The Trade: BREAKDOWN!
The Minnesota Twins traded J.C. Romero to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (or whatever the H they were called then) for Alexi Casilla.
When Romero wasn't walking every batter in the history of Major League Baseball, he was relatively productive for the Twins. In his one season with the Angels, he threw 48.1 innings, struck out 31 and walked 28. That kind of dominance will get you a 6.70 ERA. He posted a swell -0.9 WAR that season and the Angels shockingly did not want to retain his services for 2007, allowing him to walk as a free agent.
Simply by not being J.C. Romero, Alexi Casilla saved the Twins 1 whole win. He played 9 games, had 6 plate appearances and posted a 0.1 WAR. How much did J.C. Romero have to suck to get so soundly out produced? A lot is the answer. Casilla went on to play seven mostly uninspiring seasons with the Twins, even eclipsing that -0.9 WAR twice (-1.1 WAR in 2007 and -1.5 WAR in 2009). What a trade!
How did I feel at the time?
You may have already picked up the fact that I was not fond of Romero. First, the walks. He walked everyone! I hated that. Second, he had that one "good" season in 2002 and it took me a few years to realize that it was a fluke and he would never be that good again. Third, I just didn't like him. I didn't like how he pitched. I didn't like how he behaved on the mound. I was not cool with Romero. I had never heard of Alexi Casilla, but he instantly became my favorite player.
Why make the trade?
Apparently Romero was upset and wanted a trade. Oh no! Here's a stupid quote from an ESPN story:
"When you feel disrespected, and feel you can't do anything about it, that's when you get frustrated," Romero said in a teleconference. "You have to move on. If you don't move on, you're going to be a mediocre pitcher and a mediocre person."
Obviously, Romero felt disrespected his whole career, which totally explains why he was always mediocre. Romero was apparently upset because he didn't have a well-defined role. Romero was not on board with the burgeoning sabermetric movement. Here's a fun quote from this MLB.com story:
"In 2004 and 2005, I had no clue where I was going to pitch or even if I would pitch," Romero said. "My routine completely changed after 2002 and my innings dropped drastically. I have myself to blame for some of that, but now I know what to expect with the Angels."
Well, my guess is that you will pitch from the mound. The rationale for your innings dropping is that you only get credit for an inning pitched if you actually record outs. Perhaps you forgot that the goal of baseball was get outs and not walk batters. That's on the Twins, I suppose. Or your Youth Baseball coach.
"I totally believe that in a team, you have to have communication," Romero said. "Sometimes communication wasn't there the way I wanted it. I expect a little more."
You see. If the Twins had simply communicated the rules of baseball to him, none of this would have happened. Of course, this little spat didn't help either:
Things really started to sour last season when Romero got into a spat with Gardenhire during a game against Kansas City on Sept. 28. After hitting two batters in the seventh inning, Romero stormed off the mound just as Gardenhire had emerged from the dugout to make a change. Gardenhire met with the pitcher the following day, but it appears the meeting didn't go as well as was initially believed.
It's so strange that a manager would want to replace a pitcher who just hit two batters. Again, if the Twins had communicated to Romero that trying to throw holes through opposing players wasn't a viable strategy, things could have been avoided.
Even after all that lack of communication, Terry Ryan was diplomatic:
"I thought that a change of scenery might be the best thing for both parties," Ryan said. "The way that things have transpired in the last year or so, it was the right thing to do for all involved."
To his credit, I guess it was immediately water under the bridge for Romero:
"I really from the bottom of my heart thank them. I hold no grudges. This is a business decision. I'm a man. Gardy's a man. He's probably happy this happened, too. It's time to move on."
Yeah, I bet Gardy was cool with losing that tight 6.70 ERA that Romero posted the following season.
There's more here. I'm missing something... Oh yeah, the other guy in the trade:
"He's a middle infielder that can run, he can throw, has quick hands and can swing that bat on the ball," Ryan said. "We believe that he is a player who has a very high ceiling and one that will at some point surface at the Major League level."
None of those things were false, but the degree to which he could actually do those things varied drastically. However, getting a utility guy for a reliever with little utility is a great upgrade in my eyes.
Let's be clear: I did not like J.C. Romero. More than that, he was never really a good pitcher. He was a walk machine even in that good 2002 season and the few good seasons he somehow lucked into with Philadelphia. I mean, Sam Deduno probably looks at Romero's Baseball Reference page and thinks "man, that guy needed to work on his control."
Bad to mediocre relievers can catch lightning in a bottle and post a good season despite poor peripheral numbers. Romero certainly did. His career 5.1 walks per nine innings ranks somewhere between awful and cat crap. He basically walked a batter in every other inning of his career. Terrible. And yet, the Twins did manage to trade him for Alexi Casilla. Casilla was hardly a stud, but provided some exciting moments as a Twin. He also looked like he was having fun when playing baseball.
Who won the WAR?
Romero with the Angels: -0.9 WAR
Casilla with the Twins: 4.2 WAR
WAR won by the Twins! But, seriously.
One Sentence Summary
The Twins turned J.C. Romero into a living human being capable of playing baseball and therefore won this trade.