Monday, May 23, 2005

The Trade That Should Have Been

Back during the winter meetings of 2001 Angel GM Bill Stoneman had a hand-shake deal to send Darin Erstad to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Jon Garland, outfielder Chris Singleton and a couple of minor leaguers. But the suits at Disney refused to OK the deal and Stoneman lost face (and a good deal of credibility I would wager) when the Angels had to back out of the deal. In the three seasons that followed Garland was barely noticeable, earning 12 wins each year and losing 12, 13 and 11 games respectively from 2002 to 2004. A mediocre pitcher that maybe Disney execs were right to be wary of. Until 2005 that is. Starting the year 8-0 with a superb 2.41 ERA Garland suddenly appeared to be fulfilling all of the promise that so many people had been predicting for him since his Major League debut in 2000.

Erstad meanwhile has hit around .280 with 10 HR and 70 RBI. Not exactly superstar numbers even factoring in a couple of Golden Glove awards. But Erstad has been pulling down a superstar salary ($8.25 million in 2005) while Garland pulls down a far more pedestrian $3.5 million. Which means that the Angels by now could have either signed a free-agent first baseman or outfielder with the remaining $5 million.

Should the Angels have made the trade? Absolutely. Would the Angels still have won the World Series in 2002? Who knows? But given Erstad's numbers in 2002 (.283 10 HR 73 RBI) it is not hard to imagine the Angels finding a free-agent center fielder to fill the void for that magical season. But one thing is certain, Erstad never regained the form of his 2000 season when he led the league in hitting with a .355 average with uexpected power (25 HR) and 100 RBI. He looked like the proverbial 5-tool player. The Angels paid him like he would return to that form but he never had. Not even a sniff. Garland, 5 years younger than Erstad, now has so much more obvious upside that Stoneman has to be revered for his foresight. Both in the value of Garland and the overrated value of Erstad. At 25 Garland looks poised to enter his prime as a dominant pitcher while Erstad looks like he will be holding the door open for Casey Kotchman any day now.


Anonymous Pat said...

Rich, I've seen some good commentary out of you over time. But this "Trade That Should Have Been" thing is reeeeaching.

20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing, especially looking back as far as a full three years. But this was a non-story as recently as two MONTHS ago!

With all due respect, really, come on.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Rich said...

Thanks for the note Pat.

The fact of the matter is, Garland did not become relevent until this season. Erstad is only relevent because he is so drastically overpaid. It takes years usually before the impact of trades (or non-trades) becomes apparent.

My point is that Stoneman was right then and Disney was wrong. Undisputable in my estimation. Why this is a non-story to you is unclear since I am not trying to say 'make the deal' now -- just proving the point that deals made (or not made) can and will come back to haunt or benefit you. Obviously, the White Sox are ecstatic they did not make the trade for Erstad but that is not to say Garland's 8-1 start is not a fluke itself. We will all just have to wait and see how it plays out and know he could be pitching for the Angels now and could have been pitching for a lot less money the past three years than Sele or Ortiz made.

3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only trades I could have seen or have been appauled by, would have been getting rid of Salmon versus sending Glaus to the D-Backs. Angels could have used Troy's bat Versus Salmon's nagging injury. Angels never needed blow you out the park names to win games. Garland is having a good start to a long season. Erstad's Angels are winning games. Why?


11:20 AM  

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