Jordan at OrioleProspects.com and I have been sharing thoughts on the 2009 trade deadline trade between the Dodgers and Orioles that sent George Sherrill to Los Angeles for prospects Josh Bell and Steven Johnson.
Here are my thoughts. You can read his thoughts here.
Outcome Bias. It’s a real thing. It happens all the time. Your perspective of something changes because of the end result. Player A, who is not good, is traded for Player B, who is bad. Player B performs inexplicably well and Player A continues to perform not good. The fans of Player B’s new team gloat about the trade and the fans of Player A’s new team scowl and curse the trade and all management involved.
Thoughts at the time of the trade
We all hated this. All Dodger fans. Well, most of us. This is what we thought: trading for George Sherrill, great. Who are we giving up? The most well-rounded bat in the organization? You’re kidding.
I was one of those people. The Dodgers, and specifically Ned Colletti, got burned badly the previous year at the trade deadline when the Dodgers received Casey Blake from the Indians in exchange for promising reliever Jon Meloan and a decent catching prospect named Carlos Santana who was putting up a .323/.431/.563 in A+ Inland Empire.
They traded a catcher prospect. Performing that well. At age 22. For Casey Blake and $2 million. Still shocks me a little.
You probably know the rest from there. He continued to rake in the Indians’ minor league system and is considered the best prospect in their organization. It looks like he’ll be called up later this year as a Super-Two and he’ll probably kick butt.
Josh Bell, at the 2009 trade deadline, was putting up a 296/.386/.497 line in AA Chattanooga. He was 22. This was an eerily similar circumstance.
Throw on top of that that the Dodgers have yet to draft and raise a legit power hitter outside of Matt Kemp and it hurts when they trade away two in consecutive trade deadlines.
Steve Johnson was also in the trade, but every Dodger fan was OK with this, as Jordan pointed out, because he wasn’t considered anything special.
What I’d rather have happened at the time was the Dodgers trading another arm + Johnson for Sherrill. The Dodgers’ scouting and coaching team excels at drafting prep pitchers and getting them to the majors, as both relievers and starters. The scouting and coaching team stinks at building offensive talent with power. The Dodgers currently have four major league position starters obtained through the draft. None of them have had a slugging percentage higher than .491 in a full season. Loney, in fact, posted only the 16th sub-.400 slugging percentage by a first baseman since 2000 in at least 502 plate appearances. He did it in the second most plate appearances, 651. (Darin Erstad put up a .371 slugging in 2005 in 663 PAs).
In contrast, the Dodgers have had six pitchers pitch this season who were raised in the organization: Kershaw, Billingsley, Troncoso, Kuo, Broxton and Belisario. Kuroda was a free agent signing, John Ely was famously acquired from the White Sox for Juan Pierre and Monasterios was a Rule V draft pick. The team finds and creates solid pitchers, but not power hitters.
Thoughts since then
Bell has struggled early this year, adjusting from AA to AAA. The Dodgers may have traded him at peak value and he’s still struggling to hit against lefties, but it’s still early and the road to the majors is not a straight path for most players.
Strangely enough, Johnson, the guy who was considered a throw-in, has performed very well, but a high fly ball rate in AA raises some concerns.
The one thing I didn’t think about in this trade was Sherrill’s value. Most people would agree trading two potential starters for a reliever is a bad trade, but this may have been worth it. Sherrill put up a 1.6 WAR in the 27 innings he pitched for the Dodgers in 2009. In contrast, Billingsley’s WAR in 2009 was 1.0 in 196 innings.
In the grand scheme of things, the Dodgers have made very good evaluative decisions and maybe I was thinking too much with my heart and not with my head. The Orioles received two prospects, both of whom have flaws, but both of whom could make an impact on the major league level.
Maybe it was an even trade after all.
All Dodger fans are hoping right now that Sherrill figures out what the hell is wrong with him as he’s struggled horribly so far in 2010. His walks per nine is triple what it was last year (9.6) and his hits per nine is entering the dreaded 11.0 territory. His mechanics were changed this off-season and it’s clear he’s struggling to adjust, but he’s showing some signs of progress (two runs in his last six appearances, four innings). The good thing is he’s still under contract for another couple of years, so he’s got some time to turn it around.
Although it’s not likely, he still may finish his career with a higher WAR than Johnson and Bell combined. But I won’t lie, if and when we see Bell mashing in the majors, I’m gonna be jealous.