Now that the dust has well and truly settled, we can take a look at the results of last week’s trade deadline and see what interesting things happened–or didn’t happen, as the case may be.
General overview: The most obvious takeaway from last week’s activity is the fact that most of the moves were unusually pitcher heavy. Even when deals did include position players, many of those players were either minor-leaguers or scrubs from the 25-man roster. Relatively few significant hitters changed teams; that’s why the teams that improved their lineups will most likely prove to be the winners once it all shakes out.
That’s the overview. Here’s an assortment of random observations about selected teams:
Minnesota Twins — I think I like best what the Twins did this deadline. Yes, they did virtually nothing, but given their position I think that’s shrewd management. They are clearly at least a year ahead of schedule with a winning record and a tenuous hold on the second AL Wild Card spot. They are playing with house money right now; they kept their core of young talent together, and by doing so showed them the kind of belief that grows confidence and helps development. If they can pull it off and grab that playoff spot with this team intact, that will bode well for a “sky’s the limit” future.
New York Yankees — I’m quite puzzled by this. They, too, did virtually nothing–but they’re the Yankees; if any team can do something when the situation calls for nothing, it’s them. I grant that they are basically running away with the AL East, and that they’re scoring plenty of runs, but I’m not impressed with their pitching, especially their rotation, and that’s the sort of thing that earns you a quick exit come playoff time. Hard to believe people in New York will be satisfied with that.
Los Angeles Dodgers — For all the babble about the Dodgers and that big trade that ultimately landed Mat Latos, that trade landed Mat Latos…and little else. One can argue that the Dodgers–in first place and possessed of two of the best pitchers in the world, as well as a number of talented, All-Star caliber position players–didn’t really need very much. But if Kershaw’s recent injury keeps acting up, their presumed advantage may not be as great as it currently appears. The Giants remain hot on their heels, and at this point only a great fool would doubt S.F. Remember, objects in mirror are closer than they appear.
Toronto Blue Jays — This is really refreshing, seeing a team like the Blue Jays really going for it, especially since they did so by not just acquiring pitchers but actually going out and getting some real hitters, too. Picking up Ben Revere and Troy Tulowitzki may prove to be as significant as picking up David Price in the long run. One has to assume that Toronto is the odds on favorite to overtake one of the Wild Card leaders, at least, and yet…for all their offensive prowess this season, they’re still scuffling along near .500. It could work out, or it could really really really blow up in their faces. I’m hoping for the former, but there’s something that makes me think the latter is a real possibility.
San Diego Padres — Here’s another odd one. “San Diego Padres traded CF Abraham Almonte to Cleveland Indians for LHP Marc Rzepczynski.” That might be the single most boilerplate sentence to come out of this year’s trade deadline. You’d think the Padres would have been major movers at the deadline, given their off-season rebuilding project (about which we commented earlier in this space) has been a complete dud, except…they’re still only 6.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. That’s quite a few games to make up, but they don’t have very many teams ahead of them. Right now it’s the Giants (a challenge, to be sure, but they play them a lot) and the heretofore feckless Mets and Cubs; that’s not exactly an Everest to climb. Clearly, the team still believes in their roster and has little desire to blow it up. (Shrug) Why not hold onto the talent and see if the team gets hot and makes a run? But for the long run, this could blow up in their faces big time.
Oakland Athletics — I made a project out of tracking the A’s in the weeks leading up to the deadline (in this post and its prequels), so I can probably comment most expertly on their moves. All in all, not bad, but–there remains a nagging feeling that they could have, should have done more. As noted in the general comment above, pitchers moved most freely this deadline, and the A’s hewed close to that line. That’s a bit of a problem in Oakland’s case. I’m aware of the adage, “you can never have too much pitching,” but the A’s already have pitching in abundance; they need to replenish and upgrade the position players, and the team’s trades only brought back one prospect catcher. That’s not enough to get back to competitiveness. The team’s constant “sell sell sell” stance may be showing signs of diminishing returns.
Philadelphia Phillies — Another team that everyone knew was going to sell, and they too seemed to suffer due to that position of weakness. A lot of pitching prospects came back to them from their various moves, which is fine if they pan out, but the team’s current predicament came about because all of their players, pitchers and hitters, got bad at once; they need more than just arms. Then again, they’ve been playing better with several young guys in the lineup lately; maybe they already have the in the field talent they need. We’ll know two years from now.
Kansas City Royals — Their moves basically speak for themselves: a first place club went out and got better at the expense of the dregs, exactly as it’s supposed to be. They’re a shoo-in for the playoffs; they only question now is, can they be two runs better than last year? If so, mission accomplished. Cueto and Zobrist may very well be the help that puts them over the top.
New York Mets — Again, mostly pitchers moved this deadline; that’s why the Mets’ moves in getting Juan Uribe (still a serviceable hitter) and the oddly unwanted Yoenis Cespedes might turn out to be the major moves of the deadline. New York already has the pitchers; if they can get anything out of their lineup, they could turn into a truly dangerous team come autumn. They certainly seem ready to give Washington fits. Conversely…
Washington Nationals — The Nationals remain the Nationals: a team that seems to be really, really, really in love with itself despite the fact that it hasn’t done squat, at all, ever. They’re floundering lately, and acquiring no help besides Jonathan Papelbon (who brings all sorts of issues with him beyond performance on the mound) is not exactly what the doctor ordered. I’m guessing they have too much talent to fall out of the playoff picture completely, but a key injury might push them out of it without much of a struggle. Even if they make the postseason, they will remain questionable.