The Scott Hairston Deal

When I heard that the Padres had traded Scott Hairston for Craig Italiano, Ryan Webb, and a PTBNL, my first reaction was to wonder if they were trying to tank as quickly as possible to give themselves a shot at drafting Bryce Harper. There weren’t too many other explanations that made much sense, given that Hairston was one of only two guys on the Padres roster hitting his weight and that he made a total of $1.25 million this year while not being eligible for free agency until after 2011.

After a night to think it over and do some more research on the deal, I don’t have many more answers than I did last night. I still don’t get it.

Kevin Towers justified the trade thusly: “That’s the one thing we lack in our system is pitching depth,” Towers said, noting the lack of higher-level arms in the system. “We really didn’t want to give up Scotty. But for us, this is a move looking beyond this year.”

Not sure if you’ve noticed, Mr. Towers, but you play in the most pitcher friendly ballpark in baseball. You’ve picked up Chad Gaudin and Kevin Correia off the scrap heap and watched them turn into pretty useful arms in the expanse of Petco Park, after doing the same thing with Cha Seung Baek last year. Your ballpark is a veritable pitching factory, allowing you to take arms with some flaws and make them look all shiny and new.

What you don’t have is a major league offense. Sure, Hairston was over his head this year, so maybe you can convince yourself that you’re selling high. But even with an expected regression, he’s a league average hitter who had turned himself into a decent enough outfielder to handle center field or be above average in a corner spot. Hairston is a +2 to +3 win player, under team control for 2 1/2 years, and making a fraction of what he’s worth. That’s a really valuable asset.

In return for one of their best trade chips, the Padres get a couple of bullpen arms with upside in Webb and Italiano and a PTBNL that Towers called “the key to the deal”. Because Towers indicated that the PTBNL is going to be one of two pitchers, one of whom has major league service time, speculation has centered around Sean Gallagher or Dana Eveland. Gallagher is better than Eveland, but I’m not sure this deal makes sense for San Diego regardless of which pitcher it ends up being.

Call me crazy, but I think low cost, above average major league players should command more than a potential back-end starter and a pair of bullpen arms. It’s hard for me to fathom how the Padres could back away from really good deals for Jake Peavy over the winter, but then begin to sell off useful pieces like Hairston for spare parts.

From the A’s perspective, this is a no-brainer deal. Hairston will replace the soon-to-be-traded Matt Holliday in the line-up, giving them a right-handed outfield bat that they lacked going forward, and they gave up no real parts of their future to acquire a guy who can fit into their near-term core.

Easy win for Oakland here. Can’t say I’m a fan of whatever plan San Diego is putting in place.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Jack Moore
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7 years 23 days ago

It must be a salary dump, just like the Jody Gerut for Tony Gwynn Jr. deal was. They can’t even afford to have players making 800K over the minimum like Hairston, I guess.

lester bangs
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lester bangs
7 years 23 days ago

If I’m Adrian Gonzalez, I desperately want a way out of this mess (he’s said in the past he’s happy there, but watching the team get worse can’t be fun). This great city deserves better.

Derek
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Derek
7 years 23 days ago

If the PTBNL is Gallagher, it could look good later. If it’s Eveland, it’s horrible.

obsessivegiantscompulsive
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7 years 23 days ago

Why all the gnashing of teeth over a bench player? He’s never held a regular starting job and at 29, probably won’t ever, certainly not by the time when the Padres are ready to compete again.

He’s having the best season ever for the number of ABs, but if you look at his splits, he only hit great in April (when he got to play SF, who he kills for some reason), but returned to his career suckiness in May and June. Even last year, he was good for two months, bad for the other three. He’s not an average player worth 2-3 wins, he’s a bench player who needs to be played in spots where he can best produce.

But if he can net the Padres this PTBNL who can be a regular starting pitcher in the majors, then I would call that a net win for them.

And regarding Correia, he pitched very well for the Giants at the end of the 2007 season, and this season just confirms that level of production. He was injured last year and I don’t think he recovered during the season. Plus, he could become better as his ERA is actually higher at home than on the road this season.

The problem was that the Giants did not want to risk starting him in the rotation with Sanchez in the back for 2009, as we lost a lot of games back there in 2008, plus Zito wasn’t doing that well and, frankly, we didn’t know when he ever would. So they were nice and let him go because they were looking to upgrade the rotation – and eventually did with Johnson – and thus he would be at best a reliever for us, and even with his success there, he might not even make our bullpen, we have a lot of options, even now, and he wanted to be a starter plus would love to pitch for his hometown Padres. They also had no more options on him either, so it wasn’t like they could send him to AAA if he didn’t make the team for 2009. So the Giants were nice and let him go when he was already marginal for making our team in 2009.

If he was a strikeout artist, the Giants probably could have traded him for something, but he’s just a nice complementary player that is great for a team like the Padres or an established team that can afford not so great performances out of the back of the rotation because they have a good offense, but not for a team built like the 2009 Giants.

obsessivegiantscompulsive
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7 years 23 days ago

Forgot to also mention that this clears up a spot in the OF to play Kyle Blanks and Tony Gwynn more, now that Hairston is out of their hair, as that opens up ABs both in LF and CF. Particularly Gwynn in CF, who has been hitting OK for them.

Blanks can see more play in LF with Headley either sitting or moving to 3B as Kouz isn’t doing that great this season either. Blanks clearly has nothing to learn in AAA and needs major league experience to see what he can do.

Yeah, I like this deal for the Padres, all around, and especially if they got a pitcher they really like (which means I hate the deal, because I don’t like the Padres and I hate that the A’s picked up a Giants killer).

Teej
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Teej
7 years 23 days ago

Getting rid of a good player to make room for Kyle Blanks doesn’t really make a ton of sense. He obviously hasn’t spent enough time in the bigs for his UZR to matter, but the scouting reports I’ve read (and my impression from watching Blanks a little bit) indicate that the guy is probably a DH or a 1B. Letting him roam the outfield in a huge park could be ugly.

Christo P. Ney
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Christo P. Ney
7 years 23 days ago

Gotta agree. They probably sold high on Hairston.

Coming into the season, Hairston was a .246/.303/.453 career hitter and turning 29.

22% K rate and a 7% walk rate.

He DOES have the body type that seems to say he will age well w/r/t power but…

Blanks now has a position and they got two filler guys with live arms but terrible deliveries. In other words, moderate upside.

In the end, I think the ultimate judgment lies in the PTBNL.

PadsFan
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PadsFan
7 years 23 days ago

at least bat value looks like hairston seems underrated, add in above avg CF defense too. 2+ season cost controlled hairston or aaron rowand at 10-12mill?

Centerfielders ranked by OPS+ from 2008-2009 (minimum 500 PA):

Cnt Player OPS+ PA From To
+—-+—————–+—-+—–+—-+—-+
1 Carlos Beltran 136 986 2008 2009
2 Josh Hamilton 129 842 2008 2009
3 Scott Hairston 128 572 2008 2009
4 Nate McLouth 123 986 2008 2009
5 Torii Hunter 121 918 2008 2009
6 Grady Sizemore 119 1024 2008 2009
7 Marlon Byrd 118 741 2008 2009
8 Curtis Granderson 118 989 2008 2009
9 Cody Ross 114 813 2008 2009
10 Mike Cameron 113 822 2008 2009
11 Matt Kemp 113 987 2008 2009
12 Shane Victorino 109 982 2008 2009
13 Jody Gerut 106 515 2008 2009
14 Rick Ankiel 105 685 2008 2009
15 Vernon Wells 105 827 2008 2009

David Coonce
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David Coonce
7 years 23 days ago

This is a pretty cherry picked, list, no? Comparing a player with 572 PAs to one with 1024 PAs, in the same time period, is using statistics the way a drunk uses a lamppost – for support, not illumination. Make the arbitrary cutoff 600 PAs and Hairston disappears.

There’s several reasons Hairston has only batted 572 times in the last year-and-a-half. Mostly because he can’t stay healthy. He has also had a pretty large platoon split throughout his career and sits against tough right-handers.

His OPS+ is impressive in a small-sample size kind of way, and, as a Padre fan I’ll be a little sorry to see him go. He was free talent and played pretty well when he could make it onto the field. I just don’t think keeping him around was essential to a team that’s going to lose 90 games. On a good team he’s a nice fourth outfielder, a lefty-killer who can spot any of the three positions defensively and won’t kill you if you have to play him for a couple weeks at a time.

But the Padres have to get some legitimate hitters into that lineup eventually. And the easiest place to do so, since first base is blocked, is in left field.

Christo P. Ney
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Christo P. Ney
7 years 23 days ago

Hairston has played the majority of his career in left, seeing more time in center over the last two seasons mainly because the Padres don’t have a prototypical anything (he’s been good, though).

As he ages, left field is his spot and that changes the whole dynamic.

mymrbig
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mymrbig
7 years 23 days ago

Dave, I think Hairston’s injury history also has to play some part. Kind of like the Bedard arguments you’ve made over at USSMariner, it makes some sense to trade Hairston before he blows another gasket. And his .345 BABIP isn’t exactly sustainable considering his career BABIP is .298 and he hasn’t really shown any drastic improvements in BB%, K%, or anything else that suggest an improved skill.

I generally agree with your analysis, I’m a little surprised that the Padres wouldn’t either hold him and hope he continued his current production (or close to it) and look to move him next year. Or at least get a little better return than Webb and Italiano since, as you’ve said, they tend to be one of the best teams at picking arms off the scrap heap and getting positive value for them. That said, if they have injury concerns or just don’t believe his production is sustainable, then now might have been the right time to move him.

Terry
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Terry
7 years 23 days ago

If nothing else, this season demonstrates that San Diego’s FO values platoon players a little less than a bag of flaming dog poo…

thatotherguy
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thatotherguy
7 years 23 days ago

If the “production” Correia, Gaudin and Baek have managed in Padres uniforms counts as “shiny and new,” I’m the Queen of the May. All have below average numbers in the Blue and Sand and two of the three have numbers below their (pretty poor) career numbers as Padres.

And who says it’s a fait acompli that Italiano is a reliever. Seems to me he’s gonna stay in the rotation for at least another 16 months before they even think about resorting to a move for him.

JD
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JD
7 years 22 days ago

Italiano will be a reliever. They might keep him in the rotation for now, as the A’s were doing, but the guy can’t get through 5 innings without throwing 110 pitches. He doesn’t have enough pitches he can get over for strikes to stay in the rotation. In the bullpen, that fastball and one more pitch will be enough to make him successful.

AsFan
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AsFan
7 years 23 days ago

Italiano is rule 5 eligible this offseason, having yet to play above A ball…dont forget that issue

Tom Waits
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Tom Waits
7 years 23 days ago

Yeah, but the Padres 40 man will have lots of spaces. Good-bye, Wade LeBlanc, Walter Silva, Cesar Ramos, maybe Cesar Carrillo, maybe Josh Geer. Good-bye Henry Blanco, Edgar Gonzalez, and Brian Giles.

JD
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JD
7 years 22 days ago

I’m hoping Carrillo can turn it around. Played Little League with him, and for a while it looked like he was going to rise through the organization really quickly before the injury bug got him.

Bill
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Bill
7 years 23 days ago

Poor Scott Hairston… this trade reminds me of the ending to Event Horizon.

Tom Waits
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Tom Waits
7 years 23 days ago

The Padres offense vs pitching:

OPS+: 92. NL average 94.
ERA+: 81. NL average 101.

Yeah, they clearly don’t need arms, when Gaudin (70 ERA+) and Correia (82) are around, and with the masterful Baek (86 career) on his way back.

Petco Park makes pitchers look better than they are. It doesn’t actually make them better. The offense needs help. The pitching needs a complete overhaul.

Wall Street Journal? Really? Don’t they like…numbers….on Wall Street?

Friendly Neighborhood Language Critic
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Friendly Neighborhood Language Critic
7 years 23 days ago

ERA+ may look like a deeply informative stat, but it’s really not. ERA depends on defense and luck, and is therefore a poor measure of a pitcher’s talent level and even performance. You’re better off looking at FIP, xFIP, or this site’s Value stats, and by those measures, Gaudin and Correia are providing league-average performance this year for peanuts.

don
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don
7 years 23 days ago

Are FIP and xFIP park adjusted?

Tom Waits
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Tom Waits
7 years 23 days ago

I don’t think ERA+ is deeply informative, but it’s sufficiently accurate for comparative purposes. When a player’s career ERA+ is close to his current season ERA+, and he has a large enough body of work, questions of luck and defense are less relevant.

Gaudin has a -.8 pitching VORP. Correia is +7.5. That puts Correia at #30 of 40 NL pitchers with at least 90 innings.

Even if both were league-average, it doesn’t change the fact that with Peavy and Young hurt, and both having bad injury profiles, and the 5th starter spot manned by luminaries such as Geer and Silva, the Padres need is still clearly for pitching.

Friendly Neighborhood Language Critic
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Friendly Neighborhood Language Critic
7 years 23 days ago

FIP and xFIP are based on a pitcher’s K%, BB%, and HR% (though for xFIP a standard HR/FB is multiplied by the pitcher’s FB%), so it’s not park-adjusted, though park factors have much less impact over FIP and xFIP than defense and luck have on ERA.

And ERA+, because it is based on ERA, is actually not accurate for comparative purposes, at least not for a single season. It’s true that luck and defense should even out over a long enough period of time, but a pitcher’s ERA at any given moment in a season could be influenced by any combination of defense, luck, and actual pitching performance, so using ERAs to compare different pitchers ends up comparing lots of things that you shouldn’t really care about.

If you go to the player pages at this website and click on “Show Averages” in the “Advanced” section, you’ll see that both Gaudin (3.75) and Correia (4.08) have FIPs better than the league-average value of 4.30.

This post has a really good discussion of how ERA and WHIP fall short and what peripheral statistics are better tools for evaluating pitcher talent: http://ussmariner.com/2006/08/29/evaluating-pitcher-talent/

Tom Waits
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Tom Waits
7 years 23 days ago

I wouldn’t deny that the Padres 2009 defense hurts their pitchers. That they’re now reportedly considering an outfield with both Headley and Blanks is stunning. Still, Petco is such an extraordinary pitcher’s park that any stat which doesn’t account for it will miss something.

When every single pitcher who has started for the Padres this year, besides Peavy, has an ERA+ below 82, while most of the relief staff is north of 100, it’s hard to imagine that it’s just luck and bad defense.

Correia had a very nice month of June, but is now approaching his career high in major league innings pitched. He’s also half-a-run below his career FIP, and while he’s not old, he’s no kid, either. His current ERA+ is lower than his career number, but not by a huge amount. That makes 2009 look like a fluke to me, definitely not something the team should be counting on moving forward.

And again, you still gotta have 5 starters, and even if Gaudin and Correia are two of those, there are 3 spots open. With Peavy and Young’s injury / durability history, and the lack of quality pitching in the upper minors, a couple of those are likely to stay open.

don
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don
7 years 22 days ago

Well… then the question is what would the league average FIP be in Petco? Almost certainly lower than 4.3. Neither of those guys have incredibly low HR/FB rates though, so maybe they really are that good. Petco helps pitchers walk and strikeout rates a bit though too, IIRC.

PL
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PL
7 years 23 days ago

@obsessivegiantscompulsive

So Hairston is a “bench player whos never held down a reg starting job” huh? You arent one of those A’s haters who cant stand seeing Billy Beane pull off outstanding move after outstanding move while your GM trades your franchise for AJ Pierzynski are you?

To me, Hairston’s story sounds a lot like Jack Cust, another guy who rotted away at AAA for too many years because of some reason or another NOT having to do with baseball skills. Hairston constantly threw up 900+ ops’s at AAA and just never got a shot because zona was too crowded or whatever.

Hairston is legitimately good and is finally showing it. His SD career ends with 35 HR in 610 ABs…..which if done in 1 year makes him the best hitting CF not named Beltran…..enjoy paying Aaron Rowand way too much for not even coming close to those numbers. Beane wins another trade for a really undervalued piece, Moneyball LIVES!

Aaron C.
Guest
7 years 22 days ago

I’m an A’s fan and I think you’re WAY overselling Hairston. His AAA numbers were compiled in the D’Backs farm system which is infamous for being some of the most hitter-friendly territory in organized baseball. His stark platoon split and – at best – league average career numbers entering 2009 lead me to believe his “breakthrough” this year is actually the hottest 10 week stretch of his life.

Why not just platoon Travis Buck and Aaron Cunningham in RF and – since Oakland seems smitten with Ryan Sweeney’s glove (and not his sub-.700 OPS); keep Sweeney in CF?

Ben B.
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Ben B.
7 years 23 days ago

Padres hitting: 92 OPS+
Padres pitching: 81 ERA+
The Padres may not have a major league offense, but they certainly don’t have a major league pitching staff either.

Tom Waits
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Tom Waits
7 years 23 days ago

Jinx! Owe me a Coke!

Tom Dubberke
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7 years 23 days ago

Scott Hairston even up for Sean Gallagher looks like a good move for the Padres to me, provided that Gallagher’s current knee injury heals properly.

Gallagher is only 23 this year, has significant major league experience and was pitching extremely well at AAA Sacramento after an unsucessful start at Oakland, before the current injury on June 4, 2009

David Coonce
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David Coonce
7 years 23 days ago

If the PTBNL is Gallagher, then I think this trade works for the Padres. If it’s Eveland, then I’m a little non-plussed.

As a Padre fan, I really think San Diego needs to just strip down the team completely and start over. These little trades are kind of fiddling while Rome burns. I understand that the Padres have almost no tradeable assets, besides the ones they won’t (Peavy, Gonzalez) or can’t (Young, Kouzmanoff) trade. But this team needs an infusion of offense in the worst possible way. This isn’t like 2007, when the offense looked bad but was actually pretty good away from Petco. This is just a bad, bad offensive team, with nary a hitting prospect within shouting distance of the majors.

Tom Waits
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Tom Waits
7 years 22 days ago

This team needs an infusion of “talent” in the worst possible way. I realize I may be committing heresy by using another web site’s numbers, but for people who don’t like ERA+ and OPS+, we could go with Runs Created (RC) and Pitching Runs Created (PRC) from The Hardball Times.

Peavy leads the team in PRC, even hurt, at 32. That’s 1 run better than Chase Headley, who checks in at 4th among Padre hitters in RC. Headley and Correia are tied. Gaudin’s PRC is 22, which means he’s been outproduced by Tony Gwynn Jr and barely more productive than Hundley, who’s been out for 3 weeks and not catching everyday before that. Adrian Gonzalez and David Eckstein have combined for 108 RC. It would take about 4 pitchers to equal that.

I don’t mean to suggest that we don’t need help offensively. We certainly do. But if the offense has the flu, the pitching has ebola.

rwperu34
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rwperu34
7 years 23 days ago

Scott Hairston, he of the .295 OBP vs RHP against NL pitching is a two win player? I don’t think so. If you could maintain his platoon advantage over a full season he’d be worth two wins, but in reality he can only keep up that pace if over part time play. One win corner OF (like Nyjer Morgan was to the Pirates) grow on trees. Scott Hairston was completely worthless to the Padres, and mostly worthless to other teams. Granted, so are Webb and Italiano, but if they get Gallagher or Eveland as the PTBNL, this is a huge win for the Padres.

Paul Thomas
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Paul Thomas
7 years 22 days ago

Dude, .295 OBP versus RHP in Petco Park is, at worst, slightly below average.

Why do people insist on using numbers without park adjustments?

Jason
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Jason
7 years 23 days ago

The Padres need to make more deals like this. Take a shot on some unproven guys with the hope of helping the Padres in the future. Let’s be honest, they aren’t going to win the World Series in 2009, so let’s take some steps towards buillding a team that provides some hope of that happening in the future. I’d rather lose 110 in 2009 or 2010 and turn into the Tampa Bay Rays of 2011 or 2012, than “compete” for the NL west title and never win another playoff series.

AsFan
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AsFan
7 years 22 days ago

Gallagher got put in the A’s doghouse due to injuries, poor spring performance. So bad that Beane pulled him aside for awake up call, but it did no help. Gallagher went from a rotation lock to getting passed up by mazzaro/cahill/anderson/braden/outman etc. Plus gio gonzalez/simmons is still around. I do think he’ll be a solid pitcher eventually, but the hype has died down some in a span of 5-6 months. IMO he’scloser to a gaudin type pitcher eventually. Can be a solid mid rotation guy, but his fringy off speed stuff and control might hold him back. IMO he’s worth the risk for padres who dont have much depth. The A’s offense has been so lousy that they were willing to take a risk with pitching depth.

JD
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JD
7 years 22 days ago

It’s too bad the injuries were caused by Bob Geren not pulling Gallagher when he was in pain last season. Guy was always healthy and had good control before that miserable outing.

Stephen
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Stephen
7 years 22 days ago

Coreira and Guadin have been pitching over their heads statistically speaking. To put this into perspective, Andrew Bailey was ranked the #23 prospect in the A’s farm system, and Craig Italiano is/was #24. As many have elaborated, Scott Hairston has been having a good year, but he has never eally done that before. Honestly, complaining about this trade is ridiculous because the PTBNL needs to be named before any serious, non-emotional analyst.

I remember the AJ Pierzynski trade when he was shipped from the Twins to the Giants for then no-names Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser. Joe Nathan, a recently convert SS, is now a perennial all star, Liriano may never return to his rookie year levels, but is an adequate pitcher, and Bonser is essentially nothing. There was a lot of complaining then, even with Joe Mauer coming up through the minors.

What I am trying to say is, one cannot decide if the trade is awful until more time has passed.

Ed Nelson
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Ed Nelson
7 years 22 days ago

What is important to note is that you can’t take bad pitchers and put them in PETCO and have them become good pitchers because of the dimensions of the park, because the other teams’ pitchers are going to be better also. To win your pitchers need to be better then the competition’s, and this trade does provide some depth.

Milford Overstrom
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5 years 9 months ago

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