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Trevor Bauer-Yasiel Puig trade was weird

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Let’s start out by noting how very strange it is for a team pushing for a playoff spot to trade away a front line starting pitcher. A team, mind you, which has had a lot of injuries to its starting pitching. The Indians have lost ace Corey Kluber to a broken arm, near-ace Carlos Carrasco to friggin’ cancer and have seen a couple of their other starters felled by various injuries. Trevor Bauer has been basically the only guy who has taken the ball every fifth day and . . . Cleveland sent him packing. That is not the sort of thing that happens very often.

Yet this is not the white flag trade it may have seemed to be if you brought it up a few weeks ago (as we did). Indeed, a couple of things happened which make this a far more defensible trade than it may have seemed to be before: (1) the Indians’ displeasure with Bauer became far more apparent; and (2) the Indians got a pretty decent return for the guy.

I don’t think Bauer’s “throw the ball over the fence” thing from Sunday was not some sort of tipping point when it came to his attitude. His attitude and general disposition have been pretty well known for a while and no one connected to the Indians has suggested that they were totally cool with him until that happened. But just how little effort anyone with the Indians made to defend Bauer after Sunday was pretty telling. You get the sense that they were just barely tolerating him to begin with and that, at some point, too much is too much.

Still, you don’t deal him unless your team gets better by doing so or, at the very least, no worse. And I think the Indians accomplished that.

Yasiel Puig is not what we all thought he might become five or six years ago. He’s an above average defender with some pop who can go on hot streaks but, in the long run, he can be pitched to. We’ve seen that this year. It’s his worst offensive year by OPS+ so far but he raked in June (.287/.340/.609) and in the first half of July. He’s been cold again since the break. The Indians only have him for August, September and however long they go in the playoffs. The bet is that they can get one or two hot streaks from him. The sort of hot streaks, of which he is very much capable, in which he can win a few games single-handedly. That’s a plus for the stretch for a team that has the worst offense of all of the American League contenders. Especially given that he can play all three outfield positions and DH, allowing Terry Francona to cover up holes and platoon as needed.

But it’s not just Puig, of course. In Franmil Reyes the Indians got even more power. Reyes is hitting .263/.312/.535 with 27 homers with half of his games coming at Petco Park. While he doesn’t have the overall value of Puig thanks to his defensive shortcomings, the Indians desperately need that pop. They’ll have it for the stretch and for several years given that Reyes is only in his second season. All of that amounts to the Indians, yes, trading a sometimes ace but getting no worse for doing so. Indeed, I think they probably got a little better.

As for the other two teams in this deal:

  • The Padres did well for themselves. The prospect the Reds sent them — Taylor Trammell — is a good one. He’s having some issues at Double-A this year but he is still just 21. In the long run he’s a far better fit for the Padres outfield due to his speed and glove (though his arm is suspect). Yes, it’s something of a gut punch for Padres fans who have come to love Reyes and his power and who really, really want to contend next year — Trammell will not be in the bigs until 2021 at the absolute earliest, I suspect — but the Padres should want to make themselves good for the next decade, not just for the next year or two before Reyes becomes a serious liability in the outfield. Prospects can bust, but as I sit here right now I’d rather have Trammell for the next several years than Reyes. At least if I’m not in contention right at this moment, which the Padres are not;
  • The Reds end of this is weird. Yes, Bauer is a big improvement for their rotation, but (a) he’s moving to a homer-happy park and will be facing far tougher divisional opponents than he did in the AL Central; and (b) he’s a free agent after the 2020 season. If the Reds are going to try to gear up and go for it in 2020, great. I suppose it could happen. In the event they are not in a playoff race this time next year, though, the best they can do is flip Bauer at the deadline in which he’ll bring back far less than Taylor Trammell. The Reds are always interesting and if you squint you can almost see them making a big jump next year, but that’s only if you squint. The odds favor them having, in the long run, traded a good prospect for a marginal one and about a year of Trevor Bauer. That kind of thing won’t break them but I don’t really see why they wouldn’t have been better served simply doing nothing and not involving themselves in this deal.

So, that’s where it stands now. Let’s check back in October to see how it worked out for Cleveland. And in, I dunno, 2023 or something to see how it worked out for the Padres and Reds.

If 2020 season is cancelled, which teams would be hurt the most?

Mookie Betts
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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recently expressed his optimistic outlook, saying that he hoped the league would begin “gearing back up” in May. That would put a regular season return potentially at the end of June or at some point in July. He expressed that the league may have to get creative, likely referring to ideas like playing doubleheaders, extending the season deep into fall, and playing some games at neutral parks in warm-weather areas.

Manfred isn’t the only one champing at the bit for a return to normalcy. President Trump recently said he wanted to “open” the economy back up by Easter, meaning that our social isolation plan could be done in two weeks. And, frankly, I’m sure many of us are starting to become a little stir-crazy as we attempt to flatten the curve.

It’s hard to imagine life returning to normal when Coronavirus (COVID-19) is really starting to spread in the United States. It would be ill-advised for us to go back to business as usual. This is a time when we need to put other interests ahead of business interests. Frankly, there’s a very real possibility that there is no MLB season in 2020. Or, at the very least, there may be a point when Manfred has to choose between starting a season or protecting the health of the players and coaches, journalists, fans, and all of the many people that would interact with them and potentially become vectors for the virus.

In the event the 2020 season is cancelled, which teams stand to lose the most? Let’s take a look at some contenders.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The most obvious of the bunch. The club swung a deal with the Red Sox a month and a half ago to acquire the 2018 AL MVP along with David Price in exchange for Alex Verdugo, Connor Wong, and Jeter Downs. Betts was a huge upgrade to an already potent Dodger roster, one which won 106 games during the regular season last year.

Betts, however, is a free agent after the 2020 season. MLB owners and the MLBPA reached an agreement last week stating that, if there is no season, players would still get credit for a full year of service time. If the season is canceled, the Dodgers very well may have given up three good young players and taken on a lot of salary for basically nothing. They’ll get to keep Price, who is under contract for two more years after this, but that’s no consolation.

The Dodgers also have some other important players potentially hitting free agency after the 2020 season: Justin Turner, Kiké Hernández, Joc Pederson, and Pedro Báez.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds had a better 2019 campaign than their 75-87 record indicated. They finished in fifth place from 2015-18 before last year’s fourth place finish. The club acquired Sonny Gray from the Yankees before the season and picked up Trevor Bauer from the Indians at the trade deadline. Eugenio Suárez, Aristides Aquino, and Michael Lorenzen were among a handful of players who shone brightly as well.

As a result of a roster on the come-up, the Reds bolstered the roster even more, picking up free agents Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas. The Reds signed both players to four-year deals, so they will still be around when baseball eventually resumes, even if it’s next year, but Moustakas will be 32 and Castellanos will be 29. It’s a pretty big deal to miss 25 percent of their contracts in what are, on average, the seasons likeliest to be their best.

Bauer, by the way, can become a free agent after the season. That’s a pretty big deal, too.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies were supposed to be competitive last year, but they fell a bit flat, finishing exactly at .500 with an 81-81 record. GM Matt Klentak continued to bolster the roster a year after inking Bryce Harper to what was then the richest contract in baseball history (13 years, $330 million). This past offseason, he signed Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million deal. They also added Didi Gregorius on a one-year deal.

This is a team meant to be an NL East contender in 2020, to finally reach the postseason which it hasn’t done since 2011. If the season is cancelled, that’s one very valuable year out of its window completely gone. That is even more the case upon realizing that catcher J.T. Realmuto, arguably the best player at his position in baseball right now, is a free agent going into 2021. The two sides have discussed a contract extension, but that was tabled as of two weeks ago.

The Phillies haven’t had stability at the catcher position since Carlos Ruiz in the early- to mid-2010’s. They do have some catchers among their top-30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, in Deivy Grullon, Rafael Marchan, and Rodolfo Duran, but none of them are J.T. Realmuto. Realmuto is a guy you want to keep around if possible, especially considering the scarcity of his caliber of talent at that position.

. . .

This is a partial list, so this is not to say that teams omitted would not suffer at all from a lost season. You can see the factors that determine whether or not a team has a lot at stake this year: splashy trades, free agent signings, stars potentially becoming free agents after the season, etc.

In general, every team would be devastated by a lost season not just due to the lost development time or the loss of an attempt to win a championship, but because of lost revenues. This is going to have a ripple effect through the baseball economy. Teams will likely become less active in the free agent market, to name one of many potential effects.