BALTIMORE – It certainly wasn’t dull. The 48 hours leading up to the Major League Baseball trade deadline on Thursday featured rumors, speculation, deals, falsely reported deals thanks to fake Twitter accounts and enough action to be reminiscent of your fantasy league.
But with the A’s pulling off the blockbuster deal for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel and the Angels adding Huston Street two weeks before the deadline, it should have served as a precursor of things to come.
It seems illogical to determine the winners and losers of this barrage of trading since we haven’t seen how the trades actually pan out. But that’s how it works in this information age we now live in. So let’s do it.
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Their starting rotation consists of Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and now, David Price. General manager Dave Dombrowski pulled off a stunning move acquiring the Cy Young award winner from the Tampa Bay Rays as part of a three-way trade with the Mariners. The Tigers sent lefty Drew Smyly and minor-league shortstop to Tampa and starting center fielder Austin Jackson to Seattle. It’s a small price to pay for Price, who is 7-2 in his last nine starts with a 1.90 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 71 innings. The Tigers will have Price for this season and all of next season. And with Scherzer likely to leave for free agency, the Tigers can just take their $144 million they offered Scherzer and offer it to Price. Losing Jackson hurts their outfield defense, but it was a necessary deduction.
In the movie adaptation of “Moneyball,” Oakland’s outstanding pitching trio of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito was noticeably absent despite being central to that team’s success. If there’s a sequel, the wheeling and dealing that general manager Billy Beane has done to assemble an even better starting rotation should be the key scene of the movie. And this time he wasn’t trading for Ricardo Rincon. Beane and the A’s came out of nowhere to acquire Boston’s Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes early Thursday morning. That gives the A’s a rotation of Samardzija, Lester, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and the struggling Hammels for the postseason. Giving up Cespedes hurts, but he was going to be a free agent after next season. With Lester, the A’s can now go head to head with the Tigers’ pitching staff in the American League Championship Series.
Boston Red Sox
The last time they had a fire sale midseason was in 2012 when they dealt Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and their bloated contracts to the Dodgers. The next season they won the World Series. This time Boston picks up Cespedes for Lester, who was heading for free agency after extension talks never went anywhere. They also traded Lester’s buddy, John Lackey, to the Cardinals for first baseman Allen Craig and right-hander Joe Kelly. Craig is having an awful season, but there is no better place to help a slumping right-hander than Fenway Park.
Ruben Amaro Jr. had one job to do — sell off some aging pieces of his team and get some younger talent and prospects. He did nothing with Marlon Byrd, Kyle Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins or Antonio Bastardo despite interest from teams. But it wasn’t his fault. It was the rest of baseball’s fault for being cheap, prospect-hording misers.
“We were not looking for exorbitant paybacks,” Amaro told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “We were looking for players that would help us, but I think we were very reasonable in the discussions that we had. Frankly, I don’t think the clubs were aggressive enough for the talent we have on our club.”
His comments were an answer to reports that he was asking for way too much in trade talks for his players. Either way, the Phillies are still terrible and he’s still employed … for the moment.
Los Angeles Dodgers
They didn’t actually make a trade, which is the problem. The team has plenty of money, plenty of top prospects in outfielder Joc Pederson, shortstop Corey Seager and pitcher Julio Urias and an excess of outfielders, including an unhappy Matt Kemp. But they chose not to do anything. Lester joining Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu could have made them a World Series favorite. Instead, they could be relying on Dan Haren or Josh Beckett in the postseason.