Past Trade Review: Cashman’s Top 5 Blunders

Open Thread: The best in New York
Report: Granderson to play CF, Gardner LF

Yesterday I listed Brian Cashman’s three most lopsided trades. Those, of course, all fell in his favor. Yet he’s not immune from the bad trade. His blunders aren’t as great as his successes — it’s tough to make up the wins he gained by acquiring Alex Rodriguez, Bobby Abreu, and Nick Swisher — but he’s still lost on a number of deals. Here are the trades that cost the Yankees the most in terms of WAR.

(Note: Since many of the deals happened before 2002, I’ll use the historical WAR database to determine the values.)

Mike Lowell

When thinking about Cashman’s worst trades, the first that came to mind was Mike Lowell. In 1999 he shipped Lowell to Florida for a package that featured Ed Yarnall, long coveted by the Yankees. Chances are Lowell wouldn’t have gotten the 339 plate appearances he did for the Marlins in 1999, because Scott Brosius would have been coming off a career year. Still, we can’t try to figure out when a player’s clock would have started. We’re still going with first six years, though his 339 plate appearances indicate that he’d have a seventh year before free agency.

From 1999 through 2005 Lowell was worth 16.4 WAR. Ed Yarnall was worth 0.3 in 1999 and -0.3 in 2000, leaving his overall WAR at zero. Mark J. Johnson was worth -0.6, and Todd Noel never made the majors. This certainly ranks as Cashman’s biggest blunder.

Loss: 17 WAR

Photo credit: Alan Diaz/AP

Damaso Marte

Not even a half season after signing him as a free agent, the Yankees traded lefty reliever Damaso Marte to the Pirates for Enrique Wilson. Apparently he hit well against Pedro Martinez, which is a perfectly acceptable reason to make a trade. Sarcasm aside, I don’t remember much of this trade, and so it likely went uncriticized in the press. Marte, at the time, had pitched just 8.2 major league innings. Upon his call-up to the Pirates he got hit around a bit in 36.1 innings and was worth 0 WAR. That would quickly change.

Over the next six years Marte was worth 7.9 WAR. Wilson actually cost the Yankees wins, as he was worth -2.2 WAR. It seems odd that such a minor trade would carry double-digit win implications, but this was the case with Wilson and Marte.

Loss: 10.1 WAR

Photo credit: Steve Nesius/AP

Ted Lilly

Thankfully, Ted Lilly was the only player of note the Yankees traded for Jeff Weaver. I remember the concern at the time that trading John-Ford Griffin could come back to bite them. He had hit very well at Staten Island during his debut in 2001, and was having a fairly decent, Austin Jackson-like surge upon his promotion to AA in 2002. He was also the No. 76 prospect in the game headed into that season. Yet it was Lilly whom the Yankees could have used in the following years.

As we well know, Ted Lilly qualified for free agency after the 2006 season. From the point the Yankees traded him in 2002 he was worth 9.7 WAR. Weaver, during his season and a half with the Yankees, was worth 1.1 WAR. That breaks down to 1.4 WAR in the second half of 2002 and -0.3 WAR in 2003. They still had him under team control for a few years, but instead packaged him in a deal for Kevin Brown. Brown was worth 2.5 wins in 2005, but -0.9 in 2004. Even if we count that, which we won’t, it doesn’t come close to balancing out Lilly’s 9.7 WAR.

Loss: 8.6 WAR

Photo credit: Ben Margot/AP

Nick Johnson, Randy Choate, Juan Rivera

After the losses of David Wells, Roger Clemens, and Andy Pettitte, the Yankees clearly had to reload their rotation. One measure they took was to acquire Javy Vazquez from the Expos. He didn’t come cheap, of course. At the time he was just 28 years old and was coming off four straight seasons pitching more than 200 innings. It cost the Yankees Nick Johnson, who was blocked by Jason Giambi, Juan Rivera, and Randy Choate. Considering the Yankees kept Vazquez for just one year, it certainly cost them.

During his sole pinstriped season Vazquez was worth 2.3 WAR. He added another 4.6 WAR over the next two seasons, the terms of his contract with the Yankees. They traded him for Randy Johnson, who was worth 5.8 WAR as a Yankee. That helps soften the blow, but doesn’t completely erase it (especially since we’re not counting it). Johnson currently has nine years’ of service time, so he would have been eligible for free agency after the 2006 season. From 2004 through 2006 he was worth 8.9 WAR. Juan Rivera would have been under team control through 2008, during which time he produced 1.8 WAR for the Expos and Angels. I have no idea how long Choate would have been under control, but he was 0.4 in 2004, -0.4 in 2005, and 0.0 in 2006 and 2007, so he’s a wash in any case.

Loss: 8.4 WAR

Photo credit: H. Rumph, Jr./AP

Ramon Ramirez

In 2005 the Yankees desperately needed rotation help. It seemed everyone was getting hurt. They turned to an unknown minor league lifer named Aaron Small to fill a spot, and right around the trade deadline they acquired Shawn Chacon from the Rockies in exchange for two relievers, Eduardo Sierra and Ramon Ramirez. Having been solidly in my blogging days, I researched these guys but didn’t find much. The need, at the time, for starting pitching was too great to think about two minor league relievers.

Fortunately, Chacon helped the Yankees make the playoffs that year. Unfortunately, that was about the extent of his value to the team. Meanwhile, Ramirez pitched well for the Rockies, Royals, and Red Sox following the trade. He has been worth 4.0 WAR in his four major league seasons. Chacon helped enormously with his 2.7 WAR in 2005, but negated much of that with a -1.2 number in 2006, making his total 1.5. That’s only a 3.5 WAR loss, so no big deal, right? The problem is that Ramirez is still under team control for three more years, and could continue to widen that gap.

Loss: 3.5 WAR and counting

Photo credit: Nick Wass/AP

Open Thread: The best in New York
Report: Granderson to play CF, Gardner LF
  • JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

    I think the problem with some of these is figuring out what was more Cashman’s doing and what was a result of the Tampa Braintrust.

    There’s a gray area with such an overbearing ownership.

    • Ed

      I think these were all Cashman’s moves. He’s said before that the Lowell trade is his biggest mistake link

      The other two are trading relief prospects for fringe players that filled immediate needs. Doesn’t seem like the kind of thing Steinbrenner would get involved with.

      • Dirty Pena

        Could be just a case of Cashman falling on his sword.

      • JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

        Ah, you’re probably right, though the Javy trade is obscured because Steinbrenner desperately wanted Randy Johnson. The Cash interview is great. Hadn’t seen that before. Thanks for the link.

    • bobbybaseball

      im in your corner on that. i dont think anyone can answer that except cash…. but throwing in my 2 cents its the international troika: hideki(fat toad)irabu, kei(where is he?)IGAWA and jose( man does he sweata) contreras

    • Bo

      So Cashman gets all the credit for the good moves n the bad ones r blamed on “tampa faction”.


  • bexarama

    It’s totally weird that a move that traded away a reliever for a position player – a crappy position player but a position player – cost that much. (which is pretty much what you said.)

  • Andrew what?

    Wow I didn’t realize Red Sock reliever Ramon Ramirez was in the system and was part of the Chacon trade. Interesting.

    • bexarama

      don’t they have two Ramon Ramirezes? The Sox, I mean.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

        Yup; a Dominican one and a Venezuelan one.

  • Kiko Jones

    Um, Kei Igawa, anyone?

    • JMK the Overshare’s Mystique and Aura

      Trades, man.

    • Kevin G.

      That wasn’t a trade.

      • Igawafarts

        I think he meant when they didn’t let the padres claim Igawa off waivers…

        • Joseph Pawlikowski

          Still not a trade.

          • bobbybaseball

            skip the technicalities-blunders are blunders-trades,signings,claims, whatever- cash will be reviled or crucified on his entire body of work!

    • Accent Shallow

      Honestly, Igawa doesn’t bother me that much since a) they were out the posting fee whether he’s the Japanese Lefty Grove or the craptacular pitcher he actually is, b) the money they’re paying him isn’t crippling, and c) they have a strong rotation even without him. They even had an acceptable rotation in 2007 without him.

      So yeah, Igawa was a waste of money, but in the end, it’s not that big of a deal.

  • bonestock94

    Oh wow, I don’t recall having Marte before this stint.

  • Drew

    Completely forgot about Marte and Ramirez.. Oh well. Alls well that ends well.

  • Pharryn

    The Ramon Ramirez trade should NOT be in this group. This is the New York Yankees!!! We’re not the Mets, or another team that tries to make a run every few years! Did the NYY regret this trade? Not for one second. Chacon (and Small) were huge that year, and the key additions that brought the NYY to the postseason in 2005. Would Ramirez even make the NYY bullpen this year??? I don’t see it at all. This was a trade that a big time team makes. A type B prospect (who will a journeyman middle relief pitcher) for a missing piece. If you want to include a bad trade (maybe this was pre-Cashman) you could have Javier Vasquez, Dino Navarro, and Brad Halsey for Randy Johnson, or you could have followed the Damaso Marte situation one step farther: Traded Marte for Enrique Wilson, then gave up Tabata, Ohlendorf, Karstens and McCutchen for Marte (and a rental of Nady).

    • Accent Shallow

      Tabata, Ohlendorf, Karstens and McCutchen for Marte

      The only one of these guys I’m worried about missing is Tabata. What do you think?

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size


    • Matty Ice

      “Tabata, Ohlendorf, Karstens and McCutchen for Marte (and a rental of Nady).”

      And yet the won a World Series, with Marte playing a huge role. Even if Tabata has a higher WAR when it’s all said and done, I’d rather have the ring.

    • Andrew what?

      The Nady/Marte trade is starting to look a little better for yankees due to the revelation that Tabata is actually now 26 or 27 years old. As far as the other pieces are concerned, trading McCuthen kind of hurt, in fact he’s going to be the Pirates 5th starter. Ohlendorf and Karstens were very expendable and I don’t think they’re going to be more than a 4th/5th starter on a contender’s rotation.

  • Nostra-Artist

    I know it takes a few years to properly assess a trade, but I don’t see any real doozies since he’s assumed full control of Baseball Ops at the end of 05, and 2 of his 3 best deals came after that.

    Just adding some fuel to JMK’s post about teasing out what was him and what was influenced by Tampa.

  • Davor

    These trades illustrate the problem with pitchers. Cashman wasn’t the only one who liked Florida pitchers, He took Yarnall and 2 1st round picks. Weaver and Vazquez trades are trades that every manager would have made as GM of Yankees. Chacon trade is classic wins now for wins later trade. Middle relievers who are worth 0.5 – 1 WAR yearly are nice, but probably cheapest asset to give up. And even Marte trade is reasonable. At time, Wilson was young SS with good glove and promising bat. Only after coming to Yankees he “aged” two or three years.
    The worst trades will usually be prospects for veterans in win now mode, or trades for SPs where full price in talent is paid. Even when they are good trades at the time, pitchers are risky and often fail.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

      Weaver and Vazquez trades are trades that every manager would have made as GM of Yankees.

      Vazquez, yes. Weaver… eh, I dunno. I was never a big fan of that trade. Weaver had upside (lotsa K’s), but had a very real and very significant downside as well (he just wasn’t a good pitcher; gave up WAY too many walks and hits).

      Giving up Lilly for Weaver was a bit sketchier of a decision, IMO. The upgrade potential was probably outweighed by the bust potential, and it’s not like Lilly was some 18 year old kid years away from being able to contribute.

      • Davor

        I remember thinking that the only differences between Lilly and Weaver was that Weaver was righty and had a year head-start. I thought they would be roughly equal during the next few years, and in Yankee stadium you want lefty. But everything I read on the internet at the time was somewhere between Weaver having ace starter potential and Weaver being ace starter. Everybody lauded Cashman for getting into that deal and lending Weaver.
        Weaver made great strides during last two-and-half years in Detroit, but they were mostly in HR/9. He had weak K/9 for ace, around 6, and he improved his BB/9 up to around 2, but in the half-season before trade, he allowed 0.3 HR/9. And he had perfect pitcher’s body. The problem was, he had no room for improvement, he was the pitcher he showed to be in 2001 and 2002 – solid pitcher dependent on team’s defense, who is good at preventing walks and great at preventing HRs, even though he is flyballer. For a normal team, he was a good bet to post 105 – 110 ERA+ for the foreseeable future. Of course, he was traded to a team that started a run of some epically bad defenses, and to a stadium where righties have trouble keeping the ball in the park.
        Cashman even said later that they saw Lilly as No 5 with No 3 potential, and Weaver as No 3. with ace potential. But Lilly needed only extended time in the rotation to get to his potential, and Weaver needed large jump in K/9.
        Clear example that pitchers don’t follow standard aging curve.

  • Gardimentary

    Scott Brosius wasn’t a great player by any means.
    Over the course of his career he doesn’t compare to Mike Lowell.

    However, at the time, in 1999, Scott Brosius was a terrific role player for the Yankees.
    And, it was clear that the Yankees were primed for a repeat.

    It’s not like Mike Lowell is a Nolan Ryan case, or a Hall of Famer. I think if you look around baseball over the course of the 6 or 7 years, you’d find that every team has given up a guy of that caliber, and many, have given up much better players.

    To me, the trades that really killed us were Randy Johnson, Jeff Weaver and Javy Vazquez.
    We gave up two guys for Vazquez that turned out to be strong MLBers.

    As far as Ramon Ramirez goes, he seems like a very good relief pitcher, but for the second half of 2005, Shawn Chacon was our most reliable arm. He was garbage after that, but without him, we don’t make the playoffs. Not appropriate to blame Cash for this move. It was one if his better ones.

  • The Noodle

    Mr RAB – The ‘mathematical’ mistake you are making is comparing WAR over careers. A 10 WAR player who plays a single season is worth more than a 2 WAR player who plays for 6 seasons. Yet, in this analysis, the latter is considerred a better player.

    Why do I say that? Because the 10 WAR player helps you make the playoffs, while a 2 WAR player helps keep you a 500 team.

    I am sure that you can find numerous long-career pitchers with WAR higher than Koufax, since Koufax only pitched (great) for 5 years. Yet we all know that any GM would trade such pitchers (Jamie Moyer maybe?) for Koufax. And you would consider it a bad trade.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

      The problem with your analysis:

      We’re not interested in making the playoffs once. We’re interested in making the playoffs every year. We need both high single-season WARs and high career WAR totals.

      • Davor

        Partially, but Yankees have no interest in below-average players. Better measure would be something like WAA (wins above average). 2 WAR is about average for positional player and starting pitcher. For reliever it has to be less, perhaps 0.5 WAR. For mid-season trades, prorate to time with Yankees.

  • Bo

    Chacon wa sa great move. Without him they dont sniff the playoffs that yr and have a shot to win a title. It’s not like ramon ramirez is mariano rivera. Giving up a reliever for a shot to win a title is a good trade off.

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

    It cost the Yankees Nick Johnson, who was blocked by Jason Giambi, Juan Rivera, and Randy Choate.

    Damn, Nick Johnson was blocked by three people, one of whom was an outfielder and one of whom was a pitcher? That’s crazy, yo!

    Poor bastard.

  • Paco Dooley

    How odd is it that the team now includes three of these players? Is this the year that Cashman tries to get a do over on these players?

    To me the only major blunder in this list is the Lowell trade. Most people liked the Lilly and Johnson deals when they were made. Weaver looked like a really talented young arm and clearly worth what the Yankees paid. Vasquez also looked like a good deal. The Yankees didn’t have space for NJ and they needed talented young pitchers. They would do that one again, especially seeing how NJ was injured so often afterwards. The other two trades are really minor deals anyway.

    • DSFC

      Actually, most people thought the Lowell deal was excellent at the time. Cash got three good pitching prospects for a good prospect who many people thought was overrated and who was already 25 with no shot of displacing Brosius.

  • king of fruitless hypotheticals


    Scott Brosius wasn’t a great player by any means.

    That’s just a c@rp statment right there. Brosius was the man. I saw him. With my own eyes.

  • Mister Delaware

    More than a decade with a buyer club and not a single major misvaluation of a young player. That’s really impressive.

    (Yes, its a real word. I checked.)