Featuring Colin Hecht & Trevor Utley
Featuring Trevor Utley & Colin Hecht
By Trevor Utley
In terms of teams arising from the ashes, the Cubs were the focal point of the majority of the offseason. That may be all well and good, but the San Diego Padres underwent the most drastic roster transformation that I've seen in the Majors in quite some time. New general manager AJ Preller made his presence in the baseball world felt by making a flurry of franchise altering trades all in a matter of ten days. Given the current landscape at the top of the National League West, the neophyte GM needed to do this to attempt to unseat either Los Angeles or San Francisco from the playoff picture. Nevertheless, if you know how 30 Teams In Under 30 Days works, the twelfth spot means that I believe they'll just miss out on doing so.
The infield was the unit that had the least remodeling done to it. One of the holdovers is first baseman Yonder Alonso. Alonso has a spotty health record and his lack of pop from the first base position may force him into a platoon with either of two new additions: Clint Barmes or Will Middlebrooks. As of now, Middlebrooks will be the team's third baseman. You can tell the Red Sox had really soured on one of their former top prospects because all it took to pry him from Boston was backup catcher Ryan Hanigan. Spacious Petco Park probably isn't the ideal venue to attempt to reboot your career. Yangervis Solarte may get some run at third if Middlebrooks falters or sees more time at first base. Another player looking for reboot himself is returning second baseman Jedd Gyorko. Gyorko showed impressive power at the plate (23 HR, .745 OPS) and steady hands in the field (4 errors in 502 chances) during his 2013 rookie season. 2014 was not as kind to the West Virginia native as his average dropped to .210 and his power was all but sapped. Was it just a sophomore slump or did the league figure him out? 2015 will be very indicative of which option rings true. The last 2014 Padre in the starting lineup is shortstop Alexi Amarista. Amarista seems a weird fit in San Diego's attempt at an All-Star Galacticos-type lineup. He is a utility player at heart who can't really hit (.234 career average), isn't particularly fast (24 SB in 4 seasons), and is a below average fielder. It'll be interesting to see if that position will be upgraded during the season. Former A's All-Star Derek Norris will be handling the catching duties in 2015. He started off hot en route to the aforementioned All-Star berth, but like the majority of the Athletics in 2014 he fell apart in the latter months. While he won't have the DH spot to fall back on in San Diego, I think Norris will perform well in his new setting.
The Fathers will trot out three new outfielders this season. Right fielder Matt Kemp joins from division foes Los Angeles with hopes of proving to my beloved Dodgers that they disposed of the wrong guy. Kemp proved last year that rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated following a calamitous 2013. He may not have the legs under him anymore to be a 20/20 threat, but he can sure as hell still hit. I don't think the transition to Petco will have much of an effect either. Kemp holds a .322 career average and .867 career OPS in his new home stadium. New left fielder Justin Upton has just as much to prove, if not more, following his trade to San Diego from Atlanta. Upton's contract is up at season's end and will be looking to cash in at probably triple his current $50 million deal. He won a Silver Slugger award last year after hitting 29 home runs and driving in a career best 102. Like Kemp, the transition to the NL West won't do much to Upton's psyche having spent the first six years of his MLB life in Arizona. The last new shiny toy for manager Bud Black is Wil Myers. It was obvious that the first two additions to the outfield were salary dumps but the convoluted three way deal that landed Myers in sunny So Cal is still a bit of a head scratcher. One year removed from winning AL Rookie of the Year, Myers did battle a wrist injury that killed his 2014 production (.222 BA from .293, 6 HR from 13, 35 RBI from 53). But pulling the plug on a talent of Myers' caliber after what amounts to one full Major League season is just odd. Maybe Myers never regains his stroke and Tampa comes out smelling like roses. I think, similarly to the David Price trade, the new brain trust down at the Trop may be a little out of their depth. Don't forget though that San Diego still has their entire starting outfield from last year (Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin, and Will Venable) under contract. They should become trade fodder to make room in the coming years for top prospects Hunter Renfroe and Rymer Liriano to get roster spots.
The starting rotation wasn't immune to change either. It starts at the top with the arrival of James Shields. He comes from Kansas City fresh off a World Series run to reunite both principal pieces of the Myers/Shields KC/Tampa trade of 2012. The 4 year, $75 million contract probably had a bit more to do with it. Shields' entrance gives San Diego a true ace for the first time since former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy was in town. Last year's Opening Day starter, Andrew Cashner, slots in as the team's #2. Cashner's 5-7 record doesn't properly indicate how well he pitched in his first full season as a starting pitcher. He sported a 2.55 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and pitched two shutouts. Third starter Tyson Ross had similar success to Cashner in his first legitimate run in the rotation. He made the All-Star team supported by a 2.81 ERA and a strikeout per inning. Ross made very good use of his cavernous park as he allowed only 3 of his 13 home runs at home. Ian Kennedy will once again be the backbone of the rotation. He pitched 200 innings for the third time of his career, leading the team with 207 strikeouts. His 13 wins tied Ross for the best on the squad. The fifth starter battle is coming down to the wire between Brandon Morrow and Odrisamer Despaigne. Morrow has been a perennial underachiever forcing Toronto to finally cut bait following last year's ghastly starting performance and eventual bullpen demotion. Despaigne on the other hand was halfway decent as a midseason call-up. Neither have much upside but Despaigne is the younger (he turned 28 TODAY) and cheaper option so he'd be my pick.
The bullpen is now Joaquin Benoit's to rule after last season's trade of Huston Street. Benoit excelled as both Street's set-up man and as closer following his exit last year. If he finishes 55 games this year, his $8 million team option for next year will be guaranteed. The 37 year old should get plenty of opportunities to accomplish that goal. Setting up for Benoit will be hard throwing right handers Kevin Quackenbush and Nick Vincent. Vincent has the better control of the two, but it looked more evident in 2014 that Quackenbush had more of Bud Black's confidence. The main lefty option is Frank Garces. He gave up two runs in nine innings following his late August debut last year. The Padres may look to get a more experienced option if Garces encounters any problems over the season's opening months. Prospect Matt Wisler and former Yankee Shawn Kelley could also see important innings over the course of 2015.
The Padres did their best to shift the balance of power in the NL West. San Diego has a legitimate shot to snatch a Wild Card spot and make the Giants' and Dodgers' summers more difficult than they originally hoped they'd be. I just can't bet against other teams that have proven their worth in the past couple seasons. AJ Preller clearly has a plan and by no means looks done reshaping this squad. There is many more moves to be made and plenty of prospects who'll be Major League ready come 2016. 2015 will be good, but 2016 may have the potential to be great.
LAST YEAR'S RANKING: 22 (UP 10)
PREDICTED RECORD: 86-76
PREDICTED ALL-STAR REPS: Matt Kemp (outfielder), Derek Norris (catcher), James Shields (starting pitcher), Joaquin Benoit (relief pitcher), Nick Vincent (relief pitcher)
Trevor Utley once saw Ron Gant hit a walk off home run against San Diego way back in Qualcomm Park.
Image Credit: Padres logo (sportslogos.net)
Featuring Trevor Utley, Lou Kessler, and Al deCiutiis
By Trevor Utley
The MLB Trade Deadline came and went at 4 PM yesterday and while waiver based deals can still be worked out in August, the last major deals for first place teams and the clubs chasing them have come and gone. Only time will tell if these deals bear fruit for the teams that made them, but in the interim let us review the deals of today and yesterday and hash out the winners and losers of baseball's most hectic afternoon.
Firstly, let us set aside the deals that don't really need to be graded out. These are the transactions that don't have much bearing on pennant races or involve lower caliber pieces. These trades include:
This could be a reclamation project for a player Cubs' GM Theo Epstein knows very well. Look what the North Siders did with Jake Arrieta so far this season.
Denorfia becomes part of a Mariners' outfield desperate for a spark. San Diego doesn't get much back in the two prospects, even though Almonte was the Opening Day centerfielder for the M's, but the Padres can be happy to part ways with Denorfia's over $2 million salary for what amounted to a platoon guy against lefties only.
The Braves got better with Bonifacio who, while quite fragile, can play all over the field outside of being part of the battery and Russell who absolutely dominates left handed hitters. Caratini was a second round pick a year ago who is still transitioning from the infield to catching but has a bat that could pay dividends.
The A's outfield is beat up right now and will make use of a player like Fuld whom they actually waived earlier this season. He will get some decent run right now with Cespedes gone and Coco Crisp ailing but when the main cogs come back he'll be a fourth or fifth outfielder. Milone regressed from last year but should still be a part of the Twins' rotation going forward.
Miller is a free agent this offseason and Boston didn't want to let him walk for free. The left hander was traded in the division but netted the defending World Series champions a prized piece of the Orioles' farm system. 21 year old southpaw Rodriguez hasn't been exactly setting the world on fire at Double-A Bowie but was ranked as Baltimore's #3 prospect in 2013.
If you listened to our podcast we addressed Milwaukee's glaring hole, their bullpen, and even had Haniger involved in a deal for an arm. Milwaukee brass seemed to have a different plan in acquiring Gerardo Parra and inserting him into a crowded outfield. Haniger and Banda aren't world beaters. This was a weird trade for both sides as neither team really got better.
There is a big batch of young talent being swapped in this one. The Marlins got the major league ready talent from Houston while Houston will have to wait a while on their haul. Cosart should slot in behind Jose Fernandez in Miami's rotation for the future while Hernandez is playing beyond expectations currently. A whole lot of maybes going to the Lone Star State.
With those minor deals out of the way let us delve into the ones that will have varying impacts on who makes the postseason in both leagues. From two aces being dealt to some head scratchers from the Bronx Bombers, this was easily one of the more active and interesting trade deadlines in recent memory.
ATHLETICS GET JON LESTER, JONNY GOMES, & CASH
RED SOX GET YOENIS CESPEDES & A COMPETITIVE BALANCE DRAFT PICK
The A's, which seemed to be many a reporter's mystery team in the Jon Lester sweepstakes, swooped in seemingly at the last minute for the highly coveted lefty. The move improves Oakland's greatest strength and widens the gap between them and the Angels in the AL West. Jonny Gomes takes his talents to the Bay Area as well and should get a good amount of bats against left handers, he is currently second in the league in average against southpaws, in a banged up A's outfield.
The Red Sox, the busiest team on Deadline Day, gets back a player in Cespedes that has a swing tailored for Fenway Park and an arm that could throw a laser to the plate even from the fabled triangle in Boston's centerfield. Boston may be in a similar situation to the Lester one next year with Cespedes though. A free agent at the end of 2015, the Cuban could ask away if the Red Sox don't improve.
The argument for this trade on Boston's end is that they get a big bat in the two time former HR Derby Champion and a chance to chase Lester this offseason since it is almost a foregone conclusion that the small market A's will not pay the sticker price on Lester. If they end up whiffing on him and then Cespedes walks away next fall, this deal will be frowned upon by Red Sox Nation. If they rebound (not even necessarily resigning Lester in the process) and convince Cespedes to stay, the Red Sox made the best out of a bad situation. For Oakland, they show they are all in this year and it is World Series or bust. Lester paired with recent acquisitions Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel as well as Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, and Sonny Gray make a team nobody wants to face come October. They may just not all be in Oakland green and yellow in 2015. But trust me that Oakland will just find new shiny toys to play with.
OAKLAND GRADE: A+
BOSTON GRADE: B
TIGERS GET DAVID PRICE
RAYS GET DREW SMYLY, WILLY ADAMES, & NICK FRANKLIN
MARINERS GET AUSTIN JACKSON
After all the trades that Tampa were rumored to have turned down for their ace, it seems they panicked in trading him to the Tigers. Detroit gets a left hander to put between Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in their rotation and frankly didn't give up that much to do so. They kept young infielder Nick Castellanos in town and the only pitcher they lost in the deal was Drew Smyly who has bounced between the rotation and the bullpen with no real consistency. It keeps Detroit on pace with Oakland for the top seed in the American League Playoffs and keeps their rotation strong if Scherzer departs in free agency.
Seattle acted as a third wheel in this deal and came out smelling like roses. Jackson is still only 27 and improves a Seattle outfield devoid of offensive and defensive talent. They gave up Nick Franklin who though he was seen by some as one of the Mariners of tomorrow, only hit .128 for the M's thus far in 2014.
Tampa Bay was not in the situation with Price that Boston was in with Lester. They had another year to go with their all-world left hander and instead of holding onto him for a run at the second AL Wild Card dealt him and got the proverbial pu-pu platter return. Smyly will be in the rotation for the remainder of 2014 but his role will probably end up being the same back and forth one it was in Motown. Adames is one of the more highly touted prospects in Detroit's weak hitting minor league system but he is only 18 and is light years away. It will be interesting to see if the struggling Franklin gets a chance to play everyday at the Trop.
The Rays have shown they didn't even want to pay the potential arbitration figure for Price in 2015. A team that has flying high lately has just been shot out of the sky. The team with the most to give got the least in return. I am still trying to wrap my head around this deal on Tampa's end. Detroit solidifies themselves as an American League power and Seattle gets a competent outfielder for seemingly nothing. If I write any more about this trade my brain is going to explode.
DETROIT GRADE: A-
SEATTLE GRADE: A+
TAMPA BAY GRADE: F
CARDINALS GET JOHN LACKEY & COREY LITTRELL
RED SOX GET ALLEN CRAIG & JOE KELLY
Boston is making no bones about blowing up their team. It seemed everbody outside of Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz were on the block. After Jon Lester, John Lackey was the second domino to fall. The right hander had rebuilt his image in Boston after injuries and the "Chicken and Beer" nonsense faded, making him one of their most coveted assets. His $500,000 salary for next year doesn't hurt either.
St. Louis has been chasing Milwaukee for the Central Division crown for the majority of 2014 and the acquisition of Lackey (along with Justin Masterson that we'll get to next) restocks the pitching shelves that were getting pretty bare for the Cards. Lackey will probably sit in the third starter role behind Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn, a daunting opponent for the third game of any potential postseason series. Corey Littrell is basically a throw in for this deal and I wouldn't be surprised if this is the last time I ever write his name again.
Boston doesn't necessarily get taken to the cleaners on this deal though. Allen Craig is only a couple seasons removed from being one of the most feared late game hitters in all of baseball. He was more than clutch in St. Louis' World Series triumph in 2011. If he can return from his injuries, which Boston will surely allow him too, they may have gotten themselves another late inning hero to pair with Big Papi. In Joe Kelly they get a pitcher who can start or relieve, and though he won't wow you with his numbers eats innings and gets outs.
While Tampa seemed to force their own hand with the Price trade, Boston so far has made teams work hard for their arms instead of the inverse. This trade helps both teams now and in 2015 and both GMs should give themselves a good old Barry Horowitz pat on the back for making it.
ST. LOUIS GRADE: B
BOSTON GRADE: A-
CARDINALS GET JUSTIN MASTERSON
INDIANS GET JAMES RAMSEY
This trade was consummated yesterday but it is still significant in St. Louis' charge to the Central Division title. They know all to well that you can never have too much starting pitching heading into the postseason, especially in the National League. In acquiring Masterson, they've added depth to a battle tested rotation whilst not giving up a high level prospect in doing so.
The Cardinals will go as far as their starting pitching will take them. Each of their runs to the World Series in the past decade have been on the backbone of their staff. The former Cleveland right hander may not be in the rotation come the postseason but has experience coming out of the pen from early years in Boston which is valuable to St. Louis.
James Ramsey, a 24 year old outfielder who has spent his season at AA for Springfield, is a prospect who may be in Cleveland by the end of this season or Opening Day 2015. He has hit .300 for St. Louis' second tier team and has shown decent pop the past two seasons. It isn't a haul for the Tribe but it isn't a complete swing and miss.
After a run to the Wild Card game last year, Cleveland went backwards. They did right by their Opening Day starter and got a player in Ramsey that will be able to contribute sooner rather than a normal prospect in one of these types of trades would. St. Louis has a completely right handed rotation but one that is very flexible and experienced in postseason play.
ST. LOUIS GRADE: A-
CLEVELAND GRADE: B
NATIONALS GET ASDRUBAL CABRERA
INDIANS GET ZACH WALTERS
I thought the Nationals would address the hole in their lineup left by Ryan Zimmerman's absence but thought it would be a third baseman instead of another shortstop. They did just that though as they shipped out promising middle infielder Zach Walters for Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera. He will get a trial by fire at second base for the first place Nationals with Ian Desmond entrenched at short.
Washington is loaded with pitching so if they were going to make a move it was definitely going to be for a bat. Adrian Beltre and Martin Prado (who eventually landed in New York) were discussed but they eventually settled for the former All-Star Cabrera. Cabrera will be asked to man second base for Washington, a position he hasn't played since 2009. The former Indian will most likely leave in free agency but he'll provide some steadiness in the infield until Zimmerman returns from his latest ailment.
The Indians are just waiting for Francisco Lindor to be ready. The uber talented shortstop down on the farm for Cleveland isn't there yet and Walters could plug the gap between Cabrera's exit and Lindor's arrival. He played in 32 games for Washington this year but only garnered 39 at-bats in those appearances. He will probably never hit for average but has 20+ home run potential at either shortstop or second base which is enticing.
When two teams help each other on a deal you can't knock it. Cabrera gets to chase the postseason for a second straight year while Walters is a stopgap to Lindor or a much cheaper option if Jason Kipnis slips further after signing his new contract.
WASHINGTON GRADE: B+
CLEVELAND GRADE: B-
NEW YORK GETS STEPHEN DREW & MARTIN PRADO
ARIZONA GETS PETER O'BRIEN
BOSTON GETS KELLY JOHNSON
This one was actually two separate trades but I combined them for the sake of time. Drew and Johnson swapped colors in the first non-waiver deal between the Red Sox and Yankees since Mike Stanley was dealt for Tony Armas Jr. Martin Prado comes over from Arizona for Peter O'Brien, a power hitting catcher who had spent his entire 2014 at AA.
From just a personnel standpoint, neither of these two trades make much sense for the Yankees. Drew is going to play out of position at second base for the Bombers after Brian Roberts was designated for assignment. Prado has more positional flexibility but seems to be of no more use to the Yankees than a $11 million a year utility guy. Don't get me wrong, they gave up nothing of immediate value to acquire these two but they were two deals that just seem to have been made for making a deal's sake.
In Boston, Xander Bogaerts now shuffles back to shortstop a move that may exacerbate his fielding woes. The young Aruban started off 2014 at short but then moved to third with Will Middlebrooks' injury and the resigning of Drew. Bogaerts going back to shortstop leaves third base for Brock Holt, which is his natural position. Johnson can play both in the infield and outfield and will surely get plenty of AB's spelling various Sox hitters down the stretch. Arizona gets out from under a big contract in Prado for a guy in O'Brien who could potentially replace Miguel Montero if Arizona chooses to rid themselves of his big deal.
Overall, the Yankees got two expensive players with no real place to put them. Though like I said before they didn't lose out on a top prospect or high level Major Leaguer to do so, but if they were going to address anything at the deadline it should have been pitching.
NEW YORK GRADE: C-
ARIZONA GRADE: C
BOSTON GRADE: B-
Trevor Utley is sad the Dodgers whiffed in their pursuit of both available aces but LA kinda has some good arms already so he thinks he'll live.
Image Credits: Let's Make A Deal (2guystalkingmetsbaseball.com); Lester, Gomes, Cespedes, Price, Lackey, Craig, Kelly, Masterson, Cabrera (espn.com); Adames, Ramsey, Walters, O'Brien (milb.com); Smyly, Franklin, Jackson, Drew, Prado, Johnson (mlb.com)
By Trevor Utley
Recently, the Padres are that team never is bad enough to bottom out completely but aren't talented enough to make a decent postseason run. They have a pitching staff with names you wouldn't know unless you played fantasy baseball and a lineup with no real star power. Alas, every year the Fathers win at least 70 games and make a September run that makes you believe that next year is the year they breakthrough. Is this finally that year? Uh...no. Their lone addition to a mediocre starting rotation was Josh Johnson, who pitched to the tune of 2 wins and a 6.20 ERA in 2013. They added a big bullpen piece in Joaquin Benoit after trading steady setup man Luke Gregerson. Why is mentioning the pitching not even worth it though? The hitting is atrocious and they did nothing to improve upon it. The man they acquired for Gregerson, Seth Smith, is a bit player at his finest. Only two players broke .280 in 2013: Everth Cabrera (.283) who received a 50 PED suspension and Yonder Alonso (.281) who missed over sixty games with a broken hand. Manager Bud Black hopes Chase Headley can be more like 2012 Chase instead of 2013 Chase but either way I don't see San Diego scoring enough to compete. What I can see is them doing the same September surge this year, assuring that we are having this same dialogue in 2015.
PREDICTED RECORD: 76-86
PREDICTED ALL-STAR REP: Huston Street, relief pitcher
Image Credit: Padres logo (sportslogos.net)