For the fifth straight offseason, BtBS is looking back on some of the biggest trades from years past. Check out all the entries here.
In December of 2014, the Dodgers executed a big trade with the Marlins. They send Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, and Miguel Rojas to Miami in exchange for Andrew Heaney, Chris Hatcher, Enrique Hernández, and Austin Barnes. Heaney more or less got traded immediately to the Angels for Howie Kendrick.
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.
The Marlins had just come off another disappointing season... which can probably be said about most of their seasons. At least they broke their three-season streak of coming in last place, and their 77 wins was a big 15-win improvement over the previous season. Still, this team needed a lot of work to to become competitive again and reach the playoffs for the first time since their championship season in 2003.
According to FanGraphs, Marlins’ second basemen combined for only 1.1 WAR, most of that coming from Donovan Solano who hit only .252/.300/.323 in 2014. Gordon was not exactly raking in 2014, but he had a solidly average line of .289/.326/.378. Thanks to his speed, his 10.2 BsR was second to only Ben Revere that year, and his 63 stolen bases (against 19 times caught) led the league. However, Gordon had some major weaknesses. He had 20-grade power, resulting in only 2 HR and a .089 ISO. Also, his on-base skills were mediocre despite his speed and contact ability, due to his lack of propensity to take a walk.
A player coming off a 3.5 WAR season is nothing to sneeze at, and Gordon still had four years left on his rookie contract. That being said, the Marlins paid a high price for him. I imagine the Marlins expected Gordon to keep improving, which was not unreasonable given that he was going into his age-27 season.
Andrew Heaney was the Marlins’ first round pick in 2012, and he had made his major league debut. It wasn’t great, with a 5.83 RA9 but it was in only 29 1⁄3 IP. Parting with a prospect who could be a mid-rotation starter or better for the package the Marlins received is not something I would have done, and that’s before getting to the smaller pieces that the team included in the trade. That being said, the Dodgers traded him that same day to the Angels for Howie Kendrick in order to fill their new vacancy at second base.
Dodgers fans are likely very familiar with Kiké Hernández and Austin Barnes, both of whom are still on the team. At the time, scouts expected Barnes to be a good back-up catcher thanks to his defense and shockingly good plate discipline. My fellow boricua Hernández looked like he could be a solid fourth outfielder. Hatcher had just come off a nice season in relief, with a 3.54 RA9 while striking out about 26 percent of batters faced and walking only 5.2 percent of them. At least with Hatcher I can understand selling high on a reliever coming off a career year.
Including Haren in the trade looked like a ploy by the Dodgers to see if they could get out of paying the last year on his contract. After exercising his $10 million option, Haren stated that if he were to be traded outside of Los Angeles, he’d retire. The Dodgers decided to call his bluff, knowing that they’d save that $10 million if he refused to play for the Marlins.
Haren had not been an above replacement level player since 2011, and in the three years since then he had a combined 4.87 RA9 despite having pitched mostly in pitcher-friendly parks. He still had great control, but he struggled to strikeout even 20 percent of the batters he faced. You can see why the Dodgers wanted to part ways with him. The Marlins were only taking a chance on the 34-year-old pitcher because the Dodgers were going to be the ones paying his salary.
Rojas was not much more than a throw in. He was a utility player whose main job was being Hanley Ramírez’s defensive replacement.
The Dodgers basically flipped Gordon for a higher ceiling player in Kendrick, who had just hit .293/.347/.397 and accumulated 4.6 fWAR. The downside was that he was only under contract for one more year, but the team had plenty of money to bring him back if they wanted to. They still needed a shortstop, which they solved by bringing in Jimmy Rollins near the end of his career.
This was a smart trade by the Dodgers to fill a need and bring him some nice depth. As for the Marlins, this was not some big overpay by any means, but it was an odd trade given where they were competitively. This is a trade you make when you’re a guy away from truly contending. The Marlins finished 2014 eleven games out of the last Wild Card slot.
In 2015, the Dodgers won the division for the third consecutive year, a streak that is still going strong. Kendrick was solid but unremarkable, hitting .295/.336/.409 for a 109 wRC+.
The Dodgers brought Kendrick back on a two-year, $20 million deal. He had an uncharacteristically poor season in 2016, hitting just .255/.326/.366 for a 90 wRC+. The team decided to trade him after the 2016 season, and he has since revitalized his career. Last year he hit an astounding .344/.395/.572 in 370 PA for the Nationals, good for a 146 wRC+. And of course that go-ahead home run he hit in Game 7 of the World Series is one he and Nats fans will remember for the rest of their lives.
Hernández and Barnes have had nice runs with the Dodgers. The former has combined for 5.5 WAR in the last two years and has been getting a lot of playing time as a utility player. I am concerned about how much he is going to hit going forward, considering he has had an above average line only once in the last four years. Barnes has had a great career for a back-up catcher. In 2017, he hit .289/.408/.486 in 262 PA, good for a 142 wRC+ and 3.5 fWAR. Had he kept that up for 600+ PA he would have merited serious MVP consideration. His plate discipline is outstanding, with a 12.7 BB% for his career.
Hatcher never succeeded in duplicating his 2014 season and was sub-replacement level during his three years on the Dodgers. He last played for the Athletics in 2018.
Rojas actually has not been too bad as a utility infielder. He is actually still with the Marlins, and his career line with them of .270/.321/.360 is not terrible, all things considered.
Heaney has not had a great career for a first round pick, and he can currently be best described as a back of the rotation starter. He missed almost the entire 2016 and 2017 seasons because of Tommy John surgery. The last two seasons he has combined for a 4.71 RA9 and only 2.6 WAR. In a glimmer of hope, he did strikeout almost 29 percent of batters faced last year.
Haren did actually end up playing for the Marlins and later the Cubs. He was actually pretty solid that season, with a 3.80 RA9 and 2.2 WAR. He decided to hang up his cleats after the 2015 season.
Gordon unexpectedly had a career year during his first season in Miami. His .333 batting average and 205 hits both led the league, but it was the definition of an empty average. His poor walk rate and power output led to a full line of .333/.359/.418. If somebody hits .333, you usually expect him to do a lot better than a 116 wRC+. Of course, combining that with his excellent baserunning and second base defense still made him a very good player overall, accumulating 4.3 WAR that year.
Unfortunately, in the years since, Gordon has only come close to that level of production once. The other three years average out to a 76 wRC+. In 2018, he infamously walked only 1.8 percent of the time. He has been with the Mariners since 2018 and will be a free agent after this season if they decide not to pick up his team option.
I decided to include Kendrick, but only the one year he was still on contract for, and I used fWAR for Barnes since it includes pitch-framing. All in all, those results are pretty good. Getting so much production from Hernández and Barnes, both of whom are still going, is great.
It’s amazing how well this worked out for the Marlins. I’m sure the Dodgers believed that the decline we’ve seen from Gordon in the past two season was going to start in 2015. Instead, he gave the Marlins 8.2 WAR before they traded him at just the right time to the Mariners. You rarely see a trade work out well for both sides that involves so many players, but here is an example of one.
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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.