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taking the challenge

a quick reminder --- if you want to fill out a bracket for the tournament of cardinal champions, time's running out; we start posting results tomorrow afternoon. brackets and e-mail link available at Cardinal70's tournament tracker page.

while we're on the subject of simulated baseball: you'll never believe which team is alone in first place in The Sporting News' 1986 replay. will leitch, i salute you.

the glaus-rolen swap got the fellows at the jays blog Batter's Box thinking about challenge trades:

Challenge trades are straight-up, one-for-one deals, usually involving two guys who play the same position. The first such trade I can remember is the legendary My-Bobby-For-Yours deal of 1974, when the Giants sent Bonds to the Bronx for Murcer. The most legendary such deal is one that actually never happened, when (legend has it) the owners of the Red Sox and Yankees got their drink on and agreed to deal Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams before both backed out the next, more sober day.
as far as i can tell, rolen-for-glaus is only the 3d such trade in in the long history of the cardinal franchise. the only two that i can find occurred within three years of each other: torre-for-cepeda in 1969 and carlton-for-wise in 1972. it may be argued that the former doesn't represent a true challenge trade, insofar as torre played a different position (catcher) than cepeda before the trade; the cardinals moved him to 1st base to fill the vacancy created by cepeda's departure, so in that sense it was a challenge trade. one that cardinals won handily, by the way --- check out their win-share totals:
1969 1970 1971
torre 22.8 25.2 40.6
cepeda 19.4 20.5 6.6

cepeda got traded in 1972 and only delivered about 15 win shares the rest of his career (which ended in 1974); the cardinals milked torre for another 53 win shares through 1974, then traded him for ray sadecki, who in turn was traded for ron reed (the cards' 2d-best pitcher in 1975); reed was traded for mike anderson, which is where the line fizzles out. torre was nearly 3 years younger than cepeda; taking all the echo trades into account, the cardinals got about 5 more years' worth of production out of the deal than they would have received by keeping cepeda.

the carlton-wise trade obviously didn't work out as well (duh), although i've long believed the magnitude of the disaster was overstated. it took a number of years before this trade turned putrid --- indeed, in the short term the trade it didn't look so terrible. turning back to win shares:

1972 1973 1974 1975
carlton 40.4 14.2 22.3 14.2
wise 20.4 13.4 -- --
re smith --- -- 25.3 20.3

carlton's 1972 season (when he won 27 games for a last-place team) was one of the best of the postwar era, but for the three seasons after that he wasn't anything particularly special; from 1973 through 1975 he was basically a .500 pitcher (44-47 cumulative record) for a .500 team (the phils went 237-249 over those 3 years). carlton did throw a lot of innings, but he walked way too many guys and had eras (3.90, 3.22, 3.56) that hovered around league average; the '72 season appeared to be just a fluke, and the cards didn't appear to miss him all that much. wise easily outpitched him in in 1973 per basic stats (wise 16-12, 3.37; carlton 13-20, 3.90) and was just as valuable per win shares; and reggie smith, whom the cardinals acquired in exchange for wise in 1974, was a far more productive player than carlton in 1974-75, making the all-star team in both seasons while posting ops+ figures in the 140-150 range. while the cardinals could have used a pitcher in '74-'75 (especially '74, when they fell just short of the division title), they wouldn't have been contenders at all without reggie smith --- and they wouldn't have had smith if they still had carlton.

at that point in the proceedings, an objective judge might say that the cards had cut bait on carlton at the right time. he was a maddeningly inconsistent 30-year-old pitcher with two 20-win seasons but also two years of 19 or more losses, a guy who didn't seem to get the most out of his talent --- who was occasionally brilliant but too often was merely pretty good. it was only after 1975 that his career took off --- he won 3 cy young awards in the next 7 years, while the cards dumped reggie smith for too little (journeyman joe ferguson), at which point the trade began to look like one of the worst in team history. even if they hadn't dealt carlton in 1972, i tend to doubt they would have retained him through his great 1976-1983 run; the free agent era began in 1976, and gussie busch wasn't paying top dollar for any player. he dealt carlton over a difference of $5,000 in salary negotiations in 1972, and by the late 1970s the sums being negotiated had grown many times larger than that.

aside from torre-cepeda and carlton-wise, the cardinals have made several other deals that might be described as partial challenge trades. they include:

rogers hornsby for frankie frisch and jimmy ring, 1927: ring was more than an inconsequential throw-in; he'd thrown at least 180 innings for 8 years in a row. but he'd reached the end of the line; he went 0-4, 6.55 for the cards in only 33 innings, then went 4-17 for the phillies the following year, his last.

bill virdon for bobby del greco and dick littlefield, 1956: one of frank lane's dumber trades. virdon had won the nl rookie of the year award in 1955, but after a slow start in 1956 lane dealt him for the unheralded del greco and littlefield, a swingman cut from the mark petkovsek cloth.

julio gotay and don cardwell for dick groat, 1963: groat was a major upgrade over gotay, but it cost the cardinals don cardwell (who died last week), a player they'd only acquired one month earlier as the centerpiece of a 6-player deal. despite poor won-loss records, cardwell was a solidly above-average starting pitcher for most of the 1960s.

jerry reuss for scipio spinks and lance clemons, 1972: this one wasn't a challenge trade so much as a trade of established value (reuss) for potential value (spinks); reuss had made 56 big-league starts at the time, versus spinks' 5. halfway through the 1972 season it looked like a shrewd move --- spinks had a 2.67 era and ranked 5th in the nl in strikeouts. then he broke his leg sliding into home plate (which was being blocked by johnny bench at the time) and never recovered.

ken boyer for charley smith and al jackson, 1966: excellent trade for the cardinals; the exchange of 3d basemen was basically a wash in 1966, at which point the cards flipped smith for roger maris. meanwhile, al jackson was the cards' 2d-best pitcher in 1966 and a useful swingman on the 1967 championship team.

al hrabosky for mark littell and buck martinez, 1978: a rare closer-for-closer deal, with a backup catcher thrown in; the cards traded martinez immediately to milwaukee for george frazier.

garry templeton for ozzie smith, 1982: actually a 7-player deal rather than a straight-up exchange of shortstops; the cards sent templeton, sixto lezcano, and a ptbnl (luis deleon) to san diego for ozzie, steve mura, and a ptbnl (al olmstead). cards won the trade . . . .

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if you're headed to spring training, check out alan byrd's Florida Spring Training: Your Guide to Touring the Grapefruit League, the full contents of which are online here. a few other news/notes items for ya this morning:
  • BP's christina kahrl thinks the cards made out like bandits in the rolen-glaus trade:
    I know this is seen as a challenge trade as well as an exchange of problems, but if that's the case, it's one I think the Cardinals have already won, perhaps handily. In light of Glaus' agreement to exercise his player option for 2009, it's two years of Glaus for three of Rolen. Glaus is younger by a little more than a year . . . Maybe Rolen's initial greatness makes the age issue a wash, but that doesn't erase Glaus' relative offensive reliability, or his advantages moving to grass or the weakest division in the easier league, and as much as both players represent risks, it would seem to me you're better off betting on getting value over two years than hoping for it over three.
    she concludes that the cardinals "win out in terms of offensive reliability, long-term risk, and expense."
  • david pinto also likes the trade for the cards, marginally --- but concludes that the real winners are the players themselves
  • Drunk Jays Fans has a vulgar but uproarious review of scott rolen's press conference in toronto (caution: it's gotta lotta cursewords).
  • lee panas has crunched a lot of defensive numbers at Detroit Tiger Tales and concluded that troy glaus was about 6 runs above average with the glove in 2007 --- about 13 runs worse than scott rolen. panas also has pujols ranked as the best 1B gloveman in baseball (24 runs better than average).
  • bob gibson, nice guy ???
  • gaaaaaaaah!!!