Several general managers around Major League Baseball decided to shop at Trades “R” Us on Thursday, and many of them weren’t disappointed with what they got on the day of the non-waiver trade deadline.
It was a dealing bonanza. Of course, the news of the day consisted of the Tampa Bay Rays sending David Price to the Detroit Tigers in a three team deal which also involved the Seattle Mariners. Going to the M’s was Detroit center fielder Austin Jackson. Heading over to St. Petersburg were second baseman Nick Franklin, who has spent most of 2014 at Triple-A Tacoma and struggled hitting while he was up with the Mariners, as well as Drew Smyly, whom the Tigers moved back to the rotation in 2014 and posted numbers which could have been better, but perhaps a change of scenery could lead to an improvement on his half. The Rays also received 18-year-old shortstop prospect Willy Adames from Detroit. Critics may argue the Rays didn’t get enough in return for Price. No doubt though it’s impressive what the Tigers pulled off.
In addition, the Oakland Athletics really seem to crave a World Series title like the Tigers do. They went out and got Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes from the Boston Red Sox for Yoenis Cespedes. Yes, Billy Beane had to trade an All Star in Cespedes, but if the A’s finally want to move past their woes of falling to Detroit in the playoffs the previous two seasons, this was perhaps the very deal this club needed to make. Lester has been there. He has the rings. David Ortiz hit virtually everything thrown at him in the 2013 World Series, and hence, won the MVP, but he also overshadowed the masterful numbers Lester put up. In 15.1 innings, the lefty shutdown the St. Louis Cardinals with 15 strikeouts against just 1 walk and his ERA was 0.59.
It’s more than just the fact that Oakland got a pitcher who has been a good postseason pitcher more times than not. This is a club which acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs July 4 and one of the players the A’s had to give up top prospect Addison Russell. So far it looks like Samardzija has done his part and has been very serviceable to his new team. Hammel, however, has struggled in a major way. In 17 innings pitched for the Athletics, Hammel has dished up 5 long balls, exactly half of the number of home runs he surrendered in 108.2 innings for the Cubs. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has not been impressive. He’s set down 12 batters on strikes, but has issued 10 walks. His ERA+ is 40 and his WHIP is an abysmal 2.118. So at that current rate, just that one deal wasn’t going to cut it, and therefore Oakland got one of the biggest prizes available with Lester.
John Mozeliak took some chances with a couple of deals he made, but if the Cardinals are to get back to the World Series, then these chances are for the best. He acquired John Lackey from Boston, who also has a lot of familiarity with postseason experience. It’s likely he could get more postseason experience, but as of July 31, the Redbirds are a shade off of one of the two Wild Card spots, though they did beat the San Diego Padres Thursday 6-2. Lackey was the game winning pitcher in game 6 of last year’s World Series against St. Louis, becoming the first pitcher ever to win a World Series clinching game with two different teams, as he also won game 7 for the Anaheim Angels in 2002 over the San Francisco Giants. Going the other way to the Red Sox was former All Star Allen Craig, as well as hurler Joe Kelly.
The day before, St. Louis traded for Justin Masterson from the Cleveland Indians. Masterson helped the Tribe reach the postseason in 2013 for the first time since 2007. However 2014 has been rough for him. His ERA+ is 68 and WHIP is 1.653. Though Masterson is not as seasoned in October as Lackey and Lester are, he hasn’t been terrible in the postseason opportunities he has had. Cleveland did get a decent prospect in return. In 67 games, outfielder James Ramsey was hitting .300 with a .389 on-base percentage at Double-A Springfield.
Interestingly enough, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Toronto Blue Jays hold the two AL Wild Card spots as of Thursday. Yet both clubs remained idle, though the Halos did do some shopping before then. 2014 is an excellent chance for Toronto to return to the postseason for the first time since 1993 when the team won its second straight World Series crown. It’s definitely possible the Jays may even capture the AL East this season, as the team trailed the Baltimore Orioles by only 2.5 games going into Thursday. Perhaps Toronto could cut that deficit down a little more and maybe even overtake the O’s, since the Blue Jays had won 5 in a row headed into July 31. Still, this is a tight AL East with every club except the Red Sox still seemingly in it. Toronto is the only team in the division this decade which his not tasted postseason baseball. It’s certainly possible they could get back to playing meaningful games in October in 2014, but if they don’t, they may want to reflect on this day and wish they could have made some moves on a very busy deadline day.
There were winners and there were loser, but the biggest winner were the Red Sox. Boston had itself a fire sale and acquired some proven talent at the Major League level. Craig is in a funk this season, but hit more than .300 in both 2012 and 2013, maybe a move could benefit him. Kelly got roughed up in his final two starts with St. Louis, but before that was doing fine in the limited action he saw. Cespedes has put together a nice career so far and it may help having to call Fenway Park his new home turf. Plus, in the 28-year-old Cuban outfielder, the Red Sox are getting only the second player in history to win back-to-back Home Run Derby titles. Also, for the first time since 1997, the team made a deal with their bitter rival New York Yankees, with Stephen Drew going to the Bronx in exchange for Kelly Johnson
Among teams who made a trade, the biggest loser would have to be the Washington Nationals. The club got Asdrubal Cabrera from the Indians in exchange for Zach Walters. Yes, Cabrera is a nice name, but he’s not enjoying the success he did in the past. His bat isn’t as effective as it was in years like 2011 and 2012. His glove has also shown a decline in performance. The good news for the Nats is there’s an excellent shot this team returns to the playoffs after failing to qualify a year ago. Yet the NL East is far from decided, with the Atlanta Braves 1.5 games back of Washington for first place and Atlanta holds one of the two NL Wild Card spots as of Thursday. The question is how Cabrera will perform with his new team down the stretch. What he is now is not what he once was, but the possibility of what he can be again may help shape how this division winds up.