July 2014

July Trade Recap: NL East

The teams of the National League East were much less flashy than their American League brethren — as usual, perhaps — but nevertheless made several notable moves … or, in some cases, notable non-moves. Here’s what took place:

Braves

Marlins

Mets

  • No trades

Nationals

Phillies

  • No trades

Synopsis

Last year at this time, the Marlins were selling off what few veteran pieces they had for whatever they could get. Ricky Nolasco was the team’s big deadline piece, but unfortunately he didn’t really start pitching well until after he was playing for the Dodgers. But that was not the case this year. Still hanging around in the postseason pitcure even after losing stud righty Jose Fernandez, Miami went hard after Jon Lester before ultimately turning its sights to Houston.

The Fish got their arm in Cosart, and brought back additional value in Hernandez and Wates, but paid a big price. Marisnick was somewhat expendable given the team’s other young outfielders, but Moran was brought to Miami at a tall opportunity cost (6th overall draft pick; $3,516,500 bonus) and the team gave up a young power arm and future draft pick. The deal certainly helps the Marlins in the present — though just how much remains to be seen — and avoids a major sacrifice of future control. But if Marisnick and Moran reach their potential, and Cosart is not able to stick in the rotation, it could still hurt down the line.

On the other hand, as much as things change — the saying goes — the more they stay the same. Check out last year’s NL East recap if you don’t believe me. Braves and Nationals adding the final pieces for the stretch; Mets and Phillies standing pat at the deadline.

Sure, there were some differences. This time around, the Nats needed a more substantial addition after losing Ryan Zimmerman for some time. With Cleveland paying the rest of Cabrera’s salary, Washington agreed to ship out an MLB-ready middle infielder back to Cleveland. Though Walters is an interesting player — in large part due to his legitimate power bat up the middle — he has his warts and did not have a path to a job in DC. Cabrera will hold down the fort until Zimmerman returns (or until the end of the season, when the Nats will face some tough decisions).

Atlanta, meanwhile, once again added a lefty pen piece in the capable Russell, who could also forestall the necessity of such a move next year (he can be controlled through arbitration for 2015). This time around, the club also added a versatile utilityman in Emilio Bonifacio, who might conceivably see a fair bit of time at the positions (second, center, third) from which the club has at times received sub-optimal production. He will also be a nice pinch-running/hitting/fielding option, making for a sturdy bench piece for a contending club.

It may be easy to forget come deadline time, but there are still two more teams in the division. For the Mets, standing pat made plenty of sense. If nobody was going to take Bartolo Colon‘s salary, then the organization may as well pay him to pitch in New York next year. Daniel Murphy is also under control and could be extended. And Chris Young just wasn’t bringing anything back at this point. In addition to holding onto veterans, the Mets did not appear to make a concerted effort to acquire younger, MLB-ready talent. As GM Sandy Alderson explains, he wasn’t interested in giving up young pitching at this time but could potentially look to cash in some prospect chips in the offseason. (Though it is tempting to wonder what New York might have been able to extract in a deal like that between the Marlins and Astros.)

Over in Philadelphia, justification for inaction was somewhat harder to come by. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said that he was surprised that opposing teams did not come to him with more aggressive offers for the club’s available players, particularly as the team was willing to eat salary to facilitate a better return. But the fact is that none of the Phillies’ ready-to-move pieces were worth aggressive action. The list of names and contract complications (no-trade clauses, vesting options, massive buyouts, and the like) is already well-known; suffice to say that none of the assets that the Phillies shopped would have delivered the level of long-term value or short-term impact needed to motivate bidders.

Right now, there is simply no way for the team to get out from under its numerous long-term obligations to veterans while recouping any sort of prospect return. True, the Phillies could convince Chase Utley to waive the no-trade clause in his low-risk contract. They could decide to part with Cole Hamels for whatever the market will bear. But they’ve already shown they have no intention of doing those things.

Philadelphia seemingly wants to move the less desirable pieces and still get something back, but that is not going to happen. And that is why no deals were consummated. Other teams made more realistic assessments, as evidenced by the Yankees’ acquisition of several veterans (with at or above-market salaries) for a relative pittance of young talent. At several points in the last few seasons, players like Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Cliff Lee could have been cashed in. Instead, they were supplemented by even older players brought in at open-market rates. It is now too late (for various reasons) to recoup any significant value for any of them, which the team’s inaction reflects.


July Trade Recap: AL East

We’ll take a look at every division in baseball, but it’s hard not to start here. The division is always fun to watch, and it was full of intrigue in 2014. Here’s what took place over the last month or so, culminating in a whirlwind today:

Blue Jays

Orioles

Rays

Red Sox

Yankees

Synopsis

The Yankees were somewhat quiet buyers, the Red Sox were incredibly loud sellers, and there were multiple inter-division deals. It was decidedly not business as usual in the AL East, but plenty of business was done … except, that is, in Toronto.

Despite long being rumored to be looking for additions to the rotation, bullpen, and/or infield, the Blue Jays (as they did in free agency) largely stayed quiet. Several players actually expressed frustration with the inactivity, but GM Alex Anthopoulos said that clubs were asking for big league players in return and that nothing ended up making baseball sense. He indicated that the August market could hold some possibilities, but at this point, it seems likely that the Jays will sink or swim with their current alignment.

The Orioles, likewise, were known to have a rather similar list of possible needs, and were expected mostly to pursue new arms. Baltimore ultimately did just that, steering clear of a starting pitching market filled with big swaps but ultimately landing the most sought-after reliever who remained available. It cost the club one of its better prospects — Rodriguez, probably the best pre-MLB player to change hands today — but will give the team a high-leverage weapon as it tries to hold onto precious wins. But as with Toronto, if the team comes up just short in a year in which the division seems so tantalizingly open, it will be fair to ask whether one more piece would have made the difference.

The Yankees took something of a different approach, adding a bevy of potentially useful veterans who struggled in the season’s first half and were playing on fairly sizable contracts. Among them, only the most recent addition — Prado — comes with team control beyond the present season. Buried by by other,  larger deals, the Prado swap not only completes an infield makeover for this year but also gives the team plenty of flexibility moving forward.

Reaching the bottom of the division, one finds some fairly atypical selling clubs. The Rays, of course, have been roaring back on the field, even if the playoff picture largely remains the same. Perhaps the failure to climb the ladder drove the club’s decision to move this year’s biggest trade chip in Price. While the return does not feature the kinds of prospects that one might have expected, it delivered plenty of long-term value back to Tampa. And it left the club, notably, with plenty of talent still in the fold for 2014. A nice run from Smyly, and perhaps even a late-season boost from Franklin, could play a role in continuing the Rays’ rise in the standings. None of the teams ahead of them appears poised to run away with things, but it will be interesting to see how the clubhouse responds to the trade.

In a series of moves that were every bit as bold as Tampa’s big stroke, the Red Sox parted with the club’s two best pitchers, two other members of the World Series-defending, Opening Day rotation, a dominant set-up man, and a just-signed veteran shortstop (and what a journey it’s been for Drew). But this was no traditional roster blow-up; instead, Boston returned mostly big league pieces that changed the team’s makeup dramatically but gave notice that it intends to contend next year. Adding power bats to the corner outfield and young arms to the current and near-future rotation — the team now has an impressive array of young arms and other prospects — the Red Sox look primed to add yet more more pieces in free agency and aim for another title run. GM Ben Cherington said that the team will be a player for veteran pitching in free agency, and reports even indicated that the team could have its sights set on a reunion with Lester. It remains to be seen whether Boston would have been better served by pushing its clock further back and perhaps bringing in more upside, but if Cespedes and Craig can return to their 2012 levels of production, Boston will be right back in the thick of things in 2015.


Marlins Designate Donnie Joseph For Assignment

The Marlins have designated lefty Donnie Joseph for assignment, according to the MLB transactions page. Presumably, the move relates to the team’s recent acquisition of Jarred Cosart.

Joseph, 26, had just one very rough outing this year at the major league level. Through 33 innings at Triple-A, he had worked to a 5.45 ERA with 9.5 K/9 against a troubling 7.6 BB/9. With his strikeout levels down and walk issues still prevalent, Miami saw fit to take his 40-man spot when the need arose.



Outrighted: Scott Elbert, Jason Lane, Tony Abreu

Let’s take a look at the day’s minor moves:

  • Scott Elbert of the Dodgers has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, tweets Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. The lefty was designated for assignment on Tuesday. He has been trying to work back to form after not throwing a big league pitch over the last two seasons. Elbert had the right to refuse the assignment, but will stay with the organization, tweets Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • The Padres have outrighted lefty Jason Lane, according to the MLB transactions page. Lane had an outstanding first big league start, but will serve as depth at Triple-A if he accepts his assignment.
  • Tony Abreu has also been outrighted by the Giants, per the PCL transactions page. The second baseman received only four plate appearances during his brief call-up. He will have the option of electing free agency.

Braves Release Luis Vasquez

The Braves have released righty Luis Vasquez, reports MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (via Twitter). The move will help clear roster space for the club’s recent deadline acquisitions.

Vasquez, 28, had struggled to a 11.91 ERA in 11 1/3 frames at Triple-A this year, with 11.9 K/9 but a troubling 8.7 BB/9. He came to Atlanta over the winter after spending all of his career with the Dodgers. Vasquez has always struggled with his control, but an increase in his strikeout numbers last year presumably made him interesting to the Braves.


Athletics Designate Jake Elmore For Assignment

The Athletics designated Jake Elmore for assignment earlier today, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Twitter. Elmore, a 27-year-old utilityman, was picked up in a minor trade over the offseason.

Elmore did not crack the Oakland roster this season, but does have 209 MLB plate appearances under his belt. In 211 plate appearances at Triple-A, he owns a .282/.374/.365 line. Though he doesn’t offer much pop, and has yet to hit a long ball in 2014, Elmore has contributed nine stolen bases.


Recapping The Day’s Activity

Now that the flurry of rumors and deals is over, let’s quickly take stock of what actually went down on deadline day:

Also, there were several other deals and roster moves that took place during the course of a busy day (with more likely to come):


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Tigers Acquire David Price In 3-Team Deal With Rays, Mariners

The Tigers have officially agreed to acquire David Price from the Rays, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The deal is a three-way trade between the Tigers, Rays, and Mariners.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Tampa Bay RaysTigers center fielder Austin Jackson will go to the Mariners, with Nick Franklin (from Seattle) and Drew Smyly (from Detroit) heading to Tampa in the blockbuster. Minor league shortstop Willy Adames is also going to Tampa from Detroit in the deal, per a tweet from Rosenthal.

The move brings and end to near-ceaseless speculation regarding the now-former Rays lefty, who has been one of the game’s best pitchers in recent seasons. Still only 28, Price is under control for one more season through arbitration, though he will certainly not come cheap.

Playing this year on a $14MM salary, Price will be in line for a big raise next year. Of course, one key element of his value lies in the fact that his new club will have an opportunity to explore an extension. The reason that Price figures to draw a big salary next year is obvious: he has continued to be outstanding. At present, he owns a 3.11 ERA with a remarkable 10.0 K/9 against just 1.2 BB/9 over 170 2/3 innings.

The return for the Rays is not particularly splashy, but delivers obvious value. Smyly, 25, was outstanding last year as a reliever and has since converted into a solid starting option. He carries a 3.77 ERA through 100 1/3 innings, with 7.8 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 and a 36.9% groundball rate. While his strikeout numbers are down since moving to the rotation, he can be controlled through 2018.

The 23-year-old Franklin, meanwhile, seemed without a future in Seattle after the club added Robinson Cano. Though he has spent time at both short and second, many observers believe he is better suited for the keystone going forward. He had a solid 2013 at the MLB level (.225/.303/.382 in 412 plate appearances), and though his numbers were off this year in limited action, Franklin has continued to swing a big stick against Triple-A pitchers.

Then, there is Adames, who could be something of a wild card in the deal. Just 18, he has a promising .269/.346/.428 slash line through 400 plate appearances at the low-A level this year. He entered the year as Baseball America’s 30th-ranked Tigers prospect, but appears to be raising eyebrows around the game.

That brings us to Seattle, which quietly managed to address its center field need without giving up an indispensable piece of the future. In fact, the 27-year-old Jackson will be at least a mid-term piece for Seattle. He is playing on a $6MM salary this year before hitting arbitration for the final time. He currently sports a .270/.330/.397 line that is approximately league average (as it was last year). With solid contributions in the field and on the bases, he is certainly an above-average big league regular.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported that Jackson and Smyly were part of the deal (via Twitter). Mike Salk of 710 ESPN tweeted that Jackson would head to Seattle. Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune first reported Franklin’s inclusion (via Twitter).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Marlins Acquire Jarred Cosart, Enrique Hernandez For Colin Moran, Jake Marisnick, Comp Pick

The Marlins have announced a multi-player trade with the Astros that will bring starter Jarred Cosart, shortstop Enrique Hernandez, and outfielder Austin Wates to Miami in exchange for third baseman Colin Moran, outfielder Jake Marisnick, pitcher Francis Martes, and the Marlins’ 2015 compensation pick.

MLB: Houston Astros at Chicago White Sox

In short, both of baseball’s worst teams from 2013 have shuffled a series of young players in a deal that could have wide-ranging repercussions for both franchises. Miami was said to be chasing a young arm, and that’s exactly what they got. But it came at a fairly steep price.

In Cosart, the Marlins are getting a pitcher who came to Houston in the 2011 Hunter Pence deal and has blossomed somewhat in the last two seasons. The 24-year-old has a 4.41 ERA through 116 1/3 frames with 5.8 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9 and a sterling 56.5% groundball rate. That has been good for a 4.02 FIP, 4.28 xFIP, and 4.42 SIERA — hardly ace-level numbers, to be sure, but useful and promising enough given his age. Of course, much of Cosart’s value lies in the fact that he will not even be eligible for arbitration until 2017.

Miami also added some other useful pieces in the trade. Hernandez reached the big leagues this year at just 22 years of age, and owns an impressive .284/.348/.420 slash line through 89 plate appearances. He had slashed .336/.379/.503 in the upper minors, which itself represented a major step up in his results for the youngster. Wates, 25, is something of an on-base machine: he owns a .303/.381/.415 career triple-slash in the minors. Though he does not bring much power to the table, he does have 31 stolen bases this year in his first extended action at Triple-A.

For Houston, the deal brought a variety of goodies in return. Moran was the 6th overall pick in last year’s draft, and numerous reports suggest that he was seriously under consideration with the Astros’ first overall selection. Though he has not exactly dominated at High-A at age 21 (.294/.342/.393), he is not far removed from the amateur ranks and has plenty of time to develop.

Marisnick, meanwhile, is expected to slot right into the club’s lineup. A perennial top-100 prospect who was somewhat blocked in Miami, he has struggled in limited MLB exposure (.183/.231/.248 line in 169 total plate appearances). But the right-handed hitting outfielder, still only 23, has a .277/.326/.434 line in his 377 Triple-A plate appearances.

And then there is the compensation pick, which will come in the first available slot and carries a good bit of value (delivering immense flexibility to a Houston club that will have two high first-round choices next year). The final piece, Martes, is just 18 years old. The Dominican native has worked at the Rookie level this year, tossing 29 innings of 4.97 ERA ball and working both in relief and as a starter.

Brian McTaggart (via Twitter) first reported the deal. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald (via Twitter), Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter), and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter) all reported details of the players involved.


Yankees Designate Brian Roberts For Assignment

The Yankees will designate Brian Roberts for assignment to create space for Stephen Drew, reports Bryan Hoch of MLB.com (via Twitter).

Roberts, a long-time division rival of the Yankees after spending his entire career in Baltimore prior to 2014, signed a one-year, $2MM deal as a free agent in the offseason. He struggled at the plate in his lone season in Yankee pinstripes, slashing .237/.300/.360 with five homers and seven stolen bases.

Roberts was among the league’s top second basemen last decade, but injuries derailed many of his would-be peak years. He’s undergone hip surgery and hamstring surgery in recent years in addition to dealing with concussion symptoms. In his career, the switch-hitter is a .276/.347/.409 hitter with 97 homers and 285 stolen bases.