BY J.A. SCHWARTZ
With the A’s standing at 61-47, holding the second Wild Card position in the American League, just 1/2 game ahead of Tampa and 7 1/2 games behind the West leading Astros in the division race, Oakland GM Billy Beane has made multiple efforts to strengthen his team’s chances of advancing to the postseason for a second consecutive season prior to the trade deadline.
Oakland traded for Cincinnati RHP Tanner Roark, 32, who is 6-7 with a 4.24 ERA in 21 starts this season. In return, the Reds received OF Jameson Hannah, the A’s 7th rated prospect according to Baseball America. In addition, the A’s will receive cash from the Reds to help cover the remaining portion of Roark’s $10.1 million salary this year. Roark, who will become a free agent following the season, has been both effective and durable during his career. He has a 70-61 record with a 3.66 ERA in his seven major league campaigns, and has never been on the injured list. Roark figures to slot in among the A’s starting pitchers, upgrading their talent and depth at that position for the stretch run.
The A’s also acquired an upgrade for their bullpen in lefty Jake Diekman, 32, who was brought west from the Royals for minor league prospects RHP Ismael Aquino and CF Dairon Blanco. Neither Aquino nor Blanco were ranked among Oakland’s top ten prospects at the time of the trade. The A’s bullpen featured lefties Ryan Buchter and Wei-Chung Wang before the trade for Diekman, but neither pitcher has been as effective or dominant as Diekman has been.
Diekman has struck out 13.6 batters per nine innings this season in 41.2 innings (1/3 of opposing hitters), rates far superior to both Wang (4.56) and Buchter (9.85). Diekman also tends to get a higher rate of ground balls, 48.4% vs 31.0% for Wang and 23.1% for Buchter, a skill that tends to have value in the current juiced ball, home run happy environment. The A’s hope that the combination of Diekman, Wang and Buchter will help neutralize opposing left handed hitters as the team battles for a playoff berth. Diekman is also signed inexpensively, earning $1.75 million through the end of the season, with a mutual option for 2020 that would pay him $5.75 million if exercised (or a $500,000 buy-out).
Given that 2019 is the first year featuring the single, unified trade deadline, teams must make all additions and upgrades to their roster prior to August 1st. Beyond that date, only players within the organization can be utilized to improve the roster, making this year’s trade deadline that much more important.
With four teams (Indians, A’s, Rays, Red Sox) within a single game of a playoff berth as the deadline struck, each trade could be the difference between a chance at October glory and a long winter to consider what might have been. Oakland is hoping that their acquisitions of Roark and Diekman will help them make a strong push over the final two months of the season and secure a playoff berth.
Veteran starters on the move
Toronto traded ace starter and New York native Marcus Stroman (6-11, 2.96) and cash considerations to the Mets for two pitching prospects, Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson.
In a three team mega-trade, the Reds acquired RHP Trevor Bauer, 28, (9-8, 3.79) from Cleveland. In order to pull off the trade, the Reds gave up their #1 prospect, OF Taylor Trammell to the Padres and OF Yasiel Puig and LHP prospect Scott Moss to the Indians. The Padres traded OF Franmil Reyes, LHP Logan Allen and prospect Victor Nova to the Indians in the process. In the end, the Indians received Reyes, Puig, LHP prospect Scott Moss (from the Reds), LHP Logan Allen and 3B prospect Victor Nova (from the Padres) in return for the mercurial Bauer, who made more headlines this weekend after he hurled a baseball over the centerfield fence in frustration after a rough outing in Kansas City.
The most interesting aspect of these two transactions is the prices paid for pitchers who have similar team control. In return for Bauer, the Indians were able to get two major league caliber starting outfielders (Puig and Reyes) as well as three prospects. In return for Stroman, the Jays received two prospects. Both Bauer and Stroman are eligible to become free agents after the 2020 season. Stroman is making $7.4 million this season, and projects to earn in the area of $14 million in 2020, his final year of arbitration. Bauer is making $13 million this year, and could top $17 million next year via the arbitration process. Both pitchers are 28 years old. Bauer has a career record of 68-55 with a 3.92 ERA, and is 11-8 with a 3.48 ERA in the past calendar year. Stroman has a career record of 47-45 with a 3.76 ERA, and is 6-13 with a 3.54 ERA in the past calendar year. By most measures, Stroman has a superior performance profile, and is less expensive than Bauer, so why did the Jays return for Stroman pale in comparison to the haul of players the Indians were able to extract for Bauer ? Only the GM’s in this situation know for sure.
The Indians addressed their primary area of need, power in the outfield corners, with the addition of Puig and Reyes, who have a combined 27 HRs and 107 RBIs thus far in 2019. They lost Bauer from their rotation, but they welcomed back RHP Danny Salazar from the IL today, and hope to have RHP and former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber back in their rotation by mid-August. The Indians don’t figure to make it easy for the A’s or the rest of the contenders in the AL to surpass them for the Wild Card lead based on their moves at the deadline.
The Astros acquire ace pitcher in the final minutes before the deadline
The Astros traded three prospects to Arizona from their loaded farm system to snag RHP Zack Greinke, 35, who is 10-4 with a 2.90 ERA this year. By adding him to the top of their stellar rotation that already features RHP Justin Verlander and RHP Gerritt Cole, Houston is making it very clear that they want to recapture the glory of their 2017 World Series title.
Additionally, Houston also picked up veteran starter RHP Aaron Sanchez along with reliever Joe Biagini from the Blue Jays for OF Derek Fisher. The Astros beefed up their formidable roster even further by adding defensive minded catcher Martin Maldonado.
Activity by the AL contenders
Minnesota upgraded their bullpen by adding RHP Sergio Romo from the Marlins and RHP Sam Dyson from the Giants as they try to hold off the reloaded Indians.
The Rays made a flurry of moves, getting RHP Trevor Richards and RHP Nick Anderson from the Marlins, 2B Eric Sogard from the Jays, and 1B Jesus Aguilar from the Brewers to bolster their pursuit of a playoff berth.
In addition to the trade to get Reyes and Puig, the Indians also added infielder Christian Arroyo and RHP Hunter Wood to their roster.
For the first time in recent memory, the largest payrolls in the AL (Boston and New York) stood pat at the deadline, choosing to rely upon their current rosters to secure playoff berths.
Activity by the NL contenders
Considering that there are nine teams in the National League that are either holding playoff berths or within 3.5 games, there was significant interest in roster improvements at the deadline.
The Giants decided to hold on to both Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, but still participated in multiple deals. San Francisco sent RHP Sam Dyson to the Twins for three prospects while also moving RHP Mark Melancon to the Braves for two RHP prospects, and acquired SS prospect Mauricio Dubon from the Brewers for two more pitchers, LHP Drew Pomeranz and RHP Ray Black. Finally, the Giants added 2B Scooter Gennett from the Reds for a player to be named. Gennett has missed most of the season after suffering a groin injury, but had 50 HRs since the beginning of the 2017 season for the Reds, and should provide the Giants some much needed infield power once he’s able to join their line-up.
The Dodgers, who have the best record in baseball, added middle infielder Jedd Gyorko from the Cardinals, and LHP Adam Kolarek from Tampa Bay.
The Diamondbacks made arguably the biggest deal of the day, sending ace Greinke to the Astros for three prospects, RHP J.B. Bukauskas, OF/1B Seth Beer, INF Josh Rojas and rookie RHP starter Corbin Martin, then acquired RHP Mike Leake from Seattle for 3B prospect Jose Cabellero.
The Cardinals added LHP Tony Cingrani from the Dodgers in the Gyorko trade.
The Cubs added OF Nicholas Castellanos from the Tigers, 2B Tony Kemp from the Astros, and bullpen arms LHP Brad Wieck from the Padres and RHP David Phelps from the Blue Jays as they gear up to battle St. Louis and the Brewers for the NL Central crown.
The Brewers upgraded their roster with RHP Jacob Faria, who was acquired for Aguilar, and the addition of bullpen arms LHP Pomeranz and RHP Black from the Giants.
The Reds made a big splash, adding Bauer as their primary prize, while unloading Puig, Gennett, and Roark as well as top prospect OF Taylor Trammell.
The Braves went all in trying to improve their bullpen, adding RHP Shane Greene from Detroit, Melancon from the Giants, and RHP Chris Martin from Texas.
The Phillies added OF Corey Dickerson from the Pirates to beef up their OF.
The Nationals also fortified their relief corps, adding three hurlers to their bullpen, RHP Daniel Hudson from the Blue Jays, LHP Roenis Elias and former Giant RHP Hunter Strickland from Seattle.
Will any of these deals make a difference?
The trade deadline featured a frenzy of late activity, and a total of 32 transactions were agreed upon in the past five days, as teams feverishly sought to address their perceived shortcomings and to fortify their rosters for the final two months of the season.
At this time last year, the Boston made what appeared to be a pair of minor deals, adding RHP Nate Eovaldi and 1B-OF Steve Pearce to a first place team with the best record in Baseball. Eovaldi went on to pitch masterfully in the postseason for the Red Sox, and Steve Pearce was named the World Series MVP.
All of this seasons deadline participants can only hope that some of the trades made in the past few days will end up having a similar impact on their own future fortunes.