The Max Scherzer Trade Revisited

Thirteen months ago, the New York Yankees acquired Curtis Granderson from the Detroit Tigers in a three-way trade. Instead of talk about the Yankees or Tigers, most initial reactions focused on answering what the Arizona Diamondbacks were thinking. After all, trading Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth for Ian Kennedy and Edwin Jackson appeared to be a loss on paper. It’s too early to close the book on the trade, but the Diamondbacks’ return looks a lot better with a season under its belt.

Surprisingly, the Diamondbacks received the most WAR of any trade participant in 2010. Kennedy found his prospect magic and delivered 194 innings with a 4.33 FIP. Jackson, despite a poor ERA, chipped in 21 starts with strong peripherals (4.24 FIP). He ultimately found himself on his way to the Chicago White Sox for Daniel Hudson. Jackson and Hudson matched each other in WAR after the trade – two wins apiece – and thus left the D-Backs with 6.2 wins, which was more than Granderson (who had a five-plus win season) produced or the Tigers’ return. Of course, trade analysis is not that simple.

The most common complaint revolved around Scherzer’s service time and cost. He remains cheaper and further away from free agency than Jackson. Given their contract statuses, Scherzer represented the better choice if they were considered equal in talent and performance expectations. No one outside of the Arizona organization knows just how that comparative analysis looked, but the combustibility concerns that surrounded Scherzer may have tipped the scales in Jackson’s favor.

Scherzer has since changed his mechanics and produced at a ridiculously high level from that point on. Whether he would have received the same adjustments within the Arizona system is up to anyone’s guess. My inclination is to think he would not have made similar adjustments, otherwise that tinkering would have occurred at some point during his developmental process. If that is the case and Scherzer would’ve busted – and really nobody knows the probability of either event – then one can argue the Diamondbacks are actually better off now with Hudson and Kennedy than they would be with Scherzer in tow, particularly since Hudson and Kennedy are cheaper and further away from free agency than Scherzer.




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39 Responses to “The Max Scherzer Trade Revisited”

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  1. Dave Dombrowski says:

    Scherzer did not “receive” the adjustments, it was reported that he saw a flaw in his mechanics watching tape himself and then made the adjustments on his own. I have no reason to believe he wouldn’t watch tape if he were in Arizona.

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    • the fume says:

      100% correct. Scherzer did not drastically change his mechanics…..they were a bit off at the beginning of the season and he corrected them.

      That’s not to say the Tigers didn’t treat him different than the D’Backs would have with pitch selection or small adjustments or use of the breaking pitch, but there was no ‘aha!’ moment or anything.

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  2. Mark says:

    “Surprisingly, the Diamondbacks received the most WAR of any trade participant in 2010. ”

    I must have missed something, because E Jackson got 1.8 WAR as a D-Back and Kennedy got 2.4. Meanwhile Scherzer got 3.7 and Austin Jackson got 3.8. That’s not including Coke who got 1.1. The other RP the Tigers got was .1

    Unless I missed someone on the Dbacks, it’s pretty clear the Tigers got the most WAR. They got the individual with the highest WAR (just barely over Granderson) and collectively the most WAR.

    Either way it’s still an awful trade for the Dbacks. Kennedy is not a good starting pitcher. Getting Hudson was a good move though, but that’s irrelevant to evaluating the original trade.

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    • Ben says:

      He’s including the 2 WAR that Hudson gave the Diamondbacks, which seems fair. That still does not, however, push them above the Tigers’ total.

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      • Dwight Schrute says:

        I don’t think he’s including Austin Jackson’s total since the Diamondbacks weren’t the ones that gave him up. He was just breaking down the difference between what the DBacks gave up and what they received.

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      • Mark says:

        He can’t be arguing only what the Dbacks gave up/gained because he specifically says “the Diamondbacks received the most WAR of any trade participant in 2010.”. By saying any participant, he has to include Jackson/Coke.

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      • Dwight Schrute says:

        Yeah after re-reading it you’re right. I’m not sure what he was thinking then, because when you include them the Tigers clearly got the best return last year.

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    • TheBigOne says:

      the overall gist of the article is good, but the math/data is horribly wrong.

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  3. CircleChange11 says:

    This is interesting to me for 2 reasons …

    [1] Wasn’t this a pretty good trade for all 3? Rarely does it seem to work like this.

    [2] Scherzer and his mechanics …. let’s assume that whatever changed at the end of last year is going to stick, and he’s going to be a SP that pitches into and past the 6th inning effectively. What the hell are the coaches doing for these teams? I say that as a coach. If my primary job is to be a pitching coach, and one of my super-talented guys is struggling, don’t we watch tape together and see if we can find something that needs tweaked?

    I ask this because two of the “breakout stories” in recent history are Andres Torres and Ben Zobrists … both of whom had to go outside of the organization for hitting instruction that proved effective. In those two situations, and even Scherzers, the individual receives all the credit for their turnaround in mechanics and approach.

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    • hunterfan says:

      I was wondering the same thing as well. My experience as an athlete in the HS/college level indicated that most coaches had a limited area of expertise/an agenda to push. If what you needed help with was within their area of expertise and/or within their agenda…fine. If not, you were on your own.

      I would’ve hoped the coaches got better as you went along through the system, but maybe not.

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    • Matt says:

      It’s sad, but the majority of coaches and teachers teach they way they were taught and only know what worked for themselves.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Here’s my feeling as a coach …

      [1] Recognizing the problem is the easy part. Yeah, we all can see that the pitcher is not throwing the strikes. The drunk in the 5th row has been yelling that since the 2nd inning.

      [2] Recognizing the cause of the problem is more difficult. He’s not throwing strikes because his release point varies, due to a timing issue caused by X.

      [3] The solution on how to fix X is the next difficult step.

      [4] Knowing how to effectively teach the pitcher to minor and correct X.

      IMO, most coaches know how to do 1-3. It’s the teaching the correction so that it’s effective and sustainable that’s the key. That requires a lot of one-on-one attention.

      IMO, at the ML level, it seems to be pretty much up to the pitcher to respond to just what the coach says, or they’ll just find a replacement for you. That seems to be more efficient to the team than actually working with a player one-on-one. However, what we’ve seen with Scherzer, Torres, and Zobrist … it could be a major gain for the teams.

      I would not, at all, be surprised if organizations put their best coaches (not to be confused with managers) in the minor leagues. I could envision, based on my experience, that at the ML level, the coaches are just responsible for making sure a player gets in their daily work … and even then probably are not that instrumental.

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      • hunterfan says:

        My problems with coaches always seemed that they had “an agenda” to push and oftentimes wouldn’t work with the player within their framework.

        It takes a really open, well-read, successful coach to see what works for a specific guy and go with that, rather than constantly trying to ram square pegs into round holes.

        I imagine if they came up today, Walter Johnson, Carl Hubbell and Dizzy Dean , etc would be told not to throw sidearm, but overhand because that’s the way their coaches would feel comfortable teaching them.

        Maybe I just had really terrible coaches, but that seemed to be the norm in my experience.

        On a related note, I think sometimes that’s why change of scenery trades work. It doesn’t have much to do with the organization per se, but the coaches within that organization just aren’t able to help a specific guy.

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      • Shane Y says:

        If you were one of the best coaches in the game, why would you accept an assignment to coach in the bus leagues? Other teams would want you to coach in their organizations, so they’d offer you an MLB job. And if coaches at the MLB level were just responsible for making sure a player gets in their work without helping them, the coach would be replaced with time cards. As with players, they’ll just find a replacement for you. The drunk in the 5th row could tell you that.

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      • Jeff says:

        At the big league level, many times a hitting or pitching coach is nothing more than the managers friend… This is true on the Tigers, where their hitting coach is just Leylands buddy Lloyd McClendon.

        He is so bad at this job, that in 2009 Magglio, Polanco, and Granderson were forced to drive an hour each way to work with the Toledo Mud Hens hitting coach…. Lloyd’s answer to every hitting problem is to pull the ball with an upper cut swing…

        Anyway, im sure alot of teams have similar situations…

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      • Bud Selig says:

        I would think you’d put your best coaches with the players that need the best coaches.

        At the ML level, there ain’t a lot of coaching going on. At that venue, guys probably are who they are … amny of whom probably don’t want any coaching.

        It’s possible that organizations do not place their best coaches in the minors. Seems like a good idea to me. Get the mechanical flaws worked out BEFORE they get to the majors.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Sorry. Bud Selig is CircleChange11.

        I used Bud Selig as a username to make a joke in another thread. Forgot to change it back.

        Why do I try new things?

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  4. The_Beard says:

    If the D-Backs don’t flip Edwin to CHW for Hudson, it’s a horrible trade for them. Kennedy is fine- servicable and cheap, but far less valuable than any of the other big players in the deal. Detroit won this trade huge in my opinion.

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  5. Telo says:

    “which was more than Granderson (who had a five-plus win season)”

    Typo? Granderson has been worth about 3-3.5 wins for the past three seasons.

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    • Jimmajamma says:

      I think so, I think he looked at the short hand part on the player page and saw UZR of 5.3 and mistook that for Granderson’s WAR

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  6. This trade was the best thing Dave Dombrowski has done in the last 24 months.

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    • Dave Dombrowski says:

      Thanks!

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    • Jeff says:

      signing Verlander for 5 years wasnt too shabby… either was drafting Castellanos and singing him…

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      • Dwight Schrute says:

        Either was trading Joyce for Jackson which turned into Scherzer, Maybin and Miller for Cabrera, Urbina for Polanco, Santiago for Guillen and Weaver for Pena and Bonderman. Dombrowksi gets alot of flack from Tigers fans but I have to admit he has a pretty stellar trade record since he’s been with them, the only time that I can remember him getting burned was the Jurrjens for Renteria trade.

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  7. Jon E says:

    If the comparison being made at the end of this article is about having “Hudson/Kennedy being more valuable than Scherzer” then you have to add Schlereth in there as well don’t you. I.E. Is it more valuable to have Hudson/Kennedy or Scherzer/Schlereth?

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  8. Didnt count the savings Detroit got out of moving Granderson for Jackson too, and defensively Jackson is better also.

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  9. j hull says:

    Fangraphs is usually better than this. I expect this from ESPN. It isn’t just the conclusions drawn from cherry-picked data, but the gross negligence of simple fact checking by the author. This is the type of article that encourages people to bemoan cries of bias, whether it’s deserved or not. I get that it’s a free site and all, but one would have to wonder, what’s the point? Why even bother if this will be the result.

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  10. jhull says:

    Just to clarify, I meant why bother with writing this article, not with fangraphs the site.

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  11. DIVISION says:

    Having watched all this play out both on the field and up-close (living in Phoenix), I can say that the D-backs cleaned up in this trade.

    Max was given every opportunity to succeed in Phoenix, but he couldn’t cut his BB-rate nor reach the 6th inning most starts.

    Hudson has more upside than Scherzer, so it’s pretty much a win.

    Edwin Jackson did throw the no-hitter for us versus Tampa, but he was never seriously considered a mainstay in the rotation. A good trade piece, though.

    Max Scherzer didn’t succeed in Phoenix because of Max Scherzer.

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    • jhull says:

      Analysis in the same order of the original article.

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    • Mike says:

      Max couldn’t reach the 6th inning in most starts in Phoenix? Really? In 2009, he pitched at least 6 innings (i.e. he at least finished the 6th inning, not just reached it) in 16 starts (out of 30) and pitched 170 innings in his age 24 season. Not too shabby. Last year he upped it to 20 out of 31 starts including 11 straight starting July 31st while throwing 195 innings.

      He’s a 26 year old kid with consecutive solid seasons under his belt and a career ERA of 3.69 and K rate of 9.0/9IP. It’s not fair to say he “didn’t succeed in Phoenix because of Max Scherzer”, because he did succeed. It’s my understanding that they wanted to trade him because of injury concerns because of his delivery, not because he wasn’t a great young pitcher.

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  12. Garrett says:

    This is a really terrible article.

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  13. ToddM says:

    Not your best work, RJ.

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  14. Lance says:

    “…Granderson (who had a five-plus win season)…”

    Except not really?

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  15. Cecil Fielder says:

    I think its funny that the guy from Phoenix is an expert on this trade because he saw the Diamondbacks return up close. I bet he didn’t watch Max pitch once all year, let alone see Jackson or Coke. The Diamondbacks did not clean up in this trade and if I’m not mistaken they regressed as a team this year.

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  16. Jason says:

    I love all the tigers fan acting like they are the clear winners of the trade. I’m happy with Kennedy and Hudson, Scherzer was too inconsistent. It is true that he couldn’t pitch deep into games for the Dbacks. Kennedy pitched deeper than Scherzer used to, and Hudson pitched as well as anyone in the 2nd half.

    I’ll take our lot, as 2 good starting pitchers are better than 1 starting pitcher and a relieve in my opinion.

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    • Dwight S. says:

      I think the Tigers did end up cleaning up. Their CF they got out WAR’d the one they traded away last year and even if you expect him to regress he’ll probably be at the very least 1 win worse a year than Granderson at about 10% of the salary. They probably got the best starting pitcher out of the bunch and definitely the one with the most upside(and no you can’t include Hudson since he actually wasn’t part of the trade). On top of that they got Coke who put up a 1.1 WIN season as a reliever last year and who is slated to start this year. If he works out as a starter it’s a bonus if not you know you atleast have a solid reliever. Plus they got Schlereth who could be a devastating lefty out of the bullpen. With that said though I think all teams did well considering their needs but I just like the Tigers side the most.

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  17. Max in AZ says:

    Tonight I am watching the Tigers and Giants playing in the World series’ 3rd game with the Giants up 2-0. Max Scherzer will be pitching the 4th game. I thought the D-backs made a mistake then and still do today. Scherzer went 16-7 w/3.74 ERA while Kennedy went 15-12 w/ 4.02 ERA.

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  18. John Johnson says:

    Maybe you should revisit your revisit piece and update for a Cy Young for Scherzer.

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