Musings on the Nady/Marte trade

Mets drop the ball, literally, as Yanks win again
Two outfielders, heading different ways

Yesterday was an inauspicious anniversary for Xavier Nady. As the X Man announced that he would need a second Tommy John surgery and would be out for the season, he and the Yanks celebrated the 11-month anniversary of the trade that brought him and Damaso Marte from the Pirates to the Yankees. It was a bittersweet celebration indeed.

Last year, as the Yankees tried to mount a run on the Red Sox and Rays, they found themselves just a few games out of a playoff spot at the end of July. They need to fill a few holes. The bullpen needed a lefty power pitcher, and with Melky Cabrera mired in a season-long slump, the team needed an outfielder. Unwilling to pay or just not interested in the very steep price for Jason Bay, Brian Cashman killed two birds with one stone as he sent Jose Tabata, Dan McCutchen, Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens to Pittsburgh for Marte and Nady.

With Nady on the shelf now until he hits free agency and Marte MIA with an ambiguous shoulder injury, the word “bust” has floated around the Yankees. Was this trade — four young guys for two now-injured players — a bust? It’s easy to say yes, but I’m not so sure.

First, we have to consider how the two players the Yankees landed did at the time. That’s really what assessing this trade is about. If they performed to expectations, if they did the job, and if the Yankees didn’t give up all that much at the time, it isn’t a bust. Anything after that would be the proverbial icing on the cake.

Last year, Nady came over and impressed. A late September swoon left his triple slash line at .268/.320/.474, but as the team tride to amount an August attack, Nady hit .308/.351/.523 with 19 RBI. Marte had an ugly 5.40 ERA, inflated due to a 1.1-inning, five-earned run appearance in Texas. Without that appearance, he was a reliable reliever for the Yanks down the stretch.

This year, of course, the story has been anything but that success. Nady hurt himself early on, and Marte has a 15.00 ERA to go with a shoulder problem. While their 2008 numbers were good, the 2009 totals haven’t earned either much praise.

On the other side of the deal were the four players the Yanks gave up. Karstens and Ohlendorf have stuck around in Pittsburgh this year. That’s more a testament to the Pirates’ place at the bottom of the NL than anything else. Karstens is 3-4 with a 4.80 ERA. He has just 26 strike outs in 65.2 innings, a 1:1 K:BB ratio and a 1.45 WHIP. Ohlendorf is 6-6 with a 4.75 ERA. His K/9 IP is hovering around 4.5. These numbers look halfway decent on the Pirates, but in the AL they would amount to nothing.

While Ohlendorf and Karstens are what they are, the deal rests with the two players not in the Majors. Dan McCutchen is 26 at AAA with mediocre numbers (5-5, 4.34 ERA, 60 K in 74.2 IP). At best, he’ll be a swing man who makes a few spot starts for the Pirates. And then there is Tabata. After missing much of the season with an injury, Tabata has come on strong of late. He’s hitting .270/.354/.330 on the season. He is 11 for his last 34 but with no extra-base hits over that time.

To judge a deal, we have to look at it when it was made, and at that point, the deal was not a bust. It was nearly a steal. If Tabata develops the power and ability to be what people think he can be, the deal probably ends up being a wash. Yet, success has eluded Tabata, and his development has seemingly stalled out. It is disappointing to see Marte and Nady on the shelf, but that doesn’t make the deal a bust. If I were to go back in time and were to be unaware of what the future holds for Nady and Marte, I’d do it again. Would you?

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Mets drop the ball, literally, as Yanks win again
Two outfielders, heading different ways
  • Jim

    the sox get bay we get nady. Shows y we r behind

    • Jamal G.
    • Hova

      Um, the Red Sox gave up Manny Ramirez for Jason Bay. We gave up essentially nothing for Nady and Marte. I think there’s a difference there.

  • ArodMVP217 FTW!

    I would do it again.

  • Tom Zig

    Weren’t the Sox interested in trading for Marte and the Rays interested in trading for Nady? (or vice versa)

  • Mike Pop

    Ya it can look bad now but like you said, let’s just say that trade was a shteal (wink)

  • JimT

    Ben,
    You need to forget the law degree and go into PR. You could put a positive spin on the Johnstown floods!

  • Nick-YF

    The Sox gave up a lot more to get Bay. There is no comparison between the two deals. Even at the time of this deal, however, I wasn’t too excited, so I guess I wouldn’t have done it even without knowing the future. At the time, it seemed clear to me that the Yanks weren’t going to catch with Boston or Tampa, so I felt the Yanks might as well hold onto prospects they could use for other deals.

    • Zach

      As of 7/31/08 the Yankees were THREE games behind Boston and were leading the Wild Card

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

        On the day the trade was made, they were three out of first and one behind Boston for the Wild Card. Missing the playoffs wasn’t a sure thing.

        • Zach

          yeah my post is wrong

      • Zach

        As of 7/25/08 they were 3 games behind Tampa and 1 game behind Boston

    • Jamal G.

      The day after the trade, July 26, 2008, the Yankees came off a 10-3 victory at Fenway Park, which, by the way, came after a 1-0 victory the night of the trade via a dominating, seven-inning performance by Joba Chamberlain up against Josh Beckett. At the close of games on the 26th, the Yankees had won eight straight and pulled to within three and two games of the AL East-leading Red Sox and Wild Card-leading Tampa Bay Rays, respectively.

      So, in essence, I find it kind of hard to believe that, “at the time”, it was “clear” to you “that the Yanks weren’t going to catch with Boston or Tampa”.

    • Ed

      I really wonder what it would’ve taken to get Bay. The Sox gave up a lot in the Bay trade, but, it was a 3 way trade which the Dodgers came out way ahead on.

      Look at what Pittsburgh received. Andy LaRoche is good, but Hansen is basically no different than Jose Veras at this point, Moss is a 4th outfielder, and a low A pitcher who so far has a lousy track record. I could be wrong on Morris, but, I was under the impression he was destined to become a reliever.

      • whozat

        Ok, so it took a solid, young MLB position player (and we don’t have any expendable ones), a wild young reliever with good stuff and ++hype, Melky and a spare part.

        We don’t have the centerpiece of that deal to give up. Let’s say they’d take a pitcher instead…ok, now you’re talking about Phil Hughes.

        • Ed

          Pittsburgh got 3 guys you’d give up without thinking about it and 1 good guy. Maybe something like Z-Mac instead of one of the other pitchers we sent them sweetens the pot enough. There’s plenty of ways to alter the deal.

          Anyway, my point wasn’t so much what it would take to get Bay, but rather pointing out that the perception that Boston gave up a ton to get Bay isn’t the right way to look at that trade. It wasn’t simply Manny + salary + prospects for Bay. Yeah, Boston paid a ton in that deal, but acquiring Bay wasn’t the expensive part, getting someone to take Manny off their hands was.

  • ChrisS

    To judge a deal, we have to look at it when it was made

    I do not agree, at all. At the time the Buhner for Phelps trade was a steal. The Nick Johnson/Juan Rivera trade for Javy Vazquez was a steal, Larry Anderson for Jeff Bagwell was a steal at the time of the trade, Navarro for Johnson was a steal.

    Tabata may not ever make the majors, the pitchers were AAAA fodder and they got a OF who was hot. But part of the Yankees’ problem throughout the years in the 1980s and 2000s has been to trade their moderate prospects (and they’ll rarely have uber-prospects considering their draft order) for whatever player is available at that time to fill a “hole” because they don’t have that player anymore. Bill James called it the treadmill in the 1980s.

    The New York Yankees are trapped on a treadmill. Although they have not won anything since 1981 the Yankees have the best winning percentage of any team during the 80s…They are acutely aware of this, and so the winter of 1987-8 was spent in frantic preparation to make the 1988 season the season in which the great nucleus of this team is surrounded by a cast good enough to life the Yankees off that 85-to-92 win treadmill, and onto the championship rung. There is an irony in this, for it is exactly this philosophy that creates the treadmill from which the Yankees are so anxious to escape…

    Winning championships is hard, damn hard. But they toss away their prospects and then a few years later realize a hole that needs to be filled and have to trade for journeyman because they don’t have anyone at AAA that can help. And I find it funny that last year before the Nady trade people were commenting that the Yankees should try and sign Juan Rivera as a free agent in the offseason.

    It’s not necessary about losing superstars either. It’s about holes that are put in the developmental conveyor belt, too. Maybe things are changing in the minors, but I hated the Nady trade at the time and nothing has happened to change my mind. The Yankees were a troubled team last year, the better option would have been to call it a season, hang on to the minor league depth unless they had a chance at a Jason Bay or McClouth, and position themselves for 2009. And just because they’re folding, it doesn’t mean that they had to put out a press release saying that they are.

    • whozat

      “I do not agree, at all. At the time the Buhner for Phelps trade was a steal. The Nick Johnson/Juan Rivera trade for Javy Vazquez was a steal, Larry Anderson for Jeff Bagwell was a steal at the time of the trade, Navarro for Johnson was a steal.”

      There are two aspects to judging a trade:

      1) Was it a good move?
      2) Did it turn out well?

      A GM can only really control the first part. The Yankees got a good lefty setup guy with a track record of success in both leagues, and a righty-hitting corner OFer that wasn’t as good as he’d been all season, but is still a solid bat with league-average defense — and would help balance an overwhelmingly lefty lineup. And both were under team control for an extra year.

      It cost three extra parts and Jose Tabata, a guy who’s always had upside, but has real makeup and injury concerns that could legitimately keep him from realizing his potential.

      I don’t see how you could argue that this wasn’t a good move, especially when the Yanks were going to need a RFer in 2009, and had been looking for a solid bullpen lefty for years.

      Now…has it turned out well? Not really. I think both guys did a good job last season, but I was also glad to have both on the roster for this year, and injuries that were not predictable have derailed both of them.

      These were not journeymen that the Yankees dealt for as stopgaps. These were legit, solid big-leaguers that the Yanks got to be regulars on the team for a year and a half or more, and they spent one high-risk, high-upside prospect who was struggling at AA to do it.

  • Slu

    Bust.

    Isn’t the conventional logic to wait to see if the prospects do anything before a trade can be evaluated?

    Anyway, using your logic, still a bust. The Yankees didn’t make the playoffs. And they both have done nothing this year. The guys they traded could have been used in a trade for different players or for depth on this year’s team.

    Now, that being said, nobody could have foreseen both injuries and it is hardly Nady and Marte’s fault they missed the playoffs last year. So I don’t blame Cash and I would make the trade again, given the info known at the time. But the trade is still a bust.

    • Ed

      Isn’t the conventional logic to wait to see if the prospects do anything before a trade can be evaluated?

      Normally, but considering the injury issues on this end, it’s a little different. There’s the opportunity cost as well – it’s too early to know if the prospects are any good, but, we probably could have traded them for other players who probably wouldn’t have missed 2009.

      I do agree with you though, it’s a trade you have to make but ended up a bust.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I was excited about getting Nady at the time, not so much on Marte. Dealing Tabata and Ohlendorf hurt at the time, but I didn’t know enough about “Danimal” other than what I read here.

    In retrospect, an awful trade. We gave up a prime prospect in our offense-depleted farm system, plus a guy with a good sinker, for an average outfielder at the height of his value and a middle reliever who, while he’d shown some consistency, had also had his valleys and was, well, a middle reliever. It also did us no good, as we missed the playoffs last year anyway. It’s sometimes better to stand put.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

      Marte’s been a premiere set-up man for much of his career. He had a bad stretch this season. For all the attention Yankee fans pay to 8th inning these days, you’re not giving Marte his due.

      Meanwhile, Ohlendorf isn’t that exciting of a pitcher, and the only way this comes back to bite us is if Tabata realizes his potential. He hasn’t done that in a while, and his allure as a prospect has slipped significantly over the last few years.

  • gxpanos

    Unfortunately for Tabata, he kind of went a little nuts last year. So I can’t fault Cash for the trade. I think we all knew Nady wasnt that good, but if Marte hadnt gotten hurt and had a 3 ERA out of the pen this year (which is a strong possibility next year, or this year if he ever gets back), it’d be a no-doubt good trade.

  • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

    I remember not liking this trade much when it was made. Getting Marte was fine in my book, but I didn’t want Nady and didn’t want to part with Tabata, even with all his troubles. The funny thing is that regardless of how this trade ends up, I’ll always remember where I was when I heard about it. I was driving to my girlfriend’s after a softball game and was at Newark Airport when Sterling/Waldman had Fiensand in for “The Daily News 5th” during Joba’s kickass game.

  • Jake H

    I would do it again. No way could the Yanks have known that Nady would get hurt at the beginning of 09 and be out. Nady from 05 through 08 had played in a minimum of 124 games. Throughout his whole career Nady is a ops + 108. If you look at Nady’s career he was on the up swing.

    06 ops + 97
    07 ops + 107
    08 ops + 128

    He was in the prime of his career when the Yanks got him. I know Tabata was a highly ranked prospect but his act got old with the Yanks and Jackson had passed him in prospect status. I’m not even taking into account Marte.

  • Phil McCracken

    I wasn’t crazy about this trade last year, as I’ve always seen Nady as a 4th outfielder. Now its obviously much worse now that Nady is on the shelf for a year and won’t net us a draft pick and Marte is on vacation in Tampa.

    Ohlendorf was always misused by Girardi last year. He was used mostly as a mop up man for Kennedy and Hughes, then they tried using him in short relief the following day and it never showcased his talent properly.

  • Ed

    To judge a deal, we have to look at it when it was made, and at that point, the deal was not a bust.

    Maybe I’m being a anal here, but, when someone says “That trade was a bust”, I tend to interpret that as “That trade didn’t work out the way you hoped it would.” You really can’t complain about last season. Nady and Marte did what was expected, but the season ended when Joba got hurt. But considering we’re at the end of June and each player has played 7 games so far this season, they haven’t come close to matching expectations.

    Did the Yankees make what appeared to be a good trade? Yes. Did it turn out to be a bust? Yes, because Cashman was very vocal at the time that the deal wasn’t just about 2008.

  • Tripp

    Yankees also have Marte signed for a few more years. If he returns and becomes a superior set up man for the Yanks over the next few years then he’s all of a sudden a valuable piece many people would complain the Yanks didn’t have.

  • Billy

    it was the right trade at the time, and it still is. the pitchers we gave up werent gonna succeed in the AL and tabata hasnt panned out yet. at least nady was great for us last year, and marte still has a chance to contribute for the next three years when he gets back from injury. we’ll get a draft pick when nady signs elsewhere, and if marte returns to his former self the trade will be a success for us. but only an idiot wouldnt have made that trade last year. nady was havin a great year and marte was one of the best lefty relievers in the game. those were two of the biggest trade baits in the entire mlb last year and we got both of them in the same deal.

  • Dos Equis

    One more decent prospect in that pot would have landed us Jason Bay-who was a proven, legit outfielder. Nady was a 4th outfielder, having a career season. So that trade is a bust.

    • AndrewYF

      If the Yankees had a hitting prospect on the level of Andy LaRoche, they could have gotten Bay.

      But they didn’t, unless you maybe want to count Jackson. So you would have also traded Jackson, a legit CF prospect who’s doing well in AAA, for Bay, who is in reality a DH and a free agent next year. So you would have made a worse trade.

    • whozat

      bullshit.

      The thing is, they actually DID trade Bay, so you can see what the required package was. Adding one more “decent prospect” would NOT have made our package equivalent to the one they got for Bay.

      Also, Bay, while a great hitter, is not actually the hitter he’s been thus far — and he’s an atrocious defender. Putting him in RF would have been just as bad as having Abreu out there.

      • Ed

        The thing is, they actually DID trade Bay, so you can see what the required package was.

        No, you can see what one acceptable package was. That doesn’t mean it was the only acceptable package.

        Adding one more “decent prospect” would NOT have made our package equivalent to the one they got for Bay.

        They got one good young player. Three of the four players they got in that deal aren’t worth much, even on a team as bad as Pittsburgh. Two of the four guys they got in the Yanks deal, while worthless to us, are currently in their starting rotation, so they’re clearly valuable to Pittsburgh. Another player is a good prospect they really like, and the last is basically a worthless pitcher. They’re a team that openly said they’ve been looking for quantity over quality in their minor league system. I really find it hard to believe the Yankees could’ve found something that worked for both teams.

  • Alan

    I would have much rather thrown in another prospect or two to see if we could get Bay.

    Cashman has had a hard-on for Marte for years and I don’t get it. Yes, someone will post his stats, but pitching well in the NL Central and the AL Central at the beginning of the decade isn’t that impressive, especially when you’re trying to sell me on the guy pitching in the AL East.

    Nady is thoroughly mediocre, and always has been. He had a flukey first half of 2008 after being average for years. The only reason GMs go nuts for him is the old cliches. White, scrappy, gamer, grit, hustle, etc.

  • Accent Shallow

    Didn’t original reports of the trade have Kontos and Coke going in place of Karstens and Ohlendorf? And then when the media killed the Pirates, they changed the package?

    Now that would have been a lousy trade, since Coke has given the Yankees more than Marte has, and I’d rather have Kontos than any of the other pitchers in the deal, except maybe McCutchen.

    This could still turn out to be a bad deal, but as it is I’m willing to classify it as “seemed like a good idea at the time, no long term effects.”

  • Philip

    This article is rubbish.

    I’m sorry but this deal was a bust for the Yankees from the beginning. Marte is basically a LOOGY and at 34-35, doesn’t have much, if anything left. Nady, besides ALWAYS being injury-proned, is a 4th outfielder at best. And on a team like the Yankees, has no business starting on a regular basis. Ohlendorf doesn’t get alot of K’s, but i guarantee the Yanks would take him back, as he’s been a solid 4th starter. Something the non-Patient Yankee brass would never let him do. Plus he has more wins right now then 60% of the Yankees rotation. As of right now, even if Marte and Nady weren’t injured, this deal was a bust for New York. And if Tabata does turn into a star player, the Yankees should quit making trades, period.

  • Mattingly’s Love Child

    This is way late, so I’m sure there won’t be any more discussion here.

    I would do that trade again in a second. At the same time, I would evaluate that trade as a bust. I feel like the Yankees got more value at the time , but they were not able to help the Yankees make the playoffs last year and have been unable to play this year. Yes they were mostly acquired for their ability to help out last year, but part of it was that they had decent futures ahead of them that the Yankees would be able to utilize (like hopefully a contract year push from Nady…). None of that has materialized, and therefore any production the Pirates have received this year out of Ohlendorf and Karstens has turned out better than the disabled list stays of Nady and Marte. Not to mention the possiblity that Tabata could still turn into something, and McCutchen could help them as a swingman as well.

    The two ideas of bust trade but would do the trade again are not mutually exclusive. It didn’t work out, but it was a gamble that I’m glad the Yankees made, and I hope they’ll be willing to make similar moves in the future (solid pros in exchange for mid-level minor leaguers).

  • oldtimer

    and the Johnson trade was a good one and the Pavano signing too the Yanks can do no wrong!

  • Brian

    Um….wait….the 11-month bittersweet anniversary celebration?
    Good read, but that part’s silly putty.

  • arthur3

    The Pirates and Yanks both got something from their big trade… the chance to watch the Dodgers, Rays, and Red Sox in the play-offs. Sad!

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