Archive for 2019 Trade Deadline

Second Wild Card Didn’t Ruin the Trade Deadline

As the trade deadline came and went, there seems to have been a feeling of disappointment about its activity, or perceived lack thereof. Too many players stayed put, while too many teams failed to improve. Ken Rosenthal went so far as to say that “life was getting sucked out of the sport.” Rosenthal cited the Dodgers, Cardinals, and Yankees as clubs that failed to do anything of significance, with the Angels, Phillies, and Red Sox as other teams who failed to do much at the deadline. Rosenthal includes a quote from White Sox GM Rick Hahn and floats the idea that the one-game Wild Card doesn’t provide enough incentive for teams to want to win. That statement isn’t really supported by this deadline, though.

Rosenthal correctly identifies that baseball’s economic system, which has fallen behind the times when it comes to rewarding players monetarily for their play on the field, is broken, and he’s hardly alone in suggesting that the second Wild Card helped to cause a trade deadline that lacked movement (or, more specifically, big movement — as Ben Clemens noted, the deadline was incredibly busy). Jayson Stark included a quote from an executive in his piece on the deadline:

“If you do that, you’re putting a lot of your future on playing one game,” said one NL exec. “It doesn’t make sense [to go all in to play one game]. If you made the Wild Card two out of three, I bet you’d see more teams willing to do something. At least that’s a series. But who’s going to make a big trade for a chance to play one game?”

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A Quick Look at Midsummer Intradivisional Trades: AL Edition

As I was saying before the busiest trade deadline day on record — yes, my timing of this two-part series was impeccable — Monday’s trade of Jason Vargas to the Phillies was noteworthy as the rare intradivisional pre-deadline swap. Some might view in-season deals with direct rivals to be taboo, but they do occur, and as the July 31 trade deadline approached, it seemed like a fun idea to examine their recent history.

To keep this from becoming unruly, I’ve confined my focus to the 2012-19 period, the era of two Wild Cards in each league — a cutoff chosen because it expands not only the number of teams who make the playoffs, but also the group who can at least envision themselves as contenders. For this, I’m using the Baseball-Reference Trade Partners tool and counting only trades that occurred in June, July, or August, which we might more accurately call midsummer deals rather than deadline ones — though some of them were definitely of that variety. I’ve omitted straight purchases, which generally involve waiver bait, though I have counted deals in which cash changed hands instead of a player to be named later.

If you’re looking for a basis of comparison, in the companion piece to this, covering the National League, I found that the NL division with the most deals fitting the description within the period was the NL East, with 12, with five such deals taking place in the NL Central, and just three in the NL West, none of them involving the Dodgers; this year’s deadline didn’t change any of those tallies. The most notable NL deal in this class was a July 27, 2012 one that sent Marco Scutaro from the Rockies to the Giants, whom he not only helped win a World Series but earned NLCS MVP honors along the way. Since I worked from West to East in the NL edition to emphasize some of those points, we’ll take these divisions in the same order.

Midsummer Trades 2012-19: AL West
Team Astros Angels Athletics Mariners Rangers Total
Astros 2 1 0 (6/2010) 1 4
Angels 2 1 0 (12/2012) 0 (6/2018) 3
Athletics 1 1 1 1 4
Mariners 0 (6/2010) 0 (12/2012) 1 0 (4/2019) 1
Rangers 1 0 (6/2018) 1 0 (4/2019) 2
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
For combinations with no midsummer trades, the dates in parentheses note the last transaction involving the two teams.

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Roster Roundup: Trade Deadline Edition

Below you’ll find a list of every trade that occurred between July 13 and July 31 involving at least one player on a 40-man roster. You can click on “analysis” for the corresponding article and click on “Roster Resource” to view that team’s updated depth chart. For players not on a major league roster, their current level is listed in parentheses next to their name.

Updated prospect rankings for players who have switched teams can be found underneath the list of trades. Organizational rank is listed first. Overall rank, if a player is included in our Top 121 prospects, is listed in bold.

National League

Arizona Diamondbacks
7/31/19: SP Zack Greinke and $24MM traded to Astros for INF/OF Joshua Rojas (AAA), OF Seth Beer (AA), SP J.B. Bukauskas (AA), SP Corbin Martin (AAA injured list). ANALYSIS
7/31/19: SP Mike Leake and cash acquired from Mariners for INF Jose Caballero (A+). ANALYSIS
7/31/19: SP Zac Gallen acquired from Marlins for SS Jazz Chisholm (AA). ANALYSIS

Top Prospects Acquired: Gallen (4, 94), Martin (5, 113), Bukauskas (8, 121), Beer (14), Rojas (14)

Roster Resource

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Deadline Deals and Non-Deals I Liked… and Didn’t Like

The 2019 trade deadline has come and gone, and while it provided a frenzy of late-breaking activity, ultimately it offered far more quantity than quality. With the exception of Trevor Bauer, Zack Greinke, and Marcus Stroman, most of the top starters whose names have been tossed around for the past several weeks — including Matthew Boyd, Madison Bumgarner, Mike Minor, Robbie Ray, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler — ended up staying put, and likewise when it came to relievers. What’s more, there weren’t many big bats dealt, and in general, the combination of too many teams that view themselves as contenders and the loss of the August waiver period led to approaches that felt far too risk-averse.

Regarding the volume, first consider the accounting of True Blue LA’s Eric Stephen from a year ago as compared to this year. Last year, there were 18 trades on July 31, and 37 from July 25 onward. This year there were 22 on July 31, and 35 from July 25 onward. In terms of quality, last year there were six position players (Manny Machado, Eduardo Escobar, Tommy Pham, Ian Kinsler, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Mike Moustakas) who had higher WARs at the time they were dealt than this year’s leader, Franmil Reyes (1.4). On the other hand, this year had more pitchers above that baseline (five to four), and where J.A. Happ led last year’s brigade at just 2.0 WAR, Greinke (3.6, not counting his 0.7 as a hitter), Stroman (2.9) and Bauer (2.7) all surpassed that. Finally, by the accounting of colleague Ben Clemens — whose study of deadline activity goes back to 1986 and can be found here — last year, there were 143 players traded in all of July; they had totaled 64.9 WAR in 2017 and were on pace to total 62.1 WAR in 2018. This year, there were 126 such players dealt; they totaled 55.1 WAR in 2018 and were on pace for just 45.6 WAR this year.

What follows here is a breakdown of five of my favorite trades (or in some cases, sets of trades) of July and five of my least favorite trades and non-trades. Admittedly, I’m viewing these with a vague bias towards winning now, and against your favorite team (I kid, I kid). In some cases, I wrote about these deals myself, while for others, I’ll refer you to the fine analysis of my colleagues in order to keep this from becoming a novel.


1. Astros acquire RHP Zack Greinke from Diamondbacks for four prospects

To these eyes, the boldest move of the deadline was clearly the best. At a time when so many other top contenders talked themselves out of paying high prices to acquire top talent, the Astros — who already owned the AL’s best record (69-39, .639) — added the 35-year-old Greinke in exchange for righties J.B. Bukauskas and Corbin Martin, first baseman Seth Beer, and infielder/outfielder Josh Rojas. As Dan Szymborski detailed, Greinke’s curve keeps getting better and better, and he’s currently ninth in the majors in pitching WAR (it’s a shame he likely won’t bat much the rest of the way).

While the two pitchers Houston sent to Arizona ranked fourth and third respectively on the Astros’ prospect list as of March, none of the players they dealt rank among our Top 100 prospects, and Martin, who made five appearances for the Astros in May and June, recently underwent Tommy John surgery. That Greinke’s contract runs through 2021, with the Diamondbacks picking up about 31% of the remaining tab, makes this all the better for the Astros, as it protects them against the potential loss of Gerrit Cole in free agency while costing them only about $22.7 million per year on an annualized basis. Read the rest of this entry »

Ranking the Prospects Moved During the 2019 Trade Deadline

The 2019 trade deadline has passed and, with it, dozens of prospects have begun a new journey toward the major leagues with a different organization. We have all of the prospects who have been traded since the Nick Solak/Peter Fairbanks deal ranked below, with brief scouting snippets for each of them. Most of the deals these prospects were a part of were analyzed at length on this site. Those pieces can be found here, or by clicking the hyperlink in the “From” column below. We’ve moved all of the players below to their new orgs over on THE BOARD, so you can see where they rank among their new teammates; our farm rankings, which now update live, also reflect these changes, so you can see where teams’ systems stack up post-deadline. Thanks to the scouts, analysts, and executives who helped us compile notes on players we didn’t know about.
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The Marlins Declare Their Type

As soon as I finish this piece, I’m going to get ice cream. There’s a soft serve frozen yogurt place owned by a surprisingly fastidious stoner about a mile from my house, and I go there once or twice a week. If I told you there are 10 rotating flavors, with chocolate and vanilla as constants, how long do you think it would take you to learn what I like by watching me fill my bowl (there are all sorts of bowl-packing jokes on the store’s signage)? How many times would I need to go in there and pull that soft serve lever before you’d know that vanilla is actually pretty high on my pref list, and that only a few things, like coconut or coffee, will pull me away from it? Or that I avoid all of the fruit flavors?

How long before we can start to identify team regime patterns in player acquisition, and start talking about team preferences with confidence, the way we do when we say that progressive clubs look for common arm slots and hand positions, or fastballs that spin? The current Marlins regime has basically now been in place since the fall of 2017, when Gary Denbo was brought in as Vice President of Scouting and Development. Miami has made a lot of seller’s trades during that year and a half, and they clearly have a type, especially when you look at their amateur acquisitions. Yesterday, that type came further into focus after a deadline deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Here’s the trade:

Marlins get:
SS Jazz Chisholm

Diamondbacks get:
RHP Zac Gallen

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So Just How Busy Was the 2019 Trade Deadline?

Until they arrive, all trade deadlines feel the same. The air is abuzz with whispers of marquee names finding new homes. The potential for splashy trades is endless. 2019 was no exception. Noah Syndergaard, the God of Thunder! Madison Bumgarner, indomitable postseason hero! Whit Merrifield… alright, I couldn’t think of an exclamation-point-worthy nickname for everyone. All were rumored to be in play in the lead-up to the deadline.

Well, the trade deadline has come and gone, and none of those players were traded. In their place, we got a few blockbusters: Trevor Bauer is taking his unique blend of trolling and analytics to Cincinnati, while Yasiel Puig orchestrated the first ever farewell fight before heading to Cleveland. Zack Greinke is joining Justin Verlander in Houston, the mythical land where former aces go to become legend. There were many lesser moves, of course. Teams upgraded bullpens or shored up weak platoon matchups ad nauseum. A whopping 64 players were traded yesterday alone.

As with most things in life, it’s hard to put this trade deadline into historical context while living in the moment. Yesterday certainly felt busy, with trades being announced seemingly every five minutes and a former Cy Young winner on the move to the World Series favorites. The previous few weeks, on the other hand, felt interminably slow. The Bauer/Puig swap was one of only two deals of consequence to take place before deadline day. How did this year stack up to past deadlines?

To answer this question, I updated methodology first used by Ben Lindbergh in 2015. Using data from Retrosheet and MLB, I compiled a list of every trade made in the month of July starting in 1986, the year baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline moved from July 15 to July 31. In terms of the raw number of players traded each July (excluding players to be named later), 2019 is in line with the latter half of this decade and its huge number of traded players:

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Dodgers Add Lefty While Rays Declare Everything Fringy Must Go

In one of the lower profile deals of the day, the Dodgers added a new top lefty to their pen at a low cost, while the Rays continued their concerted effort to clear out 40-man space, with a gamble on a power bat who doesn’t need to be protected for two years.

Adam Kolarek is a lefty reliever who throws sinkers 82% of the time at 88-91 mph from a near-sidearm slot. Over the last two seasons, he’s eighth in groundball rate among relievers with at least 70 IP. Lefty relievers at that level come in velo models of hard (Zack Britton and Aaron Bummer average 95 mph), medium (Scott Alexander averages 93 mph), and soft (Kolarek and T.J. McFarland averages 89 mph). Aside from Bummer, they all have xFIPs between 3.60 and 4.00, so while Kolarek doesn’t seem overwhelming, his regular season peripherals aren’t that different from Britton’s, even though Britton’s higher-octane stuff figures to play better in October. As you might guess, Kolarek has a 101-point platoon split in his wOBA allowed. He may be fine in the short-term, and he’s still pre-arb with options remaining, but he’s also a 30-year-old late-bloomer with no margin for error, so this likely won’t last forever.

Niko Hulsizer was a 35 FV in the Others of Note Section of the offseason Dodgers’ list, and he’s still there for now, having not been added to THE BOARD just yet. He hit 27 homers as a sophomore at Morehead State, but that came with 74 strikeouts. A broken hamate bone in his draft year pushed him to the 18th round. He’s struck a better balance between power and strikeouts in pro ball, and is 22-years-old in High-A, continuing to hit for enough thump to make it all worth it. There’s some stiffness to the strength-based power, so he’s likely a platoon piece or bench power bat if it all clicks, with our expectations being that he’s more of a Triple-A slugger who gets a cup of coffee, at least until we see a little more performance. Read the rest of this entry »

The Braves Build Bullpen Depth, Adding Mark Melancon

The Atlanta Braves continued their deadline bullpen upgrades by acquiring relief pitcher Mark Melancon from the San Francisco Giants for pitchers Tristan Beck and Dan Winkler.

Coming into today, the ZiPS rest-of-season projections for the Braves, when combined with the FanGraphs depth charts, had the Braves with the No. 19 bullpen in baseball, ahead of only the Phillies, Nationals, and Angels among the plausible contenders. ZiPS is also the more optimistic of the two systems; when you combine ZiPS and Steamer on the FanGraphs Depth Charts, the Braves drop to 22nd.

There’s a misconception that Atlanta’s relief woes are because of Luke Jackson, the team’s closer for most of the season. It’s true that Jackson has only saved 17-of-24 games for the Braves, but save percentage is actually a rather poor predictor of future save percentage, especially when other metrics exist (ERA, FIP, batter OPS, pretty much anything else). Melancon and Jackson are in roughly the same tier performance-wise, along with Shane Greene; the reason the trade improves the team is because it improves the depth of the bullpen, which was a significantly larger problem than the closer himself.

San Francisco trading Melancon (and Ray Black, Sam Dyson, and Drew Pomeranz) does not represent the Giants throwing in the towel on the 2019 season. Prior to these trades, the ZiPS/Steamer combined projections had San Francisco with eight relief pitchers projected to have a FIP below four over the rest of the season. The Giants still retain five of them (Pomeranz was not on the list), more than enough pitching to cover high-leverage relief innings. The team has an improving farm system, but that’s largely due to the first-tier talent at the top of their prospect list: Joey Bart, Marco Luciano, Heliot Ramos, and Hunter Bishop. Much like the Braves’ bullpen prior to today, what the Giants’ system still lacks is depth. Read the rest of this entry »

Carl Edwards Jr. Changes Scenery

After adding David Phelps and Derek Holland to bolster their relief corps earlier this week, the Cubs traded right-handed reliever Carl Edwards Jr. to the Padres as the trade deadline closed. For Edwards, a change of scenery seemed like the best course of action after struggling this season. The trade was first reported by Jesse Rogers and the Padres return was reported by Mark Gonzales.

Padres receive:

  • RHP Carl Edwards Jr.
  • International bonus money

Cubs receive:

Just a few years ago, Edwards was one of the key relief arms who helped the Cubs end their 108-year World Series drought. From 2016 through last year, he was an excellent setup man, posting a 3.03 ERA and a 3.12 FIP across more than 150 innings. Among all 189 qualified relievers during those three years, his strikeout rate ranked 11th and his park- and league-adjusted FIP ranked 29th.

Edwards’ success came in spite of extremely poor command. His walk rate was the third-highest in the majors during that period. He managed to keep his FIP so low by maintaining a ridiculously high strikeout rate and keeping the ball in the park with a very low home run rate. This year, his strikeout rate has fallen to just 26.6% and his home run rate has spiked. That’s led to a 5.87 ERA and a 5.51 FIP. His struggles have forced the Cubs to option him to Triple-A twice this season. He’s also spent some time on the injured list for a strained back.

But his problems might have started way back during spring training. In an effort to solve the command issues that have plagued him throughout his career, he worked on a new delivery all spring, which included a pause and a toe tap to help him gain consistency. But during his first appearance in the regular season, umpire Bill Miller informed him that his new delivery was illegal.

After swapping back to his old mechanics on the fly, Edwards was quickly demoted to Triple-A to continue working on his delivery. After returning to the majors in May, he looked much better, allowing just four walks and a single home run in 13.2 innings. In many ways, he looked like he had made the necessary adjustments to his mechanics to try and solve his command woes, even if his strikeout numbers weren’t nearly as gaudy.

In his one major league appearance after returning from his back injury, Edwards’ fastball velocity was down to 92.7 mph. It’s possible the Cubs activated him a little too early. They optioned him back to Triple-A after that single inning on July 21. Now he is off to San Diego to strengthen the Padres’ bullpen. The 27-year-old is arbitration eligible for the first time next year and controlled through 2022, and if he is healthy, the Padres should get a nice piece for the back of their bullpen — especially if he’s figured out his mechanical problems. For Edwards, too, the change of scenery might be beneficial. His time with the Cubs was certainly memorable, but his relationship with the fans might have soured after receiving racist messages via social media during his rough patch at the start of the season.

In return, the Cubs get a left-handed reliever who is physically the opposite of the slender Edwards. Brad Wieck is listed at 6’9”/255 lbs — a very large human. After making the transition to relief work in 2016, he’s posted a 37.3% minor league strikeout rate across three levels. He made his major league debut last year but has struggled with the long ball this season. He’s allowed 12 home runs in 42.3 combined innings in Triple-A and the majors. Here’s Eric Longenhagen’s scouting report:

Wieck sits 93-94 and touches 95, vertical arm slot creates weird angle on the pitch, he’s a plus-plus extension guy who adds about two ticks of perceived velo because of it, and he gets a lot of swinging strikes with the fastball. Fills the zone up with the heater and just throws a lot of fastballs, generally. He’s a good lefty relief piece.

The 27-year-old did have surgery for testicular cancer over the offseason, but his minor league track record could make him an interesting piece for the Cubs.