It has only been a little over five 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 already covered the AL Central, NL Central, and AL East; now we’ll go to the National League East …
There was an argument for the Braves to consider rotation and even outfield improvements at the trade deadline, but the club ultimately focused on the bullpen after the mid-June signing of Dallas Keuchel. Otherwise, the club swung just one other deal, a minor swap of cash for catching depth in the form of John Ryan Murphy.
So, what about those relievers? The club picked up Chris Martin (link), Shane Greene (link), and Mark Melancon (link). That seemed like a sturdy trio, but each got off to an exceptionally rocky start. Thankfully, things have stabilized. Martin sports a 15:1 K/BB rate in Atlanta; Melancon sits at 20:2 and hasn’t yet blown a save in nine chances (though it may not seem that way). Greene gave up a pair of runs in his last outing, but that broke a 13-appearance scoreless streak.
On the other side of the coin, the price paid never figured to hurt the Braves too badly, as they largely parted with upper-level pieces that were stacked behind other prospects. If there’s one that could hurt, it may be Joey Wentz, who posted a 37:4 K/BB ratio while allowing just six earned runs in 25 2/3 innings with the Tigers’ Double-A affiliate after coming over in the Greene trade. Utilityman Travis Demeritte, who went with him, has struggled in brief MLB action. The Martin swap cost another young left, Kolby Allard, who has put a shine on a solid overall campaign by running a 3.78 ERA over six big league starts. He’s succeeding largely by limiting the long ball, which may not be fully sustainable, but his stuff has trended up noticeably since his brief debut last year with Atlanta. Tristan Beck, the key piece in the Melancon swap, has generated good results at the High-A level since the deal.
So, what about the possible needs in other areas? The starting staff has continued to be an internal operation (including Keuchel). While it’s not exactly an ace-laden outfit, the Braves do have plenty of depth and will likely plan to stack pitching in the postseason rather than hoping for lengthy starts. Position-player depth has been an issue, but the club has managed to find solutions by being one of the most aggressive accumulators of players in September. Minor-league signings and claims brought the team Adeiny Hechavarria, Billy Hamilton, and Francisco Cervelli. While it’s certainly arguable the Braves could or should have made at least one more significant addition, the overall approach of supplementing the existing roster has certainly not prevented the team from performing at an impressive level of late.
The D.C. organization pursued something like a Braves-lite strategy, landing its own trio of relief arms but doing so at another tier lower than did the division leaders. Southpaw Roenis Elias (link) and righties Daniel Hudson (link) and Hunter Strickland (link) all arrived on deadline day to buttress a bullpen that has been a source of turnover and turmoil all season long.
Elias was arguably the biggest piece of the three, but has contributed the least due to injury. It’s an unlucky break, though the Nats still can salvage value from the deal by tendering him a contract for the next two seasons to come. The two right-handers have become important pieces in the late-inning mix of the rightly maligned Washington relief corps. Hudson owns a 2.40 ERA in 15 frames, with 9.0 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9; Strickland is sitting at a 4.40 ERA over 14 1/3 innings, with 6.3 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9. They’ve each allowed three home runs.
Securing the services of Elias meant sending Elvis Alvarado and Taylor Guilbeau to Seattle. The control problems of the former disappeared in a dozen-inning rookie ball stint after the trade, so perhaps the Seattle staff helped him figure something out. Gilbeau, 26, has earned his first time in the majors. In eight innings, the southpaw has been tough on lefties (.176/.263/.294) while being knocked around a bit by righties (.267/.353/.467). Another young lefty went to Seattle in the Strickland deal. Aaron Fletcher has thrown 13 innings of 3.46 ERA ball with 15 strikeouts and three walks in 13 Double-A innings. Adding Hudson cost 23-year-old Kyle Johnston, whose solid High-A numbers have tanked since the swap. He carries a brutal 13:20 K/BB ratio in 19 2/3 innings with the new organization.
Add it all up, and the Nats can’t be terribly displeased … but also haven’t been overwhelmingly boosted by their mid-season additions. Indications are that the club was working under tight payroll constraints this summer, so that’s to be expected. Fortunately, infielder Asdrubal Cabrera came cheap. He has been aflame since being signed as a September free agent. The club is still in very good position for the Wild Card, but has to wonder how far it will be able to advance with such an unreliable relief unit.
After adding Jay Bruce earlier in the summer, the Phillies probably wanted to improve their pitching. But they didn’t end up matching their rivals in that regard — not even close, in fact.
Outfielder Corey Dickerson was the team’s biggest addition in the run-up to the deadline, in fact. The primary cost was his remaining salary, with the club also agreeing to send the cross-state Pirates some international bonus capacity and a PTBNL. Dickerson may not even have been added had it not been for Bruce’s health issues. It has turned out to be wise move, as Dickerson carries a .300/.313/.592 batting line through 134 plate appearances.
Taking on money was also a driver in the Jason Vargas deal. The veteran southpaw has taken the ball eight times for the Phillies, managing a 5.01 ERA over 41 1/3 innings with a 1.63 K/BB ratio. That’s a downgrade from the results he posted with the Mets before the trade — 4.01 ERA with 2.08 K/BB ratio — though he’s much the same pitcher by most measures.
Those moves have certainly helped the Phils hang in the Wild Card race, though the club could obviously have stood to make greater improvements. Minor deals for Mike Morin, Jose Pirela, and Dan Straily haven’t delivered a ton of benefit. Morin has seen 21 innings of action but owns a 5.14 ERA. Pirela has seen limited action in the majors, while Straily hasn’t been asked onto the 40-man roster.
Much like their competitors in the division, the Phils have made several additions by signing released players or placing post-deadline claims. Those methods have brought in Drew Smyly, Blake Parker, Nick Vincent, Logan Morrison, and Jared Hughes to help keep things afloat. While more significant reinforcements surely would’ve been preferred, the organization just wasn’t willing to pay what it would have cost.
The most surprising deadline approach came from New York, with the Mets deciding to chase dwindling postseason aspirations. While the organization was rewarded with an inspired run of play, it still seems likely the club will fall short of its goal.
It seemed as the deadline drew nigh that the Mets would function as sellers. Zack Wheeler was an obvious trade piece, with a variety of other veterans also possibilities to move. Instead, the club pursued a stunning swap for local product Marcus Stroman while sending Vargas to the Phils to help offset the cash.
Parting with Vargas hasn’t hurt, though it was curious to see him go to a division rival. Trouble is, Stroman hasn’t been any better. He’s carrying a 5.05 ERA in 35 2/3 frames. While he’s surely a better bet going forward than the aging lefty, Stroman will need to rein in the number of balls leaving the yard (1.8 per nine since the deal). Adding Stroman meant that the Mets ponied up another chunk of young talent from a farm that had already parted with key pieces. Most analysts felt the cost — Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson — was rather reasonable, though both hurlers have trended up since joining their new organization.
The real head-scratcher in all of this was that the Mets stopped with only the addition of Stroman. He was and is a piece with 2020 value as well, of course, but the club left its bullpen entirely unimproved. The club did go on to add Brad Brach as well as second bagger Joe Panik when they came available in September. Brodie Van Wagenen’s first trade deadline will be an interesting one to revisit down the line.
It was a low-key fascinating trade period for the Fish. Not because they made sell-side moves — that was obvious — but because they ended up shipping out young talent.
It all got started innocently enough, as rental reliever Sergio Romo was sent to the Twins in a deal that netted first baseman Lewin Diaz. The youngster’s batting average and OBP dove with his new club, but he is still showing good power at Double-A. Unfortunately, the deal also cost the Fish 22-year-old righty Chris Vallimont. He had put up solid numbers all season long and finished with a bang, posting a 28:4 K/BB ratio and 3.63 ERA over 22 1/3 High-A innings.
It might have been supposed that the Marlins would try to spin off a few other veterans, with Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson among the short-term players that could hypothetically have been moved. Instead, the Miami club turned to cashing in controllable MLB pitching for buy-low position-player prospects.
First came an intriguing intra-state deal. The Marlins parted with righties Nick Anderson and Trevor Richards in order to pick up young outfielder Jesus Sanchez and reliever Ryne Stanek. With Anderson dominating and Richards performing quite well, there could be some second-guessing here. Then again, Sanchez is a well-regarded young player. He slashed .246/.338/.446 in 78 plate appearances at Triple-A after the swap. That’s hardly a big showing in this year’s hot offensive environment, but it was an improvement over his work in the Rays organization and he’s still just 21 years of age.
At least as surprising was the deal that saw rookie righty Zac Gallen head to the D-Backs in exchange for Jazz Chisholm. Entering the season, this swap would’ve seemed ridiculous. But the two players involved headed in quite different directions. By the time the deal was struck, the former was in the midst of a breakout season, with the age and cheap control needed to serve as a part of a new core. But the Marlins elected to cash in his breakout to take a shot at the long-lauded Chisholm, who had shown big strikeout numbers at Double-A (33.8%). Gallen has continued to excel in Arizona, raising the stakes for Chisholm. But the 21-year-old shortstop did trend up after the move, paring back the Ks and slashing .284/.383/.494 (156 wRC+) in 94 plate appearances with the Marlins’ Double-A affiliate.
It’s impossible to say how this slate of transactions will look in the long run, but it’ll be fun to track these intriguing deals from the rebuilding Marlins.