The July 31 MLB Trade Deadline has officially passed and several teams made significant moves; either to bolster their playoff hopes, or re-tool for another run in 2015 and beyond.
With all the activity processed, here is a synopsis of the biggest winners and losers after the deadline.
St. Louis Cardinals
The one National League team that really helped themselves before the July 31 deadline is the Cardinals through the acquisitions of Justin Masterson (Indians) and John Lackey (Red Sox).
Masterson has struggled mightily in 2014 (4-6 record, 5.51 ERA), but only giving up a double-A outfielder (an organizational position of strength) was a small price in hopes to see flashes of the Indians ace from 2013.
In Lackey, the Cardinals have a proven veteran right hander to fill out the rotation. Over the past year and a half, Lackey has pitched as well as any time in his career and was a big reason the Red Sox won the World Series last year.
If you include the A’s pre-All Star trade for Jeff Samardzija, you could argue that Oakland improved the most in July. Oakland has historically shied away from big name veteran pitchers, but seem ready to go for the World Series this year by bringing in Samardzija (Cubs) and Jon Lester (Red Sox). Even though they had to part with a power bat (Cespedes), pitching is king in the playoffs.
The Tigers have a great offense, but have struggled holding opponents in check. Even though relief pitching was their greatest need, obtaining an arm like David Price was an opportunity they simply could not pass up. When the playoffs begin, Detroit could slide a starter into the bullpen. Back in 1008, then rookie left-hander David Price was a difference-maker, closing out the Red Sox over the final three innings in ALCS Game 7.
Hurting the Tigers chances of gaining more trade deadline talent is the team’s shallow farm system. In order to be a playoff force, Detroit will now have to find a late inning specialist during the waiver wire period; with players like Koji Uehara (Red Sox), Hector Rondon (Cubs) Addison Reed (Diamondbacks) or Steve Cishek (Marlins) as possible options to fortify their staff.
Boston Red Sox
How could a team that has traded away 60% of their starters considered a winner at the trade deadline? Jon Lester is a free agent in the winter and John Lackey would not return to the Sox in 2015 for a paltry $500k (his guaranteed salary in 2015).
For a Lester two-three month “rental” the Sox added a desperately needed outfield bat (Cespedes); and for Lackey the Sox received proven fire-baller Joe Kelly and former All Star 1B/OF Allen Craig. Not a bad exchange for two pitchers who would not change the Sox 2014 season outcome. If Boston wishes to have Lester long-term they can still sign him in the off-season just as they would have had to if they kept him.
While the talent does not suggest his trade value was great, the fact the Red Sox corrected their $10 million mistake in jettisoning Stephen Drew to their hated rival New York Yankees (see trade losers). This will allow the Sox to put Xander Boegarts back to shortstop, a position he was settling into finally just prior to Drew returning to Boston. In addition to proven players, the prospects garnered in the Jake Peavy and Andrew Miller deals will supplement an already solid farm system.
Obtaining left-handed flame-throwing Andrew Miller from the Red Sox is not a blockbuster type of deal, but it provides the Orioles a proven late inning reliever for their playoff run. In exchange for Miller, the Orioles had to part with a top five prospect in their organization, pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez. Even though Miller may have come at a steep price and has has occasional control problems, his semi-sidearm delivery will make many left-handlers wobbly knees in the batters box. After years of being an also-ran in the AL East, Baltimore is clearly banking on Miller to help them return to the postseason.
The Mariners needed lineup protection for Robinson Cano. They instead got a versatile outfielder (Austin Jackson) who could prove to be a spark plug, especially if he can consistently get on base.
Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa is on the negative side of the ledger based on cashing in their chips while playing their best baseball of the season. It’s true that the Rays had almost no chance to keep ace David Price after the season, but to trade him away so close to the playoffs in a three-team deal for a young single-A shortstop along with infielder Nick Franklin (Mariners) and left-hander Drew Smyly (Tigers) speaks to how bad a baseball market Tampa Bay is.
New York Yankees
Despite all the pitching losses this season, the Yankees have stayed in the hunt for a playoff berth. To only get an overpriced shortstop in Stephen Drew and 2B/OF Martin Prado before the deadline does little to help keep the Bronx Bombers in the chase for the postseason. New York did acquire Brandon McCarthy from Arizona a few weeks back, but more is needed to keep the rotation respectable.
The Indians made two trades that did not improve their current roster while division rival Detroit Tigers solidified perhaps the best rotation in the majors. Granted Justin Masterson was severely underperforming and Asdrubal Cabrera is not performing at the same level as he did in the 2011 and 2012 All Star seasons. But to get a AAA outfield prospect and borderline major league utility infielder does not improve the Tribe’s chances at a playoff berth this season.
Not trading some of their aging, high cost contracts (Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, Ryan Howard) should be deemed a failure, especially where the team is going nowhere. There is still the chance any of these players could move through a waiver wire transaction, but it will be a challenge to move them without eating a lot of money in the process. Unfortunately for The Phillies, Cliff Lee left his Thursday start with some form of elbow injury. Should this prove to be serious, Philadelphia will be permanently stuck with his large contract.