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Exploring “5 for 1” 31 Years Later

After being acquired for five players, Hayes was a lightning rod for criticism. Advanced stats indicate the trade wasn’t that bad for the Phillies. Photo:

When Pat Gallen and I put together the updated Phillies Nation Top 100 a few months ago, one of the players we had the toughest time placing was outfielder/first baseman Von Hayes. Hayes had nine pretty good seasons in Philly, making one All Star squad, and received MVP votes once. Hayes generally played on bad teams; aside from being a starter for most of the first half of the 1983 season for the pennant-winning¬†Wheeze Kids, Hayes’ Phillies finished above .500 only one other season (1986) and went a combined 609-685 (47.1%) outside of 1983.

Hayes became a lightning rod in Philadelphia for what fans perceived as a laid back, “California” attitude. Hayes’ responses, including his famous “They can do whatever they want. I’ll still be eating steak every night,” comment, gave many fans the impression that Hayes did not care about the game. What didn’t help Hayes were the expectations that arrived with him in Philadelphia: Hayes arrived in Philadelphia as a 24-year old outfielder, acquired from Cleveland for five players. Hayes quickly became known as “5-for-1”.

You may be wondering “why this topic?” and “why now?”. Pat and I continue to gather information for the natural extensions of the Top 100 list, including sub-countdowns of the 10 Best Draft Picks, 10 Biggest Free Agent Busts, and the 10 Best and Worst Trades and this trade stuck out. Quite surprisingly, one of the trades you will not see on the 10 Worst Trades in Phillies history countdown is the 5-for-1 deal.

It really is amazing how much can happen in just 31 years. The U.S. has had only five different presidents in that time period but things have changed so much. Things have changed for the better (advances in science and medicine, no more smoking in shopping malls, safer transportation to name three out of a million positive advancements) while somethings have changed for the worse (when is the last time you met someone for coffee and didn’t have your cell phone out?). Of course, in that time period, baseball statistics have changed.

On December 9, 1982, Hayes was traded by Cleveland to Philadelphia for Jay Baller, Julio Franco, Manny Trillo, George Vukovich, and Jerry Willard. Of that group, everyone but Willard had some Major League experience already and everyone but Trillo was 26 or younger, with Trillo coming off an All-Star and Gold Glove-winning campaign. Willard would make it to the Majors with Cleveland in 1984, making it officially five Major League players for one.

If the trade was just Hayes for Baller, Vukovich, and Willard, it would have likely been considered a major steal for the Phillies. Baller, a righty reliever, would throw only 148.1 MLB innings and would never post positive value per FanGraphs’ version of WAR. Baller would never play for Cleveland as he was traded on April 1, 1985 to the Chicago Cubs before making the Majors. Vukovich had earned his stripes in Philly as a bench player on the 1980 World Series-winning club and would spend three seasons with Cleveland as a regular outfielder before retiring. Finally, Willard had one starter-caliber year in 1985 as a catcher for Cleveland (1.3 fWAR) before floating around baseball.

But the trade didn’t just stop at Baller, Vukovich, and Willard. It also included Franco and Trillo. Let’s start with Trillo: Trillo was a fan-favorite in Philadelphia and was the second baseman on the 1980 championship team. Trillo was a two-time All-Star with the Phils in 1980 and 1981 but saw a major drop in production (1.6 fWAR in 1981 in 94 games v. 0.6 fWAR in 1982 in 149 games, slugging dropped from .395 to .319). At age 33, Trillo was a player on the decline and would never post a season higher than 0.8 fWAR again post 1982.

The point of contention with this trade usually boils down to the inclusion of Franco. Franco had a 16 game cup of coffee with the Phillies in 1982 after hitting .300/.357/.499 with 21 HR for the Triple-A Oklahoma City 89ers that same year. According to Baseball Reference, Franco, at age 22, was two years advanced for his level, making the numbers that much more impressive. Franco made an immediate impact with Cleveland in 1983, finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting while Hayes was benched down the stretch in favor of Joe Lefebvre and Sixto Lezcano in right field.

Even though Franco had the better year in 1983, Hayes actually outplayed Franco from 1983 through 1988. Why that measurement is used is because those are the seasons that both players spent at their destinations.

As you can see, in their overlapping time, Hayes outplayed Franco by 3.5 wins according to FanGraphs, hitting .281/.364/.436 with 81 HR and 149 SB v. Franco’s .299/.344/.394 with 45 HR and 131 SB.

Hayes v. Franco

Hayes would make his first NL All-Star team in 1989, posting a 4.9 fWAR season and would follow it up with a 3.4 WAR 1990. Franco would be traded to the Texas Rangers after the 1988 season for Jerry Browne, Oddibe McDowell, and Pete O’Brien and post three consecutive monstrous seasons of 5.5, 5.8, and 5.8 WAR respectively. The players Texas received in return for Franco posted a combined 5.6 wins over the course of their lifespans in Cleveland while Franco posted 18.7 WAR in five seasons with the Rangers, including three trips to the All-Star game.

If all other players are included in the “5-for-1” analysis, Hayes almost was as valuable as all combined. Vukovich’s pesky 1984, where he was worth 3.9 fWAR was the difference:

Hayes v. ClevelandThere are a few things with the 5-for-1 deal that are in play that made it a decent deal for the Phillies. First, the composite value the Phillies received by getting all of the production that Hayes brought at one spot allowed them to have a greater opportunity to fill the positions the other players traded were not taking with better players.

A little confusing but bear with me.

Trillo, Baller, Vukovich, and Willard were not particularly good players at those stages of their careers. Vukovich had a freak 1984, where he was worth 3.9 WAR, but other than that, it was three non-prospects and a former All-Star second baseman. There is a bit of opportunity gained when trading them away and being able to play someone better in their steed, particularly in the case of Vukovich, who had struggled to find consistency off the bench.

Secondly, the majority of Franco’s success, and I am talking about his run from 1989 through 1991 where he clearly an All-Star infielder, came after Cleveland had already traded him and was sort of freaky. Franco put together his best three seasons at ages 30, 31, and 32, something that was uncommon in baseball until the late 1980s. Philadelphia made what turned out to be a fair market deal in acquiring Hayes – they shouldn’t be punished for Cleveland’s secondary trade. There’s a wormhole to jump through, here, stating that Franco could have had more market value for the Phillies than Hayes if they kept him, but judging by the return Cleveland got, I’m not sure that was the case at that moment in time.

(For what it’s worth, Hayes earned the Phillies 9.3 WAR from 1989 through 1991 and then netted the Phillies an additional
1 WAR from Kyle Abbott and Ruben Amaro, the players netted in return for Hayes after the 1991 season. The 10.3 WAR puts them beyond what Cleveland received (5.6 WAR) for Franco but below Franco himself (18.7)

In short, Hayes nearly outproduced all five players that Cleveland received while Cleveland had them. Hayes outproduced Franco by fWAR by 3.5 wins from 1983 through 1988 and remained an above-average regular for an additional two seasons. As the 5-for-1 trade becomes a footnote in the history of the Phillies, it should be viewed more in a neutral light than a negative, as Hayes outplayed the principle player in the deal.

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