In the first blockbuster trade of this offseason, the Detroit Tigers sent Prince Fielder and $30 million to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. This deal makes a ton of sense — for both teams.
Still, a one-for-one trade has rarely been so complicated. Given all the repercussions likely to follow, let's simplify this by examining the impact one team at a time.
What This Means for the Tigers
The Tigers had the most inflexible roster in baseball last year, and it wasn’t even close. In Miguel Cabrera, Fielder, and Victor Martinez, they carried three designated hitters who all needed to be in the lineup. That meant Fielder playing below-average defense at first base and Cabrera showing statue-like range at third. It all came to a head during the playoffs. Groin and abdominal issues further degraded Cabrera’s already poor defense, but the Tigers couldn’t shift their injured but still potent star to DH with Martinez raking and Fielder providing their biggest source of left-handed power. Trading Fielder loosens that logjam. Now Cabrera can move back to first base, where he’ll do less harm to Detroit’s defense. And if new manager Brad Ausmus decides to give Cabrera a bit of a breather, he can slide the two-time MVP to DH and let Martinez play first base, a position he has shown he can play semi-competently.
Major League Baseball's non-waiver deadline came and went with no major trades happening after most sellers refused to budge from their price tags, negating what was widely predicted to be the best seller's market in years.
The biggest name changing teams Wednesday was Ian Kennedy. A 21-game winner and Cy Young contender just two years ago, Kennedy has seen his numbers fade since then, with worsening results for his strikeout, walk, home run, and ground ball rates. He has posted a 5.23 ERA this year in 21 starts (up from 2.88 in 2011), along with a 4.59 FIP (up from 3.22 in 2011). Here's a stupefying stat for you: Two years ago, Kennedy's 90 mph fastball was deceptive enough to be the most valuable heater thrown by any starter; this year, it has been the seventh-least effective fastball thrown by any starter.
Nine games below .500 and more or less eliminated from contention, the Padres seemed a strange match for a 28-year-old former ace who'll be just past four years of major league service time at season's end. But in trading lefty reliever Joe Thatcher, minor league reliever Matt Stites, and a compensation draft pick that'll fall between the second and third rounds, the Padres aren't giving up any huge-upside assets to land Kennedy. Their new acquisition is making $4.3 million this year; even if he finishes with an ERA greater than 5.00 and a losing record (arbitrators don't give a fig about advanced stats), you figure Kennedy will get $6 million or more as an arbitration-eligible player heading into next year. He'll offer the Padres that 2014 season, plus 2015, assuming they elect to tender him an arbitration offer after next season, too, or maybe sign him to an extension. And San Diego could always try to flip him later, hopefully landing something more exciting than two relievers and a pick in the 70s or 80s.
Boston acquired right-handed starting pitcher Jake Peavy from the White Sox and righty reliever Brayan Villarreal from the Tigers. Detroit picked up shortstop Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox. The White Sox landed 22-year-old outfielder Avisail Garcia from the Tigers, plus three prospects from the Red Sox: 20-year-old pitcher Francellis Montas, 20-year-old pitcher Jeffrey Wendelken, and 19-year-old shortstop Cleuluis Rondon.
Given all the angles involved here, let's break 'em down one at a time
Three contenders snagged relief pitchers Monday, addressing pressing needs to better position themselves for playoff runs.
The third announced deal of the day was also the most surprising. The Tampa Bay Rays struck an unusual deal with the Chicago White Sox, acquiring All-Star relief pitcher Jesse Crain in exchange for well, something. Officially, the bounty has been classified as future considerations — of cash. But multiple reports confirm the White Sox will choose from a list of players agreed upon by the two teams. That list will likely depend on how much Crain pitches for the Rays.
Therein lies the rub. Crain has been on the disabled list with a shoulder injury since June 29. The White Sox had hoped to get him back by July 31 to facilitate a trade. Instead, Crain is now a Ray. For the White Sox, dealing him before the 31st ensures that he doesn't need to pass through waivers for a deal to happen. They reportedly tried to package him with starting pitcher Jake Peavy, but couldn't find the right trading partner to make that work. The Sox are now saying they plan to build around Peavy; given we're talking about an injury-prone 32-year-old who's eligible for free agency after next season and a team with a weak farm system and little frontline talent in the big leagues, that seems like a big, fat bluff.
The Mariners, A's, and Nationals pulled off a three-way trade, one that likely improves just one of the three teams this year, and potentially makes one team worse, both now and in the future.
Seattle dealt catcher John Jaso, acquiring first baseman/corner outfielder/DH Michael Morse from the Nats. Oakland picked up Jaso, sending pitching prospects A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen, along with a player to be named later, to Washington.
The Mariners nominally get top billing in the trade, since the 30-year-old Morse is the most famous player of the five. In 2011, Morse hit a stellar .303/.360/.550, smacking 31 homers. Injuries cost him 60 games in 2012, but he still whacked 18 home runs, albeit with a diminished line of .291/.321/.470. Despite his good-to-very-good power, Morse is a fairly limited player, because he has few other tangible skills. His career walk rate of 5.9 percent means he's heavily reliant on batting average to prop up his on-base output, something that failed to materialize last season, when his walk, strikeout, and ground-ball rates all went in the wrong direction. Morse is one of the slowest and least effective base runners in the league and is a terrible outfielder who probably belongs in full-time DH duty, even though he's said he has no interest in filling that role. His 2011 output of 146 games played was a career high, and durability is a concern.
The Texas Rangers acquired Ryan Dempster from the Chicago Cubs for Single-A right-hander Kyle Hendricks and Single-A third baseman Christian Villanueva. And suddenly a Rangers-Braves World Series becomes a tantalizing prospect.
Last week, the Braves thought they had a deal for Dempster, with talented, young righty Randall Delgado headed to Chicago. But Dempster exercised his veto rights as a 10-year veteran with five years on the same team, saying he didn't want to go to Atlanta, and that his first choice was to go to the Dodgers. When L.A. balked at the rumored offer of dynamic Double-A right-hander Allen Webster, the Cubs audibled and struck a deal with Texas, just a few minutes before the 4 p.m. ET deadline. The Braves' loss is the Rangers' gain, and Texas might've given up less talent to make it happen.
The Phillies' trade of Shane Victorino to the Dodgers for Josh Lindblom and Ethan Martin helps the Dodgers in their quest to win the NL West, and carves out a bit of badly needed payroll flexibility for the tapped Phillies. In a broader sense, the trade can be summed up in two words: chain reaction.
It starts with Philly's half decade of dominance. After 14 years in the wilderness, the 2007 Phillies finally won a division title, wresting the crown from the Mets, who'd finally toppled the dynastic Braves a year earlier. Five of the Phillies' eight best regulars that year (Ryan Howard, 27; Chase Utley, 28; Jimmy Rollins, 28; Pat Burrell, 30; Carlos Ruiz, 28), as well as their best starting pitcher (a 23-year-old Cole Hamels) and closer (26-year-old Brett Myers), were homegrown. The team's Opening Day payroll was $89.4 million, $6 million less than than the Phillies had carried two years earlier, and miles away from top-spending clubs like the Yankees. Several of the team's top stars were signed to below-market contracts (including Utley at seven years, $85 million and Rollins five years, $40 million), portending good things as the team marched forward.
In acquiring Zack Greinke from the Brewers for three prospects, the Angels now have an argument for the best rotation in baseball. Better still, even if his first start ended in a 2-0 loss to the Rays, the Angels outfoxed their archrivals and improved their chances at a deep playoff run.
Fortunately for those teams still shopping with four days left until the trade deadline, there are plenty of valuable players still out there. You'll get plenty of analysis of Zack Greinke and other top talent elsewhere. We wanted to cover the second-tier players who could prove to be surprise contributors for contending teams.
Here are a few of those bargain-bin trade targets, and the teams best suited to pursue them.
It's not Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke or a good hitter. But the Pittsburgh Pirates traded prospects to land a quality veteran starting pitcher in late July. That, in itself, is a great sign.
The Bucs struck a deal with the Astros late Tuesday, sending outfield prospect Robbie Grossman and lefty pitching prospects Colton Cain and Rudy Owens to Houston for Wandy Rodriguez. The Astros also pick up $12 million of the remaining hefty commitment to Rodriguez, with the Pirates on the hook for just under $18 million — $1.7 million this year, $8.5 million in 2013, and $7.5 million in 2014 now that Rodriguez's option has been activated with the trade.
"We have certain veterans who we thought would carry us in Hanley [Ramirez] and [Jose] Reyes, and that the kids would take that next step. [Giancarlo] Stanton, to his credit, is for the most part taking that step, but [Logan Morrison] has not, and the veterans have crapped all over themselves." — Michael Hill, Miami Marlins general manager on Showtime's The Franchise: A Season With the Miami Marlins
And like that the dream of a championship season in the Marlins' new, taxpayer-funded, $634 million stadium was gone.
The latest amputation from the Marlins' roster came last night, when Miami traded Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate to the Dodgers for Nate Eovaldi and Scott McGough. Ignoring the broad strokes of the Marlins' grand offseason plan for a moment, how you feel about this trade should hinge on how you feel about present-day Hanley Ramirez.
Every five years, the Marlins realize they're not contenders, call up their old boss Dave Dombrowski, and trade established veteran players for a bunch of prospects. The last time this happened, they gave away Miguel Cabrera and got back six players, none of whom has or ever will provide significant value in Miami. Things will almost certainly work out better this time.
The Tigers addressed their two biggest needs in the trade, acquiring Anibal Sanchez to add depth to their starting rotation, and Omar Infante to upgrade from the horror show that was Detroit's second-base situation.