Thursday evening, a trade went down between the Colorado Rockies and the Texas Rangers. It was a trade apparently of such little consequence that the Rockies' official Twitter account tacked it on at the end of an unrelated message.
Rockies agree to one-year contract with 3B Casey Blake. Rockies also acquire INF Chad Tracy from Texas in exchange for RHP Greg Reynolds.
"We just signed a veteran third baseman to a major league contract. Also, hey, while you're here, we got this other guy in exchange for this other guy. Let's not say too much about the second other guy."
It was a trade of minor leaguers. Tracy, 26, spent last year in triple-A. Reynolds, 26, spent most of last year in triple-A. Tracy's never seen the majors. Reynolds has 94 innings of experience. These kinds of moves usually aren't very interesting, relative to others. But this move is interesting, because of the players involved. Let's dive in.
We'll begin with the biggie. Reynolds, of course, was selected second overall by the Rockies in 2006. He was selected right after Luke Hochevar, and right before Evan Longoria. The Rockies' selection of Reynolds was thought to be a reach, and it took the Rays by surprise. The Rays had another plan, assuming the Rockies would take Longoria. That plan? Andrew Friedman:
We had Evan Longoria first on our board…We thought Longoria was going to go two to Colorado, and we had cut a deal with Tim Lincecum, to take three.
The Rays were planning to take Tim Lincecum. The Rays had already made a deal with Tim Lincecum. Then the Rockies took Reynolds instead of Longoria, leaving the Rays to take Longoria and Lincecum to fall all the way to the Giants.
It's really easy to go back in time and point to an event and say "that event could have been different!" and then note the various consequences. It's also really fun. Imagining is fun. Just think how different things might have been. Do the Rays go to the World Series? Do the Giants win the World Series? Is the entire baseball landscape a different one? For a while, people have pointed to Longoria's contract as being the best contract. What if he didn't have that contract? Would the Rays have offered a similar contract to Lincecum?
And so on. It's amazing the way, a lot of the time, baseball doesn't hinge on individual decisions. And it's amazing the way, some of the time, it totally does. One decision by the Rockies - one difficult decision - did so much.
About that difficult decision. The Rockies wound up drafting Reynolds, but it wasn't always a given that they were going to draft Reynolds. Remember, that caught the Rays off guard. Let's go to Troy Renck:
Reynolds' failures were magnified because the Rockies nearly drafted Long Beach State third baseman Evan Longoria before turning to the Stanford pitcher. At the time, the Rockies felt starting pitching was more of a priority with Garrett Atkins and [Ian] Stewart both in the fold.
It seems like, every year, there are arguments over whether a team should draft for need, or draft the best player available. In almost all circumstances, you should draft the best player available. Obviously, drafting for need won't always blow up the way it did for the Rockies, but there's that lesson here. Plus, at the time, Atkins was hardly established, and Stewart wasn't exactly setting the minors on fire. Good talents, sure, but not such good talents to warrant picking Reynolds over Longoria. I'm biased by subsequent events but the Rockies' pick drew criticism immediately.
In Reynolds, Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers, the Rockies have traded their top draft picks from 2006, 2003 and 2007 within the past month. The three have combined for a Baseball-Reference major league WAR of 0.4.
Since 1901, 4,043 pitchers have thrown at least 90 innings in the major leagues. Reynolds' ERA of 7.47 ranks sixth-worst, all-time, just ahead of Radhames Liz. The worst ERA belongs to John Van Benschoten, the famed bust for the Pirates. Van Benschoten allowed 100 runs in 90 innings. Oh, and while I'm here, Reynolds' home run rate of 1.91 per nine innings is tied for 11th-worst in history.
Reynolds has a 5.99 career ERA in triple-A. Granted, the Rockies' triple-A affiliate plays on the moon, but it's not like he's some kind of quad-A superstar. He's been horrible in the majors, and he's been horrible just below the majors. His career minor league K/9 is 5.2. He's never checked in higher than 6.2. Reynolds was taken second in a draft.
What's so...well I won't say "tragic", but sad about Reynolds' story is that it's not like he wasn't an extremely talented pitcher at the time he was drafted. Even though he wasn't supposed to go second overall, he was supposed to go pretty quickly. He was one of those safe college picks, a starter with a mid-90s fastball who could go on the fast-track. Then the injuries came and ripped his stuff to shreds. His average fastball with the Rockies in 2008 clocked in at 89.9. His average fastball with the Rockies in 2011 clocked in at 88.9, even though he'd mostly moved to the bullpen. The Reynolds pick would look bad just because of the way Longoria has turned out. But because of the way Reynolds has turned out, it looks like an absolute disaster.
The Chad Tracy going from the Rangers to the Rockies in this trade isn't the Chad Tracy I thought it was when I started writing this piece. It turns out there are two Chad Tracys. One of them was a Diamondbacks prospect who hit 27 home runs for Arizona in 2005. The other one just got traded to the Rockies. So maybe this trade isn't quite so interesting, since Tracy doesn't really bring much to the table.
Wait, I've got it! Chad Tracy - the actual Chad Tracy, here - is the son of current Rockies manager Jim Tracy. This trade should be a revealing test of Chad Tracy's emotional state. If he's a happy, confident person, he'll figure the Rockies traded for him because last year he tied for the PCL lead in runs batted in. If he's a depressed, less confident person, he'll figure the Rockies traded for him because his dad gets to see all the players naked.
The Rangers drafted Tracy in the third round in 2006. Twenty-two rounds later, they drafted Derek Holland. Interestingly, in the 22nd round, the Rangers drafted Cory Luebke. They were the second of three teams to draft Luebke in a four-year span. Now I'm just talking about Cory Luebke again.
Greg Reynolds' MLB.com video page has four highlights. One of them is footage of a decent start Reynolds turned in last April. Two of them are of RBI hits he allowed to the Astros. And one of them is this strikeout, which Reynolds recorded against opposing pitcher Kyle Davies.