A Look Back at the MLB Trade Deadline

Two of our writers, Joe Binckes and Greg Kaplan, have spent the week looking back at Tuesday’s trade deadline to determine which teams are better off for the playoff run, and which teams didn’t execute their plans to help the team moving forward…

Los Angeles Dodgers: A

Joe Binckes: The Dodgers set out to make a splash this year, to show that they’re set on really turning this franchise around.  While the chatter for a while would’ve had them landing Cole Hamels, they seemed unphased by his signing an extension with the Phillies.  Instead, they went out and acquired Hanley Ramirez from Miami along with relief pitcher Randy Choate.  True, they gave up top pitching prospect Nate Eovaldi, but the upside alone on Ramirez makes me like this trade.  Follow this up by dealing relief pitcher Josh Lindblom and a prospect for Shane Victorino to solidify the outfield, and then trading for Brandon League to fill the gap in the bullpen left by trading Lindblom?  Okay Dodgers management, I believe you.  You’re in this thing to win it.

Greg Kaplan: The reason why I believe the Dodgers deserve this grade despite not getting the impact starting pitcher they really wanted is because not only did the significantly upgrade their line-up, but they did so without having to trade away top pitching prospect Zach Lee. The talent they gave up to get Hanley Ramirez to LA does not accurately reflect HanRam’s value if he’s playing at his absolute best. Add in Victorino’s speed and on-base percentage, the Dodgers can now live with whatever a healthy Dee Gordon can give the team from the eight-spot in the line-up. Bat in the middle of the line-up to compliment Ethier and Kemp? Check. Speed and on-base at the top of the line-up? Check. Bullpen arm to replace one they traded? Check. Keep their best prospect? Check. Nobody had a better deadline than the Dodgers.  

Los Angeles Angels: A

JB: Thinking back to the offseason, I’m reminded of a prominent discussion- could the Angels become the team to root for in L.A.?  The Dodgers had the history, but their owner situation was in flux while the Angels were out shopping for now toys on the open market, going as far as to grab the top prize in Albert Pujols.  Once again, the Angels have managed to acquire the best player that changed places in right handed pitcher Zack Greinke.  Though they gave away three nice prospects, including a seemingly future big league shortstop in Jean Segura, they got the best player in any of these trades hands down.  With a rotation of Jered Weaver, Greinke, C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana/Garrett Richards, there isn’t a team out there with more more potential to absolutely shut down opposing teams night in and night out.  While the Dodgers did all they could to make their mark, it still seems clear that the Angels are the superior team.  

GK: The Angels didn’t need any help for their vaunted line-up. They weren’t in dire straits to upgrade the starting rotation. You could’ve made an argument that the team would be better off making a move to help shore up the bullpen, but who doesn’t need an extra reliever? So, what do the Angels do? They trade for the biggest name on the market. And by doing so, they denied their division rival Texas Rangers of the player they most coveted to make a third straight run at a pennant. The Angels rotation got significantly better, the bullpen gets better by moving either Ervin Santana or Garrett Richards to it and they weakened any move Texas could potentially make. That’s a bingo.

San Francisco Giants: B+

JB: In recent years, the Giants have been a team that challenges opponents with shut-down pitching but often falls due to their anemic offense.  Their marquee move this year at the deadline was bringing in Hunter Pence to round out their outfield.  At the time of the trade, no Giants player had more than thirteen homeruns, while Pence brings 17 to the table so far this year, and at least 22 in each year since 2008.  While he’s not thought of as a superstar, a .280+ average with some pop may be all that’s needed, and he’s inarguably an upgrade over the likes of Gregor Blanco or Nate Schierholtz.  Additionally, the Giants also moved to get Marco Scutaro, who will act as a utility infielder that can play wherever he’s needed and give the team a batting average and glovework that won’t kill them.  Between Sandoval going down to injury again, and the dynamic middle infield duo of Ryan Theriot and Brandon Crawford, it seems to me the normally middling production of a player like Scutaro will be a  boon to the offense going forward.

GK: While neither of these moves jump off the page or trump anything the Dodgers were able to pull off, both are sneaky deals that fortify the Giants offense, historically their team’s weakest element. Scutaro gives San Francisco versatility in the infield, and has the ability to play second base when Pablo Sandoval returns from his most recent DL stint. And while Pence’s power numbers will likely take a step backwards leaving the hitters paradise of Philadelphia for the seeming abyss of San Francisco in comparison, he’s still a righty with pop that can protect Sandoval/Posey. 

Chicago White Sox: B

JB: Stay with us here- we aren’t just reflecting on moves made in the eleventh hour, but we also decided to exclude getting the Youkilis trade from our judgment.  Had the acquisition of Youkilis been added to the formula, I think it’d bump the White Sox up to an A.  Given our criteria, the addition of Francisco Liriano and Brett Myers still earn the ChiSox a positive grade.  Liriano is an especially nice addition considering the loss of John Danks and the recent news of Chris Sale’s ‘dead arm’ causing him to miss at least a start.  Liriano has had flashes of brilliance as well as stretches where he seems unusable (he was relegated to bullpen duty earlier this year).  Lately, we’ve seen the better side of Liriano, with high strikeout totals and a few stellar starts sprinkled between mediocrity.  For a team like the White Sox, who appeared to be entering a rebuilding phase and could not have expected they’d be sitting in first place as we enter August (even our own preseason rankings had them finishing in fourth in the Central), this move feels right.  They throw the fans a bone by improving a part of the team that needs help without undermining the efforts to build towards the future.  The Myers trade shores up the bullpen at a very low cost, as the Astros had to get rid of Myers before he finished enough games that his $10M vesting option for next year kicked in.  The White Sox should feel fortunate to be the chosen suitor for both of these players, because I have to believe there were other teams that would have paid a similar price to add either of them.

GK: You like what the White Sox did to add depth to a team that is dead serious about competing with the Tigers in a tight AL Central race. But, you also don’t love what the White Sox did because neither move really vaults the team to a level further ahead of Detroit. Liriano, when he’s on his game, is a shut down lefty that can go head-to-head with the best pitchers in baseball. However, his problem is consistency. Should Liriano find some rejuvenation being in the middle of a pennant race and not dwelling in the Central cellar, maybe his performance gets a needed spike. That, plus a return to health for pitchers John Danks and Gavin Floyd, and the extra rest the team can now afford to give Chris Sale, you have to like this move. As for Myers, you like any potential playoff team that makes an upgrade to their bullpen. It never hurts to add an arm with closing experience to throw at the end of ballgames, regardless of who that pitcher is (unless it’s Francisco Rodriguez).

New York Yankees: B

JB: The Yankees join the White Sox in that realm of teams that made moves that were clearly beneficial, but were didn’t do anything to put themselves over the top.  They managed to add Ichiro just over a week ago at the cost of…well…basically nothing.  He wanted out of a bad situation in Seattle, and the Yankees were there with open arms willing to take on the former MVP in the twilight of his career.  While he may be having a pretty awful year so far, he’s still more than serviceable in the field and there’s always the chance that moving to a better lineup and a better ballpark will rejuvenate  They also managed to get Casey McGehee from the Pirates in return for Chad Qualls, who was about to be released anyway.  McGehee gives them a guy who can play first or third while Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez deal with their respective injuries.  Taking a shot and missing on Ryan Dempster does hurt my perception of their deadline dealings slightly, but their rotation is in relatively good shape regardless.

GK: Yeah, the Yankees are an interesting case. Joe and I both understood completely what they wanted to accomplish at the deadline, which was upgrade the depth in their line-up or pitching without sacrificing much in the form of prospects to do so. They did that and then some, mostly plucking Ichiro out of Seattle without giving up a significant prospect, and turning Chad Qualls into Casey McGehee to add infield depth with the recent injuries to A-Rod and Tex. You don’t want to give them a higher grade because their rotation is no different today from yesterday, but you still like what they did and you need to give praise for that.

Detroit Tigers: B-

JB: The Tigers added staring pitcher Anibal Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante in the midst of the Marlins’ firesale.  While they gave up a top flight prospect in 21 year old Jacob Turner, it appears he could use some more seasoning in the minors while Detroit’s focus is on the immediate future.  After reaching the ALCS last year and the monster signing of Prince Fielder this offseason, they wantto win now.  Infante started the year like a ball of fire and although he’s since cooled, he’s still leaps and bounds ahead of anything the Tigers were throwing out there at second to this point.  Anibal Sanchez, although pitching to an ERA around 4.00, has thrown nearly 200 innings in each of the last two years, owns a nice strikeout rate and has the potential to keep his team in any game.  The jump from the National League to the American League might be scary, but his addition means that come playoff time Detroit will be using a four man rotation of Verlander/Fister/Scherzer/Sanchez, a formidable bunch for any team to face off against.

GK: If you wanted to only judge the Tigers by the move that helps them this season, you can make a strong case for the team scoring a higher grade. However, it hurts to lose a prospect like Jacob Turner when you’re getting two rental pieces in Infante and Sanchez. Don’t get me wrong, both players upgrade two of the weakest areas for the Tigers, their starting rotation depth and their terrible play from anyone they put at second base this season. Adding Sanchez to the rotation gives the Tigers much more depth that may not be on the level of the Angels, but can match up with the likes of the Yankees and certainly the White Sox and Rangers. Infante adds much needed stability to second base, even if he regresses back to his career averages. Tigers second basemen pre-Infante combined to be the worst statistically in baseball, and with distance. You just hope they don’t regret moving Turner at some point in the near future.

Atlanta Braves: C

JB: It’s hard to be excited about what the Braves did, but getting left-handed starting pitcher Paul Maholm and OF Reed Johnson from the Cubs did improve the team’s chances for this year.  After struggling through most of July, Tommy Hanson hit the disabled list earlier this week.  He joins would-be ace Brandon Beachy (Tommy John Surgery) and Jair Jurrjens (groin strain; generally terrible) as pieces of Atlanta’s rotation that are now on the DL.  Maholm, at worst, is a lefty innings eater who the Braves hope will help them push past Washington as the end of the season draws closer.  At best, he could be a cornerstone of this rotation moving forward.  Maholm has gone at least six innings and given up less than two runs in each of his last six starts.  If this hot streak continues, we may be severely underestimating this move by Atlanta.  The reason this trade isn’t in the same category as the Yankees or White Sox moves is because the Braves gave up young Arodys Vizcaino, a young power arm currently recovering from Tommy John Surgery who profiles as a top relief pitcher.  This trade will be judged by how well the Braves close out the season. 

GK: Yeah, I mean, it’s hard to get overly excited about Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson. For one, Johnson’s impact will be minimal, considering he will be used almost exclusively off the bench as a right-handed bat that has more consistency than Matt Diaz. Second, while Maholm is having a nice, resurgent season, he’s still Paul Maholm. His upside is very limited, and is no better than a decent team’s fourth-or-fifth starter. Come playoff time, should the Braves make it that far, his arm would move to the bullpen. Its a nice depth move, but you also need to be hesitant about Arodys Vizcaino and how he recovers from surgery. Before the season started, Vizcaino was in the Braves “Big 3″ of prospects, but then was lost to the arm injury and people forgot about him a little. He’s still very young, and we’ve seen plenty of pitchers come back from TJS and be better than they were before. It might’ve been a really steep price to pay for a fifth starter and fourth outfielder in the long run.

Chicago Cubs: C

JB: The Cubs did not improve their team for this year, but they did generally accomplish what they wanted to around the deadline.  They unloaded some players and stocked the farm system in turn.  They didn’t get anything terribly impressive, but the philosophy here seems to be in line with the old adage “throw it at the wall and see what sticks.”  If they collect enough prospects, some of them are bound to prove useful in the big leagues.  As I mentioned above, Arodys Vizcaino came over from Atlanta and has a lot of potential as a high strikeout pitcher, along with another young arm in Jaye Chapman.  Geovany Soto had very nice years for a catcher in 2008 and 2010, but hasn’t been good since then.  Even if he returned to 2008 form, he’s a 29 year old catcher and at best could have been the difference between a few mediocre seasons and a few awful seasons.  In return they got Jacob Brigham, another minor league pitcher.  At age 24, and having been in the minors since age 18, it shouldn’t take long for the Cubs to see what they have in Brigham.  Lastly, they traded the overperforming Ryan Dempster to Texas for a fourth minor league pitcher in Kyle Hendricks and Christian Villanueva, a third base prospect who is in the midst of a very nice season in high A ball.  Of course, the haul for Dempster may have been greater if he hadn’t tied their hands by making it common knowledge that he only wanted to go to to the Dodgers (and would only agree to a trade to a few other suitors), limiting what they could get for him.  Though it wasn’t their fault, failing to trade Matt Garza also hurts how I view their trade deadline.  Had he been healthy and traded, I don’t think it’s wrong to think he’d have fetched a better package than any pitcher not named Zack Greinke this July.  All that said, I trust Theo Epstein’s ability to rebuild a franchise, and will be keeping this names in mind  a few years down the line as the Cubs start shifting away from rebuilding and more towards contention.

GK: Well, Theo was able to accomplish a few things at this year’s deadline. He got a decent, if not above-average return on Ryan Dempster, his most valuable trade chip. I like the addition of Vizcaino, even if he’s still recovering from surgery, for basically two spare parts. Matt Garza getting hurt before the deadline ultimately hurt the Cubs chances at getting maximum value for their players, and the team is still saddled with Alfonso Soriano, but he’s a prime trade chip for the post-waiver period. He also didn’t move Bryan LaHair, which either means he wasn’t thrilled with what other teams were offering him for the power-hitting lefty, or he thinks there is still somewhat of a future for LaHair’s bat in Chicago. Again, the Cubs accomplished some of what they wanted to, but not all. That’s why they don’t get a stronger grade here.

Pittsburgh Pirates: C

JB: I find myself judging the Pirates harshly, because as anyone who read our 10 Impact Names That Could Be On The Move article might have guessed, I like the story and was really hoping for them to make a big move and really push for the playoffs.  Instead of going out and getting a reliable bat to bolster their offense, it seems they made a series of lateral moves offensively.  Sure, Gaby Sanchez has shown himself to be a reliable major league hitter in the past.  Does anyone actually feel he’s a major upgrade over Garrett Jones?  Travis Snider has a nice prospect pedigree, but he’s by no means a reliable everyday starter.  Wandy Rodriguez is a nice addition, but the starting rotation has been a strength of Pittsburgh’s all year long.  They got Chad Qualls as well, which is okay except for the fact that he’s still Chad Qualls.  If Snider and Sanchez play to the potential that we know they have, then the moves will look good in hindsight, but for now I’m not impressed. 

GK: I find myself looking at the moves the Pirates did make with a case of curiosity. I thought if there was one team that needed to make a move for an impact bat, it was Pittsburgh, who desperately needed someone to complement the other-worldly abilities of Andrew McCutchen. And yet, their splashiest move turned out to be the import of Astros veteran starter Wandy Rodriguez. It’s a good move, and it gives the Pirates a lot of depth with Erik Bedard, A.J. Burnett and James McDonald. But, I don’t think the additions of Gaby Sanchez and Travis Snider, two players who haven’t been living up to their offensive potentials this season, are any better than the bats Pittsburgh already had. You could say the team has a strength in numbers now, and the line-up is certainly much deeper today than before. But, are either players that much better than, say, Garrett Jones or Pedro Alvarez? Maybe Snider if he can right the ship, but not Sanchez. With all the names flying around the Pirates, from Justin Upton to Victorino, you would’ve expected the team to make a bigger move for a bat.

Miami Marlins: D

JB: I really wanted to include Marlins fans (and the taxpayers of Miami, really) in a separate category as the biggest losers this trade deadline.  Leading into this season, the hype surrounding this Marlins team was tremendous.  Hanley Ramirez was supposed to have a bounceback season, Mike Giancarlo Stanton would hit homeruns for days, and the overpaying signing of marquee players such as Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, and Mark Buehrle were supposed to propel this team to the next level.  Instead, we find them having a firesale around the trade deadline.  It all started when they sent shortstop-turned-third baseman Hanley Ramirez and lefty reliever Randy Choate to the Dodgers for Nate Eovaldi, a very nice young starting pitcher, and 22 year old Scott McGough, a right handed starting pitcher at the high A level.  Next, they sent Sanchez and Infante to Detroit, getting top pitching prospect Jacob Turner and two other minor leaguers in return.  With Sanchez about to hit free agency and Infante generally being a replacement level player, this was an excellent deal for the now rebuilding Marlins.  The Marlins made two other trades featuring less notable players, sending first baseman Gaby Sanchez (who had been in and out of the minor leagues this year) to the Pirates for minor league outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and a draft pick.  They also sent reliever Edward Mujica to the St. Louis Cardinals for 23 year old minor leaguer Zack Cox.  While sending away Sanchez (both of them), Infante and Mujica for prospects all make sense for a team that’s trying to rebuild, the expectations were so high coming into the season that this is just deflating.  Although Hanley Ramirez wasn’t doing well in Miami, it’s hard to justify sending away a player who has displayed his talents.  In a few years we may be looking at a very nice rotation with Turner and Eovaldi at its core, but for right now the Marlins really feel like losers.

GK: In an effort to not sound too redundant to what Binckes has said, the reason why we have graded the Marlins so low isn’t because of the moves they made, but because of the nature surrounding the moves. This was supposed to be the year the Marlins, once and for all, proved that they aren’t another small market team and that they can spend on top talent. They wanted to prove to everyone that they were for real, and they were in it to win. And yet, here we are. A mere four months after the start of the season, and the Marlins are doing what they have always done best: rebuild. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like the team importing Jacob Turner and Zach Cox in separate moves. I’ve taken plenty of issue about the Hanley Ramirez trade, so I won’t repeat my harsh feelings here. Just understand: the Marlins were out to prove this year that they were a new team, with a new name, in a new stadium. What did we get? The same old Florida, or Miami, Marlins. This season is more than just a one season failure. It’s a failure to prove that this team will ever be sustainable.

Texas Rangers: F

JB: I feel pretty alright about what Texas did, because they did improve their starting rotation by getting Ryan Dempster as well as their depth at catcher in Geovany Soto.  Like the Marlins, it’s the context here that really makes the Rangers feel like losers.  They’ve lost key pieces to their starting rotation in Colby Lewis (forearm surgery) and Neftali Feliz (Tommy John Surgery), and Alexi Ogando showed last year that he serves them much better in a relief role.  It was announced on Tuesday that Roy Oswalt would move to the bullpen as well, with Scott Feldman taking over his starting spot.  While the Rangers can continue to win with this team, their rotation is by no means a point of strength.  The rumor mill had Texas in the mix for Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, and even Cliff Lee in the day or so leading up to the actual deadline.  When those names are being thrown around, landing Ryan Dempster (even in the midst of a career year at age 35) as a two month rental is incredibly underwhelming.  Considering they’ve lost in the World Series in each of the past two seasons, the lack of a big move to make the push and try to finish strong seems much worse.  They managed to hold on to their best prospects (deals for the big name pitchers likely would have centered around third baseman Mike Olt) while getting Dempster, but even hedging their lack of a big impact acquisition against that standard doesn’t mitigate my disappointment. 

GK: Again, this is more about what the Rangers didn’t do than what they did. Ryan Dempster was a fine addition to the starting rotation, but he isn’t the kind of pitcher that will make up for the team losing three other starting pitchers to either injury or ineffectiveness. I understand that they didn’t want to move a prospect like Mike Olt for a top-of-the-rotation pitcher in the form of either James Shields or Josh Johnson. But, when you’re missing 60% of your rotation and are relying even more on a rookie that hasn’t been used in this nature in his entire career before, you’re betting a lot on a veteran having an amazing season. That, and the Angels clearly made the best move in the division by snagging the prize the Rangers truly wanted, Zack Greinke. Not to mention, the Oakland A’s are very real, and they’re only going to get better with each top prospect they promote (this week’s addition, Daniel Straily). The Rangers are still a heavy favorite to make the playoffs, but they’ll need Matt Harrison to keep up his strong season performance and a resurgence from Derek Holland to make significant noise come October.

Arizona Diamondbacks: F

JB: Despite not doing much of anything, Arizona was a big loser this year.  Though only a few games out of the playoffs, the Diamondbacks stood pat while their two biggest division opponents made moves to improve areas of weakness.  Adding Chris Johnson from Houston was a nice touch, because compared to what they had a third base he’s a clear upgrade.  Similar to the Tigers getting Omar Infante, that’s not saying much.  Getting Matt Albers and Scott Podsednik from Boston could work out, but Albers isn’t having a very good year and Arizona already has four solid outfielders in Justin Upton, Chris Young, Jason Kubel, and Gerardo Parra.  On top of seeing their division rivals acquire impact players while not doing so themselves, this year’s trade talks have created a rift between management and players.  In particular, rumors swirling around Justin Upton have exposed a poor relationship that I can only imagine has worsened as more news of the dissension between Upton and management came out.  Although I think holding onto Upton was the right move (he’s 24 years old, affordable for several more years, and shown glimpses of what he can do with his insane potential during the 2011 season), it’s never good to have dirty laundry aired out in the public. 

GK: It’s not just that the Diamondbacks didn’t do anything at the deadline, its that they may have burnt bridges on their way to July 31st with all the different names they floated out to other teams when they were considered to be sellers. Players like Stephen Drew and Justin Upton were rumored to be going everywhere and anywhere, but then the Diamondbacks got hot, backtracked, and even brought in Chris Johnson from Houston. However, it may be too little, too late. Just look at what the Dodgers and Giants did above them in the division. It took too long for Arizona to truly decide what they wanted to do for them to make significant headway on the necessary trades that would solidify the squad moving forward towards any playoff run. Sometimes, indecision could be the worst decision at such an important marker on the baseball calender. For Arizona, that’s exactly what happened.