We’ve already talked about the Ichiro trade, the early sales from South Beach, a pair of deals made by the Phillies to improve NL West contenders, and the Zach Greinke deal was covered perfectly by Jonah Keri, so now it’s time to take a look at the rest of the deals around the major leagues during this busy last week, beginning with a trade that has flown completely under the radar thus far.
Minnesota trades Francisco Liriano to Chicago (American) for Eduardo Escobar and Pedro Hernandez
Liriano has been the most mystifying enigma in Major League Baseball since he erupted onto the scene in 2005, pairing fantastic movement with an inability to locate pitches. This season has been no different with Liriano earning a bullpen demotion mid-season in order to work on his control. Since returning to the rotation on May 30th, the results have been mixed. Liriano has been working deeper into the game lasting at least 6 innings in 8 of his 11 starts, which he didn’t do even once during his first 6 starts. The walks are still present however, as Liriano has walked an abysmal 29 batters in 67 innings. But if Liriano can give Chicago 6 average innings per start that would be a big rotation upgrade from either Phil Humber. Humber has been terrible since his perfect game, allowing 5 or more runs in 5 of his 12 starts since. I really like this move from Chicago’s perspective because it solidifies their rotation with the potential to do more. If Liriano can regain any more of his control he will become a potential 2 or 3 starter, because his 9.8 K/9 rate is still elite.
Escobar and Hernandez give the Twins some sorely needed minor league depth, but not much more. They probably should have waited for a better trade package, because grabbing a couple low-ceiling players doesn’t do much to move the needle, or to win ball games in future years.
In seperate moves Pittsburgh acquires Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros, Gaby Sanchez from the Marlins, Travis Snider from the Blue Jays, and Chad Qualls from the Yankees
The Pirates, for the most part, played it safe at the deadline, opting for cheaper lower impact pickups instead of making the big splash on one of the larger names on the market, which no doubt would have carried a higher cost in minor league talent. None of the players Pittsburgh gave up (Casey McGehee, Gorkys Hernandez, Brad Lincoln, and plenty of lower rated minor leaguers) rate as game changers on the Major League level, so it’s difficult to dislike what the Pirates have been able to add, which is depth.
Pittsburgh’s acquisition of Rodriguez will fortify their rotation, allowing the Pirates to move either Eric Bedard or Jeff Karstens out of the rotation. Wandy has been a little better than league average this season (ERA+ of 105) , while posting the lowest strikeout rate of his career (6.5 per 9 innings). It’s just a small upgrade, but when you’re playing your first competative baseball after 100 games in nearly 20 years, it’s an upgrade the Pirates had to make.
On offense Pittsburgh once again opted to make a small upgrade, pursuing the out-of-favor and struggling Gaby Sanchez and the low average/solid power of Travis Snider. Sanchez was miserable in Miami this year, hitting just .202/.250/.306 in 55 games this season. Sanchez is only 28, so there is still plenty of time for him to recover and become a potential 15-20 homerun a year threat, with a .260 average, a normal year for him. Since Pittsburgh was already getting limited production out of Casey McGehee (.230/.297/.377) at first base anyways, the bet that Sanchez regains some of his stroke is a good one. His addition will probably add a win or two to the Buccos overall total.
Travis Snider should also be able to fix the rather large problem in left field for the Pirates this season. Drew Sutton, Alex Pressley and co. just haven’t been getting the job done, and Snider, a former top-10 prospect by Baseball America in 2009, should be another small improvement. He’s never been given regular playing time, but could be able to hit 20 or so homers if he receives regular at-bats. If he can hit around .250 the Pirates have to be happy with their return.
If each of these 3 moves adds 1 win apiece for Pittsburgh, the team should be in good shape considering the fact that they possess a 3 game lead in the Wild Card race. Overall this is a good job by the Pirates front office to maintain most of their high-ceiling minor league depth while improving their odds in 2012.
Cincinnati adds Jonathan Broxton off of Kansas City in exchange for J.C. Sulbaron and Donnie Joseph
The Reds decided to add to the major leagues best bullpen by plucking Jonathan Broxton off of the Royals. Cincinnati’s relief pitchers have posted a 2.66 ERA this season, led by Aroldis Chapman, Alfredo Simon, and the rest. Broxton, who’s gone 1-2 with a 2.27 ERA and 23 saves should fit right in nicely. Dusty Baker has a nice mix of lefties and righties to play the matchups with, and as we all witnessed a year ago, a hot bullpen can be dangerous in the playoffs.
From the Royals perspective, they accomplished what the should have at the trade deadline, by getting some value in return for a player who more than likely was going to leave during the off-season. Sulbaron and Joseph may not ever become solid major league players, but they provide more depth to one of the strongest farm systems in baseball.
In separate deals, Texas gets Ryan Dempster and Giovanny Soto from the Cubs in exchange for Jake Brigham, Christian Villanueva, and Kyle Hendricks
This pair of trades works out well for both franchises, with each getting what it needs. In recent weeks the Texas pitching staff has been decimated by injury, losing Colby Lewis for the season, or inconsistency, a la Roy Oswalt and his sky-high ERA. This franchise, which has a large payroll and plenty of offensive stars in their prime years, is primed to make another run at the World Series, so fortifying the rotation and the backup catching spot was the intelligent thing to do. Dempster has been one of the 10 best pitchers in the National League, owning the 2nd lowest ERA for a starter at 2.25 and the 3rd best WHIP (1.078). Those numbers will take a bump upward in moving to the American League, but Dempster is still a top of the rotation type starter. If he can solidify the #2 or 3 spot in the Texas rotation this trade will payoff big time for the 2 time defending AL champs.
However, if Dempster comes to the AL and struggles, Texas will have overspent, having forfeited two young players in Villanueva and Hendricks who have shown good ability in A-Ball. Granted that’s a long way from the Majors, both prospects still have fairly high ceilings, and if either is starting in the Majors in a couple of years it wouldn’t be a surprise. This is a good trade by Theo Epstein and the Chicago front office, who played the trade market until the very last minute, and were able to come away with some good value, especially when you also consider the return (Arodys Vizcaino) for Reed Johnson, who was shipped to the Braves.