MLB teams go big in an eventful week ahead of the trade deadline
With several teams in Major League Baseball in contention for a postseason run and others looking to gain prospect leverage, July marks the time of the year where front offices pick their side of the buy-or-sell movement. It has been an exciting 2016 season so far and it has not been easy for general managers to “make the right call.” With the regular non-waiver trade cap for MLB, July 31, being a weekend holiday, the deadline was extended to Monday, August 1, at 4 p.m. ET. Deadline day, and the moves leading up to it, were eventful – some astounding, some imminent, some seemingly pointless. We take a look at some highlights from the last few days of regular trade time.
One of the most enthusiastic teams to raise the white flag in the American League was the New York Yankees, who dealt three of their best players before the deadline while capturing eight highly-touted prospects. In dealing flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman to the world-series-contending Chicago Cubs a week before the deadline, the Yankees received four players. Closer to the deadline, the Yankees picked up four other prospects by trading another anchor of their bullpen to the Cleveland Indians — Andrew Miller. They finished on the deadline day by knocking out veteran hall-of-fame candidate Carlos Beltran, in the last year of his current contract, to the AL-best Texas Rangers. With these blockbuster moves that seemed to drown the Yankees, it was, overall, a successful day for GM Brian Cashman and the Yankees' front office, who believe that they scripted the future of the organization in the last week.
Speaking of the American League East, your Boston Red Sox, not in town over the week, had their entire staff on the west coast for their long road trip. New president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, renowned for blockbuster moves at the clock, was in the spotlight throughout the trade deadline coverage. With possession of the best offense and deepest farm system in MLB, hopes were high in Beantown that the Red Sox would go all in on Cy Young candidate Chris Sale of the White Sox.
After the Red Sox acquired all-star Drew Pomeranz for top-tier pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza, multiple sources had conflicting reports on the White Sox’s interest in digging into the pool of Red Sox rising stars to make a deal involving Chris Sale or a combination of starter Jose Quintana and closer David Robertson. However, despite the energetic anticipation, it turned out that the Red Sox’s biggest move on deadline day was to not make any move that involved the top end of their farm system, leaving all their major-league talent, futures' game MVP Yoan Moncada, and 2015 first-round pick Andrew Benintendi untouched.
In the mean while, coveted all-star catcher Jonathan Lucroy expectedly made headlines near the trade deadline, but not quite in a manner that everybody expected. On a partial non-trade clause, Lucroy immediately vetoed a trade agreed upon between his Milwaukee Brewers and the playoff-locked Cleveland Indians. He cited a lack of playing time as his reason to decline the offer. He received a standing ovation for this incident in Miller Park, only to then successfully be traded to the Texas Rangers hours before the final buzzer. It is noteworthy that the Rangers, whose roster looks significantly more intimidating than it already was, have lost 1B/DH Prince Fielder for the remainder of the season due to neck herniations, but immediately filled the void and more with Beltran, who will join Beltre as two possible hall of famers in the middle of the Texas lineup.
Over in the National League, the Cubs, one of the most exciting teams to watch in 2016, acquired more bullpen help with the addition of right-handed reliever Joe Smith from the last-place Angels. Additionally, the Los Angeles Dodgers, currently trying to catch up with the ice-cold San Francisco Giants, acquired OF Josh Reddick and SP Rich Hill from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for three prospects. In the middle of all of this was OF Yasiel Puig, who was left behind in Los Angeles ahead of the team’s road trip, in anticipation of a possible trade. To everybody’s surprise, there was no trade involving the cannon-arm Yasiel Puig, so he is expected to be demoted in some manner.
Finally, on the stream of big-league trades, the long-time Reds outfielding slugger and all-star Jay Bruce was acquired by the New York Mets. Perhaps the only surprising aspect of this trade is that the New York Mets are not immediately in contention for the postseason this year, but they do expect Bruce to help with his power from the right-field spot in the lineup. In their division, the dominant Washington Nationals made a splash by landing closer Mark Melancon from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for very little as they look to fill in the void caused by Jonathan Papelbon’s rough season.
With all the anxious prospect-handling and all-star trading, many other moves were being made under the radar. The inconsistent Angels starter Hector Santiago exchanged bad teams by heading over to the Minnesota Twins. The Blue Jays also acquired a load of pitching help that doesn’t necessarily sound impressive — by means of several deals, they were able to rid themselves of RP Jesse Chavez and SP Drew Hutchison and acquire Pirates SP Francisco Liriano and old friend RHP Scott Feldman. It is unclear whether these moves will provide any sort of upgrade but with Aaron Sanchez having a breakout season as a starter, the Jays may be onto something as they aim for a division title.
In the National League, the Giants made some noise by trading INF Matt Duffy and two high-caliber prospects for SP Matt Moore – a risky trade with an already strong rotation but since it’s the Giants in an even year, we shall refrain from doubting it. Last but not the least, the San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves provided a spark of entertainment by exchanging questionable assets in veteran OF Matt Kemp and young 3B Hector Olivera, who was immediately designated for assignment for the Padres. A perhaps senseless move, the Braves, who claimed they were looking to rebuild, provided something hilarious to round out the trade discussion around the horn.
It remains to be seen which of the deadline moves pays off the most, and which have a serious impact on the playoffs and wild card race. Let the predictions and guessing begin.