Most baseball trades are ridiculous, the equivalent on one end of paying someone to take your money. The wonder is that so many teams make them.
Take the sad case of the Cleveland Indians, who have won more than they've lost just twice since 2001, mysteriously pulling the neat trick of drawing praise as a model franchise all the while. This year they're lousy again. Happily, they have two quite marketable players:
The problem is less the players than the money. As
By the same math, though, a random minor leaguer of the sort who might be part of a deal for two such players is far more valuable than you might think. An average player is worth two wins in a year. A prospect who struggles in his first two years, giving the team just one win in each, and then settles in at dead average for the next four before leaving the team as a free agent, will have been worth about $45 million -- and he'll likely have been paid somewhere between $15 and $20 million, given baseball's idiosyncratic pay scale. Two such players would thus be a reasonable return on Lee and Martinez.
Of course wins are worth more at some times than others, which is why if the Indians move these two they could command a premium in the deal. And real life is nowhere near so neat as these numbers. Factoring the odds that a prospect will give the team six years of more or less average play against those that he'll do nothing at all against the odds that the veteran for whom he's traded will just stop being good, while taking into account that one of them is a drunk and the other spends his spare time watching old
Still, if you keep the basic math in mind, you'll see that most actual trades, let alone those that exist only in the minds of baseball writers, make absolutely no sense. If two legitimate stars at the tail end of their primes are in some real sense worth a couple of solid prospects and little more, what does that say about everyone else?
Even leaving money out of it, the summer trade is an especially sketchy idea for the simple reason that a lot of the season has passed by the time it's made. Say, for instance, that San Diego's
Peavy, were he to pitch as well as he has so far, would be worth perhaps 3.5 wins more than the flotsam that Chicago has been running out in the back end of its rotation. Through 46 games the White Sox had played .457 baseball. All else being equal, then, Peavy -- a real live ace in his prime (he turns 28 this week) -- might take them from 74 wins to 78. There are circumstances where four wins count for a lot, to be sure. But just because a player is good doesn't mean that a given team needs him.
This so, it's still easy to pick out some trades that might make sense. Ideally, you'll have one team in a tight race that's been getting really terrible production from some spot or other, and one team that's out of it. Match the two and you just might be able to squint at the numbers long enough to forget what a rotten idea a trade usually is.
Returning to Lee and Martinez, one has to think that they would look spectacular in Texas Rangers uniforms right now. (Texas has plenty of young catching, but there's no team that couldn't make room for a bat like Martinez's, especially as he can handle first base.) It's been a decade since the Rangers have played in October, but they've played well enough, and are in a weak enough division, that they have a real chance at it this year. They also have the deepest farm system in baseball. Catcher
One doesn't necessarily expect Cleveland to give up the last fraying shreds of its respectability in June, and given the Rangers' recent record of trading off the likes of
Coming back to Peavy, while he has been linked most often to the Cubs, a team that would make even more sense is the Milwaukee Brewers, though of course who knows if Wisconsin would fit Peavy's rarefied sensibilities. They certainly have the need, as starters
San Diego can't expect a lot back for Peavy -- because of the way similar pitchers such as
After Lee and Peavy, the sexiest pitcher who might plausibly be traded is Seattle's
Unfortunately for the Mariners, Bedard isn't worth something really valuable. He would improve the Phillies by perhaps three wins, the value of which would be a fraction of what a mildly dodgy Phillies prospect such as shortstop
Not all sensible deals have to involve renowned players. While the St. Louis Cardinals haven't suffered terribly from third baseman
Beltre is a free agent at the end of the season, and just the sort of talented young veteran that
Aside from the specifics of these or any other sort of hare-brained trade proposals you might see, it's important to key in on a commonality here: None of the teams getting rid of their veterans would be getting anything at all glamorous in return. That's how it should be, and increasingly that's how it is. Young players with even a decent shot at running up a few good years while making the league minimum or near it are so valuable that any sort of sound methodology will show a deal involving getting rid of them to be a net loser, almost regardless of what's coming back.
Against that, though, you do have to weigh what a playoff run can do for a team like Texas, or what a second one can do to turn a place like Milwaukee into a baseball town, or what it means to wring every last win out of any team featuring a player as transcendent as