I’ve done a version of this post in each of the last two years, both times in late May. We’re already through nearly half of the month of June, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still take stock of the recent history of swaps in the month before primary deadline season begins. Most major swaps occur in July, of course, and most of those occur toward the end of the month.
The biggest “early” deadline deal of recent memory — the 2014 swap that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs to the Athletics in exchange for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, and Dan Straily — didn’t go through until the 4th of July. Likewise, the equally important deal from the year prior — in which the Cubs nabbed Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop from the Orioles for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger — was reached on July 2nd.
That’s not to say that nothing of consequence occurs in June; indeed, as covered below, there’s already been some dealing this year. Here are some of the most notable deals that came together in the month of June over the last several seasons:
- After a late-May strike of rare significance, in which the Mariners put unexpected cash availability to work in adding both Alex Colome and Denard Span, the month of June has seen a pair of notable swaps. The fading Rays acquired first baseman/outfielder Ji-Man Choi from the contending Brewers in a deal that sent recently-designated infielder Brad Miller to Milwaukee. And the D-Backs bolstered their outfield mix with veteran Jon Jay, sending minor-league hurlers Gabe Speier and Elvis Luciano to the Royals.
- There wasn’t much of an early trading period in 2017, with the most significant action waiting until July and even August. The most notable swap occurred early in the month of June, when the Giants took a flier on once-dominant Rangers reliever Sam Dyson. Taking over some of Dyson’s salary proved a reasonable price to pay for the San Francisco organization, which received 38 innings of 4.03 ERA pitching, including 14 saves, as Dyson edged back toward his prior form. But the real payoff has come this year. Dyson — who still has two more seasons of arbitration eligibility — has turned in thirty frames of 2.70 ERA ball to date, with 7.2 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, and a monster 63.9% groundball rate.
- The Rays were exceedingly busy and somewhat unusually willing to take on some salary in bolstering the left side of their infield. Tampa Bay added third baseman Trevor Plouffe (link) and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (link) in swaps with the Athletics and Marlins, respectively, with the latter deal sending outfielder Braxton Lee and right-hander Ethan Clark to Miami. While Plouffe did not last long with the Rays, Hechavarria performed well enough to have a contract tendered for the 2018 season. He’ll likely never reach base at a palatable rate, but has hit just enough to keep his high-quality glove in the lineup. As for the young players, Lee is considered a top-twenty organizational prospect and has touched the majors, though he’s struggling at the plate in 2018. The 23-year-old Clark has yet to move past the High-A level, though he has shown an ability to get some swings and misses in the low minors.
- The first and most significant deal in June of 2016 is a good place to point friends when they ask, “why don’t teams make big trades earlier in the season?” With the White Sox fading after a hot start, they took a chance on struggling veteran James Shields, absorbing about $27MM of his remaining salary obligations while also sending righty Erik Johnson and young infield prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. to the Padres. Shields continued to decline, the Sox crashed, and Tatis blossomed into a top-ten leaguewide prospect. UPDATE: Tatis still looks to be the lost jewel from a still-ballyhooed White Sox farm system. Johnson is throwing well at Triple-A in 2018 after working back from Tommy John surgery, so this deal could tip further in the Friars’ favor. Shields is still giving worthwhile veteran support to a very young group of pitchers in Chicago, but that’s scant consolation.
- In a reprisal of a deal from the prior July, the Mets picked up utilityman Kelly Johnson from the Braves. New York had a need for a veteran lefty bat capable of moving around, and Johnson fit the bill, hitting quite well and helping the Mets eke into the postseason. Relief prospect Akeel Morris, who made up the return, ended up leaving Atlanta via the waiver wire.
- A similar deal went down shortly thereafter, as the Cubs brought back Chris Coghlan after a brief stint with the Athletics. Like Johnson, he showed new life once back in his old uniform. Outfielder Arismendy Alcantara went to Oakland in the deal, but was later lost on waivers.
- In a swap of former prospects who had fallen on hard times, the Dodgers added infielder Chris Taylor from the Mariners in exchange for righty Zach Lee. The immediate impact was minimal, but Taylor broke out in 2017 and has become an everyday asset for the Dodgers. Lee, like Alcantara, was lost on the waiver wire over the ensuing offseason.
- The Dodgers also made another trade right at June’s end, adding righty Bud Norris along with outfielder Dian Toscano from the Braves in exchange for righty Caleb Dirks and lefty Phil Pfeifer. Norris fell flat in Los Angeles in 2016, though he has rebounded since. Dirks has shown some promise at times but hasn’t appeared at an affiliate thus far in 2018.
- The month started with an interest arrangement that saw slugger Mark Trumbo head from the D-Backs to the Mariners along with lefty Vidal Nuno. Trumbo hit at just over a league-average rate in a half-season in Seattle but was dealt in the ensuing winter. This swap seemed mostly motivated by salary from Arizona’s perspective, but the team also received good production from backstop Welington Castillo before moving on from him the next winter. The team also picked up righty Dominic Leone, but let him go on waivers before he started turning in interesting numbers elsewhere. Prospects Gabby Guerrero and Jack Reinheimer also came from Seattle, but both are still stuck in the minors (Guerrero in another org).
- One day later, the Orioles sent veteran outfielder Alejandro De Aza to the Red Sox after designating him for assignment, receiving minor league righty Joe Gunkel in return. De Aza performed well in Boston, which took on about $1MM of his remaining salary, but couldn’t turn around a sinking ship, and was eventually passed along to the Giants.
- Later that June, the D-Backs struck another interesting deal. In exchange for taking over about $10MM of salary obligations to injured veteran Bronson Arroyo, and sending over infielder Philip Gosselin, the Braves earned the rights to high-upside pitching prospect Touki Toussaint.
- In another agreement involving prospect assets, the Pirates got the 39th overall pick in the 2014 draft from the Marlins on June 1. Miami picked up righty Bryan Morris, who’s been a sturdy reliever who’s still controlled for two more years, while Pittsburgh ultimately turned that selection into first baseman Connor Joe, who has bounced around since but is currently playing well at Double-A in the Dodgers organization.
- Later that month, the Pirates and Angels made a change-of-scenery swap that sent Jason Grilli out west in exchange for Ernesto Frieri. While Grilli provided some solid innings, Frieri faded, though both organizations ended up making the post-season.
- DFA swaps are often fruitful in the middle of the year, and the Brewers managed to land a useful piece from the Braves out of limbo. Third baseman Juan Francisco went to Milwaukee for lefty Tom Keeling, and ultimately gave the Brew Crew a league-average bat with some pop while the club dealt with an injury to veteran Aramis Ramirez.
- A middle-of-the-month trade of seemingly limited consequence was reached between the Mets and Rockies. New York added speedy but limited outfielder Eric Young Jr., while Colorado picked up righty Collin McHugh. The latter didn’t find success at Coors Field, but turned into quite a useful starter for the Astros in the season that followed.
- The month of June started with a quiet transfer of cash considerations from the Orioles to the division-rival Yankees. The return? A first baseman by the name of Steve Pearce, who had joined New York on a minor league deal. He showed a bit of a spark that year, filled in usefully in 2013, and then exploded in the following season, when the O’s trounced the Yankees and the rest of the AL East.
- Kevin Youkilis traded color schemes, going from the Red Sox to the White Sox on June 24th. A struggling Youk headed to Chicago along with a stack of salary-offsetting cash for righty Zach Stewart and utilityman Brent Lillibridge. The 33-year-old provided a jolt for the South Siders, though the club ultimately fell shy of the playoffs.
- And at month’s end, the Orioles picked up veteran slugger Jim Thome from the Phillies in exchange for a pair of prospects (Kyle Simon and Gabriel Lino). The 41-year-old Thome wasn’t an impact bat for Baltimore, but neither of the players dealt has been of much consequence since.