Last week, a friend in an MLB front-office told me to expect more old-school trades this winter (MetsBlog), i.e., less four-prospects-for-one-star and more big-leaguer-for-big-leaguer swaps, more needs for needs, role players for role players, etc...
He said teams are overvaluing all of their prospects, which will result in trades that seem lopsided or incomplete because they'll be making very specific moves to fill or create specific holes -- and those goals may not always be clear to fans and media.
For instance, yes, the Rockies may have been able to acquire better players for Dexter Fowler. However, in reality, their goal wasn't just acquiring talent, they also wanted to free up as much salary as possible. And, in most cases (such as Ike Davis), Colorado would have only saved a few million dollars in the deal. They also wanted useful big-leaguers, not prospects. So, the result was trading Fowler and his $7 million for two major-league players making the league minimum. They got what they needed and made the deal...
Similarly, I'm seeing people ask why the Mets couldn't top Kansas City's offer for Norichika Aoki. Milwaukee may have specifically wanted a hard-throwing, young, big-league, left-handed reliever making little money, which is something the Mets don't have to give. I suppose Alderson could have put a better, more substantial package together for Aoki, including Davis, but maybe Alderson didn't want Aoki bad enough to give up that much talent... and maybe the Brewers wanted to save money, not add it?
In other words, even if your offer can be better (in terms of talent), in this league right now, you may lose the deal because it doesn't do exactly what the other team is looking to accomplish, which makes speculating and armchair-GM'ing really, really difficult.
By the way, in hindsight, in early November (MetsBlog), it appears I should have said, "There is zero chance the Brewers trade Aoki to the Mets for Davis." This is clearly what my source was trying to tell me in a DM on Twitter, and I now realize Braun was his way of saying a deal had no chance of happening. However, looking back at it, and looking back at other Mets-Brewers-Ike-Aoki talk during the last month, it occurs to me that he used Braun as a symbol, which I took literally since I had heard (but hadn't written yet) that the Mets asked about Braun during the GM Meetings (Heyman). The Hot Stove is a crazy, often coded, fast-moving place...