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Revisiting an Old Deal

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12/15/2002 - Reds deal Elmer Dessens to Arizona, Toronto deals Felipe Lopez to Cincinnati, Arizona deals Erubiel Durazo to Oakland, Oakland deals John Ford-Griffin and Jason Arnold to Toronto

I remember being fairly sanguine about this deal.  The Reds needed a shortstop of the future, and Lopez seemed to qualify.  Sure Dessens was coming off a season where he'd put up a 3.03 ERA, good for sixth in the National League, but that was a fluke year if I'd ever seen one.  I did cringe a little knowing that Billy Beane was the mastermind behind the deal, since I have a world of respect for the guy, but Bowden seemed to hold his own here.

This trade is a terrific example of why you can't instantly analyze deals, especially when they are as complex as this one.  Here's how everyone has stacked up since the deal went down:

Oakland:

The A's were crowned the winners of this deal immediately, and rightfully so.  Durazo had played exceptionally well as a backup in Arizona, and it seemed as if the Diamondback's shortsightedness was the only thing keeping him from being a star.  Erubiel struggled a bit in his first season with Oakland putting up a .259/.374/.430 line.  Not terrible numbers but I'm sure the A's were expecting more power, which they got in 2004 when Durazo put up a .321/.396/.523 line.

Durazo is now 31 years old and has struggled badly in 2005, hitting .237/.305/.368 over 152 at bats. Even if he doesn't rebound (and he probably will) the A's can take comfort in his excellent 2004.

Arizona:

The Diamondbacks were the glue holding this trade together, and it's fairly obvious that the other three teams all benefited from Arizona's stupidity.

Elmer Dessens had numerous warning signs coming out of his career year in 2002.  He was 32 years old and had only had one solid major league season, his K/9IP ratio was abysmally low, and he only seemed to be good for 5-6 innings a start for Cincinnati.

All the indicators for a crash back to Earth were there and Arizona ignored them all.

Elmer threw 175.7 innings for the D-Backs in 2003, putting up an underwhelming 5.07 ERA.  The next year he was demoted to relief and then shipped to LA.  He's started a couple of games in 2005, with more lackluster results, and has been on the DL since the 23rd of April.

Arizona was the clear loser in this deal.

Toronto:

The Blue Jays were building for the future and were happy to get a couple of solid prospects for the price of Felipe Lopez.  Lopez reportedly had attitude problems which hastened his exit from Toronto.

Jason Arnold, at the time of this trade, was one of the top pitching prospects in the game.  He's since torn his labrum, an injury which ends the career of most players it afflicts.

John Ford-Griffin, a former New York Yankees first round pick, has been something of a disappointment as well.  He's spent the past two years in AA, OPSing .822 in 2003, and .784 in 2004. He's now 25 years old so he's looking like a bust.

The Blue Jays looked like they made out decently at the time, but neither of their acquisitions has panned out.  They join Arizona as losers in this deal, even though they brought a little more intelligence to the bargaining table.

Cincinnati:

And now on to our Reds, and the reason I'm writing this today.  It's still too early to call the Reds the outright winners of this deal, but I think they're headed in that direction.

Felipe Lopez entered the major leagues at the age of 21 and struggled his first two seasons with Toronto.  He also struggled in his first two seasons with the Reds, suffering a fairly severe ankle injury along the way.

The Reds were essentially dead in the water by last August, so many people had already tuned out when Felipe started turning things around.  His post All Star break OPS in 2004 was .791.  He seemed to be learning and advancing, and it looked like he'd get the opportunity to sink or swim in 2005.

Then Dan O'Brien signed Rich Aurilia.

Despite that misguided signing, Felipe Lopez has thrived in 2005.  His home run yesterday was his seventh of the year, and his line today reads .305/.368/.576 in 118 at bats.  Lopez is still just 25 years old, and it feels to me like the Reds have finally found their successor to Barry Larkin.

Overall I think this trade is going to go down as the Felipe Lopez deal, which I don't think anyone expected back in December of 2002.  Durazo's 2004 numbers prevent me from outright declaring the Reds the victors of this trade, but they certainly came off far better than Arizona and Toronto.  In retrospect this was a great move by Jim Bowden, and I seriously doubt that Dan O'Brien possesses the creativity to pull off a deal like this.

Now let's all hope that Rich Aurilia's return from the DL doesn't cause the Reds to do something stupid.