[Editor’s Note: Ideally this will be just the first of many trade reviews from the long and storied CBL History. If you can remember any blockbuster trades, let me know and I’ll consider it for the next edition.]

The Trade

Trade was official on June 1, 2034.

Erie Trades: SP Jose Perez and their 2034 4th round pick

Minneapolis Trades: SP Jose Jimenez, OF Danny Chapman, CL Antonio Martinez, SS Liam Castro, RP Chris Borer and their 2034 1st round pick (13th overall)

Erie selected SP Donnie Ranucci with the 13th overall pick, and Minneapolis selected LF Ken Kleve with their acquired 4th round pick.

The Background

The Millers at this point had made the post-season in 10 straight seasons, but had not won a single Premier Cup in that time. As June rolled around, the Millers had the league’s best record, but knew they’d have to get by Jose Perez and Erie in the playoffs. So they decided to bolster their pitching staff and weaken one of their biggest rivals, at least for the current season. Perez had just turned 28 years old, and was coming off a 314 strikeout season for Erie. He was widely regarded as the league’s top pitcher.

Erie had acquired Jose Perez from Philadelphia prior to the 2032 season, and his 2032 season wasn’t all that great. He went 12-7 with a 4.34 ERA, before his previously mentioned breakout 2033 season. At the time of the 2034 trade, Perez was 6-2 with a 2.14 ERA in 10 starts, with 97 Ks in 59 innings.

Minneapolis had tried their hardest to pluck Perez from Philadelphia, but ultimately the Liberty took Erie’s offer. The Millers spent the next few seasons trying to acquire Perez several times before the teams finally agreed on this blockbuster.

At this point, Danny Chapman was a recent top 10 pick, coming off one of the best collegiate seasons in recent memory, and he was essentially CBL ready at this point. In 37 games in Minneapolis prior to the trade, Chapman had hit just .237/.284/.446, but he was just 22 years old and was highly regarded across baseball. Liam Castro was one of the league’s best prospects, an absolute magician defensively at shortstop who projected to have an above average bat as well.

Jose Jimenez seemed poised for a bullpen role long term, but some scouts felt he had the stuff to stick in the rotation. Either way, he was expected to be a useful starter or a top shelf reliever as he developed. Antonio Martinez was a very highly regarded left handed reliever who most experts felt was a future closer. Chris Borer was another relief prospect, with a slightly lower ceiling but he was further along in his development, and he also profiled as a long-term late inning reliever.

The Results

Jose Perez went 12-1 with a 2.83 ERA and 189 strikeouts in 133 innings over the final few months of the 2034 season for the Millers, and helped lead them to a still record 128 regular season wins. The Millers, however, lost in the CBL Championship Series in 6 games, failing to even reach the Premier Cup despite losing just 34 games all season.

Erie would package one piece of the deal, relief pitcher Chris Borer, along with several of their own young players, to acquire a Jose Perez replacement just a month later. The team landed Ron Giangrosso from Manchester, and while we’ll take a deeper look into that trade another day, Giangrosso remains a fixture in Erie’s rotation 8 years later.

Jose Perez would go 17-4 with a 3.11 ERA in 2035, leading the Millers back to the playoffs, and this time the team finally got the job done, winning their first Premier Cup. He followed that season up by going 17-5 with a 2.76 ERA in 2036, and the Millers repeated as Premier Cup Champions. As time went on, Perez couldn’t outrun father time, but he remained a useful pitcher for a few years. In 2037, he made just 25 starts due to injuries, but he posted a 3.94 ERA and still struck out 202 batters in just 150 innings. He made 24 starts in the 2038 season, posting a 4.19 ERA. He missed the entire 2039 season after tearing an elbow ligament in the spring. He posted a 4.26 ERA in 23 starts in 2040, a solid bounce back year after the injury, before posting the worst season of his career this past season. He went just 6-9 with a 5.37 ERA, moving between the rotation and the bullpen throughout the year.

On Erie’s side of things, the Giangrosso deal was a bit of a saving grace, as he pitched very well over this same time frame, and has been more productive than Perez over the last few seasons. The Seawolves gave up other talent to acquire Giangrosso, to be sure, but the move allowed them to fill Perez’s vacancy with at least similar production most seasons.

Liam Castro hasn’t developed into the perennial MVP candidate he seemed capable of at the time of the trade, but his defense has been even better than advertised, and he’s turned in some great WAR seasons over his career. After a 91 game debut in the 2035 season where he produced 2.7 WAR as a 20-year-old, Castro has posted the following WAR totals:

2036 – 5.4 WAR
2037 – 4.6 WAR
2038 – 2.9 WAR
2039 – 6.5 WAR
2040 – 5.2 WAR
2041 – 3.0 WAR

Castro is about to turn 27 years old, and he hit just .240/.316/.353 this past season, but the defense remains strong. Erie is expected to shop Castro this off-season, and any return they can get for him has to be factored into this Perez deal as well. But even if Erie can’t get the kind of package for him they once could have, there’s no denying Castro has been the most productive player involved in the trade overall, Perez included. That’s not surprising, of course, as Perez was about to exit his prime at the time of the deal, but the fact that Castro has produced that many valuable seasons with only one year with an OPS over .800 shows just how valuable his defense has been.

Jose Jimenez was an under the radar part of the blockbuster deal, but he immediately became one of Erie’s best starters. Despite poor strikeout numbers, Jimenez went 12-9 with a 3.17 ERA in 32 starts as a 22-year-old in 2035, and then 16-5 with a 2.97 ERA in 33 starts in 2036. By 2037, though, Jimenez was starting to get into trouble, and would finish 8-15 with a 4.68 ERA in 33 starts. Erie continued to try him as a starting pitcher through the 2040 season, before finally using him exclusively out of the bullpen this past season. He was useful as a reliever, posting a 3.54 ERA in 86 innings. Overall, Jimenez has gone 59-63 with a 3.78 ERA in over 1100 innings. He’s been a productive and useful arm for the Seawolves overall.

Danny Chapman has been mostly disappointing for the Seawolves, posting a 3.3 WAR in his best seasons as a 23-year-old, but unfortunately he’s seemingly declined every year. Now 30 years old, he hit just .219/.289/.356 last season, posting a -1.2 WAR. His inability to develop into the middle of the order bat most expected him to was baffling to watch, and likely even more frustrating for the Erie organization.

Antonio Martinez never quite lived up to expectations in Erie, and was traded as part of a 5-player package to the California Dreamers after the 2039 season that brought Steve Stouder to Erie. The 27-year-old reliever pitched 35 innings this past season for California, posting a 3.06 ERA but walking 23 batters while striking out just 31. He’s a non-tender candidate despite his ERA as his underlying numbers are quite poor.

Chris Borer, the one player Erie immediately traded away, has had a very nice career to this point, including his 2038 season where he went 13-4 with a 1.47 ERA and 128 Ks in 97 innings.

The Takeaway

I don’t think either team is too upset with the end result of the trade. The Millers propelled Jose Perez’s prime into back-to-back Premier Cup Championships, while the Seawolves got great performances from Castro and Jimenez, and wisely used their new found depth to acquire other core pieces around those two. Erie clearly won the overall trade, and if they can get some more prospects for Castro, the deal will continue to be the gift that keeps on giving.

As teams circle the wagons with rumors of super ace Joe Busam being made available, they need to be sure that adding Busam will be the final piece of the puzzle. If this trade is any indication, acquiring the league’s best pitcher isn’t cheap, and Busam is a tier above where Jose Perez was back in 2034. This should be a fun off-season.

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General Manager - Minneapolis Millers

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