The trade deadline has passed in major league baseball, and while there weren’t blockbusters, there were some significant moves. Most of the deals were congregated in the American League, and here’s a rundown and some thoughts on the biggest trades.
*Texas made the first strike of the July trading season nine days ago when the acquired Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for minor league pitcher C.J. Edwards and major league starter Justin Grimm.
I like Garza a lot, and he undeniably helps the Rangers. This is a pitcher who had a 3.45 ERA in his three years in Wrigley Field, and he had a 3.86 ERA during his previous tenure with the Tampa Bay Rays. This tells us he can pitch in the American League, and the fact Garza was MVP of the 2008 League Championship Series—including a Game 7 win over Boston’s Jon Lester—tells us he can pitch in the clutch.
But…Garza is also a rental, as he goes to the free agent market in the offseason. Texas is 4 ½ games out of first place in the AL West, and it’s asking a lot for one acquisition to push you past a good Oakland team in a span of two months. And to give up prospects in exchange for a one-game wild-card shot is just foolish.
It’s possible Texas signs Garza to a long-term extension, and if that’s the case the deal makes a little more sense, but after the Los Angeles Angels pulled this with Zack Greinke last year and then let him walk, I’m not ready to assume anything.
Furthermore, I like Grimm. I know his ERA is 6.347 after 17 starts, but he’s only 24-years-old, and he was pitching very well for a stretch of a couple months. If you can get him to make some adjustments, he can settle into being a good big-league starter.
*Boston gets Jake Peavy from the Chicago White Sox as part of a three-way deal including the Detroit Tigers. The Red Sox gave up infielder Jose Iglesias, along with minor league pitchers J.B. Wendeken and Francellis Montas.
I’m a Red Sox fan, and I was initially very negative on this deal. Iglesias has been a revelation this year. We knew he could play defense, but we’ve also seen that he can hit, and he can also play third base, in addition to his natural shortstop.
And I’m not a big Peavy fan. He had a great run in San Diego, winning the Cy Young Award in 2007, but since coming to the White Sox, he’s been more pedestrian, with a 4.00 ERA over 3 ½ years, and only one healthy season. In short, take Peavy away from Petco Park, the NL West and DH-less lineups, and suddenly he’s not an ace anymore.
I just completed a podcast at Prime Sports Network on this topic, and host Greg DePalma did talk me off the ledge. If the Red Sox get Bucholz back, a rotation of Bucholz-Lester-Peavy-Lackey is going to be tough to handle in a postseason series.
And it’s not as though I think Peavy’s terrible—he does strengthen the rotation for August and September and is a steady middle-of-the-rotation guy. So on balance, I’d have preferred the Sox not do this deal because of the long-term implications, but it has its strengths.
The team I think really made out well was the Tigers. They get Iglesias, which provides them insurance for Jhonny Peralta, who’s part of the BioGenesis investigations. Unlike A-Rod, Peralta is actually playing, playing for a contender and playing well. Meaning Peralta is actually relevant to this baseball season, while A-Rod realistically is not. But I don’t mean to suggest the media should alter their coverage habits in any way.
Anyway, Iglesias can take over the shortstop job if Peralta is suspended, and if not, Iglesias can still be a solid utility man and if Miguel Cabrera needs some rest for the hip issues that have plagued him lately, that’s an option.
Detroit also strengthened their bullpen, picking up Jose Veras from the Houston Astros. Veras has 19 saves with a 2.93 ERA in hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park. Now you plop Veras into the vaster expanse of Comerica Park and put him into a winning situation. As of today, Joaquin Benoit is still the Tiger closer, but I’m looking for Veras to take over the job.
It’s not like Veras suddenly turns this problematic Detroit relief corps into a strength, but he is going to help. Between him and Iglesias, I think the Tigers made some nice additions at the trade deadline.
Another team that made a significant upgrade at an affordable price was the Baltimore Orioles. It started last week when they got Francisco Rodriguez in exchange for 20-year-old minor leaguer Nick Delmonico. The kid is hitting .339, but he’s still in Class A, and K-Rod had a 1.09 ERA for the Milwaukee Brewers. Rodriguez is also battle-tested in the postseason and after the Orioles lost two playoff games in the late innings to the Yankees in the 2012 playoffs, that can’t be overlooked.
Baltimore also acquired two starting pitchers. Scott Feldman’s been in town for a few weeks, and in the final hour before the deadline, the Orioles got Bud Norris from Houston. The price was significant—outfielder L.J. Hoes and minor league pitcher Josh Hader, both well-regarded. But neither was their top prospect, that being starting pitcher Dylan Bundy.
What’s more, Norris is only 28-years-old and not far removed from being a top prospect himself. In his first year facing American League lineups, now that Houston has switched leagues, Norris has a 3.93 ERA. Over the course of his career, his ERA is a respectable 4.33 in 118 starts. You’re talking about someone who is already a #4-starter and can still blossom into being a top-tier arm.
It was over the weekend that the New York Yankees added outfielder Alfonso Soriano from the Chicago Cubs. Soriano is an extremely overrated player, who hits few home runs, but does not consistently get on base and is in decline.
Over at the blog Stat Intelligence, Jeff Fogle wrote that the Yankees added a mediocre player from the inferior league and called it an upgrade. Jeff likened it to an SEC football team trading for an overrated quarterback from the Sun Belt.
I agree with this completely, but there is one factor not to overlook—the Yankees are hideous offensively. If this hypothetical SEC team had a high schooler playing quarterback, the Sun Belt kid really would be an upgrade. And we’d take it as a sign that something had really gone awry in the program for this to be an upgrade. That’s how I see the Soriano acquisition. But if the Yankees are going to make the playoffs, they need to A-Rod to come back and contribute.
The Cleveland Indians dealt 20-year-old shortstop Juan Herrera to St. Louis in exchange for veteran reliever Marc Rzepczynski. He’s been lost in the shuffle in St. Louis, and ineffective in his 11 appearances, but “R-Zep” as Tony LaRussa called him in his autobiography does bring some veteran cache and big-game experience to a team that’s now within a half-game of the wild-card and 3 ½ of Detroit in the AL Central.
IN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE
It was quiet in the National League, with one exception. Arizona dealt starting pitcher Ian Kennedy to San Diego for reliever Joe Thatcher. I don’t know what to make of this from the Diamondbacks’ standpoint. Kennedy has been a disappointment this season and hasn’t had a good year since 2011. Arizona also needs bullpen help, and with a 2.10 ERA, Thatcher provides that.
But at the same time…Kennedy also had a good year in 2010, it’s not like he’s bad, and you have to think he’s worth more than a 32-year-old reliever who probably pitches the seventh inning. I think it helps Arizona for the next couple months, but at what cost? The good news is that trading Kennedy means the D-Backs are confident that Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy will be back in the first half of August as planned.
One side of this deal I have no second thoughts on is that it’s great for San Diego. For a team not in contention, a pitcher like Thatcher is window dressing, and Petco Park might be just what Kennedy needs to get his confidence back.
WHAT IT ALL MEANS
I’m not ready to change my predictions based on any of these trades. The American League contenders mostly cancelled each other out, and the National League didn’t have big additions. I’m still seeing Detroit and St. Louis as the teams to beat.
MLB coverage the rest of the week here at TheSportsNotebook will focus on more in-depth looks at each league, not only with regard to the trade deadline, but general play since the All-Star break and any news on the BioGenesis front.