The Warning Track: The American League Awakens at the Trade Deadline

*all stats are through the beginning of play on August 1st, all contract information provided by http://www.rosterresource.com

Who knew when the Astros acquired Scott Kazmir from Oakland, officially opening the floodgates of MLB trades, we were about to witness one of the wildest flurries of moves in recent memory?

Aces switched uniforms. Clubs on the cusp of postseason contention became World Series favorites. A face of the franchise in the West had to pull out his passport. The balance of power was decidedly shifted to the American League, with seemingly every NL star making the switch.

It all made for an incredibly entertaining week of trades, at least until we get to contracts and numbers. In addition with discussing the short- and long-term effects of the big deals, The Warning Track has also devised its very own unique trade rating; essentially we are adding the “surprise” factor of each trade (from a scale of 1-50) with its “logical” factor on a scale of the same size, resulting in a figure unique to the trade’s initial impact at the deadline.

Make sense? Hey, we said numbers aren’t fun. But we’ll do our best.

The Biggest Impact Trades

Cincinnati sends SP Johnny Cueto to the Royals in exchange for SP/RP Brandon Finnegan, SP John Lamb, SP Cody Reed

Surprise Factor: 18

Logic Factor: 40

Trade Rating: 58

 The team with the best record in the American League – and the second best record in all of baseball – got a much needed boost for their rotation in the form of Johnny Cueto, who is en route to posting a sub-3.00 ERA for the fifth year in a row.

That not only gives a jolt of life to a starting five that ranks 11th in the AL with a 4.35 ERA, but also a legitimate ace and Game 1 starter once October rolls around.

In addition to sending two minor league arms with big league potential to the Reds, Kansas City also shipped Brandon Finnegan, who has a 2.96 ERA in 14 games this season. The 22-year-old will most likely be used to help re-fortify a Reds bullpen that ranks 14th in the NL (4.24 ERA) in the coming years, and he was expendable to the Royals, who boast a bullpen with an MLB-best 2.25 ERA that achieved prominence during the 2014 postseason and hasn’t stopped breaking hitters’ hearts since.

Lamb and Reed will also help bolster a Reds rotation that also traded away Mike Leake to the Giants.

Kansas City took the Giants to Game 7 of the World Series last year, and that was with their ace, James Shields, struggling with a 1-2 record and 6.12 ERA in five postseason starts.

This year, they might not even need to go the distance in the Fall Classic. If peak regular-season Cueto shows up in October, it might have a whole different ending for the Royals, one they were 90 feet away from experiencing last year.

And they’re betting wholeheartedly on it happening; Cueto becomes a free agent following the 2015 season.

Cueto ranked in the top 2 in the NL in 2014 in ERA, wins, Ks, WHIP, BAA, and innings pitched
Cueto ranked in the top 2 in the NL in 2014 in ERA, wins, Ks, WHIP, BAA, and innings pitched.

 Detroit sends SP David Price to the Blue Jays in exchange for SP Daniel Norris, SP Matt Boyd, SP Jairo Labourt

Surprise Factor: 10

Logic Factor: 45

Trade Rating: 55

The Blue Jays are currently in the midst of the majors’ longest active postseason drought, having not had the chance to play in October since 1993. GM Alex Anthopoulos sent a message to the rest of the league over the past week: they’re on a mission to make sure that unfortunate streak comes to an end.

Well, acquiring a legitimate ace in David Price to go along with an MLB-best offense sure seems like a good place to start.

Toronto is lingering one game back of the second wild card in the AL, their MLB-best 5.3 runs/game offset by a pitching staff that ranks 12th in the Junior Circuit with a 3.99 ERA, resulting in a 53-51 record and unfulfilled potential.

The acquisition of Price, who had a 9-4 record and 2.53 ERA with the Tigers this season, changes all of that. Not since the days of Roy Halladay in the 2000s have the Blue Jays had a dependable, consistent No. 1 guy.

It’s possible they acquired Price as a rental – he becomes a free agent at the end of the year, and he is going to be offered buckets and buckets of cash – and they gave up starter Daniel Norris, who had a 2.53 ERA in the minors in 2014, to get him.

But that just legitimizes Anthopoulos’ message: Canada’s team is all in, gunning for home and the World Series, where Price is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA.

 

Colorado sends SS Troy Tulowitzki and RP LaTroy Hawkins to the Blue Jays in exchange for SS Jose Reyes, RP/SP Miguel Castro, SP Jeff Hoffman, SP Jesus Tinoco

Surprise Factor: 47

Logic Factor: 38

Trade Rating: 85  

But Toronto team wouldn’t stop at Price, oh no. Because if you have the MLB’s scariest offense, why not make it even scarier?

In what many deemed to be an impossible task, the club north of the border was able to reel in star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from the Rockies, as well as veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins, who had a 3.33 ERA in 26 appearances for Colorado this season.

Almost everyone was shocked when the trade was announced, including Tulo himself, and for good reason. Colorado seemed to be committed to Tulowitzki, as in 10-year-contract-that-runs-through-2020 committed. But he does seem to be taking it all in stride.

In return, Rockies got three young, promising arms, officially going younger to partially remodel their team into one led by Nolan Arenado (25 homers, 78 RBI), Carlos Gonzalez (21 homers, 52 RBI), and now 32-year-old Jose Reyes (.281, 4 homers, 35 RBI), who has become an MLB journeyman over recent years.

With the move, Toronto fully upgraded at the shortstop position, as Tulo’s 2015 season has been superior to Reyes’ in nearly every way (.303 average, 13 homers, 56 RBI), and they have him for a few more years beyond the 2015 season, solidifying them as one of the big winners of the trade deadline.

If the baseball landscape was Westeros, and the Canada-American border The Wall, be prepared, American League…Winter is coming. In the form of the Toronto Blue Jays.  

 

Philadelphia sends SP Cole Hamels and RP Jake Diekman to the Rangers in exchange for SP Matt Harrison, C Jorge Alfaro, OF Nick Williams, SP Jake Thompson, SP Alec Asher, SP Jerad Eickhoff

Surprise Factor: 33

Logic Factor: 44

Trade Rating: 77

It finally happened: the Cole Hamels saga, the question of which contender he would be traded to, finally came to an end this week.

Would he go to the Dodgers, a possible No. 3 starter where he when be the No. 1 almost anywhere else? Would the Yankees land him, in the hopes of being led to their first postseason berth since 2012? Could he be sent to the Cubs as another big piece in the greatest baseball rebirth of the 21st century?

Hamels brings consistency and postseason experience to.....
Hamels brings consistency and postseason experience to…..

Answer D, actually: None of the above. In the end, Hamels, along with relief arm Jake Diekman, was sent to the 50-52 Texas Rangers for a whole bunch of Grade-A prospects as well as Matt Harrison, who has a career ERA of 4.21. The trade puts plans in motion for two franchises in very different stages of their reboots: the Rangers, fighting to stay relevant for next year and beyond in the face of overwhelming underperformance, and the Phillies, who are essentially now where the Cubs were a few years ago.

This is an agreement made solely for long-term interests: the Rangers hope they can contend next year and the Phillies hope they get to that level by 2020.

For Texas, it all comes down to health, seemingly their nemesis of the past two seasons. Their roster is full of stars, both fresh and experienced, and Hamels will boost a rotation that ranks 13th in the AL this season with a 4.44 ERA, as well as adding postseason experience.

Add in the return of Josh Hamilton, who led the Rangers to back-to-back Fall Classic appearances in 2010 and 2011, and the Rangers are hungry to steal some thunder from their upstart division rival Houston Astros…provided they can stay healthy.

Meanwhile, in the Senior Circuit, the Phillies acquired three prospects that ranked in the top five of Texas’ farm system at the beginning of the season, a pivotal cog in the massive reboot that will give the new Star Wars a run for its money.

 

Milwaukee sends CF Carlos Gomez and SP/RP Mike Fiers to the Astros in exchange for OF Domingo Santana, OF Brett Phillips, SP Josh Hader, SP Adrian Houser

Surprise Factor: 20

Logic Factor: 35

Trade Rating: 55

 Many criticized the Astros’ acquisition of Scott Kazmir over a week ago, saying it was their strikeout-prone lineup that needed help, and not their pitching staff that is already second best in the AL.

But Houston wasn’t done dealing, solidifying their status as postseason contender by snagging offensive and defensive nightmare Carlos Gomez from the Mets Brewers in a message that says they’re ready to capitalize on being 2015’s most surprising squad.

Gomez is batting .258 this season to go along with 8 home runs and 43 RBI, and he shines in the field too; he is 11th among active players with a defensive WAR of 11.1, which is tops for his new club.

In addition, Mike Fiers (3.89 ERA in 2015) gives the Astros rotation even more depth and potential to be on shutdown status in the postseason, seeing as they now have two pitchers (Kazmir, Dallas Keuchel) that rank in the top five in the AL in ERA.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee, still recovering from 2014’s second-half meltdown, is getting a plethora of young players in return, including probable Gomez replacement Domingo Santana, who is hitting .256 with 2 homers and 8 RBI in 14 games this season. Kyle Lohse, Francisco Rodriguez and Jonathan Lucroy all become free agents either this offseason or after 2016, so for all intents and purposes the Brewers might be in the beginning stages of a massive, multi-year rebuilding process in the same vein as the Phillies.  

Detroit sends OF Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets in exchange for SP Michael Fulmer, SP Luis Cessa

Surprise Factor: 17

Logic Factor: 45

Trade Rating: 72

Joke’s on you, baseball. Because, for the first time in seemingly forever, it sure isn’t on the Mets.

The same Mets we chided and criticized for years as being the joke of the sport, unable to stand up to the Yankees in the slightest, had an unreal start to the season and haven’t slowed down.

Rather, they’re neck-and-neck with the Washington Nationals for first place in the NL East as the calendar flips to August.

However, they remain one of the most imbalanced teams in the league, led by the third-best pitching staff in the NL (3.26 ERA) but held back by a deeply flawed offense that has scored an MLB-worst 3.54 runs/game.

Solution? Slugger Yoenis Cespedes line. Cespedes is already tops on the Mets with those numbers, as are his 18 homers and 61 RBI. GM Sandy Alderson might be on to something.

It’s a no-nonsense trade for the Mets, but also one that makes complete sense. And the Tigers, who are “rebooting” for next season, didn’t ask for much: two minor league pitchers who probably would never have seen the light of day at Citi Field, what with young phenoms 27-year-old Jacob deGrom and 22-year-old Noah Syndergaard pitching out of their minds, and 24-year-old Steven Matz waiting in the wings of a full-time rotation spot.

Cespedes brings a perennial Home Run Derby contender to Citi Field...among other things, of course
Cespedes brings a perennial Home Run Derby contender to Citi Field…among other things, of course

So be ready, baseball. The Mets have made their intentions knows. Time to start rooting for a Subway World Series, the first since 2000.

Thanks for reading!

 

The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a weekly basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as off-the-field issues like first-time Commissioner Rob Manfred, which players could be headed to new homes, and A-Rod’s latest conundrum. 

If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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