Have Sox gotten good value in deals?

July, 22, 2010
Hindsight is always 20-20, and that certainly holds true when wheeling and dealing. Trades excite fans from coast to coast, yet many times teams end up sacrificing their future for a shot at a proven commodity in hopes of a title run. This piece sets out to shine the spotlight on some of the most notable Red Sox trades since 2005 utilizing statistical analysis and the sabermetric WAR.

WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement and is a relatively complicated formula that in the end answers the question: How much value would a team lose if a replacement player took his spot? The calculation turns out an approximate win total the player holds.

Here is a look at the best and worst trades from the Red Sox since 2005, in terms of WAR:

Best trade: July 31, 2009 -- Red Sox trade Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price to the Cleveland Indians for Victor Martinez (Red Sox net WAR gain: 2.3, and rising)

Neither Price nor Hagadone appear to be close to major league-ready, and Justin Masterson has struggled mightily with the Indians. Masterson has gone just 4-15 with a 5.05 ERA, -0.5 WAR and a 1.61 WHIP in his tenure with the Tribe.

In 122 games with the Red Sox, Martinez has batted .311 with a .373 OBP, 17 home runs and 79 RBIs. He’s walked as much as he’s struck out (46:48) and has proven to be a strong middle-of-the-lineup hitter while accumulating a 2.8 WAR. That number doesn’t really stand out, but with the limited sample size it still represents a solid showing.

Honorable mention: July 31, 2008 -- Red Sox trade Manny Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jason Bay. The Los Angeles Dodgers sent Bryan Morris and Andy LaRoche to the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Red Sox net WAR loss: -2.3 and rising, slowly)

Theo Epstein turned lemons into lemonade with this deal. Manny Ramirez had made it clear he wanted out of Boston and the team was fed up with him as well. After complaining of nagging injuries that doctors couldn’t find and countless “Manny being Manny” moments, GM Theo Epstein decided it was time for the Red Sox and Manny to part ways.

During his 8-year tenure with the Red Sox, Manny hit .312 with a .411 OBP, 274 home runs, 868 RBIs and a 31.2 WAR. Ramirez made the All-Star team every year while in Boston and torched the Yankees on a consistent basis. Replacing Manny would be impossible. But in Jason Bay, the Red Sox got a solid player to fill the void.

In Bay’s season and a half with the Red Sox, he hit .274 with a .380 OBP, 45 home runs, drove in 156 and totaled a WAR of 5.6. He was also an All-Star and Silver Slugger in 2009.

Worst trade: March 20, 2006: Red Sox trade Bronson Arroyo to the Cincinnati Reds for Wily Mo Pena. (Red Sox net WAR loss: -12.4 and rising, steadily)

In five seasons with the Reds, Arroyo has tallied 693 strikeouts in 1,004.2 innings pitched while going 63-55 with a 4.03 ERA. Arroyo has provided the Reds with a top of the rotation starter, an All-Star appearance and hours of great music in addition to a WAR of 14.1.

Pena provided the Red Sox with 476 plate appearances and a WAR of just 1.7. While his 1-plus seasons with the Red Sox went fairly well, his long-term status with the team turned out to be much shorter than everyone anticipated. Pena hit 16 home runs and drove in 59 with the Sox, but he also struck out 148 times while drawing only 34 walks.

This deal didn’t, and won’t, cripple the Red Sox long term, but Arroyo would have provided a good middle-to-back of the rotation starter.

Dishonorable mention: July 31, 2007 -- Red Sox trade Engel Beltre, Kason Gabbard and David Murphy to the Texas Rangers for Eric Gagne (Red Sox net WAR loss: -4.5 and rising, slowly)

The Red Sox certainly expected something much better than what they acquired in Gagne. Meanwhile, David Murphy has hit .276 for the Rangers since 2007 with a WAR of 4.1, and Gabbard hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2008. Engel Beltre still has a fairly high ceiling, so the hurt from this deal hasn’t completely presented itself yet.

Gagne was a mess with the Red Sox, receiving a WAR of -0.4. In his only season with the Red Sox, Gagne pitched 18 2/3 innings over the final stretch of the 2007 season. In that span he had a 6.75 ERA and a 2-2 record. In the 2007 playoffs, Gagne threw 4.1 innings, going 0-1 while allowing 3 earned runs. Sometimes the best move is no move at all, and this is a good example.

Best trade for both teams: Nov. 24, 2005: Red Sox trade Jesus Delgado, Harvey Garcia, Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez to the Florida Marlins for Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota. (Red Sox net WAR loss: -7.4 and rising, steadily)

Never has a trade proven so beneficial and yet so costly. Beckett and Lowell were huge pieces of the Red Sox 2007 World Series championship. Ask most Sox fans if they would make the trade again and the answer would be “Absolutely!” nine times out of 10. Both Lowell and Beckett were All Stars in 2007, with Lowell hitting .324 with 21 home runs and 120 RBIs while playing stellar defense. The duo combined for a WAR of 9.8 in 2007 and have a combined WAR of 26 since joining the Red Sox. Beckett finished second behind only CC Sabathia in Cy Young voting in 2007, going 20-7 with a 3.27 ERA and 194 strikeouts to just 40 walks.

However, at this point in his career Lowell is a little-used bench player and Beckett has been up and down and has been hampered by injuries. Meanwhile, Ramirez was NL Rookie of the Year in 2006, came in second in the NL MVP race to Albert Pujols in 2009, has won two Silver Slugger swards and has been named to the NL All-Star team three times.

Ramirez’s WAR of 27.5 since this trade is 1.5 wins above that of Lowell and Beckett combined! What’s more, at 26 he still hasn’t even reached his prime. Anibal Sanchez has shown flashes of brilliance, but has been injured more often than not since 2006.

Overall, the sting of losing Ramirez will linger for years to come, but so too will the memories of the 2007 World Series championship.



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