Presenting a Menagerie of Minor Deadline Moves

This deadline had its share of earthquakes, but it also featured smaller aftershocks, as teams improved their depth or addressed smaller, specific needs. So let’s run down some of the deals that might get buried by the higher-Richter scale shakes of the likes of Max Scherzer and Kris Bryant.

The Houston Astros acquired pitcher Phil Maton and catcher Yainer Diaz from the Cleveland Guardians for center fielder Myles Straw

This trade is actually a slightly unusual one, as the team in the playoff shot — it’s not Cleveland — is the one giving up the best player. Straw’s offensive profile will likely prevent him from being an actual star at any point, but he’s fast, plays enough defense, and gets on-base at a respectable enough level to be an average or even better starter in center; he’s already hit the 2-WAR threshold, after all. UZR, our defensive input for WAR, has him at +6.6 runs, while OAA has him at +5 runs and DRS has him at +2. I don’t think I’d ever play him except in a pinch, but Straw’s theoretical ability to at least stand at second or short in an emergency has some additional value, too.

ZiPS Projection – Myles Straw
2022 .273 .352 .345 484 69 132 20 3 3 39 57 31 87 7 2.2
2023 .269 .348 .354 412 58 111 18 4 3 34 48 24 88 6 1.9
2024 .268 .348 .351 399 57 107 18 3 3 33 48 22 87 5 1.8
2025 .271 .350 .355 380 54 103 17 3 3 31 45 20 89 5 1.8

ZiPS sees Straw as being a roughly average center fielder for a few more years. That’s useful for Cleveland, which has greatly struggled to put together an adequate outfield in recent years. They haven’t had a center fielder start the most games at the position in two consecutive seasons since Michael Bourn and before that, Grady Sizemore. It’s not flashy, but it’ll do and importantly for Cleveland, Straw won’t be expensive.

For the Astros, the additional bullpen depth was worth the tradeoff. Kendall Graveman stands out as Houston’s prestige bullpen acquisition, and rightly so, but Maton also gives the relief corps some additional heft. In just 190 major league innings, his .331 career BABIP is unlikely to be close to an ability (or inability). And he gets a lot of spin on his heater — spin that’s sustained itself in the wake of MLB’s sticky stuff crackdown — despite a fastball that sits in the low-90s; it has the fourth-highest whiff rate among players who have thrown at least 100 four-seamers this year. Houston gets Maton for two additional seasons.

ZiPS Projection – Phil Maton
2022 3 2 0 3.43 58 0 65.7 53 25 7 25 88 128 1.0
2023 3 2 0 3.41 56 0 63.3 50 24 7 24 86 128 1.0

The Astros also pick up Diaz, a 22-year-old catcher who has good offensive tools and a strong arm behind the plate, but is otherwise still a work in progress defensively. His .821 OPS in the minors is solid, but he’s also quite old for a player in Low-A. Outside of Korey Lee, the Astros don’t have a lot of organizational depth at the catcher, so they’ll wait and see if Diaz develops.

Chas McCormick will likely get the majority of the playing time with Straw’s departure.

The Boston Red Sox acquired pitcher Austin Davis from the Pittsburgh Pirates for second baseman Michael Chavis

There was a brief period a few years ago when Chavis threatened to become the next big thing in Boston. In the meh follow-up to the World Series-winning 2018 season, he was our number-three prospect in the organization and burst into the majors. As it became apparent that Dustin Pedroia would never truly be back, Chavis hit .290/.398/.570 in his first month with the Sox, mostly while playing second base. The plate discipline caught up with him, and he’s hit poorly since then; even his .263/.327/.474 for Triple-A Worcester isn’t particularly exciting.

Chavis is stretched at second, but he’s interesting enough for a team like the Pirates, who are undertaking a major rebuild, to give some run to. The Red Sox can’t afford to wait for him to figure things out, and he’s spent 2021 going up and down from the minors when the players Boston actually preferred were injured.

ZiPS Projection – Michael Chavis
2022 .224 .281 .410 442 58 99 18 2 20 55 30 6 83 -6 0.2
2023 .223 .284 .423 426 57 95 18 2 21 56 31 5 87 -6 0.4
2024 .221 .283 .425 358 48 79 15 2 18 47 27 4 87 -6 0.3
2025 .224 .283 .429 343 46 77 15 2 17 45 25 3 88 -7 0.2
2026 .226 .285 .424 337 45 76 15 2 16 45 25 3 88 -7 0.1

For Boston, a reliever at the back of the bullpen is simply more useful right now than a player who was the team’s fifth-best option at second base. Davis hasn’t been impressive in the majors so far, but the projection systems all see him as being far more adequate than his 5.65 major league ERA.

ZiPS Projection – Austin Davis
2022 2 2 0 4.31 38 0 48.0 45 23 6 21 51 107 0.3
2023 2 2 0 4.32 36 0 45.7 43 22 6 20 49 108 0.2
2024 2 1 0 4.42 33 0 42.7 39 21 6 19 46 105 0.2
2025 2 1 0 4.39 31 0 39.7 36 19 5 17 42 106 0.2

The San Francisco Giants acquired pitcher Tony Watson from the Los Angeles Angels for pitchers Sam Selman, Jose Marte, and Ivan Armstrong

Without outing anyone, another writer at the site expressed surprise that Watson wasn’t already a Giant (Editor’s Note: It was me, Meg, Dan’s editor). If I hadn’t spent the offseason projecting individual players, I might have thought the same thing, as Watson fits perfectly among San Francisco’s curiously unlimited supply of nondescript relievers who pass through, put up a few solid seasons, and then go about their merry way. It’s a bit like they’ve developed a specialized human cloning machine that only works with George Kontos.

Watson is left-handed and thus will likely to continue to get contracts until the day he discovers he’d rather spend June playing golf. I like Selman more than ZiPS does, but Watson is a better fit for a contending team. Marte is your typical fringe relief prospect with a live arm and unimpressive control. Armstrong is the most interesting name here, a large adult reliever with a big fastball and control that’s significantly better than hopeless. We’ll probably know by the time he hits Double-A if he’s developed the secondary pitch he needs not to hit his ceiling in the high minors.

ZiPS Projection – Sam Selman
2022 2 2 0 4.70 37 0 38.3 32 20 6 23 45 93 0.0
2023 1 1 0 4.78 24 0 25.0 21 13 4 15 30 91 0.0
2024 1 1 0 4.63 27 0 27.7 23 14 4 16 33 94 0.0
2025 1 1 0 4.73 23 0 23.7 20 12 4 14 28 92 0.0
2026 1 1 0 4.82 20 0 20.0 17 11 3 12 24 89 0.0

The Boston Red Sox acquired pitcher Hansel Robles from the Minnesota Twins for pitcher Alex Scherff

My colleague Kevin Goldstein tackled this one.

The Red Sox added a bit of bullpen depth in the final minutes before the deadline, plucking right-hander Hansel Robles from the Twins in return for minor-league reliever Alex Scherff. Miscast as a closer in Minnesota when Alex Colomé unexpectedly collapsed, Robles has always impressed with his arm strength and always disappointed when it comes to the life on his pitches and his sub-standard command and control. His fastball sits at 97 mph, but it’s awfully straight, and while his breaking ball has big velocity in the upper 80s, it has very little break. His best pitch is an 88-92 mph changeup with good deception and decent action, and the Red Sox would be best served by having him throw it even more than the 34.8% of the time he already does. He’s unlikely to see high-leverage innings over the next two-plus months with Boston, but should help a bit with depth when spotted against the right part of a lineup.

In Scherff, the Twins found a prospect who has a chance to exceed Robles’ value in Minnesota’s bullpen of the future. A raw but power-armed product out of a Texas high school, Scherff received an above-slot bonus of $700,000 as a fifth-round pick in 2017. After struggling as a starter, he’s taken a big step forward in 2021 when used in shorter stints, striking out 46 over 29.1 innings while allowing 22 hits and walking 13. Sherff has plenty of arm strength, sitting in the mid-90s while frequently getting into the 97-98 mph range. His impressive changeup is his best secondary offering, as his curveball gets soft at times and lacks bite. He’s finally where he belongs in terms of his future role and has a chance to be big-league ready by the end of 2022 as a middle-reliever.

Toronto Blue Jays – Acquired pitcher Joakim Soria from the Arizona Diamondbacks for two players to be named later

A long time ago, Soria was an elite closer for the Royals, mainly on the strength of a lively-if-slow fastball that he placed extraordinary well and a big 12-6 curve. He was never quite the same post-Tommy John, but he’s still effective when his control is on and he mixes in a fairly slow slider and a couple change of pace pitches. Soria serves the same purpose as Brad Hand: filling out a bullpen decimated by injuries.

Milwaukee Brewers – Acquired pitcher John Curtiss from the Miami Marlins for catcher Payton Henry

John Curtiss is one of those players who was fortunate to be born in the 1990s rather than the 1970s. Twenty years ago, he’d probably have been doomed once he got the label “journeyman reliever” in the minors, but these days, if you can hit 95 mph and iron out your control issues, you’re going to get a shot. Fellow writer Ben Clemens nailed the Curtiss turnaround with the Rays last year,and he’s continued to excel with the Marlins.

ZiPS Projection – John Curtiss
2022 3 3 0 4.11 47 2 57.0 53 26 8 22 60 110 0.6
2023 3 3 0 4.00 44 2 54.0 50 24 7 20 57 113 0.6
2024 3 2 0 4.15 43 2 52.0 48 24 7 20 56 109 0.5
2025 3 2 0 4.02 38 2 47.0 43 21 7 18 50 113 0.5

With four more seasons until free agency, Curtiss fetched a legitimate fringe prospect in Henry. Henry has plate discipline issues, but can crush the occasional round-tripper, control the running game, and has cut back on the passed balls and errors. He’s close to the majors, but the Brewers had better catching prospects behind him and he’s not going to push Omar Narváez out of a job. Curtiss has more a direct use as the fifth-or-sixth reliever out of the ‘pen.

Tampa Bay Rays – Acquired pitcher Shawn Armstrong from the Baltimore Orioles for cash

This feels like a minor trade for a minor trade, but any time the Rays acquire a reliever, it’s usually worth paying attention!

Armstrong has a decent fastball, but it’s a decidedly non-explosive one, and without a really good breaking pitch, he’s reliant on hitting his spots with his solid cutter, which has the fourth best spin rate in the majors. Unfortunately, his command of it has been an ongoing issue; rather than dangle the cutter just on the edge of the strike zone, too many end up in hitters’ wheelhouses, resulting in batters slugging .590 against it in 2021. Armstrong will likely mainly pitch in low-leverage innings on the Rays, who have a number of relief arms on the IL. But Tampa being Tampa, it wouldn’t shock me if Armstrong quickly got it together.

ZiPS Projection – Shawn Armstrong
2022 2 2 3 4.44 46 0 48.7 46 24 7 23 54 97 0.1
2023 1 1 2 4.49 36 0 38.3 35 19 6 18 43 96 0.0

Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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Brian Reinhartmember
1 year ago

14 years after his debut and Joakim Soria is still trade deadline headline material.

Well okay, sub-sub-headline, but still.