish they had Bonifacio today.

July 31, 2007 - The Rangers traded Eric Gagne to the Red Sox for David Murphy, Engel Beltre, and Kason Gabbard

Flags fly forever, guys. Gagne pitched better than his ERA would have you think for the 2007 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox ... but the end results weren't pretty. Despite solid FIPs (and 0.4 fWAR), Gagne gave up 17 earned runs in 23 innings between the end of the regular season and the postseason, including two shutdowns against five meltdowns. That would be all for Gagne's time in Boston, as he was a free agent after 2007.

In exchange, the Rangers got a player in David Murphy who's been part of the big league roster since '07. He's been about the definition of "very good fourth outfielder" since the deal, amassing 9.2 fWAR. Murphy is actually in the midst of his best season to date by this metric, already having acquired 2.0 fWAR for 2012. He's the rare kind of player who adds value in almost every category, hitting for a little power and a good average, while adding value in the field and on the basepaths. Murphy wasn't very good in the 2010 postseason (58 wRC+), but was quite good in the 2011 postseason (138 wRC+). Engel Beltre is re-re-repeating Double-A for the Rangers, and Kason Gabbard made 20 about-average starts for the team before falling off the face of the earth. He was worth about 0.6 fWAR over close to 100 innings. Thanks to Murphy, the Rangers definitely win the trade, but the World Series count since the deal is still 1-0, advantage Boston.

July 31, 2007 - The Yankees traded Scott Proctor to the Dodgers for Wilson Betemit

Welp, Proctor was below-replacement over parts of two seasons with the Dodgers (combined -0.3 fWAR). Betemit was below-replacement over parts of two seasons with the Yankees (combined -0.5 fWAR). Scott Proctor still probably cringes in fear when he sees Joe Torre raise his right arm. Wilson Betemit was part of the trade that netted the Yankees Nick Swisher. Advantage: Yankees.

July 28, 2007 - The Astros traded Dan Wheeler to the Devil Rays for Ty Wigginton

Interesting. The (then-Devil) Rays added Wheeler in '07, and he stayed around until the end of the 2010 season. Over that time, Wheeler threw 207 innings for Tampa, including 9.2 in the postseason. In the regular season, he was worth 0.6 fWAR over this time, which isn't very much, but he did eat quite a few innings. Wigginton didn't have nearly as long of a stay with his new team, but he was arguably much more productive. Ty was good for 0.8 fWAR at the end of '07, but then exploded (for him) with 3.1 fWAR in 2008 for the Astros. His 126 wRC+ that season, combined with a very rare positive defensive performance by UZR, made him a valuable regular for Houston before he left via free agency. This deal's probably a win for the Astros.

July 31, 2006 - The Pirates traded Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez to the Mets for Xavier Nady

Though this trade is primarily remembered for Ollie Perez, Roberto Hernandez seemed like the most important part of the deal when it happened. Hernandez was brought in to shore up the Mets bullpen for the pennant race, and posted 0.1 fWAR and an even two shutdowns and two meltdowns before the playoffs. Despite not pitching very well (no strikeouts, more than a few walks), he didn't give up any runs in the playoffs, so I guess that's a win.

Xavier Nady was just ok once reaching the Pirates in '06, and again in '07, good for a league-average bat and a poor glove, which earned him 1.1 fWAR in that time. But in 2008, he had his best season, posted a terrific .330/.383/.535 slash line good for 2.5 fWAR, before being traded to the Yankees mid-season. That deal of Nady and Damaso Marte brought back a return of players who are still helping the Pirates today, including Jose Tabata and Jeff Karstens. Well, maybe "helping" is a strong term. At any rate, the Pirates win this deal if you don't consider Perez, and maybe even if you do. Perez was useful from '06-'08, posting 3.7 fWAR and filling a hole in the rotation. Then the Mets signed him to a big free agent deal, and everything went to hell. Nady and the Pirates win the deal, as this move set them up in the future, while the Mets indirectly were hurt by Perez's up-and-down ways, while Hernandez didn't provide much value.

July 22, 2006 - The Giants traded Jeremy Accardo to the Blue Jays for Vinnie Chulk and Shea Hillenbrand

With the Jays, Accardo was good in 2007 (1.5 fWAR, 31 SD and 9 MD), but replacement-level in '06 and from '08-'10. He logged innings, but not of particular note. Chulk had a good '07 as well (0.8 fWAR in 53 innings), but a bad '08 before departing San Fran. In total, he was worth 0.6 fWAR in his time with the Giants. Hillenbrand only spent the last part of '06 with the Giants, and didn't hit a lick (71 wRC+, -0.2 fWAR) before leaving via free agency. This one's a solid win for Accardo and the Blue Jays.

July 20, 2006 - The Indians traded Bob Wickman to the Braves for Max Ramirez

Wow. This is new. I think this trade worked out (kind of) well for both sides. Wickman was unbelievably good for the Braves following this trade in 2006. He posted 1.0 fWAR in 26 innings (that's a heck of a lot) as well as a 1.95 FIP, 12 shutdowns and two meltdowns. He stayed with the team until his release in 2007, which as you might guess, indicates that 2007 wasn't nearly as good. He did have 21 shutdowns against eight meltdowns, but his FIP rose to 4.34 and he was only worth 0.2 fWAR.

Ramirez was one of those excellent prospects who never really panned out. And though he never played in the bigs for the Indians, he was swapped to the Rangers for Kenny Lofton at the 2007 trade deadline. Lofton gave the Indians 0.4 fWAR through the end of the '07 season, then posted a .279/.326/.419 line in the '07 playoffs. Though Wickman was decidedly more valuable in a vacuum, Lofton was a cog in a playoff run for the Indians, so it makes the deal pretty close. Still, Wickman's insane '06 finish puts this one in the win column for the Braves.

July 21, 2005 - The Phillies traded Tim Worrell to the Diamondbacks for Matt Kata

Ick, Matt Kata. Kata hardly played for the Phillies, then left in the offseason. Worrell, on the other hand, outperformed his FIP to finish up the 2005 season with the D-Backs. He earned 0.2 fWAR, but had 10 shutdowns against 5 meltdowns and posted a 2.27 ERA despite a 4.22 FIP. Since Worrell was useful and Kata never was, the Diamondbacks win this deal.

July 31, 2004 - The Royals traded Rudy Seanez to the Marlins for Abraham Nunez

The Marlins got a good deal in acquiring Rudy Seanez at the 2004 deadline. Rudy pitched fairly well for the Fish (0.2 fWAR, 3.61 FIP, 5 SD, 6 MD), though not as well as he had with the Royals (0.6 fWAR, 2.66 FIP, 2 SD, 3 MD). On the other side, Nunez actually got most of the plate appearances for his major-league career in this half-season with the Royals. He was pretty bad, posting a 61 wRC+ and -0.2 fWAR. Neither came back to the team after the '04 season, making this a clear win for the Marlins.

July 30, 2004 - The Reds traded Todd Jones and Brad Correll to the Philies for Josh Hancock and Anderson Machado

Brad Correll never made it past High-A, so we can lop him off the analysis right away. Jones wasn't terribly effective in Philadelphia, posting 0.1 fWAR, nine shutdowns, and six meltdowns in his limited time with the Phillies. He wasn't brought back as a free agent the following season.

Hancock was, unfortunately, kind of terrible in his time with the Reds, accumulating -0.5 fWAR in 2004 and 2005. In 2006, he found a redemption of sorts as part of the World Series-winning Cardinals team, but then tragically passed at the age of 29. Machado, a shortstop, only saw 68 plate appearances with the Reds before the team waived him in 2005. Machado spent some time with the Rockies, but never saw the majors again after that season. The Phillies win this trade, but only by default, as neither team really benefitted.

July 30, 2004 - The Giants traded Felix Rodriguez to the Phillies for Alfredo Simon and Ricky Ledee

Felix Rodriguez was also acquired by the Phillies in '04, but unlike Todd Jones, he was quite effective. A strikeout machine for 21 innings, Rodriguez earned 10 shutdowns against four meltdowns, and posted a 0.5 fWAR in his time in Philly. Alfredo Simon eventually would become a major-leaguer, but not until after he'd bounced around the minors for four more years and fallen through the Rule 5 Draft. Ledee was horribly, terribly bad in his brief time with the Giants (-4 wRC+, -0.6 wRC+) before leaving via free agency, making this a win for the Phils.

July 24, 2004 - The Blue Jays traded Terry Adams to the Red Sox for John Hattig

The Red Sox acquired Adams in their run to their historic 2004 World Series win, but Adams was hardly a factor aside from eating innings. He was exactly replacement level, by fWAR, and posted a 5.16 FIP over 27 innings. He didn't appear in the playoffs that season, and left the team afterwards. Meanwhile, Hattig appeared by all accounts to be a solid minor-league hitter until he reached the International League. In a 13-game cup of coffee in the bigs, he hit well, posting a 128 wRC+ and 0.3 fWAR. Even though Hattig provided more fWAR, Adams filled in necessary innings in the run to a WS title, so the Red Sox get a slight edge here. But really, this is an even deal.

July 19, 2004 - The Orioles traded Mike DeJean to the Mets for Karim Garcia

Weird trade here. The Mets acquired DeJean, who hadn't been pitching very well over the last his-entire-career. But, DeJean was a "proven closer" having had save opps in Milwaukee. Upon reaching Flushing, DeJean flourished, posting 0.6 fWAR and a 1.78 FIP in 21.1 innings of work. The Mets promptly inked him to a free agent contract, and DeJean promptly stunk up the joint, walking everyone in sight to the tune of a -0.3 fWAR and two shutdowns to seven meltdowns. After the Mets released him in June, DeJean had an even bigger second half than he had in '04, this time with the Rockies. 20 shutdowns to only four meltdowns. 2.26 FIP. 1.3 fWAR in 36.2 innings. Awesome. After that, he only pitched another 1.2 innings in the majors, before leaving the league for good.

Garcia was unbelievably horrible in Baltimore (-0.6 fWAR in only 23 games, making him the anti-Mike Trout) and was actually released by the O's less than two months later.He's currently tearing it up in the Mexican League, of all places. So yeah, the Mets win this one.

July 30, 2002 - The Indians traded Ricardo Rincon to the Athletics for Marshall McDougall

Ricardo Rincon was a effective reliever for the A's for two-and-a-half years, and an ineffective reliever for one, totalling 1.4 fWAR for the Athletics. He also pitched quite well in the 2002 postseason (though not so well in 2003). Marshall McDougall amassed -0.3 fWAR in just 18 plate appearances, thanks in part to an awesome -13 wRC+ and a 55.6% major league K rate. Go 'Noles? At least the Indians had ditched him before that happened. Billy Beane wins in a landslide.


As happens more often than I care to admit, my initial thought that trading a position player for a reliever is a poor proposition ... appears wrong. There are plenty of cases in which a team has traded a positional player prospect for a reliever, and the deal has worked out great. I've got eight trades in this article, plus three from the previous one, where the team getting the reliever came out decidedly ahead (Lopez, Wood, Perez, Hawkins, Accardo, Wickman, Worrell, Seanez, Rodriguez, DeJean and Rincon). Then I've got seven where the team getting the position player came out ahead (Uehara, Dotel, Capps, Rauch, Gagne, Wheeler and Hernandez) , with the rest being too close to call or a wash (Ziegler, Phillips, Vargas, Sherrill, Meredith, Farnsworth, Proctor, Jones and Adams).

I'm honestly quite surprised, having thought previously that trading a reliever for a position player would be a serious mistake. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.