As the transactions mounted today, with the MLB trade deadline looming at 4pm, it was tough to tell if this was fantasy or reality. With a transaction page that reads like your average week in your work rotisserie league, big names were traded for major league ballplayers. This is a departure, for the typical swap of big names on losing teams for prospects out of a contenders farm system.
The biggest splash of the day was Oakland sending Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes. The loss of Cespedes powerful OF bat was mitigated by Gomes and Sam Fuld, a potential platoon solution for the hole Cespedes left. Fuld was acquired by Oakland from Minnesota, with the A’s sending former Nats prospect Tommy Milone to the Twins. Milone was part of the Gio Gonzalez trade in 2011. Milone’s home/road splits were drastic, as he typical wilted, when away from the cavernous Oakland Coliseum. Gomes returns to Oakland, after coming up with crucial hits in the Red Sox championship run last season. In Lester, the A’s get one of the surest things in October baseball, over the past handful of seasons. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Jon Lester has the lowest ERA (0.43) of any pitcher in World Series history with at least 20 innings pitched.
The Tigers would not be outdone, as they looked to keep pace with Oakland, the team they have eliminated from the past two post seasons. The A’s were matched in the arms race, when Detroit acquired David Price in a 3 way trade with Tampa Bay and Seattle. The Tigers would continue the theme of the day, parting with key contributors Austin Jackson and Drew Smyly for Price, rather than stud prospects. Detroit and Oakland now have two of the most stacked rotations you could dream up and seem destined for a date in the ALCS. Toronto, Baltimore and Anaheim appear to be the biggest hurdles in the way of that matchup. Those three stayed quiet, although the Orioles made a deal for left handed relief pitcher Andrew Miller, from Boston. Miller is a guy who has previous post season experience and will definitely see some high pressure at bats late this season. He could be a very big pickup for the O’s.
On the NL side of the house, things were much quieter. The one outlier being St Louis, who bolstered their rotation by picking up John Lackey, one day after trading for Justin Masterson from Cleveland. The price for Lackey was an interesting one, former All Star Allen Craig. The past two seasons, Craig hit over .300 and was integral in the Cardinals 2011 World Series win, as well deep runs in the 2012 and 2013 playoffs. An injury plagued 2014 has hurt his productivity, and with Matt Adams supplanting Craig at 1st base, the option to part ways became more realistic for the Cardinals.
Other than that move, no one made a huge splash, as teams picked up infield and bullpen depth primarily. Emilio Bonifacio joined the third NL East team in his career (Nats, Marlins) when he was traded to the Braves, along with lefty reliever James Russell. The Cubs got a minor league catcher in return, while Atlanta got lefty depth in the bullpen, and a versatile, speedy option in Bonifacio. Washington addressed their platoon situation at 2nd base, by trading one of those platoon players (prospect Zach Walters) for former Indians all star Asdrubal Cabrera. Since his monster 2011 season (a contract year, not so coincidentally) where he hit 25 homers, 92 RBI and stole 17 bags, Cabrera has regressed. He is a free agent at the end of this season, but GM Mike Rizzo must have seen something in the switch hitting short stop that leads him to believe he will be an upgrade in the lineup. Maybe he just looked at Danny Espinosa’s paltry numbers and decided that anything would be an upgrade at 2nd base.
The big question that remains after all the wheeling and dealing is: will the A’s still give away the 10,000 Cespedes t-shirts that were part of a promotion for an August 2nd game vs the Royals? It appears they will. A situation will play out similar to when the Phillies had Hunter Pence bobblehead day after trading him to the Giants. Hopefully the A’s will at least have a spell checker, unlike the Rockies who misspelled Troy Tulowitkski’s (yes, I had to spell check myself) name wrong on the promotional t-shirts they handed out to their fans last week.
One last thought on the deadline, for the Commissioners office. How do you not have the trade deadline more showcased into a TV event? It seems tailor made for a Sunday afternoon in early August, as teams negotiate into the late afternoon. All this could happen while a full slate of games is being played and people aren’t at work. It’s these types of situations that the NFL thrives on when it comes to building their brand and taking over the sports calendar. In an earlier post, I stated that baseball fans don’t typically care about respect from the national press and 4 letters in Bristol, CT. However, not changing the trade deadline to a weekend where more eyeballs are online and watching TV, is a lost opportunity for the fans and the sport.