The Arizona Diamondbacks’ constant shuffling from buyers to sellers, from neither to both was getting annoying. It wasn’t possible to buy and sell at the same time. The team was clearly not good enough to be a buyer. Doing nothing would have ignorant and not done anything to help the team, whether that was this year or in the future. Selling was the only option.
The D-backs certainly did the opposite of nothing. You can cross that option off the list.
The Diamondbacks bought and sold. They traded Zack Greinke to Houston, who was probably the most unlikely one to go after worries about teams wanting the rest of his massive contract surfaced. They got Zac Gallen from Miami, another young pitcher similar to Luke Weaver with No. 2 potential. And they went out and traded for Mike Leake, a move that I’m still confused by but made the D-backs look a bit more like buyers.
The D-backs sold while buying for the future. And not just the next five years worth of future. They bought for next year’s worth of future.
Giving up Jazz Chisholm is hard and legitimately terrifying. The D-backs, who have completely revamped their farm system over the course of two years from one of the worst in the MLB to one of the best, traded their No. 1 prospect, someone that D-backs fans had held onto with such strength and hope over the years, because he, along with pitcher Jon Duplantier, was the only thing they had. There were two legitimate prospects in the Arizona system two years ago: Jazz and Jon. That was it. Jazz is a hard thing to let go of, especially when he’s displayed serious potential as a power-hitting shortstop.
But Gallen is 23 years old and ready to go. He makes next year’s rotation look something like Robbie Ray(?)-Luke Weaver-Zac Gallen-Duplantier-Mike Leake, with Merrill Kelly, Alex Young and Taylor Clarke all standing by incase the D-backs don’t sign Ray (They’re not committing to that yet). It wouldn’t shock me if Gallen edges Weaver at some point; he was really solid in seven starts this season with the Marlins, posting a 2.72 ERA and 153 ERA+. He’s also been unhittable in Triple-A, posting a 1.77 ERA with 112 strikeouts in 91.1 innings.
Do the D-backs have an ace in that rotation? Maybe not. Weaver and Gallen are No. 2 guys at their ceiling. That’s where the trade of Greinke rears its ugly head. Corbin Martin, the No. 1 asset in the Greinke deal, had Tommy John surgery and won’t be back till 2021, and he’s like Gallen and Weaver too, where he probably tops out at as the second guy in the rotation. He projects to take Leake’s spot in 2021.
But who says Greinke is going to continue to be an ace? He’s defying everything we know about pitching right now; the dude is 35 and has a 2.90 ERA and 153 ERA+. That should come back down to Earth as soon as next season, which yes leaves Houston in a big hole given his contract, but they’re likely to win the World Series now this season with Greinke having the season he’s having, followed by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole and are paying two-thirds of it. Two championships in three seasons is worth that.
The Greinke trade was the opposite of a salary dump. Despite Arizona paying a third of the rest of it, they got back a package that you just don’t fetch in a salary dump trade. Despite Martin being injured, he’s another young, close-to-ready starter who can be a top of the rotation guy. That makes three of those in Arizona’s 2021 staff, plus Jon Duplantier. Seth Beer is a slugger, whose value only goes up if the NL adds a DH, or if Christian Walker’s season is a crazy fluke and Jake Lamb can never stay healthy at first base. J.B. Bukauaskas has struggled this minor league season but was still one of the Astros’ top 16 prospects, and Josh Rojas, who I really like, is the type of utility man that’s really gaining usage and value around the league. The only problem with him is that the D-backs didn’t sell other pieces (Like Jarrod Dyson or Adam Jones) to clear a spot for him.
You don’t get four of a team’s top 16 prospects in a salary dump trade, even when you’re paying a third of the salary. You’re paying the third to get those prospects, which is exactly what D-backs CEO Derrick Hall said yesterday.
The Leake trade is still a little puzzling. I guess it’s insurance if Ray doesn’t come back, or if Merrill Kelly hits some brutal regression next season (Likely. But then you still have Alex Young to possibly work in). It didn’t cost the D-backs anything (Jose Callabero is 22 years old and is in High-A), and they’re paying a small amount of Leake’s large contract ($6 million of the whopping $30 million), but still, the move just feels a little unnecessary. He’s been fine, and at what’s going to be age 33, next season, likely won’t get any better.
From the Marlins perspective, Chisholm is a huge get. They flipped just one of the four assets received in the Marcell Ozuna trade into Chisholm, and still have Sandy Alcantara remaining from it. The Marlins essentially have one shortstop on their roster in Miguel Rojas currently, and he’s 30, which doesn’t fit their timeline. Chisholm is the future there for them, and could be an absolute star. The Gallen trade was easily the riskiest move the D-backs made this deadline.
For the Astros, the Greinke deal was a no brainer. For them, the reason they have prospects is to move them in deals like this. They also still have Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley in their system, which is unbelievable given they’ve traded for Greinke and Verlander in the past two years. Houston is automatically the World Series favorite; Verlander, Greinke and Cole in the same rotation approaches a historic collection of talent. Who’s beating that come October?
The D-backs echoes of doing nothing weren’t totally a smokescreen. The Gallen trade had been a thought of their’s for awhile; same with Leake. But as detailed here, the Greinke deal was really out of nowhere.
As problematic as it is that the D-backs weren’t planning on doing anything, what they did do worked. Maybe this deadline will wake them up into doing more.
Here are some thoughts on the other big trades that occurred over the past five days or so…
Mets get: Marcus Stroman
Blue Jays get: Anthony Kay, Simeon Woods-Richardson
Like the Reds, the Mets have a little too much confidence in themselves.
Sunday’s trade for Marcus Stroman was yet another team doubling down on their ill-fated moves from the offseason. The Mets, who probably should have been looking for bullpen help rather than rotation help, traded yet another former first round pick in Anthony Kay along with a recent second round pick Simeon Woods-Richardson for someone they didn’t exactly need.
Sure, Noah Syndergaard and others have struggled for the Mets. But their rotation does rank fourth in WAR generated from starters this season, and Syndergaard’s ERA+ is exactly 100.
The Mets issues are not their rotation. They seemed to think that adding more talent to it, and giving away more prospects with bright futures (I really like Kay and a lot of smarter baseball people like Woods-Richardson), solves the rest of their issues.
Besides the bullpen, there isn’t really an exact answer to the Mets’ struggles. Perhaps that should have been a cue to the front office to sell everyone and start over. I guess it wasn’t.
For the Blue Jays, Stroman didn’t retain the big package other starters on the market did. But in Trevor Bauer and Zack Greinke, we’re talking about some of the better pitchers in baseball. In Stroman, we’re simply talking about a good starter who happened to be available.
The Jays shouldn’t get down on themselves too much for not getting a huge package. Kay and Woods-Richardson are good players, and continue the trend of the Mets just sending away prospects like they’re nothing. We’ll get into another one of their returns later though. That one was a little more questionable.
Mets get: Austin Bossart
Phillies get: Jason Vargas
So then the Mets moved Jason Vargas, who has been actually quite good and one of the few starters in the rotation that has put up decent individual numbers. Vargas, at 36 years old, has a 4.01 ERA and 103 ERA+. Besides Jacob DeGrom, that’s the best line in the Mets rotation this season.
GM Brodie Van Wagenen claimed that trading Vargas was to make room for Stroman. What about trading Zack Wheeler? He’s been worse than Vargas this season, and was attracting serious interest on the market.
For the Phillies, Vargas is a veteran, experienced starter. Philly’s had most of their young pitchers struggle this season. Vargas is a guy they can throw out in a big game and get decent innings out of. The Mets essentially dumped him for nothing.
Rays get: Eric Sogard
Blue Jays get: Two PTBNLs
This was the first move of the Blue Jays’ sale at the deadline. Sogard feels like the most Rays player ever with his defense and versatility, but he’s going to give them offense as well, as he’s hitting .298 this season, a career high. The Rays will probably use him mostly at shortstop, as Wily Adames has struggled at the plate in his second season and neither of their other options at the position have produced.
Braves get: Chris Martin
Rangers get: Koby Allard
The Rangers didn’t sell like we expected them to, but they did do a nice job of cashing in on the one trade they did make. The Braves, as I’ll touch on more later, completely overhauled their bullpen, which has been the worst in baseball per WAR this season. It was a necessary thing to do, but Atlanta sure paid a lot to do it. Allard is someone who was drafted high four years ago and has made his MLB debut already.
But the Braves did get Chris Martin back, whose been fantastic with a 3.08 ERA and 165 ERA+ just two seasons after playing in Japan. His home run rate is a little high, but Atlanta should be comfortable rolling with a guy who is having a career year.
Rays get: Jesus Aguilar
Brewers get: Jake Faria
The Rays added another bat in addition to Sogard to get deadline day rolling in Jesus Aguilar, whose production has fell off sharply from 2018, where he batted .274/.352/.890 with 35 home runs. This year, he’s down to .225/.320/.374 with just eight home runs, leading to more playing time for Eric Thames, whose batting .252 with 15 home runs.
Aguilar is a bench bat for the Rays. He can DH or play first base. Plus, they clear Jake Faria from their bullpen, who has been up and down over the past three seasons, but was better at the MLB level this season. Unfortunately for him, the Rays are just out of room back there.
The Brewers get more depth for their already-loaded bullpen as well with this trade, making it pretty much a win-win, and a clearing trade for both teams.
Astros get: Martin Maldonado
Cubs get: Tony Kemp
What a fun trade!
Somehow, two of the Astros key contributors from last year’s playoff run got swapped for each other.
Kemp, a shifty outfielder who can run, field, and play a lot of small-ball for you in the playoffs, was DFA’d not long ago, making him expendable. The Cubs, who essentially traded Mike Montgomery for him, will certainly find Kemp a role even with all of their other multi-positional players and platooned lineups. The addition of Nicholas Castellanos won’t make that simpler, but Kemp is the type of guy you want to have in October.
The Astros shipped out Max Stassi and got back Maldonado. Houston hasn’t gotten any offensive production out of their catchers this season. Maldonado’s not going to help much on that end, and actually ranks below Stassi in Baseball Prospectus’ FRAA stat, which is an attempt at measuring a catcher’s defensive impact. This could be more of a comfort thing though, as Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, two of Houston’s now big-three in the rotation (More on that tomorrow), had Maldonado catch them last season.
Dodgers get: Jedd Gyroko, international cash, cash
Cardinals get: Tony Cigrani, Jeffry Abreu
Like the Cubs, the Dodgers’ plethora of multi-positional and purely talented players only increased at the deadline.
Los Angeles is currently without Chris Taylor and Kike Hernandez, both of whom shift between infielder and outfield roles. Gyroko is another guy who has the ability to do that.
Gyroko’s offense is dreadful, but Hernandez’s contact and on-base percentages have dipped a bit this year as well. Perhaps a change of scenery could turn Gyroko around at the plate, and there’s a chance Hernandez or Taylor miss the rest of the season, giving Gyroko an even bigger role.
The Dodgers essentially gave up Abreu for Gyroko. Cigrani struggled last season and is out for 2019 with a shoulder injury, but is a decent reliever when healthy, giving the Cardinals something extra in addition to Abreu and cash in the deal.
Nationals get: Daniel Hudson
Blue Jays get: Kyle Johnston
The first move of the bullpen overhaul for the Nationals cost them quite a bit, and they kept spending as well after it.
Washington gave up their 27th ranked prospect for Hudson, who owns a ERA of 3.00 and an ERA+ of 151 this season, which is a huge rebound from his past three seasons.
Hudson’s walk rate is a bit high, but the Nationals needed relievers who get outs. Hudson has done that this year.
Nationals get: Roenis Elias
Mariners get: Taylor Gulibeau, Elvis Alvarado
The Nationals then traded their No. 15 ranked prospect to get Roenis Elias, who isn’t necessarily the first guy you’d think would have been traded at the deadline. Elias owns a 4.40 ERA, but ERA+ suggest he’s been average as he checks in at the 100 mark.
Gulibeau was a lot to give up for Elias, but the Nationals must see something they like. Perhaps they believe a change of scenery can get him back on the track he was on last season.
Brewers get: Drew Pomeranz, Ray Black
Giants get: Mauricio Dubon
Well, these certainly weren’t the Giants pitchers we expected to get moved! However, Mauricio Dubon was the prospect we’d expect to get moved for Giants pitchers. Just not these Giants pitchers.
First of all, Drew Pomeranz hasn’t been even close to good since 2017, his last season with Boston. In 2018, he posted a dreadful 6.08 ERA, which didn’t overrate his poor play, as he had an ERA+ of 73. This year hasn’t been much better, as Pomeranz has a 5.68 ERA and a ERA+ of 74. He’s came out of the bullpen four times this season for San Francisco, which is how Milwaukee plans to use him.
That’s probably a good thing. Limiting innings for someone who is struggling reduces the odds that they will struggle.
Except, the last thing Milwaukee needs is more relievers. As mentioned in Jesus Aguilar write-up above, the Brewers are set in the bullpen. They need starters. Trading for Pomeranz and hoping they can fix him as a starter makes more sense than trading for him as a reliever.
The same case goes for Ray Black, who the Brewers must have some serious confidence in as he’s only played in 28 games in his two year career as a 29-year-old, and has been terrible in that small size with a 6.04 ERA.
And then to give up Maurcio Dubon, one of your best prospects who could have easily been the No. 1 asset in a trade for an established starter, for Pomeranz and Black is even stranger. Sure, Dubon may have been blocked by the duo of Orlando Arcia and Keston Huira in the middle of the infield, but he could have been moved for a better player(s) than Pomeranz and Black.
This is why Farhan Zaidi deserved his own team to run.
The Giants get Dubon, who immediately becomes their eighth best prospect and adds another name to a farm system that’s suddenly came a long way over the past two years, and get rid of what’s been a failed rejuvenation project in Pomeranz. Not bad!
Nationals get: Hunter Strickland
Mariners get: Aaron Fletcher
The Nationals finished their bullpen overhaul by shipping out this time their No. 21 prospect for Hunter Strickland, who has been injured practically all season.
You can essentially combine this deal with the Elias deal, but either way it’s a lot. Strickland was good last season with a 3.97 ERA, but came in below average in ERA+ (96), is coming off of an injury that’s kept him out months and has a long and questionable playoff track record.
The Nationals getting Hudson was huge, but they’re going to need Strickland to produce right away and for Elias to turn it around. They gave up a lot for so little certainty.
Rays get: Trevor Richards, Nick Anderson
Marlins get: Ryne Stanek, Jesus Sanchez
This was a fun one.
Evaluating the Rays trading for pitchers is hard. Are they going to use them as starters? “Openers”? Relievers? What’s their role going to be?
Here, it seems as if the Rays made this calculation: That giving up Ryne Stanek, whose been very good in his opener role the past two seasons, was worth giving Trevor Richards a shot in the same role, getting Nick Anderson to replace Adam Kolerak and acquiring Niko Hulsizer, who the Rays got from Los Angeles in the Kolarek deal.
It’s a fascinating calculation, and though I have disagreements with parts of it, am hesitant to criticize because the Rays are really, really smart.
The issue I have with it? Why swap Kolarek (3.95 ERA, 115 ERA+, 30 years old) for Anderson (3.98 ERA, 107 ERA+, 28 years old) and Hulsizer (A 22-year-old, who, while producing, is only still playing A-level ball)?
The Rays likely have numbers beyond my understanding that support this move. But I tend to believe in “Don’t fix it if it’s not broke.” The Rays kind of fixed something that wasn’t broke. They didn’t really need to do anything. An extra starter, who can be in the Charlie Morton/Blake Snell-like starter role, would have been nice for October. The bullpen didn’t really need anyone else.
The Marlins did well here. Jesus Sanchez is ranked in the top 100 across prospect boards, and Ryne Stanek, despite not necessarily fitting Miami’s timeline, is a good pitcher who can be dynamic in the pitching staff.
Twins get: Sam Dyson
Giants get: Jaylin Davis, Prelander Berroa, Kai-Wei Teng
It took awhile for the Twins to do something, as it did with most of the teams Wednesday. It was going to feel odd if Minnesota’s only move was to get Sergio Romo from the Marlins four days before the deadline.
The Twins went out and got one of the premium relievers on the market in Dyson. He’s put up a 2.47 ERA and 171 ERA+ this year with San Francisco. The playoff resume is a little scary, as was yesterday’s outing (Perhaps don’t use him as a closer??), but the Twins have multiple reliable relievers in the bullpen, including Taylor Rogers and Ryne Harper. Romo has experience, and Dyson’s been there for better or for worse.
And Minnesota didn’t give up too much. Berroa and Teng aren’t exactly top prospects, and Davis is a fringe guy. It was a pretty modest price for one of the hottest names on the market.
The Giants may not care as much about not nailing this return due to their success in the Pomeranz deal, though. They’re fine.
Phillies get: Corey Dickerson
Pirates: PTBNL, international cash
The Phillies continue to load up on outfielders to replace the holes left by Andrew McCutchen and Odubel Herrera.
Dickerson has been good in a limited sample size this season, batting .317/.376/.556 in 43 games. He’s been just a backup in Pittsburgh, but in Philly he could be playing everyday with Jay Bruce, the Phillies last outfielder trade, hurt.
A’s get: Tanner Roark
Reds get: Jameson Hannah
So the Reds, who traded for Trevor Bauer and intend to compete next year (I guess the Bauer move was for next year? Good luck!), then traded Tanner Roark, who they signed to a one-year, $10 million contract in the offseason as part of a rotation overhaul.
Had the Reds not gotten Bauer, the Roark deal would have made sense. Like the Mets, if Cincy’s grand plan failed this season, they could flip guys who they brought in over the season. Roark was the perfect candidate for that; so was Yasiel Puig.
But bringing in Bauer and then shipping away Roark, who’s been fine (4.24 ERA, 107 ERA+), when you’re still trying to find a fifth starter (I understand Tyler Mahle is young, but if you’re trying to “compete”, you’re not going to be rolling out a 24-year-old who has a 4.93 ERA when you can keep getting him reps in Triple-A) doesn’t make a lot of sense. Keeping Bauer and Roark together would have improved the Reds greatly.
They did get a good prospect back in Jameson Hannah though; I was surprised Oakland gave him up.
The A’s are right in the middle of the AL Wild Card Race and currently have Mike Fiers and Brett Anderson as their No. 1 and No. 2 starters. Sean Manena won’t be back until close to the postseason, and that’s even if they make it. Frankie Montas is in a similar situation, though his absence is due to a PED suspension which will make him ineligible for postseason play.
The A’s needed another fine, reliable starter, and they got that in Roark. Making him be worth Hannah though will be tough.
Astros get: Joe Biagini, Aaron Sanchez, Cal Stevenson
Blue Jays get: Derek Fisher
Once a top prospect, it was quite stunning to see Derek Fisher get moved in a deal like this.
But, the Astros might have gotten away with one here. Cutting bait with Fisher made sense. He’s about to be 26, and has hit extremely poorly up at the major league level the past two seasons. There’s a chance he’s just a fourth outfielder who can run.
The Blue Jays must think they’re getting the top prospect Fisher. Biagini was one of the better relievers on the market (3.78 ERA, 120 ERA+), and trading any starter, no matter how bad their past performance is, to the Astros is a terrifying proposition. To just get Fisher back is quite risky.
For Houston, Biagini gives them a reliever who can help take innings away from the struggling Hector Rondon or Chris Devenski, and Sanchez could be switched around with Brad Peacock as a fifth starter or reliever. Sanchez was good as a 22-year-old out of the bullpen for Toronto in 2015, posting a 3.22 ERA, so the Astros likely see potential there along with their vision for fixing him as a starter.
Giants get: Scooter Gennett, cash
Reds get: PTBNL
The Reds dumping Scooter Gennett like this is quiet stunning after the season he had last year. Injuries and poor productivity have made him unplayable, and that’s saying a lot considering other Cincinnati second basemen are also having issues at the plate (Jose Peraza and Derek Dietrich have low averages but are hitting home runs).
The Giants overhauled second base this deadline, getting Dubon and now Gennett, who’s just a rental/flyer. If he starts playing a bit better, and he will get innings since Joe Panik has struggled, he could be an interesting bridge signing for the Giants in the offseason.
Cubs get: Nicholas Castellanos, cash
Tigers get: Paul Richan, Alex Lange
As if the Cubs needed more talent and players on their roster.
I was surprised there wasn’t more action on Castellanos at the deadline. Obviously, action throughout the league was relatively low, but Castellanos was very available and was maybe the best bat that had that label.
Castellanos is a fantastic contact hitter who can hit for power. The home runs, and obviously the OPS+, is down a little bit this year. But Chicago is likely to platoon Castellanos with Kyle Schwarber, who brings the exact opposite approach to the plate (Low contact, but 24 home runs on the year).
In regards to the talent glut, the Cubs have mostly infielders as backups. They lack outfield depth. It’s best when Kris Bryant moves out from third; then you’re only choosing between Albert Almora Jr. and Schwarber’s bat. Now, Castellanos can be an almost everyday guy in the outfield, switching off with Schwarber and giving the Cubs a nice mix at that spot in the batting order when David Bote plays third.
It seemed like a little much for the Cubs to give up, as Paul Richan and Alex Lange are both top 30 prospects, for someone they maybe didn’t need. The Tigers got a good package for Castellanos, someone who’s been with the franchise for years, is still quite young at 27, and has produced practically every season.
Braves get: Shane Greene
Tigers get: Joey Wentz, Travis Demeritte
Braves get: Mark Melancon
Giants get: Tristan Beck, Dan Winkler
The Braves completed the overhaul of their bullpen by adding Shane Greene and Mark Melancon, one of whom has been excellent this season and the other good. Melancon gets only the label of “good”, only because his 3.50 ERA and 120 ERA+ probably still isn’t worth his massive contract, which the Braves are going to pay the rest of in full (It’s only next year, but it’s also $19 million!).
Wentz is one of the Braves top prospects, but when you’re as young as the Braves are, and are legitimately capable of making the World Series, you’re going to move prospects for October’s most valuable assets.
Beck seemed like a bit of an overpay for Melancon, especially when Atlanta is paying all of the salary. The Giants nailed this deadline, and have a lot of steam coming out of it. Somehow, they might have sold and could still be a potential playoff team.