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Early returns on two 'challenge' trades

Tommy Rancel on the Diamondbacks' latest find:

    In terms of real-life analysis, the thought process behind the Edwin Jackson for Dan Hudson trade was to give up a year and a half of Jackson for six seasons of Hudson. Jackson is a talented pitcher, but he's on his fifth major league team before the age of 27. He's a nice piece at the back end of the rotation, but will make more than $8 million next season. Hudson may not have the raw ability that Jackson does, but he will earn around the league minimum for the next few seasons, likely for similar production.

    After spending the 2008 season at the rookie level of the minor leagues, Hudson blew through all levels of the White Sox system in 2009 - earning a call-up to he majors after starting the year in low-A ball. He began 2010 at Triple-A, where he continued to post fantastic numbers - especially in the strikeout category. In 93.1 innings, he struck out 108 batters while walking just 31.

    Hudson would make three unimpressive starts for the White Sox big club this season before the trade to Arizona. Again, while the move was made with the future in mind, Hudson has provided the Diamondbacks with favorable results in the present.

    --snip--

    After four turns through the Arizona rotation, the 23-year-old right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.12 ERA. Hudson has struck out an impressive 27 batters in 29.1 innings with the D-Backs, while handing out just four walks.

It's worth mentioning, I think, that Edwin Jackson's been fantastic with the White Sox: 1.35 ERA in three starts, with 24 strikeouts and five walks.

Unfortunately, because of the future costs associated with each pitcher, this trade works for the White Sox only if Jackson's better than Hudson in the near term and Jackson's performance gets the White Sox into the playoffs. Otherwise it's just an awful, awful deal.

That's one example of a "challenge trade": I'll trade you my [position] guy for your [same position] guy." We don't have many examples, but we've got another fine one this season: shortstop Yunel Escobar for shortstop Alex Gonzalez. When the deal was made, the point (from the Braves' perspective) was supposedly addition by subtraction, as the Braves were reportedly disenchanted by Escobar's attitude as much as his slow start this season, statistically.

Since the trade? In 27 games, Escobar's batted .297/.350/.414, right in line with his career numbers. In 31 games, Gonzalez has batted .250/.317/.411, almost exactly in line with his career numbers. They're both good defensive players. The only real difference between them -- leaving aside attitudes, I mean -- is that Gonzalez is six years older and slightly more expensive.

We'll see what happens. But I suspect that in both cases, we'll wind up figuring the teams getting the younger players did better.