Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

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The 2014 MLB Trade Deadline was definitely one of the most active that I can remember in the past 10 years. Two ace pitchers, Jon Lester and David Price, were dealt away. The Major League best Oakland A’s traded away their cleanup hitter, and arguably their best player. On top of all that, the team that was expected to be the deadline’s biggest seller, the Philadelphia Phillies, did nothing at all.

Overall, I believe some teams made great moves that either helped them in the short term or long term, while other team’s moves or non-moves have left me scratching my head. Here’s my take on this year’s Trade Deadline winners and losers:

WINNERS

Boston Red Sox

Dare I say that the Boston Red Sox were the Trade Deadline’s biggest winner? The Sox are clearly out of the postseason

Yoenis Cespedes (above) will look to boost a Boston outfield through 2015.

Yoenis Cespedes (above) will look to boost a Boston outfield through 2015.

picture this year, and had trade assets. Not to mention they received great offers. For less than half a season of P Jon Lester, the Sox got a little more than a year of OF Yoenis Cespedes, plus a chance to resign him to a large contract that Oakland couldn’t have afforded. There’s also the potential of Lester returning to the Red Sox via free agency this off season.  Boston wasn’t done there, and turned around quickly to deal P John Lackey to the Cardinals for P Joe Kelly and 1B/OF Allen Craig. For less than a season and a half of Lackey, the Red Sox acquired two young, controllable players who have each performed at a high level in the Major Leagues, but have struggled with injuries this season. Craig, 29, has driven in 90 runs in a season twice before, and can’t become a free agent until 2018. Kelly, 26, won 10 games last season, and can’t become a free agent until 2019. Finally, the Red Sox dealt P Andrew Miller to the division rival Baltimore Orioles, for pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. A great haul came in return for two expiring contracts and a veteran pitcher.

Detroit Tigers

Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski has to be thinking that if this move doesn’t put Detroit over the top, I don’t know what will. The Tigers acquired former Cy Young award winner P David Price from the Rays, and sent OF Austin Jackson to the Mariners and P Drew Smyly and infield prospect Willy Adames to the Rays. This trade gives them an incredible top three pitchers of Price, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, who have each won the Cy Young. However, acquiring a great player isn’t the only reason the Tigers are winner of this trade deadline. They won because they didn’t give up their entire farm system, or lose any major pieces of the puzzle, and still added an impact pitcher to the fold. This move won’t hurt Detroit that much down the road if they fail to resign Price this off season. At least it gives them the first crack at trying to retain his services, as well as a legitimate shot at a World Series title.

Oakland Athletics

The A’s made the first splash of the day, acquiring P Jon Lester and OF Jonny Gomes from the Red Sox for OF Yoenis Cespedes. While the loss of Cespedes hurts, realistically, the A’s had no chance at resigning him next off season, and got the best value that they could for him now. Bringing Lester into the fold gives them an ace of the staff, and someone who can show the younger pitchers how to handle the postseason. It’s a toss up between who has the better rotation now, between the Tigers and A’s. However, Oakland did what was necessary to cement them as one of the league’s best teams going into the stretch run of the season. To soften the blow of losing Cespedes’ bat, the A’s reacquired OF Sam Fuld from the Minnesota Twins, forming a Fuld/Gomes platoon in the outfield.


 

LOSERS

Philadelphia Phillies

How is it possible that you are rumored to be the team with the most pieces to sell, be in last place in your division, and

Ruben Amaro (above) has some explaining to do after the Trade Deadline.

Ruben Amaro (above) has some explaining to do after the Trade Deadline.

simply stand pat and do nothing at the Trade Deadline? Well, Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro did just that, and didn’t make a single deal at the deadline. Simply, the Phillies should have paid attention to what the Red Sox did, and maybe try and reload for next season since this one is an obvious lost cause. Instead, the Phillies will attempt to be active in August, passing their players through waivers to see if any team will bite and want to work out a deal. That will be the only way to massage this blow, it what is another sign of how bad this team truly is right now.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates were rumored to be active, and I’m sure the team explored various avenues for trades, but they too stood pat. Simply put, their rotation as currently constructed is not good enough for them to compete in the postseason. The Pirates probably thought about acquiring Lester or Price, but didn’t want to lose their top prospects for players they probably have no chance of resigning. However, I’m surprised Pittsburgh didn’t try to pull off a smaller deal, similar to how the Cardinals acquired P Justin Masterson for a prospect. Maybe they could’ve tried Mets P Bartolo Colon or Padres P Ian Kennedy? It’s hard for me to accept standing pat when there are obvious needs for a competing club. Maybe they too are waiting for an August trade.

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels aren’t necessarily losers because of what they did or didn’t do, but simply because of the moves the A’s and Tigers made. These are probably the three best teams in the American League right now, and there is simply no way for the Angels to match the kind of moves their peers made today by bringing in ace pitchers. Also, come playoff time, the Angels rotation will probably fall a pitcher or two short in comparison with one of their opponents. They’d better hope that those big contracts for 1B Albert Pujols and OF Josh Hamilton pay off in the postseason.


 

A LITTLE CONFUSED

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals are a competing team and wanted to add veteran pitchers. I understand that. I’m just not quite sure why it was  Ps Justin Masterson and John Lackey. Masterson is having a down season, has been struggling with injury, and has seen his velocity dip. It’s tough to sell that he’s an upgrade in the rotation. Lackey is having a solid year, and comes with a cheap contract for next season, but was it really worth Joe Kelly and Allen Craig? Both players were homegrown through the St. Louis system, have performed well in the past, are controllable for multiple years and were both dealing with injuries this season. I have a hard time believing a solid return for them is Lackey. By moving Craig, the Cardinals are ultimately opening up a spot for top prospect OF Oscar Taveras to play everyday, but wouldn’t it have been wiser to keep Craig for this stretch run, and then maybe revisit moving him in the off season? I guess only time can tell with these deals, but as of now, it appears to me that the Cardinals did some subtraction, not addition.

 

Reaction To Lester, Lackey Trades

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Wow.

That word best summarizes the early trades of this year’s MLB Trade Deadline.

First, the Oakland A’s acquired P Jon Lester and OF Jonny Gomes from the Boston Red Sox for OF Yoenis Cespedes and a 2015 Competitive Balance Draft Pick. My initial reaction was how could Oakland, who has been the best team in the Major Leagues this season, trade arguably their best player and their cleanup hitter in Cespedes? It is also worth noting that Cespedes is still signed through next season, while Lester and Gomes are free agents after this season.

After I let this trade digest, and the initial shock went away, I realized that this was a great trade for both teams. The Oakland A’s are primed and ready for a World Series run, and this will give them their best rotation that they’ve entered the playoffs with in the past 20 years. Consider facing this four man rotation in a postseason series:

  1. Jon Lester
  2. Jeff Samardzija
  3. Sonny Gray
  4. Scott Kazmir

Lester has been one of the best pitchers in postseason history, Kazmir and Gray have pitched there before, and Samardzija is a standout young star that is waiting for his chance to prove himself in the playoffs. While losing Cespedes hurts, you have to come to realize that he is going to command a large contract next off season, which is something that Oakland wouldn’t have been able to afford. This move allows them to get a great value for Cespedes, and sets them up for a nice playoff run. Also, with Oakland acquiring OF Sam Fuld in a separate deal with the Minnesota Twins, they are able to form a possible platoon with Fuld and Gomes.

While the Red Sox made a great haul in bringing back Cespedes for this year and next, they weren’t done dealing and adding parts. P John Lackey was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals for P Joe Kelly and 1B/OF Allen Craig. My reaction to this is that Boston just set up a great possible lineup for next season, boosting their outfield with Cespedes and Craig. The Boston outfield has been historically bad this season, but this possible lineup for next season looks extremely formidable:

  1. CF Jackie Bradley, Jr.
  2. 2B Dustin Pedroia
  3. LF Yoenis Cespedes
  4. DH David Ortiz
  5. 1B Mike Napoli
  6. RF Allen Craig
  7. SS Xander Bogaerts
  8. C Christian Vazquez
  9. 3B Brock Holt/Will Middlebrooks

There isn’t really an easy out in that lineup, and the 3-6 hitters each have the potential to drive in 100 runs. Given the fact that the Red Sox have many young pitching prospects on the rise, and 2014 is a lost season, it is wise to give them a chance to develop at the Major League level in a somewhat stress-free situation. It will prepare them for next season, where the Red Sox have the potential to be reloaded and ready to contend again.

It has been reported that Lester has said that he would be interested in resigning with the Red Sox this off season. Is it possible he could return to lead a revamped Red Sox rotation in 2015? Stay tuned.

Best Possible Deals for the Top Available MLB Pitchers

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The MLB Trade Deadline is now just a day and mere hours away, and there will be plenty of player movement in these next hours. As usual, most of the transactions will revolve around pitching. This year, there are a few ace-quality pitchers that appear to be available because their clubs are out of the playoff race or their contracts are expiring. However, when trading one of these pitchers, a GM must try to get the best package of players in return. This can be very hard, as now more than ever, teams are trying to develop their teams through their farm systems, and are reluctant to trade their top, young talent for players that can be a rental of 2-3 months.

Here I will take a look at what I view to be the best possible deals for the teams dealing pitchers, as well as the best situation for each of the pitchers.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers trade OF Matt Kemp, minor league OF Joc Pederson, minor league P Chris Reed and cash to the Boston Red Sox for P Jon Lester, P John Lackey

The Dodgers have been rumored to be shopping Kemp, and the Red Sox have been rumored to be interested. These teams have a history of pulling off blockbuster trades, and this one would fill a need for both teams. The Dodgers would acquire Lester and Lackey, which would form the most dominant starting rotation in baseball, with the likes of Ps Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. It would also alleviate the Dodgers’ outfield jam, allowing them to play OFs Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Yasiel Puig everyday. That is definitely not a team I would want to face in the postseason.

On the other hand, the Red Sox would acquire a big-right handed bat that they need in Kemp, as well as a centerfielder in Joc Pederson. By also acquiring another one of the Dodgers top pitching prospects in Reed, it should make the Red Sox much more willing to eat the remaining $108 million on Kemp’s contract. Overall, this trade would fill the Dodgers’ immediate need, as well as set them up to be real World Series contenders, while the Red Sox would be acquiring what could be major pieces to their future.

2. Tampa Bay Rays trade P David Price to the Atlanta Braves for P Alex Wood, minor league C Christian Bethancourt, minor league P Cody Martin, and minor league P Wes Parsons

This deal appears to be lopsided, at least in terms of the amount of players. The only way for the Rays to get close to adequate value for Price is to get four players, including three of the Braves’ top twenty prospects. In Price, the Braves will get an ace starting pitcher, and someone that can anchor their rotation for the rest of the race in the NL East, as well as the postseason. I would think that the Braves would have a decent chance at resigning Price after the season, as they are always a competitive team, and play in the National League, which could be intriguing for Price.

As is the case with most trades the Rays complete, they would acquire a boatload of prospects that they can rebuild their team with. Wood gives the Rays a strong left-handed option for their rotation to attempt to replace Price. The two pitching prospects are intriguing because the Braves have a history of producing quality pitching from their farm system. However, I think the real key to this deal might be Bethancourt, who the Braves values highly, and could serve as a solid big league catcher for years to come.

 

LeBron Update; Yanks Add Francis

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Well, it’s official. LeBron James, King James, is making his triumphant return to Cleveland. After learning how to win a championship with the Miami Heat, James has expressed the desire to come home and bring a championship to the Cleveland Cavaliers. For one, I’m happy to see this move because it is going to bring a lot of change across the NBA, and it is just a nice, warm, fuzzy story overall.

Currently, the Timberwolves and Cavaliers are engaged in trade talks regarding F Kevin Love coming to

Kevin Love (above) appearing in a rendering of what he would look like in a Cav's uniform.

Kevin Love (above) appearing in a rendering of what he would look like in a Cav’s uniform.

pair up with James in Cleveland. I would fully expect this deal to happen sooner or later, as Love has already expressed a desire to sign a long-term deal with the Cavs now that James is in the fold. Another ripple effect of LeBron’s decision is that F Chris Bosh is expected to take the max contract that the Houston Rockets have offered him, and form another Big Three with C Dwight Howard and G James Harden. However, for Bosh’s signing to become official, the Rockets need to complete the trade of C Omer Asik to the Pelicans, and find a partner for a trade of G Jeremy Lin. And the Rockets need to complete all of this by Sunday to have any chance of matching the offer sheet that the Mavericks have signed F Chandler Parsons to.

Woo. Take a breath. Yes there’s more.

On top of all of this, Carmelo Anthony’s camp says that it is between the Bulls and Knicks for his services. However, as recently as yesterday, it was reported that Anthony was very likely to accept the Knicks maximum contract offer. This was the giant lock-jam that needed to clear up before the start of free agency. This frees up the market for Fs Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza, and Pau Gasol to sign, and allows the Lakers and Heat to decide where they will go from here after missing out on the marquee free agents.


In other news, the Yankees heard me question them, and have responded by making a trade. The Yanks added Jeff Francis from the A’s for cash considerations or a PTBNL. I don’t understand how the hell this guy has stayed in the major leagues for parts of 10 seasons when he has a career 4.95 ERA in over 1000 innings pitched. He’s posted better numbers in 8 starts at Triple-A this season, so I guess the Yankees will take what they can get at this point.

Masahiro Tanaka Injury Spells ‘DOOM’ For Yanks

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The most feared injury in baseball nowadays is a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament, or UCL. This injury is most common in the pitching elbows of baseball players, and the most common form of rehabilitation begins with Tommy John Surgery. Although it is possible to rehab a minor tear of the UCL, most cases result in TJ Surgery, and require almost a year of rehab before a player is able to compete again.

There have been a rash of these types of injuries this year, and it appears that the injury bug has bitten again. This time, Yankees P Masahiro Tanaka is the victim, after three different doctors diagnosed a “minor tear” in Tanaka’s UCL of his throwing arm. Despite this tear, the hope is that Tanaka can rehab the injury for 6 weeks, and avoid TJ Surgery. This type of rehabilitation has worked before, but in more rare cases. In fact, Cardinals P Adam Wainwright rehabbed his UCL injury, and was able to pitch for 5 years before finally tearing it and having TJ Surgery.

To me, it seems like the solution is obvious. It’s time for Tanaka to have the surgery to not delay the rehab process, and possibly be available for the Yankees late next season. If Tanaka delays the surgery only to have it later this year, it would rule him out for the entire 2015 season. Either way, the Yankees are in deep trouble.

Masahiro Tanaka (above) suffered a slight tear of his UCL.

Masahiro Tanaka (above) suffered a slight tear of his UCL.

Currently, 4 out of 5 of the Yankees’ pitchers from the Opening Day rotation are on the DL. Tanaka can essentially be ruled out for the season. Fellow starter P Ivan Nova has already had Tommy John Surgery. Ace P C.C. Sabathia has missed a majority of the season with a knee injury that is still ailing, but had not been effective in previous starts. Finally, P Michael Pineda has been dealing with an oft-injured shoulder since April, and was only playing catch as of last week. Only P Hiroki Kuroda remains, and is by far the most reliable starting option for the Yankees right now. They acquired P Brandon McCarthy from the Diamondbacks last week, but he was sporting a 3-10 record with a 5.01 ERA at the time of the trade. They didn’t exactly trade for a “savior” of the ball club.

Despite all of these injuries, the Yankees currently sit at 46-45, and are only 4.5 games back of the first place Baltimore Orioles. That’s some sort of freakin’ miracle. However, they will not stay there, or even have a chance to compete if they don’t make a move to add some pitching depth.

Yet, to acquire top pitching talent, the Yankees would have to part with top prospects, which they have very little of. Most, if not all the Yankees premier talent, is already at the major league level, and isn’t as desirable as young, controllable players. The options for the Yanks are slim at this point, and seem to be limited to Phillies’ pitchers A.J. Burnett and Cliff Lee, and former Yankees pitchers Phil Hughes (Minnesota) and Ian Kennedy (San Diego). I don’t think the Yankees would have enough prospects to entice the Phillies to trade Lee, but it is definitely possible to acquire Burnett, since his deal is set to expire at the end of the season. The latter two options are more interesting, as both the Twins and Padres are way out of contention, and could be interested in moving these players to give younger players a shot at the Major League Level. However, none of the talents available, outside of Lee, are a top of the rotation talent that the Yankees desperately need.

I don’t see how this can end well for the Yankees. They are simply depleted of Major League talent, and absolutely riddled by injuries. It appears as if Derek Jeter’s drift into the sunset will end with a finish in the bottom of the AL East, which is not a way that any fan would have pictured his glorious career ending.

Where Should LeBron James Sign?

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We are in the midst of waiting for one of the most highly anticipated free agent signings in not only NBA history, but sports history, as superstar LeBron James mulls where he should continue his playing career. The most obvious question surrounding James, is where will he go?

To be honest, I think James has a plan. I believe he has known for some time where he would like to go,

Lebron James (above) during his Decision interview before signing with the Miami Heat in 2010.

Lebron James (above) during his Decision interview before signing with the Miami Heat in 2010.

but is in the midst of talking to other free agents, such as Carmelo Anthony, about possibly teaming up and playing together. It’s also very possible that James is attempting to see if any teams would be willing to make trades to improve their roster after acquiring his services.

While it has been reported that James’ agent, Rich Paul, has met with the Rockets, Lakers, Suns, and Mavericks, the only two realistic options at this point are returning to the Miami Heat, or returning to his “hometown” Cleveland Cavaliers. The Heat have been to four straight NBA Finals, while Cleveland has had the first overall pick in the NBA Draft in three of the last four seasons. These teams would seem to be at complete opposite ends of the spectrum, but if you delve down into the team’s current rosters and possible moves, it couldn’t be further from the truth. In my opinion, LeBron’s best option to win, both presently and long term, would be to return to the Cavaliers. Let’s take a look at both options:

MIami Heat

As currently comprised, the Heat roster includes rookie G Shabazz Napier, G Norris Cole, and newly signed Fs Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts. Obviously, the Heat have the option to bring back G Dwayne Wade, F Chris Bosh, G Mario Chalmers, F Udonis Haslem, and G Ray Allen to accompany James. Other pieces would have to be added afterward, most likely through a veteran’s minimum salary contract or trades. To be honest, the only appealing part of the future of this roster would be Napier, who has shown to be a clutch performer in college, and won bookend National Championships in his career at UConn. James has previously shown his support of Napier on Twitter, but that isn’t enough to keep him around. Of course, James is friends with many of these players, and has strong ties to Heat President, Pat Riley. Yet, James’ No. 2 option, Dwayne Wade, has shown that injuries are slowing him down and he is not nearly the same player anymore. While it is rumored that both Wade and Bosh are willing to take pay cuts to keep James in the fold, will that be really be enough to add more talent to offset Wade’s decline? I don’t believe so. I think that if LeBron decides to stay in Miami, he will force Riley’s hand, and sign a short maximum salary contract to finish a run with Wade and the Heat. Overall, the Miami Heat just don’t appear to be the best option to me.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers’ roster is basically the opposite of the Heat’s, and is loaded with young, controllable, and cheap talent. G Kyrie Irving, 22, is a former first overall pick that recently signed a contract extension that will keep him Cleveland for 6 more seasons. G Andrew Wiggins was just drafted with the first overall pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, and F Anthony Bennett was drafted with the first pick in the 2013 draft. While Bennett struggled in his first year, there is definitely still potential there. G Dion Waiters still has the potential to be an impact player that made him a first round pick just few years back. Cleveland also still has C Anderson Varejao, who is a holdover from the last time James wore a Cavs’ uniform. Outside of that core, Cleveland has G Matthew Dellavedova and F Tristan Thompson to begin what would be an interesting bench. Bringing James into the fold would immediately take pressure off of younger players, and allow them to grow underneath his guidance, and the potential of this team is tremendous. On top of what the team’s roster boasts now, it is possible that the Cavaliers will have three first round picks in next year’s draft. Those picks would be possible assets in an interesting scenario for a trade of F Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves, if James were to sign with Cleveland. It is also rumored that Cleveland is interested in adding James’ former teammates and sharpshooters Gs Ray Allen, Mike Miller, and F James Jones. With all of these parts that are able to be moved in Cleveland, I would think it would create a much more appealing atmosphere for James, as he would definitely be able to win, be in his hometown, and have a lot of say and control in where the direction of the franchise would go.

Ultimately, the decision is in James’ hands, and I do think it will surprise everyone, no matter what the outcome is. And while he mulls his decision, the entire country, if not world, is trembling with anticipation. Where will King James go?