By 4 p.m. on Tuesday, the bones of most of baseball’s also-rans were nearly picked clean.
In a busy trade deadline and furious final day Tuesday, the league’s contenders stocked their potential post-season larder with players they believe can help deliver glory.
For the pretenders, they can only hope that the players, cash considerations and international slot money will come in handy so that one day they can swap places with the buyers this year.
The fire sale got into high gear Tuesday, with 16 separate deals involving 24 players, including the vaunted “TBD” and “Player To Be Named Later”, cash considerations and international slot money.
The Seattle Mariners, who are second in the AL West behind Houston and holding down the second wild card by the slimmest of margins (2.0 games) over Oakland, were the busiest of deadline shoppers, dealing for six roster players.
Colorado and Oakland, both still very much in the hunt, were the quietest, securing the services of one starter each.
The returns are in and we have graded each so-called contenders moves, with one special addition for interest sake. No A’s or B’s, but a sliding scale from Excellent, to Good, Fair, So-So and Incomplete.
Boston Red Sox – Good
The trade that brought Nathan Eovaldi to Boston couldn’t have happened at a better time. On July 25, the Bosox sent minor league starter Jalen Beeks to Tampa in exchange for well-traveled Eovaldi, who was having a so-so year with the Rays. Just days after his acquisition, starters Eduardo Rodriguez and then Chris Sale went on the 10-day disabled list. On Sunday, Eovaldi pitched a gem in his first game for front-running Boston, allowing just four hits and no runs in seven innings against Minnesota (a 3-0 win). On Monday, one day before the deadline, Boston filled a gaping hole at second, sending two AAA level starters to Anaheim for Ian Kinsler. With Dustin Pedroia not expected back at all, Kinsler brings a decent glove and some pop in his bat to the Sox already potent line-up. We only give Boston a “Good” grade, though, in that they had to part with th good bat/work-in-progress glove of minor league SS Santiago Espinal to obtain bench-depth 1B Steve Pearce from Toronto.
New York Yankees – Fair
The Yanks, as per usual when they are in contention, were very busy at and before the deadline. The Bombers made six separate deals, involving 11 players, cash considerations and international slot money coming back. They got the proverbial ball rolling to acquire position players on July 24, sending three minor league pitchers to the awful Orioles for reliever Zach Britton. Two days later they sent INF Brandon Drury and a minor league outfield prospect to Toronto for starter J.A. Happ. On July 28, the acquired 1B Luke Voit and slot money from St. Louis RPs Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos. Then, a day before the deadline, they shipped RP Adam Warren to Seattle for slot money and then picked up SP Lance Lynn from Minnesota for two minor league prospects. We give the Yanks just a “Fair” mark because they needed outfield depth (injuries abound) and they will likely face a one-and-done in the wild card game. Of the players they got, we believe Britton and Happ will help most, but Lynn has been awful this year and Voit is at AAA.
Cleveland Indians – Excellent
Cleveland can thank its lucky stars they are in the weakest division in baseball and won’t have to battle it out in a wild card game (like the Yankees, who are 10.5 games better than the Indians). Thus, any moves they made at the deadline can be considered good, as they have a 9.0 game lead on Minnesota and can cruise into the post-season. One area that Cleveland did very well in was trading for bullpen depth, because we all know that recent post-seasons have been a graveyard for teams without good long and short relievers. The Indians got started fairly early, dealing for Houston RP James Hoyt, who is at AAA right now and insurance against injuries. The biggest deal of significance was sending back-up C Francisco Mejia to San Diego for elite closer Brad Hand and set-up man Adam Cimber. Hand, along with Cody Allen, make a fairly dominant duo in the late innings. Cimber has adjusted well too, to his new surroundings. The last piece of the trade puzzle, and the reason we gave the Tribe an “A” was the acquisition of Detroit OF Leonys Martin to bolster an outfield beset by injuries.
Houston Astros – Good
Controversy will dog the Houston Astros before they can repeat as champs this year. By trading for elite fireman Roberto Osuna — with the surly Ken Giles and two minor league pitchers going the other way — the Astros signaled they are serious about repeating but opened themselves to criticism by possibly whitewashing Osuna’s alleged domestic violence charge. On the baseball side, they win if Osuna shows the form he did for the last three seasons, but they lose on the PR side, hands down. So, we’ll give the ‘Stros just a “Good” grade, as they also made two other deals of significance to solidify their no. 1 position in the hotly contested AL West (they are 4.0 games up on Seattle and 5.0 on Oakland). First, they got a decent defensive catcher in veteran Martin Maldonado from the Angels, who will stand in for injured catcher Brian McCann. He leads the AL in nailing would-be base stealers, at a rate of 46 percent (13 of 28). And just before picking up Osuna, they traded a couple of low level minor leaguers to Minnesota for hard-throwing bullpen workhorse and set-up man Ryan Pressly.
Seattle Mariners – Good
The M’s could have gotten an excellent grade, had they got a bigger bat to insert in the line-up at the deadline. As things stand, they did make great strides in the pitching department, adding a lot of depth to the all important bullpen. Positioned where they are, unless they jet past Houston — not likely — they are facing a wild card game, possibly against the stacked New York Yankees. And seeing as how major league playoff games have gone with starters being yanked sooner than later because of fatigue, having a deep and talented bullpen is paramount. First, they got insurance for lights out closer Edwin Diaz by picking up Tampa closer Alex Colome, along with OF Denard Span, for two minor league starting pitchers in late May. On July 27 the obtained St. Louis set-up man Sam Tuivailala for a minor leaguer and then on July 30 got Twins veteran reliever Zach Duke for two minor leaguers and then dealt international slot money to the Yankees for dependable long reliever Adam Warren. Their last deal was to pluck speedy outfielder Cameron Maybin from the Miami Marlins roster for a low level minor league infielder and more slot money.
Oakland Athletics – So-So
The A’s activity — or lack thereof — can be looked at in a couple different ways. First, by not tweaking a winning roster very much and adding too many personalities, the unit cohesion will only get stronger as the season goes on. On the other hand, the A’s, who are in a tooth-and-nail dogfight for the last wild card spot in the AL, may have not done enough to give themselves a real shot. What they did do was pick the pockets of the New York Mets to get top-shelf closer Jeurys Familia. He had 17 saves and a 2.88 ERA for the Mets before the deal and since then he has acted as set-up man (and insurance) for de facto fireman Blake Treinen. Familia hasn’t given up an earned run in seven innings pitched, along with a hold and eight strikeouts. The A’s get just a So-So rating, however, because they are in the bottom half in fielding, 24th overall specifically. They could have pursued defensive depth, particularly at short and third, where Marcus Semien and Matt Chapman, respectively, haven’t shone with the glove.
Philadelphia Phillies – Incomplete
With the slimmest of leads atop the NL East Standings, the Phillies are not even assured of making the playoffs, much less topping the division. Currently, there are eight teams with a real shot at the post-season on the senior circuit, and one can’t count out teams like Washington, who are 53-53 and just 5.5 games back of the Phillies. What the team did, then, at the deadline only qualifies them for an “incomplete” grade. They basically negated a decent trade for infielding and offensive depth in the Mets Asdrubal Cabrera (obtained for a minor league hurler), by sending the vaunted Player To Be Named Later to Tampa for injured All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos. The timetable for Ramos’ return is up in the air, which isn’t good news for a Philly team hanging on by a thread. In another move of limited consequence, the Phillies got a left-handed bullpen arm in Aaron Loup from Toronto.
Atlanta Braves – Good
Atlanta took a broad approach to the deadline, acquiring a slew of pitchers and one position player of consequence in four separate deals. That the usually lowly Braves were even buyers at this deadline and looking to play meaningful games in September comes as kind of a surprise. The deals for SP Kevin Gausman and RPs Darren O’Day and Brad Brach from the Orioles, OF Adam Duvall from the Reds and RP Jonny Venters from the Rays signaled to the rest of the National League the Braves are serious about contending. Those veteran players — joining a young dynamic team — came at quite a bit of cost, as Atlanta parted with seven minor leaguers and international slot money. Starter Gausman, who languished in Baltimore, slots in as a decent no. 4 in the Braves rotation. Brach, O’Day and Venters instantly deepen an already good bullpen. Free-swinging Duvall adds a lot of pop (15 HR, 61 RBI) this year to an Atlanta line-up that needs it. Not excellent wheeling and dealing, but very good.
Chicago Cubs – Fair
Did the Cubs outdo the Milwaukee Brewers enough at the deadline to vault into any kind of lead? In our estimation, maybe not. The two teams are tied atop the NL Central, with Pittsburgh not all that far behind at 6.0 games back. The Cubbies have been active at several deadlines in a row now, but made a very quiet move to start this one. On July 19, then sent a minor league pitching prospect to Texas for veteran reliever Jesse Chavez. He’s been solid so far, allowing no earned runs and striking out 10 in nine innings of work. Chicago’s final two acquisitions though, come with asterisks, hence the “fair” grade. Four days before the deadline, they traded for Rangers’ veteran starter and four-time All-Star Cole Hamels. He has been fairly mediocre this season, going 5-9 with a 4.72 ERA and 1.373 WHIP. His true value, if the Cubs make the playoffs at all, is in his post-season resume (7-6 in 16 starts, 3.48 ERA). The other deal involved former Twins closer Brandon Kintzler. He’s been OK this season, but whispers out of Washington say he was expendable for unconfirmed comments he made to the papers about the Nationals being dysfunctional.
Milwaukee Brewers – Excellent
Milwaukee sent a cruise missile sized message to its MLB foes to the south, the Chicago Cubs, by completing a last minute deal that could have big implications. Already possessed of a decent second baseman in Jonathan Villar, the Brewers sent him and two minor leaguers to Baltimore for 2017 All-Star second sacker Jonathan Schoop. His big bat only adds to a Brew Crew line-up that is third in homers in the National League. And the Brewers don’t get an excellent rating just for having the cojones to make that trade. They also snagged 3B Mike Moustakas and his good stick from Kansas City (for two minor league prospects) and put another fine arm in their strong bullpen by acquiring Chicago White Sox hard-throwing closer Joakim Soria. It is going to be an interesting two months, and Milwaukee goes head to head with Chicago eight times over that span.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Fair
If this was 2015, we would have given the Pirates an excellent rating for making a big deal with Tampa to get starter Chris Archer. But, it’s 2018 and Archer isn’t quite the same pitcher he was just three short years ago. Yet, given a new lease on life, Archer isn’t bad and still has potential to be an All-Star. At the time of the deal that saw promising and giant lefthander Tyler Glasnow and OF Austin Meadows go the other way, Archer was 3-5 in 17 starts, with 102 strikeouts in 96 innings pitched. He will be a nice addition and slots in as an ace if he can turn that record around. The only other trade the Bucs swung brought in young Texas Rangers closer Keone Kela, for a minor leaguer. Kela had 24 saves, a 3.44 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 36.2 innings for the Rangers. Are those two deals enough to help Pittsburgh decrease that 6.0 game gap between them and Chicago/Milwaukee, or even grab a wild card? We’re not really sure, therefore a “fair” grade is warranted.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Excellent
The rich, as they say, usually get richer. In the case of the Los Angeles Dodgers, they gave up a considerable chunk of the farm to add pizzazz and a couple of booming bats into the line-up. Only July 18, they kickstarted the swap-meet proceedings by sending no less than five minor leaguers to Baltimore for All-Star shortstop Manny Machado. He was having a career year in Baltimore before the deal and also allowed the Dodgers the flexibility of moving him to third (for injured Justin Turner), which in turn put up-and-coming Chris Taylor at short in place of Corey Seager, who is done for the season. And, in a near complete remake of their infield, the Dodger swung a last second deal on Tuesday to get Twins hard-hitting second baseman Brian Dozier for Logan Forsythe and two minor league prospects. What a murderer’s row they have now. L.A. also initiated two good deals to beef up the bullpen, getting relievers Dylan Floro and Zach Neal from the Reds, as well as another late trade to acquire veteran John Axford from Toronto.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Good
As trades go, the D-Backs made some very quiet moves that should keep them in the hunt for the NL West crown, where they sit one-half game up on Colorado and Los Angeles. They were already a good fielding team before they got Minnesota infielder Eduardo Escobar, and he brings the added bonus of a power bat to a line-up in need of one. The other position player brought in via trade was OF Jon Jay, way back on June 6. As they were already a strong pitching team, deals to acquire RP Jake Diekman from Texas, RP Brad Ziegler from Miami and RP Matt Andriese from Tampa were just icing on the cake. Diekman has enough post-season experience and was a workhorse before coming over, while Ziegler was leading the majors in appearances with 53. Andriese is the hardest thrower of the three, but has been rocked for three homers already, in just two appearances. All in all, not excellent moves, but good.
Colorado Rockies – Incomplete
Playing in the thin air of Coors Field for half a team’s games will have an effect on the overall ERA. However, the Rockies staff earned run average is a lofty 4.59, which is third worst in the National League. Yes, they have a potent offence (second most homers, 138, in the NL) and are good defensively (tied with Washington for second) but pitching wins playoff games more than out-hitting the other squad. Thus, the sole trade the Rockies made, for Toronto Blue Jays reliever Seunghwan Oh, while a good pick-up, is putting a band-aid on a sucking chest wound. The Rockies are right in the thick of the NL West pennant race and really should have taken a bit harder run at all the available relief pitchers on the market. We will, however, cut the Rockies some slack, given that they can score at will and that inflated pitching numbers at home (5.13 ERA) are greater than that on the road (4.07 ERA). Still, an incomplete grade is apt.
Washington Nationals – Fair (Surprise)
The Nats are the surprise team we talked about above, since with all the moves they made, most were of the “seller” variety. However, they are still a formidable squad and sit just 5.5 games back of Philadelphia for top spot in the NL East. Even with the fire sale, they still have a pretty good starting staff fronted by Max Scherzer and All-Star outfielder Bryce Harper. On June 18, when they were better positioned, the Nats dealt for Kansas City closer Kelvin Herrera. Then the team went in the tank, to go from well above .500 to just .500 now (53-53). With rumors of discord swirling in the clubhouse and the team underwhelming, the Nationals started off-loading. First it was back-up OF Brian Goodwin (to K.C.), and then supposed whistleblower RP Brandon Kintzler (to the Cubs). Therefore, we’re not really sure where management was going with these deals, but they aren’t much worse today. If the team can get its collective act together, the Phillies are vulnerable.