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Revisiting the Santana Trade as a Commentary on the State of Baseball

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It didn't really hit me until I started reading Tyler Kepner's article on the Vazquez trade.

Phil Hughes + Melky Cabrera + Jeff Marquez + Ian Kennedy = Johan Santana

or

Jeff Marquez + Wilson Betemit = Nick Swisher

Melky Cabrera + Arodys Vizcaino = Javier Vazquez

IPK + Phil Coke + Austin Jackson = Curtis Granderson

Phil Hughes = 5th starter/ bullpen ace

Throughout its history, baseball has undergone an evolution in how it evaluates player value.

In the '30s and '40s strikeouts were the worst thing a hitter could do.  A high batting average made superstars, and walks were under-appreciated.  The stolen base has gone in and out of style.  Pitchers have been measured by wins, by IP, by K's, and by WHIP (baserunners per inning).

Obviously, everyone understands the value of an ace: Sabathia, Lee and Halladay were all traded for bundles of young talent.  Santana will likely be remembered as the outlier because Bill Smith put a higher value on keeping Santana away from the Yanks and Red Sox and didn't get a marquee player from the Mets.

But might baseball undervalue durable starters who pitch many innings around league average?

These players are making their money via free agency (Marquis just signed a 2 year $15M deal with the Nationals).  It could the reverse; the media frenzy around Doc Halladay started 2 years before he could have filed for free agency.  Ditto for Cliff Lee.

The Yanks brought aboard V for a league average center fielder and a young top prospect.  Jarrod Washburn went to Detroit for an MLB reliever and a high-A starter.  Jason Marquis was only worth Luis Vizcaino.  None of these guys would be a fan-base's first choice to top a rotation, but clearly a pitcher able to post quality starts is an asset.  How are they so undervalued?