Trade Deadline Judgment

The non-waiver trade deadline came and went Sunday afternoon, with flurries of both activity and non-activity. Like a snowflake each deal made or not made was unique. As I touched on when writing about the Carlos Beltran trade, judging the value of any transaction is always dependent on the situation of the team. It’s narrow minded to say that trading prospects for veterans is always wrong, just as it’s short-sighted to suggest that any trade for relief pitching is done so by an idiotic general manager (although I struggle with that one the most).

Therefore any good analysis on the trades made over the past week should really examine each team, and look at the individual justifications for making the moves that they did. And as I intend to prove with the following, the same holds true for mediocre analysis:

Arizona Diamondbacks

In acquiring starter Jason Marquis and reliever Brad Ziegler, the Diamondbacks did what they set out to do in shoring up their pitching as they make a run at the San Francisco Giants in the National League West. It’s certainly not flashy, but at least they accomplished what they wanted.

The trade for Marquis stands out as being quite exceptional because in exchange for 9th round pick Zach Walters, Arizona gets a pitcher who will eat up innings and then hit free agency this offseason, potentially bringing back a supplemental pick when he signs elsewhere. Giving up Brandon Allen and Jordan Norberto for Ziegler seems like too high of a cost for what essentially amounts to a younger version of Octavio Dotel. When used properly Ziegler can be effective, but the possibility of Allen finally putting everything together at the Major League level would scare me away from ever pulling the trigger on that swap.

Arizona also gave the Seattle Mariners cash considerations for outfielder Ryan Langerhans.

Atlanta Braves

The Braves created a massive upgrade in center field by acquiring Michael Bourn from the Houston Astros. The fact that they did so for center fielder Jordan Schafer, Double A starter Brett Oberholtzer, Double A starter Paul Clemens, and Triple A reliever Juan Abreu, and not any of their top ranked pitching prospects makes this deal one of the clearest wins of the trade deadline. Not only has Atlanta cemented their Wild Card status with this deal, they’ve also become a more formidable opponent for any team in the playoffs.

The Braves also acquired catcher Wil Nieves from the Milwaukee Brewers for cash considerations as a backup while Brian McCann recovers from injury.

Baltimore Orioles

Coming into the trade deadline, I thought that reliever Koji Uehara was one of the most valuable relievers available, and I actually like the return that Baltimore got for him from the Texas Rangers. Tommy Hunter can eat up some innings as a member of the Orioles’ rotation, but the real prize is the thus far unfulfilled Chris Davis who never really got the time to reach his potential in Texas. Davis has proven his ability to get on base and mash in the Minor Leagues, and should get every chance to do so at the Major League level, at the very least for the rest of this season, after Baltimore moved veteran Derek Lee to the Pittsburgh Pirates for another first baseman in Minor Leaguer Aaron Baker.

The Orioles also acquired lefty reliever Zach Phillips in a separate move with the Rangers that cost the team Nick Green and a little bit of cash.

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox likely improved their starting rotation, assuming that newly acquired starter Erik Bedard can remain healthy after he came over with reliever Josh Fields from the Seattle Mariners in a three-way deal that also involved the Los Angeles Dodgers. As part of that deal, Boston sent catcher Tim Federowicz, reliever Juan Rodriguez, and starter Stephen Fife to Los Angeles, as well as outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang to Seattle.  One can’t help but wonder if the Red Sox might have been more active had they known that they’d be losing Clay Buchholz for an extended period.

Boston also acquired the defensively inclined middle infiedler Mike Aviles from the Kansas City Royals for Minor Leaguers Yamaico Navarro and Kendal Volz. And let’s not forget that they’ll also receive a player to be named later or cash from Florida for outfielder Mike Cameron.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs were fairly inactive at the deadline, only moving Kosuke Fukudome and money to pay his salary to the Cleveland Indians for prospects, and I use the term loosely, Abner Abreu and Carlton Smith. It’s a no harm no foul type of deal, but what must be especially aggravating for Cubs fans is that there was really no excuse for the team not to move Reed Johnson, Jeff Baker, Sean Marshall, Matt Garza, Carlos Pena and pretty much every other member of the roster whose name isn’t Starlin Castro. But I suppose that’s what happens when a lame duck and somewhat delusional GM is allowed to remain in charge. Despite Jim Hendry’s claims that the roster as is can compete in the NL Central next year, they won’t.

Chicago White Sox

The sole move made by Kenny Williams has already been covered quite exhaustively on this blog for the role that it played in the Colby Rasmus trade. The team doesn’t lose much in giving up starter Edwin Jackson, while managing to find some salary relief for next year by sending Mark Teahen to Toronto. Reliever Jason Frasor is an underrated addition to the bullpen and pitching prospect Zach Stewart could go either way.

Overall, the move seems somewhat indecisive, neither selling off completely or putting all their chips in the pot. Perhaps that’s wise, as the team on the whole has under-performed, but still finds itself only a few games back in the AL Central.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds, in the midst of a quietly disappointing season, were fairly quiet, questionably moving Jonny Gomes for outfielder Bill Rhinehart and pitcher Chris Manno to the Washington Nationals. Gomes, if he’s able to sign a Major League contract this coming offseason will bring back a supplemental draft pick to the Nats, which is of a whole lot more value than the two players that the Reds acquired. No one would suggest that the Reds panic at the deadline, but with the resurgence of a few teams in their division, Cincinnati appears to have no answers, and are prepared to stay course. I suppose we’ll have to wait until around this time next year to see if that was the right decision.

Cleveland Indians

There’s a strange belief that if a team finds itself at the top of a division at the end of July it somehow owes it to its fan base to go for the World Series, prospects be damned. I don’t quite agree. The Indains probably acquired the most expensive player at the deadline in Colordo Rockies starter Ubaldo Jiminez, and they paid top dollar, giving up prospects Joe Gardner, Alex White, Matt McBride and a player to be named later, who is expected to be left-hander Drew Pomeranz who isn’t eligible yet to be traded.

The only way to justify such a move is by winning the World Series, and I don’t think that Jiminez, who was shopped a bit too eagerly by the Rockies for my comfort level, is really the addition to push this overachieving team over the top. And neither are acquiring outfield prospect Thomas Neal from the San Francisco Giants for shortstop Orlando Cabrera. Or trading Abner Abreu and Carlton Smith to the Chicago Cubs for right fielder Kosuke Fukudome and about $3.9 million.

Colorado Rockies

Ubaldo Jiminez’s fastballs averaged 96 mph last year. This season they’ve been hovering around 93 mph. I have a feeling that the Rockies got out of the Jiminez game at the perfect point, acquiring Joe Gardner, Alex White, Matt McBride and likely/eventually Drew Pomeranz. That haul represents two of the Indians best pitching prospects, and it’s difficult for me to believe that Dan O’Dowd didn’t take advantage of a team that has overachieved this season and thinks itself to be better than it is playing in the weak AL Central.

Despite losing a great pitcher with a team-friendly contract, Rockies fans have every reason to celebrate the possibilities for their team’s future.

Detroit Tigers

In acquiring Doug Fister and David Pauley from the Seattle Mariners for prospects Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, and a player to be named later that’s reportedly one of the team’s’ top three picks from the 2010 draft (Nick Castellanos, Chance Ruffin, or Drew Smyly), the Detroit Tigers are overpaying for two pitchers that are enjoying career seasons in one of those West Coast ballparks that coddle pitchers. The team likely also overpayed to acquire Wilson Betemit from the Kansas City Royals, even if the cost was only Antonio Cruz and Julio Rodriguez.

The only solace that Tigers fans can take is that the division rival Indians likely mortgaged their future just as poorly, and also stand less of a chance of winning the division this year.

Florida Marlins

Move along there’s nothing to see here. And yes, I am aware that the Marlins acquired Mike Cameron from the Boston Red Sox for a spare bag of balls. Like I said, nothing to see here. Enjoy the new stadium.

Houston Astros

As much as I liked the Astros landing Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Josh Zeid, and a player to be named later from the Philadelphia Phillies for Hunter Pence and $2 million, I hated them giving up Michael Bourn for Jordan Schafer, Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens, and Juan Abreu. It’s a clear cut case of quantity over quality, and as awful as the Astros organization might be, it’s difficult to accept moving the team’s best player without getting at least one of the other team’s best prospects.

Oh, Ed Wade. What’s to become of you?

Earlier in the week, Houston traded Jeff Keppinger to the San Francisco Giants for pitchers Henry Sosa and Jason Stoffel.

Kansas City Royals

There’s little doubt in my mind that the Royals maxed out on their returns for Mike Aviles (to the Boston Red Sox for Yamaico Navarro and Kendal Volz) and Wilson Betemit (for Antonio Cruz and Julio Rodriguez). However, there’s also little doubt in my mind that they could’ve continued that trend by trading Melky Cabrera, who’s having a very good season and isn’t really a necessary part of the Royals’ present or future.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Hey, Tony Reagins, I hope you continue to enjoy Jeff Mathis as your starting catcher, because you did absolutely nothing to help out your cause in the American League West.

Los Angeles Dodgers

You can probably guess how things went for the Dodgers at the trade deadline given two facts: 1) This has been the franchise’s worst year ever; and 2) Ned Colletti, the deadline dynamo, remains the team’s general manager. Somehow, Los Angeles managed to double their losses by not only failing to convince their biggest tradeable asset, Hiroki Kuroda, to waive his no trade clause, but also by giving up their best position prospect in Trayvon Robinson to the Seattle Mariners, as part of a wacky three team trade that also included the Boston Red Sox.

The Dodgers did acquire Tim Federowicz, Juan Rodriguez and Stephen Fife from the Boston Red Sox, but gave up Robinson in a deal that screams quantity over quality.

Milwaukee Brewers

After kicking the whole trade deadline scramble off by announcing their acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez from the New York Mets for two players to be named later, the Brewers played it safe when it came to finding a replacement for the recently injured Rickie Weeks. The team gave up Double A outfielder Erik Komatsu to the Washington Nationals for Jerry Hairston Jr. and also paid the Tampa Bay Rays cash for middle infielder Felipe Lopez. Certainly not earth shattering additions, but Rodriguez has already proven himself to be more valuable than I anticipated, and in the NL Central, it’s not like superstars are required to compete.

The Brewers also sold Wil Nieves to the Braves for an undisclosed amount of cash.

Minnesota Twins

Despite not making a trade, the fact that they were rumoured to be willing to give up Denard Span for a reliever, even one of Drew Storen’s value, is enough for me to question Bill Smith’s sanity. Adding to his questionable mental state is that it seemed as though he didn’t even attempt to move Jason Kubel or Michael Cuddyer.

Serious question: Does Smith actually believe that he won the Matt Capps for Wilson Ramos trade from a year ago?

New York Mets

The Mets did very nicely in landing pitching prospect Zack Wheeler from the San Francisco Giants for right fielder Carlos Beltran, especially considering that the corner outfielder couldn’t be offered compensation (and therefore bring back a supplemental draft pick) as part of his contract. They also handled what could’ve been a disaster of a vesting option very well in dealing Francisco Rodriguez to the Milwaukee Brewers for two players from a list of five, which will be decided at some point in September.

Still, there’s a lot more fat on this roster that could’ve been trimmed. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a very active offseason for the Mets, just with Jose Reyes contract negotiations alone.

New York Yankees

It feels somewhat strange to talk about a bunch of wheeling and dealing and not be discussing the Yankees, but the team didn’t make a single trade this month. This would’ve been far more alarming if the Tampa Bay Rays had been more active or if the Boston Red Sox hadn’t lost Clay Buchholz for the season. As it stands, the Yankees remain the Yankees, and that should be good enough to at least walk away with the AL Wild Card.

Oakland Athletics

Oakland only made one trade at the deadline and that was selling high on right handed reliever Brad Ziegler whose use almost exclusively against right handed batters has made his numbers look better than his actual talent level would likely deserve this season. The Diamondbacks gave up Brandon Allen and Jordan Norberto to acquire him. I don’t know much about Norberto, but I really like the Allen addition. Despite being unable to put it all together at the Major League level, his performances in the Minors suggest that he can be a very offensively productive player given the chance.

Philadelphia Phillies

Much like the Arizona Diamondbacks, it’s difficult to fault the Phillies for going out and accomplishing exactly what they set out to do. In landing Hunter Pence and $2 million from the Astros for prospects Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Josh Zeid and a player to be named later, Philadelphia pays a steep price for the right handed bat that they desired. I can’t shake the feeling though that Pence’s numbers are somewhat inflated this year due to luck, and may be due for some regression in the second half.

Negating Pence’s value to a degree is that manager Charlie Manuel is going to continue to play Raul Ibanez instead of Domonic Brown in the outfield. Cosart and Singleton have a high upside, but both players are far from sure things. Overall, I think I dislike this deal more than most, but the Phillies system is almost always brimming with prospects, and given the relative risk of the two they gave up in the deal, it could prove to be a fair cost.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates went out and got an upgrade at first base in trading Minor Leaguer Aaron Baker to the Baltimore Orioles for Derrek Lee, which means that Lyle Overbay now finds himself designated for assignment. No one overpaid in this deal, just as trading a player to be named later to the San Diego Padres for Ryan Ludwick isn’t going to set the organization back a decade.

However, I can’t help but wonder if the team’s position in the standings had been different, they might have been able to justify moving one of their starting pitchers or a reliever or even Ronny Cedeno, all of whom are performing at levels better than expected. While the Pirates immediate future likely wasn’t hurt by the team’s deadline dealings, it also wasn’t improved, even though the opportunity existed to do so.

San Diego Padres

The Padres landed pitching prospects Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland from the Texas Rangers in exchange for scrap heap pickup turned awesome reliever Mike Adams. Erlin and Wieland stand to do well eventually pitching at Petco Park in San Diego, but what pitcher wouldn’t? And therein lies the rub for the Rangers. We’ll soon find out to what degree Adams’ numbers were helped out by that enormous park on the coast of California.

It wasn’t all back pats and hand shakes in San Diego though. After being unable to move Heath Bell for the return they wanted, the closer told reporters that he’d like to stay with the Padres and would likely accept arbitration if its offered to him. Bell’s salary next season would end up being a quarter of the total payroll and that’s far too much for a rebuilding team to be paying a closer.

San Francisco Giants

It’s always hard to justify giving up a pitching prospect of Zack Wheeler’s quality for a player that could very likely play less than a 100 games for the organization, including playoffs this season. However, the Giants offense is so desperately anemic, especially without Buster Posey, that acquiring Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets simply had to be done.

Of course the success or failure of this deal is directly attached to whether or not the Giants make the playoffs and then what happens once they do so. Surprisingly, with the way the team has been playing since making the Beltran deal, that’s not as certified as one would think.

San Francisco also acquired infielders Jeff Keppinger from the Houston Astros for pitchers Henry Sosa and Jason Stoffel,and Orlando Cabrera from the Cleveland Indians for outfield prospect Thomas Neal. Meh.

Seattle Mariners

With maybe the exception of the Colorado Rockies, I don’t think any team improved its future as much as the Mariners did over the last week. Acquiring Trayvon Robinson from the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chih-Hsien Chiang from the Red Sox in the three-team deal that sent Erik Bedard and Josh Fields to Boston offers immediate upgrades to the organization’s hitting prospects. Meanwhile, landing third baseman Francisco Martinez, outfielder Casper Wells, left handed starter Charlie Furbush, and one of Nick Castellanos, Chance Ruffin, or Drew Smyly for Doug Fister and David Pauley, bolsters the organization in terms of both quality and quantity, all while selling on players at the height of their value.

Prior to last year’s miserable season, many were lauding Jack Zduriencik as the smartest GM in baseball. Those accolades for his intelligence, while maybe overstated, weren’t all that inaccurate. The Mariners have set themselves up quite nicely for the type of future sustained success that the best run organizations in baseball are constantly aiming for.

The Mariners also received cash considerations from the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder Ryan Langerhans.

St. Louis Cardinals

I understand that the Albert Pujols situation puts the Cardinals in a unique position in which they’re almost forced to go for it this season. I’m just not entirely convinced that a) they went about “going for it” in the right fashion; or that b) they should have given up on a player that almost certainly would’ve brought back a better return this offseason.

I don’t mean to suggest that Alex Castellanos is an enormous cost by any means, but spending anything, plus $2.5 million, to get what’s left of Rafael Furcal on your team seems as misguided of a move to win a division as there is. Acquiring Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, outfielder Corey Patterson, even with three players to be named later or cash considerations from the Toronto Blue Jays for center fielder Colby Rasmus (along with pitchers Trever Miller, Brian Tallet, and P.J. Walters), seems like the exact deal you shouldn’t make at a trade deadline.

Again, I understand the position that the Cardinals find themselves in. If this were a rowing race, they need to finish first. I just don’t think they should throw one of their best rowers overboard for the sake of weight.

Tampa Bay Rays

With all of the rumours circulating involving B.J. Upton, it’s difficult to believe that the Rays weren’t one of the more active participants in this year’s deadline. But for all of that activity, no deal came to fruition, and that in itself is likely a good sign. While the playoffs opening for this season is shutting rapidly, Tampa Bay is in a great position to be a competitor next year, and they were smart enough to avoid sacrificing that for an ill-advised trade for trading’s sake.

Texas Rangers

Fact: The Texas Rangers now own the best bullpen in the American League after acquiring Mike Adams from the San Diego Padres for pitching prospects Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin, and landing Koji Uehara and from the Baltimore Orioles for Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter. It’s very hard to dispute that the Rangers now have a relief corps that makes it incredibly difficult for even Ron Washington to mess up late inning bullpen management.

Here’s my problem: the Rangers with some smarter spending during this past offseason could have shored up their bullpen to the same degree without giving up pitching prospects and potential power hitters like Davis. My prediction is that they eventually regret this deal, no matter how well these two relievers play en route to the playoffs.

The team also acquired Nick Green and cash considerations from the Baltimore Orioles in a separate trade for lefty reliever Zach Phillips.

Toronto Blue Jays

Again, we have a team that was attached to almost every player rumoured to be on the trade block (from Chris Ianetta to Wandy Rodriguez), and yet the one deal that the Toronto Blue Jays pulled the trigger on was such a resounding win, that anything less from an additional trade would’ve been anticlimactic.

The Blue Jays acquired center fielder Colby Rasmus and pitchers Trever Miller, Brian Tallet, and P.J. Walters from the St. Louis Cardinals for Edwin Jackson (whom Toronto had earlier acquired along with Mark Teahen for Zach Stewart and Jason Frasor), Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, outfielder Corey Patterson. Any time the best player you’re giving up in a deal is a reliever, and the best player you’re acquiring is a key position player, I think you’re doing a little bit better than alright in the trade.

With the addition of the young, talented and controllable Rasmus, the Blue Jays put themselves in a position to spend this offseason on potential free agents and immediately join the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays as members of the elite in the AL East. It’s definitely enough to make you feel sorry for the Baltimore Orioles.

Washington Nationals

I’ve got nothing against any of the Nationals’ moves this past month. If they can land a supplemental pick from trading Bill Rhinehart and Chris Manno to the Cincinnati Reds for Jonny Gomes, then I’ll even go so far as to call their wheeling and dealing exceptional. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with ridding themselves of Jason Marquis for shortstop prospect Zach Walters from the Arizona Diamondbacks or acquiring outfield prospect Erik Komatsu from the Milwaukee Brewers for Jerry Hairston Jr., a player without a present or future in Washington.

However, what I’ll remember most about this deadline for the Nationals is that they didn’t pull the trigger on a deal that would’ve landed them Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins for the cost of Drew Storen. Don’t get me wrong, Storen is a great, young, controllable reliever, but when one of the finer center fielders in the league can be had for him, there should be no debate at all. That’s a trade that a GM should jump at.

Earlier, I wondered if Bill Smith imagined he had won the Capps for Ramos deal from a year ago. Now, I wonder if Mike Rizzo thinks he has too.


That about does it for the trade deadline deals. We’ll see how things shake out over the next couple weeks, but remember, the non-waiver trade deadline isn’t exactly a hard deadline. There could still be a lot more roster movement in the next month. Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra has a handy summary on the rules governing post deadline trades.

I’m continued to be amazed by the value that general managers place on relievers. This trade deadline more than any other seems to justify a recent strategy of the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays in picking up cheap relievers whenever possible during the offseason. If they don’t turn themselves into trading chips in July, they often become supplemental picks when they sign free agent contracts elsewhere the next offseason.

As evidenced once again this July, there seems to be somewhat of a knowledge gap as the well managed teams make good decisions and the poorly managed ones, at the executive level, make poor decisions. As much as baseball pundits might talk about the wealth division in baseball, a far more important divide occurs in intelligence at the general manager level. And this gap could prove far more dangerous than any difference in financial statements.