Winn Will I Be Loved? 

When the Giants traded Yorvit Torrealba and Jesse Foppert for Randy Winn, the general reaction among the blognoscenti was disappointment. Specific feedback ranged from Rage Against The Sabean to mild acceptance with a dash of let's-wait-and-see. But in my unscientific scan of posts and comments from late July, I'd say reaction was generally negative.

Now Winn is doing his best Albert Pujols impression, batting .345/.380/.667 with 32 extra base hits and 11 homers in 186 plate appearances with the Giants. Just for fun, in the same time span:

Vlad Guerrero, 23 XBH, 12 HR, 185 PAs
Albert Pujols, 22 XBH, 11 HR, 187 PAs
Andruw Jones, 23 XBH, 18 HR, 181 PAs
Alex Rodriguez, 24 XBH, 15 HR, 186 PAs

Let's look back at what was said at the time of the trade:

* "Sabean just picked up a replacement-level/4th outfielder when he's already got three of them on the team in Feliz, Ellison, and Tucker. Winn's defense is not better than Tucker's." (That was Daniel, echoing the sentiments of many. I also noted that Winn's career stats weren't that much different from Michael Tucker's.)

* "By trading Foppert, the Giants have thrown away another of their highly-touted pitching prospects after completely mismanaging the early stages of his career much the same way they handled Ainsworth, Williams, Nathan, Aardsma, etc...Throwing Torrealba into the mix is also indefensible. I can't believe the Giants considered a fast, defense-minded, 26-year old catcher a worthless commodity..." (That was from John at OBM.)

* "What happens if the 34-yr-old Matheny gets injured, which tends to happen to catchers of all ages? Haad, with all 1 major league at-bat's worth of experience back there, will be the starter. Brilliant." (That was me.)

* "Winn will stay in left field, according to Giants sources." (That was from Will Carroll's rumor mill.)

Carroll was instantly proven wrong. (Or his sources were.) As for the rest of us negatively-minded folk, is it time to acknowledge we were wrong, too? It's been nearly seven weeks, and Randy Winn has had undoubtedly the best stretch of his career.

He will not continue to hit .345/.380/.667 through 2006, although I won't mind if he does. But what if he hits .300/.350/.500 for one more year? Is the trade then worth it? What if Foppert slowly builds up to a great year in 2008, winning 20 games with 200 innings, 200 Ks, a 3.25 ERA...then flames out? Or if Foppert turns out to be Brett Tomko-ish, eating innings year after year but never anchoring a staff?

The three stages of trade evaluation:

1) Immediately post-trade. All we can do is compare career stats, look for trends, and assume the trends will continue, i.e., Jesse Foppert will continue to recover from Tommy John surgery and be at full strength in '06. Yorvit Torrealba will continue to be a backup catcher with excellent defensive skills with glimmers of offensive promise. Randy Winn will continue to be a speedy outfielder who becomes mediocre in CF and doesn't get on base enough to be a leadoff guy.

2) The short-term returns. Randy Winn is awesome! Thanks to him, the Giants can still dream about the playoffs. If Barry had come back a few weeks earlier, who knows...? Meanwhile, Foppert remained in the minors the rest of the year, and Torrealba, given a chance to play more, hasn't busted out, posting OPSes of .709 and .524 in August and September.

3) Years of hindsight. It's all speculation. Randy Winn comes back to earth. Randy Winn has a Jeff Kent-like mid-career revelation. Torrealba breaks through and become the next Bengie Molina -- who had his first good year at the age of 28. Foppert, well, go ahead and throw a dart blindfolded. It'll land anywhere from Kurt Ainsworth to Joe Nathan.

It seems to me the only decent way to evaluate a trade is to measure the value received from each player -- a stat like VORP is probably a good start -- then factor in dollars spent relative to payroll. In other words, at the end of '06, we can figure out how valuable Randy Winn was to the Giants for the roughly $6 million they paid him starting in August '05, compare that figure to Foppert and Torrealba, and do the same at the end of each year.

If the players involved move to other teams via free agency or trade, do you keep counting? If, say, the Mariners trade Foppert for Ryan Freel, who becomes the American League batting champ and propels the M's to the World Series, how do you factor that?

Some trades in hindsight are easy to grade: the Giants got a year's worth of A.J. Pierzynski and nothing more for Nathan and two prospects (one of whom is expected to be as good as Johan Santana). A roll of the dice immediately post-trade; a real bungle in short-term returns; an out-and-out disaster after two years of hindsight.

What do you think? If you hated the Winn trade, do you repent? If you still think it sucked, why? When will we be able to truly judge it?


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