As the Brewers’ season continues, chances are fans, writers, and analysts will dive deeper and deeper into “firesale” mode. With the Brewers out of the Wild Card race, fan expectations shift from acquiring those few missing players that solidify a contender to finding a valuable trading partner for any expendable players. Yesterday, J.P. Breen analyzed some of the current performances by potential Brewers trading chips. Today, I would like to focus specifically on returns for relievers over the last two years. The basic rationale is that the Brewers’ most productive area of the team (collectively) is the bullpen, which means that they have a stockpile of players performing well in an area that can be consistently rebuilt and rebooted in the offseason (such as the 2012 to 2013 bullpen shift, and others during GM Doug Melvin‘s tenure).
One of the difficulties of writing about teams potentially headed into firesale mode is calibrating expectations for returned talent. It would be great to consider the Brewers’ best possible trading chips as opportunities to acquire younger, controllable, even cheaper talent, but those three attributes will not always correspond to one another in each and every trade. Should the Brewers trade talent away before the deadline, they will make some trades that leave us scratching our heads; there will be some players that don’t return notable talent, or some trades whose virtue is simply the cheaper, younger roster that results — not necessarily better. Unfortunately, trading away the bullpen is one of those suspect areas for trade returns.
2012 Midseason Bullpen Trades
|2012 Reliever (Team)||IP||ERA+||Return||Note / Additional Players|
|B. Lincoln (PIT)||59.3 IP||137||Travis Snider||n/a|
|J. Lindblom (LAD)||47.7 IP||127||Shane Victorino||Traded w/ 2 others|
|B. League (SEA)||44.7 IP||104||Leon Landry||Also received Logan Bawcom|
|C. Breslow (ARI)||43.3 IP||152||Matt Albers & Scott Podsednik||n/a|
|M. Albers (BOS)||39.3 IP||191||Craig Breslow||Traded w/ S. Podsednik|
|E. Mujica (MIA)||39.0 IP||92||Zack Cox||Cox was STL #4 BA prospect|
|S. Delabar (SEA)||36.7 IP||90||Eric Thames||n/a|
|M. Lindstrom (BAL)||36.3 IP||155||Joe Saunders||Also received cash|
|B. Lyon (HOU)||36.0 IP||125||7 players*||Traded w/ 3 players*|
|J. Broxton (KC)||35.7 IP||182||D. Joseph & J.C. Sulbaran||n/a|
|F. Cordero (TOR)||34.3||74||3 players*||Traded w/ 6 players|
|B. Myers (HOU)||30.7 IP||116||3 players||Traded w/ cash|
|D.D. Carpenter (HOU)||29.7 IP||67||7 players||Traded w/ 3 players|
|R. Choate (MIA)||25.3 IP||163||Nathan Eovaldi||Traded w/ Hanley Ramirez|
|E. Frieri (SD)||11.7 IP||163||Alexi Amarista||Also received Donn Roach|
|J.C. Romero (CLE)||8.0 IP||40||Carlos Rojas||Waiver Trade|
|C. Qualls (NYY)||7.3 IP||71||Casey McGehee||n/a|
|P. Beato (NYM)||4.3 IP||40||Kelly Shoppach||Beato was PTBNL|
|M. Bowden (BOS)||3.0 IP||161||Marlon Byrd & Cash||Traded w/ Hunter Cervenka|
|R. Igarashi (PIT)||0.0 IP||cash||n/a|
|R. Thompson (PHI)||0.0 IP||Kyle Hudson||n/a|
*Blue Jays/Astros Trade for J.A. Happ
In 2012, one of the best trades involving relief talent was great because of its volume. The Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros built a trade involving ten players (including three relievers). The biggest names involved in the trade were arguably Brandon Lyon and Francisco Cordero, but the best value piece was probably Blue Jays farmhand Asher Wojciechowski. Wojciechowski was ranked 10th in the Blue Jays system by BaseballAmerica. Here, Top 10 farm talent was acquired through sheer volume.
The best overall trade was arguably the Cardinals and Marlins deal involving Edward Mujica. The Cardinals surrendered Zack Cox to Miami for Mujica, using their 4th rated prospect to land the fireballer reliever. Other strong talent included the Pirates’ acquisition of Travis Snider, a deal that allowed them to land a bat to strengthen their outfield by parting ways with swingman Brad Lincoln.
On the other hand, the bulk of the deals involve minor league players and organizational depth that might not be labelled as true prospects (i.e., ranked prospects).
2011 Midseason Bullpen Trades
|2011 Reliever (Team)||IP||ERA+||Return||Note / Additional Players|
|D. Pauley (SEA)||54.3 IP||176||4 players#||Traded w/ Doug Fister|
|M. Adams (SD)||48.0 IP||319||Robbie Erlin & Joe Wieland||Erlin was Tex #4 BA prospect|
|K. Uehara (BAL)||47.0 IP||246||Chris Davis & Tommy Hunter||n/a|
|F. Rodriguez (NYM)||42.7 IP||117||Danny Herrera & Adrian Rosario||n/a|
|J. Frasor (TOR)||42.3 IP||144||Edwin Jackson & Mark Teahen||n/a|
|M. Rzepczynski (TOR)||39.3 IP||144||4 players*||Traded w/ 3 players & cash|
|B. Ziegler (OAK)||37.7 IP||169||Brandon Allen & Jordan Norberto||n/a|
|C. Furbush (DET)||32.3 IP||115||Doug Fister & David Pauley||Traded w/ 3 players#|
|O. Dotel (TOR)||29.3 IP||117||4 players*||Traded w/ 3 players & cash*|
|T. Miller (STL)||15.7 IP||95||4 players & cash*||Traded w/ 3 players*|
|T. Hunter (TEX)||15.3 IP||154||K. Uehara||Traded w/ Chris Davis|
|B. Tallet (STL)||13.0 IP||46||4 players & cash*||Traded w/ 3 players*|
|D. Purcey (OAK)||12.7 IP||193||Scott Sizemore||n/a|
|P. Strop (TEX)||9.7 IP||123||Mike Gonzalez||Strop was PTBNL|
|L. Oliveros (DET)||8.0 IP||77||Delmon Young||Oliveros was PTBNL w/ 1 other|
|P.J. Walters (STL)||4.0 IP||45||4 players & cash*||Traded w/ 3 players*|
|C. Ruffin (DET)||3.7 IP||92||Doug Fister & David Pauley||Ruffin was PTBNL w/ 3 others|
|D. Purcey (TOR)||2.3 IP||42||Danny Farquhar||n/a|
|B. Billings (COL)||2.0 IP||118||Mark Ellis||Traded w/ PTBNL|
|D. Herrera (MIL)||1.7 IP||22||Francisco Rodriguez||Traded w/ A. Rosario as PTBNLs|
*Toronto / St. Louis megadeal for Edwin Jackson
#Detroit / Seattle deal for Doug Fister
In 2011, relievers fared slightly better in terms of their collective returns in trades. Outside of the megadeals involving Fister and Jackson, the Rangers were probably most active, dealing some potentially strong talent to secure the services of two relievers. Specifically, they parted ways with Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter, and their 4th-ranked prospect, Robbie Erlin to land Mike Adams and Koji Uehara (in separate deals).
Of the megadeals, the Tigers arguably surrendered the most talent to acquire Fister (and reliever David Pauley. BaseballAmerica‘s #4 and #7 Tigers organizational prospects were dealt to the Mariners, along with reliever Charlie Furbush and Casper Wells. The Edwin Jackson deal followed similar logic, pairing groups of players around a starting pitcher. By my count, five of the eight players involved in that deal were relievers, with Colby Rasmus, Corey Patterson, and Jackson serving as the remaining players in the deal.
Chances are, if and when the Brewers deal their relievers, some of their relievers will not yield players stronger than organizational depth; impact talent will probably not see its way into many of their trades. However, some of the trades involving relievers over the last two years show that teams are willing to part with solid talent to gain an extra member of their bullpen — even in the middle of the season.
Here, the Mike Adams and the trades grouped around starting pitchers are most instructive. If the Brewers find a contender in desperate need of a reliever, the Adams deal shows that that contender may surrender serviceable talent for that arm. On the other hand, the Blue Jays, Cardinals, Tigers, and Mariners group deals suggest that relievers look even better when they are paired with starters. Perhaps this foreshadows potential deals involving Franchise Starter Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse.