Well, friends, the non-waiver trade deadline has passed, and the earth is still spinning. It really was an exciting week or two, but the fun isn’t over. Last August saw plenty of action, including Justin Verlander joining the Astros rotation a minute before the August waivers-required deadline for players to be eligible for the postseason.
This past July made me smile at times and scratch my head at others. I want to share my thoughts about several of the deals made and some of the deals that didn’t happen.
I admit I am evaluating from my perch on the West coast as opposed to in New York, but I must say, I believe the Mets have jumped the rails. They are indeed, a train-wreck. I don’t understand how they didn’t move at least one of their starting pitchers to help them for the future. What did they have to lose? They aren’t winning with Syndergaard, deGrom, Matz, and Wheeler. They had a chance to bolster a weak roster with the acquisition of multiple players for any one of those starters. In fact, the return would likely have been major-league ready prospects or existing major league players from teams like the Brewers, the Diamondbacks, or heaven forbid, the Yankees. The Yankees have fantastic depth in their farm system. The Mets could likely have improved their team for years had they swallowed hard and traded with their market rival. It made no sense.
I don’t understand the taboo in trading between the two clubs. The Yankees are killing the Mets in public relations anyway. How could it get any worse? Trading with the Yankees could have only improved their club. Never do anything to improve your hated rival, is that it? Is it better to languish with a non-competitive team?
Again, looking from afar, it is fairly obvious to me the Mets have conceded their market to the Yankees. Frankly, isn’t it time for current Mets ownership to sell? Isn’t it time for the Mets franchise to change hands and totally reboot? An entire cleansing would be refreshing to the fans of the Mets who are tired of watching the Yankees get better, stronger and more dangerous with each passing trade deadline.
I realize Mets general manager Sandy Alderson is ill. I wish him well. However, I can’t figure out who is running the show in the absence of Alderson? It seems like the train doesn’t have a conductor.
Yes, the Mets traded Jeurys Familia and Asdrubal Cabrera. I applaud them for that. But they didn’t cash any of the chips that would have sent them to the pay window. They kept their valued starters-for now. We’ll see what happens in August.
I can’t help but admire the work of Brian Cashman and his Yankees front office staff. They added starters J.A. Happ, Lance Lynn and reliever Zach Britton to the pitching staff. They can shorten games with the finest bullpen in the business. And, they added power-hitting first baseman Luke Voit to their roster mix while sending Tyler Austin to the Twins . Making a decision to keep Voit and trade Austin was made based upon research and experience.
Yes, the most shocking move at the trade deadline may well have been the Pirates acquisition of pitcher Chris Archer from the Rays. The price was rather steep. They gave up very promising outfielder Austin Meadows along with once highly rated pitcher Tyler Glasnow. And there’s a player to be named later in the deal. Actually, the trade was fairly even and it may be that player to be named that tips the scale in favor of the Rays. Regardless of that player, the Rays have improved their club markedly with the moves the team made.
To be clear, I am not a Chris Archer fan. I saw him when he was drafted by the Indians and was traded rather quickly by the organization. Archer was getting his fastball up in the zone at that time. But frankly, he still throws too many high fastballs for my liking. I do think being on a more competitive team in Pittsburgh might energize him. But I doubt he will be a top-tier pitcher.
For me, Meadows has a very high ceiling, but he wasn’t going to take playing time from Chris Dickerson, Starling Marte or Gregory Polanco in the Pirates outfield. The Pirates gave Meadows a new life by trading him to a team that can use his talents-one that includes him being a major-league player.
My entire problem with the Pirates move for Archer is the timing. Why in the world did they trade Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole and then turn around and add Archer at the cost of Meadows? Why? Money. Archer will be cheaper and under more control than Cole. But imagine what their rotation could have been had they kept Cole?
Funny what empty seats at the old ball yard does for the front office management style. Empty seats speak loudly and have a tendency to make decision makers make decisions they would rather avoid. Even if they have to swallow and open the checkbook, unused and dusty stadium seats scream for help.
The Brewers didn’t get the starting pitcher their fans wanted. It may only be general manager David Stearns and manager Craig Counsell who believe in their starting rotation. Check out the stats. The Brewers starters are doing fine, thank you. They rely on a solid group of dedicated starters and a mix and match bullpen to win games. It’s working. So far. Here’s my concern. I don’t think the Brewers pitchers can or will sustain their first staff performance. I see a market correction coming, to use a stock market term.
For me, the real puzzle comes when the team tries to put their multiple third basemen in other positions. Having Travis Shaw, Mike Moustakas, and now Jonathan Schoop to deploy in the same lineup at the same time will be a challenge. It would appear they will move Shaw to second base and perhaps Schoop will play shortstop, where he played early in his career.
Shortstop and second base are challenging positions to play. Shortstops require range, a quick first step and a very strong arm. Second basemen have to learn to make the pivot for the double play and they have to have range to both sides. Learning where your middle-infielder partner wants the ball thrown on double-play grounders takes time and practice. Footwork at both positions takes practice and repetition. That said, Shaw and Schoop are good athletes. They can adjust, help lengthen the lineup with more power and give the Brewers a chance to be in every game. But I’m not sure the reward of their offense will be worth the risk of their defense as the Brewers try to navigate the second half of the second half of the season.
Not much was made of the Red Sox adding Nathan Eovaldi to their pitching staff. He has really begun to pitch with much more confidence, throwing his high velocity fastball at will and using his secondary pitches to change the balance of the hitter. Eovaldi is an insurance policy for Boston. If needed, he can work from the bullpen, as he may be called upon to do in the postseason. The Red Sox are on a roll, and it could all continue to be downhill from here.
Baltimore has revamped their roster and their organization. Finally, it seems they are going to enter the world of international scouting and development. They have been left in the dust for years in the international market. It appears they will dedicate resources to a meaningful international presence. That’s a good thing, as we are seeing how influential international players have become in baseball.
The Orioles still must carry the heavy burden of an unproductive Chris Davis on their payroll. In 2016 Davis signed a 7-year $161MM contract with Baltimore. He will become a free agent in 2023. He is living proof of the folly of long-term contracts. Making $23MM a year, Davis has completely disappeared as a feared power hitter in the Orioles lineup.
In trading Jonathan Schoop to the Brewers, the Orioles obtained infielder Jonathan Villar and pitcher Luis Oritz. It remains to be seen if Villar can reignite his career in the American League and if Ortiz can pitch at the major league level. We do know, however, that Schoop had some very good days in Baltimore and is now beginning to come to life with the bat.
In trading starter Kevin Gausman and injured reliever Darren O’Day to Atlanta, the Orioles received a return of prospects that may help stock their organization. Like the situation with Villar, it remains to be seen if any of them can play at the major-league level.
The Orioles will continue to spin their American League wheels along with Kansas City, Detroit, and Chicago as they try to reinvent themselves.
Based upon what I have seen of the Toronto Blue Jays during this trade frenzy, I am adding Toronto to my list of American League also-rans for years to come. Pitchers John Axford, Aaron Loup, Roberto Osuna, J.A. Happ, and Seughwan Oh have been traded. The team now has an influx of new players that includes infielder Brandon Drury, outfielder Billy McKinney and a host of young players hoping to catch the eye of the Blue Jays brass as prospects.
But as of the time I write this, the Blue Jays starting rotation consists of Marco Estrada, Marcus Stroman, Sam Gaviglio and Ryan Borucki. Aaron Sanchez will return to the rotation when he is healthy. Can that group compete with Boston and New York in the American League east? I doubt it.
Where will the runs be produced from in the Blue Jays lineup? Here are their starting 8 players: Teoscar Hernandez (promising) Randal Grichuck (perhaps) Curtis Granderson (aging) or Kevin Pillar (outstanding defender) Justin Smoak (inconsistent) Drury (promising) Aldedmys Diaz (inconsistent offense) Yangervis Solarte (a fill-in for Josh Donaldson) and Russell Martin (aging). I’m not really too excited about that group if I’m a Blue Jays fan.
Minnesota also cleaned house and rid themselves of expiring contracts. Gone are Brian Dozier, Lance Lynn, Zach Duke, Ryan Pressly, and Eduardo Escobar. That’s quite a bit of quality to lose within a week. I was especially surprised they parted company with Escobar, who in my mind is an outstanding baseball player on both sides of the ball. Versatile defensively with a very solid bat and good speed, Escobar is a clubhouse leader. Only now it is the Diamondbacks clubhouse where he will be leading. The Twins are a much weaker team this week than last.
I think Tyler Austin will help them on offense, but other than Austin, I can’t find one player they acquired that makes them better in the next two years. And that includes Logan Forsythe who they got from the Dodgers in the Dozier deal. I think the Twins took several steps back.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have added depth to an already good bullpen by bringing Brad Ziegler back from the Miami Marlins and adding Matt Andriese from the Rays and Jake Diekman from the Rangers. In each of those deals, they traded away players from their already shallow farm system. None of the traded players figure to change the landscape in Miami, Tampa, Texas or Minneapolis where Escobar came from.
The biggest acquisition the Diamondbacks made was Escobar. I can’t say enough about how lucky the Diamondbacks are to have him, especially since we learned Dbacks 3B Jake Lamb is having season-ending shoulder surgery. Once it was known that Lamb’s situation was pretty serious, general manager Mike Hazen struck quickly to shore up Lamb’s position. I give him great credit for that outstanding move. And the Diamondbacks bullpen can really help the starting rotation shorten games.
I really like the moves the Cleveland Indians have made. Other than getting closer Brad Hand and reliever Adam Cimber from the San Diego Padres early in the month, Cleveland also added center fielder Leonys Martin from Detroit and center fielder Oscar Mercado from St. Louis.
The trades cost the Indians some quality prospects. Gone from the Indians system are their top prospect, catcher Francisco Mejia and solid shortstop prospect Willi Castro, who can become a very good player for the Tigers.
Mercado cost the Indians outfielders Conner Capel and Jhon Torres, two budding prospects. But Mercado plays outstanding defense, runs well and has some pop in his lean frame. I see him minimally as a very good 4th outfielder or perhaps even as a starting center fielder.
Tampa Bay was a huge winner in the trade market. They added Tommy Pham and Austin Meadows to their outfield. Both should be seeing plenty of playing time, mixing and matching with Kevin Kiermaier, Mallex Smith and Carlos Gomez. The Rays outfield is a true strength. Tommy Pham, inconsistent in his career, was coming off a fantastic 2017 season. However, this year he hit some speed bumps and he became mediocre, at best. He had criticized the St. Louis Cardinals front office on several occasions. That won him a trade to Tampa Bay where he will be given the opportunity to show the world if he is the 2017 Pham or the 2018 edition.
Pham is now on the disabled list after breaking his foot when hit by a pitch in an early appearance with Tampa Bay. But he’ll return and claim his spot in their outfield when healthy.
Tyler Glasnow has a chance to jump start his career after a rocky beginning with the Pirates. Glasnow has some upside remaining, and perhaps the Rays can help him figure things out. I’m not that bullish on Glasnow, and I think his pitching life got a little more difficult having to face Boston and New York constantly in the American League east.
There were many, many deals that could be discussed, but I think for me, the Yankees improved themselves the most overall. And once again, they did it without giving up any of their really top prospects.
The Houston Astros traded for reliever Robert Osuna, who was suspended from the Toronto Blue Jays for accusations of domestic violence. A court appearance in Ontario, Canada, has often been delayed by his attorney awaits. So his legal situation is far from resolved.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhow, traded for Osuna knowing the domestic violence case hangs in the air. He traded for Osuna knowing that he was suspended by major-league baseball. He traded for Osuna knowing that his team has a “zero tolerance” policy toward domestic violence. Apparently, however, that policy only exists for players on his roster prior to the non-waiver trade deadline.
I am disgusted the team I once worked for, the Houston Astros, have added Osuna. I guess domestic violence can be tolerated if your team needs a closer and you can improve your chances of getting another World Championship. It was especially appealing to the Astros because the return to Toronto was rather nominal.
The Astros exploited the fact the Blue Jays wished to rid themselves of the suspended player who awaits trial. Instead of releasing the player, the Blue Jays took what they could get in return. That return included reliever Ken Giles. Frankly, the problem and ultimate solution of the Osuna domestic abuse charges should have been owned as much by major-league baseball as the Toronto Blue Jays.
Here’s the kicker. Should the Astros make it to the postseason, as they likely will, Osuna will be eligible to pitch, pending the outcome of his trial. Even though he was suspended. Players suspended for violation of the substance abuse policies, like Robbie Cano are not eligible for the postseason. Why the difference? I don’t know.
Major-league baseball should have suspended Osuna until the outcome of his trial. They should not have allowed him to change teams and pitch unless and until his legal situation is resolved.
Baseball is part of a larger society. As I indicated last week when writing about the racist, sexist, homophobic tweets of several baseball players while they were in high school, all actions have consequences. That includes domestic abuse.
Disingenuous comments like Luhnow’s in stating his team has a “zero tolerance” policy serves only to tarnish his own good reputation in Houston. Trading for one of the top quality relievers in the game at a discount price doesn’t enhance Luhnow’s reputation as a very good general manager. It, does however, diminish the good will he has earned with the Astros fans and Houston community. He has taken a large withdrawal from the solid reputation capital he has banked and amassed by being ahead of the curve regarding the administration of baseball operations. This time, however, when Luhnow stepped up to the plate, he swung and missed.
This week, I watched what I thought would be an epic battle between the San Francisco Giants Madison Bumgarner and the Arizona Diamondbacks Zack Greinke. They are two of this era’s best pitchers.
For his part, Bumgarner looks worn out. He isn’t the same pitcher. Once quick paced on the mound, Bumgarner is taking his time and thinking and contemplating every pitch. His fastball is in the 90-91 range. He is hanging his breaking balls. He is pitching with many more runners on base than he is used to. He’s still good. He’s far from great. He’s hittable. His command and control aren’t as sharp. The Giants should have traded him. They still should in August. They won’t. He is under team control for only one more year. It would be a shame not to get a nice return on a pitcher who isn’t what he once was at a time when the Giants team isn’t what it once was.
For his part, Greinke was getting his curveball up in the zone a bit. He, like Bumgarner, is very umpire dependent. They both have to have the corners and the strike at the knees. I fear Greinke will tire in late August and September and the losses or shorter starts could mount.
I also got to see the Texas Rangers this week. Their lineup is flat-out dangerous. Navigate through Shin-Soo Choo, Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre, Joey Gallo, Ronald Guzman, Robinson Chirinos, Willie Calhoun, Jurickson Profar, Delino DeShields, Jr., Carlos Tocci and Isiah Kiner-Falefa carefully. Very carefully. Those are the guys the Rangers send to the plate night in and night out. What happens if they ever get any starting pitching? I mean any pitching at all?
Don’t get me wrong. I love 45-year old Bartolo Colon. But he can’t last more than 4 or 5 innings without teams killing his “fastball.” And really, that’s all he throws.
Some of those names above could fetch pitching in the offseason. Profar looks much better than in his past. He can still play. And I thought he looked fine playing first base. Odor and Calhoun along with Gallo could bring pitching in return. It will become the age old quandary in baseball. Do you trade pitching for hitting and hitting for pitching and weaken the area you traded? Most teams face that dilemma every time they look to deal players and strengthen their club. Strengthen one aspect, weaken another. A team can’t win with weak pitching. A team can win with weaker hitting.
The trade deadline passed with Bryce Harper remaining on the Washington Nationals. That’s as it should be. There is no reason for the Nationals to panic. They are still very much in contention in the National League east. We still have about 8 weeks of baseball remaining. That’s an eternity regarding baseball standings.
I used to believe the St. Louis Cardinals had one of the finest run organizations in baseball. They were terrific in player evaluation and development. They were in contention year in and year out. What happened to them? They aren’t feared anymore. They have traded away their outfield. They have experienced far too many pitching injuries. They aren’t making savvy trades.
The Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and maybe the Pittsburgh Pirates are passing the Cardinals in success. The Cincinnati Reds may not be too far behind. Maybe no only their manager should change. How about their general manager? Is it time for John Mozeliak to be replaced? I think so. My solution? Turn the dugout to Yadi Molina to manage the team and find a replacement for Mozeliak to run baseball operations.
Jerry Dipoto has to find another starting pitcher for his Mariners. King Felix Hernandez is pitching on fumes. I have to wonder how his arm hasn’t fallen off? Now 32, Hernandez is in his 14th big league season. He has already thrown 2620.1 innings. When he departed his start Thursday he was carrying a 5.49 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. He was walking an average of 3.2 hitters per nine innings. I’m not saying he’s done as a pitcher, but I think the Mariners need to stabilize their rotation with at least one more starter. I don’t see Hernandez finishing the season in the rotation.
Like Bartolo Colon, Edwin Jackson is another starting pitcher with more than nine lives. I count 13 teams for Jackson. I may have missed one or two along the way but I see the Dodgers, the Rays, the Tigers, the Diamondbacks, the White Sox, the Cardinals, the Nationals, the Cubs, the Braves, the Marlins, the Padres, the Orioles and the Athletics, his current team. And he’s still relatively effective as a starter. And he’s been effective. Hats off to both Colon and Jackson for sticking with it and showing the younger guys how to pitch and not just throw.
If you’re keeping score, Colon has pitched for the Indians, the Expos, the White Sox, the Angels, the Red Sox, the Yankees, the Athletics, the Mets, the Braves, the Twins and the Rangers.
My point about Colon and Jackson? This week alone saw teams score 25, 15, 17, and 21 runs. Position players once again took the mound to mop up out of control games. That isn’t good for baseball. I know we all like offense, but football scoring should be left to football games. There just isn’t enough healthy pitching in baseball to cover a normal nine-inning game for 30 baseball teams. That’s a fact. That isn’t just my opinion. Every team in baseball is looking for pitchers every single day.
Now my opinion: instead of expanding to 32 teams and further watering down pitching in a sport that is already suffering competitive balance inequities, why not fix the problem? Soon. Next year. I propose that teams carry 27 players instead of 25. The team would be required to add two pitchers. They could bring them from their current minor league pitching depth. Each team would be required to carry a minimum of 14 pitchers, leaving them a bench of 5 at a maximum. They could deploy more than 14 pitchers and reduce their bench at their choice. But they must have 14 pitchers on each daily roster.
My alternative suggestion is to require teams to have a roster of 27 players, with 25 active players and two “inactive” players each game. At least 14 pitchers must be active. That way the team can select which players to shelve each game. For example, yesterday’s and the next game’s starters could be inactive. Three players would be on the bench.
Not until drastic measures are taken will we get a handle on trying to fix the pitching injury and pitching shortage problems. We have to take some of the pressure of the relievers that are warming up too often (some without being deployed in the game) and pitchers that are being used in far too many games to keep them healthy and capable.
Follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff where I always welcome exchanging ideas and information with my followers.