Winners and losers at the trade deadline


Given how disappointing this afternoon’s trade deadline proved to be, it’s only fair that the annual winners and losers column is a little lopsided. Let’s get right to it:


Red Sox: I didn’t like the idea of Boston giving up top prospects for Jake Peavy because I just didn’t see him being a big upgrade over the rest of their candidates for the postseason rotation. Parting with Jose Iglesias for him, on the other hand, is something I can get behind. Iglesias had an incredible run for the Red Sox earlier this season, but he was a lifetime .257/.307/314 hitter in the minors. He had a .588 OPS in 829 Triple-A at-bats.  And while he was still at .330 for Boston this season, he had returned to earth in a big way this month, batting .205/.247/.217 in 83 at-bats during July. I think Iglesias will be a useful regular for a long time, but for a big-spending team like the Red Sox, he was always going to be expendable. They sold high when they sent him to Detroit in the three-team swap.

Angels: Getting Grant Green from the A’s for Alberto Callaspo was a nice little coup. Green is 25 and still doesn’t have a position, which is a problem, but he’s also hit .325/.379/.500 in Triple-A this year. The Angels should start working him out at third. Some will argue that the Angels should have moved Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar as well, but I’m not so sure. Both have reasonable contracts, and the Angels almost certainly would have downgraded had they tried to replace either in free agency this winter. They would have needed a big return to justify dealing either.

Braves: Many wanted the Braves to get a starter with Tim Hudson out. I think they’re just fine with a front six of Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, Julio Teheran, Paul Maholm, Brandon Beachy and Alex Wood. And getting the perpetually underrated Scott Downs from the Angels for Cory Rasmus was nice. I’m not positive how he does it, but Downs has a 1.76 ERA again this year. Last year’s 3.15 mark was his worst since 2006, and that was really the result of two bad weeks (nine of the 16 runs he allowed came in a stretch of five appearances).

Cardinals: The slumping Cardinals failed to add, but the important thing for them is that the Pirates and Reds didn’t make any additions, either. St. Louis is still the NL Central’s best team on paper, provided that Yadier Molina isn’t out for much more than the minimum 15 days with his sprained knee. All bets are off if his absence extends into September.

Cubs: The lack of action on Wednesday suggests that the Cubs were smart to move Matt Garza, Scott Feldman and Alfonso Soriano when they did. They clearly got a better return for Garza, a free agent at season’s end, than the White Sox did for Peavy, even though Peavy is locked up for another year.

Dodgers: Drew Butera, yo. But, no, the Dodgers are here for the same reason as the Cardinals. Maybe the Diamondbacks engaged in some addition by subtraction in shedding Ian Kennedy, but they didn’t do much addition by addition.


Mariners: Kendrys Morales, Oliver Perez, Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez and Joe Saunders are all going to be free agents this winter, and the 50-56 Mariners, remaining stubborn under GM Jack Zduriencik’s guidance, didn’t cash any of them in. Morales and Perez would have brought significant returns. At least some of the other teams that declined to sell could have chances to get deals done in August, but I’m not sure any of the Mariners listed above will clear waivers, limiting the team’s options.

Royals: Winners of seven in a row to move to 52-51 on the season, the Royals refused to sell. Which is understandable. But the fact that they did choose to buy, acquiring outfielder Justin Maxwell from the Astros, and still didn’t land an upgrade from Chris Getz at second base is tough to take. It’s not like they needed a star; they’ve gotten so little production from second base for years now that just about anything would have done.

Indians: One of the rumors going around Wednesday was that the Indians were aiming for a big-time starter. Instead, they stayed quiet; their only deadline pickup was lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski, who was unwanted by the Cardinals. Something to energize the fanbase in Cleveland would have been welcome; the Indians have the AL’s sixth-best record, so they’re right in the thick of things.

Blue Jays: The Blue Jays could have cashed in closer Casey Janssen and turned a tidy profit. They also had a couple of nice role players in Emilio Bonifacio and Rajai Davis to dangle. They did nothing.

White Sox: The White Sox’s top picks in the 2009, 2011 and 2012 drafts were outfielders (Chris Sale was the choice in 2010). Baseball America said their No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5 prospects at the start of the season were outfielders. Yet when they chose to deal Peavy, they did it for another outfielder, getting Avisail Garcia from the Tigers. They also dealt Matt Thornton to Boston for an outfielder (Brandon Jacobs) earlier in the month. In the abstract, I don’t mind Peavy for Garcia. It’s decent value. The White Sox, though, have questions throughout the infield and a dearth of young pitching in the minors. I’m not sure what they’re building.

Phillies: Ruben Amaro Jr. is still likely shocked and appalled that no team was willing to surrender two top prospects for Michael Young. The Michael Young.

Marlins: OK, so the Marlins didn’t put Giancarlo Stanton on the block yet. That’s fine. But then they wouldn’t talk about relievers Steve Cishek and Michael Dunn. Even more incredibly, they weren’t even interested in picking up a prospect for a 34-year-old Chad Qualls today. The only thing I can figure is that the commissioner’s office and the MLBPA is back whispering in the Marlins’ ears about their use of revenue sharing money.

Giants: The flagging Giants had a chance to refuel the farm system a bit, which could have been a silver lining in a very disappointing season. Instead, they held on to Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum and even Javier Lopez. Maybe they’ll get compensation picks if Pence and Lincecum leave as free agents or maybe they’ll even deal Lincecum in August, but with plenty of contenders looking for a middle-of-the-order bat and starting pitching, it’s disappointing that they resisted overtures.

Astros clubhouse attendants: Good luck with those end-of-season tips. With Bud Norris, Carlos Pena and Jose Veras gone, Erik Bedard in now the highest-paid Astro at $1.15 million this season. That’s about what Alex Rodriguez makes per week.

2018 Preview: New York Mets

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2018 season. Next up: The New York Mets.

Things couldn’t have gone much worse for the Mets in 2017, so the fact that they won 70 games is actually remarkable. Their hailed rotation was a shambles, as Noah Syndergaard made only seven starts. Zack Wheeler put up a 5.21 ERA over 17 starts; Matt Harvey was even worse with a 6.70 ERA across 18 starts and one relief appearance. Steven Matz compiled a 6.08 ERA in 13 starts. Just about the only consistency the club had came from Jacob deGrom, who finished with a career-high 3.53 ERA in 31 starts.

The rotation, as of right now, is healthy, save for deGrom, who has been battling a minor back issue during this spring. But so far, so good for everyone else. Well, there was Jason Vargas, who signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Mets last month and suffered a non-displaced fracture of the hamate bone in his non-throwing hand. He underwent surgery and is expected to return shortly after the start of the regular season. But I mean, at least they still have everyone else!

Well, Michael Conforto is still recovering from shoulder surgery last September. The Mets are targeting May 1 for his return. That’s everyone, right? Wright? Where’s David Wright? The third baseman underwent two surgeries in September and October last year for his shoulder and back and still isn’t feeling well enough to play baseball, so the Mets shut him down for eight weeks.

The Mets haven’t had a legitimate full-time third baseman since 2014, Wright’s last full season. No Mets third baseman has played more than 55 games in a season at third base in the last three seasons. So the club went out and signed Todd Frazier to a two-year, $17 million contract. Frazier split last season with the White Sox and Yankees, hitting a combined .213/.344/.428 with 27 home runs and 76 RBI. While Frazier is now 32 years old and has seen a decline in power, he did set a career-high in walk rate last year at 14.4 percent and he’s still a solid defender. Frazier is still more than a capable player and he’ll look like a Greek god at the hot corner compared to what the Mets have trotted out there lately.

Shortstop at Citi Field now belongs to 22-year-old Amed Rosario. Among the top prospects in baseball, Rosario struggled last year, batting .248/.271/.394 across 46 games. Rosario has the most upside of any position player on the Mets’ roster, so his success will play a rather large factor in the team’s success this year. He can be a doubles and triples machine and a big threat on the bases if he gets his feet underneath him against big league competition.

Asdrubal Cabrera will handle second base. He’s been, quietly, quite good for the Mets over the last two seasons, offering a solid offensive approach along with his versatility – he played second and third base as well as shortstop last season. Now 32 years old, Cabrera hit .280/.351/.434 with 14 home runs and 59 RBI last season, which is more than enough when manning a position in the middle of the infield.

At first base, the Mets were able to pluck Adrian Gonzalez off the free agent wire. Gonzalez had gone to the Braves in the Matt Kemp trade, but the Braves quickly dropped him. The 35-year-old had a nightmarish 2017, compiling a .642 OPS in 71 games as he was bothered by back issues throughout the year. He became overshadowed in Los Angeles by Cody Bellinger, who won the NL Rookie of the Year Award, so the Dodgers had no reason to keep him around. Dominic Smith had been another first base option but he suffered a quad injury early in spring training and likely won’t be ready by Opening Day.

Travis d’Arnaud will get the lion’s share of starts behind the plate, backed up by Kevin Plawecki. d’Arnaud provides power, which is always nice to have from a catcher, but he doesn’t hit for average or draw walks, so his batting average and on-base percentage are underwhelming. And while d’Arnaud hasn’t been anything to write home about stopping the running game, he’s regarded as a good pitch framer.

In left field will stand the Mets’ biggest offensive threat, Yoenis Cespedes. Sadly, the slugger was limited to 81 games last year as he battled various leg injuries. When he was in the lineup, he hit .292/.352/.540 with 17 home runs and 42 RBI in 321 plate appearances. Among hitters who have taken at least 1,000 plate appearances since the start of the 2015 season, only 21 have put up a higher weighted on-base average than Cespedes (.368), who finds himself just ahead of Carlos Correa and just behind Corey Seager on that list.

Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo will share center field for the time being. Nimmo is having a big spring, putting up a .283/.361/.585 line with eight extra-base hits and 10 RBI in 61 spring plate appearances. He’s likely to bat leadoff against right-handed starters. Lagares isn’t having nearly as good a spring (.483 OPS) but will be in the lineup against lefties and will provide value with his Gold Glove-caliber defense. It’s also quite possible the Mets will trade him as they have gotten some interest lately.

Jay Bruce returns to right field after inking a three-year, $39 million contract in January. The slugger put up a solid .254/.324/.508 line last year between the Mets and Indians with 36 home runs and 101 RBI. Though he struggled – for the most part — in his first go-around with the Mets in the second half of 2016, he’s good for at least 25 home runs and 90 RBI if he can stay healthy, which the soon-to-be 31-year-old has been able to do in recent years.

New manager Mickey Callaway says he plans to use a closer-by-committee which will include Jeurys Familia, Jerry Blevins, A.J. Ramos and Anthony Swarzak. It’s a committee that could certainly have success, but Familia and Ramos are both coming off of down years and Swarzak has been slowed in spring training by a calf injury. The Mets will also have Paul Sewald, Hansel Robles, Rafael Montero, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman providing help from the ‘pen. Wheeler could as well if the Mets determine he can provide more in a relief role than in a starting role.

With all their warts, the Mets do have a competitive roster. The starting rotation has the potential to be really good, led by a now-healthy Syndergaard and followed by deGrom. The offense should be a buoy in the midst of all of the other displeasing variance the Mets will likely wade through during the season. The bullpen won’t be world-beating but will likely not be a serious source of concern given their options. FanGraphs is projecting the Mets to win 82 games while PECOTA has them at 81, which means they’ll be in the mix for the NL Wild Card. That sounds about right to me, but ultimately I think they’ll fall just a bit short of .500.

Prediction: 79-83, third place in NL East.