An Analogy

Philip Hughes is to Johan Santana as Carl Pavano was to Pedro Martinez. This is a simplified interpretation of Tim Marchman’s latest NY Sun column, which includes the following passage:

The only recent parallel
for a pitcher anywhere near this young and this good being traded is
Martinez. In 1997, just 25, having won his first Cy Young Award for
Montreal and in the last year of his contract, he was even more
desirable than Santana is now. The Red Sox ended up having to
relinquish Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. for him. At the time, Pavano
was Baseball America’s no. 9 prospect. Armas was highly regarded for
his great pedigree and a terrific fastball. This isn’t notable just
because Pavano was arguably as good a prospect then as Hughes is now;
it’s also notable because he actually represents something like the
downside of trading a prospect for a truly great pitcher like Martinez
or Santana. Pavano may be the punchline to a bad joke, but despite the
fact that his greatest achievement as a Yankee was to miss a rehab
start with a bruised butt cheek, he’s had a good career. He was the
best pitcher on a world champion in 2003.

It’s unlikely that Hughes will do as much, given the reality that
young pitchers just get hurt a lot and sometimes mysteriously fail to
develop. To invoke another top prospect of a decade ago who
suspiciously resembles a top Yankees prospect of today, it’s unlikely
that Chamberlain will have a career nearly as good as that of Kerry
Wood, whom Montreal could not have had for Martinez. And both Pavano
and Wood are considered terrible disappointments.

Icky! He said the P word.

55 comments… add one
  • Little known (or remembered) fact:
    The Yankees enabled the Sox to acquire Pedro by trading them Tony Armas in a deal for Mike Stanley. Armas, as Marchman writes, was an important part of the Pedro deal. I haven’t looked it up but this has to be one of the last deals the Yankees and Sox have made with each other, if not the last.
    If it’s Hughes, Melky + for Santana you make that deal in less than a second and then sign Aaron Rowand, I can’t see why any of us who root for the Sox or Yankees should worry about the finances…

    SF November 27, 2007, 8:53 am
  • I think you’re right about that, SF. I think the trade happened in 1997. I wonder when the next trade will happen. Will we even be alive?

    Nick-YF November 27, 2007, 8:59 am
  • Id do hughes and Melky for Johan in a second.

    sam-YF November 27, 2007, 9:03 am
  • I bet you would Panama Red, but it’s going to take a little more than just Hughes/Melky.

    LocklandSF November 27, 2007, 9:06 am
  • That sounds dirty, Sam. ;-)
    Hell, I’d give up Cano, Hughes and Melky. But that’s just me. You can always buy offense. ALWAYS.

    Atheose November 27, 2007, 9:08 am
  • Aye, but there’s the rub with Johan. He ain’t 25. He could be Pedro, but he could also be Whitey Ford.
    Don’t see why the Yanks would sign Rowand. Damon still has excellent range in CF and hits the position well. Plus, Gardner is a great #9 hitter.
    The always buy offense bit is not quite true anymore. Now you can buy offense, but it plays a corner OF or DH. A 2B like Cano is too valuable where he his.

    Mike YF November 27, 2007, 9:15 am
  • I agree Mike. You cant replace Cano.
    Lockland I think its gonna take a bit more too. I was just responding to SFs comment.

    sam-YF November 27, 2007, 9:21 am
  • I will say that Hughes + Melky + B-type arms (Clippard, Marquez) would be very difficult for me to complain about.
    More realistically, it would be very hard for another team to match that. The Dodgers don’t have a CF, though Billingsley + Kemp could be better. The Sox could go Lester or Buchholz + Ellsbury, but would they?

    Mike YF November 27, 2007, 9:27 am
  • well, the rumor is Hughes/Melky/Austin Jackson. Jackson is still considered a bit of a project but he’s been great recently. His skill-set is impressive. Scouts think he has super-star upside. Honestly, I think that’s a pretty good offer, especially when you consider that the Twins are in a less than ideal situation. Johan has a NTC, for one, and everyone knows the Twins will eventually lose him.

    Nick-YF November 27, 2007, 9:29 am
  • My only problem with any potential Santana deal is that’s it’s only for one year. Why not wait until the end of the 2008 season and get him without giving up any of the youngsters?

    Mark (YF) November 27, 2007, 9:33 am
  • Mark, the assumption is that Johan, who has a No Trade Clause, would waive it only if he were extended as part of the deal.

    Nick-YF November 27, 2007, 9:35 am
  • Pavano was damn good for a few years. That’s why the Yanks signed him to that huge contract (at the time). Ah well.

    Lar November 27, 2007, 9:35 am
  • Ajax is too much, most especially because he does have superstar potential. One top prospect is enough and Melky may never be a superstar but right now he’s very good for being all of 22 years old.
    The question for me is really what other teams are doing. If the Sox are willing to go Lester or Buchholz and Ellsbury, then AJax would seem to be necessary. But I don’t think the Sox are willing to go that far. Same deal with the Dodgers.

    Mike YF November 27, 2007, 9:36 am
  • Wasn’t he damn good for only one year, and kinda ok for another year or two?

    Nick-YF November 27, 2007, 9:37 am
  • Also, don’t forget the Mets could be a part of the equation. Minaya likes making big splashes and the Mets need pitching. Gomez and Fernando Martinez are nothing to sneeze at as the center of a package.

    Nick-YF November 27, 2007, 9:38 am
  • I agree with SF’s post in an earlier comment that Santana will be liberated for something less than expected, especially if we get into the season, and the Twins become desperate. On the otherhand, I think we’re looking at a Yanks-vs-Sox bidding scenario. I’m not sure the Twins will be happy with Hughes/Melky for Santana right now, and I’m not sure why the Yanks would package Melky and Jackson: 2 CFs, although Brett Gardner is doing so well in the AFL, (lots of OBP, no power—basically his career).

    YF November 27, 2007, 9:39 am
  • I can see why they’d package two CF’s. The market is flooded with them right now. They can be bought, and the Yanks have spending power.

    Nick-YF November 27, 2007, 9:42 am
  • Right – the Mets too. Still, Martinez isn’t ready yet so the Twins still have to worry about CF. Worse, the luster seems to have rubbed off of the Mets’ pitching prospects. So they might have to include Milledge too.

    Mike YF November 27, 2007, 9:53 am
  • Yeah, but Nick:
    1. They already have short-term solutions in Damon and Gardner
    2. Ajax is a Bernie-type talent for the position.
    Just like you can buy offense for the corners and DH, CFers are available but are rapidly aging gloves with noodle bats. And if the market is handing out 18 million a year to Hunter, a league average hitter, that’s something to stay far away from if you can.
    Sox fans – Would you give up two of: Lester, Buchholz or Ellsbury as the starting point for Santana?

    Mike YF November 27, 2007, 9:58 am
  • I don’t think the Yanks consider Damon a viable option at CF anymore based on their actions last season, regardless of Pinto’s metrics. And Garnder is an unknown, not very highly regarded prospects who could be good or could be Jason Tyner.

    Nick-YF November 27, 2007, 10:02 am
  • The point is they could cover CF for a year. After all, this is the organization that started Bubba Crosby in a deciding playoff game. Signing declining players to expensive contracts is what got them in this mess esp. when combined with trading very good prospects.
    Meanwhile, Gardner’s stats in the minors look a lot like Ellsbury. And Garnder has been better on the basepaths. I don’t expect him to be outstanding. But he’s a very good solution to a short-term problem (i.e., until Ajax or Tabata are ready).

    Mike YF November 27, 2007, 10:07 am
  • Wow, I missed that Cordero was signed for 4/46. Wow.

    Lar November 27, 2007, 10:10 am
  • Let’s not do the Ellsbury-Gardner silliness again. Gardner isn’t Ellsbury.
    I would do Lester and Ellsbury for Santana. To me, Lester’s upside doesn’t approach what Santana is now, although other teams may not see it that way, and Crisp is not a BAD option in center, and his bat COULD rebound. Even if it doesn’t, he is a net-positive, thanks to his tops-in-baseball range out there (also using Pinto’s metrics). Buchholz is untouchable — a testament to the state of the Sox’ farm system in that while he’s comparable to Pavano as Boston’s top prospect, he’s far more promising than Pavano was.
    Also worth noting: The Red Sox traded for Martinez, and the deep concern immediately after was whether they had paid too much. Then they signed him to an extension that made him the highest-paid pitcher in history — another move that was questioned as paying too much.
    I don’t think anyone is arguing Santana equals Martinez, if for no other reason than Pedro was younger and better than any pitcher we’ve ever seen or likely ever will see. His 1997 season in Montreal was better than any season Santana has had. But the writer is right that there are some interesting parallels there. It was an idea I’d had kicking around my head, as well.

    Paul SF November 27, 2007, 11:17 am
  • The writer does get one thing wrong: Calling Pavano the “best pitcher on a world champion in 2003.”
    Pavano’s best season was 2004 — his best of the two full seasons he’s enjoyed in the bigs. Of the nine partial seasons he’s had, just two were above average (using ERA+), and 2003 wasn’t one of them.
    In fact, Pavano was the WORST of the five starters on that team. The pitcher with the best ERA+ that year for the Marlins was one Josh Beckett (138), followed by Dontrelle Willis (127), Mark Redman (117) and Brad Penny (102). I’m not even sure where the writer gets the “best pitcher” line from, unless he conflated the seasons; Pavano didn’t even have a winning record that year, and three starters had more wins than he.
    Which really makes the overall point stronger — Pavano was a great prospect, along with Brian Rose. Pavano had one good season; Rose had none. When you have the opportunity to trade an unproven starting prospect for a young, established starter, 9 times out of 10, you should do it.
    To me, Lester falls in that category, but Buchholz is the 10th time. I think Hughes and Kennedy could both be in that category for the Yanks (not in the same deal), with Chamberlain as the untouchable.

    Paul SF November 27, 2007, 11:31 am
  • Marchman actually implies that even Chamberlain shouldn’t be considered an untouchable, comparing him to Kerry Wood.

    Nick-YF November 27, 2007, 11:34 am
  • When you’ve got three top prospects like the Yankees have, I think you’ve got the luxury of choosing which you want to ride out with your team, and which you want to trade for immediate improvement. The Sox did that with Pavano-Rose; the Yankees surely will do that with their three, even if in theory none is untouchable.

    Paul SF November 27, 2007, 11:50 am
  • Sox fans – Would you give up two of: Lester, Buchholz or Ellsbury as the starting point for Santana?
    Uh, what’s the “ending point”? I’d do Jacoby and Lester with little consternation. But your question implies there is more to the deal. I’d toss in Julian Tavarez if that’s what it took. ;-)
    comparing him to Kerry Wood
    I wish no injuries on anyone, but I hope, for the Sox’ sake, that Joba has a career just like Kerry’s, never wins more than 14 games, flames out famously and is a retread by the age of 30. Just think, if Marchman was the Cubs’ GM back in 2002 he would have (hypothetically) held on to Kerry Wood instead of trading him for Johan Santana. I realize Santana is now an older guy with miles on his arm, but if Joba is 75% the pitcher that Johan has been the past half a decade that would be a significant, noteworthy accomplishment.

    SF November 27, 2007, 11:55 am
  • One of the interesting things is to see how much more regarded Joba is than Hughes right now by Yanks fans on various blogs. I have a feeling that 99% of the people who are okay with a Hughes/Melky offer would lose their sh*t if Joba replaced Hughes (formerly The Franchise). Obviously, Joba was brilliant, Papelbonesque in his first run through the majors. But you have to factor in that he had a very different role than Hughes, one which enabled him to show off his two best pitches and that’s it. Hughes was a starter, who didn’t have the luxury of being able to rear back every pitch. He also pitched much of the year recovering from an injury. As he got further away from that injury, his pitching markedly improved and he was a real asset at the end. To me, he’s on the level as a propsect with Joba.

    Nick-YF November 27, 2007, 12:09 pm
  • That’s a good point, Nick. Joba was stellar, without a doubt, but he was in a severely limited role. When he stretches out to five+ innings it will be more difficult; this isn’t a very daring statement on my part, though.
    This happens with exciting kids, though. Ellsbury is at the top of everyone’s Sox prospect chart, but if you look deeper his BABIP was ridiculously high and pitchers haven’t yet adjusted to him in any way. I see “corrections” for both players, frankly, and we should be wary of overvaluing them to some extent. That being said, I like the romantic notion of following a bunch of youngsters as their careers develop, even as my brain tells me you always trade prospects for someone who is already one of the best pitchers on the planet. The Beckett and Pedro deals are perfect examples of this theory. Once again, I am glad I am not a GM.

    SF November 27, 2007, 12:17 pm
  • I was actually gonna post a similar comment on Ellsbury SF. He had an amazing run last year and has the tools to be someone special but he still remains an unknown quantity. Pitchers could find a hole in his swing that he has trouble adjusting and diminish his capabilities greatly. With Coco as an acceptable CF (thanks largely to his defense) I have trouble seeing why he is regarded by most SFs as untouchable for a Santana or a Haren.

    sam-YF November 27, 2007, 12:22 pm
  • Ya, I have the same problem about overvaluing Joba as undervaluing Hughes. Still though, Santana is proven, and my only reserve is the injury prospect – not him in particular, but pitchers in general. Even Pedro had half a year off (or so) in the middle of his insane run.

    Lar November 27, 2007, 12:25 pm
  • Oh ya, I just read that Prior is now available. He doesn’t have Santana’s resume, per se, but it wasn’t his stuff (or lack of) that detered him, it was the injuries. And this was a guy that supposed to have “near perfect” mechanics.
    If Prior could be had cheaply, I wouldn’t mind taking a flyer on him, especially for the Yanks, who have the money to spare..

    Lar November 27, 2007, 12:28 pm
  • Prior is a total mess. Id avoid him just to keep the other players on the team healthy.

    sam-YF November 27, 2007, 12:32 pm
  • “Let’s not do the Ellsbury-Gardner silliness again. Gardner isn’t Ellsbury.”
    Who said he was? But he’s not a huge drop off from Ellsbury either. The big knock on both is whether they would develop power. And Jocoby has that little benefit of that ghastly green thing. To wit:
    Ellsbury – 2007 MLB – 127 plate appearances:
    Home: .368 .405 .566
    Away: .325 .372 .400
    Gardner can approximate those Road numbers. That’s Melky territory and he gives the lineup much more speed. He’s a better CF fill-in than signing Rowand or Jones.
    Nick, the difference with Joba is the 98-99 mph heater combined with his slider. And he showed his could control both. I think the real question

    Mike YF November 27, 2007, 12:34 pm
  • Weird:
    Nick, the difference with Joba is the 98-99 mph heater combined with his slider. And he showed his could control both. I think the real question is whether his third pitch is good enough for the third and fourth time through a lineup. That’s the unknown right now.

    Mike YF November 27, 2007, 12:37 pm
  • I think the real question is whether his third pitch is good enough for the third and fourth time through a lineup.
    No, the primary question is actually is it good enough the second time through a Major League lineup. That question needs to be answered before the “third and fourth time through the lineup” is even considered.
    This is not a dump on Joba, just a fact: he wasn’t ever allowed to see batters twice in a game this year at the ML level, much less three or four times.

    SF November 27, 2007, 12:40 pm
  • Gardner can approximate those Road numbers.
    I know nothing about Gardner, but how can you possibly know this and make this statement with such authority?
    As for Ellsbury, I don’t think he benefits from the Green Monster at all. I think he benefitted last year from some luck (and his speed, which the wall has nearly no impact on). His home runs were all to right field. His hits were sprayed all over the field, but only one hit off the monster. He was no Wade Boggs.
    His hit chart is here:

    SF November 27, 2007, 12:43 pm
  • Sorry, but he can get through a lineup twice with those two excellent pitches. It’s actually pretty common and the third pitch just becomes a different look. But without it being thrown for strikes, hitters can just start guessing, 50-50, on fastball versus the splitter. They might try that earlier in the game, but good luck with that.

    Mike YF November 27, 2007, 12:46 pm
  • I think of one of my points, Mike, is that Hughes impressed me as well. He wasn’t as spectacular or charismatic as Joba, but given the context of his performance and his history, I still regard him on par with Joba as a prospect…from what I’ve seen and read.

    Nick-YF November 27, 2007, 12:49 pm
  • Ellsbury is definitely overvalued — even while he is definitely a very good prospect. I’d trade him for a front-line starter every day and twice on Sunday. When that BABIP goes down, you might not get the value from him later you could get for him now. Especially with expectations so high now, he’s virtually bound to disappoint (even if he has what is actually a great rookie season).

    Paul SF November 27, 2007, 12:50 pm
  • I came here to say what Paul just said. Usually I like Marchman, but he’s way off the mark with Pavano. He wasn’t anywhere close to the best pitcher on the 2003 Marlins, and he’s hardly had much of a career. Who knows what Phil Hughes will do but to compare him now to Carl Pavano doesn’t make too much sense.

    Ben K. November 27, 2007, 12:51 pm
  • The same point made about Joba can be made about Ellsbury. He saw just 4 pitchers more than 1 time last year in the regular season and was 3 for 11 by my count. It remains to be seen if he can sustain his success after pitchers see him a few times.

    sam-YF November 27, 2007, 12:52 pm
  • And Ellsbury’s “luck” was only specific to Fenway? He doesn’t have to use the Monster to benefit from it. No doubt pitchers pitched him differently at home than on the road.
    On Gardner, his MLE suggests he’d be a fine CF with an OPS likely in the .725 to .775 range. And he still has time to develop power. Gardner isn’t a superstar, but he’s certainly not a bad option.

    Mike YF November 27, 2007, 12:53 pm
  • Absolutely, Nick. Hughes gets a bum rap. Dude was throwing a no-hitter when he got hurt and was fantastic in the post-season. I think it’s the in-between, especially in contrast to Joba, that has marked him. But I’d gulp hard if it’s Hughes and Melky for Santana.

    Mike YF November 27, 2007, 12:58 pm
  • I think Marchman overstated his argument, or, at the very least, didn’t use an ideal comparison. Pedro was better and younger than Johan is, and Hughes is probably a better prospect than Pavano ever was (but then again, I might be wrong. And the point is that he was highly regarded). That said, I think for teams like the Yanks and Sox, trading away potential superstars for known superstars is not as catastrophic as it would be for other teams. The Beckett trade is pretty illustartive of that point.

    Nick-YF November 27, 2007, 12:58 pm
  • also, this is kind of a random, maybe irrelevant thought/point, but I wonder how the history of these types of trades influences what the Twins look for in return. Do the Twins point to the Pedro/Pavano-Armas trade and say, the market wasn’t fair back then? We need more high-level prospects for this to work.

    Nick-YF November 27, 2007, 1:04 pm
  • I would think that the Yanks would want to hold on to Joba for when Mariano starts to show his age. He hasn’t been the same pitcher as he once was over the past few seasons and he is ready for a state of decline IMO. At least Torre isn’t around to abuse the hell out of him anymore.

    Pocono Sox November 27, 2007, 1:09 pm
  • // … young pitchers just get hurt a lot and sometimes mysteriously fail to develop. //
    There’s nothing mysterious about it.
    In all major professional sports, even very small degrees of fall-off in a player’s development can have catastrophic effects on their performance.
    We sometimes forget that everyone in MLB, or the NFL, or the NBA — really, everyone — is in the top 1/10th of the top 1% of athletes on the planet. As such, the difference in ability between ARod and, say, Orlando Cabrera is actually quite small in relation to an ordinary mortal. Both can catch, hit and throw a baseball at blazing speeds in ways that are inconceivable to you or me.
    But paradoxically this means not that ARod and OCab are the same player, but rather that these infinitesimal differences between them are magnified hugely on the field.
    So if (say) a high-rated pitching prospect drops off even a little, the hugely talented hitters in MLB will suddenly start teeing off on a guy who once looked aces.
    (Hope that made sense.)

    Hudson November 27, 2007, 1:14 pm
  • Hudson, I don’t think I agree with that. I think percentile-wise, ARod and OCab’s ability might not differ much (99.99% vs say, 99.98%), but in absolute terms, that’s not exactly right.
    For example, (assuming Bell Curve) intelligence between someone with a 200 IQ vs 150 IQ is hugely significant. But according to some chart, 200 IQ = 99.9999999987% and 150 IQ = 99.9570883466%. Not that big of a difference percentile-wise, but in absolute terms, that’s 50 points of IQ difference..

    Lar November 27, 2007, 1:21 pm
  • By desire to win is much stronger then my desire to be able to say we have the best farm system in the game.

    John - YF November 27, 2007, 2:00 pm
  • Johan Santana’s DOB is March 13, 1979. That makes him 28, going on 29. He is not over 30 as we keep hearing thrown around. I just don’t see why everyone considers this a risk. He’s not 40 and he has been the single most dominant pitcher in the game over the past 4 seasons.

    John - YF November 27, 2007, 2:05 pm
  • Lar, you’re making exactly the same point as I was: Namely, that small difference in relation to the average human is a huge difference in relation to other major leaguers… Which helps explain why highly-rated prospects can so easily falter, with even a very slight decline in their abilities.

    Hudson November 27, 2007, 3:58 pm
  • I would give up Lester, Crisp, Buchholz and any other minor prospects (like Masterson) the Twins want. If they want Ellsbury then I would part with Ellsbury and Lester plus a few minor prospects.
    When you get a chance to nab a player like Santana you do it and don’t think twice. Pedro, Schilling and Beckett all agree.

    Atheose November 27, 2007, 5:19 pm
  • That article makes a decent point. A lot of people do forget that Carl Pavano was at one point considered a top tier pitching prospect and was the centerpiece for the Pedro deal.
    Now, he is best known for his buttocks injury and dating Gia Allemand and Alyssa Milano.
    How the mighty have fallen. Guess that’s how sports work.

    SoxFan November 27, 2007, 6:16 pm
  • Ellsbury – 2007 MLB – 127 plate appearances:
    Home: .368 .405 .566
    Away: .325 .372 .400
    Gardner can approximate those Road numbers. That’s Melky territory and he gives the lineup much more speed. He’s a better CF fill-in than signing Rowand or Jones.

    I’ll disregard the small sample size (40 road ABs over ten road games). And I’ll disregard the implication that Ellsbury is somehow only as good as his road OPS, despite continuing to play half his games at Fenway, where he has excelled in the past (again in a small sample size).
    But saying a .772 OPS is “Melky territory” is a bit off base. Melky’s OPS was .718 last season. His OPS+ was 89 (versus Jacoby’s 131, in a small sample size). Yes, he’s still young, but based on statistics, he actually regressed offensively last year.

    Tyrel SF November 28, 2007, 12:01 pm

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