Win Now Trades Only Work If You Win Now
Do you know what is interesting about the infamous John Smoltz trade? If the Detroit Tigers do not win the American League East in 1987 if they don’t obtain Doyle Alexander. History may forget or overlook this, but Alexander was dominant when he put on a Tigers uniform.
Alexander was 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 11 starts for the Tigers. The Tigers won all 11 games he started. He was a 4.4 WAR pitcher. The Tigers won the East by just two games. Long story short, Alexander was a difference maker for the Tigers, and had that trade not happened, it’s very possible the Tigers miss the postseason.
Like the Tigers, the Red Sox won the division by two games. Like Alexander, Anderson was lights out. In his 15 games, he had a 1.23 ERA. He didn’t have the WAR of Alexander, nor did his team have the same success in the games he pitched, but he did not lose one game he appeared. That matters for a team who finished just ahead of the Blue Jays.
But we don’t hear that at all. For starters, we don’t hear that because Smoltz and Bagwell became Hall of Famers. The other reason is because neither the Tigers nor Red Sox actually won. Both teams would lose the ALCS in swift fashion. The Tigers lost to Twins in five games, and the Red Sox lost to the Athletics in a sweep.
That’s the thing. Just making the postseason isn’t enough. In a win-now trade, you actually have to win, and winning here means the World Series. It is ultimately why the Cubs will get a pass one day if Gleyber Torres is a Hall of Famer. The Cubs actually won the World Series with Aroldis Chapman.
That’s the way it works with win-now deals. You are sacrificing the future to win-now. Not winning now means the goal you set to achieve by making the trade failed. It’s a very small margin of error, but that’s what you sign up for when you make such a deal.
And that’s what Brodie Van Wagenen and the Mets did by trading Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, and Gerson Bautista for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. The Mets parted with one excellent, one very good, and one wild card for two players who they believe will help them win-now. At least from the Mets perspective, win-now probably means 2019 or 2020 because after that the Mets current core will begin hitting free agency, and Cano will be making $20 million per year.
In the end, if the Mets win the World Series with Cano and Diaz, no one will care if Kelenic, Dunn, and Bautista became perennial All-Stars. However, if the Mets don’t win anything more than a division title, they will be reminded of it each and every time the aforementioned prospects do anything of note.