Last night, the biggest and perhaps the most surprising trade of this year’s deadline bonanza went down when the Colorado Rockies shipped 27-year-old “ace” Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians for a package of prospects that included two elite minor-league pitchers in Drew Pomeranz and Alex White. Things got weird when the trade was announced on Twitter despite the fact that Jimenez was warming up in the Rockies bullpen to start his game against the San Diego Padres. Things got weirder when he started the game and threw one bad inning while Esmil Rogers warmed up in the bullpen. Jimenez was pulled having allowed the Padres to bat around, scoring four runs and forcing him to throw 45 pitches. Minutes later, the trade was finalized.
The Rockies made a questionable decision in starting their best pitcher last night. Having thrown his whole career with the Rockies organization, Jimenez is very attached to the city, living with his parents just a few blocks from Coors Field. Being traded in that situation must be tough on a player and his family and the Rockies exhibited bad form in allowing their pitcher to go out and throw an inning, knowing he was traded.
Time will tell if this deal works out for Cleveland, who mortgaged a significant part of their future in shipping away Pomeranz and White. They clearly believe that they are contenders, not only this year, but next season and 2013 as well. The problem is, they’ve just bankrupted their organization of high ceiling pitchers. Jimenez will now be expected to carry a rotation that will include such “studs” as Josh Tomlin, Mitch Talbot, and Justin Masterson. No young pitcher is ready to come in and make an impact and there’s a good chance that one, if not both, of the pitchers they gave up will be better than Jimenez; and soon.
There were two other trades last night, one ‘almost’ trade and a third that just went down a few minutes ago:
The Houston Astros have traded their second outfielder in three days shipping speedy centerfielder Michael Bourn to the Atlanta Braves for Jordan Schafer, Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens, and Juan Abreu.
Bourn is enjoying a career season with a .303/.363/.403 slash line, .353 wOBA and a 3.6 WAR in 105 games. The 28-year-old is a very underrated commodity having averaged a 4.85 WAR in ’09 and ’10. In fact, since the start of 2009, Bourn has accumulated a higher WAR (13.3) than even Hunter Pence (9.9) who was considered the biggest trade chip on the Astros. He’s also under team control for one more year beyond this season.
In return, the Astros get Schafer who will be 25 in September. He was drafted in the third round of the 2005 draft by the Braves and has posted a .310 OBP in 414 big-league plate appearances with an OPS+ of just 68. Through parts of seven minor-league seasons, Schafer has not shown a ton of promise with a middling .258/.325/.408 slash line. His defensive ability should keep him on the fringe of the Majors, but he may not ever be anything more than a fourth outfielder.
Also coming over in the deal is left-hander Brett Oberholtzer, 22, who has posted a 3.36 FIP in 21 AA starts. He was ranked ninth among Braves’ prospects by Baseball America at the beginning of the season and could project as a number four starter in the big leagues.
Paul Clemens, 23, is a former seventh-round pick of the Braves and has a big arm with a fastball that touches 97, but has been inconsistent since becoming a pro. He could round into a rotational talent, but has to harness his changeup first. BA ranked him 26th among Braves’ prospects at the beginning of the year.
Finally, Juan Abreu, a former Royals’ farmhand, has a big fastball that touches triple-digits and a hard curveball. He struggles with his command and walks too many although if everything goes right, the 26-year-old could be a nice piece at the back end of the Astros bullpen soon. Abreu has posted a 2.25 ERA and 12.75 K/9 in 41 appearances at AAA-Gwinnett this season.
Considering Bourn could be thought of as at least as valuable as Pence, it feels like the Astros could’ve netted more than they did. Oberholtzer is the key to the deal and if he rounds into a third or fourth starter for Houston, the deal will look okay; if not, eh, not so much.
There were two other trades last night after the Jimenez trade was announced. The first sent Cleveland infielder Orlando Cabrera to San Francisco for minor-league outfielder Thomas Neal. Cabrera started the year as the everyday second baseman in Cleveland but has lost his job due to his inability to consistently get on base. Since losing his job, he’s acted as a utility infielder off the bench, a role he’s expected to occupy with the Giants. The Indians are expected to go with highly-touted rookie Jason Kipnis at second base for the remainder of the year.
Thomas Neal was a high-ceiling 36th round draft pick of the Giants in 2005 out of high school. He’s athletic despite his big frame and showed power at the lower minor-league levels slugging .579 in the High-A Cal-League in 2009. This season at AAA-Fresno, Neal has posted a .295/.351/.409 slash line with just two homeruns in 239 plate appearances. There’s still some serious potential in Neal so this was (unlike their other major move yesterday) a smart trade for the Clevelands.
Finally, the Orioles sent first baseman Derrek Lee to the Pittsburgh Pirates for 23-year-old first baseman Aaron Baker. Given that the O’s are not in contention and also their acquisition of Chris Davis from the Rangers earlier in the day, Lee was expendable. The Pirates will take on all of Lee’s remaining salary for this season before the nearly 36-year-old becomes a free agent in the offseason. Lee is in the middle of his worst offensive season, posting a miserable .310 wOBA in 364 plate appearances. He should form an at least passable platoon with Lyle Overbay at first base for the Pirates.
Baker isn’t considered much more than an org. player and was a throw-in to a deal that was all about salary relief for Baltimore.
The Red Sox also looked poised to acquire Rich Harden late last night from the A’s for first base prospect Lars Anderson and a player to be named later, but the deal fell through when Boston got a hold of Harden’s medicals, because he’s, you know, Rich Harden. There’s still a chance the deal gets done at some point today. UPDATE: The Red Sox apparently tried to take back the ‘player to be named later’ in the deal and just send Anderson to Oakland, but they rejected it.
Stay tuned to Getting Blanked for the rest of the day for all your trade deadline analysis.