Thursday, July 31, 2014

Trading Deadline Recap

This years trading deadline had the most action in years. There were several blockbuster trades today, along with many other moves in the last couple of days. All Stars like Jon Lester, David Price, and Yoenis Cespesdes found themselves in different uniforms. The Dodgers, Braves, and Blue Jays stood pat at the deadline. The Athletics, Tigers, and Cardinals made several moves. The slumping Red Sox made several bold moves, while the last place Phillies held on to their stars.

NL East

This division has been a dogfight between the Nationals and Braves all season long, with the Nats holding a 1.5 game lead on the Braves. The Marlins have been playing better and are creeping into the wild card race. Washington is the most talented team in the division, but has been hit hard with injuries. Bryce Harper missed two months earlier in the season, and now Ryan Zimmerman is out indefinitely with a hamstring tear. So the Nats went out an acquired Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera for rookie infielder Zach Walters. With Ian Desmond at short, Cabrera will most likely move to second base. Anthony Rendon has been at second, but will slide over to third to replace Zimmerman.

The Marlins added right handed starter Jarred Cosart in a six player deal with the Astros. The Marlins also sent the Astros their competitive balance draft pick. Cosart is only 24 years old in his second season, and will help the Marlins staff trying to make up for the loss of Jose Fernandez to Tommy John surgery. With Cosart, the Marlins have another reliable starter to go with All Star Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi. The Braves didn't make any moves at the deadline. However, they did promote Tommy La Stella to play second base and released slumping Dan Uggla last month. The Mets and Phillies were dormant at the deadline.

NL Central

The Cardinals made the biggest moves of any team in this division. They signed A.J. Pierzynski last Friday to fill in for the injured Yadier Molina at catcher. On Wednesday, John Mozeliak traded Double A outfielder James Ramsey for Indians starter Justin Masterson. On Thursday's deadline, Mozeliak traded Allen Craig and Joe Kelly for John Lackey and Corey Littrell. This is a big shakeup to the roster and is could shake this team out of its complacency. It also could backfire.

No players stock has fallen as much as Allen Craig's. Last year, Craig was an All Star and drove in 97 runs. From 2011-13, Craig hit .312. This year, Craig has batted .237, slugged .346, and has an OBP of .291. Joe Kelly had a terrific second half, but missed most of this season due to a hamstring strain.  Both of these players are talented enough to rebound in Boston. In return, the Cardinals get a veteran starter who can pitch deeper into games than Kelly and everyone not named Adam Wainwright. Lackey has also excelled in the postseason, winning the deciding games of two different World Series.

This trade opens up a full time spot for Oscar Taveras. Since his promotion, Taveras has only batted .206 in limited playing time. Mike Matheny was still giving Craig most of the playing time hoping he would snap out of his struggles. Taveras has come up with a lot of hype surrounding him, and he will now get a chance to prove himself in the majors. In his first game after the trade, Taveras hit a two run homer. The Cardinals don't hit for much power, and aren't hitting much at all lately. They need Taveras to shine, and Craig's absence won't be missed. With Michael Wacha's status uncertain, Mozeliak felt like he needed to add pitching at the deadline. The team is also concerned about their starters not going deep enough into games, which is wearing out the bullpen. Craig was viewed as expendable because of younger, cheaper options like Taveras and Matt Adams.

The Pirates and Reds did not make any major moves, but the Brewers picked up outfielder Geraldo Parra from the Diamondbacks. Parra has won two Gold Gloves and can play all three outfield positions. The rebuilding Cubs made their major trade earlier in the month, trading Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The Brewers, Pirates, and Cardinals are all within 2.5 games of each other. Currently at third place, the Cardinals have many games left against division opponents to make up the difference. Mozeliak is gambling that Taveras will be an improvement over Craig, and that Lackey and Masterson will bolster the team's rotation.

NL West

The NL West is a race between two teams, the Dodgers and Giants. Despite many rumors about trading for David Price and trading away Matt Kemp, Los Angeles made no major moves. Unless you count picking up Darwin Barney a major move. The Giants traded for starter Jake Peavy after they found out Matt Cain needed a visit with Dr. James Andrews about his elbow. With Cain's status uncertain, the Giants acquired Peavy for two prospects. They also experimented with Dan Uggla for a week, but have released him. Second base has been a black hole for the Giants, with Marco Scutaro missing most of the year.

The Diamondbacks and Padres were the sellers of the division. The last place Rockies didn't make any moves at the deadline. The offensively challenged Padres traded away Chase Headley for Yangervis Solarte and a prospect. Earlier in the month, they traded away Huston Street to the Angels for four prospects. Arizona traded away Geraldo Parra and Martin Prado. Arizona and San Diego are two teams in transition, and both teams have made front office moves in season.

AL East

The majority of noise coming from this division at the deadline came from the bottom of it. The Red Sox had already traded Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront in recent days. On Thursday, they traded Jon Lester for Yoenis Cespesdes. The Red Sox had unsuccessfully tried to work out an extension with Lester and decided to trade him at the deadline. Later on Thursday, Boston traded John Lackey and a prospect to the Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. Then they made a rare trade with the Yankees involving Stephen Drew. The Red Sox are clearly a team building for 2015. Expect Boston to go on a free agent frenzy in the offseason. Lester has said that he would still consider signing with Boston if he was traded. I would also expect the Red Sox(and Yankees) to be in the mix for Max Scherzer.

The Rays have been climbing back into the race recently. They are two games below .500 after having baseball's worst record in mid-June. They have talked about moving David Price last offseason, but did not. The asking price was rumored to be very high, and some thought that the Rays would hold on to Price. They still had him for next season. Oddly, they traded Price to Detroit for a much less haul than expected. They only received second baseman Nick Franklin, left hander Drew Smyly, and A-ball prospect Willy Adames in return. Right now, it looks like Tampa Bay got fleeced on this deal.

The Yankees traded for Chase Headley to fill their void at third base. They then Kelly Johnson to Boston for Drew to presumably play second base. After acquiring Drew, they DFA'd Brian Roberts. Later, they traded for the D-Backs Martin Prado. Prado can play several positions, but it looks like he is penciled for right field for now. This moves Ichiro Suzuki to the bench. New York did not make any moves to improve their pitching, outside of Brandon McCarthy. They have had many injuries to their starters, including C.C. Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka. The Blue Jays did not make any moves, and the Orioles only made a minor one in acquiring lefty reliever Andrew Miller from Boston.

AL Central

Dave Dombrowski might win Executive of the Year after making the deal for David Price. Price gives the Tigers three Cy Young Award winners along with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. This team still has last year's ERA champ Anibal Sanchez and near-All Star Rick Porcello in it. Earlier in the month, Detroit acquired reliever Joakim Soria to bolster their bullpen. It only cost the Tigers Austin Jackson, Drew Smyly, and a A ball prospect to get Price. Jackson was the teams starting center fielder, but they can move left fielder Rajai Davis over to center. Davis is a better offensive player, but weaker defensively. J.D. Martinez can have a full time slot in left field after hitting well in part time duty. This is clearly a team built to win the World Series. Detroit will also have Price for next season, which would help ease the potential loss of Scherzer this offseason. Scherzer reportedly turned down a contract worth $144 million.

The rest of the division didn't do much. Kansas City made one minor deal, and the White Sox none. The Twins dealt away Kendrys Morales and acquired Tommy Milone from Oakland. The Indians traded away Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera had been the team's longest tenured player, but with Francisco Lindor waiting in the wings, he was expendable.

AL West

Billy Beane has clearly put Oakland all-in this season. He had already given up his best prospect to get Jeff Samardzjia. Today, he made an even more bold move. Beane traded away All Star left fielder Yoenis Cespesdes for lefty Jon Lester. Clearly, Beane thought he needed to upgrade his pitching, and sacrificed offense for pitching. Beane's teams have repeatedly lost in the first round, and to Detroit the past two seasons. The Athletics will have a very good staff in Lester, Samardzjia, Sonny Gray, and Scott Kazmir. They team also recieved Jonny Gomes in the Lester deal to replace Cespesdes. Beane then moved Tommy Milone to the Twins for Sam Fuld. Fuld and Gomes most likely will platoon in Cespesdes left field spot.

Not very often does a contending team trade their All Star outfielder in a pennant race. Boston trading Manny Ramirez for Jason Bay comes to mind. A generation ago, Oakland made a blockbuster move similar to this in 1992 when they traded Jose Canseco for Ruben Sierra, Jeff Russell, and Bobby Witt. Cespedes had been one of the team's better hitters, especially when it comes to hitting for power. He also has a cannon for a arm in left. Cespesdes will be a free agent after next season, and the A's aren't likely to be able to afford him. Lester will be a free agent at the season's end. Beane figures this year might be his best shot at winning a World Series, and that Lester would be more valuable to the team than Cespesdes.

The Angels made several moves to improve their faltering bullpen. They traded away former closer Ernesto Freiri for the Pirates Jason Grilli. They then put together a four prospect package to acquire All Star closer Huston Street from the Padres. Joe Smith will now move into a setup role for Street. The Angels did not make any moves to bolster their rotation. With C.J. Wilson just coming off the DL, the team is thin behind Jered Weaver and Garrett Richards. The Angels currently have baseball's second best record behind the Athletics, but would have to play in a one game playoff if the season ended today.

The Astros and Rangers made a couple of minor moves before the deadline and our far out of contention. The Mariners have been in contention for the last wild card spot. Seattle has been carried by their pitching and have the best team ERA in the American League. They also have the league's worst offense. They made a couple of moves to bolster their offense, acquiring Kendrys Morales and Austin Jackson. Seattle was rumored to be in the mix for David Price, but settled for Jackson in a three way deal. Morales and Jackson aren't what you would call impact moves, but they could help out a struggling offense. With Felix Hernandez, this is a scary team to face in a potential one game playoff. The Mariners could easily upset a favored opponent with King Felix on the mound for that game.

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