Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Trading Season!

Perhaps because there is so little going on in the rest of the sports landscape (apart from the Olympics this year), baseball's July 31st trading deadline is one of my favorite times of the season.  It serves as a barometer for teams to evaluate their chances and decide whether or not they should buy, sell, or stand pat.  Of course it's more fun when a team or three decides to push more chips into the middle of the table, as the Astros did in trading for Randy Johnson in 1998, or the Brewers in 2008 with their deal for C.C. Sabathia.  In both instances those trades were major factors in securing their teams a playoff berth, as both Johnson and Sabathia were dominant post-trade.  Then again, some years are boring, such as 2005 when the biggest name to switch uniforms was either Matt Lawton or a beyond-washed-up Bret Boone. Thankfully, this year already looks exciting, and we still have a week to go before the deadline.  Before we get into any major speculation, let's take a look at some of the trades that have already happened.

Marlins trade RHP Anibal Sanchez and INF Omar Infante to Tigers for RHP Jacob Turner, C Rob Brantly (AAA), and LHP Brian Flynn (AA) - Sanchez originally went to the Marlins along with Hanley Ramirez in the Josh Beckett trade, and in six and a half seasons in South Florida has compiled 13.0 WAR as per Baseball-Reference.  Infante, a career utility player who has done everything in his career but pitch and catch, will shore up Detroit's atrocious situation at second base.  Neither player is a star, but both should help stabilize a couple of the gaping holes in the Tigers roster beyond star performers Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Austin Jackson.  In exchange, Miami gets a pitcher (Turner) who should provide them about as much value as Sanchez starting next year and is under team control through 2017, whereas Sanchez will be a free agent this winter. The other two prospects amount to little more than fliers on guys who might or might not make it, as neither is a major prospect.

Astros trade RHP Brett Myers to White Sox for RHP Matt Heidenreich (AA) and LHP Blair Walters (A+) - Kenny Williams has been the general manager of the White Sox for a long time, and throughout his tenure he's never been afraid to roll the dice on buying low.  Myers has been both a starter and a reliever in his career, and Chicago pitching coach Don Cooper has a knack for getting guys to over-perform their expectations.  So the Sox get a versatile arm who may help them in their tight race for the weak AL Central crown while giving up a couple of marginal arms.

Mariners trade OF Ichiro Suzuki to Yankees for RHP D.J. Mitchell and RHP Danny Farquhar (AAA) - After getting the news that Brett Gardner would be out for the season with an elbow injury, the Yankees needed to do something to improve their corner outfield situation, and so they acquired an over-the-hill Ichiro for a pair of replacement-level relievers.  All this move really does is spare the Mariners the PR problem of not re-signing Ichiro this winter when he becomes a free agent.

Astros trade LHP Wandy Rodriguez to Pirates for OF Robbie Grossman (AA), LHP Rudy Owens (AAA), and LHP Colton Cain (A+) - Wow, when was the last time the Pirates were buyers, or had anything of value to give back in a trade? For the first time in 20 years, the Bucs are still in the playoff hunt at the end of July, but a lot of it has been done with smoke and mirrors.  Despite their +36 run differential, they would undoubtedly also like to add a competent hitter to their lineup, but Rodriguez gives them a fourth starter who is noticeably better than Kevin Correia or Jeff Karstens, although not someone to go scalp tickets to see.  Even if none of the guys Pittsburgh gave up projects to be a star, it's still a lot for Wandy freakin' Rodriguez.

Marlins trade INF Hanley Ramirez and LHP Randy Choate to Dodgers for RHP Nathan Eovaldi and RHP Scott McGough (A+) - Whoa! Didn't the Marlins just move into a new stadium and throw down a lot of money for Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell in free agency in order to compete right away? That happened, right? Not only are they making a second "sell" trade in as many days, they're giving away a three-time All-Star and 2009 MVP runner-up with over 25 career WAR for a pitcher with a middling performance in his 16 major league starts, and a 22-year-old struggling in high-A ball.  Oh yeah, and Ramirez is still just 28.  Look, I understand that there have long been questions about his effort.  I know that his performance has taken a serious dip since that 2009 high, although being hurt much of last year probably has something to do with that.  And I know that he was put out by having to move from shortstop to third base in order to accommodate Reyes (never mind that Reyes is far superior with the glove).  Valid concerns all.  But again, this is a guy with a strong track record and ostensibly in the middle of his prime, under contract through 2014, and all you get for him is a pair of okay pitching prospects?  I don't know.  Maybe the change of scenery will provide the kick in the pants so many think Ramirez needs; if it does, the Dodgers will have stolen one of the more talented players in the National League, and added a ton of value to their lineup both now and for the next two years.

Check back later this afternoon for a look at possible remaining moves and movable pieces.