Postscript: Thu 01 Aug 2019 01:16 PM EDT
The only blockbusters of this year’s MLB Trade Deadline were the Zack Greinke & Jake Bauer deals. Both were for controllable, elite starting pitchers, which is what wins the World Series. Houston won this Deadline as a buyer, by getting Greinke for 2+ years which means 3 play-off runs. Jake Bauer is only signed through 2020, and the Reds aren’t a play-off team, so they lose. The San Diego Padres won that 3-way deal, by acquiring the best prospect dealt this trade season, while only giving up a young, cost-controlled slugger– of which they had a surplus. Taylor Trammell is in AA, and has star make-up & tools in CF.
Besides me, only AJ Cassavell, the beat writer for the Padres on MLB.com has reported these facts & goings-on accurately. Only prospect guru Keith Law correctly called this as a big win for the Padres. As outlined below, most ESPN & MLB head writers are too biased to provide any objectivity or clarity on what occurred. They represent fake news in sports.
Once again, San Diego Padres GM AJ Preller pulled off the biggest deal of the MLB Trade Deadline. Cleveland’s RHP Jake Bauer was the best value pitcher who moved this trade season, and San Diego landing center-fielder Taylor Trammell from Cincinnati was the best prospect. That’s the name of the game when you are a seller– get the best prospect(s).
AJ Preller did it again, as the Padres receive lefty-hitting CF prospect (#30 MLB pipeline) Taylor Trammell (below) from Cincinnati. The Reds get Trevor Bauer from Cleveland. The Indians get OF Yasiel Puig & LHP Scott Moss from Cincinnati; OF Franmil Reyes, LHP Logan Allen & A-level 3B prospect Victor Nova from San Diego.
It only cost the Padres slugger Franmil Reyes, who slots better as a DH in the AL. Padres have depth in the corner outfield with Hunter Renfroe having a similar profile and being better defensively. Wil Myers has been benched due to poor performance, with a near-40% strikeout rate. He will now get more starts again, which is needed, but Myers is an expensive problem. The San Diego Padres will have to eat contract to move him, and I imagine he was brought up in proposed trade discussions by Preller. The Padres are again stuck with Wil Myers, and expect him to perform better, otherwise he’ll be benched again. They still have CF’s Franchy Cordero & Travis Jankowski as in-house outfield options.
At this point, I will admit that I was wrong about the famous Wil Myers–Steven Souza Jr–Trea Turner deal. AJ Preller gave up the best player, but it was justifiable. He was looking for a franchise player, and Wil Myers had that potential as a former minor league player-of-the-year. Turner has a more limited upside and is an injury risk due to his style. Trea Turner was the best Padres prospect Preller inherited when he took over as GM in August 2014. The Padres farm system was ranked dead last in MLB. Five years later it is #1, by far. This is one of his few mistakes, but it wasn’t too costly.
Trea Turner currently has 11.0 WAR to Wil Myers 9.7 according the baseball reference, so it wasn’t a huge loss, but still the Padres would be better with SS/2B Trea Turner than OF/1B Will Myers. Turner is two years younger. It’s a gamble AJ Preller lost, and that will happen when you have to turn everything over as the new GM of a sad-sack franchise that has never won anything.
General managers in MLB are judged by their colleagues not in terms of straight “wins & losses” on each deal, but in the aggregate. Actions need to coordinate with overall objectives that improve the organization’s chances of winning a World Series– either this year or in the near future. In these terms with the Padres it’s always the future, but now the future is closer than ever. Each year that AJ Preller can continue to acquire the best prospects, the longer and more open the Padres “window of contention” becomes.
AJ Preller played this deadline beautifully– AGAIN. By that I mean for the 4th year running. Since his legendary performance in 2016, when he acquired SS Fernando Tatis, Jr & RHP Chris Paddack for stale beans to the White Sox & Marlins, AJ Preller has been the leading GM in MLB. He locks up the trade market these days, because he has what every other team covets– top prospects in numbers at all levels.
AJ Preller has that blend of “scout’s eye” for baseball, along with analytic understanding of what it takes to win. He has an owner with deep pockets, who will spend on whatever AJ Preller needs. Every trade deadline, or hot stove season now seems to begin with, “Who can make a deal with AJ Preller for some of his top prospects?” But it never happens. Preller and Padres beat writer AJ Cassavell played this Trade Deadline beautifully, by downplaying & stringing the Mets along on Noah Syndergaard (below) trade rumors, all of which came straight from New York.
For the record, the Padres have acknowledged they would love to add Noah Syndergaard to their rotation, but not at the price the Mets ask. Keep in mind it’s the Mets & the east coast media who have been pushing a Thor deal to the Padres for at least 18 months now. Last year I recall it was SS Fernando Tatis, Jr and a few pitching prospects, Chris Paddack, Cal Quantrill, etc. for the mighty Mets hurler. That was the Mets proposal, or something like that…
Unfortunately Thor contracted Hand Foot & Mouth disease around the 2018 deadline, which killed any idea of that deal. The Mets & company tried again this past winter, but Preller decided to go with his young arms, until it’s time to get a real ace. A good GM goes into that acquisition mode when his team is a threat to win the World Series, which the Padres aren’t in 2019.
Nevertheless, the Mets went hard after the Padres farm system again this Trade Deadline, demanding MLB players & prospects this time around for their superhero pitcher with an 2019 ERA over 4.00. Top hitting prospect 2B Luis Urias & CF Manny Margot were floated in the NY/ESPN media, but there was no way AJ Preller was dealing either of them for 2+ years of Syndergaard. How about ace pitching prospects Mackenzie Gore or Luis Patino? These wishful speculations reflecting extreme east coast bias hooked the NY sports media. Preller & his media team fed them enough to remain hopeful, in order to keep them occupied, while he consummated his three-team deal with Cleveland & Cincinnati.
The Amazin’ Mess
So what are the Mets doing? Acquiring RHP Marcus Stroman from the Blue Jays for their top pitching prospects three days earlier was a head-scratcher. Was it to flip him? Why did the Mets keep Stroman from the NY media until after the trade deadline? How can the Mets expect to flip a pitcher they just acquired, for more than they paid, with only three days with which to do it? Doesn’t make any sense, but these are the Mets, so anything is possible.
Of course the industry responded by collectively sitting on their hands, while the clock expired on the Mets. So much for that idea. Stroman now can’t be traded until after the season, making him less valuable. The people running this Amazin’ Mess, behave similarly to those at the Federal Reserve who believe they can will things to happen– through hype & fiat.
The Mets still have too many expensive starting pitchers, for a team that sits in 4th place in the lackluster (over-rated) NL East. Their bullpen is a disaster, offense inconsistent, and defense one of the worst in MLB. Being in the same division as the Miami Marlins keeps them out of last place, while inflating their deluded expectations. This team has no chance of winning in the post-season, yet they are trying to spin their inability to deal Noah Syndergaard (and the rest) for a boatload of top prospects, as a commitment to “winning in 2019.” And people wonder where fake news comes from, and why it exists.
After the Marcus Stroman acquisition, the Mets traded starter Jason Vargas to the Phillies for 26-yo AA catcher Austin Bossart, to compensate for dealing away their two best pitching prospects. I have no idea what the Mets are doing, but what ever it is, it’s going to fail badly. These deals have no chance of turning out well in the short term, or long term.
By mid-day Wednesday, July 31, 2019, the MLB “Trade Talk” headlines led with “Mets pull Thor off trade market (source).” Noah Syndergaard pitched 7 innings last night against the White Sox in Chicago giving up one run, unearned, in a no-decision the Mets won. Syndergaard in 2019: 7-5, 4.10 ERA in 134.0 IP. That’s not an ace, but his stuff is good enough to be priced as a #2 starter with two years of team-control remaining.
The problem is the Mets publicly value Thor as an ace, when in 5 years he’s never pitched 200 innings in a season. Noah Syndergaard is a huge injury risk, and the Mets have a reputation for mishandling pitching. You can not get the NY media/Mets management to admit to any of these facts, nor rationally discuss what they mean.
An analogy that personifies Mets management in this situation is the high school boy who boasts he will only take the prettiest girl to prom. He arrogantly claims he is the stud on the market, and any girl should be honored to be his date. Of course, it’s human nature to reject such chutzpah. So when prom day arrives, and our self-acclaimed Don Juan still has no date, he proclaims to take himself off the market, because he didn’t receive an acceptable offer. All his loser buddies (ESPN, etc) prop him up, as group-think rules in this crowd.
The Mets think they are stockpiling pitching, for when it becomes a “seller’s market.” The problem is that markets move on, and the Mets are stuck with devaluing assets they don’t need, can’t afford, and can’t get return value in trade– due to their own incompetence & intransigence.
Trade Deadline Conclusions
The second Wild Card has changed the MLB Trade Deadline significantly, to the point where 1) there is just one deadline, July 31; and 2) the fact that so many teams remain in contention that it’s hard to determine who is (and who should be) buying or selling. The San Francisco Giants were out of contention a month ago, but have become hot since. Therefore they aren’t trading their ace LHP Madison Bumgarner. The second wild card is within reach.
It’s the right move to hold on, because the Giants wouldn’t get fair value for him anyways. The ace pitching market values prospects above rentals. Expect the Giants to offer Bumgarner a qualifying offer (QO) in November, and it will be interesting to see if he accepts. It will be ~$18M for one year. If MadBum declines, he could end up like Astros LHP Dallas Keuchel, who had to wait until the following June amateur draft for the draft pick compensation to expire for him to sign a fair “free agent” deal.
I haven’t published on MLB since relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel & starter Dallas Keuchel signed with the Cubs & Braves in June. Here’s the bottom line. Kimbrel is toast, and the Red Sox knew it. Kimbrel still got a 3/$43 from the Cubs, which is another disaster free agent overpay for the northsiders. So far in 2019 Kimbrel is: 0-2, 6.75 ERA in 10.2 IP.
LHP Dallas Keuchel signed with the Braves on June 7 for 1/$13, and is 3-4, 3.86 ERA in 49 IP so far. As you can see, the Braves did better here, but still Dallas Keuchel isn’t anything that moves the needle significantly towards them winning a World Series. That’s why teams didn’t want to give up the draft pick to sign either of these pitchers. That’s the risk a free agent takes these days when he declines a QO. The rule is: you need to be worth MUCH more than that pick to decline, otherwise accept, and become a unrestricted free agent next year. Otherwise the QO-tagged player will get squeezed in free agency. A player can only be made a QO once.
RHP Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Los Angeles Dodgers is an example of someone who understood this situation correctly and is now set for his payday, because he was patient and willing to play one more year at $18 million, in order to become a true free agent next year. Ryu didn’t have to wait out suitors that weren’t calling this past winter like Keuchel, Kimbrel and so many others. Maybe that’s why Hyun-Jin Ryu is having a career year, just when he needs one. It’s like he planned it.
Frontline starters Robbie Ray, Madison Bumgarner, Noah Syndergaard, Zach Wheeler, etc were all rumored to be available, and they all stayed put. The fact is all these pitchers have more value to their teams than what they would net in trade return, due to their contracts and/or 2019 performance.
In a last-minute Trade Deadline blockbuster, the Astros acquired Diamondbacks ace RHP Zack Greinke for 1B/OF Seth Beer (Astros’ No. 3 prospect, per MLB Pipeline), right-hander J.B. Bukauskas (No. 4), righty Corbin Martin (No. 5) and infielder Josh Rojas (No. 22). Houston receives $24 million as part of the deal. Greinke has two more years at $35M/year on his contract. The Houston Astros are a smart organization trying to win it again, and this is how you do it. Notice that they held on to their top prospect OF Kyle Tucker. The best GM’s are the ones who can declare certain players & prospects untouchable, and still make deals.
Outside of Stroman, Bauer & Greinke it was the likes of innings-eaters such as Tanner Roark, Daniel Hudson Aaron Sanchez & Drew Pomeranz that led the list of pitchers moved at the deadline. The market had already been set by the Jake Bauer-Taylor Trammell trade, and few teams were willing to or capable of making that kind of deal. That’s why movement in the trade market was so limited.
The truth is that the Mets & Reds had no business obtaining these starters, for what they gave up. These are two 4th-place teams, giving up valuable prospects for one-year pitcher rentals. The Mets decided to make a splash & crapped out, while the Indians & Padres needed a third team to take on Jake Bauer to make their deal. The Reds were there, and they’ll probably be in 4th place next July, shopping Jake Bauer before he leaves as a free agent. That isn’t planning, it’s impulsive buying.
Relievers were also capped by AJ Preller in the form of Kirby Yates (above), the best closer available. For the past two seasons it was Brad Hand. This time, no one made an acceptable offer, so there was no deal for the Padres ace closer. The market followed by going after lower-end relievers at the finish. Lots of middle relievers, bench players, PTBNL & international slot money was exchanged, but few impact players or pitchers. That was the story of this MLB trade season.