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Three winners and three losers from the trade deadline

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The 2019 trade deadline has passed. Unlike in past years, there is no non-waiver trade deadline, so this was it for major trades for teams wanting to recoup value on soon-to-depart players and for teams looking to make upgrades for the stretch run. With that in mind, here are three winners and three losers from the trade deadline.

Winners

  • Houston Astros

The Astros’ starting rotation was already scary, led by Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, not to mention a reformed Wade Miley. Now add Zack Greinke into the mix. You will be hard-pressed to find a scarier rotation in October. Greinke is 35 years old and quite expensive, and it cost the Astros four top-30 prospects. However, Grienke is having his best season since 2015, holding a 2.90 ERA with 135 strikeouts and 21 walks in 146 innings of work.

The Astros also acquired Aaron Sanchez and Joe Biagini from the Blue Jays. Biagini has been solid out of the ‘pen, posting a 3.86 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 49 innings. Sanchez has struggled mightily across 23 starts, losing a league-high 14 games with a 6.07 ERA. Moving him to the bullpen, however, may help him turn things around.

  • Atlanta Braves

The Braves addressed a major area of need in the bullpen, picking up Chris Martin from the Rangers yesterday as well as Shane Greene and Mark Melancon today. The 30-year-old Greene is the big get, as the right-hander has been dominant closing out games for the Tigers. He has 22 saves with a 1.18 ERA and a 43/12 K/BB ratio in 38 innings. Bumping everyone on the depth chart down a notch is a big deal.

Melancon, 34, isn’t the dominant reliever he was earlier this decade, but he’s still reliable. In 46 1/3 innings with the Giants, Melancon posted a 3.50 ERA with 44 strikeouts. Martin, 33, had slightly more success with the Rangers, putting up a 3.08 ERA with 43 strikeouts and just four walks in 38 innings.

Ideally, the Braves would have added another starter to push Kevin Gausman out of the rotation but it’s not a huge deal that they didn’t.

  • Cleveland Indians

The Indians were part of a three-team deal, reported yesterday, that saw Trevor Bauer go to the Reds and Yasiel Puig pack his bags for Cleveland. Joining Puig are Franmil Reyes along with Logan Allen and minor leaguers Scott Moss and Victor Nova.

Going into the 2019 season, the outfield was the Indians’ biggest weakness. It was such a glaring need that it was shocking that the Indians did nothing to address the issue in the offseason. Adding Puig and Reyes will make a tremendous impact. The Indians’ aggregate .708 OPS from left fielders ranked 26th among 30 teams. Their .695 OPS from center fielders ranked 18th.

Puig is having a down year, owning a .777 OPS which is roughly 50 points below his career average. Still, he has 22 home runs. Reyes posted an .849 OPS and 27 home runs for the Padres prior to the trade. Their power will be a welcome addition to a team that entered Wednesday having hit the fifth-fewest homers in the AL.

Losers

  • Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers are a team with few flaws, but the bullpen sticks out like a sore thumb. The bullpen’s aggregate 4.17 ERA still ranks in the top-third of the league, but standards are high for a 70-39 team with 100 percent playoff odds at the end of July. Closer Kenley Jansen hasn’t been his usual dominant self, especially lately. He has allowed eight runs in his last 14 appearances. None of the Dodgers’ other relievers really have closing experience. Adding, for example, Felipe Vázquez from the Pirates or Shane Greene from the Tigers would have been arguably the single most impactful thing any team could have done at the deadline, considering the context of team need.

Now, sans bullpen upgrade, the Dodgers will have to be content with the fact that Pedro Báez, Yimi García, or Joe Kelly may have to come into a tense spot in a playoff game to pick up Jansen. At the very least, they will have to bridge the gap to him.

  • New York Yankees

The Yankees’ rotation is a mess. Domingo Germán leads their starters with a 4.08 ERA. Thanks to an overpowering offense and an elite back of the bullpen, the Yankees have still managed to accrue a 67-39 record. But can this rotation hold its own in a five- or seven-game postseason series, pitching the way they have? Probably not.

Starting pitching upgrades were available, even beyond the Mets (Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler) who were reportedly hesitant to deal with analytics-oriented teams. The Yankees could’ve acquired Marcus Stroman from the Blue Jays instead of the Mets, or Trevor Bauer from the Indians before they sent him to the Reds. Madison Bumgarner, Mike Minor, Robbie Ray, and Matthew Boyd all remained with their teams through the deadline, so it wasn’t as if other teams were simply beating the Yankees to the punch or outbidding them.

  • Boston Red Sox

The defending champs are nine games out of first place in the AL East, but are only two games out of the AL Wild Card at the moment. This is not a team that is dead in the water, despite failing to live up to expectations following a championship season. Some of it is their own doing, as the club didn’t address the bullpen after losing Craig Kimbrel to free agency. Six different pitchers have picked up saves for the Red Sox this year. Ryan Brasier has accrued the most saves with seven and is currently not even on the active roster. The starting rotation has been underwhelming as well, particularly Chris Sale‘s 4.26 ERA, but they have been operating without a fifth starter for the entire year.

The Red Sox didn’t necessarily need to add a Stroman or Syndergaard. Tanner Roark, Trevor Richards, and even Jason Vargas were guys on the cheaper end of the spectrum who could’ve bolstered the back of the rotation. The bullpen would’ve been best addressed with an impact acquisition like Vázquez or Greene. Alex Colomé, a seemingly under-the-radar reliever, would’ve been a huge get for the Red Sox. Sam Dyson, Ken Giles, Will Smith, and Mychal Givens also would have made an immediate impact.

Ahoy, San Diego: 2019 Winter Meetings Preview

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Over the weekend the baseball world will descended on San Diego, California for the 2019 Winter Meetings. Let’s talk about what’ll go down there in the next week.

 

Free Agents

So far this has been a much brisker offseason than the past two, during which it seemed like no one signed between November and February. This year, however, we have already seen top-30 free agents Zack Wheeler, Yasmani Grandal, Cole Hamels, José Abreu, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Moustakas, and Michael Pineda sign, and a handful of others have inked pacts as well.

Still, there’s a lot of work to be done. Top free agent Gerrit Cole has had some heat around him lately, with the Yankees reportedly hot on his trail, and New York has at least had a conversation with San Diego native and resident Stephen Strasburg as well. Beyond them, Anthony Rendon, Madison Bumgarner, Nicholas Castellanos, and Josh Donaldson are all looking for new employers as well.

At the end of October Rotoworld’s Matthew Pouliot ran down the top 111 free agents, from highest-ranked to lowest, to help you get a jump on who is available.

 

Trades

Free agent signings notwithstanding, we are in an age in which a lot of teams are in cost-savings mode. For that reason some big, MVP-caliber names are reportedly on the trading block, including Mookie Betts of the Red Sox, Francisco Lindor of the Indians and, perhaps, Kris Bryant of the Cubs and Nolan Arenado of the Rockies. Beyond them, there has been chatter about the Dodgers dealing Joc Pederson, the Tigers dealing Matthew Boyd and the Pirates and Rockies shopping anyone worth a bag of balls.

Whether any of those big names switch teams, it’s already been a pretty active trading season so far, and it would not be at all surprising of the transaction wire is humming in the next week. We, of course, will have near-instant breakdowns of every deal that goes down, so make sure you keep a window open with this site on it and hit refresh early and often.

 

Managers on Parade

 

Trade deals and free agent negotiations take place behind closed doors, so we can only talk about those once they happen. One of the major public activities of the Winter Meetings is when all 30 of the managers meet and greet the press.

We have a boatload of new managers this year, all of whom have had their happy little press conferences back in their home cities so far. The press availabilities at the Winter Meetings are a bit more in depth and, quite often, feature managers giving more detailed answers to their philosophies and their plans as they prepare for the 2020 season.

New at the little tables and under the bright lights this year: Jayce Tingler with the Padres, Mike Matheny with the Royals, Gabe Kapler with the Giants, David Ross with the Cubs, Derek Shelton with the Pirates, Joe Maddon with the Angels, Carlos Beltrán with the Mets, and Joe Girardi with the Phillies.

And, yes, the tradition like no other continues this year, as I will be ranking all 30 of the current managers on the basis of handsomeness. Here’s last year’s rankings. The new rankings will go up first thing Monday morning. It’s the silliest thing I do all year and, for better or for worse, it’s the thing I’m best known for. What a life I have.

 

Hall of Fame Vote

The Modern Baseball Era Committee — formerly known as the Veterans Committee — will meet on Sunday to vote in, or not vote in, new inductees for the Hall of Fame. For the past two weeks I’ve been profiling the candidates. Here are those profiles:

Committee members get four votes each. If I had four I’d give them to Whitaker, Evans, Simmons, and Miller, but you never know what the real voters will do. We’ll have the results up on Sunday evening once the vote is made public.

 

Major League Baseball vs. Minor League Baseball

One thing a lot of people don’t know about the Winter Meetings is that it’s put on, primarily, by Minor League Baseball as an organization and the vast majority of the people on the ground at the Winter Meetings either run or work for or are trying to sell stuff to minor league teams. Almost every team’s owner comes and brings along some staffers. Coaches, trainers, scouts, and other team employees who spend most of their year out in the bushes as opposed to back at the big club’s home base attend meetings and hobnob with one another.

Normally that’s all pretty routine. This year, however, it probably won’t be thanks to Rob Manfred’s plan to contract 42 minor league clubs and rearrange a great many more of them across levels and leagues.

As we noted earlier today, that scheme has set off a political firestorm and is no doubt the top agenda item and point of concern for every single minor league official and employee at the Winter Meetings. There are, reportedly, already meetings going on in San Diego about all of this. Expect some news about it at any point in the next week. At this point I’d expect anything from Manfred totally scrapping the plan, to him doubling down on it, to reports of general acrimony and possible legal action and everything in between.

 

The Boring Business of Baseball 

Outside of the transactions, the Hall of Fame stuff, the managers and the minor league contraction intrigue, we’ll likely have more mundane Winter Meetings business. Most people at the Winter Meetings aren’t there for transactions. They’re there to network, seek jobs and discuss the business of baseball like any other industry convention. Ever year we hear about a rule change or a proposal for future rule changes at the Meetings. There is no single rule change that everyone is talking about at the moment, but something will likely pop up. Sometimes we’re completely surprised with that kind of stuff.

 

The Rule 5 Draft

The final event of the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at 8am Pacific time on Thursday morning. You likely have no idea who most of the players who will be selected, but by next summer you may very well know some of them who are either picked or who were made available this week. Max Muncy could’ve been had by anyone a couple of years ago, went un-picked and all he’s done is rake like crazy for the team with the most wins in the National League. Given that even the combined minds of 29 front offices didn’t think he was worth a roster spot last year, you’ll be forgiven for not having any idea about the guys in this year’s Rule 5. But, if you want to at least attempt to be prepared for it, here’s a good place to start.

So, yes, there’s a lot to be done. I’ll be on the scene at the Hyatt Manchester in San Diego — and maybe a few other places around town — bringing you all the best hot stove business we have to offer and, as usual, some more fun odds and ends from baseball’s biggest offseason event.