Judging Mark Shapiro's GM Tenure: Low-Profile Trades

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We’re now more than two full years removed from Mark Shapiro’s promotion to Cleveland Indians team president and GM Chris Antonetti is firmly entrenched as the Tribe’s decision maker. So I thought now would be as soon as anyone could fairly judge Shapiro’s tenure as GM. There are still some loose ends hanging (Carlos Carrasco, for example, and Matt LaPorta), but the body of Shapiro’s work is complete, and I wanted to put my optimism about his tenure to the test.

We’ve already looked at Shapiro’s history of high-profile trades. For all the hemming and hawing at the returns (or lack thereof) from the big-name players Shapiro has traded, too often overlooked is how Shapiro has turned garbage into gold. Not all of his under-the-radar trades have been winners, but the losers sting a lot less. Here are some low-profile trades to consider from Shapiro’s tenure (full methodology here).

2002

Background: As stated before, the attempt to rebuild and contend at the same time was a failure. In July of 2002, with the Indians out of the race, Shapiro jettisoned Finley, who was in the twilight of his career and somewhat of a clubhouse distraction (if you forget why, Google “Tawny Kitaen”) in exchange for Garcia, who never reached the majors, and a PTBNL, who turned out to be Crisp. Finley pitched so-so for the Cardnials, but retired at the end of the season. Crisp turned out to be a dynamite return on Finley.

Cumulative WAR Analysis

Finley, half season with STL: -0.1 WAR
Crisp, 4 years with CLE: 8.2 WAR

GRADE: A

Background: The Indians started paving the way for young Victor Martinez to take over at catcher, and in the process pulled off one of Shapiro’s biggest heists. Diaz was a capable catcher with the Indians, but was never going to be the type of impact player the team wanted; Drese was a nice pitcher to have around while he was cheap, but again, was never going to be great. In return, the Indians got Myette, who only pitched 2.2 innings for the team, but also Hafner, who really doesn’t need much introduction. Hate on the monster contract he would later receive all you want, but despite the recent decline and injuries, Hafner, and this trade that acquired him, has been huge for the Indians, no matter how you put it.

Cumulative WAR Analysis

Diaz, 1 year with TEX: 0.0 WAR
Drese: 3 years with TEX: 3.4 WAR

Hafner: 10 years with CLE (re-signed to extension in 2007): 22.8 WAR

GRADE: A+

2004

Background: Bradley had turned out to be quite the steal when he was acquired in late 2001, but by 2004 he had worn out his welcome in Cleveland, and specifically, with manager Eric Wedge. However, unlike a later trade that was forced by Wedge, the Indians actually got good value out of Bradley. Gutierrez was a capable replacement, and far cheaper, not to mention he was never the distraction Bradley was. Bradley’s stint with the Indians was the longest he lasted anywhere in his career, which shows how difficult he really was to have on the team. Brown was simply used as trade fodder a couple years later.

Cumulitive WAR Analysis

Bradley, 2 years with LAD: 4.1 WAR

Gutierrez, 4 years with CLE: 4.9 WAR

GRADE: B+

2006

Background: The Indians knew that they’d need an outfielder to replace the recently traded Coco Crisp, and they thought they had outsmarted everyone by landing Michaels, who was impressive in short stints with Philadelphia, in exchange for Rhodes. In theory, swapping an old reliever for a young, controllable everyday player  is rarely a bad move, but Michaels turned out to be more of a one-year wonder, and never approached his 2.6 wins above replacement that he posted for the Phillies in 2005.

In all actuality, the Indians “won” this deal, Rhodes was nowhere near as good for the Phillies as he was in his lone Indians’ season; Rhodes was an even 0.0 WAR, which basically put him at replacement level, and didn’t pitch more than a season with Philly. Michaels wasn’t actually as bad as Indians’ fans may remember him, but at 0.8 WAR in 2006 he was at least an adequate bench player. Unfortunately for Indians fans, he was starting.

Cumulative WAR Analysis

Rhodes, 1 year with PHI: 0.0 WAR

Michaels, 3 years with CLE: 0.9 WAR

GRADE: C+

Background: This one is still painful for Cleveland fans, and I considered giving Shapiro a pass here, but he isn’t blameless in this deal. Then-Indians manager Eric Wedge and Phillips clashed over a variety of things, namely Phillips’s attitude, and Wedge wanted Phillips gone. It should be noted that Phillips was given a chance with Cleveland and didn’t really take advantage, but Wedge put the Indians in a position where they had to give Phillips away for a song. And although much of the scorn should be directed Wedge’s way, Shapiro still stood by his manager and pulled the trigger on this deal, and therefore must deal with this tarnish on his legacy.

As we know now, the Indians gave up on Phillips too soon, and really didn’t find anyone to man the position long-term until Jason Kipnis emerged in 2011. Stevens never pitched for the Indians and was later traded with two other minor-league pitchers (Chris Archer and John Gaub) for Mark DeRosa in late 2008.

Cumulative WAR Analysis

Phillips, 7 years with CIN (signed contract extension through 2017): 20.6 WAR

GRADE: F

Background: In the summer of 2006, with the Indians slumping far below expectations, Shapiro jettisoned a cheap one-year signing in Perez, who was playing fairly well for the Tribe, for a virtual unknown in Cabrera. By now, it’s clear who got the better end of this deal, as Cabrera seized a starting job in 2007, and by 2009 was a fixture in the Tribe’s starting lineup. Even without Asdrubal’s monster year last year, the spark he provided to the 2007 playoff run was worth it alone, as Perez floundered with the Mariners and retired the next year.

Cumulative WAR Analysis

Perez, 102 games with SEA: -0.7 WAR

Cabrera, 6 years with CLE (signed extension in 2012): 17.1 WAR

GRADE: A

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