The Glass Eye: MLB Trade Deadline
Tuesday was the trade deadline for Major League Baseball, and there was no shortage of big-name deals. We’ll break down the trades that should have the biggest impact on the playoff race, and of course we will pay special attention to the deals the Pirates pulled off. Please note that aside from Pittsburgh I’m not familiar with most of the prospects that got dealt, so I’m not evaluating who ‘won’ the trades – only evaluating how the pennant contenders were impacted.
Dodgers acquire 3B Hanley Ramirez and LHP Randy Choate from Marlins for two prospects; also acquire Shane Victorino from Phillies for two prospects: The Ramirez deal could determine the NL West this season, as the Dodgers had been fading badly due to lack of offense…but still are tied for the division lead, because the Giants also have a poor offense. Ramirez had worn out his welcome in Miami and a lot of his ex-teammates were reportedly thrilled to see him go – add to that the fact that he hasn’t really hit in two years, and this deal is a risk for LA. To me, it’s a worthy risk because even with his reduced production he’s an upgrade for the Dodgers and the change of scenery may well spark him. Pennant race impact: 9/10.
Victorino is another story – he’s having a down year in a hitters’ ballpark, and his numbers figure to suffer from the move to Chavez Ravine. He’s a slight upgrade for the Dodgers but not a difference-maker unless he finds his 2008-11 form. Pennant race impact: 6/10.
Giants acquire Hunter Pence from Phillies for three prospects: The Phillies have fortified both NL West rivals Tuesday, and while Pence isn’t a better hitter than Victorino, he’s a much bigger upgrade for the Giants. Aside from Melky Cabrera, the San Francisco outfield has been a complete disaster offensively and while Pence is no star, he’s solidly above average, and provides power to a team that basically has none – a HUGE improvement for the Giants. If Posey and Cabrera keep raking, Pence gives them another solid core hitter for the stretch run. Pennant race impact: 8/10.
Angels acquire Zack Grienke from Brewers for three prospects: I’m not really surprised by either side of this deal…Grienke is a free agent as season’s end, and it sounds like Milwaukee had given up hope of re-signing him. Getting three prospects for him as a two-month rental is a good return for the Brewers.
The Angels have been among baseball’s hottest teams since early May (10-17 on May 4, 46-30 since) and are clearly in win-now mode. Adding Grienke to the rotation gives the Angels a top three (Grienke, C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver) that can stack up with any team in the game. If the Angels can somehow catch the Rangers, they will be my favorite to win the AL. Pennant race impact: 8/10.
Braves acquire Paul Maholm and OF Reed Johnson for two prospects: On paper this deal doesn’t look like much – Pirate fans are familiar with Maholm’s ‘crafty lefty’ ways, and neither he nor Johnson are stars – but this is actually a very good deal for Atlanta. Their rotation is a mess after Hudson and Beachy, and Maholm will provide consistent innings for them. Johnson is a very capable fourth outfielder who will be a good bat off the bench/sport starter for the Braves. With the Nationals still in range and the Braves currently tied for the wild card, this move makes a lot of sense for Atlanta. Pennant race impact: 7/10.
Tigers acquire RHP Anibal Sanchez and 2B Omar Infante from Miami for prospects: Miami is in all-out fire sale mode (again), and the Tigers are trying to find a way to win the worst division in the majors. This deal should help the Tigers’ cause – Sanchez is no ace, but the Tigers desperately needed some rotation depth and Sanchez will give them that. Infante has been an above-average second-sacker the past few years but struggled with Miami this season – perhaps a return to his former team will rejuvenate him. I think the Tigers wanted to make a bigger move, but their farm system is depleted and they may not have had the assets needed to make a ‘big splash’. I still believe, however, that the Tigers will catch the White Sox for the Central division title. Pennant impact: 6.5/10.
Rangers acquire Ryan Dempster from Cubs for prospects: Dempster is having a fine year – a career year, in fact, and that’s what makes me leery of this deal from the Rangers’ perspective. Dempster has 15 years of league average stats, including a pretty terrible 2011 – his walk and strikeout rates are around his career averages. I think he was a bit ‘hit lucky’ through 16 starts, I believe he will regress during the last two months, and I don’t think he will be the upgrade the Rangers are expecting. Pennant race impact: 5.5/10.
Pirates trade three prospects to Houston for LHP Wandy Rodriguez; trade RHP Brad Lincoln for OF Travis Snider: The Rodriguez deal is very straightforward, three Grade ‘B’ prospects for a steady-yet-unspectacular left-handed starter. Rodriguez should represent an upgrade to the middle/back of the rotation, replacing Correia for now and possibly Bedard eventually – and he’s under contract through next season. None of the prospects given up figure to be stars; although I liked Rudy Owens’ potential as a 3rd/4th starter. Pennant race impact: 7/10
The Snider trade is far more bold – both Snider and Lincoln were first-round draft picks in 2006, both struggled for years, and while Lincoln has found bullpen success in 2012, Snider still has the higher upside. If Snider finally puts it together – and I’ll grant you that’s a big ‘if’ – he can be a 25-30 homer guy who plays a better outfield than Garrett Jones. If Lincoln was not going to develop into a starter – and I think that’s likely – this was probably a worthwhile gamble for the Pirates. One thing GM Neal Huntingdon has shown is that he can build very good bullpens, so as much as I hate to lose Lincoln I’m confident the Pirates will be able to replace him – and if Snider hits, this is a GREAT deal for the Pirates. Pennant race impact: This is hard to call, because Snider is such an unknown at this point – but if he hits, it will be huge. I’ll say 6/10 for now.
Dave Glass can be reached at email@example.com.