Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 15, 2004
BASEBALL: How Did I Get Here?
How do teams go about developing or acquiring the best players in baseball? Well, for a snapshot from the 2004 season, I thought I'd take a look at the top 20 players in each league, by Win Shares, and how they got where they are. Where players were acquired by trade, I tried to break out the factors that led them to be traded - i.e., trading veterans for prospects, trading a prospective free agent, just making a bad deal, etc.:
Of course, I should note that the Pirates got a very good deal for Giles, economic factors and my own skepticism at the time notwithstanding. I'm also willing to call the Drew-Marquis deal a fair one for now, whereas the Derrek Lee-Hee Seop Choi deal was clearly motivated by economics even though Choi is a fine young player. And yes, I'm as amazed as you are to see Mark Loretta on that list. Also, I could be mistaken about whether economics were a big mover in the Jim Edmonds deal.
Yup, Carlos Guillen, Melvin Mora and Lew Ford are still hanging in there. And yes, the Yankees have the top three players in the league. Wonders never cease.
Let's group these, putting the foreign and domestic free agents in one category, as well as lumping together the various types of trades made principally for baseball reasons rather than financial ones.
Leaving aside the fact that big organizations like the Yankees and Cardinals have an advantage in being able to sign anyone they draft, you've got 45% of star players coming either through free agency or through deals where a big factor was the other team's need to either dump salary or avoid losing a prospective free agent (on the other hand, some free agents, like David Ortiz, were acquired without breaking the bank in a bidding war). For obvious (ahem, Yankees and Red Sox) reasons, the proportion is much higher among AL teams. But savvy trading and scavenging (the Twins stand alone here in stealing Santana off the Rule V draft, but I can't think of a more idiotic and unjustified deal than the Devil Rays trading the rights to Bobby Abreu, acquired in the expansion draft, for Kevin Stocker) is still a close second as a way of striking gold. Just a quarter of the Top 40 are truly home-grown products.