It’s wasn’t the sheer volume of deals that made baseball’s Non-Waiver Trade Deadline a stunner so much as it was the caliber of talent that criss-crossed all over the league, reshaping the pennant race and seemingly remaking whole teams.
Let’s take a look at the winners and losers on this very busy day in baseball. Rather than listing all of them at once, we will break it down with The American League today, and the National League tomorrow.
The Detroit Tigers
The rich get richer as the AL Central leading Tigers add David Price to solidify their rotation beside Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello and their suddenly and sadly human now 5th starter, Justin Verlander. Detroit doesn’t make this deal if Verlander is pitching up to the standard that we’ve all come to expect (or if GM Dave Dombrowski doesn’t pull the trigger on the regrettable Doug Fister trade this past off-season), but the Tigers didn’t get fleeced here.
I like Austin Jackson and Drew Smyly. Jackson is a solid defender in center and a contributor at the plate, but he’s seen some decline in his offensive value right around the same time that JD Martinez has come out of nowhere to be a solid contributor for the Tigers. As for Smyly, he’s a nice pitcher who might develop into a mid-rotation piece and but you give him and Jackson up for a year and a half of Price, especially in that he is also an in-house replacement for Scherzer, should he depart after the season.
I don’t know much about Willy Adames, save for his statline, but while he’s laced 12 triples in A ball (while also committing 21 errors) it will likely be a long time before the Tigers wind up missing their 18 year old now former prospect, assuming that he actually develops into a major leaguer.
This move seems like a response to Oakland’s stockpile of arms, but with all the A’s did, the Tigers had to be a bit reactive. It’s a shame that they couldn’t find a left handed relief pitcher to replace Phil Coke and Ian Kroll as well, but the addition of Price and the earlier pickup of Joakim Soria should help the Tigers once October rolls around.
The Tampa Bay Rays
We all knew that David Price would one day leave the Rays, but after the haul they got for James Shields (which looked more impressive before Wil Myers’ sophomore slump), the prospects that the Cubs got for Jeff Samardzjia and the talent that the Red Sox got for Jon Lester, I expected Price to net a much more significant payout than the Rays got. Especially since they just could have waited until the off-season.
Drew Smiley, Nick Franklin and 18 year old Willy Adames. That’s just not enough for a premier left handed power pitcher in the prime of his career, though, we can assume that the Rays see a higher ceiling for Smyly than I do and they’re clearly putting a lot of stock in Nick Franklin, a player that had a nice rookie season, but who was displaced in Seattle by the arrival of Robinson Cano. I give Franklin a lot of credit for going down to AAA this season and continuing to rake — a lot of players would have sulked their way through that experience after succeeding at the major league level, but the bottom line is, these players won’t be difference makers, and that’s what Tampa just lost.
The Seattle Mariners
The Mariners role in the David Price deal was minimal — a surprise, considering that they were rumored to be a team that was chasing Price for themselves — but I like the reward that they got for Nick Franklin. Austin Jackson is going to be a big upgrade in centerfield over James Jones and Endy Chavez on the offensive side of the ball and he’s not someone who will struggle with Safeco Field’s expanse, either. Chris Denorfia is the other pick-up by the Mariners today. I like his defense, and he’s another offensive upgrade for the M’s, but Abraham Almonte and an efficient AA relief pitcher feels like a high price to pay for him, especially since he’s a free agent after this season.
Are the Mariners going for it? I guess that’s what these offensive additions (plus the return of Kendrys Morales) mean, but they certainly didn’t keep up with the moves made by the A’s or the Angels at and before the deadline. If the Mariners really were in on David Price before this deal came together, I would love to know the name that kept them from going all in.
Verdict: In the Middle
The Cleveland Indians
I like flipping Cabrera for Walters since the latter has so much power potential, but I really like it because Cleveland was never going to risk putting a compensation pick on Cabrera, so in essence, they went from getting nothing from his eventual exit in the off-season to getting a solid young player. The same can be said about the Justin Masterson trade to the Cardinals that got Cleveland James Ramsey, an intriguing outfield prospect and former college bat that has advanced up to AA right on schedule.
The unfortunate thing is that Cleveland didn’t add any pieces for the stretch run, but while they didn’t gear up, these deals don’t necessarily mean that they have conceded the fight for the wild card, either, since both Cabrera and Masterson were not key performers this season.
The Boston Red Sox
Ben Cherington is the schmuck whisperer and the busiest man in baseball today. He’s also, arguably, the biggest winner, tossing aside a lot of assets for some pieces that will help the Red Sox into the future.
Lets start with the small moves first. Kelly Johnson signed an under-market deal to play for the Yankees this fall and he wound up underperforming. He’s a versatile player with some pop, though, so he might have some value to the Red Sox, who traded Stephen Drew for him, but this feels more like a salary dump than anything else. Drew has been mostly dreadful since waiting out the compensation pick signing deadline (same as Kendrys Morales, which leads me to believe that we won’t see any holdouts next season), but the Red Sox didn’t know that he would struggle when they agreed to pay him the pro-rated sum of $10 million dollars this season to play shortstop. Now that they’re, more or less, conceding the season, Drew is a luxury, so bravo to the Sox for finding a taker.
Staying in the AL East, the Red Sox dealt Andrew Miller to the first place Baltimore Orioles for Eduardo Rodriguez, a for-real pitching prospect at the start of the season who has struggled in AA. Miller is a free agent at the end of the season, so the Red Sox did a nice job of getting a piece that might one day mature into a back end starter, similar to Felix Doubront, who the Red Sox gave away to the Cubs yesterday.
The final two moves are, of course, the big ones for the Red Sox, who depleted their current rotation to add some solid offensive pieces… in direct defiance of the trend that has seen the value for pitching go through the roof in this new deadball era.
Will Boston re-sign Jon Lester after this season? I think there is a good chance, but rather than risk losing him for a compensation pick, the Red Sox got a competitive balance pick and Yoenis Céspedes, a powerful right handed outfielder with explosive, so-far not totally realized talent. I really feel like Céspedes is going to be a big success for the Red Sox and this feels like an outside-of-the-box deal after months of rumors about prospects going to Boston for Lester. We also have to tip our hats to Ben Cherington for grabbing Joe Kelly and Allen Craig for John Lackey. Kelly as a lot of upside and Craig is a prime rebound candidate who could be the second coming of Kevin Youkilis if Boston is really lucky.
Make no mistake, the Red Sox are down, but they don’t plan on being down for long.
The New York Yankees
For a team without many tradeable commodities, the Yankees managed to be a very active team today and throughout the month of July.
The Yankees have completely remade their non-Derek Jeter/Mark Teixeira infield over the last few weeks. First came Chase Headley, now comes Stephen Drew and Martin Prado. Regarding Prado, he’s a versatile defender who is a high contact guy with a little bit of power and speed. He’s making $10 million a year for the next two years, but the Yankees can afford it and he’s only 30. I assume that Prado is going to move around the field a little, but that he will see some time in the outfield to push Ichiro back to the bench. His declining power numbers are something to watch, though.
I imagine that Stephen Drew will play second base now that the Yankees are going to designate Brian Roberts and I suppose with Drew, you basically get the potential for the same production that they would have gotten out of Kelly Johnson (who they traded for Drew) and Roberts, so this makes sense.
The Yankees also picked up Esmil Rogers off waivers from the Blue Jays (who were shockingly quiet), but that’s a minor move. Brandon McCarthy will likely be the biggest pitching acquisition for a Yankees team that is presently without four of the five starters that they opened the season with. That feels un-wise and unhealthy for a team that usually covets more than just a ticket to the post-season.
One other note about the Yankees, while Prado feels like a good add, they paid a steep price for him in a down year by giving up Peter O’Brien, a AA prospect with huge power potential. O’Brien has 33 home runs between high A and AA, but he also has huge defensive shortcomings and his approach is still somewhat sloppy at the plate. Basically, he’s a lottery ticket, but one that could pay out big. After getting shutout on high ticket talent like David Price because of the lack of high-caliber prospects, though, one would have thought that the Yankees would have held onto their prospects a little tighter — guess not.
Verdict: In the Middle
The Baltimore Orioles
Speaking of holding onto your prospects, the Orioles did and didn’t. Andrew Miller is the shut-down left handed relief pitcher that the Orioles coveted, but he’s only a 2 month rental and for that, they gave up on Eduardo Rodriguez, a left handed pitching prospect who had been highly regarded going into the season. That seems like a high price, but if you’re the Orioles, you can look at your farm and see a half dozen back-end of the rotation caliber prospects as well as potential frontline pitchers Hunter Harvey and Dylan Bundy, not to mention Kevin Gausman, who is presently a big part of the Orioles starting rotation. You can also look at your bullpen and say, with confidence, that it might be the strongest one in baseball with Zach Britton’s ascension to the closer role, Darren O’Day’s dominance and reliable middle-relievers and long-men like Ryan Webb, Tommy Hunter, TJ McFarland and Brad Brach.
As is often the case at the deadline, though, we have to judge the Orioles on what they didn’t do, especially since the other division leaders — Detroit and Oakland — did so much. Baltimore did not get a catcher to improve upon the lackluster offensive production that they are getting from Nick Hundley and Caleb Joseph in Matt Weiters’ absence and they didn’t add a middle infielder to help supplement what Jonathan Schoop is doing. They also didn’t add a frontline starter like Jon Lester, but after seeing what he went for, it’s not surprising that the Orioles didn’t bite, and besides David Price, there really wasn’t a name on the rumor mill that would have been an upgrade over what the Orioles presently have, especially since their rotation has been one of the strongest in baseball over the last month and a half.
As for future additions, I’m sure that Dan Duquette will monitor the waiver wire over the next month to see about finding an upgrade at catcher (there really weren’t any names that felt like an easy match), but I wonder if Brian Roberts (just DFA’d by the Yankees) might be a sound pick-up for the Orioles’ bench for more than reasons relating to sentimentality.
Verdict: In the Middle
The Oakland A’s
Billy Beane wants to win a championship, this much is clear, and he’s hoarding pitching to do it (except Tom Milone, who he sold off for a speedy fourth outfielder), adding Jon Lester to a rotation that already includes Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jeff Samrardzija. Can you imagine facing off against that group in October? The A’s have put themselves in a good spot, but they also paid a heavy price to get Lester (and Jonny Gomes), giving up on Yoenis Céspedes, their third best power bat behind Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss. The A’s know how to create runs and Lester will help keep the burden on the offense to a minimum when he starts, but in that Lester is likely just a rental, I’m a bit surprised that Beane paid that price. When you can taste the postseason, though…
Verdict: In the Middle
The Minnesota Twins
I really feel like the Twins erred by not dealing Kurt Suzuki. He’s having a solid year, but he’s never been this kind of hitter before and he could regress. I would have sold high rather than sign him to a long term deal, even though it is a team friendly, 2 year $12 million dollar deal.
The Twins get big points, though, for the pick-up of Tommy Milone from the A’s for Sam Fuld. Fuld is a great defender and can make things happen on the basepaths, but Milone could be a mid-rotation guy for the Twins for years. That’s a great trade for the Twins. One of my favorite deals from today, actually.
Be sure to come back tomorrow to find out our thoughts on the National League. What did you think of the action in the MLB Trade Deadline? Let us know in the comments!