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In case you’re wondering, the Carlos Beltran trade went down
because I went on the radio in Texas yesterday and said that the Astros didn’t
have enough to get him, and that Gerry Hunsicker had a history of not making
the big trade at the deadline, 1999 and Randy Johnson being
the exception.

Three-way deals are hard to see coming, although this one had been in the wind
for a couple of days. Give Hunsicker credit for converting what he had into
the best player on the trade market. Maybe he makes one of these every five
seasons, but he sure makes them count.

Breaking each part down:

  • Astros trade Octavio Dotel, John Buck
    and a million bucks for Carlos Beltran.

    Just an absolute steal. Dotel is a very good reliever, but he’s a reliever,
    not a top-three center fielder with as complete a game as any player in
    baseball. The Astros, who have been playing a shadow of Craig
    Biggio
    in center field the past year and a half, actually may get
    more runs out of this trade defensively than they gain offensively (Beltran
    takes Jason Lane‘s playing time, with Biggio expected to move
    to left and Lance Berkman moving to right).

    Moreover, Beltran is a great patch for the Astros’ long-standing balance
    problems. As a switch-hitter who bats well from the left side, he makes the
    team less susceptible to the righty-killers that the Cubs and Cardinals have
    in both their rotations and bullpens.

    
                      vs. RHB              vs. LHB
                 AVG   OBP   SLG      AVG   OBP   SLG
    Cubs        .229  .292  .350     .266  .341  .436
    Cardinals   .263  .315  .406     .254  .317  .443
    
    

    The above stats are part of why the Astros are just 9-12 against those two
    teams this year. Having Beltran for the last 17 games against those two is
    going to make a big difference.

    If the Astros were ever going to trade off future for now, this is the time.
    They have one of the oldest teams in the game, and could lose Jeff Kent to free agency after this
    season, Berkman after 2005. The money that the Astros have spent over the past week–essentially $5
    million added to make two trades happen–is available in large part because
    they’re paying Roger Clemens, also only committed through
    this season, about that much less than he would be getting under normal
    circumstances.

    Dotel is a very good pitcher, but short relievers are fungible commodities, and
    the Astros have a number of options with which to cover his innings. (Not to
    mention that Dotel’s usage pattern this year was minimizing his value to the
    team.) Buck has bounced back from a broken hand last year to hit
    .300/.368/.507 for Triple-A New Orleans, but he’s not considered a great
    prospect, with questions about his defense and his ability to remain a
    catcher.

    This is a great trade for the Astros.

  • A’s trade Mark Teahen and Mike Wood
    for Dotel and a million bucks.

    I don’t like this type of trade, where you give up value for a relief pitcher.
    I also don’t think you should be part of a trade for a guy like Beltran and
    not actually end up with Beltran. My initial reaction was that the A’s had
    made a mistake, overreacting to their bullpen problems by acquiring the
    nominal “proven” reliever. I don’t know why you would trade two guys
    for Dotel when, say, Byung-Hyun Kim is available for next to
    nothing.

    After sleeping on it, though, I think that while the deal looks odd, it
    provides the A’s with a number of small edges. For one, Teahen only had value
    as trade bait, and the Royals were higher on him than just about any team.
    With Eric Chavez signed, Teahen was going to be dealt, and
    this was as good a return as you could hope for. Wood is a keep-the-ball-down
    guy whose upside is mid-rotation innings muncher. Like Teahen, he had no path
    to a job with the A’s.

    So the A’s gave up talent, but no one who was going to ever help them, for a
    guy who fills their biggest hole as effectively as it could be filled. Forget
    the closer role; the A’s needed a strikeout right-hander in their pen, and
    Dotel misses bats.

    Here’s the other thing: By facilitating a Beltran trade to Houston, the A’s
    keep him away from the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels. That has a lot of value,
    given that all three of those teams had at least some interest. Keeping the
    opposition from improving shouldn’t be a primary goal, but if you can help
    yourself and remove a potential headache, it’s a reason to pull the trigger.

    I’ll be interested to see how the A’s use Dotel. If there’s a guy who should,
    and could, be stretched out beyond the closer role, it’s him. Doing so would
    make this trade look even better for them. As it is, though, they’re a better
    team today than they were yesterday, and they haven’t given up anything
    they’ll miss.

  • Royals trade Beltran for Teahen, Buck and Wood.

    In the same interview in which I dismissed the Astros’ chances of getting
    Beltran, I mentioned that Allard Baird had seemingly developed as a GM the way
    that we think of players developing on the field. I argued that he had a real
    chance to set the foundation for the Royals’ contenders of ’05-’07 with a good
    Beltran trade, to change the direction of the franchise.

    It didn’t quite happen that way. The Royals just didn’t get the kind of
    future-changing talent you need to get when you trade away one of the best
    players to ever wear your team’s uniform.

    Teahen, part of the Moneyball draft class, has only shown power in the
    hitter’s paradise of Midland in the Texas League. He hit four homers in 687
    at-bats in the California League, for crying out loud, and has no homers in a
    month at Triple-A. He’s shown he can hit for average and walk some, but his
    strikeout rates are high enough to provoke concern about whether he can even
    keep those skills. Maybe he can be what Dave Hansen would
    have been, but there’s a much greater chance that his lack of power is going
    to render him a left-handed Joe Randa.

    Similarly, Buck has a spotty developmental record, with questions about his
    defense and just a half-season of performance above Double-A.

    The Royals may have added two players who will be contributors, but they
    haven’t added players with star potential, and that’s what they needed to do
    in this trade. The Royals have been treading water for a decade, and adding
    two guys who will probably never make an All-Star team isn’t the way to change
    that.

    Determining early in the process that they wanted a third baseman and a
    catcher for Beltran may have blinded the Royals to better options. Certainly,
    those two positions are important, but they settled for players who fit those
    slots when they might have been able to get more value by looking elsewhere.

The Astros won, the A’s helped themselves, and the Royals blew another chance
to reverse a decline that began when Billy Gardner burned out Bret
Saberhagen
nearly 20 years ago.

My day leading up to finding out about the Beltran trade was fantastic. I took
Sophia and my mom to Fenway Park, catching a great baseball game on a June day
borrowed from a book or a movie. For me, nothing is ever going to match the
feeling of walking into Yankee Stadium, but I do love going to Fenway Park.
This was my second game there, and as I did the first time I went, I spent a
lot of my time looking around at a truly beautiful setting, a bit in awe that
I was in a place with such historical significance.

I know that Fenway isn’t perfect, and that while one or two games a year there
are fun, perhaps going to 81 a year would make a different environment
desirable. I sympathize with the fans who perhaps look at a Petco Park, with
its amenities and sightlines, and support that kind of park for Red Sox fans.
For me, though, it’s a wonderful place to watch a baseball game.

(The Sox are 0-2 when I attend, by the way. George, care to underwrite my move
and some season tickets? It’d cost less than Tanyon Sturtze.)

After the game, I made my way out to Allston for a BP Pizza Feed. Nathan
Fox–who did all of the lifting, heavy and otherwise, for this one–was already
entertaining some 60 or 70 BP readers. I had a great time; Pizza Feeds are
always fun for me, but to be able to have one in an environment like Boston,
where the fans have such a tremendous combination of passion and knowledge, makes for a great night.

Thanks to everyone who attended, both for making last night a success and for
supporting Baseball Prospectus.