The 2014 trade deadline came and went with surprising deals that even the most respected baseball analysts could not have predicted. Some trades will set up teams nicely going into the post-season, while others deals have us scratching our heads. Even worse for some teams was not making a move at all and other deals are too early to deem successful or not. Below is my list of the three winners from the trade deadline and the three losers, as I see fitting.
Winners at the Deadline
The clear winners in this year’s trade deadline were the Detroit Tigers. Anytime that you aquire a former Cy Young Award winner to pair with two other Cy Young winners is a dynamite deal. With the acquisition of David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays, the Tigers will go into the playoffs with a starting rotation of Justin Verlander, David Price, last year’s Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez. When a team has this type of rotation, you are setting yourself up for postseason success. And in return the team only had to give up Drew Smyly, Austin Jackson, and Willy Adames. Detroit lost a great right handed bat in Jackson, but with their starting rotation one of the best in recent memory the Tigers just need their bullpen to be solid throughout their playoff run to have a great shot at a World Series Championship.
Prior to the Tigers trading for Price, the Athletics looked as if they would boast the best starting rotation in the American League. They strengthened their rotation earlier this month when they traded for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, but just one day before the trade deadline Oakland traded for Jon Lester and Johnny Gomes in exchange for their power hitting outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
This type of monster trade, where teams trade their best players, almost never happens at the deadline, but it makes sense for both sides in this situation. Oakland is trying to win now and they are not worrying about if they can re-sign Lester once the season is over. The A’s also got Sam Fuld back from the Twins in exchange for left hander Tommy Milone. With Coco Crisp and Josh Reddick expected to be ready for the playoffs, the Athletics are gambling by giving up arguably their best hitter for one of the league’s best pitchers. Only time will tell if this was a good deal or not, but Oakland is telling their fans and the rest of the league that it is World Series or bust.
St. Louis Cardinals
The only reason that I have the St. Louis Cardinals as winners in this year’s trade deadline is because they got two quality pitchers while not having to give up any of their top prospects. I don’t know how much John Lackey has left in the tank, but they only gave up Joe Kelly and Allen Craig, which is a loss that might end up being a mistake down the line. I personally thought the somewhat quiet acquisition of Justin Masterson was the better pitcher received during the trade deadline for St. Louis, even though he has been streaky all season long. With both Michael Wacha and Jamie Garcia on the disabled list, and Shelby Miller having a rather disappointing season, these two trades give the Cardinals flexibility going into the playoffs. Without having to give up top prospect Oscar Taveras, or any other player that factors into their imidiate future, the Cardinals set themselves up to once again be dangerous in the postseason.
Losers at the Deadline
Tampa Bay Rays
I cannot understand what the Tampa Bay Rays were thinking by giving up David Price for next to nothing. There had been rumors circulating for weeks that a third of the league had been scouting Price and would have likely given up a number of young prospects to bring in one of the league’s best pitchers. Instead they trade Price to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Drew Smyly, Nick Franklin, and Willy Adames? This deal hardly seems fair or even logical for the Rays, who basically acquire a middle of the rotation pitcher and two unproven middle infielders. There had been rumors that the team could have made a trade with the Mariners that would have sent Seattle’s best pitching prospect, Taijuan Walker, to Tampa Bay in exchange for Price and infielder Ben Zobrist, but for all we know those trade talks fell through. The worst part of the trade is that Price still had another year on his contract, meaning they could have resign him after next year or even held out for a better and more logical trade offer. Tampa Bay is sending the message to their fans that they are alright with being bad and have no plans of building a great ball team anytime soon.
With the Pirates only two and a half games back of the Brewers for first place in the National League Central, and only a half a game up on the always dangerous Cardinals, the Pirates could have used a big trade deadline acquisition to secure a playoff position for only the second time in the past 20 years. But the Pirates did nothing before the July 31st deadline and this decision could come back to haunt them. Pittsburgh has the top ranked farm system in all of baseball and the fact that they did nothing is surprising, considering they have been active the past three seasons with free agency. There were rumors circulating that the team was looking to rent Jon Lester for the postseason, though CBSsports.com baseball insider Jon Heyman reported on Wednesday that the Pirates weren’t looking for a rental route, but instead were looking to acquire another offensive bat. By the end of it all the Pirates decided to go with the roster they have used all season and they hope there is enough great baseball left to eclipse the Brewers for supremacy in the central.
Just as the Pirates did nothing at the trade deadline, the Phillies were also quiet at the trade deadline and this decision was just as terrible for the complete opposite reason. The Phillies are by no means contenders this season, so why would they not try to move Cliff Lee, Johnathan Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins, or Cole Hamels. All four of these players have playoff experience that could have benefited a contending team while bringing back a number of young players to help a rebuilding team in Philadelphia. I get that it might have been difficult to move Lee and Hamels, who are both expected to make over $20 million next season and players like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard are well past their prime. But the team very well could have packaged veteran right-hander A.J Burnett and Marlon Byrd, who leads the team in home runs. A team like the Pirates would have benefited from both of these players, who were on there playoff roster in 2013. The Phillies remain 10.5 games out of first place and could have used a boost of confidence, and young talent, going into next season.
Too Early to Call
Boston Red Sox
I know that many analysts believe the Boston Red Sox were big winners in the trade deadline by trading Jon Lester for the two time home run champion Yoenis Cespedes, but I still think calling them a winner is too early to call.
The real win would be if the team is able to re-sign Lester in the off-season while still being able to offer Cespedes a large contract after the 2015 season, something the Athletics were rumored to not be positioned to do. The loss of Johnny Gomes isn’t necessarily detrimental to the team in the long run and they set themselves up nicely to make two big signings in the next two seasons. I ultimately think that this trade will be fantastic deal for Boston, but until some of the other pieces fall into place I am not ready to deem this deal a home run.