David Price

Lester and Price Lead The Winners and Losers of Deadline Day

Tigers supergroup

Three Cy Young winners All in a row.

It’s been a five days since the craziness of the final hours of the Major League Baseball trade deadline came to an end. I cannot recall the last time there was such monumental team changing/game changing deals on July 31. Lately, many of the bigger trades have taken place as the deadline neared. This year, it was a frenzy right down to the final minutes, with some deals announced shortly after the deadline had passed.

So, who came up as the winners and losers at the deadline? Let’s take a look.

Winners

Oakland A’s: This isn’t Moneyball, this is sending and receiving at its finest. The A’s needed to strengthen their starting rotation and add some veteran presence to it. Prior to the deadline, they went out and got Chicago Cubs ace Jeff Samarzdija and fellow starter Jason Hammel for a package that included highly rated shortstop prospect Addison Russell.

Inserted in the A’s rotation, Samarzdija pitched to his reputation, but Hammel struggled, leading GM Billy Beane to pull off a bold move. He sent his slugging left fielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox for their ace, Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes. The A’s outfield had been thinned with an injury to Coco Crisp, so the addition of Gomes gave them another World Series ring-wearing veteran.( Beane would later flip aggrieved starter Tommy Milone for outfielder Sam Fuld to strengthen the bench and play centerfield while Crisp is out)

Lester was the key maneuver, though, joining a rotation of Samarzdija, veteran Scott Kazmir and youngsters Sonny Gray and Jesse Chavez. The left-hander started his first game as an Athletic on Saturday, in front of a charged Oakland crowd. Lester allowed three earned runs in 6.2 innings pitched in the A’s 8-3 victory. It was Lester’s 110th career victory and his first in a uniform other than that of the Boston Red Sox. (A day later Lester took out a full page ad in the Boston Globe to thank the fans.)

Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly. That’s a pretty intimidating starting rotation right out of the box. Now add David Price to it and look out. That’s exactly what Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski was able to do on Thursday. As soon as Lester was dealt by Boston, Tampa Bay Rays’ Executive VP of Operations and GM, Andrew Friedman, began to get inundated with calls about Price.

The 2012 AL Cy Young winner still had another year on his contract, so Tampa did not need to trade him this year with the worry of losing him to free agency in the offseason. But Friedman found a deal he liked and brought in the Seattle Mariners as a third team to get it done.

The Rays sent Price to Detroit, who in turn traded centerfielder Austin Jackson to the Mariners and Smyly and minor league infielder Willy Adames to the Rays. The Rays also received second base prospect Nick Franklin from Seattle.

The Tigers now have the last three AL Cy Young winners with Verlander (2011, also MVP), Price (2012) and Scherzer (2013). Sanchez is now the best number four starter in the Major Leagues. The Tigers still need to work on their bullpen –as the Phillies can attest, a great rotation (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt) doesn’t always get it done – which has not performed up to par, but they may not need to make too many appearances with a group of starters that can routinely pitch into the 7th and 8th innings. Price makes his Tigers’ debut Tuesday evening in a place he has started 23 games, Yankee Stadium. (Price is 10-5, 3.66 vs. the Yankees, including 6-2 in the new Yankee Stadium.)

Boston Red Sox: There were a lot of disgruntled Red Sox fans on Thursday, most of them not wanting to see Lester go. But with a better than 50/50 chance of Lester returning as a free agent, GM Ben Cherington took a team that went from first to worst and got it back on the road to future success.

In Cespedes, he got a bona fide power hitter whose power had been lessened by the A’s spacious home ballpark. Now he has the Green Monster to pepper shots off of. It also gives David Ortiz more protection in the lineup than he had with Mike Napoli and allows manager John Farrell to move Dustin Pedroia into the number two slot in the order. Cherington also sent John Lackey to St. Louis for first baseman Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly

Craig drove in 90-plus runs the last two seasons before an ankle injury robbed him of much of the current season. He’ll give depth to a lineup that has struggled to score runs this season. The Red Sox also added youth with the just turned 30-year old Craig and the 26-year old Kelly. The right-hander was solid the past two seasons as a reliever and occasional starter, and helped the Cardinals to their second NL pennant in three years in 2013.

Kelly was limited to 10 starts between the Majors (7) and minors (3) this season due to a strained hamstring that kept him out of action for three months. He’ll join the only remaining Boston starter, Clay Buchholz, from the rotation that began the year. (The Red Sox had already dealt Jake Peavy prior to the deadline and sent lefty Felix Doubront to the Chicago Cubs on the 31st.)

The Sox also dealt veteran shortstop Stephen Drew, to the Yankees of all people, to free up playing time for Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks, and Mookie Betts. The aforementioned Peavy deal brought them pitcher Edwin Escobar, ranked in the 2014 top 100 MLB prospects by Baseball America and MLB.com, and a possible addition to their bullpen in right-hander Heath Hembree.

 

Losers:

Philadelphia Phillies: One has to wonder how GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has managed to keep his job. Yes, the Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and repeated as NL pennant winners a year later. But the writing was on the wall for quite some time and Amaro ignored it. He also doled out way too much money for too many players and was unable to move any of them by the deadline.

One of those players was starting pitcher Cliff Lee. The former AL Cy Young Winner still has about $37.5MM owed to him for the next two years. Whether he’ll be able to play or not is another matter. Lee was bothered by elbow problems this season, which made him and his contract harder to move. But Amaro should have done something, even if it meant not getting much in return. He may have been able to move some of Lee’s salary. He didn’t and Lee re-injured his elbow and is likely done for the season, which means no waiver trade either.

First baseman Ryan Howard is not what he used to be, which was a home run smashing, RBI-producing, bad-fielding first baseman. Okay, he is still the last part. Amaro foolishly gave Howard a six year, $106MM extension after the 2012 season. It’s a deal that will be paying Howard $25MM the next two years when he is 35 and 36. The Phillies are just lucky, if you want to call it that, they have a $10MM buyout on a $23MM option in 2017.

If you are to believe the reports, Amaro was also asking for too much in return for outfielder Marlon Byrd. As of this writing, the 36-year old had a .799 OPS with 21 HR and 63 RBI in 110 games. Ah, but Amaro’s over-generosity did him in again. There are plenty of teams that want Byrd for this year, maybe even next season at the $8MM it may cost them. But they don’t want a 38-year old Byrd with another $8MM in 2016.

Amaro was clearly counting on Byrd not being able to attain the vested portion of his contract – 600 plate appearances (PA) in 2015 or 1100 PA between this year and next. Byrd already has 462 PA as of this writing, with nearly two full months of the season left.

Amaro could have also moved A.J. Burnett, whose performance has dropped off from last season. Burnett makes $15MM and has a mutual option with just a $1MM buyout for next year. In today’s market, Amaro did a good job on Burnett’s deal. Burnett is the most likely of the Phillies to pass through waivers and be dealt. He’d better be or Amaro’s trade season will be a complete flop. Not that it still won’t be a complete flop even if Amaro does move Burnett.

There were a number of teams that hoped to improve with minor moves that fall somewhere in between winner and loser. Time will tell which of the categories those deals fall into.

 

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

 

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That’s Not a July T-Storm, It’s the MLB Trade Winds Blowing!

Clee.jpgIt must be July; Cliff Lee is on the trade block.

by Drew Sarver

Major League Baseball is a week past the All-Star break, which means the MLB trade deadline is less than two weeks away. There’s already been a major trade between the Oakland A’s (Addison Russell) and the Chicago Cubs (Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel) that will have an impact on the AL West race.  Teams have until July 31 to decide whether to be sellers, buyers, or to stand pat at the deadline. It gives them less than two weeks to figure out if they are really as bad as they might be playing or as good as they think they are. Should a team within striking distance of a playoff spot go hard after a big-name player or pull the trigger on smaller deals? Or should they stand pat?

There’s precedence for just about every situation at the break. On July 31, 1997, the Chicago White Sox sat four games in back of the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central division. Despite their close proximity to first place in the standings, the White Sox went into “full sell” mode.  They dealt starting pitchers Wilson Alvarez and Danny Darwin, and closer Roberto Hernandez to the San Francisco Giants for a half-dozen prospects: Keith Foulke, Bobby Howry, Ken Vining, Mike Caruso, Brian Manning, and Lorenzo Barcelo.

All three players dealt by Chicago were free agents after the 1997 season, so GM Ron Schueler cut his losses. (Of the six players acquired by Chicago, only Foulke and Howry went on to have successful Major League careers . The Giants won the NL West, but were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual World Champion Florida Marlins. The following season, Alvarez and Hernandez went on to big money deals with Tampa Bay, while Darwin re-signed with San Francisco.)

It’s difficult to tell fact from fiction this time of year, which is why the words “rumor” and “reported” are thrown around like baseballs. More often than not, the player attached to the strongest rumors does not get dealt, or goes to the team that had no rumored association with the player. (Think Cliff Lee.)

So let’s take a look at some of the names being bandied about right now and those names that might be brought up once the deadline gets closer.

Jonny Gomes and Ben Zobrist: There are a lot of moves made at the deadline to shore up a position, or to get one or two more players that might put a team over the edge to make the playoffs and/or make a long run at the title. Gomes and Zobrist would fall into that category. Gomes had several big hits last year to help the Red Sox win their third World Series in the last 10 years. But, with Boston struggling this year, Gomes may be one of the guys to go. According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the KC Royals have made Gomes a “potential trade target”. KC is in contention with a group of younger players and could use some experienced, ring-bearing veterans like Gomes.

Zobrist’s name has popped up in many rumors. Though the 33-year old’s bat hasn’t produced as much in the last two seasons, he’s just three years removed from back-to-back 20-home-run seasons. Zobrist, Gomes’ former teammate on the Rays, can also swipe a base when needed and defensively can play both middle infield positions, (second base is his best spot), and the outfield. With a $7.5MM team option for next season, Zobrist comes at a bargain price. That means better prospects will be demanded by the Rays in return.

Fishing for pitching is always a popular sport this time of year, and the biggest fish out there is a Ray. David Price, the 2012 AL Cy Young winner, won’t be a free agent until 2016, but the Rays may deal him before then to haul in a big catch. Price made $14MM this season and will surely top that in arbitration or a one-year deal next season. The 6’6″ left-hander entered Monday’s play leading the league in strikeouts and games started, and had pitched to a 3.06 ERA and a 1.041 WHIP.

Price has been especially hot of late, with six earned runs allowed in 48 innings (1.13 ERA). He’s pitched less than seven complete innings only once in his 13 starts and has thrown at least eight innings in nine of those starts. With the Rays playing better baseball of late – they’ve won five straight and 14 of 18 – Price may stick around Tampa until next season’s trade deadline.

With Samarzdiga, Hammel, and Brandon McCarthy already moved, San Diego’s Ian Kennedy has heard his name mentioned frequently. Recently, FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the Los Angeles Angels were very interested in Kennedy, but as of this writing, the teams have not been able to match up players for a deal.

Based on the way Kennedy pitched with the Yankees, you never would have thought he would be in demand. But scouts stood up and took notice when Kennedy finished 21-4, 2.88 with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011. He struggled the following two years and was dealt to San Diego at last year’s deadline. This season, Kennedy has turned things around and is back in demand. The USC product made $6.1MM in 2014 and is arbitration-eligible next year.

Scouts are showing up in droves for Philadelphia Phillies games, with the fightin’ Phils not having a whole lot of fight in them. Teams have made inquiries about starters Lee and Cole Hamels, and closer Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies would reportedly prefer to hold on to the 30-year old  Hamels (They need someone to build around) and deal Lee. (Is it just my imagination, or does it seem like every year Lee is either looking for a free agent deal or he’s the subject of trade rumors?)

The soon-to-be 36-year old Lee is owed the remainder of $25MM this season, another $25MM next year, and at the very least,  $12.5MM in 2016. (The $12.5MM is a buyout; Lee can earn $27.5MM in 2016 if he throws at least 200 innings in 2015.) By comparison, Hamels is owed $90MM from 2015-2018. Just what was GM Ruben Amaro Jr. thinking with these deals and contracts like Ryan Howard’s (min. $60MM owed for the next three years)? Perhaps the Dodgers could swap Matt Kemp’s huge contract for Lee’s?

Papelbon is owed $13MM next year and can get another $13MM in 2016 if he finishes 55 games next season, or 100 games over the current year and 2015 combined. After a shaky 2013 season, Papelbon has bounced back strongly this year. He’s saved 23 of 25 games and struck out 33 batters, while he has allowed nine walks, and has a 1.17 ERA. Opposing batters have only managed to put together a .429 OPS this season. With teams always looking for bullpen help and with so many closers having off years, the Phils could get some very good return for Papelbon.

Well, there you have it for now.  Stay tuned later in the week for another report as the calendar creeps closer to August.

 

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

Yankees Turn Triple Play

Solarte

Rookie Yangervis Solarte has had quite the eventful first month of his freshman season.

The triple play is still one of the most exciting and rare happenings in baseball. The first “you’re out, you’re out, you’re out” of the 2014 season was turned by the Yankees Thursday night.

The Tampa Bay Rays had two aboard with none out in the bottom of the second inning against CC Sabathia. Down 4-0, Sean Rodriguez had a chance to get his team back in the game. But instead, Rodriguez hit a grounded toward third base. Yankees rookie Yangervis Solarte stepped on third to force Evan Longoria, then pivoted and threw to Brian Roberts at second base to retire Wil Myers.

Then the  pièces de ré·sis·tance – Roberts threw a one-hopper to first base that Scott Sizemore scooped out of the dirt for an around-the-horn triple play.

Here it is: