It has only been four weeks, so it’s too soon to judge with finality how this year’s trade deadline maneuvers will play out. That said, we’re already half of the way through the period — the regular season portion, at least — for which rental players were acquired. Even players with future control are usually added first and foremost for their immediate contributions (though there are some exceptions). It’d be awfully premature to say anything conclusive about the prospect side of any deals, but we do now have some additional information with which to work.
So, that’s why we’re going to take a glance back over our shoulders at the moves (and major non-moves) that organizations made in the run-up to this year’s trade deadline. We’ll take things one division at a time, starting with the AL Central.
Many wanted to see the Minnesota organization make a splash, and that didn’t really occur. But it wasn’t a quiet deadline, either. The bullpen was the focus, with Sam Dyson (link) and Sergio Romo (link) added to upgrade the late-inning mix. While the former was clearly the bigger add, the latter has been the more impactful so far. Dyson has struggled with biceps tendinitis and has not impressed in nine appearances (seven earned runs, 7:4 K/BB ratio). Romo, on the other hand, has turned in solid results (five earned in 11 2/3 innings) with an impressive combination of 10.8 K/9 against 1.5 BB/9. He has even picked up three saves.
On the prospect side, parting with Jaylin Davis could hurt, though he’s still awaiting an MLB opportunity while continuing to obliterate Triple-A pitching at Triple-A. Kai-Wei Teng and Prelander Berroa, the other two youngsters sent to San Francisco for Dyson, are far-off pitching prospects, so it’s tough to gauge much from their recent showings. First baseman Lewin Diaz, who went to Miami in the Romo swap, has tailed off a bit in the on-base department since changing hands, though he’s still producing lots of power and may just be experiencing a sample blip.
Notably, the Twins also acquired a youngster in the Romo deal: 22-year-old Chris Vallimont, who was promoted to High-A and has responded with a 28:4 K/BB ratio in 22 1/3 innings. He’ll be an interesting player to track. The Minnesota front office also made a few low-cost depth/future-oriented moves, acquiring Jeremy Bleich (link) and Marcos Diplan (link). Neither has appeared at the MLB level to this point, though it’s possible one or both could be called upon once rosters expand.
It remains to be seen whether the Twins will regret their modest approach to the summer trade period. A big-game starter or high-powered reliever might’ve made sense. The club has slightly extended its division lead (from 3.0 to 3.5 games) since the deadline, though the Indians twice pulled into a tie. There’s still a lot of work to be done over the final month of the season to hold off the Cleveland organization. Even if they take the division, the Twins will need every bit of talent they can muster in an ALDS match-up with the Astros or Yankees (whichever finishes with the lesser record). Of course, the presence of those powerhouses also speaks in favor of something less than all-in deadline. The Twins entered the season saying they’d rise or fall with their internal talent, and that largely remains the case.
The Cleveland organization entered the deadline in hot pursuit of the Twins and eventually caught up. It seemed then that they might zip right past, but that didn’t come to pass. Indeed, the Indians have since lost one of their best players (Jose Ramirez) and are again looking up at a significant (but hardly insurmountable) gap.
So … what to make of their deadline efforts? They added a trio of players from the Rays in a pair of deals. Reliever Hunter Wood has been solid, with three earned runs and nine strikeouts against a single walk over 8 1/3 innings. Infielders Andrew Velazquez and Christian Arroyo haven’t appeared in the majors. Another relief arm, Phil Maton, has just filled in briefly since his arrival (link).
Hang on, we’re forgetting something here. Oh, right, that mind-bending deal in which the win-now Indians sent an excellent veteran starter to the win-soon Reds for a portfolio of player assets with varying present and future value. It’s working out so far. Trevor Bauer has not impressed in Cincinnati. The Indians have kept receiving great pitching even without three members of the vaunted rotation heading into the season. Yasiel Puig has hit well. Franmil Reyes hasn’t, though there’s still reason to hope for a bounce back and he’s a long-term piece as well. Lefty Logan Allen has made just one MLB relief appearance and has been drubbed at Triple-A; he’ll need to improve, but he was acquired with the future in mind. Allen has been outperformed handily by the lesser-known Scott Moss, who is throwing well with his new organization. The final piece of the deal, Victor Nova, is too far off to warrant close attention at this stage.
It’s going to take a long time to fully unpack that deal. There’s still a chance the Indians will end up missing Bauer rather badly, whether late in 2019 or in the 2020 campaign. But the club is probably feeling rather pleased with the early returns.
The signature South Side deadline move was … to shed the contract of injured reliever Nate Jones for some international spending capacity and obscure righties Joseph Jarneski and Ray Castro. The former has struggled badly since the swap. The latter has reached new strikeout levels, but it’s a short-sample at rookie ball.
That seemed like a worthwhile deal for the organization, but it’s utterly unremarkable as a headliner for the summer trade period. It’s not as if the rebuilding Chicago organization lacked trade candidates. Closer Alex Colome was chief among them. We’ll see how things turn out, but that seems to be a missed opportunity. Colome is still securing saves, but he carries marginal peripherals and has allowed nearly as many walks as runs this month (seven of the former and eight of the latter).
Most of the club’s other potential trade pieces weren’t obvious trade candidates by the time the deadline came around. Jose Abreu is on track to return on some kind of new arrangement. Kelvin Herrera, Yolmer Sanchez, Jon Jay, and Welington Castillo had all struggled. So had Ivan Nova, apart from two strong starts before the deadline. (That ultimately kicked off an excellent — and still-ongoing — run of success for the veteran, though it wasn’t really apparent at the time and it’s still now clear how sustainable it is.) It’s understandable that the White Sox didn’t make further deals, then, though that is also a bit of a disappointment in its own right.
Adding Mike Montgomery for Martin Maldonado was a sensible move to get some innings and perhaps add a piece that can help in the future. Montgomery has been steady since returning to his first professional organization, though his addition doesn’t seem to be laden with upside. Auctioning off Jake Diekman was an obvious move. That netted young righty Ismael Aquino and outfield prospect Dairon Blanco. The former is a rookie ball reliever, so his recent results are all but irrelevant. The latter is scuffling a bit at Double-A, with a .250/.302/.333 slash in 116 plate appearances since the swap. Fortunately, the Royals won’t be pressed to put him on the 40-man. Blanco is already 26 but is only in his second professional season, having come over from Cuba. And the Royals spun off Homer Bailey for infielder Kevin Merrell, who hasn’t hit well on either side of the swap.
That was all the action, until the Royals lucked out a bit when the Braves claimed Billy Hamilton off waivers. Those moves were just fine in isolation. But should the K.C. org have done more?
Alex Gordon has special status with the club. While he has had a nice season, he was never going to be in great demand anyway. Moving Danny Duffy might have made sense, but he probably hasn’t thrown well enough to press a deal at this stage.
In two other cases, though, the arguments were stronger in favor of a move. Ian Kennedy seems to have found new life as a late-inning reliever. He’s not showing dominant form, but probably was pitching well enough for the Royals to have saved a pretty big chunk of the remaining money owed. (The Braves took on all the remaining salary owed to Mark Melancon, for one point of reference.) Kennedy has been getting the job done since the deadline, except for one rough outing, but has been knocked around a bit in August (.303/.378/.576). Perhaps the Royals really are content just to hang on to him, but it seemed the deadline offered a good opportunity to move on.
That brings us to Whit Merrifield, who was the most interesting trade piece the Royals held this summer. There’s evidently a sense that the 30-year-old will still be an important piece when this team is ready again to contend. It’s certainly possible he’ll still be a good player by that time, but the most valuable portion of his contractual control is the near future. While it is plenty understandable that the K.C. club wanted to keep Merrifield in the fold, it wouldn’t be altogether surprising if we end up looking back and wondering if there was a missed opportunity. It’s worth noting that Merrifield ought to be quite marketable in the offseason, though teams presumably would’ve given up more to have him down the stretch in 2019.
The cellar-dwelling Tigers did what they needed to do by moving veterans Shane Greene (link) and Nicholas Castellanos (link). As for the returns … let’s just say that initial reports they were chasing top prospects didn’t come to fruition. From the Greene swap, Joey Wentz has turned in four dominant starts at Triple-A, which is nice to see. Travis Demeritte was popped right onto the MLB roster. He’s striking out a lot but generally holding his own (.250/.320/.391) and has probably shown enough to warrant a longer look next year.
The two pitchers acquired for Castellanos — Paul Richan and Alex Lange — have mostly continued doing what they had been before the swap. Neither is considered a top prospect, but both certainly buttress the already impressive group of upper-minors arms in the Detroit system. You might wish you could rewind and tell everybody what kind of production Castellanos was destined to provide — he has already matched the tally of home runs (11) he produced in 100 games with the Tigers over 27 with the Cubs — but that’s just not how the world works.
While some might say the Tigers should have done better in those deals, we really can’t say without knowing what the alternatives were. It’s hard to question the decision to pull the trigger on the best-available deal for those particular players. And we can’t reasonably argue that the front office should have pushed harder to deal other players on the roster … with one possible exception, at least.
Breakout lefty Matthew Boyd is a bit of a polarizing figure among hot-stove fans. The 28-year-old reached the trade deadline with a sub-4.00 ERA and an extremely impressive combination of 178 strikeouts and 29 walks. There were surely quite a few contenders with keen interest, particularly since Boyd was not just a potential difference-maker now but also comes with three seasons of team control.
The Tigers evidently did not feel rushed to make a deal, as word emerged just before the deadline that the team was not intrigued by any of the chatter to that point. Things can always change at the last minute, but when the dust settled he had not changed hands.
Will they come to regret it? Only time will tell. Boyd has had some struggles in August, surrendering a whopping ten long balls in his past 26 2/3 innings. That doesn’t necessarily indicate he’s about to turn into a pumpkin, but it does dent his trade value heading into the offseason.