Sunday, May 22, 2011

How to Build a Winning Baseball Team

I have to take a moment to say something about baseball. It's been a while. I enjoy the game and the team I have followed since 1994 has been the Cleveland Indians. They enjoyed their big years in the 90s, with sellout home games, and then lost many of their best players to big contract free agency (Albert Bell, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome), or to big trades (Bartolo Colon, Roberto Alomar). They went through their "rebuilding" phase (a term teams use when their players are young and mediocre and they don't really expect them to compete). Well, this season, it may finally be paying off.

As of today, the Indians own the best record in all of baseball, have a 7 game lead in the AL central, and are highest in the league with +66 runs scored versus runs allowed.

One of the ways they got to this point was through trades. Trades of big name players, especially Cy Young award-winning pitchers (two years in a row!) is particularly painful to watch. You're giving up a proven and known quantity for "prospects." (Another baseball term that means "we think they're going to be pretty good.")

So looking at key trades over the last five years, we can see how the current team has emerged. Below is a partial list of trades. Who was traded, and who was received in return. I only included players who are on the current big league 25 man roster.


Eduardo Perez

Asdrubal Cabrera

Ben Broussard

Shin-Soo Choo

CC Sabathia

Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley

Casey Blake

Carlos Santana

Franklin Guiterrez

Joe Smith

Mark DeRosa

Chris Perez

Cliff Lee/Ben Francisco

Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson,

Victor Martinez

Justin Masterson

Kelly Shoppach

Mitch Talbot

So in evaluating this chart, one of the questions we must ask ourselves is, knowing what we know now about these young players, would we make the trades in reverse today? In other words, would you exchange Justin Masterson for Victor Martinez today? Probably not.