God bless the Houston Astros. If you’re going to run out a terrible roster with another top draft pick in mind, you don’t half-ass it. You go out and clear the decks of ANYTHING of value as soon as you can. The Astros traded their best pitcher and, possibly, only valid reliever this morning, shipping Jose Veras to the Tigers in exchange for teenage low-A outfielder Danry Vasquez and a player to be named later.
A few scant hours later, the Angels shipped out dependable lefty Scott Downs to Atlanta, netting rookie Cory Rasmus in return. Two nice acquisitions for two playoff-bound teams at very reasonable prices.
There will (hopefully) be sexier trades this deadline period but the Tigers acquiring Jose Veras is a nice little move for a team already well-positioned for a long playoff run. They have impeccable starting pitching and not a lot in the way of open spots in their every day lineup, but the bullpen has been especially troubling, ranking in the bottom third of baseball in WPA, WAR (when derived from Runs Allowed, a better suited metric to bullpen evaluation) and shutdowns. The move helps the Tigers immediately as it pushes worse right-handed setup options like Al Alburquerque and Bruce Rondon farther down the depth chart.
Veras makes great use of his newly-discovered command with the Astros, throwing his nasty fastball/changeup combo for strikes and keeping both arm-side and glove-side hitters off balance. Veras could become a free agent at the end of the season if the club declines his $3.5 million option for 2014, instead paying out a mere $150K buyout. As Dave Cameron notes at Fangraphs, Veras has pitched very well over the past year, comparing nicely to the much more expensive Jonathan Papelbon.
Jose Veras' season is very reminiscent of Rodney's 2012. Guys with ugly command profiles who suddenly found success by throwing strikes.
— Jonah Birenbaum (@birenball) July 29, 2013
In return, the win-now Tigers give up a toolsy teenager currently repeating A-ball. Like all primordial prospects, there is plenty to dream on in Danry Vasquez’s game. It is simply a matter of making it a reality.
— Marc Hulet (@marchulet) July 29, 2013
Scott Downs has been a very good reliever for a very long time. Despite playing for the Angels these last three seasons, Scott Downs acquited himself nicely as a key setup man on good teams which were never good enough. Despite being turning 37 earlier this year, Scott Downs was in the middle of another fine season, posting a 209 ERA+. Since converting to a reliever in 2006, Downs owns a 164 ERA+. That’s good!
Downs joins the Braves hot off a scoreless streak which reached 18 innings before snapping in spectacular fashion (the only way the Angels know) on Saturday afternoon, surrendering a home run for the first time in 2013. Downs is a free agent at the end of the season and just might earn himself another tidy pay day, going the Darren Oliver/Jesse Orosco rout and just keep playing forever.
Downs joins one of the better bullpens in baseball, slotting into as a lefty who can still come in and retire right-handed batters. Injuries to Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flahertty left the Braves relying on Luis Avilan to retire tough left-handed hitters, a job he’s done well but one Atlanta surely believes Downs can do better.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) July 29, 2013
Giving up Cory Rasmus for Downs signifies…the reliever market is weaker than you think. Two very good (at worst serviceable) relievers net a distant A-ball outfielder and relief pitcher whose best asset is his rather paltry pay check. Rasmus can step in and “help” the Angels now while the Astros are more focussed on a future that may never come.
While I’m sure the relief pitcher on your rebuilding club are special snowflakes who will surely net a cornerstone piece of the next great ________ team, it just doesn’t look to be the case for the other deadline sellers. Sorry.