Sorry that this is going up late today (though it’s not like you’ve been starved for other content). I’m in the midst of attempting to move from Chicago to southwestern Minnesota, so time is a bit short. Moving when you’ve got two young kids is like…well, it sucks. There’s no good simile for that one.

But the benefit of my tardiness is that — unless someone comes out with one of those deals that was agreed to just before the deadline but couldn’t be announced until later, which is awfully fishy but happens from time to time — we know which players got traded at this year’s non-waiver trade deadline and which didn’t. So this afternoon, I’ll deal with the guys who stayed put, and how their not being traded is like other things (which actually happened) not happening:

The Nationals not trading for Span is like Jefferson turning down the Louisiana Purchase.

A huge portion of the country now known as the United States of America became ours in 1803, when Thomas Jefferson negotiated a deal under which the country paid fifteen million dollars (the equivalent of $219 million US in 2010, according to Wikipedia) to the French in exchange for what was then known as the Louisiana Territory, but is now known as most of Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, and Louisiana, along with parts of Texas, New Mexico, Idaho, and Colorado. It was actually pretty controversial in the States at the time, but nobody ever complained of the value of it, and of course that territory was worth many, many times more than what was paid with it. If you’re Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon (whose motive seems at least partially to have been to screw the British by making USA a more powerful rival) comes to you with that offer, you’ve got to take it.

Well, according to the rumors flying around this weekend, the Twins were Napoleon and the Nationals were Jefferson, and Jefferson just walked away. Denard Span is an excellent player and one of the best centerfielders in baseball right now, and is signed to a ridiculously team-friendly contract, making far below his actual value all the way through 2015 (assuming the team picks up his 2015 option, which they’d be crazy not to). Drew Storen is a nice player to have and who will also be relatively cheap for many more years, but he’s a relief pitcher who won’t likely top 70 innings in any given season. It’s impossible for a one-inning-at-a-time reliever to be worth nearly as much as a quality starting outfielder like Span, yet the Twins were reportedly offering Span for Storen and two non-entities (Roger Bernadina and Steve Lombardozzi Jr.), and — again, according to the rumors — it was the Nationals who backed down. ┬áThe Twins tried their best to shoot themselves in the foot at the Nationals’ expense, and the Nats wouldn’t take it. At least Napoleon can make the excuse that he was sticking it to the British; the Twins’ attempt was a swipe directly at themselves and their fans.

The Cubs standing pat is like Aron Ralston just wriggling his arm around a bit.

The Cubs are bad, and are going to get worse. If everything goes as well as it plausibly could, Starlin Castro is still pretty much the only Cub who is likely to still be around for the next competing Cubs team. Maybe Geovany Soto. But that’s it.

At this point, if you’re the Cubs, you sell off everything that isn’t pre-arb or too pricey to move. And there isn’t a ton of that, but there’s Carlos Pena, who’s 33 years old, has 20 homers and is a free agent in 2012, and is certainly a better option for a contender than Derrek Lee, who just went to the Pirates. And there’s Marlon Byrd and Ryan Dempster and Carlos Marmol. The team got off to a good start by managing to find a taker for Kosuke Fukudome for some reason, but then did nothing else. A tweet from Jon Heyman (a terrible Twitterer who I hate to pass around, but here you have it) suggested the Cubs are one big happy family and are loath to break up the club. I suspect that was tongue-in-cheek, as the Cubs have actually been kind of dysfunctional lately, but either way.

Breaking up the big happy family might have been painful, but I doubt it would be as painful as amputating your own arm with a dull knife, which is what Ralston (the real-life hero of the film 127 Hours) had to do. That sucked like hell, but it saved his life. The Cubs, meanwhile, by refusing to make a (comparatively incredibly mild) short-term sacrifice, have pretty much lost whatever small chance they had left of resuscitating any hope for their next several years.

The Rays not trading Upton is like Time Warner passing on the whole AOL merger idea.

Weird to say about the guy who was one of the most talked about and sought-after targets at this trade deadline, but I think Andrew Friedman might have dodged a bullet (though not appendicitis) by holding on to B.J. Upton for a few more months. The dude is hitting .226/.308/.398, with more strikeouts than games played. Outfielders who are not Carlos Beltran have been going for very little — Ryan Ludwick, who’s nowhere near the player Upton is but at least has superficially similar offensive numbers, went for the ever-in-demand “cash or a player to be named later.”

Upton isn’t 27 yet, has one incredibly cheap arbitration year remaining, and is actually already a pretty good player, even if he never reaches his awesome potential. He had a lot of suitors, but I expect that a lot of them were suitors because they saw his sub-.230 batting average and figure he’d come cheap; to the Rays’ credit, they apparently held their ground. If Upton plays out the rest of the season with the Rays, one of two things might happen: either he catches fire and ends the season with much better numbers, allowing them to trade him in the offseason for a much better package than they could have gotten today; or he continues to struggle, which might even allow the Rays to sign him to an affordable extension. At the very least, they can trade him then for not all that much less (if any less at all) than they’d be getting back for him now.

The merger between AOL and Time-Warner in 2001, coming as it did right before the dot-com bust, was one of the most disastrous corporate transactions in American history. I don’t think an Upton trade would be quite that awful, but the timing might be similarly unfortunate.

Comments (19)

  1. I’m really glad you talked about Span. I really wanted to talk about it, but just didn’t have the time. I feel bad for Twins’ fans if this is the way they’re going to run the team when they’re not winning as much. Clearly Bill Smith believes that closers have more relative worth than they do and that does not bode well for their future. Last year it was Ramos, this year it was nearly Span. Good thing Rizzo is just as incompetent.

  2. how is span some great value? he has 2 hr and 15 rbi. his contract is not “ridicilously” cheap for those numbers. seriously 15 rbi? that’s laughable. johnny mac is babe ruth compared to that.

  3. So the best way to evaluate a leadoff hitter is RBI & HRs?

    The leadoff hitter’s job is to get on base, he’s got a .361 OBP and is one of the best defensive CFs around (and no I’m not talking about fielding percentage). He’s pretty useful.

    For reference Johnny Mac’s OBP is .263

  4. He’s also been on the DL with a concussion since the first week of June, which has depressed his counting numbers significantly. But yeah, HR and RBI are how you want to evaluate a player? Dude, it’s 2011.

  5. dude, I’ll try to explain it to you. when a guy has been injured for 2 months he has ZERO value. he can’t steal bases, has little extra base power and is guaranteed big money for 3 years. not a good value

  6. @Grouchy: oi-vey

  7. Okay…so yeah, Span is one of the best centerfielders in baseball…by pretty much every measure. Since 2008, he’s 8th in WAR among all CFers.

    This season, despite missing significant time (he doesn’t qualify for the batting title right now) he still has a 2.6 WAR which ranks him 5th in AL. That’s a 7.0 WAR/150 games which is outstanding.

    He’s not a power hitter, but he walks a decent amount and rarely strikes out and along with his high OBP, he’s pretty much the ideal leadoff hitter.

    Defensively, Span routinely ranks among the best in baseball and this season (even though it’s a small sample size) he’s fourth in baseball in UZR for CFers behind Franklin Gutierrez, Carlos Gomez, and Peter Bourjos despite the fact that they’ve all played more games than him. Given that CF is a premium defensive position, any positive offensive numbers (which he has plenty of) are going to have crazy value.

    Throw in that he’s under team control until 2015 at a total of 23.5-million over those next four-plus seasons and you have one of the best values in the game. Trading him for a reliever (however good he may be) and two bench players would have been a monumental mistake for the Twins.

    And if you’re going to use RBIs, which are useless in any circumstance since they are entirely context-dependent, you probably shouldn’t use a leadoff hitter as an example. They spend roughly a quarter of their plate appearances leading off a game with no one on base and spend the rest of the game hitting in front of the 7-8-9 hitters who are traditionally the worst hitters on the team.

    And Span is not exactly a player with a huge injury history…this season was the first time he’d spent significant time on the DL at the Major League level.

  8. *sorry, hitting behind the 7-8-9 hitters, but you get my drift

  9. and also, he can’t steal bases? he did have 49 of them between 2009 and 2010. Just sayin’

  10. I find it funny how you completely ignore the real issue. He’s been injured for 2 months! we’re not talking a hangnail here. look at morneau. his career might be over. and when you have a concussion that lasts this long, you can throw all numbers out the window until he shows that he is healthy.

    and if he was such a stolen base threat in 2009 then why isn’t he stealing now? oh wait maybe he’s lost some speed.

    and I don’t even trust the WAR stats. how does a guy have 1.5 OWAR when he’s missed half the season?

  11. Because he was so very good in the portion of the season he was active.

    To get to your real issue, there is a tremendous difference between Morneau, who has a history of severe concussions, and Span, who did not. While I would agree that the injury is somewhat of a concern in the near term, Span is preparing to return from the shelf and will rejoin the team on Tuesday. And it’s not like this is a chronic injury like a back problem.

  12. So…you trust RBI…but not WAR. There are plenty of places to read up on how WAR is calculated. It actually isn’t hard to understand and makes complete sense. And yes, Span had a concussion, but he’s back now and you can’t judge his slow start based on ten games and call him done. That’s unbelievably short-sighted. He missed two months, Justin Morneau missed eight. That’s not even the same argument.

    Stolen bases are also dependent on a lot of things. He does have nine this year so it’s not like he’s Jose Molina out there and the dip could have to do with a lot of things. Maybe he’s not getting as many chances, or maybe the team isn’t giving him as many green lights. regardless, the stolen base part of his game is extremely minor compared to everything else he does. He’s still contributed over a run to his team by his baserunning according to FanGraphs.

  13. I take it back, Span missed about five whole weeks (two of which he was symptom free and one in which he rehabbed). Yeah, I take it all back, he’s definitely done.

  14. DO NOT FEED THE TROLL

  15. @drew, the other two posters are able to make intelligent responses, you can keep trying.

  16. @travis, I never said he was done. I said no team would take a risk on an injured player until he proves he’s actually healthy. You just assume he will put up the same numbers post injury. and why is minny so eager to dump him? maybe they think his injury is serious.

    you can make all the excuses you want about his speed. he’s on the same team. you don’t just stop stealing unless something is wrong. and speed is an integral part for a leadoff hitter’s value. carl crawford wouldn’t be nearly as valuable if not for his sb’s.

  17. maybe I am missing something, but BR says he has 4 SB’s and he hasn’t played since june 6, so I don’t know what this 10 games is you are referring to.

  18. Sorry, I misread the stat sheet in SB…still, there’s no way to tell if that’s him or the team or what…either way SBs are not exactly all that important anyway and he’s still an excellent baserunner, stolen bases or not.

    Another mistake on my part was the 10 games, which were AAA-rehab games. I forgot to include that.

    Either way, the points still stand.

  19. as far as your WAR argument. It is simply not accurate. let’s compare brett gardner to span. they have practically the same obp. bg has a higher ops, 130 more pa, and a lot more steals, yet his owar is lower than span’s. how do you explain that?

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