3 Major Takeaways From the Trade Deadline
In Major League Baseball, you want your favorite team to be either the best or the worst—the last place you want your team to be is in the middle of the pack with no hope on the farm.
Why you want your team to be the best needs no explanation. But, if your team isn’t the best, you want them to be the worst so that they will more quickly become the best.
The trade deadline is always a reminder of this simple baseball fact.
At the trade deadline, the worst teams get better and the best teams get better. Meanwhile, mediocre teams begin booking flights for October vacations and hope to be better (or worse) next year.
I love trade deadline weekend. It is one of my favorite times of the year. Here are the three biggest takeaways I gathered from the last few days:
The Cubs Got Better
The Cubs added Jose Quintana from the White Sox long before the deadline, so I’m not going to focus on him much here. But, he needs to be noted as a major July acquisition that filled an important hole in the hunt for the playoffs.
Less than 24 hours before the passing of the trade deadline, the Cubs added a reliever and a backup catcher, exactly what the team needed, and from the same team!
The Cubs traded Jeimer Candelario (AAA Iowa) and Isaac Paredes (A South Bend) to the Detroit Tigers for Justin Wilson and Alex Avila, a left-handed setup man and a backup catcher.
Of course it hurts to see Candelario go as he was the last Cubs prospect whose name would be recognized by most casual Cubs fans, but we really didn’t have any place to put him anytime soon. He’s a corner infielder, so unless Anthony Rizzo or Kris Bryant get hurt, or worse, leave the team anytime soon, Candelario would have no place to play. It made sense to deal him.
Now, some may question whether or not it was smart to deal him for a setup man and a backup catcher, but when you consider that the Cubs have to play for the present, this move made sense.
Avila is a nice add and is a welcome upgrade over Miguel Montero and Victor Caratini, though I’m betting Caratini will be back in September. As nice as Avila is, the real focus of this trade is Wilson.
Sure, in the 2017 Cubs bullpen, Wilson will only serve as a setup man for the dominant closer Wade Davis, but we have to remember: Davis is only under contract through this year.
Wilson is under contract through 2018. In acquiring Wilson, the Cubs added a solid eighth inning lefty for the rest of 2017 and likely have found their closer for 2018. Davis will probably fetch more money than the Cubs are willing to pay for a closer in the offseason. I’m guessing close to what Mark Melançon got this winter (4 years, $62 million).
Here are some of the details regarding Wilson’s stats from Jeff Todd at MLB Trade Rumors:
Through 40 1/3 innings this year, Wilson carries a career-high 14.3% swinging-strike rate and has averaged 12.3 K/9 — well over any prior full-season mark. He’s also allowing more walks (3.6 BB/9) and home runs (1.12 per nine) than usual, with less grounders (38.4%) than ever before. A general shift northward with his pitch location seems to explain the differences, though it’s hard to say it has made him a materially better pitcher.
A bit from Dave Cameron at FanGraphs:
Wilson appealed to every contender because he’s not a left-on-left specialist. In fact, Wilson’s actually been better against right-handed hitters in his career…Joe Maddon talked about wanting to add a neutral-platoon guy to his bullpen to complement the match-up guys the team already had, and Wilson is exactly that, as he can be used in any situation against any hitter without worrying about a potential pinch-hitter.
He’s not an absolute top-tier reliever. He’s not Kenley Jansen or even Wade Davis. But Justin Wilson is one of the very best left-handed relievers in the game, and should give the Cubs bullpen a significant boost for the stretch run and the postseason. And because he’s under team control for 2018 as well, he’s not just a rental; even with a nice arbitration raise this winter, he’ll be a bargain again next year too.
The Cubs got better at the deadline and filled some serious needs. Now we just have to hope people can continue to hit and that the starters can give at least five or six innings a night without issue.
The Dodgers Are Probably Going to Win the World Series
The Los Angeles Dodgers added the best starting pitcher available at the trade deadline right at the deadline. In exchange for four people few people have ever heard of, the Dodgers added Yu Darvish for the remainder of the 2017 season.
Sure, Darvish’s (say that three times fast) ERA is just over four this year, but he was the best starting pitcher on the market and, with a healthy Clayton Kershaw, gives the Dodgers the best rotation in at least the National League.
The team is on pace to win 114 games and they haven’t lost since Kershaw went on the DL with back tightness.
In addition to adding Darvish at the deadline, the Dodgers added reliever Tony Cingrani from the Cincinnati Reds for cheap, which helps them bolster their bullpen a bit.
The Dodgers really haven’t added any killer bats since last year, so despite having almost the same team as they did in 2016, this team looks like one of the best in all of baseball the last five years.
It’s hard to believe anyone will be able to stop the Dodgers on their way to the World Series, but as we all know: anything can happen in the playoffs.
The American League Is Still a Toss Up
A lot of good deals were made among contending American League ball clubs. The Yankees added Sonny Gray at the deadline, which arguably was as good and important an addition as Darvish was to the Dodgers. They also acquired Jaime Garcia who spent like 48 hours on the Minnesota Twins after being traded from Atlanta.
I wonder if they even told him to come to Minneapolis. It’s nice there this time of year.
The Red Sox added a solid reliever in Addison Reed, filling a need they had. The AL East still seems pretty open, but after their deadline acquisitions it’s hard not to see the Yankees as the best team.
Essentially the entire AL Central except the Indians is rebuilding, so they all got a bunch of prospects.
In the AL West, the only team buying was Houston, and all they added was Francisco Liriano. He will be a helpful addition to the rotation to be sure, but it’s hard to say if he will make any demonstrable difference down the stretch.
It’s not smart to over-analyze the trade deadline, but I think with the addition of Quintana, Wilson, and Avila the Cubs pulled into a tie for second place in the National League power rankings with Washington for “team most likely to be runner up to the Dodgers.” That is, if the guys can continue to hit.
In the American League, my World Series contestant at the moment would be the New York Yankees with the addition of two solid starters to the rotation. But, the Astros are a great team and are hanging around as well.
Let me know what you guys think. It will be an exciting second half!