For the fifth straight offseason, BtBS is looking back on some of the biggest trades from years past. Check out all the entries here.
Having traded Rick Porcello that day and needing someone to take his place, the Tigers acquired Alfredo Simón from the Reds. To complete the trade, they sent Jonathon Crawford and Eugenio Suárez to Cincinnati.
In this trade retrospective series, trades will be evaluated based on what was known at the time. That is the only fair, logical way to evaluate trades and strip luck out of the equation: process over results. Having said that, we will still take a look at how the trade worked out for both parties.
As I mentioned in the trade retrospective article on the Porcello trade, the Tigers were defending their fourth consecutive division title, but they were swept in the ALDS the previous October. That trade solved their corner outfield problem with Yoenis Céspedes, however, it also created a hole in the starting rotation.
Alfredo Simón’s 2014 season was the best in his career, his first in a full-time starting role since 2011, but that’s not saying much. While he had a 3.67 RA9 and 2.1 WAR, his 15.5 K% was the 13th-worst in the league among qualified starters. He was also homer prone, though that can be at least partially attributable to his home ballpark. He certainly lacked Porcello’s ceiling, but he was a fair option to fill that gap in the rotation. The biggest concern was his age, since he was entering his age-34 season. It was entirely possible that he had peaked already.
The Reds were rebuilding, so they had no need for Simón, a player who was clearly not going to be part of their future due to his age and having only one year left on his rookie contract, anything they could get for him would be a plus. Crawford and Suárez were in the top five in the Tigers’ system, but that is not as complimentary as it might sound, because the team had one of the worst farm systems in the league. Then-Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski had stripped it bare, as he has always been wont to do.
Crawford was the Tigers’ first round pick in 2013, and 20th overall pick in the draft. He did well in his first full year in the minors, with a 3.00 RA9 in 123 IP in Single A. His peripherals were not very good, though. He walked over 10 percent of batters faced, as he did the year before, and he only struck out 17.3 percent of the batters he faced.
Suárez had an unimpressive major league debut in 2014, hitting just .242/.316/.336 in 277 PA, but he was just 22 years old. He did perform quite well in Double-A and Triple-A that year, though. He hit .288/.360/.510 in 222 PA between the two leagues.
The trade made sense for both sides, but — and I say this trying not to take into account what the results were — the Reds were smart to get Suárez thrown into the trade due to his youth and upside. I’m not sure that any other GM would have parted with him, but we all know that Dombrowski was never shy when it came to paying whatever it takes to acquire the player he’s after. After all, he does have a great track record of such trades working in his favor. This was not one of those trades.
In short, Simón was terrible and Suárez became one of the better young players in the league.
In 2015, Simón had a 5.39 RA9, and his strikeout rate fell even lower to 14.3 percent. The last place Tigers expectedly decline to bring him back in free agency after a season of sub-placement level play. He actually returned to the Reds in 2016, but it was short lived. He had a disastrous 9.82 RA9 in 58 2⁄3 IP. You have to be a special kind of bad to be worth -2.2 WAR in so few innings. Unsurprisingly, this wound up being the end to his major league career. He spent 2017 and 2018 in independent leagues before hanging up his cleats.
(I would be remiss if I did not mention Simón’s allegations of homicide and rape against him. He was tried and acquitted of the former, but was never charged for the latter.)
Suárez took a few years to get going, but he really blossomed in 2017, hitting .260/.367/.461 and accumulating 3.5 WAR. The past two seasons he has hit a combined 277/.362/.550, good for a 134 wRC+ that ranks as the 16th-best in baseball among qualified hitters in over that time span. He is arguably the Reds’ best position player right now.
Sadly, Crawford did not enjoy the same level of success. He never made the majors, as the rest of his professional career was plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness. His last year in affiliated ball was 2017.
Yikes. Well, that’s the risk you take when you acquire an aging pitcher. At least his impact was minimal since the Tigers finished in last place anyway.
It’s a shame that Crawford didn’t work out, but Suárez has more than made up for it. That’s why the Reds gave him a seven-year, $66 million extension before the 2018 season. It’s great for Suárez, but it’s hard to deny that the deal grossly undervalues him. Regardless, he has turned into an exciting player who should play a significant part in the Reds’ future.
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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.