Baseball’s Meat Market – A Review

Trades, both real and imagined, take up most of the interest in baseball’s offseason. Shawn Krest’s new book “Baseball Meat Market” (Page Street Publishing) takes a look at some memorable trades throughout history.

“I kind of thought it’d be easy,” Krest said. “It’s easy if you’re a fan but from a global perspective it’s tougher.”
There was no shortage of transactions to choose from and he received recommendations from friends. “Everybody seems to have strong opinions about trades,” Krest said. “They occupy the offseason and up until the trade deadline. I remember after a player was traded and the cards had no caps or were airbrushed with ‘trade’ stamped across it.”

Growing up as a Yankees fan, Krest’s favorite trade came when the Bronx Bombers acquired Rickey Henderson from Oakland. “They didn’t have a card with the traded stamp but if they did I would’ve put that one in a frame,” Krest said.

“I kind of put myself in the position of an old school commissioner and see what big impact the trade had,” Krest said. “Both that trade and how they reacted after that.”

Krest spent a year talking to subjects, including general managers, about trades. “Once you get the story, you’re excited to tell it,” Krest said.

Readers might be surprised that general managers aren’t really trying to pull off a heist on every trade but would rather be able to shake hands with their counterpart in five years with both sides satisfied. General managers don’t always expect the prospects dealt in a trade to work out either. “It’s like a friend giving you a birthday card and maybe a few lottery tickets are in there,” Krest said. “That’s how a GM looks at it. It’s the chance to win as the value of the present not if the actual ticket is a winner.”

The fantasy and video game trades are easy, where the statistics can rule. In the majors, dealing with money and egos can throw a wrench into things, such as Chris Sale being moved from the White Sox to Red Sox due in part to trouble with the front office. “Go back to Sale and he was traded, there were other things, but it began because he didn’t want to wear a throwback jersey and cut them up,” Krest said.

New York fans will enjoy several trades that worked out, and one that didn’t. The book begins with the Mike Piazza saga, and how the catcher went from Dodger to Marlin to Met in one week, an acquisition which helped build the Mets into National League champions.

Also covered is how the Yankees tried to get David Wells from the Tigers at the 1995 deadline and were floating a young starter named Mariano Rivera in trade talks. Rivera added a few miles on his fastball, the Yankees took him off the trade table and acquired David Cone instead. Years later, it looked like Wells had a deal with Arizona after 2001, but turned around and signed a two-year deal with the Yankees. When Curt Schilling was on the trading block after 2003, Jerry Colangelo took a few Boston prospects instead of waiting for the Yankees to offer Nick Johnson and Alfonso Soriano. Of course Schilling led Boston past the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS while Arizona lost more than 100 games.

“He was willing to shoot himself in the foot to keep the Yankees from winning,” Krest said.

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