August 01, 2006


Trade Grades

One final post before the trade deadline is gone for good, and then I'll move on to other stuff. But I couldn't resist the urge to grade how each team did at the deadline. Trades can still be made in August, but it's a harder process that involves them clearing waivers. Maybe I'll explain it later, but that's a story for a different time.

These grades represent what the front office did in the month of July, and focus only on what the team did (and not any other teams). For example, one could call the Red Sox losers from the deadline because the Yankees made themselves better, but that's not their fault. Only the moves that each team did (or didn't) make are being considered. Initially I was going to make this your standard winners/losers column, but then I decided to expand it to all 30 teams. So if you find this boring, either scroll down to your favorite team or just click the "back" button on your browser. It's that easy.

Boston: Most people have been killing the Sox for not making a deal, with the archrival Yankees making arguably the biggest deal of the deadline. But I don't think it was really Boston's fault - there really was not a deal to be done. None of the big names (Tejada, Abreu, Soriano) would be a good fit in Boston. And any smaller names - either position players or relievers - would not really be an upgrade over anyone the Sox have right now. The only need the Sox had was a starter (unless you believe the David Wells experiment will work. And, by the way, if you actually do believe the David Wells experiment will work, you might want to make sure you haven't suffered any dehabilitating brain injuries recently). And there were no good starters on the market. They made a run at Wells' evil twin Kip (from the Pirates), but he went to the Rangers. And I'm not sure Kip Wells would have been an upgrade - a mediocre pitcher going from the NL to the AL isn't exactly a formula for success. They inquired about Chicago's starters, and reportedly offered Coco Crisp for Mark Buerhle. I like that thinking - the Sox have a huge hole in center field - but the White Sox turned them down. Boston could have traded away one or two of their young pitchers (Lester, Hansen, etc.) in desperation, but Epstein was wise to realize that he's better off staying put. Final Grade: B

New York: The Yankees got an upgrade at first base in Craig Wilson, one of the game's best OBP men in Bob Abreu, and a decent fifth starter in Corey Lidle. What did they give up? Shawn Chacon and a package of four mediocre prospects. How did they do it? Only Brian Cashman knows. With the addition of Abreu, the Yankee lineup will be filled, top-to-bottom with guys who take lots of pitches. Opposing pitchers will have their pitch counts in triple digits on a routine basis, and the Yankees will see a lot more middle relievers. And middle relievers are where they are for two reasons: They don't have the stuff to be a closer/setup man, and they don't have the stamina to be a 4/5 starter. Lidle is also a good pickup - he's certainly been better than the fifth starters so far for New York, and he'll eat up innings to help protect the overworked bullpen. I would have liked to see Cashman try to make a deal to get another warm body in the bullpen, but the Yankees still had the best deadline of anybody. Final Grade: A+

Toronto: The Blue Jays were very quiet after the Shea Hillenbrand deal. They made a very strong run at Julio Lugo, but ultimately wouldn't give up the top prospects that the D-Rays wanted. The Jays did nothing, and right now they are all but out of playoff contention. Final Grade: C-

Baltimore: Today there is some confusion as to whether the Angels actually offered Santana and Aybar for Tejada. But if that deal was on the table (along with the Houston deals involving Oswalt) and the O's didn't take it, they are big-time losers here. I don't know if dealing Tejada was the right move or not, but once they put him on the market, they should have jumped on either of those offers. They had a couple other moveable parts - Jeff Conine and LaTroy Hawkins among them - that they didn't move as well. They could have tried to rebuild this team around Erik Bedard and some of their other pitchers, but instead they will continue to be mediocre for the rest of the decade. Final Grade: C-

Tampa Bay: The D-Rays had the best infielder on the market in Julio Lugo. Unfortunately, it was a market where nobody needed an infielder. They ended up shipping him to Los Angeles (the NL version), and recieved highly touted prospect Joel Guzman as well as Sergio Pedroza. Guzman once was the Dodgers' top prospect, though some people have soured a bit on his talent. But this is still a good deal for the D-Rays. They also traded the perpetually expendable Aubrey Huff to the Astros earlier in the year. In return, they got their shortstop of the future (Ben Zobrist, who used to play for the Valleycats), as well as pitcer Mitch Talbot. Final Grade: B+

Detroit: The Tigers added Sean Casey, which is a decent addition. The Tigers needed a left-handed bat, and Casey will probably provide that for them. Casey is not a big bat by any stretch of the imagination, but the Tigers are seven games up on everybody else in baseball. So they probably didn't need to make any big moves. They gave up virtually nothing for Casey. Final Grade: B

Chicago: I still don't know why they haven't found anybody other than Brian Anderson (he of the .213 batting average) to play center field. That's why I thought the Coco Crisp deal was going to go down eventually - Boston needed a starter and the Sox have six of them. They could probably grab a reliever from the Pirates or Royals to replace Brandon McCarthy (who would be put in the rotation in place of whoever they dealt). Mike MacDougal was a great addition to the Sox bullpen as well. But this team didn't need any major parts - staying put may have been the right idea. Final Grade: B+

Minnesota: Some people are also killing the Twins for not doing whatever it takes to get Soriano. While the Twins could certainly have benefited from a big bat, I don't think it was a terrible move for the Twins to stay put. They've been fine for the last couple weeks, and that was with Torii Hunter on the DL. Hunter's coming back, and by all indications the Twins would have had to include AAA pitcher Matt Garza (along with other pitching prospects) for a two-month rental of Soriano. I'm not sure if Garza is as highly rated as Liriano was, but let's say Liriano matured a couple months later than expected and he was on the verge of becoming a big-leaguer right now. What would happen if Liriano was traded for a two-month rental of Soriano, when he may not be the difference to get into the postseason anyways? Young pitching prospects are the most valued commodity in baseball these days, and giving up Garza may have been a huge mistake. The Twins thought the Nats would blink first and accept a lesser package; but that just didn't happen. They also got rid of Kyle Lohse (to the Reds), who was really serving them no purpose right now. Final Grade: B-

Cleveland: I think that Cleveland GM Mark Shapiro must be a hypnotist. First he convinces Seattle to trade for not one but two first baseman in the span of a month (Eduardo Perez, Ben Broussard), and recieved a couple decent prospects in return. Then he somehow manages Walt Jocketty (one of the game's best GMs) to trade Hector Luna for someone who has the same exact offensive stats, is a worse defender, is a free agent at the end of the year, and is five years older - Ronnie Belliard. The Indians are going to be a great team for the next few years. They didn't deal Aaron Boone, but they got rid of all their other expendable pieces (Bob Wickman), and got even more young players for the future. Final Grade: A

Kansas City: There may be hope in western Missouri. Although the division is going to be stacked for the next few years, it looks like the Royals will get back on track soon. They traded away a lot of their pieces - Matt Stairs, Jeremy Affedelt, Elmer Dessens, Tony Graffanino, and Mike MacDougal - and got quite a few pieces who will help them down the road. Their deal for Colorado 1B Ryan Shealy was a steal, as they didn't really give up anything. Shealy will start and be productive at first, and from what I hear they made off with quite a few good minor leaguers as well. Allen Baird may have this team back on the rise. Final Grade: A

Oakland: The A's did nothing, but I really don't know what they were expected to do. They kept Barry Zito. They didn't get another bat. They didn't do anything, but if they get healthy, they still are probably the favorite to win that division. Final Grade: B-

Anaheim LA: Everybody is killing the Angels as well today, and they are justified for the most part. They really needed another bat in that lineup, and Soriano and Tejada never went anywhere. But I don't think this is completely the Angels' fault. They offered 125 cents on the dollar for Tejada, but were rejected anyways. Washington wanted pitching prospects for Soriano, and the Angels don't really have those. But I'm kind of surprised they didn't land a smaller bat - a Sean Casey/Craig Wilson type. They are playing Howie Kendrick full-time at first base now, and while he's on fire right now, we don't know how long that will last. And I still don't know why they didn't shop Adam Kennedy harder - Kendrick came up in the system as a second baseman, and he has a much brighter future than Kennedy. Final Grade: C

Texas: The Rangers picked up the biggest bat that eventually moved, in Carlos Lee. But right now, this team still looks like they will finish third in the division. Most people say that the Rangers are the best team on paper, but they're not playing like it. And their pitching is atrocious. Kip Wells is not the answer. The Lee deal was great - Fransisco Cordero was the only real player of value they gave up in the deal; the others were expendable for the Rangers. But something had to be done to address their rotation issues, and they didn't do it. Final Grade: B-

Seattle: The only deals the Mariners made were the aforementioned first basemen (plural) acquired from the Indians. The funniest part was that the chip they gave up for Broussard - outfielder Shin-Soo Choo - hit a homer within the next couple days to beat the Mariners, 1-0. I don't think the M's ever knew if they were buyers or sellers, and that eventually cost them. They were in talks with a number of teams, but nothing ever panned out. Final Grade: C-

NY Mets: The Mets lost a reliever through no fault of their own when reliever Duaner Sanchez was involved in a car accident some 16 hours before the deadline, and will miss the rest of the season. The Mets were forced to rush into a deal, but they still made out okay. They acquired reliever Roberto Hernandez and starter Oliver Perez from the Pirates, and gave up outfielder Xavier Nady. Perez was a phenom pitcher in 2004, but mysteriously lost his stuff last year and hasn't been the same since. (Yet another reason why young pitchers are such a risky investment. In fact, I'll spin this off into its own column some point this month.) But if Perez can somehow find his stuff, this will be a great deal for the Mets. They had a need and filled it in the bullpen, but I still think they should have found a starter. Zito and Jason Schmidt were both on the block, but Minaya didn't feel like giving up his top prospect Lastings Milledge for a rental. Maybe having Milledge for the next five or six years will eventually be more valuable, but I wouldn't want to be Minaya when Steve Traschel is starting Game 7 of the NLCS against the Cardinals. Final Grade: B-

Philadelphia: The Phillies wanted to clean house, but it looks like the flyers for the garage sale never got out. What they should have done was unloaded all their high-priced veterans - this would include Jon Lieber and Pat Burell - and taken whatever they could get for them. The free agent market is fairly thin next year for pitching, but Philly would have a ton of free payroll to throw at everyone. Dealing Abreu does help that some, but they could have done better. And the paltry package they recieved for Abreu was inescapable - it comes off looking bad, but that was the best they could do without eating some of Abreu's salary. And that was the whole point of the deal - to get rid of payroll. Final Grade: C

Florida: The Marlins didn't need to make any deals, they didn't want to make any deals, and they didn't make any deals. There's really no other way to spin it - there was nothing at all to be done. Final Grade: ???

Atlanta: The Braves made some great moves to improve their bullpen - they acquired Bob Wickman from the Indians for a good prospect, and they got Danys Baez from LA in exchange for ultra-utilityman Wilson Betemit. Unfortunately, the Braves have all but fallen out of the race. In retrospect, they probably would have been better off keeping Betemit and Max Ramirez, and waited until next year. They probably should have been more aggressive sellers near the deadline, though I'm not really sure who they would have sold. I'm not talking about an Andrew Jones deal here, but maybe they could have recieved something for some of their relievers. Final Grade: C

Washington: The deal with the Reds was great - it turned out to be not such a bad deal for Cincy, but the Nationals got two great young players (Felipe Lopez, Austin Kearns) for a couple relievers and a mediocre shortstop. But, unfortunately, they ended up not being able to deal the best player on the market in Alfonso Soriano. They kept waiting for an A+ package to come their way, and in the end decided to keep Soriano rather than accept an A or A- package in return. I believe that will come back to haunt them. They now will obviously decide to try to re-sign Soriano, but he'll probably ask for 5 years, $75 million, or maybe 6/$90 mill. They would have to grossly overpay to keep him, but it might be the only way to save face at this point. But Soriano will not put them in contention - they have one of the worst farm systems in baseball (especially at the high levels), and that division won't get any easier. The Mets have the best young left side of the infield in baseball (Reyes and Wright), Philly has the best young right side of the infield (Chase Utley and Ryan Howard), the Marlins have the best young pitching staff in the National League, and the Braves are always good. Final Grade: C (and only because of the Reds deal)

St. Louis: The Cardinals are a very flawed team, but they may still end up in the World Series. They could have used a starter, but none were avaliable. The more pressing need was a corner outfielder, but for some reason they never found a deal. Shawn Green seems like the best fit, and that deal still could get done in August (provided Green waives his no-trade contract), but Walt Jocketty did not fare very well this year. They picked up Jorge Sosa from the Braves - an average reliever, but nothing special. The other trade they made was a puzzling one - they sent Hector Luna to Cleveland for Ronnie Belliard. Both players have the same offensive stats, except Luna is the better fielder and is five years younger. Final Grade: D

Cincy: The Reds entered July with the worst bullpen of all the NL contenders, and they leave July with arguably the best bullpen. They did have to overpay for the Washington relievers, but they also picked up Eddie Guardado for basically nothing. And who knows, maybe Kyle Lohse will actually be a servicable starter in the NL. It's hard to argue with the deals - the Reds are now a game up on Arizona and four clear of the rest of the field in the wild-card race. Final Grade: A-

Milwaukee: The Brewers went back and forth on whether they were buyers or sellers, but eventually made the right decision in trading Carlos Lee. They got back a nice mix of players who can help them next year, but seeing the packages Tejada was offered, and hearing the rumors of large packages for Soriano, you wonder if the Brewers couldn't have gotten more for Lee. The deal with Texas happened very quickly - some teams reportedly didn't even know he was on the market by the time he was on his way to Arlington. Final Grade: B

Houston: What were the Astros doing? Were they buying or were they selling? The acquisition of Aubrey Huff was a good one in July, though they paid a decent price for him. Then they were involved in all kinds of rumors - for Tejada and Soriano as buyers, or to trade Oswalt or Clemens as sellers. And yes, contrary to my belief, Clemens was almost traded yesterday. But the Astros struck me as confused yesterday, and that's not a good sign. Despite (or is it because of?) my midseason prediction, it looks like the Astros are just about dead in the playoff hunt. Final Grade: D

Chicago: The Cubs traded away a 300-game winner, and recieved...Cesar Izturis? Izturis is an exceptional fielder, but he has no pop at the plate, something the Cubbies are sorely lacking right now. They traded Todd Walker to San Diego, recieving only 19-year-old Jose Ceda. And they dealt away Scott Williamson - also to the Padres - and recieved two other very young arms, Fabian Jimenez and Joel Santo. None of the three prospects has a particularly high ceiling. But, to be fair, none of the traded players had much value either. Final Grade: D+

Pittsburgh: You look at what teams like the Royals and Indians did with their prospects, and one would figure that the Pirates could do the same thing, right? They had almost all of the most sought-after bullpen arms on the market. They were initially asking for the world for all their players, but their demands eventually lessened as time went on. Think Dave Littlefield wants to rethink that strategy? They started with Craig Wilson and Sean Casey, Kip Wells, Roberto Hernandez (the best reliever on the market), and Oliver Perez (who set the baseball world on fire in '04, only to completely lose his stuff). What did they end up with? Shawn Chacon (the Pirates would be better off sending Willie Stargell to the mound every fifth day), Brian Rodgers (projected as a middle reliever), Xavier Nady (an average outfielder), and Jesse Chavez (a low-level prospect). Final Grade: F

San Diego: The Padres entered the deadline with a huge hole at third base, and leave the deadline with a pretty big hole at third. They picked up Todd Walker from the Cubs, but Walker has played second for most of his career, and is nothing special as a hitter. They may try to make a deal for Aaron Boone in August, though I don't know if he's a big upgrade either. The Pads also picked up Scott Williamson from the Cubs for a bag of peanuts, which freed them up to trade Scott Linebrink in a myriad of deals that never quite got done. Final Grade: C+

Arizona: The D-Backs were quiet around the deadline. Shawn Green was really their only tradeable commodity, and his salary and declining skills meant that they would get virtually nothing in return. They were never going to deal Miguel Batista or Juan Cruz, and they happen to only be a game out of both the division and wild card races. I don't know if they have the horses to stay in contention this year, but they have the young talent to compete in '07 and beyond. Final Grade: ???

Colorado: I'm very surprised they weren't able to get more for Ryan Shealy - up to 10 teams were interested at one point or another, but in the end they were only able to get a couple subpar relievers from the Royals. But the Rockies probably needed more relief help and another starter if they were to make a run this year, and they didn't do that. Final Grade: C-

San Fransisco: The Giants picked up Mike Stanton from the Nationals in an attempt to bolster their bullpen, but they then apparently decided they were sellers on the day of the deadline. Had they decided they wanted to move Jason Schmidt over the weekend, they might have been able to strike a deal with the Mets, White Sox, or another team, but they waited until Monday to decide, and by then it was too late. Other than that, there wasn't much for the Giants to do. They could have shopped Ray Durham as well, but very few teams were in need of middle infielders. Final Grade: C

Los Angeles: The Dodgers were probably the biggest winner in the NL. They are currently at the bottom of the division right now, but with the deals they made, they may actually be the favorite to come out of the NL West. They picked up Greg Maddux, who is not the Maddux of old but still may be servicable in a playoff run, and gave up virtually nothing. They acquired Wilson Betemit, probably the most sought-after utility player ever, and all it cost them was a reliever (Danys Baez). And they picked up one of the most underrated players in baseball in Juilo Lugo, for just a couple of prospects. The Dodgers right now probably have the best team in the West (especially when Nomar and Kent get back from injuries), but the question is whether or not they will play like it. And I wonder if their bullpen is still good enough, with the loss of Baez. Final Grade: A

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