Although the MLB trading deadline usually creates a lot of hype, the hype rarely translates into reality. However, this year was one of the most exciting and impactful trading deadlines over the past 20 years because of the number of deals that were constituted and the high profile deals that were consummated. Many players were not initially made available ended up switching teams in hope for a late playoff push.
Oakland Athletics – The biggest winners over the past few weeks have easily been the Oakland Athletics. Although they already possessed the best record in the majors, the A’s made two splashes to show how desperately they want to win this year. In an earlier article, I discussed the ramifications of the Jeff Samardizja-Jason Hammel deal, which allowed the A’s to boast one of the best pitching rotations in Major League Baseball. However, they showed that they were not done and swung a deal for veteran lefty ace Jon Lester along with Jonny Gomes and Sam Fuld while losing Yoenis Cespedes and Tommy Milone. Along with Samardizja, Kazmir, who is revitalizing his career, Sonny Gray, and Jason Hammel, Lester will be part of one of the most feared rotations in baseball as all the pitchers are having great seasons and should continue their success into the playoffs. Although Lester will significantly improve their chances of winning the AL during the regular season, his most important attribute is his experience. Even though the other starters have talent, they have never pitched under the same pressure as Lester. During his tenure with the Red Sox, Lester won 2 World Championships and compiled an ERA below 1, marking the best ERA of any pitcher with a minimum of 20 innings. The A’s will need Lester to prove his worth during the postseason or else this trade will probably be deemed as a failure. Lester is a free agent at the end of the season and will likely command a contract north of $100M, which will be way to high for the A’s. If they kept Cespedes, they could have made another run with Samardizja, Cespedes, Donaldson, and Gray next season. Although some experts (cough cough ESPN) will try to say that a platoon of Fuld and Gomes will produce similar production to Cespedes, Cespedes is one of the most feared hitters in the game (did you see him in the home run derby) and is an above average run producer for the A’s.
Detroit Tigers – While the A’s were revamping their starting pitching, the Tigers felt the urge to make a move of their own and traded for former Cy Young winner, David Price. In terms of the best deal of the deadline, the Tigers received great value. In return for Drew Smyly, Austin Jackson, and a minor league shortstop Wily Adames, the Tigers got one of the best starters in the league. Although this will likely mark the end of the Max Scherzer era, as he will likely leave during the offseason, the Tigers now have the ability to match the firepower of the A’s. With a rotation of Price, Scherzer, Sanchez, Verlander, and Porcello, it should make an A’s-Tigers matchup must see television in mid October as they fight for the World Series berth. Additionally, Price has another year on his current deal before he hits free agency. Although Price does not possess a great ERA, 3.11, he is a legitimate ace that will go deep into games, rest the bullpen, strike out opposing hitters, and give a team confidence that it can win any game that he pitches. Unlike the A’s, the Tigers’ rotation has great experience as every pitcher has pitched in the World Series. Along with bolstering their rotation, the Tigers improved their bullpen with the addition of Joakim Soria. Unlike the Price deal, the Tigers did not get a great deal for Soria as they had to trade two quality prospects for the veteran reliever. Last year in the ALCS and the previous year in the WS, the only thing that kept the Tigers from winning was their mediocre bullpen.
St. Louis Cardinals – After reaching the World Series last season, the Cardinals believed that they would easily win the NL Central Division and rely on their combination of great pitching and hitting in the process. However, the Cardinals have the second best record in the NL Central, one game behind the Brewers, but a half game in front of the Pirates. Although the Cardinals are not hitting like last year, they have multiple young players that they wanted to give a chance to play. Instead of improving their offense with veterans, they traded for Justin Masterson and John Lackey. John Lackey was a great addition for the Cardinals because he has a lot of postseason and World Series experience and success while having a ridiculously inexpensive contract for next season. Due to a stipulation in his contract, next year he will be paid only $500,000, an absolute bargain. In return for Lackey, they lost Joe Kelly and Allen Craig. Although Craig had a very good year two years ago, he has been in a season long slump and he became expendable, due to the success of Matt Adams at first and the promotion of super prospect Oscar Taveras. At 26 years old, Kelly has potential, but has not achieved success this year on the mound and frequently missed starts due to injury. Unlike Lackey, Masterson is a rental. Although Masterson is not having a good season, he has been a quality pitcher over the past few seasons and may have needed a change of scenery. Masterson is in the middle of his prime and should give innings to the Cardinals. The half year in St. Louis could convince Masterson to stay with the birds at a reduced price.
Boston Red Sox – Although many believe that the Red Sox had a successful trading deadline, I do not agree with their opinions. The worst move the Red Sox made was the trade for John Lackey. As I mentioned before, Lackey has one of the best contracts in baseball and could help the Red Sox next year. Also, the package they received was not very impressive. Although Allen Craig experienced success, he has been horrible this season and does not have a position to play with the Sox, behind Ortiz, Napoli, and Nava. Along with Craig, Kelly has not been good this season because of various injuries and lack of consistency. Although he has a lot of talent, he has been unable to harness his talent and become a top of the rotation pitcher. Kelly is not very young either, which will limit his growth. Along with trading Lackey, the Jon Lester trade was very unconventional. Although Lester is set to be a free agent after the season, they would have had an easier time re-signing their ace. Now, he may feel some ill feelings toward the team and more teams, like the Yankees or Dodgers, will have the potential to sign him. In the trade, they received Yoenis Cespedes, who will be a free agent the following year and will command a very hefty contract. The Red Sox should have received more prospects in the deal, which could have grown with their other top prospects. Like their other championship teams during the mid 2000s, they were built around home grown players, like Lester Youkilis, and Pedroia.
Tampa Bay Rays – After a year and a half of David Price trade saga, he was traded a few minutes before the deadline hit. Although there were rumors that the Rays wanted a lot of top tier prospects, they did not receive the prospects that they were intending. Instead of receiving a deal like they did for James Shields or Samardizja, they got Drew Smyly, Willy Adames, and Nick Franklin. Drew Smyly is an average starting pitcher at the major league level, but will never be a top of the rotation starter. Willy Adames is highly valued by the Rays, but he is not a top prospect. Although Franklin was a high draft pick and has succeeded in the minors, he has yet to become a quality starter and many are questioned if he will become a star. The Rays probably could have received a similar deal during the offseason. If the Rays kept him during the offseason, they could have used him during the stretch run which they still had a chance at competing. David Price is the best lefty starter in the American League and should have yielded the Rays at least one top ten prospect and another major league talent.
Philadelphia Phillies – Although the Phillies were surrounded by many rumors about many veterans, they did not make a single trade to improve their future. Although the team has many talented veterans, Jimmy Rollins, AJ Burnett, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Chase Utley, and Jonathan Papelbon, and are last in the NL East, they refused to make any deals. Along with a poor and expensive team, they have a below average minor league system that desperately needs new talent and more high upside players. They could have traded any one of their veterans for a few prospects that could have improved their system. Also, they are required to pay their high priced talent for the rest of the year and the following few seasons, although they will add very little to the club since it is unlikely that they will ever win.
Pics and Stats from ESPN.com