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Addison Reed trade: Marlins, Steve Cishek, and the lesson of the Chicago White Sox

The Chicago White Sox traded young closer Addison Reed yesterday to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The return is a valuable lesson regarding the Miami Marlins and their own young closer, Steve Cishek.

The Miami Marlins could learn a smart lesson from the Addison Reed trade.
The Miami Marlins could learn a smart lesson from the Addison Reed trade.
Brian Kersey

The Chicago White Sox pulled of a smart move yesterday in what was otherwise a quiet day on the Hot Stove League. The Sox dealt 24-year-old closer Addison Reed to the Arizona Diamondbacks for third base prospect Matt Davidson in a move widely celebrated for the White Sox. Here is what Steven Goldman of SB Nation had to say.

That's a pitcher who is (a) replaceable and (b) likely to become disproportionately expensive in the future. While the White Sox might not be able to mint another right-hander whose fastball sits 93-95 mph and also features a killer slider, they can, almost 100 percent guaranteed, chunk out a right-hander who can convert saves at an 83-percent rate.

What they cannot do, and have not been able to do with any consistency since Robin Ventura left town, is find someone to play a quality third base.

That particular quote is interesting because it almost perfectly matches the Miami Marlins' situation right now. The Fish have an excellent closer themselves in right-hander Steve Cishek. Cishek is older at age 27, but he has the same amount of team control left as Reed does. And unlike Reed, he has been better over the last three years.

Player, 2011-2013 IP K% BB% ERA FIP Avg WAR
Steve Cishek 188 25.1 8.9 2.54 2.74 3.8
Addison Reed 133 2/3 24.4 7.4 4.17 3.30 2.0

Cishek's numbers are bound to look better thanks to the run environment in which he pitches, but his strikeout and walk numbers are comparable while his elite ground ball rate (53.8 percent career) would have fit in perfectly at U.S. Cellular Field. The same would have applied in Chase Field, where the dry air makes for more balls flying out of the park.

Cishek is earning arbitration this season, while Reed is still under pre-arbitration prices after missing the Super Two cutoff. But still, the differences are likely enough to at least keep Cishek's trade value even with that of Reed's. For the Sox's decent, yet unspectacular closer with high-end stuff, they received a top-100 prospect at a position fewer and fewer teams have been able to fill as of late: third base. Here is what ESPN's Keith Law (Insider subscription required and recommended) had to say about Davidson in the trade.

Davidson has ranked in my top 100 prospects in each of the past three years, all between 86th (2011) and 75th (2013), and will likely appear there one more time before graduating from the list in 2014. He's a polished hitter for his age, turning 23 in March, with sound plate discipline and a smooth right-handed swing with good hip rotation for at least average power.

All signs point to Davidson being a solid Major League contributor in the coming year, even despite the Diamondbacks' surplus in third baseman with the acquisition of Mark Trumbo.

More importantly, here is what Law said about White Sox general manager Rick Hahn.

They have options, starting with Jones, but more importantly, GM Rick Hahn seems to recognize that the closer role itself might be overrated, and that you'd rather have a 150-game starter at third than a 70-inning closer in the ninth.

After the regular season ended,'s Joe Frisaro mentioned that the Marlins might consider trading Cishek given his likely arbitration raise. At the time, I thought it was a smart idea to try and send Cishek away, clear his likely expensive salary (projected $3.2 million this season), and get value in return to fill one of their roster holes. The reason for it is that, while closers probably do not have the value that their salaries suggest, a would-be contending team may be willing to fork over extra trade value to push themselves into contention. Here is what I said at that time:

The Marlins are not likely to be competitive in 2014 and 2015 may still be quite a stretch as well. If the Fish are not going to win many games, it is not likely that they will need a shutdown closer to hold a lot of leads for them. Closers are notoriously overrated in terms of trade value, especially by contenders looking to find a "final piece of the puzzle," so the Marlins may be better off extracting the best value from a luxury player on their roster rather than paying him his salary for 2014.

The Reed-Davidson trade is a perfect example of what I mentioned a few months ago. The White Sox, like the Marlins, are unlikely to compete in 2014. The value of a closer on a team destined to win 70 games is marginal. Any team can come up with a player who can save 80 percent of the leads handed to him in the ninth inning. The Fish have some intriguing in-house options like A.J. Ramos, Mike Dunn, and now Carter Capps who could have done a passable job filling in for Cishek. It is doubtful the Fish would have seen a major drop-off in production moving any of those guys into the ninth inning.

What Miami could not do was find a third baseman starter in their organization. The franchise is still looking for someone to play the position in 2014, and they will have a tougher time finding that option now more than ever. Had Cishek been available for trade, perhaps Miami could have squeezed a young third baseman out of a contending club with Cishek as part of a deal. Instead, Miami firmly held to their stance of keeping their closer, citing him as part of their "nucleus" of talent.

The White Sox did not overrate a closer with similar skills and more youth, and they were rewarded when the Diamondbacks foolishly sent away one of their best prospects. Setting aside the poor work by Arizona, Miami could have at least been in the hunt for a similar type of player to fill any number of significant roster holes on the team had they allowed Cishek to be available for trade. But unlike the Sox, the Fish overrated their closer, called him a part of the team's core, and now will pay increasing amounts of money for a "proven closer" when that production could have netted them a real, valuable player.

It is no surprise that Miami did this. While they have shopped in the reliever bargain bin plenty of times before, they also have shown a fondness for paying closers. They gave Heath Bell three years and $27 million, and part of that is still on the team's books. They agreed to pay Juan Oviedo $12 million in three years of service as a "closer," even after Oviedo was suspended for forging his name to get into the US. Miami has consistently shown that the will overvalue the closer role to the detriment of the franchise.

At a time when Cishek's value is at his highest, Miami is opting to keep him rather than turn him into a chip to acquire a full-time, legitimate starting player. It is a wasted opportunity by the front office, and the White Sox trade shows just what the opportunity cost could have been.