In part two of my trade deadline evaluation, I look at Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Colorado Rockies, Seattle Mariners, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Florida Marlins, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, Cincinnati Reds, and Atlanta Braves.
Kansas City Royals – losers. The Royals are perhaps blinded by the fact that they have been somewhat respectable this season, despite relatively lousy performances from Billy Butler and Alex Gordon. They still have the second-worst run differential in the AL (Seattle has been outscored by one additional run), and they still don’t have a ton of talent waiting in the wings. The Royals missed out on an opportunity to cash in some of their trading chips – Ron Mahay, Mark Grudzielanek, Jose Guillen, maybe even Zack Greinke – in a seller’s market. I worry that Kansas City’s ceiling in the next couple of years is merely mediocrity: they don’t have a very good major league team, and some of their better major leaguers aren’t likely to be around (or productive) in 2-3 years. There isn’t enough minor league talent to put the Royals over the top, and a consistently mediocre team is the worst-case scenario for any small or even mid-market team.
New York Yankees – marginal winners. The Yankees improved themselves this trade deadline. But not necessarily by that much. Joe Sheehan pointed out that Ivan Rodriguez, although he is a Big Name, is only a marginal upgrade over Jose Molina. Also, Xavier Nady is not as good as his career line suggests. But the most important thing for the Yankees is that they didn’t give up too much in return. Kyle Farnsworth is having a very good season, but he was the fourth or fifth option out of the bullpen. The Yankees won’t miss the three pitchers they sent to Pittsburgh, and they can afford to part with a high-risk player like Jose Tabata (a scenery change may do him some good, too). So while the improvements may have been overstated, the Yankees are better now than they were a week ago, and they didn’t sacrifice anything particularly precious to them in the process.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – neutral. Yes, they added a Big Name in Mark Teixeira. But by trading Casey Kotchman in the process, they negated much of the upgrade. The only reason I didn’t list the Angels as “losers” is because they did indeed improve – just not by that much.
ColoradoRockies – losers. Last season, the Rockies pulled off a miracle to make the playoffs (let alone make it to the World Series). But the reason it was a miracle was that that type of comeback hardly ever happens. The Rockies may indeed only be seven games out of first place, but they must leapfrog two teams who are both better than them to win the division, and they have no shot at the wildcard. Say what you want about the Rockies being 10-3 in their last 13, or whatever selected sample size you choose – that only tells me that they were really bad before, because they’re still 49-60 now.
Furthermore, the Rockies could have traded Brian Fuentes – and maybe even Garret Atkins, if there were any decent offers – without hurting their chances this season substantially, as Ian Stewart can replace Atkins and the Rockies still would have a decent bullpen without Fuentes. By deluding themselves into thinking they still had a shot this year, the Rockies missed an opportunity to improve themselves for the future.
Seattle Mariners – losers. It’s tough to assign any blame to the Mariners anymore, given the current state of their front office. However, even though they made an excellent trade by sending Arthur Rhodes to the Marlins for Gaby Hernandez, the Mariners missed the opportunity to cash in additional chips, such as Raul Ibanez or perhaps even JJ Putz. Ibanez is redundant on a bad team that has Wladimir Balentien in the minors, and even two B- prospects would be a welcome return for him. However, by not dealing Ibanez or anyone else, the Mariners have prolonged their already-extensive rebuilding project.
Oakland Athletics – winners. While the As didn’t make any moves near the deadline, they continued to stockpile minor league talent with their trades of Rich Harden and Joe Blanton. The talent in the Athletics minor league system is incredible – and a lot of it is high-end, especially pitching talent. The As are once again built to be extremely competitive for many years, starting very soon.
Milwaukee Brewers – winners. CC Sabathia is probably the single biggest upgrade of any player added at the deadline, due to the fact that he’s a fantastic pitcher, but also because he’s replacing a below-average pitcher in the Brewers rotation (and taking a lot of stress off of the bullpen as well). Milwaukee paid a hefty price to get him, but they still have top-flight talent in the minors, and are better able to absorb the loss of Matt LaPorta due to the presence of cost-controlled talented youngsters scattered across their big league roster.
Chicago Cubs – winners. While Rich Harden is very risky, the Cubs made a good move by picking him up, because if he is healthy the Cubs are probably the best team in the NL, and if he’s not, they’re still likely to make the playoffs. Sean Gallagher is a very good pitcher, but the Cubs are rightly in win-now mode, and as such he, Patterson, Murton, and Donaldson are very expendable.
Florida Marlins – winners. The proposed three-way trade which would have netted them Manny Ramirez would have been a huge mistake. Taking defense into account, Ramirez would not have been a substantial upgrade over Jeremy Hermida, and Hermida’s upside remains very high. Furthermore, cost-controlled players are extraordinarily important to the Marlins, as high-quality cost-controlled players are the only way they are going to achieve success in the near future. Furthermore, the Marlins’s run differential suggests that they are bound to regress, even had they acquired Ramirez, and will likely fall short of the playoffs in a division with two other very good teams. Although losing Gaby Hernandez in a deal for Arthur Rhodes was not a smart move, it’s hardly a franchise-crippling move either. Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make.
Detroit Tigers – marginal winners. Give Dave Dombrowski credit: he’s nothing if not creative. Sitting at the proverbial poker table with very few chips but a huge hole in his bullpen, Dombrowski converted Ivan Rodriguez into Kyle Farnsworth, and will slide Brandon Inge into the catcher’s role. Inge’s production should more or less mirror Pudge’s, so the Tigers are unlikely to lose much from their field general. Farnsworth is as volatile as players come, but has been pitching very well this season and returns to a Tigers organization in which he fared quite well during his first go-round. Farnsworth immediately upgrades a beleaguered bullpen and gives the Tigers an increased (albeit still relatively small) chance of catching the White Sox and Twins. Considering how little Dombrowski had to work with, this is a clever, smart move.
Houston Astros – losers. I don’t have much to say that isn’t obvious to most people: the Astros should never have been buyers. But it’s tough to admit defeat, and men rich enough to be baseball owners are entitled to do what they want with their money and their team. The Astros have many seasons of mediocrity ahead of them, and cannot be pleased to see the improvements that the Pirates made in the last week.
Cincinnati Reds – losers. Sure, they got rid of an overpaid player who may not even be average anymore (Ken Griffey Jr). But they acquired a decent righty who’s out of options (Nick Masset) and a redundant infield player (Brian Buscher), who, as Joe Sheehan aptly put it, is “not a shortstop, and Brandon Phillips does every single thing better than he does.”
But the real reason the Reds are losers is their failure to deal Adam Dunn. It’s highly unlikely that Dunn will re-sign with the team for the future, and I find it hard to believe that no team was willing to offer a package more enticing than two draft picks in the 2009 draft. Perhaps I am wrong – and if so, kudos to the Reds for not dealing him – but it seems like the Rays, Mets, and Diamondbacks, among others, could have used Dunn’s bat and were in a position to put together a package better than two picks. If the Reds were willing to deal Griffey for minimal return, why not deal Dunn for an even-better return?
Atlanta Braves – winners. Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek are better than two compensation picks. That’s what it boils down to. Yes, the Braves look rather silly, considering the fact that they gave up a ton to Texas to acquire Teixeira last year and received “only” Kotchman and Marek when trading him this year. But kudos to Frank Wren for his willingness to potentially look bad, even though it made his team better.