Have you ever had lunch at Grandma's house turn into a lesson in your family's personal history? Your dad's great uncle Herbert came from Botansnia by belting himself to the underside of a stork, and your mom's great great Grandmother arrived with Captain John Smith on the Mayflower. Or maybe it was the Titanic. Depends on if Grandma had her medicine that day or not.
Point is, lineage can be interesting, or at least not suicide-inducingly boring. Knowing where you came from, and all the extraordinary things that had to occur for the universe to arrive at you, has value. Or maybe you'd prefer to de-hair your nose with salad tongs. Doesn't matter because, as you may have deduced, this isn't about you, it's about baseball players.
Modern professional baseball traces its lineage back to the mid-to-late 1800s, but the history of players themselves can be even more zig-zaggingly specific. Each player has a lineage: the steps, events, and transactions that had to take place before their team acquired them. Sometimes that lineage is short, other times it can span decades. Tracing it can provide insight into what it takes to build a team, and whether teams have increased their talent base through those moves or done the opposite.
But, because you're at work and don't have time to read 500,000 words on baseball lineages before that important presentation this afternoon (didn't Jeanne tell you?) we're going to restrict this exercise to starting rotations. You're welcome.
* * *
Boston Red Sox
One of the better starting rotations in baseball so far this season has, somewhat surprisingly, been that of the Red Sox. Where did their players come from? No, don't say anything about mommy, daddy, a couple bottles of chardonnay, and a romantic night in Paris.
1. Jon Lester
Lester is a cautionary tale in this type of exercise in that, sometimes, there just isn't much to tell. Lester was drafted by Boston in the second round of the 2002 draft. The pick wasn't a compensation pick, and Lester wasn't traded. So Jon Lester's baseball lineage goes all the way back to Jon Lester. Boooring.
However, it may be worth noting that Boston did, in fact, trade Lester: He was dealt to the Texas Rangers for Alex Rodriguez in 2003. The players association vetoed the deal on the grounds that Rodriguez was reducing his salary, a no-no for players. So Rodriguez went back to Texas (and later to New York) and Lester went back to Boston. It's one of the more interesting what-if trades of modern times, but since it didn't happen, Lester's baseball family tree was unaffected. But, fear not, dear reader, for here comes…
2. Clay Buchholz
Like Lester, Buchholz was drafted by the Red Sox, specifically in the compensation round of the 2005 draft. But unlike Lester, his background goes deeper. The pick used to select Buchholz came to Boston as part of the payment for losing Pedro Martinez to the New York Mets. Martinez, as everyone knows, enjoyed a distinguished seven seasons in Boston. Before that though, he was with the Montreal Expos (and before that the L.A. Dodgers, though that concerns us less). The Red Sox acquired Martinez from Montreal for pitchers Carl Pavano and Tony Armas. Pavano was a 13th-round pick for Boston (so we reach a cul-de-sac there) but Armas came to Boston in a trade from the New York Yankees in 1997 for catcher/first baseman Mike Stanley. Stanley signed with Boston as a free agent (from the Yankees) after 1995 season.
Thus, the Red Sox's signing of Mike Stanley in December 1995 continues to impact the organization.
3. Ryan Dempster
& 4. Felix Doubront
Doubront was an international free agent signing as a teenager, and Boston signed Dempster this off-season, so two dead ends. Free agency isn't just the scourge of ownership; it's also the scourge of baseball lineage. Curse you, free agency! Curse you!
5. Allen Webster
Ah, but then we get to Allen Webster. I acknowledge putting Webster here might be cheating a little bit as he made his first major league start in the second game of a double-header this past Sunday. He took the place of a rehabbing John Lackey, who arrived via free agency [shakes fist], and sixth starter/crazy person Alfredo Aceves who did the same. This means Webster isn't exactly a regular member of the rotation. But unlike the other two pitchers, his baseball genealogy is worth discussing, so discuss it we shall.
The Red Sox picked Webster up in what some are calling the Mega-Trade. Other folks who prefer irony with their soup are calling it the Nick Punto Trade. No matter what you call it, it was a big trade. The Red Sox got Webster and minor league pitcher Rubby De La Rosa for Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez. Oh, and Nick Punto. Not only that, but the Dodgers took on roughly a quarter billion dollars in future salary obligations.
So Webster's origins are immediately complicated. He owes some portion of his time in Boston to the three above and the $250 million the Red Sox didn't want to pay, minus whatever part of that goes to Rubby De La Rosa. Some of this can be sorted out easily. Crawford signed with Boston as a free agent, so that's the end of that blood line. Gonzalez came to Boston from San Diego for three prospects, Anthony Rizzo, Reymond Fuentes, and Casey Kelly. Fuentes and Kelly were first round draft picks, but neither came to Boston due to losing a free agent, and Rizzo was picked in the sixth round, so that's three dead ends.
Beckett, however, arrived in Boston from Florida in a trade for Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez. Both Ramirez and Sanchez were signed as amateurs on the international free agent market in 2000 and 2001, respectively.
So some percentage of those two international signings, plus some percentage of the first round picks spent on Kelly and Fuentes and the sixth rounder on Rizzo, is still impacting Boston's roster when ever Allen Webster steps on the mound.
Between Webster and Buchholz, the Red Sox starting rotation is still getting production out of moves they made as far back as 18 years ago.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals' rotation is a study in contrast to Boston's. All of the five Royals starters were acquired in trades, but lest I give away the ending (Jeremy Guthrie did it!) let's get to the genealogies.
1. James Shields
& 4. Wade Davis
Two trades have riveted the baseball-watching public since the start of last season. That would be the Nick Punto Trade, mentioned above, and the Royals offseason trade that sent top prospect Wil Myers to Tampa Bay for Shields and Davis. The deal garnered two differing opinions. Some absolutely hated it. Others just hated it.
As far as lineage goes, we hate it too, because Myers was picked in the third round of the 2009 draft, a dead end. Still, when you consider where the Royals snagged Myers, trading a third round pick for two starting pitchers doesn't seem so bad. Of course, there are other less flattering ways to look at it, but we'll ignore those and move on to…
2. Jeremy Guthrie
The Royals acquired Guthrie from the Colorado Rockies for pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, creating perhaps the world's most star-crossed couple since Romeo and Juliet. In any case, Sanchez came over from the San Francisco Giants for Melky Cabrera. So that deal worked out well.
Cabrera signed as a free agent in Kansas City in 2010. One aspect of signing free agents that is sometimes lost is that they can be tradable commodities, as was the case with Cabrera: The Royals got a year out him and then started the cascade of moves that would result in Jeremy Guthrie joining the organization. So it's not exactly trading Robinzon Diaz for Jose Bautista, but it's not nothing.
3. Ervin Santana
Santana is that land that used to be a beach but, after a hurricane, is now open water. The authorities spend time, effort, and money trying to reclaim it -- to make it land again -- just as the Royals are trying to make Santana an effective pitcher again. That analogy is actually a favorable one to Santana, since given enough resources, authorities can often successfully replace the beach after a storm. Re-teaching a guy to pitch after he posted an ERA over five and gave up 39 homers the previous season is probably a lower-percentage move. But the Royals were game, and for the privilege all they had to do was grease the Angel's palm with some cash and Brandon Sisk. Sisk was signed out of the independent Continental Baseball Leagues in 2007, meaning the Royals turned a 27-year-old former member of the Bay Area Toros into Ervin Santana. Not bad, I guess.
5. Luis Mendoza
This is called going out without a boom. The Royals bought Luis Mendoza from the Texas Rangers in 2010 and immediately cut him. They did this to get him off the 40-man roster, and once he was, they re-signed him. Mendoza is an underwhelming pitcher in many ways, but the Royals have already got their money's worth considering the outlay they had to make to acquire him was essentially asking Rangers GM Jon Daniels if he liked lollipops (Of course! Who doesn't?) and where to ship them.
While Mendoza doesn't possess an exciting lineage (nor an exciting pitching repertoire), he illustrates the way the Royals have acquired their starting rotation. He, Guthrie, and Santana were all bought for peanuts, or at least the baseball equivalent. The Royals have turned a third-round draft pick, an independent league signing, the remnants of Melky Cabrera's tenure, and a bag of lollipops into a major league rotation.
* * *
Boston's methods have been more traditional on the whole, if also more complicated. Lester, Lackey, Aceves, Doubront, and Dempster were all acquired in a straightforward manner, Lester for a second round draft pick and the rest for money and (in Lackey's and Dempster's case) years. Webster's baseball genealogy is almost too complex to sort out, but we know that the trade wouldn't have happened if not for his inclusion in it, so that's something.
Buchholz might be the most interesting, as his acquisition can be traced back almost two decades through losing a Hall of Famer, to two highly regarded pitching prospects, to the last trade the Red Sox made with the Yankees. There's a story your Grandma would love to tell you. After retelling the one about great uncle Herbert again.
* * *
Matthew Kory is an author at Baseball Prospectus, a writer at SB Nation's Over The Monster Red Sox blog, a stay-at-home dad, and the author of the books "How Dare I: An Unauthorized Autobiography" and "The Best Things In Life Are Stolen Which Is Why You Just Paid For This Book," neither of which will ever be published. He lives in Portland, Ore., and is on Twitter @mattymatty2000.