Analyzing the 3 Winners and 3 Losers of the MLB Trading Deadline and the Ramifications for the Rest of the Season

By: Jonathan

 

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.

WINNERS

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.

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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.

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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.

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LOSERS

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.

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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.

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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.

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Pics and Stats from ESPN.com

Carmelo Anthony’s Deal and its Impact on the Knicks

By: Prad

Carmelo Anthony forced his way into the Big Apple in February 2011 ending the so-called “Melo drama.” Ever since then, he has brought hope to the millions of Knicks fans that have been disappointed countless times over the last 40 years. When Phil Jackson came to the Knicks in March, he promised the opportunity to contend in the Eastern Conference and re-signing Melo is the first step in doing so. Anthony signed a five year-$124 million contract to stay in New York until 2019 with an early termination option in the summer of 2018. He agreed to less than the maximum $129 million in order to leave some cap room for the Knicks to sign other free agents. But signing Carmelo to such a massive deal has inevitably limited the Knicks’ options for the remainder of the offseason. So, was signing Melo, in fact, worth the trouble?

Will Carmelo Anthony ever change his mentality? Courtesy of Zimbio
Will Carmelo Anthony ever change his mentality?
Courtesy of Zimbio

There is no simple answer to this question. You can’t go wrong either way. Does he have the potential to bring a Championship to New York? From what we’ve seen thus far, the answer is a resounding “no.” The first indication of this was his inability to coalesce with Amar’e Stoudemire when he came aboard in 2011. STAT was second in the league in scoring behind only Kevin Durant prior to the trade that brought Anthony to Madison Square Garden.  It was immediately evident that Melo is best in isolation. Unfortunately, the rest of the team suffers when the ball sticks and ball movement is limited. Anthony’s limited postseason success in his 11 year career  is a definite result of his style of play. Yet, the Knicks are steadfast in their belief in Melo and believe he can adapt to a different game plan if given the chance.

We will see if Melo is willing to compromise his personal glory for the success of the team this upcoming season. With a new coach in Derek Fisher and the implementation of the Triangle offense, the Knicks are hoping they will not stagnate as much with the ball. If the game plan is phased in correctly, Melo’s usage rate will inevitably drop. Usage rate calculates the percentage of possessions a player uses while he is in the game and Anthony is fourth in the league in this category with 30.1 this past season. The next Knick on the list was Stoudemire who ranked 93rd in the NBA. The ball is in Carmelo’s hands an overwhelming number of minutes and the Knicks cannot possibly win when that holds true.

Jose Calderon will be an absolutely critical piece of the renovated offense next season Courtesy of ESPN
Jose Calderon will be a critical component to the renovated offense next season
Courtesy of ESPN

New York cannot afford any big name free agents this offseason, so they’ll have to make do with what they have. In their recent trade with Dallas, they dealt Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton and acquired Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington and Shane Larkin and  Samuel Dalembert. There are a few important consequences of this trade. First, Jose Calderon fits perfectly within the Knicks’ new triangle offense. A seasoned veteran, Calderon will be able to adjust quickly to the demands of Coach Fisher and help elevate the aforementioned ball movement. Second, Shane Larkin can become the point guard of the future for the Knicks. With Calderon and Fisher’s mentorship in the new offense, Larkin can improve his game immensely. He was supposed to be a focal point of the Mavericks’ plans for the future, but only time will tell how he will fit into his new offense. Third, the Knicks get rid of Ray Felton and Tyson Chandler. Felton was plagued with off the court issues and ineffectiveness in his last season with the team. And Chandler was troubled by injuries, which ended up limiting him to 55 games. Phil Jackson will probably not make too many more acquisitions, as the team’s cash is strapped for this summer.

The Knicks are going into this season not knowing what to expect and will probably have their fair share of issues in the first twenty games. Those hitches are expected with a completely revamped coaching staff and entirely different offensive scheme with hopefully a new and more team-oriented Carmelo Anthony. Still, you cannot lose faith in Phil Jackson and Melo. The team will resolve their initial problems, which will most likely pertain to the the implementation of the Triangle offense. They could make the playoffs but it is certainly not a guarantee. Again, much of this depends on whether or not Anthony can fit within the new offense under Derek Fisher and his staff. Phil Jackson is only hoping the strategy works as effectively as it did when he was coaching the Bulls in the ’90s and Lakers in 2000s.

Phil Jackson hired Derek Fisher to run the Triangle Offense in New York Courtesy of ABC News
Phil Jackson hired Derek Fisher to run the Triangle Offense in New York
Courtesy of ABC News

The Knicks have a bright future ahead with both Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire coming off the books next summer. With those contracts ending, $23 million will free up in cap space next offseason. Jackson and the Knicks will certainly court some big names including Goran Dragic, Roy Hibbert, Marc Gasol, Rajon Rondo, and Kevin Love if he doesn’t get traded and signs a long term deal in between now and then. Even if the Knicks land one of those names with Gasol being their priority, they can contend in the Eastern Conference. Gasol would fit well in the triangle offense and his ability to be the defensive anchor makes the prospective Knicks even more potent. There is a euphoria surrounding the franchise and all Knicks fans should be excited about the direction of the team.

What the Heat must do to stay relevant in the East

By: Jon

 

The biggest loser in the whole LeBron James saga is obviously the Miami Heat. However, the biggest winner, even bigger than the Cleveland Cavaliers, is Chris Bosh. When free agency opened a week and a half ago, many believed that Bosh’s decision came down to the Heat and taking less money (about $80 million over 5 years) or the Rockets and making the max money ($88 million over 4 years). However, when James decide to shock the world and follow the words of J. Cole “I’m Coming Home”, the consensus opinion was that Bosh would leave South Beach and head for Houston to team up with Harden and Howard and become one of the favorites to win the championship. At the end of the day, Bosh shocked the NBA world and decided to re-sign with the Miami Heat for the max deal, 5 years and $118 million. The Heat were in an incredibly vulnerable position without James and a decrepit Wade and immensely overpaid for the services of Chris Bosh.

Although Bosh has shown the capability of leading a team to the playoffs during his time with Toronto, he is not LeBron James and the Heat will need to add another star and a significantly better bench if the Heat are going to compete in the East. Since Bosh became the third wheel on the Heat four years ago, his rebounding and shooting numbers declined each year. This year, Bosh’s numbers should dramatically increase as he will likely become the number one option. If Bosh stops shooting threes and shows a willingness to bang inside, Bosh should return to putting up 20-10s almost every night for the Heat. The Heat will likely wait to re-sign Bosh or Wade because they possess their Bird Rights, which enable them to go over the cap.

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Along with re-signing Bosh, the Heat are determined and extremely likely to sign Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem. After opting out of their respective short term deals, the duo, who has won three championships with the Heat, will look for long term security, while sacrificing annual money. Although Wade was set to make $20 million this year, reports state that he is likely to receive a 5 year deal worth about $60-$65 million. If Wade takes less money, it will enable the Heat to spend more on free agents during the offseason.

Although Wade’s health has significantly decreased over the past few years, he is able to occasionally play at a high level if he is given the proper rest. Although Wade does not have the knees to carry a team through the playoffs or maybe even a playoff series, he can be a good second or third option for a team that wins a series or two. Without James, Wade will probably shoot more often, which will lead to an increase in points, but likely a decrease in shooting percentage as the top wing defenders will take Wade instead of James. Although Wade has been known for his great defense in the past, he gave very little effort on defense during the Finals, which will be unacceptable next year. Haslem was set to earn about $5 million this season, but will likely sign a deal for about 3-4 years at $3-4 per year. Although Haslem is mostly over the hill, he can provide solid defense and occasional offensive output.

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With the contracts of Bosh, $20.7M, Wade, $12M, Haslem, $3.5M, Napier, $1.4M, Granger, $2M, McRoberts, $5.5M, and Cole, $2.15, the Heat have approximately $46.5M in salaries and about $15.5M in remaining cap salary and $30.5M until they hit the luxury tax, which they will definitely not pay under the current situation. Although the Heat signed Josh McRoberts, they will likely wait to sign all the players they want and use their mid level exception on McRoberts. Thus, the team will spend about $30M more during the offseason, they need to sign at least 8 more players to fill the required 15 slots.

The latest news around the Heat is that they are looking at Luol Deng to partially fill the void that LeBron left in Miami. It has been reported that Deng is commanding about $10M a year over 2 years. Although Deng still in the middle/end of his prime, 29, he has played an outstanding amount of minutes. However, the Heat would still be receiving at least one to two years of Deng in his prime and another year of above average play. Since Deng has entered into the league, he has been one of the most consistent players in the league, offensively and defensively. While Deng has the ability to be a number 2 option on a quality team, he is willing to be the number 3 option on offense, while playing great defense. Although Deng cannot reproduce the playmaking and offensive skill of LeBron, his defensive prowess cannot be understated. Even behind Bosh and Wade, Deng should average about 15 points per game while averaging about 5 assists and 6 rebounds.

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Along with Deng’s contract, the Heat should have enough money to make a play at another big time free agent. Two options that the Heat should explore are Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe. After three years as a backup point guard behind Chris Paul, Bledsoe went to Phoenix and showed that he had the capability to be an above average point guard in the league for a long time. Although he missed nearly half the season, Bledsoe averaged 18 points per game and 6 assists while playing with fellow point guard Goran Dragic. Bledsoe would be a great fit for the Heat because they do not have a very good point guard on the roster. Bledsoe is a restricted free agent, but the Suns will be reluctant to match any high offer with Dragic and Isiah Thomas on their team. Although Bledsoe will unlikely command the max, 4 year $63M, he should earn a hefty salary, 4 year $48M.

Although Monroe plays the opposite position of Bledsoe, center/power forward, he has been an extremely productive and underrated player for the Pistons over the last 4 years. Monroe has an above average inside game, which will fit with the other members of the Heat’s roster. Since Monroe has been a consistent and healthier player over the last few years, he will command and receive a more expensive contract than Bledsoe. The Heat will need to offer near the max, 4 year $60M if they are going to sign the young stud. If the Heat sign Bledsoe, they will have about $8M left to sign the 6 members on their team. They will probably sign 2-3 at the league minimum and the rest for contracts at or near $2.5-3M. If they decide to sign Monroe, their bench will inevitably be less deep.

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Pics and Stats from ESPN.com