Trade Retrospective – Johnny Damon


Next up on the trade retro writeups is the trade that brought Johnny Damon (and Mark Ellis) to the Oakland Athletics. On January 8, 2001, as a part of a 3-team trade, the Athletics acquired OF Johnny Damon, IF Mark Ellis, and P Cory Lidle, the Devil Rays acquired OF Ben Grieve, and the Royals acquired SS Angel Berroa, C A.J. Hinch, and CL Roberto Hernandez.

The Background

The Royals had developed another fine player in Johnny Damon. In the 2000 season, he had posted a .327/.382/.495 line with 16 home runs, 88 runs batted in, and a league leading 46 stolen bases. However, they also knew that he would be eligible to file for free agency after the 2001 season, and were extremely unlikely to be able to resign Damon to a long term contract extension.

The Athletics were coming off of their first division title in over 5 years, having beaten the Mariners to the division title by a 1/2 game. However, they had been eliminated in the first round by the Yankees, and over the span of the season had not really received a lot of “leadoff-type” production from their leadoff hitters.

The Devil Rays continued to hope to improve their team, and were looking to get better production out of their outfield.

The Moving Pieces

For Oakland, Damon was slotted in as the starting center fielder, pushing the previous center fielder, Terrence Long, to the left field spot vacated by Grieve. Mark Ellis was sent to the minors, and would be sent to AAA despite only playing 7 games at AA in the previous season. Lidle was penciled in as the 5th starter for the Major League club.

In Kansas City, Roberto Hernandez was put into the closer’s role, and it was hoped would help to stabilize the back end of their bullpen. Hinch was to be the backup catcher for the Royals, while Angel Berroa was sent to the Royals’ High-A affiliate.

Tampa slotted Ben Grieve in as their every day right fielder and expected him to be a key hitter in their lineup.

What Happened Next

The A’s improved on their previous season’s win total, winning 102 games but finishing 2nd in their division to the record-tying Mariners 116. They were the AL wild card, and drew the Yankees again. While Damon did not have a season quite like his 2000 season, he still posted a very respectable .256/.324/.363 line with 9 homeruns, 49 runs batted in, 27 stolen bases and 108 runs.

The Royals continued to slide to the bottom of the standings, winning only 65 games in 2001. Hernandez pitched reasonably well, recording 28 saves, but posting a 4.12 ERA.

The Devil Rays also took a step backward, losing 100 games again in 2001. Grieve hit alright, but was not quite as expected. He hit .264/.372/.387 with 11 homeruns, 72 runs batted in, and 7 stolen bases.

The Net Moves

Oakland – First Level

  • Damon only spent the 2001 season with the A’s, before leaving via free agency. His leaving did spawn quite a few stories later on though, as the A’s received 2 compensation draft picks for his leaving. These picks were in the group that were discussed in the Moneyball book, and were used specifically to select OF Nick Swisher and IF Mark Teahen. His 2001 season posted a 2.7 WAR.
  • Mark Ellis has been in Oakland since 2002, mostly as the starting 2B. In 880 games, he has posted a .265/.333/.406 slash line with 80 homeruns, 372 runs batted in, 48 stolen bases, and 475 runs. In each full season he has played, he has posted a minimum of 1.2 WAR.
  • Cory Lidle spent the 2001-2002 seasons with the Athletics in the back end of their rotation. In the 2 seasons, he posted a 21-16 record with a 3.74 ERA in 59 starts. He threw 380 innings, struck out 229 batters and walked 86. After the 2002 season he was traded to the Blue Jays for minor leaguers Chris Mowday and Mike Rouse.

Tampa Bay – First Level

  • Ben Grieve spent 3 seasons in Tampa, but never really lived up to the expectations of his performance upon his arrival. He hit .254/.364/.399 with 34 home runs, 153 runs batted in, 15 stolen bases, and 162 runs scored. He became a free agent after the 2003 season, and left Tampa. It does not appear that Grieve earned the Devil Rays any draft pick compensation.

Kansas City – First Level

  • Angel Berroa made his debut with the Royals in 2001, but did not become a regular until 2003, when he won the AL Rookie of the Year award.  He was with the Royals through 2007, and posted a .263/.305/.384 line with 45 home runs, 235 runs batted in, 50 stolen bases and 293 runs scored in 627 games. He was traded during the 2008 season to the Dodgers for minor leaguer Juan Rivera, who has not played in the Majors.
  • A.J. Hinch spent 2 seasons as the backup catcher for the Royals, getting into a total of 117 games and posting lackluster numbers. He was released after the 2002 season.
  • Roberto Hernandez also spent 2 seasons with the Royals, both as their closer. In 116 appearances, he posted an 8-16 record with 54 saves and 185 strikeouts in 218 innings pitched. He filed for free agency after the 2002 season. It does not appear that the Royals received any compensation picks for losing Hernandez.

Oakland – Second Level

  • Nick Swisher spent 4 seasons with Oakland, mostly split between CF, RF, and 1B. He hit .251/.361/.464 with 80 home runs and 255 runs batted in. His 2006 and 2007 seasons were both 3.8+ WAR, but was traded after the 2007 season to the White Sox for OF Ryan Sweeney and minor league pitchers Fautino de los Santos and Gio Gonzalez.
  • Mark Teahen never played for the Athletics, but was included in the Carlos Beltran trade made during the 2004 season.

Oakland – Third Level

  • Ryan Sweeney has been in the Majors with the A’s since 2008, and has hit reasonably well to this point. So far, he has hit .293/.349/.395 with 12 homeruns, 15 stolen bases, and 119 runs batted in. Both of his full seasons thus far have been 2+ WAR each.
  • Gio Gonzalez had been going back and forth between Oakland and AAA Sacramento last season, but appears to have finally stuck this season. So far with the A’s, Gonzalez is 12-14 with a 5.43 ERA. He’s struck out 189 batters in 187 1/3 innings, but has also walked 105 so far.
  • Fautino de los Santos continues to be a bit of an enigma, as he is still very young, and has not pitched very much for the A’s minor league affiliates.

Overall Reactions

At the time, this seemed like a reasonable enough trade. But in the end, it really looks like the Devil Rays (now the Rays) got fleeced pretty badly. They gave up a starting pitcher who was respectable at least (Lidle), a solid all-around infielder (Ellis), and a closer (Hernandez) to get an outfielder who really didn’t play all that well once he got to Tampa (Grieve). The Royals at least got some value out of Berroa for a few seasons, and Hernandez as well. The winners of this trade, clearly, appear to be the A’s. Not only did they get a season of Damon, but they also got quite a bit of production out of the players that they received in return for losing him to free agency. Throw in that they also got Ellis who has become an all-around solid 2B for the A’s, and to me it’s a slam dunk that the A’s did the best on this trade. Unfortunately it seems that a lot of the trades that were made during the Chuck LaMar era in Tampa Bay ended similarly to this.

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