Posted by: mdegeorge | August 2, 2011

The MLB Trade Deadline Diagnosis, Part 1

The non-waiver wire trade deadline passed at 4 p.m. Sunday with a restrained flurry of action (is such a thing is possible) with only the odd few major name causing the fax machines to buzz at MLB headquarters as afternoon turned to evening.

But the deadline-day transactions were merely the tip of the trading iceberg, capping a week where it seemed each day had a particular marquee move that grabbed the headlines.

With a league’s worth of deal to sort through, the impact on the pennant race – and races many years in the future – could be pretty big. Here are the winners and losers of each of the moves over the last week.

(all stats and standings as of end of play Saturday)

Carlos Beltran, the new Giant on the West Coast. (Courtesy of Creative Commons)

Tuesday

Reds get: OF Bill Rhinehart, LHP Chris Manno

Nationals get: OF Jonny Gomes

Call it an appetizer. Gomes was hitting a mere .205 with 11 homers in 80 games for the Reds, hardly the numbers he used to fuel the Reds’ playoff run in 2010. The move frees up playing time for Yonder Alonso, the Reds’ first-round pick in 2008, who is hitting .296 with 12 home runs and 56 RBIs at Triple-A Louisville. Alonso has hits in two of his first three major league at bats. Rhinehart is 26 and in the midst of his best season in his fifth as a pro, hitting .283 at Double-A with 21 HRs and 59 RBIs. The tall slender Manno (6-foot-3, 170 pounds) projects as a possible lefty specialist at the higher levels; he’s currently at low-A.

Diagnosis: Push (read: no one cares)

Wednesday

White Sox get: RHPs Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart

Blue Jays get: OF Colby Rasmus, LHPs Brian Tallet and Trever Miller, RHP P.J. Walters, IF Mark Teahen

Cardinals get: RHPs Edwin Jackson and Octavio Dotel, LHP Marc Rzepczynski, OF Corey Patterson

We’ve got to group these together for obvious reasons. The consensus in the immediate aftermath of the deal was that Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos got the better St. Louis counterpart John Mozeliak (“fleeced” was the subtle verbiage used here). But the deal benefits all three teams. The White Sox are only three games out of the hunt in the AL Central and had a surplus of pitchers now that Jake Peavy is back – though he hasn’t won a game in six weeks – and Phil Humber is filling out the rotation. They also give up Teahen, who we can officially ordain as a journeyman, and get back a guy who can straight into crunch time in the Chicago native Frasor and a promising prospect in Stewart, who’s having his second straight solid season in Double-A (5-5 in 16 starts with 4.20 ERA, 74 strikeouts and 27 walks in 94.1 innings.) The Blue Jays a young left-handed outfielder who can hit for power and has speed that is under control until 2015. But the situation with Rasmus in St. Louis, where he repeatedly clashed with manager Tony La Russa, the unquestioned czar of the dugout, and rescinded a trade demand last season, had become unmanageable, making many close to the situation consider the notion that this was a Jays’ steal farcical for two reasons. First, the Cardinals have outfielders waiting in the wings, with Allen Craig (currently hurt) and John Jay long-term solutions next to Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman in there for the short-term. Second, they needed severe help in the bullpen to contend in the tight NL Central. The deal allowed them to cut aging deadweight (Miller and Tallet), add short- (Dotel) and long-term (Rzepczynski, under control through 2015) solutions and add former bullpen star Kyle McClellan back to relief duty with the insertion of Jackson, who threw seven innings of one-run ball in his debut Friday, to the rotation. The only other player with upside the Jays get is Walter, 26,who didn’t pan out as a starter and isn’t doing much better as a reliever. The Cards may not have gotten max value for Rasmus, and he may bloom in Toronto with the change of scenery. But this deal isn’t one-sided.

Diagnosis: Win for Toronto, slightly smaller win for St. Louis, smaller win for Chicago because of Stewart’s upside.

Braves get: C Wil Nieves

Brewers get: Cash

Brian McCann got hurt Tuesday and landed on the disabled list Wednesday. The former Yankees and Nationals back-up is just insurance. He hit .140 in 20 games with the Brewers this season before being sent to Triple-A. That’s where he’ll remain for the Braves, waiting in the wings behind Cody Ross and J.C. Boscan for the NL Wild Card leaders.

Diagnosis: Stop it.

Thursday

Brewers get: IF Felipe Lopez

Rays get: Cash

See above, only insert “Rickie Weeks” for “Brian McCann” and move the timeline forward a day. Lopez, who hit .216 in 32 games with the Rays being demoted for the first time since 2004, stepped straight in, starting Friday for the Brewers. Lopez played for the Brewers in 2009, hitting .320 over 66 games in one of his seven MLB ports of call. The infielder hit .305 in 48 games at Triple-A Durham.

Diagnosis: Doesn’t matter

Giants get: OF Carlos Beltran

Mets get: RHP Zack Wheeler

Thursday’s blockbuster took a while to develop, but it could turn out to benefit both teams. The Giants were offensively-challenged since, well, since before they won the World Series last year. The loss of Buster Posey so early forced a move. What they get in Beltran is a 34-year-old switch hitter in the last year of an exorbitant deal who can provide power at the corner outfield, is in the midst of his healthiest season in three years (.289 with 15 HRs, 66 RBIs, an All-Star selection and on pace to play 153 games) and has a .366 career postseason average. The fact that he played in cavernous Citi Field cushions the blow of number reductions possible thanks to AT&T Park’s un-hitter-friendly dimensions. How well his playoff numbers will bear out remains to be seen, as his last fall appearance came in 2006. He’s also a massive defensive improvement. But based on the price, including the fact that the Mets are willing to pay $4 million of his remaining salary this season and the abundance of young arms the Giants already boast, Beltran is a good gamble. In the other direction, everyone seems sold on Wheeler’s potential. ESPN’s Keith Law ranks him the 31st best prospect in baseball, a 6-foot-4 righty who was the sixth overall pick in 2009 draft and is still just 21 years old. He’s 7-5 with a 3.99 ERA in 16 starts at High-A San Jose, and multiple sources peg him as a guy who needs polish but could end up as a top-of-the-rotation starter who becomes one of the top prospects in the Mets system. Along with the ridding of Frankie Rodriguez, the Mets are on the right track.

Diagnosis: Win now for the Giants, could be landslide long-term for Mets

Indians get: OF Kosuke Fukudome

Cubs gets: RHP Carlton Smith, OF Abner Abreu

The Indians, losers in the Beltran sweepstakes, found a trading partner in the hapless Cubs to solve their outfield depth issues. The Indians are on the hook for only $775,000 of Fukudome’s contract. The 34-year-old outfielder has struggled this season with the Cubs (did I mention they’re terrible?) hitting .273 with three homers and 13 RBIs in 87 games. He’ll provide a stop-gap measure for the AL Central-chasing Tribe until Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo get off the DL sometime in August and then provide bench depth. Law deems the two prospects “fringe” guys. The 25-year-old Smith is 2-5 in 34 relief appearances at Triple-A Columbus this season, striking out 46 and walking 20 in 46 innings pitched. He’s in his seventh pro season and second spent primarily at Triple-A. Abreu is 21 but signed as a 19-year-old out of the Dominican Republic and is in his fourth pro season. He’s hitting .244 with 12 HRs, 35 RBIs and 102 strikeouts in 336 at bats at High-A Kinston in the Carolina League.

Diagnosis: Win for the Indians if they make the playoffs, though it doesn’t sound like anyone involved with make an impact on their new teams in future seasons

Friday

Phillies get: OF Hunter Pence and cash

Astros get: 1B Jonathan Singleton, RHP Jarred Cosart, RHP Josh Zeid and player to be named

Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. seems to like July 29. In 2009, he picked up Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco from the Indians for four minor leaguers that include now-big league contributors Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson and Jason Donald. In 2010, he pulled the trigger on the capture of Roy Oswalt for the struggling J.A. Happ and two prospects. It’s also the third deal in which Amaro has danced with mentor Ed Wade, with the Oswalt and Brad Lidge for Michael Bourn and Geoff Geary deal in 2007. Amaro went back to the well and returned with the best player on the market. Pence slots into right field and give the Phils a right-handed bat they’ve so desperately desired since the departure of Jayson Werth. He provides protection for Ryan Howard in the five-slot that doesn’t involve displacing Shane Victorino or Jimmy Rollins or creating a blockade of lefties with Raul Ibanez following Howard and Chase Utley. Pence is under control through 2014, making him a long-term solution after the likely departure/retirement of Ibanez after this season and just a Philly kind of player. The Astros will also be forking over at least $1 to $2 million in cash to help the Phillies stay under the luxury tax threshold. The Phillies paid well for Pence but not nearly as heavily as they could have. The 21-year-old Cosart, one of the Phils’ so-called “Baby Aces” at High-A Clearwater, was 9-8 with a 3.92 ERA, 79 strikeouts and 43 walks in 108 innings. Singleton, 19, is hitting .284 with nine homers and 47 RBI in 93 games at Clearwater. Zeid, 24, is 2-3 with a 5.65 ERA, 56 Ks and 27 walks in 63.2 innings at Double-A Reading. While Zeid isn’t highly regarded and the player to be named is thought to be a low-A guy, Singleton and Cosart were ranked by Baseball American the 39th and 70th best prospects in baseball, respectively. There’s no doubt the Astros’ arrivals have upside. But the rebuilding club was unable to prise budding MLB-success Vance Worley, Ibanez’s likely replacement in kind in Domonic Brown who has a very high ceiling or even deceptively-successful though universally-reviled starter Kyle Kendrick from the Phils. Those failures are embarrassing and beg the question – in addition to if Wade is still secretly on the Phils’ payroll – if Pence and reportedly widely-marketed centerfielder Bourn don’t figure in the rebuilding plan, then who the heck does?

Diagnosis: Win for the Phillies, loss for anyone coming near the baseball vortex that will be Houston for the better part of the next decade.

Continue reading for Part 2, the moves from Saturday and Sunday…

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Responses

  1. […] For Part 1 and the analysis of moves earlier in the week, click here. […]


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