Boston Red Sox
Currently sitting 13.0 games back of AL East leader Baltimore and 10.5 games short of a wild card spot, the Red Sox chances of making the playoffs this year looked slim. Their front office confirmed this by trading three of five starting pitchers no more than 5 days apart. Boston got a great haul though and managed to turn five upcoming free agents (Jon Lester, sovaldi sale John Lackey, here Jake Peavey, Andrew Miller and Johnny Gomes) into All-Star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, former All-Star first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig, starting pitcher Joe Kelly, minor league pitchers Heath Embree and Edwin Escobar and a player to be named later. Not only does this save the Red Sox millions of dollars over the remainder of the year, but it also adds youth to a team filled with many players on the wrong side of 30.
With Cespedes, Boston adds a five-tool outfielder that is just entering his prime. Cespedes has hit 17 homeruns on the year playing half his games at the Oakland Coliseum, a park notorious for being pitcher friendly. Red Sox outfielders this season have hit a combined 14 homeruns… That is 14 home runs over a total of 1,075 at bats or one homerun for every 77 at bats. Cespedes should immediately improve that number, while also playing solid defense in front of the Green Monster in left field.
The injury bug has bitten Allen Craig over the last 10 months or so, but this is a player who hit over .300, drove in over 90 runs and finished in the top 20 in National League MVP voting in 2012 and 2013. If he can return to full health by 2015, the Red Sox got a steal as Craig is currently in the second year of a five-year $30 million contract.
A key component to the Red Sox moves is what will happen during the coming off-season. Former staff ace Jon Lester will be a free agent and both he and the Red Sox have expressed interest in coming to terms to a long-term deal. If Boston can resign Lester or replace Lester with free agent to be Max Scherzer, this is a huge win for the Red Sox. If Boston signs both Max Scherzer and Jon Lester, the AL East could be in big trouble next year.
Overall Grade – B+
With the financial restrictions Oakland has, when you have a chance to win; you take it. That is what they did when they traded highly touted prospect Addison Russell and pitcher Dan Straily for Jeff Samardzija and then flipping Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester and Johnny Gomes. Losing Cespedes will probably cost the A’s some offense, but they score enough runs to sacrifice a few runs while lowering their runs given up per game. Lester, Samardzija and Gomes may all be rentals, but these kinds of moves might just be enough to take Oakland back to the pinnacle of Major League Baseball.
Overall Grade – A-
Ladies and Gentlemen we have your winner of the David Price Sweepstakes! The Tigers turned Austin Jackson, a centerfielder whose offense AND defense has regressed every year since 2012 and Drew Smyly, a projected fourth starter at best into David Price. The Tigers now have a starting rotation of 2013 AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, 2012 AL Cy Young winner David Price, 2011 AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez who finished 4th in American League Cy Young voting last year and former 1st round pick Rick Porcello. Do you like your chances every fifth day against Porcello? Think again, the 25 year old has been a fixture in the Tigers rotation since 2009 and at the young age of 25 has already made 169 big league starts. In 2014 Porcello has a 12-5 record, 3.24 ERA and two shutouts on the season. With Price, Christmas came early for Detroit. He is a proven ace who thrives in the post-season. Price is a workhorse in his prime who has never posted an ERA above 3.50 since his rookie season in 2009.
As for how Detoit is going to replace Austin Jackson; that responsibility falls upon journeyman Rajai Davis. Offensively this season, Davis has posted a slightly better batting average, OBP and slugging percentage than Jackson while also playing better defense. Is he Detroit’s long-term answer in centerfield? Probably not, but does replacing Jackson with Davis while adding David Price for the remainder of this year and next season increase their chances of winning a World Series now? Absolutely. The Tigers are huge winners on deadline day. They will still be winners into the offseason, but if taking on Price’s contract doesn’t allow them to resign Max Scherzer this transaction decreases significantly in value.
Overall Grade – A
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers could have made a major move on deadline day by moving one of outfielders Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier and/or prospects Corey Seager (SS), Julio Urias (LHP), Joc Pederson (OF) and Grant Holmes (RHP). That being said, with a payroll exceeding $235 million and elite talent from top to bottom, the Dodgers didn’t need to make a move to take on another expensive veteran. What they need is to have all cylinders firing when the playoffs come around and if that happens, I would not want to be in their way. Few teams in the MLB will be able to match BOTH their offensive firepower and the three headed dragon of a pitching rotation that features the best pitcher in the game in Clayton Kershaw followed by Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu. If there is a team that can match L.A. it will be in the form of the Detroit Tigers or Oakland A’s, who the Dodgers wouldn’t have to worry about until the World Series.
Overall Grade – B
The staff of the Miami Marlins are quietly acquiring and developing one of the best young teams in the game but they are not ready to win this year. Despite the season ending injury to pitching phenom Jose Fernandez, the Marlins haven’t given up on their season and are only 6.0 games behind division leader Washington and 4.5 games back of a wild card spot. A lot of their success has been attributed to the pitching staff as a whole stepping up and showing that there are more studs in the rotation than just Fernandez.
Of course you can’t forget about the monster season Giancarlo Stanton is having. With a .293 batting average, 25 homeruns, 73 RBI and a .939 OPS Stanton is a legitimate MVP candidate. Unfortunately for him the MVP almost always goes to a team that makes the post-season and barring a major upset the Marlins will probably not make the playoffs this year in a very deep National League.
What makes the Marlins a winner is that they didn’t sell the farm to try and win this year. Miami did make a trade with the Houston Astros acquiring Jarred Cosart and two position players for the 6th overall pick in 2013, third baseman Collin Moran. Moran is expected to become a solid contributor at third base but not a superstar. In Cosart, the Marlins 2015 pitching rotation will be one of the youngest and most promising in the game. It also takes the pressure off of Jose Fernandez to rush back from Tommy John surgery and reclaim his title as staff ace.
If the Marlins can’t come to terms with Stanton this offseason (he’s expected to command $10-15 million in arbitration) they can still be winners if they get a fair return on Stanton’s value. Miami can’t afford to keep a player of Stanton’s caliber much longer, so it’s better to sell high now than wait too long and do what Tampa Bay did with David Price and sell far lower than market value.
If the Marlins can keep Stanton, the future is very bright in Miami.
Overall Grade – B+
Tampa Bay Rays
The Chicago Cubs received the #7 overall prospect in the game in shortstop Addison Russell for Jeff Samardzija. The Red Sox received Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester. The Rays could have and should have gotten a better haul than either of those trades, yet what they have to show for one of the best pitchers in the game over the last five years is a low end starter and former first round pick, second baseman Nick Franklin. This would have been a borderline win for Tampa if Franklin were supposed to be the next Robinson Cano or Dustin Pedroia, but he is projected to be an average second baseman with the ability to also play shortstop and the corner outfield positions. Projections have been wrong before, but as of now it looks like Tampa was robbed blind.
Overall Grade – D
With arguably the best outfield in the MLB in Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco locked up until at least 2018; you would think the Pirates would have no problem trading one of their top two outfield prospects in Josh Bell or Austin Meadows for an elite starter, right? Wrong. The Pirates stood idly and watched David Price, Jon Lester AND Jeff Samardzija all switch teams. Bell and Meadows are both top 50 prospects in the MLB and a deal centered around one of those two could have been made for one of those three pitchers. The financial stranglehold ownership can place on management doesn’t always allow for fair judgment towards general managers but to do nothing while the Cardinals and Brewers improve their teams is borderline inexcusable. The Bucco’s pitching staff is good, but not striking fear in the heart of any potential playoff opponent…. If they make the playoffs.
Overall Grade – D+
Baltimore Orioles/Toronto Blue Jays
Whichever one of these two teams wins the division is removed from the loser list; however, both franchises had a chance to take control of an uncommonly weak AL East and neither seized the opportunity. I guarantee you the Yankees, Red Sox and/or Rays will be drastically better next season as none of those teams stay out of the playoff picture very long. The Yankees have somehow miraculously stayed in the playoff race despite losing four fifths of their starting rotation in C.C. Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova! I don’t know if New York is going to make a magical playoff run for Derek Jeter similar to the run the Baltimore Ravens had during Ray Lewis’ final season in the NFL, but how neither team made a move to upgrade their pitching staff or even add a veteran with late season and playoff experience is crazy. The Yankees must be licking their chops at the late season opportunity the Jays and Orioles have given them.
Grade for team that wins the division – B-
Grade for team that comes second – D-
Grade for both teams if the Yankees win the division – F
Grade for Yankees if they win the division – Buy a lottery ticket
Kansas City Royals
3.5 games out of a playoff spot. 28 years since their last post-season. Team budgets and financial restraints are understandable, but come on KC, throw your fans a bone.
Overall Grade – C
Cliff Lee, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Jonathon Papelbon, Carlos Ruiz, Marlon Byrd and AJ Burnett are all on the wrong side of 33 and will probably not be with the Phillies by the time they return to contender status. For the first time in years the Phillies core of Rollins, Howard and Chase Utley are healthy yet the Phillies aren’t winning. This team has held on to the dreams that those three will return to their all-star and MVP winning ways, but that doesn’t happen to injury prone 34 and 35 year olds. Aside from Cole Hamels and Chase Utley, who are the faces of the Phillies franchise, it is inexcusable the Phillies traded NOT ONE SINGLE PLAYER. Obviously some of the contracts in play are difficult to move (we’re talking about Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard’s mammoth deals valued at over $20 million the next few seasons) and Phillies fans couldn’t have expected all of them to be traded, but changes have to be made in Philadelphia and this was another missed opportunity by General Manager Ruben Amero.
Overall Grade – C