The Astros and Dodgers “were at an impasse” in trade negotiations over reliever Josh Fields at the 2016 trade deadline, Houston GM Jeff Luhnow said, before Luhnow decided to aim beyond L.A.’s farm system. As Luhnow tells MLB.com’s Alyson Footer, the Astros had had interest in Yordan Alvarez as an international signing before he agreed to a deal with Los Angeles in June 2016. “Really, it wasn’t until the day of the deadline that I remembered the Dodgers had signed Alvarez, and I thought, ’Well, if we can’t get a minor league player that we’re really excited about, why don’t we just take a flier on this young guy that they just signed that I know we like?’ ” Luhnow said.
After that sudden brainstorm, the Fields-for-Alvarez trade was concluded fairly quickly, putting Alvarez (then a somewhat obscure 18-year-old prospect) onto a new team less than two months into his pro career. “I was surprised and a little worried. I didn’t know what a trade was,” Alvarez said. “I thought they might have been releasing me. I was really surprised, but when they explained it to me, I understood.” The rest, as they say, is history, as Alvarez blossomed in Houston’s farm system and then made an immediate impact at the big league level, hitting an incredible .313/.412/.655 with 27 homers over his first 369 Major League plate appearances.
More from around the American League…
- Andrew Benintendi put on some weight last winter in an attempt to add more power to his game, though in the wake of a down year, the Red Sox outfielder tells WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford that the new goal is “to get lighter and more athletic this offseason.” Many tabbed Benintendi to break out into superstardom in the wake of his impressive 2018 season, though he ended up hitting only .266/.343/.431 over 615 PA in 2019. Some nagging injuries played a role, though Benintendi’s added bulk didn’t translate into more power, as he posted a lower slugging percentage and fewer homers (13) than in 2018. Benintendi is hoping that better health and a more back to his old speed-based game will result in a better 2020 season.
- Also from Bradford’s piece, he notes that Trey Ball and Teddy Stankiewicz have reached minor league free agency and could be unlikely to remain in the Red Sox farm system. Ball was chosen seventh overall in the 2013 draft while Stankiewicz was Boston’s second selection (45th overall) from that same class, though neither player has reached the big leagues. Bradford takes the opportunity to look back at a draft year that ended up as almost a complete miss for the Red Sox, as only five (Mauricio Dubon, Carlos Asuaje, Matt Thaiss, Gabe Speier, and Kyle Martin) of the 40 players selected have reached the majors, and none ever suited up in a Boston uniform. Still, the 2013 draft class did plant some indirect seeds for future success — Asuaje was part of the trade package the Sox sent to the Padres for Craig Kimbrel, while Speier was included as part of the Rick Porcello trade with the Tigers.
- The Rays used a trade-heavy approach in building their roster, though beyond the low-payroll franchise’s usual tactic of trading veterans when they become too expensive, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times notes that the Rays have also looked to add MLB-ready players rather than younger prospects, while also being willing to move minor leaguers of their own. “But increasingly we’ve been more open to swapping players…earlier in their career. I think at the end of the day, we recognize that we have to be wide open to any acquisition method that gives us a team that we like better than the one we had previously, be it for today or be it for tomorrow,” GM Erik Neander said. “The more near-term sensitivity we have competitively the better position we’re in, so that’s the goal. Striking that balance has to be a constant….Where you want to be is having a mindfulness on the short-term and not having it 100 percent pushed out to the future.” A whopping 16 of the 25 players on Tampa Bay’s ALDS roster were acquired through trades, most in under-the-radar swaps.