A look at Sandy Alderson’s trades with the Mets and A’s

The combination of a lackluster free agent class and a lack of available cash have the Mets allegedly focusing on trades to address their needs this offseason. So now seems like a good time to look at the trade record of GM Sandy Alderson. Let’s start off looking at his moves for the Mets and then go back and do a brief overview of his time with the A’s.

According to Baseball-Reference, in nearly two years with the Mets, Alderson has made just seven trades. Here they are in chronological order, with who the Mets gave up listed first:

Michael Antonini for Chin-lung Hu
Eddie Kunz for Allan Dykstra
Francisco Rodriguez and cash for Adrian Rosario and Danny Herrera
Carlos Beltran and cash for Zack Wheeler
Angel Pagan for Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres
Omar Quintanilla for future considerations
Pedro Beato for Kelly Shoppach

Obviously getting Wheeler for a two-month rental of Beltran is the one that stands out, although the cash the Mets included in the deal ($4 million) often gets neglected. The Giants gave Wheeler a $3.3 million bonus, so one could view the deal that for two-plus months of Beltran, the Giants allowed the Mets to purchase their 2009 first-round pick at a premium.

The Rodriguez deal was obviously a salary dump but Alderson did a nice job getting two interesting arms, too. Rosario did very well last year in Hi-A before hitting a speed bump in Double-A. Herrera did a fine job in 2011 with the Mets before missing last year with an injured elbow that required Tommy John surgery. According to bWAR, since the deal Rodriguez has amassed 0.7 WAR while Herrera checks in with a 0.4 mark.

On the flip side, the Pagan deal (which I was a fan of when it was made) turned out to be a disaster.

Quintanilla performed quite well on the Mets but was nothing special with the Orioles. He got caught up in a numbers game and on most teams he would have survived but the last thing the 2012 Mets needed was another lefty hitter. Beato had hit a wall in the Mets’ organization and the best thing for everyone was for him to move on. Getting a look at Kelly Shoppach was a nice thing and now the Mets have more information on if it’s in their best interests to bring him along for the 2013 season.

The first two deals of Alderson’s tenure have not had much of an impact one way or the other. Sure, Hu was terrible but he only got 23 PA. Dykstra might end up getting that much PT with the Mets one day, you never know. Regardless, these are ones that shouldn’t elicit much in the way of a response one way or the other. I used to play in a fantasy league where you had to pay a buck to make a trade. If you wanted to dismiss a deal that one of your fellow owners made, you would tell him, “That deal wasn’t worth a dollar.” That sums up these two transactions.

It’s a little harder to evaluate Alderson’s trades as GM with the Athletics. We know that the Rodriguez deal was a salary dump and the Hu transaction was to get a competent backup middle infielder. Unfortunately, that information isn’t so readily apparent, at least not to a Mets fan 15-plus years after the fact.

Alderson was hired sometime in 1983 and left sometime in 1997. He made well over 50 trades in his tenure with the A’s. Like most GMs, the majority of his deals were of the “Billy Mooneyham for Russ McGinnis” type. But there were several blockbuster type deals and I think the nicest thing we can say is that Alderson’s success in these was mixed.

He got five youngsters for Rickey Henderson in 1984, but turned around and dealt the most valuable property (Jose Rijo) for an ancient Dave Parker.

Perhaps the most interesting non-Henderson deal was a three-way trade (which included the Mets) in late 1987 where the A’s traded Alfredo Griffin, Jay Howell, Kevin Tapani and Wally Whitehurst for Bob Welch and Matt Young. You might recall that Welch won the Cy Young Award in 1990 with a 27-win season. Welch was 96-60 with the A’s and it seems like this would be a nice feather in Alderson’s cap.

But Welch was all about run support and in his tenure with the A’s, he had just a 9.3 bWAR, including a 2.7 mark in his Cy Young season of 1990. Tapani meanwhile put up a career 26.6 bWAR, including a 6.6 mark in 1991. The A’s might be happy with what they got in this deal but they clearly gave up the best player.

The biggest success story for Alderson was swapping three guys who never made the majors for Dennis Eckersley and Dan Rohn. Eckersley went on to post 15.3 bWAR for the A’s, won the 1992 AL Cy Young Award and helped revolutionize the closer position. But when he was acquired, Eckersly was a pitcher seemingly on his way out of baseball. Tony LaRussa deserves at least as much credit for this deal as Alderson.

Some other notable deals by Alderson:

Traded Tim Belcher (24.1 bWAR) for Rick Honeycutt (5.0 bWAR)
Traded Dave Leiper and Rob Nelson for Storm Davis (35 wins in ’88-’89)
Traded Rod Beck for a guy who never made the majors
Traded Stan Javier (21.1 bWAR) for Willie Randolph (333 PA, 2.3 bWAR with A’s)
Traded Jose Canseco for Jeff Russell, Ruben Sierra and Bobby Witt
Traded Todd Stottlemyre for Allen Battle, Carl Dale and Jay Witasick

One’s opinion of Alderson hinges greatly on how much credit/blame he gets for the three Rickey Henderson deals. When he re-acquired Henderson in 1989, he gave up Greg Cadaret, Eric Plunk and Luis Polonia. When he dealt him a second time, the A’s received Jose Herrera and Steve Karsay.

No General Manager has a flawless trade record. Alderson rightly receives high marks for the Beltran-Wheeler deal but it’s not like that is just one of many great trades on his resume. It’s my belief that pursuing the trade market is the right avenue for the Mets to pursue this offseason. However, I am less than certain that Alderson will hit a HR on a blockbuster deal.

12 comments for “A look at Sandy Alderson’s trades with the Mets and A’s

  1. October 24, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    Thanks to David for the photoshop!

    • David Groveman
      October 24, 2012 at 12:41 pm

      No problem.

      You have to take into account the finances of a team when factoring a trade. Sometimes a team needs to trade a player for the “Wrong” reasons.

      For instance, if Wright and the Mets can’t see eye-to-eye then Alderson “Has” to trade him and teams will not give as much for a player they can simply sign in the off-season.

  2. October 24, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Nice recap Brian. Just goes to show how important context is. How many of these trades don’t happen if the Mets weren’t in the midst of a financial meltdown? How many different ones do? Really a GM can only be evaluated in the context of how he performed given the various constraints he faced. Grading Alderson, I’d give him an incomplete, but gun to my head for a real grade, he’d have a B+ from me. Most of his moves I’ve agreed with, and most of the ones I haven’t agreed with, I’ve at least understood. Context considered, I haven’t thought any of his moves have been unequivocably bad. This offseason, but substantially more next offseason, we’ll really get to see what Sandy Alderson’s made of.

    Also, I remember some pro-Pagan Mets fan saying Pagan was primed for a bounceback year and running into a ton of resistance from many Mets fans who just wanted him gone no matter what. But I can’t for the life of me remember who that was….. (ouch, just pulled a muscle patting myself on the back)

    • October 24, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      Not to turn this into a referendum on the Pagan trade but the reason I was in favor of the deal at the time it was made was not due to being in the “get rid of Pagan at all costs” camp but rather because I thought the return made the deal worthwhile.

      I thought there was a decent chance that Torres, a bounceback candidate himself, could provide similar value to Pagan – if in a much different shape due to his defensive ability – and that Ramirez was an excellent bullpen addition.

      I don’t fault Alderson for pulling the trigger on this particular deal. That’s not to say that the results weren’t poor. I don’t think you can judge a trade purely by results, even if they end up playing the largest factor in how the deal ultimately gets graded.

      • October 24, 2012 at 1:33 pm

        No, I didn’t mean to imply that you were part of the Pagan rabble rabble crowd. IIRC, you had a reasoned approach to the situation. And FWIW I also don’t fault the Mets for making that trade. It totally made sense for them to do at the time, given their holes & budget. I was just routinely disagreed with pretty much whenever I suggested that the Giants got the best player in that deal and that Pagan would have a big year in 2012 and that 2011 was a flukier year than 2010. I enjoy seeing him contributing to a World Series team.

        • Chris F
          October 24, 2012 at 2:14 pm

          I’ll openly confess I was. I understand Pagan has had a good year in SF, but I think its partly because he’s got a lot of good people around him, in fact much better people. He looks good because the Giants are good. He hit .150 against Cinn and .242 against the Cards…not too good, but a fine .288 all season. I also think he had a major bad attitude as a Met that had a negative influence. Clearly it seemed like a poor fit. I was happy about the trade with SF, and cant begrudge Alderson for making it.

  3. Name
    October 24, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    I don’t think that the goal of a trade is to “win” in the trade. If both sides don’t benefit from a trade, then the trade simply won’t happen!
    If the pieces you get back will make you a better organization, you do the trade. Otherwise, you shouldn’t. Ramon Ramirez was supposed to help in the bullpen last year. The fact that were were able to get another CF in addition to him made the trade a slam dunk for the Mets.

  4. NormE
    October 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    You were very kind the leave out the handling of the Jose Reyes situation.
    But, Let us remember the circumstances that were in place when the Wilpons hired Sandy A. The organization was reeling from the Madoff situation and Omar’s inability to control his asst. GM. Combine that with the on the field implosions, and the Mets needed a steady hand; one who had the Bud Selig stamp of approval. By hiring Sandy, the Wilpons assured themselves of Bud’s backing while their baseball empire was teetering. They weren’t looking for a wheeler-dealer whose moves might create a picture of uncertainty.
    Now that the Mets are not in as precarious a financial picture it is possible that Sandy is really nothing more than a caretaker. My guess is that he will leave within the next year or two because: 1) there will be a promotion within the MLB hierarchy (commish?) or 2) he will be tired of being the front man for an ownership group that he doesn’t respect and won’t give him the financial support to help turn the ship around.

    So it’s not really a question of Sandy’s ability to build a winning product on the field. Trading or keeping his few assets this off-seasonwill mark his tenure a success or failure, but he probably won’t be around by 2015 to reap the benefits(?) of the moves.

    • 7train
      October 24, 2012 at 8:08 pm

      NormE, I think you’ve nailed it. I couldn’t agree more.

      Always remember the GM works for the owner but in this case he may actually be working for the Commissioner.

      In any event Alderson has spent limited resources in the draft and in international free agency and hasn’t traded away or sacrificed any of our future to move the needle from 74 wins to 82, not to mention 72 or less which has been done plenty of times around here.

      Let the chemo take it’s course so the patient doesn’t suffer a relapse and we will have a chance, short circuit it and we have none.

    • Scott G
      October 27, 2012 at 9:39 am

      Well said!

  5. October 25, 2012 at 6:29 am

    Chris F
    October 24, 2012 at 2:14 pm
    I’ll openly confess I was. I understand Pagan has had a good year in SF, but I think its partly because he’s got a lot of good people around him, in fact much better people. He looks good because the Giants are good. He hit .150 against Cinn and .242 against the Cards…not too good, but a fine .288 all season. I also think he had a major bad attitude as a Met that had a negative influence. Clearly it seemed like a poor fit. I was happy about the trade with SF, and cant begrudge Alderson for making it.>>

    Chris, I think this is an example of taking a second, and deeper look at the trade and makes a lot of sense. Peter

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