How can a three-team trade involving two of the five best pitchers in baseball leave so many questions about who won and who lost? It's a mystery, but Philadelphia, Seattle and Toronto managed it this week in the most convoluted and entertaining trade of the decade.
Philadelphia traded several good prospects to Toronto for
Toronto isn't a better team for the trade. In exchange for Halladay, they received pitcher
Seattle is better for the trade, but not as much as one might think. Compared to where they were before they dealt for Lee, they're a vastly more impressive team; compared to 2009, they really aren't. After all, the Mariners got 216 innings and a 2.71 earned run average from departed starters
The real winner is
One way a good reputation is useful is in discouraging questions and doubts. Boston general manager
The Red Sox signed starter
Lackey is very good, but not great. He doesn't have great velocity, or great control, or one great pitch that keeps hitters from getting the ball in the air, or any one thing about his game that seems likely to hold up well against the slow wear of age. Whether or not Boston's medical staff is concerned about it, he's averaged just 170 innings the past two years, and his strikeout rate has dropped four years running. Lackey is 31, and recent pitchers with similar workloads, adjusted ERAs and strikeout rates through age 30 include
There are lots of justifications for the move, the most compelling two being that Boston has lots of money and plays in such a tough division that they can get more return on a dollar spent improving their club than anyone else can. Also, his flaws are priced into the contract: He may be a high-end number two starter and not an ace, but going by the precedent of
The Cameron deal is much better, and not just because so much less money is involved. One of the least appreciated players of his generation, Cameron is good for 60 hits and 70 walks every year, which more than makes up for a poor batting average. Add in good outfield play -- according to UZR and
As with Lackey there are reasons for concern: Cameron is about to turn 37, and the list of regulars who have stayed productive at that age with anything near his strikeout rate is extremely short. You shouldn't be surprised if the team is shopping for an outfielder in June. Despite that, this is the kind of shrewd signing that allows the Red Sox to take the occasional calculated risk with a player like Lackey.
There were lots of less-glamorous moves this week. The one I hated most was the Dodgers shipping
As a straight baseball move, this wasn't nearly as bad as Kansas City's inexplicable signing of 35-year-old journeyman catcher
If those two moves were bad from the team's perspective, the oddest one from the player's end had to be
Along with the bad comes the good. The best move not involving Cliff Lee has been the Yankees' trade for
The Yankees' possible signing of
While of far lower profile, another team in the American League East made a nice move this week when Baltimore signed closer
Having mentioned Coco Crisp above, it's probably worth noting that some team is going to get a real bargain with him, assuming that he's something near his usual self after undergoing double shoulder surgery this year. (His agent,
That may not be true of Bay, who looks likely to provide an illustration of what is meant by the phrase "winner's curse." Not many players who strike out 27 percent of the time, as Bay does, age well. Those who do tend to either be exceptionally athletic or have even more power than he does.
With Hall of Fame ballots coming in, here's something to keep in mind about the great
You don't make a list like this by accident. Raines is overqualified for Cooperstown.