clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Andrew Friedman: Trade Master Extraordinaire

New, 17 comments

During the beginning of this past off-season, FreeZo and I tag-teamed a series in which we looked at a large portion of the trades completed by the (Devil) Rays organization over the years.  In particular, we were looking at so called "Trade Strings" - times where the front office was able to turn one player into another player and then deal that player for yet more talent.  While not essential to the success of an organization, I find trade strings really fun to look at - something akin to a family tree for baseball players.

One thing that became readily apparent over the course of the series, though, was that our current front office is really, really good at acquiring talent through trades.  JP Howell for Joey Gathright.  Akinori Iwamura for Jesse Chavez for Rafael Soriano.  Ty Wiggington for Dan Wheeler.  Delmon Young for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett.  I could keep going, but you get the picture.  The more trades I evaluated, the more I realized that this front office dominates when it comes to trades.

And so when I read this article written by Matt Swartz over at Baseball Prospectus, I couldn't help but feel vindicated.  For those of you that don't have subscriptions, Swartz wanted to determine how the current distribution of talent in baseball would be affected if teams weren't allowed to trade players and there were no free agents.  In other words, players would be stuck on the team that drafted them ad infinitum.  The typical assumption would be that small-market teams would benefit in this alternate universe, since they can't lose their players to free agency and large-market teams anymore...right?  Here's a peak at his adjusted AL East standings for 2009:

Original W-L

Actual W-L

Blue Jays

95-67

75-87

Red Sox

89-73

95-67

Yankees

88-74

103-59

Orioles

68-94

64-98

Rays

66-96

84-78

While it's not a surprise that the Yankees' wins largely came from spending on free agents, the Rays were the most shocking team of all. The reputation of the Rays is of a team without money that gets by on strong drafts. However, much of the Rays' genius comes in acquiring talent from other teams. They traded Aubrey Huff for Zobrist and Mitch Talbot in the summer of 2006. J.P. Howell came in trade for Joey Gathright and Fernando Cortez in the summer of 2006 as well. Another big move came when the Rays acquired Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza from the Twins in exchange for Brendan Harris, Delmon Young, and Jason Pridie after the 2007 season. The Rays barely lost any of their own talent, with Matt Diaz and Johnny Gomes providing the highest WARP of all players on other teams but originally property of the Rays.Jason Hammel looks to make the Rays hurt a little bit.

So news media reporters and broadcasters, enough talk about how the Rays are competitive because of their high draft picks and home-grown talent.  Yes, it's true in part, but the real reason the Rays have become a successful franchise is that their front-office is a shrewd, talent-acquiring machine.  If not for the many trades they have made in their history - especially those done since the new regime took over in 2006 - the Rays would still be a last place franchise.