clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The A.J. Pierzynski trade, 10 years later


Ten years ago today, the Giants made a good trade that didn't work out.

Yeah, cram it. I usually type out an annual defense of the A.J. Pierzynski trade, but this one is special. It's the 10th anniversary. I put on one of those tuxedo t-shirts and combed my hair. I'm standing outside of the airport holding a sign that reads, "MEMORY LANE." Won't you get in the limo? Or Corolla?

It's a lot easier to talk about the trade these days. If the Giants didn't make the deal, perhaps they aren't bad enough to draft Tim Lincecum or Buster Posey. Or maybe Yorvit Torrealba becomes a fixture, and the Giants feel like they don't need Buster Posey. Or maybe Joe Nathan gives up a homer to Ryan Howard and Jay Bruce both, and in an alternate timeline he's like Candy Maldonado and Jose Cruz, Jr. rolled into one.

Whatever. But just from a swapology perspective, I still think the Giants made a logically sound, completely reasonable deal. Pretend the Giants actually offered Pierzynski arbitration instead of shooting him into the sun, and that he became the good citizen the White Sox apparently though the was. Here's a crudenalysis for you:

WAR after trade:
A.J. Pierzynski: 14.1
Joe Nathan/Francisco Liriano: 36.3

Okay, sure, by this one metric you might think Nathan and Liriano were almost three times as valuable as Pierzynski over the last 10 years. Sure, you could do that. And if you do that, you could come to the conclusion the Giants made a bad trade. And, sure, you could think that anyone who defends the trade is an idiot. And you could

Wow, I didn't think they'd be that far apart. I wonder if it's because Pierzynski can't really catch.

Regardless, the point isn't what happened after the trade. The point is what it looked like when the trade was made. And here's what the Twins were giving up: a 26-year-old catcher, coming off a 4.5-win season, with three years of arbitration left. Seriously, read that again. A catcher, in his prime, coming off a great season, at below-market costs for the next three years.

He was more of a viceroy of Jackass Mountain back then instead of a king. There were concerns, but focus on the player. The player was good. The player was young and coveted. He should have cost quite the bounty.

But check out what the Giants gave up for him:

Brian Sabean: Okay, we have a reliever who was good for the first time ever.

Terry Ryan: That's a good cornerstone. What did he do the year before?

Sabean: His shoulder was pretty much a smashed packet of oyster crackers, so not much. ERA of 5.60 in Fresno. ERA over six the year before that.

Ryan: Perfect, just checking. Do you have any prospects with diminshing velocity and strikeout rates?

Sabean: Oh, yeah. Former first-rounder. We can give him up.

Ryan: Alright, just toss in a prospect in the lower minors who pitched only nine or so innings this year because of injuries, and we're good. Even better, maybe he can have a long history of injuries. Do you have anyone like that?

Sabean: If not, we'll just make one out of straw and twine. Because you're not even listening to what either of us are saying, are you?

Ryan: Ha, of course I know how to drive a car! You crack me up, Brian! But I gotta run.

A reliever recovering from serious shoulder injuries who had the first good season of his major-league career. A prospect with reduced velocity and strikeout rates. An oft-injured pitcher in the low minors who had never thrown more than 80 innings in a season. This was the package for a young catcher coming off his best season.

If I had to guess at the time -- and if we knew what in the heck WAR was at the time -- I would have pegged the combined career WAR of the Twins' group to be around 5.0. Maybe less. And that was being generous. I would have assumed Liriano would never have made the majors, that Bonser did roughly what he actually did, and that Nathan had a couple decent years before flaming out.

That's not how it worked out.

But the logic was sound. Don't focus on the results. Look at the logic behind the deal. It made sense. IT MADE SENSE.

Come back next year for a similar defense. This is one of those things I won't let go. This wasn't Foster for Duffy. This wasn't Perry for McDowell. This wasn't Cepeda for Sadecki. It wasn't even Wheeler for Beltran. It was a smart trade that looks really, really, really, really stupid in hindsight.

Now I'm all worked up. Need something to relax me.


Ahhhhhhhh, yeah, that's the stuff. Phew. That's like a deep-tissue massage, I'll tell you what.  Every damned time. And if the trade happens, we don't get to enjoy that nearly as much.


Or that. It all worked out. Just like it should have in the first place, dang it.

Hat-tip to Chris Jaffe for reminding me about the anniversary. Here's what he wrote about the trade.