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- Tigers Acquire David Price In 3-Team Deal With Rays, Mariners
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Author Archives: Jeff Todd
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:
- Acquired lefty James Russell and utilityman Emilio Bonifacio from Cubs in exchange for Victor Caratini and cash
- Acquired righty Jarred Cosart, infielder/outfielder Enrique Hernandez, and outfielder Austin Wates from Astros in exchange for third baseman Colin Moran, outfielder Jake Marisnick, righty Francis Martes, and a 2015 compensation draft pick
- Acquired lefty Donnie Joseph from Royals in exchange for cash
- Acquired righty Bryan Morris from Pirates in exchange for 2014 draft compensation pick
- No trades
- No trades
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.
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:
- Acquired third baseman Danny Valencia from Royals in exchange for righty Liam Hendriks and catcher Erik Kratz
- Acquired first baseman Brett Wallace from Orioles in exchange for cash considerations
- Acquired lefty Andrew Miller from Red Sox in exchange for lefty Eduardo Rodriguez
- Acquired utilityman Jimmy Paredes from Royals in exchange for cash considerations
- Acquired cash considerations from Blue Jays in exchange for first baseman Brett Wallace
- Acquired lefty Drew Smyly, infielder Nick Franklin, and shortstop Willy Adames from Tigers and Mariners in exchange for lefty David Price
- Acquired infielder Kelly Johnson from Yankees in exchange for infielder Stephen Drew and cash
- Acquired lefty Eduardo Rodriguez from Orioles in exchange for lefty Andrew Miller
- Acquired outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and 2015 compensatory draft pick from Athletics in exchange for Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes, and cash
- Acquired righty Joe Kelly and first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig from Cardinals in exchange for righty John Lackey, lefty Corey Littrell, and cash
- Acquired player to be named later from Cubs in exchange for lefty Felix Doubront
- Acquired lefty Edwin Escobar and righty Heath Hembree from Giants in exchange for righty Jake Peavy
- Acquired infielder/outfielder Martin Prado from Diamondbacks in exchange for catcher Peter O’Brien
- Acquired infielder Stephen Drew and cash from Red Sox in exchange for infielder Kelly Johnson
- Acquired lefty Chris Capuano from Rockies in exchange for cash
- Acquired third baseman Chase Headley and cash from Padres in exchange for infielder Yangervis Solarte and righty Rafael De Paula
- Acquired lefty Jeff Francis and cash from Athletics in exchange for a player to be named later
- Acquired righty Brandon McCarthy from Diamondbacks in exchange for lefty Vidal Nuno
- Acquired lefty David Huff from Giants in exchange for cash
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cliff Lee walked off the mound during his start against the Nationals today, indicating that he was dealing with elbow discomfort. The veteran has experienced the same injury that just cost him two months — a flexor pronator strain — according to a tweet from MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki.
It seems likely that Lee is headed for another DL stint, and at this point it would not be surprising to learn that he will miss the rest of the season. Needless to say, barring a fortunate turn, it seems that Lee will not be an August trade target.
The bigger question for the Phillies, of course, is whether he can return to form for 2015. Lee is owed $25MM next year and his deal includes a $27.5MM club option for 2016 (with a substantial $12.5MM buyout).
THURSDAY: Cain and the Giants are weighing whether the righty will undergo a procedure on his right elbow to clean up bone chips and other debris, reports Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com. Tommy John surgery is not on the table, says Baggarly.
If Cain has the procedure now, he would likely be out for the rest of the year, but would be expected to be ready for a standard ramp-up to the 2015 season.
TUESDAY: Giants starter Matt Cain is set for a visit with Dr. James Andrews regarding his ongoing difficulties with inflammation in his right elbow, CSN Bay Area analyst (and former big leaguer) Shawn Estes tells 95.7 The Game (Twitter link). Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com confirmed the report via Twitter.
Certainly, the club will hope that good news comes out of the consultation, but the necessity of the visit presumably only adds to the team’s reported desire to add a starter at the trade deadline. Cain is owed $67.5MM after this season, including a buyout of a $21MM club option for 2017. He owns a cumulative 4.06 ERA over 274 2/3 innings dating to the start of 2013.
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.
Now that the flurry of rumors and deals is over, let’s quickly take stock of what actually went down on deadline day:
- Tigers acquire David Price in three-team deal with Mariners (who receive Austin Jackson) and Rays (who receive Drew Smyly, Nick Franklin, and Willy Adames)
- Marlins and Astros agree to six-player swap, with Miami receiving Jarred Cosart, Enrique Hernandez, and Austin Wates in exchange for Colin Moran, Jake Marisnick, Francis Martes, and a 2015 compensation draft pick
- Braves acquire James Russell and Emilio Bonifacio from Cubs in exchange for Victor Caratini and cash
- Yankees acquire Martin Prado from Diamondbacks in exchange for Peter O’Brien
- Yankees acquire Stephen Drew from Red Sox in exchange for Kelly Johnson and cash
- Nationals acquire Asdrubal Cabrera from Indians in exchange for Zach Walters
- Orioles acquire Andrew Miller from Red Sox in exchange for Eduardo Rodriguez
- Mariners acquire Chris Denorfia from Padres in exchange for Abraham Almonte and Stephen Kohlscheen
- Athletics acquire Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes, and cash from Red Sox in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes and a 2015 compensation draft pick
- Cardinals acquire John Lackey, Corey Littrell and cash from Red Sox in exchange for Joe Kelly and Allen Craig
- Brewers acquire Gerardo Parra from Diamondbacks in exchange for Mitch Haniger and Anthony Banda
- Twins acquire Tommy Milone from Athletics in exchange for Sam Fuld
Also, there were several other deals and roster moves that took place during the course of a busy day (with more likely to come):
- Twins extend Kurt Suzuki
- Yankees designate Brian Roberts for assignment
- Yankees claim Esmil Rogers from Blue Jays, release Scott Sizemore
- Pirates claim Angel Sanchez from White Sox, designate Josh Wall for assignment
- Athletics designate Jake Elmore for assignment
- Rockies designate Ryan Wheeler for assignment
Tigers 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.