With the dawning of the new year, I figured it'd be fitting to go back and take another look at one of the Rays' largest trading coups: the Danys Baez and Lance Carter for Edwin Jackson and Chuck Tiffany trade. Heck, ignore the actual names involved in the trade; all that matters is that the Rays managed to trade two aging relievers for two starting pitching propsects. I could go through all of my six steps of evaluating past trades (for details, see the previous posts in this series), but I feel like it'd be a pointless exercise considering there isn't much that needs to be said about this trade. The general reaction at the time was that it was a great trade, and that's proven to be the case in retrospect as well. Take a look at these profiles and let me know who you'd prefer to have on your team if you had to pick two of them:
Danys Baez: 28 years old, RP, previous year: 4.20 FIP, 0.6 WAR, paid $1.9M
Lance Carter: 31 years old, RP, previous year: 5.14 FIP, -0.3 WAR, paid $.4M
Edwin Jackson: 22 years old, SP, former top prospect with unimpressive recent statistics
Chuck Tiffany: 21 years old, SP, previous year (A+): 110 IP, 134 K, 43 BB, 3.93 ERA
Obviously these little blurbs are missing lots of information and don't include much in the way of statistics for the minor league players, but here's the trick: you don't need them. Young starting pitching talent is so valuable and mediocre relief pitchers are easily replaced, if I had to pick my top two from the list above, I don't think I'd ever take Baez and Carter over Jackson and Tiffany. Trading young starting prospects for old, mediocre relief pitchers is a horrible plan, so I don't know what the Dodgers were thinking. Maybe they got confused by Baez's glittery 2.86 ERA and his dominant 41 saves, and neglected to notice that his underlying peripheral stats suggested he wasn't nearly that good. The Rays were in full rebuilding move at the time this trade was completed, so they were right to be discarding older relievers, even if it meant beginning the 2006 season without a "proven closer". Really, what value does a closer have on a team that isn't in contention? It's a rather silly luxury to be spending multiple millions of dollars on.
For those of you that love visuals, here's a look at the full Baez/Carter trade string:
Without repeating things that have been said a million times over, there's one thing I'd like to point out: poor Chuck Tiffany. At the time of the trade, he was one of the top ranked pitching prospects in the Dodgers' system. While still far from the majors, he'd displayed a lot of talent, leading to quotes like this:
"With Chuck Tiffany, I like this move. He's young and has a great arm. I don't know how we managed this, but in the long run...he could be the coup of the trade." -DRaysBay
Those aren't just words either; Tiffany really was quite good. Many Dodgers fans considered him the linchpin of the entire trade, and missed seeing him go more than Edwin. He was ranked the Dodgers' 10th-best prospect in 2005 and was mentioned in the same breathe as Broxton and Billingsley (and we know how those guys turned out). Tiffany started 2006 in Double-A, but had shoulder issues (torn rotator cuff) and had to undergoing shoulder surgery. He missed the majority of 2006 season and the entirety of 2007, but pitched with Vero Beach in 2008. He was ineffective in 40.1 innings of work (5.17 FIP, 0.94 K/BB ratio), was released prior to the 2009 season, and has since been scooped back up by the Dodgers. I couldn't find any statistics or information on him for the 2009 season, though, so he may have retired. Too bad he didn't work out.
In the end, this was another great move by the Rays' front office. They took two over-valued relievers and turned them into young talent, and that young talent paid off in the form of Edwin Jackson's 2008 season. And then, Jackson was overvalued due to his success, and so he got turned into the underrated talent of Matt Joyce. I'm sensing a trend here - overrated for underrated, overvalued for undervalued. That's the way the Rays roll, and they scored big on this trade.