We’ll be covering all of the action here up through Thursday’s 4 p.m. EDT deadline.
Tigers acquired LHP David Price from the Rays, sending LHP Drew Smyly and SS Willy Adames to the Rays and OF Austin Jackson to the Mariners. Mariners send INF Nick Franklin to the Rays.
With names like Oscar Taveras and Joc Pederson getting tossed around — plus Addison Russell earlier — this looks like a light return for Price on the surface. Smyly, though, is an established lefty with a very good arm, still four years away from free agency. He’s striking out 7.8 batters per nine innings this year, and he makes next to nothing. That’s a really valuable piece for Tampa Bay. Also, Franklin-to-the-Rays long seemed destined and finally happened, though since it didn’t come in conjunction with a Ben Zobrist deal, there’s not an obvious role for Franklin right now. He’s the Rays’ new long-term second baseman, though. Adames is notable, too, as one of the top two position player talents left in the Detroit system. He was hitting .269/.346/.428 as an 18-year-old in the Midwest League.
The Mariners look like a clear winner here, getting the legitimate starting center fielder they’ve needed since Franklin Gutierrez’s body fell apart. Franklin will be a solid long-term regular, but he simply didn’t fit on a team with Robinson Cano. The Mariners offense looks much more legitimate with Jackson in center and leading off and Michael Saunders (once healthy) and Chris Denorfia platooning in right. Plus, they’ll get to keep Jackson next year.
Then there are the Tigers, who held serve with the A’s following the Jon Lester acquisition. A rotation of Max Scherzer, Price, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez has to terrify potential postseason foes. They also get Price for 2015, giving them an ace in case Scherzer departs in free agency, which seems increasingly likely now. However, losing Jackson is a big blow. Rajai Davis, who doesn’t hit righties and who isn’t as good defensively as his speed suggests, simply isn’t an adequate replacement as a primary center fielder. Maybe the Tigers will be able to find an alternative next month.
Athletics acquired LHP Jon Lester, OF Jonny Gomes and cash from Red Sox for OF Yoenis Cespedes and competitive balance draft pick.
Feeling they were unlikely to re-sign Cespedes beyond 2015 anyway, the A’s decided to take their chances on a beast of a playoff rotation featuring Lester, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jeff Samardzija. They’ll hope to cover Cespedes’s production by asking even more of their three-headed catching monster of Derek Norris, Stephen Vogt and John Jaso, with Vogt often starting in the outfield against righties and Jaso being used as a DH.
The Red Sox couldn’t seem to pry away an elite prospect like Oscar Taveras or Kevin Gausman for Lester, so they settled for one year of a middle-of-the-order bat. Cespedes can pull off the spectacular, but has regressed as a player since his excellent rookie season in 2012. The Red Sox will hope the change of scenery helps; plus, Cespedes could certainly learn something by watching David Ortiz’s at-bats. That Cespedes is a free agent after 2015 probably led to the draft pick being included; that pick will come between the second and third rounds of next year’s draft.
Cardinals acquired RHP John Lackey and LHP Corey Littrell from the Red Sox for 1B/OF Allen Craig and RHP Joe Kelly.
The Red Sox again set their eyes on 2015 even as they sell. Craig should bounce back offensively, but he’s basically been a right-handed doppelganger for Daniel Nava the last two years and the Red Sox still have Shane Victorino, plus Mookie Betts threatening to break through to go along with Cespedes and likely Gold Glove center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. Also, Craig is owed $27.5 million through 2017 (with an option for 2018), though that’s not a bad thing if he does resume hitting. In Kelly, the Red Sox are getting a guy who has been a success despite mediocre peripherals, including a career strikeout rate of 5.5 batters per nine innings as a starter (the MLB average is now over 7.0 for starters). Kelly will join the rotation, but he’s probably going to be a reliever in the long haul.
Lackey gets plugged into a Cardinals rotation that also includes Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, the newly acquired Justin Masterson and Shelby Miller, with Michael Wacha hopefully back for the final month. A big key to his trade value was his odd $500,000 option for next year, the result of a clause in his contract with Boston that was invoked after he missed a season due to Tommy John surgery. Even though Lackey isn’t going to want to pitch for half a million dollars next year, that’s huge leverage in terms of getting a modest extension done with him. Littrell, a 2013 fifth-round pick, wasn’t viewed as one of Boston’s top 15 or 20 prospects.
Marlins acquire RHP Jarred Cosart, INF-OF Kike Hernandez and OF Austin Wates from Astros for OF Jake Marisnick, 3B Colin Moran, RHP Francis Martes and a competitive balance draft pick.
A fascinating deal, given all of the young talent involved. Cosart was going to be expensive to acquire, as he’s 24 with a huge arm, no current durability concerns and a decent major league record. It seems like the Astros looked at his peripherals and figured he wouldn’t break through, while the Marlins looked at his stuff and thought it could still happen. Though this isn’t just Cosart for the Marlins; Hernandez’s breakthrough year makes him look like a quality role player at least (he’s just turning 23 this month and he’s hitting .284/.348/.420 in the majors). Wates, 25, is an advanced outfield prospect and a potentially useful bench piece. He was hitting .299/.396/.381 with 31 steals in 74 games in Triple-A.
The Astros get back Marisnick, a key piece in the Jose Reyes-Josh Johnson-Mark Buehrle deal a year and a half ago, and Moran, the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft. Marisnick has power, speed and a history of putting up good, but not great, minor league numbers. He’s certainly skilled enough to make it as a major league regular, though I’ve long been rather skeptical of his chances. Moran was considered the most advanced position prospect in last year’s draft, but he’s drawn largely poor reviews from scouts since debuting. I still think he’s going to be a major league third baseman, but he’s not going to move nearly as quickly as it looked like he would initially. Martes, 18, has a 5.18 ERA in 33 innings in the Rookie Gulf Coast League.
Yankees acquire INF-OF Martin Prado from Diamondbacks for 1B/OF Peter O’Brien.
Reports had the Diamondbacks preferring to move Aaron Hill’s slightly more expensive deal, but in the end, they were just happy to shed Prado’s contract. That four-year, $40 million contract was signed a year and a half ago, one week after Prado was acquired in the Justin Upton trade. Prado had held up his end of the bargain so far, but he wasn’t going to get any more valuable in the back half of the deal. O’Brien offers them power, but no position. He’s a poor man’s Mark Trumbo, and he doesn’t currently project as a major league regular.
The Yankees will make Prado their primary right fielder, and he should be an upgrade over Ichiro Suzuki there. Next year, he gives them an Alex Rodriguez alternative at third base, depending on what happens there. He’s still an option at second base, too, but probably not on a full-time basis. He lengthens the Yankees lineup, and it’s another case of the Yankees getting an incremental improvement without really sacrificing anything.
Nationals acquired SS Asdrubal Cabrera from the Indians for SS Zach Walters.
With Ryan Zimmerman sidelined into September, if he returns at all this year, the Nationals wanted a legitimate starting option in the infield and got one. Cabrera is a well below average shortstop, but he has experience at second and he should be just fine there once he gets used to it again. To get him without giving up a likely regular is a smart pickup, even if he is just a two-month rental.
Walters has long been a solid prospect with good pop for a middle infielder, but he’s not great defensively at shortstop and he’s always struck out a whole lot, limiting his ability to hit for average. He projects as a role player, rather than a starting shortstop, though as a stopgap, he wouldn’t be bad. Fortunately, the Indians can turn right to Francisco Lindor to replace Cabrera and likely be better off because of it. The top prospect will be a big improvement defensively on Cabrera, and while he’s not ready to excel offensively in the majors, he should hold his own.
Orioles acquired LHP Andrew Miller from the Red Sox for LHP Eduardo Rodriguez.
The Orioles paid quite a price for the best left-handed reliever available. Miller has been awfully good, and those his command still wavers at time, he can be a force against righties as well as lefties. He has an awesome 69/13 K/BB ratio in 42 1/3 innings this year. Miller is a free agent at season’s end.
The 21-year-old Rodriguez hasn’t gotten as much hype as Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman or Hunter Harvey yet, but he’s probably one of the 25 or so best pitching prospects in the minors, even with his 4.79 ERA in Double-A this year. Since the Red Sox have plenty of polished arms ahead of him, he shouldn’t be a factor in the majors until late 2015 at the easliest.
Brewers acquired OF Gerardo Parra from the Diamondbacks for OF Mitch Hanigar and LHP Anthony Banda.
Speculation had the Brewers in on starters and relievers, maybe even a first baseman. Instead, they went and got an outfielder to complement Khris Davis in left field. Davis has been a solid regular, but much of his damage comes against left-handed pitching: he’s at .232/.288/.435 against righties, plus he’s not nearly the defender that Parra is. Also, this gives the Brewers much better protection in case a starting outfielder goes down; they were really hurting when they lost Ryan Braun for a spell earlier this season. Parra is also under control for next, though he’ll make $6 million-$7 million in arbitration.
In Hanigar, the Diamondbacks get one of the best prospects in a weak farm system. The 23-year-old was hitting .255/.316/.416 with 10 homers in 243 at-bats in Double-A this year. He has the power potential to make it as a starting right-fielder if his contact skills improve. Banda, 20, was 6-6 with a 3.66 ERA and an 83/38 K/BB ratio in 83 2/3 innings in low-A ball. With Parra gone, the Diamondbacks will have room to play David Peralta regularly in right field for the rest of the year.
Braves acquire INF-OF Emilio Bonifacio, LHP James Russell and cash from the Cubs for C Victor Caratini.
On the surface, this may not seem like much. Bonifacio, though, gives the Braves a legitimate alternative in center field and at second base, both areas of need. No longer do the Braves have to force B.J. Upton into the leadoff spot (though that they had to in the first place was just another Fredi Gonzalez quirk). And Russell, while a frequent punching bag in the Cubs pen over the years, has dominated lefties this year when used correctly, limiting them to a .103/.243/.121 line in 58 at-bats. The Braves needed someone like him.
The price was significant. Caratini was a second-round pick last year, and he’s hit .283/.377/.415 in 523 at-bats since being drafted. He’s still raw behind the plate — he was mostly a third baseman in junior college — and how he develops there will have a drastic effect on his stock as a prospect. There’s a lot to like about his bat, though.
Yankees acquire SS Stephen Drew from the Red Sox for INF Kelly Johnson.
It’s the first deal between the two rivals since the Red Sox traded Mike Stanley to the Yankees for Tony Armas Jr. and Jim Mecir way back in 1997. The Red Sox needed to dump Drew to put Xander Bogaerts back at shortstop, especially now that there’s no longer any outfield room for Brock Holt. Johnson will be a bit player for the Red Sox. They’ll save a little money now and a little more if they can move Johnson in a waiver deal.
The Yankees figure to give Drew a crash course at second base in the hopes that he’ll be an upgrade over Brian Roberts, who has already been designated for assignment to open up a spot Both Drew and Johnson are free agents at season’s end, so there’s no risk for either team here.
Mariners acquired OF Chris Denorfia from the Padres for OF Abraham Almonte and RHP Stephen Kohlscheen.
The Mariners needed a righty outfield bat to go along with lefties Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley, James Jones and Endy Chavez, and they got a nice one in Denorfia, even if he hasn’t done much so far this year (.242/.293/.319 in 248 at-bats). He’ll certainly start against southpaws, and if he gets hot, he can break into the lineup against righties as well. He is a free agent at season’s end.
Almonte was the Mariners’ Opening Day center fielder and leadoff hitter, though he wasn’t very well suited for the latter role. After hitting .198/.248/.292 in 106 major league at-bats, he’s come in at .267/.333/.390 in Triple-A, a far cry from last year’s .314/.403/.491 line for the same team. He’s still tallented enough to become at least a quality part-timer; he’s a switch-hitter and an excellent defensive corner outfielder, so he won’t need to hit all that well to be useful. Kohlscheen is a minor league reliever with limited upside.
Athletics acquired OF Sam Fuld from the Twins for LHP Tommy Milone.
The Twins got Fuld by claiming him off waivers from the A’s earlier this year, so they definitely turned a profit here. Still, Milone is an outlier pitcher with his lack of velocity and his big flyball rate. He goes to another good ballpark for his style of pitching, but he loses the excellent outfield defense that drove down his ERAs in Oakland. He’s probably a fifth starter for Minnesota.
In Fuld, the A’s reacquire a 32-year-old bench player having a fluke offensive year; he’s at .263/.356/.366 in 164 AB right now after entering 2014 with a career .234/.314/.330 line. He’ll see significant time for now with Coco Crisp hurting and Craig Gentry on the DL, but he should end the year as more of a bit player.