Winners and losers at the trade deadline

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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:

Winners

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.

Losers

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.

Something needs to change to avoid future incidents like Machado-vs.-Welke

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On Monday, Major League Baseball announced that Padres third baseman Manny Machado was suspended one game and fined an undisclosed amount for “aggressively arguing” and making contact with home plate umpire Bill Welke after a controversial strike three call in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game against the Rockies in Colorado. The clip of the incident is below, showing that Welke’s call was poor. Machado’s behavior was also poor, as he indeed made contact — inadvertently or not — with Welke and repeatedly swore at him. Machado also threw his bat, though it was not in anyone’s direction and no one was put in harm’s way.

Machado chose to appeal his suspension, as is his right. While that matter is in the process of being resolved, the Major League Umpires Association put out a lengthy statement on Facebook and a shorter but hashtag-laden post on Twitter. The statements were problematic for a number of reasons, chiefest being that the union is publicly commenting on an ongoing matter. MLB can keep Machado’s suspension at one game, which seems likely, or it can reduce his suspension to zero games. The league can also choose to reduce or remove the fine as well. Once the matter is resolved, the MLBUA should feel free to comment publicly on the matter.

MLBUA’s statement was also poorly proofread, hyperbolic, and creates a very legitimate argument for bias against Machado and/or the Padres going forward. The MLBUA described Machado as “violently” throwing his bat “with no regard to anyone’s safety.” It continued, “It is NOT okay to throw a temper tantrum and physically touch someone of authority, just because you don’t agree.”

MLBUA then moralized, asking, “What does this teach the MLB’s immense and ongoing influential youth movement trying to attract young fans to the game? Major League Baseball has to always lead by example in all cases of violent behavior, on and off the field.” It closed out, saying that the union was “extraordinarily disappointed” in MLB’s “inaction.”

Among the hashtags MLBUA used on Twitter were “#TemperTantrum,” “#RepeatOffender,” and “#Nonsense.”

Major League Baseball then released a statement on Tuesday night, saying, “…we do not believe it is appropriate for the union representing Major League Umpires to comment on the discipline of players represented by the Players Association.” The league added, “We also believe it is inappropriate to compare this incident to the extraordinarily serious issue of workplace violence.”

Whoever put out the message on behalf of the MLBUA should have asked themselves, “What is my purpose here and for whom am I posting this?” The entire purpose of a trade union is to create a cohesive unit, establishing bargaining power on behalf of labor versus capital. So, MLBUA is not writing this for fans, for players, or for MLB executives; it is publicly commenting for umpires. An ancillary benefit might be to engender public support for umpires vis-a-vis Welke.

It must then ask itself if the statement creates solidarity among umpires. And I think that’s a solid no. Machado is not the first player and will not be the last to make contact with an umpire and to throw a “temper tantrum” of that magnitude. So why single Machado out and die on this hill today? I would be shocked if more than a handful of umpires outside of Welke and his closest confidantes appreciated the MLBUA reacting the way it did. It doesn’t help them achieve any union-specific goals and might actually hurt them. Repeatedly referring to Machado’s actions as a “temper tantrum” and “nonsense,” and calling him a “repeat offender” is unprofessional. It’s something an Internet commenter would write in the heat of the moment, not the representative of a trade union in one of the most profitable industries in the country. Furthermore, in singling out Machado, Machado himself as well as his teammates have a legitimate reason to believe Welke and his crew might be biased against them not just for the remainder of the season but for the foreseeable future.

On a more pedantic note, the MLBUA wrote that it is not okay for players to act the way Machado did against “someone of authority.” It’s not the power that should shield umpires from workplace violence; it’s their humanity. Machado should no more or less scream and yell at an umpire than he should anyone else in any walk of life. However you rank umpires, coaches, front office executives, teammates, opponents, fans, etc. — they should all be treated equally.

All of this being said, there was one part of MLBUA’s statement that rang true. As mentioned, Welke did suffer violence in the workplace. I disagree with MLB that the comparison was inappropriate. There is nuance to what constitutes “workplace violence.” Is it a mass shooting? Of course not. But in no other employment setting would it be appropriate for one person to scream, curse, and throw items across the room during a disagreement. The union correctly wrote, “Physical contact simply cannot be tolerated.” The crux of all of this is that Major League Baseball doesn’t discourage altercations between umpires and players/coaches. Things have gotten better since the implementation of instant replay, but some instances — especially ball/strike judgment — can turn into very heated altercations.

MLB needs a flat rule instructing players and coaches not to argue with umpires. The team of the offending person(s) would incur an in-game penalty as well as a potential fine and suspension. In exchange for this loss of power on the part of players and coaches, the umpires should be subject to actual oversight. As it stands, umpires are almost never punished in any way for any kind of behavior towards players and coaches, nor are they often punished for poor results in terms of correct calls made. The umpires already have the advantage with their authority; their lack of oversight puts that advantage on steroids, which is why there’s often so much frustration. Umpires instigate confrontations a non-negligible amount of the time. If they felt like they would actually be held accountable for it, they might be much more reluctant to act, for example, the way Ron Kulpa did towards the Astros in early April.

MLBUA helped gain that power imbalance for its members, so it isn’t likely to give it up very easily. I don’t see my utopian dream coming to fruition anytime soon. But that’s the crux of every umpire-involved confrontation: authority. Umpires and players/coaches need to be on a level playing field in that regard, and the rules need to be crystal clear on what kind of behavior is allowed from both sides. Until that happens, we’ll be seeing a Machado-vs.-Welke incident once or twice every year ad infinitum.