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Looking back at "The Trade"

One thing I like about the end of the baseball season is that sudden realization that the sample is complete. There's no more, "We'll see if he comes back down to Earth" or "It'll even out in the end". This is the end. All the things we were waiting to see are waiting to be seen. Yesterday, I found myself combing through Tigers on Fangraphs after making this realization and wondering what columns would present themselves and what hypotheses might be lying in the numbers.

Sometimes these things present themselves much more easily than others. This time, my simple question was to wonder how the Tigers' humongous, controversial trade shook out in terms of 2010 performance. Now, I know the thing that really made the trade controversial was giving up fan favorite Curtis Granderson. However, a close second was the suspicion that this was almost certainly a net loss in 2010. After all, how many rookies are able to produce at a level anywhere near the standard Granderson had set in his four seasons in Detroit? So many fans not only felt they were losing their Tiger, they also might be losing their contenders.

I think even most of the people who agreed the trade was necessary and the right baseball move made the assessment in terms of long-term organizational health. The story went that the Tigers had few valuable commodities so they used the ones they had to add some depth. When the season rolled on, though, an interesting thing happened. Austin Jackson was more than just a passable rookie on a transitioning team. Max Scherzer turned out - eventually - to be all we could have hoped for from a second year starter. Phil Coke was one of the more reliable arms in the bullpen, and even Daniel Schlereth made a little bit of a contribution.

So how did the big trade shake out in 2010? Let's take a look:

Tigers received:

Austin Jackson, .293/.345/.400, .333 wOBA, 47 BB, 170 K, 27/33 SB, 3.6 WAR
Max Scherzer, 12-11, 3.50 ERA, 195.2 IP, 174 H, 20 HR, 70 BB, 184 K, 3.7 WAR
Phil Coke, 64.2 IP, 67 H, 2 HR, 26 BB, 53 K, 1.1 WAR
Daniel Schlereth (AAA) 49.1 IP, 40 H, 0 HR, 34 BB, 60 K, (MLB) 0.1 WAR

Tigers gave up:

Curtis Granderson, .247/.324/.468, .346 wOBA, 53 BB, 116 K, 12/14 SB, 4.1 WAR
Edwin Jackson, 13-9, 4.47 ERA, 209.1 IP, 214 H, 21 HR, 78 BB, 181 K, 3.8 WAR

That's 8.5 WAR for the good guys and 7.9 WAR for the good guys playing for other teams. How many people do you think would have predicted a net gain in 2010 from that deal? Look, I know it's not that simple assessing a trade. The Tigers haven't "won" the deal yet. But if you're still skeptical, keep some other very important numbers in mind.

The Tigers paid the players they received about $2.725 million. The trade partners paid Granderson and Jackson about $10.1 million. That's not too bad when you consider Granderson and Jackson are only going to cost more as they gain seniority. Just looking at 2011, Granderson and Jackson will jump up to almost $20 million and the Tigers' part of the deal will stay pretty flat in terms of salary. More production, less money. I think we can all agree that's how a trade is supposed to work.

Now, depending on what kind of Tiger fan you are, you'll either spend the offseason dreaming of what saved money will bring or worrying about how they'll squander the opportunity. I'll be taking a hefty scoop of column A with a dash of column B.