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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The Warning Track – Week 6

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 lie. 

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. 

 

A Blockbuster in the Making?

For a couple years the Colorado Rockies have tempted 29 other clubs by dangling their star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki like a carrot for one or two or ten young guys (because let’s face it, Tulo is worth it), only to snatch it back in the hopes that their team might one year get out of the basement of the NL West.

Well, in 2015 Tulowitzki is 30 years old and the Rockies continue to be unforgiving to their fans, already nine and a half games back of the Dodgers in their division and losers of 9 of their last 10. .

So, naturally, Tulowitzki came close to taking matters into his own hands and getting the rumor train a-chugging with reports that he was considering asking the organization he has been with his whole career for a trade, only to forego/delay the move.

It all seems pretty inevitable. Tulowitzki is one of the premier shortshops in the majors, and even with his susceptibility to injury – he failed to play in 100 games in two of the last three seasons – he is still a considerable upgrade at the position for several contenders, including the Mets and Mariners, as someone who averages 29 home runs and 101 RBI over a full season.

But all that production in Colorado has been made moot by Rockie pitching, among the league’s worst in recenty years. It’s no different this year with their 5.30 team ERA, the worst in baseball by over half a run. It would be a win-win situation for Colorado and a potential trade partner if they got Tulo’s worth in young pitching with potential as part of a complete rebuild.

And Colorado wouldn’t be surrendering all of its offensive firepower. Player like Nolan Arenado (.291 avg., six home runs, 17 RBI), Charlie Blackmon (.298 average, five home runs, 14 RBI), and Corey Dickerson (.315 average, five home runs, 15 RBI), all aged 28 or under, have done just as much, if not more, than Tulowitzki (.284 average, 2 home runs, 11 RBI) this season.

As a result, for the price of someone hungry to play in October, the Rockies would ask for pitching, pitching, and more pitching, especially when their top two prospects, Jon Gray (7.75 ERA in 33.2 innings) and Eddie Butler (4.24 ERA in 34.0 innings), aren’t exactly tearing it up in the minors.

If another organization was willing to pay that price, Tulo could play this October – something every baseball fans wants to see – and the Rockies could be two or three years away from (finally) winning games on a consistent basis.

Wouldn’t that be a sight to see?

 

Power Rankings

The Cardinals stay strong despite losing their ace, and the Dodgers are giving them a run for their money as the best team in the National League. The AL Central is becoming a fun race to watch, with the Royals, Tigers and surprising Twins all within three games of each other. And a couple of teams make their Fab Five debut thanks to some offensive firepower.

 

Fab Five

1. St. Louis Cardinals (24-12, 1st in the NL Central)

Ranking two weeks ago: 1

An NL-best bullpen (1.71 ERA) and rising offensive attack (5.3 runs over the last ten games) have helped the Redbirds overcome some shaky starts by Adam Wainwright’s (temporary?) replacement Tyler Lyons and Carlos Martinez, who after giving up five earned runs through his first five starts to the season, has given up seven in each of his last two start to inflate his ERA.

The Cards are owners of the second best run differential in baseball at +51, and a weekend series with the Detroit Tigers (21-14) will play a big part in legitimizing them as the best all-around team in baseball, or a club whose easy early schedule plays into their MLB-best record.

 

2. Los Angeles Dodgers (23-12, 1st in the NL West)

Ranking two weeks ago: 5

A 15-4 home record and MLB-best +61 run differential has helped to compensate for a 7-8 road record, as well as an offense that has scored the most runs in baseball (178), along with leading the bigs in home runs (53), on –base percentage (.352), slugging percentage (.485), on-plus-slugging percentage (.837) and walks (138).

Upcoming series’ with the Padres, Braves and Cardinals should test a Dodgers club that hasn’t yet reached its full potential with a subpar Kershaw (1-2, 4.26 ERA through seven starts).

 

3. Kansas City Royals (23-13, 1st in the AL Central)

Ranking two weeks ago: 2

One of only two teams in baseball (St. Louis) whose longest losing streak was two, the Royals took two of three from Detroit, hot on their heels in the Central, to whom they lost an earlier series. They then went on to split a 4-game series with the Rangers. KC is top five in runs scored as well as team ERA, and they’ve shown that they can win without getting physical with their opponents.

 

4. Washington Nationals (20-17, 2nd in the NL East)

Ranking two weeks ago: Not ranked

The team most everyone has pegged to win the World Series has gotten hot as of late, winning 5 of their last 7 and going 7-3 in their last 10 overall. And they’re doing it not with their pitching, which has allowed at least 6 runs four times in the last week, but by the leadership of Bryce Harper, who has burst into the MVP discussion, hitting seven homers in 9 games, with five of those being multi-hit performances. He’s raised his average from .256 to .303 over the last two weeks.

 

5. Chicago Cubs (21-15, 2nd in the NL Central)

Ranking two weeks ago: Not ranked

Welcome to relative consistency, Cubbies.

After losing two of three to the white flag-waving Brewers last weekend, Chicago came back home and cooled off a hot New York Mets team by sweeping all four games, all but one of them being one-run affairs. That’s important if Chicago wants to make any noise in September in October; games like Wednesday’s comeback from being down 5-1 early to win 6-5 will give some experience to Chicago’s youngsters who have yet to experience October.

And speaking of youngsters, Kris Bryant has officially arrived. After a couple weeks of homer-less baseball, he’s hit four in seven games, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

Ace Jon Lester has also settled in, giving up only four runs over his last three starts (15 in his first four) to drop his ERA to just over 4.

 

Flawed Five

1. Milwaukee Brewers (13-23, last in the NL Central)

Telling statistics: 27th team ERA in MLB (4.49), NL-worst .228 team batting average, NL-worst 262 hits (7.5/game)1 dismissed manager

2. Colorado Rockies (12-20, last in NL West)

Telling statistics: 27th in MLB in runs scored (121, 3.9/game), MLB-worst 61 walks (1.9/game), MLB-worst 5.29 ERA, MLB-worst .287 batting average against, NL-worst 26 runs scored in 7-8-9th innings

3. Oakland Athletics (13-24, last in the AL West)

Telling stats: MLB-worst 36 errors (1/game), AL-worst 4.98 bullpen ERA, 27th in MLB in batting average against left-handers (.206)

4. Cleveland Indians (13-21, last in AL Central)

Telling stats: 13th in AL in team ERA (4.49), 13th in AL in batting average against (.267), 13th in AL in runs scored in 7-8-9th innings (38)

5. Philadelphia Phillies (14-23, last in NL East)

Telling stats: MLB-worst 103 runs scored, MLB-worst 19 home runs, 26th in MLB in batting average (.232), 14th in NL in starter ERA (4.85), NL-worst 11.89 ERA with runners in scoring position and two outs, 

 

 

David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at alex.695@hotmail.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.