On July 5, 2002, the Yankees traded away Ted Lilly, Jason Arnold, and John-Ford Griffin to the Oakland Athletics. As part of that deal, the Athletics sent Jeremy Bonderman, Carlos Pena, and Franklyn German to the Detroit Tigers. And, the Tigers sent Jeff Weaver to the Yankees. (The Tigers also sent some cash to the Athletics.)
By the end of the following year, the Athletics traded Lilly, Arnold, and Griffin to the Toronto Blue Jays, in separate deals. Arnold and Griffin never amounted to much – despite the fact that Jason Arnold was the 63th overall pick in the 2001 amateur draft (and was considered by Baseball America as the 9th best prospect in the Yankees system at year-end 2001) and the fact that John-Ford Griffin was the 23rd overall pick in the 2001 amateur draft (and chosen before players such as David Wright, Danny Haren, Ryan Howard and Kevin Youkilis).
Ted Lilly did fine for himself in Toronto – and played that into a nice Free Agent contract with the Chicago Cubs on December 15, 2006. And, for what it’s worth, as a Free Agent, Lilly expressed an interest in returning to the Yankees – but New York chose not to make a bid for him.
All told, since he’s left the Yankees, to date, Lilly has pitched in 193 games (191 of them being starts), netting 81 wins, throwing 1,105.6 IP and fashioning an ERA of 4.30.
As a member of the New York Yankees, Jeff Weaver pitched in 47 games (32 of them being starts), going 12-12, throwing 237.3 IP and fashioning an ERA of 5.35. Things went so poorly for Weaver in New York that he was traded by the team, on December 13, 2003, with with Brandon Weeden and Yhency Brazoban (and cash) to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Kevin Brown.
Things in New York went just as poorly for Brown as the did for Weaver. With the Yankees, Kevin Brown pitched in 35 games (all starts), going 14-13, throwing 205.3 IP and fashioning an ERA of 4.54. And, when his contract expired on October 28, 2005, Brown was granted Free Agency – which led to his retirement.
Just for a compare…here’s what Weaver & Brown did for the Yankees, combined, from 2002 through 2005 lined-up against what Lilly did for his teams during the same time period:
Pitcher G GS IP H BB SO ERA W/B 82 67 442.6 531 116 283 5.17 Lilly 111 104 602.0 565 236 488 4.40
Further, in the 2006, 2007, and 2008 seasons, Ted Lilly (each year) has made at least 32 starts for his team, pitched at least 180 IP, and won at least 15 games. Actually, over the last three seasons, a case could be made that Ted Lilly is one of the 15 best starting pitchers in all of baseball. Meanwhile, in Yankeeland, guys like Kei Igawa, Sidney Ponson, and Darrell Rasner have been starting games for New York.
The Yankees made a mistake to trade away Ted Lilly during 2002 – and they made another mistake in not signing him as a Free Agent following the 2006 season.
When people like to talk about the bad calls that Brian Cashman has made with respect to pitching moves, they often talk about acquiring Jeff Weaver, Javy Vazquez, Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano, and Kei Igawa; but, they rarely talk about that one that got away and who was not brought back when they had the chance: Ted Lilly.