July Trade Recap: AL West

We’ve got recaps in the books for the AL Central, NL CentralAL East and NL East, which means its time to turn our focus westward. We’ll start with the AL West, which had no shortage of interesting moves.

Angels

Astros

Athletics

Mariners

Rangers

Synopsis

The arms race was on in the AL West, with the three teams at the of the division shifting resources into present production and the two at the bottom looking to the future. Somewhat interestingly, the three buyers each had a key area that they addressed with multiple trades.

For a Halos club that is closing in on Oakland for the best record in baseball, the focus was clearly on the bullpen. GM Jerry Dipoto added four relievers (counting the since-released Hill), headlined by Street. It took a good portion of the club’s much-maligned young talent to make these deals. Street, in particular, required a fairly substantial return given his short, reasonably-priced contract. It bears noting that Grilli, added in a change-of-scenery swap for the former closer Frieri, has been lights out since coming to Anaheim (2 earned runs, 19 strikeouts, 3 walks in 14 1/3 innings). While the pen now looks to be in good shape, it will be interesting to see if (and if so, how) Dipoto adds depth to a rotation that now looks especially thin after an injury to Tyler Skaggs.

“Bold” seems too weak a descriptor to capture GM Billy Beane’s moves. He gave up the organization’s best-know player in Cespedes and its best prospect in Russell to get Lester (a tested, rented gun for the rest of the year), Samardzija (who has thrown like a top-line starter this year and comes with another season of control), and Hammel (an innings-eating, back-of-the-rotation arm who will soon be a free agent). The club sacrificed a lot of future value upside, though Cespedes’s is more limited than might be expected because he comes with just one more year of control and cannot be made a qualifying offer. But that is what it took to re-make the club’s rotation, which will obviously play a key role as Oakland looks to fend off the Angels in the division and ultimately make an extended postseason run.

Of course, Beane also had an eye on a crafty means of replacing the lost production of Cespedes. By adding Gomes in the Lester swap, the A’s will be able to utilize him in a promising platoon with Stephen Vogt. And Fuld will offer the team plenty of flexibility as well, with injuries clouding the outlook for regular center fielder Coco Crisp and reserve Craig Gentry, though the club surely would have preferred not to give up the useful Milone.

Seattle’s additions flew under the radar a bit, but nevertheless seemed very well-conceived. With a long-term second baseman at the MLB level and tons of bullpen arms, it did not hurt much at this point to move Franklin and Pryor. In return, the team added an above-average MLB center fielder (Jackson, controllable through arbitration next year) and a much-needed bat (Morales, whose path this season has been no less strange than that of Stephen Drew). Denorfia, too, looks to be a solid bench piece. Oft-doubted GM Jack Zduriencik deserves credit, especially for managing to insert Seattle into the David Price deal and coming away with Jackson as the prize for making the pieces fit for Tampa and Detroit.

Finally, we come to the sellers. Texas had more of the look of a traditional seller, with several veterans on expiring contracts that were of little use to a team that was obliterated by injuries. But the club elected not to make any of the really major moves that some imagined possible beforehand (Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, etc.), and even chose not to take a substandard return for outfielder Alex Rios (who remains an August trade candidate). The prospect haul for Soria looks solid, especially given the team’s need for arms in the mid-term, while Frasor brought back a player that looks like a younger, cheaper, longer-controlled version of himself. We don’t know what GM Jon Daniels could have achieved for the team’s more desirable players, but the lack of such moves seems to indicate that the club will seek to contend next year. It will certainly be fascinating to see how he goes about re-constructing a contender.

Houston, meanwhile, did not have many veteran pieces at all, let alone ones that figured to draw much interest. The team decided not to move closer Chad Qualls, a non-move which drew some jeers but might well have made sense if (as is likely) he was not going to bring much back anyway. The same holds true of resurgent southpaw Tony Sipp, who will be a cheap piece for the ‘Stros next year. Instead, GM Jeff Luhnow announced that he would consider moving some of the team’s young arms, and then sat back and waited to be overwhelmed. That apparently happened, as he pulled the trigger to move a talented-but-questioned arm in Cosart (along with the reasonably valuable Hernandez) in exchange for a few prospects who had no place (Marisnick) or had disappointed (Moran) in the Miami organization. Baseball Prospectus calls this a sell-low swap, and it looks that way from here as well. It’s certainly an interesting deal from the two teams that ended last year at the very bottom of baseball’s cellar. While the results will take years to tally, the deal could (but might not) have rather substantial effects on the trajectory of these two organizations.


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