As part of our Wednesday series re-grading big baseball trades of the past few years, let's go back to two trades that were roughly eight months apart, but were linked by the same centerpiece: outfielder Matt Holliday. So it's not a three-way deal, but it has a definite characteristic of it. And we'll pick a definitive winner.
November 10, 2008: Colorado Rockies traded Holliday to the Oakland Athletics for OF Carlos Gonzalez, LHP Greg Smith and RHP Huston Street.
July 24, 2009: Oakland Athletics traded Holliday to the St. Louis Cardinals for RHP Clayton Mortensen, 1B Shane Peterson and 1B Brett Wallace.
Colorado angle: I'll admit I didn't like this for Colorado initially. But there's a reason I'm a baseball writer and Dan O'Dowd is an executive. The Rockies did very, very well in dealing a player who was second in MVP voting just two years earlier. They picked up Gonzalez, who was a .242 hitter with four homers in 85 games in Oakland, and two years later, he was every bit as good as Holliday. Smith didn't pan out, going 1-2 with a 6.23 ERA in 2010, but spending the rest of the time in the minors. He was released in 2011 and has bounced around with five organizations since then. But Street became the Rockies' closer for the next three seasons and was reasonably effective before being traded to San Diego for a minor-leaguers after the 2011 season..
Oakland angle: The A's weren't going anywhere in 2009, so dealing Holliday before his contract expired that offseason made sense, and they even kicked in some money to the Cardinals in the deal. And the talent they got back, at the time, looked good. But since then, not so much. Dealing Gonzalez has to hurt a bit, but he was only with the A's organization for a months after coming up in the Diamondbacks' system.
Wallace and Mortensen were first-rounders and Peterson a second-rounder. But none of the three have become stars. Mortensen started seven games and went 2-4 before he was flipped to the Rockies for an anonymous minor-league pitcher named Ethan Hollingsworth. (The Rockies, a year later, then flipped Mortensen to Boston for Marco Scutaro. Mortensen is now in the Red Sox's bullpen.) Peterson has percolated in the minors since then (he batted .326 last season between Double-A and Triple-A) and just made his big-league debut last month, so he's still got a shot. Wallace didn't last in Oakland at all, and was traded that December to Toronto, then the next season to Houston. He's a great Triple-A hitter, but just a .243 hitter in the big leagues. He's back in Triple-A after a slow start this season for the Astros.
St. Louis angle: Holliday has been an All-Star in each of his three full seasons and is hitting .306 with 95 home runs and 356 RBI since being dealt to the Cardinals. He was a big part of a their 2011 World Series championship team and has three postseason home runs in his time with the Cardinals. And the talent they gave up (see above) looked good on paper, but not so much in the real world. They did have to spend some money, as Holliday commands $17 million per season through 2016, with a 2017 option.
So with money being a part in the equation, let's give the Rockies the best grade, by just a hair over the Cardinals: 1. Colorado; 2. St. Louis; 3. Oakland.