Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Rocket trade

Roger Clemens is traded by the Toronto Blue Jays to the New York Yankees for Homer Bush, Graeme Lloyd, and David Wells.

He broke Jays fans’ hearts…and then did it again to all of his fans (Mitchell Report). After two fantastic Cy Young season with the Jays, the Rocket utilized a clause in his 4 year contract that allowed him to demand a trade. Although he later withdrew the demand, Gord Ash found a trading partner in the Yankees and dealt Roger Clemens to the division rival (seriously, he couldn’t have convinced Roger to accept a trade to a National League powerhouse? He had to deal him to the team the Jays were chasing for the division title?) In Clemens two remaining seasons on his contract, he pitched well (27 wins, 18 losses, ERA+ of 103 and 130 with over 175 innings pitched in both years) and won two games in the two World Series wins by the Yankees. Clemens stayed with the Yankees for three more seasons afterwards, appearing in two more World Series and winning the Cy Young award in 2001.

The prize piece in return for Roger Clemens was the portly left-hander David Wells, who made his return to Toronto after beginning his career with the Jays. In two years with the Blue Jays, “Boomer” had a better record than Clemens (37 wins, 18 losses), threw more innings (over 225 in both seasons) but his statistics were not as pretty (ERA+ of 102 and 123).

After two seasons Wells, like Clemons before him, requested a trade to a contender and was traded to the White Sox Kevin Beirne, Brian Simmons and Mike Sirotka. That deal was disastrous for the Blue Jays; the big piece of the trade was pitcher Mike Sirotka, who had suffered a torn labrum in the previous playoffs and would never pitch in a game for the Blue Jays, his career effectively over. Worse, was the fact that White Sox GM Ken Williams knew about this injury but that Gord Ash never asked for the proper information when trading for Sirotka. Beirne and Simmons had negligible impact on the Blue Jays…

There were two other parts received by the Blue Jays in exchange for Clemens; speedy second baseman Homer Bush and left-handed reliever Graeme Lloyd. Bush was not a fantastic hitter (OPS+ of 96 in 1999), however he brought a speed dimension to the Jays lineup in his first season (stealing 32 bases while mostly batting 9th). Injuries slowed him down in the 2000 season and he managed only an OPS+ of 33 and 9 stolen bases, although he rebounded in 2001 to achieve an OPS+ of 89. The inconsistent Bush was finally released in May of 2002 while again struggling with the bat (OPS+ of 48).
Lloyd spent only one season with the Jays and appeared in 74 games, throwing 72 innings with a 3.63 ERA and 136 ERA+ which did not come close to his statistics in 1998 (1.67 ERA and 264 ERA+).
If we look at Value Over Replcement Player, the statistic helps us break down the trade in it’s first two years this way:

Yankees: Clemens -> 1999: 27.8 2000: 46.2

Blue Jays:

  • Wells -> 1999: 29.8 2000: 47.4
  • Lloyd -> 1999: 14.3
  • Bush -> 1999: 26.9 2000: -20.1

When looking at VORP, Wells outperformed Clemens in both of the first two seasons after the trade and there was added value from Lloyd and Bush in 1999. However, without Lloyd and with Bush’s regression in 2000, the added pieces to the trade were useless for the Blue Jays in that season, even an actual nuisance to the roster.

When looking at this trade for only the two years where Clemens was still under contract (and before David Wells demanded the trade), this trade seems pretty even. Wells was paid less than Clemens and was his equal if not better in those two seasons. Lloyd contributed positively to the Jays bullpen while Bush’s two seasons almost cancel each other out. Clemens’ next two seasons coupled with receiving essentially nothing when trading Wells makes this seem like a worse trade but when taken in a two year timeline, Ash got good return in exchange for The Rocket, a player he signed as a free agent and therefore did not have to give up assets to acquire.