As I imagine most baseball fans are aware, the trade deadline in MLB passed on the final day of July, last Friday. Quite a few players saw their locale change, and sure enough all the rumored pieces were dealt. Here’s my ranking of the five most interesting and important deals of the trade deadline, which is one of the most interesting of all time for me:
1) Toronto Blue Jays All In
Well, the biggest news of the week for me started with the first big trade of the summer season, Troy Tulowitzki to the Toronto Blue Jays. It came as a bit of a surprise to everyone, though Rockies fans had all but given up hope of ever seeing their superstar play October baseball in purple pinstripes ever again. For me, this is a bittersweet moment – Troy can finally get some postseason play, while I also enjoy Toronto baseball so it will be doubly nice to see a great player help them reach the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. Colorado also sent over LaTroy Hawkins, opting to let him finish his career in a foreign country (it’s actually helped him achieve a neat goal – last night he recorded a save against the Twins – which means he’s saved against all 30 teams). Toronto swapped their own shortstop Jose Reyes to the Rockies, which I don’t find disagreeable. For a few days rumors had him being flipped to another team so the Rockies could gain another prospect or two, but that didn’t come to fruition. In the long run, Colorado saves a ton of money on Reyes in comparison to Tulo, and only has him for another two years as opposed to Tulo’s 5 extra past this season. They also gain prospective pitchers – Jeff Hoffman, Jesus Tinoco and Miguel Castro – who should be ready to play in the big leagues by the end of next season at the latest. So did either team really win this deal? I would have said moments after learning of this that Toronto had a nice advantage with Tulo’s offensive production being an upgrade to Reyes, but they are apparently fairly similar in defensive play, plus a lot of other voices have mentioned Tulo’s penchant for injury and fear of the turf in Rogers Centre. Plus, the Jays lead the league in runs batted in with 557. The Yankees in second place only eclipsed 500 this past weekend, after all the deals were done.
Did Toronto really need another bat? Their rotation was floundering and they added Tulo to a lineup with MVP candidate Josh Donaldson, stalwart Jose Bautista and surprise favorite Edwin Encarnacion. So how did the week end? By stealing the prize player from Detroit, David Price, out from under the nose of teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, Giants, Yankees and Astros. With Price and Tulo, the team is proving that they are ready for a deep run into October and want it this year. It comes with a steep…sacrifice, of course, as they gave up three prospects to Detroit as well – Matt Boyd, Jairo Labourt and Daniel Norris, one of the best prospects out there. Wins all around, I’d say. Detroit, after announcing they’re rebooting, certainly took a step in the right direction, as has Colorado. We’ll just have to see if it all worked out in the end for Toronto too.
2) Cole Hamels: Gone to Texas
Philadelphia was worse off than any other team on the rebound this season, as the quality on field has diminished rapidly following their tragic loss to the Yankees in 2009. Ryan Howard’s decline has been particularly disappointing, and Chase Utley bottomed out at the beginning of this season, boasting one of the worst ERAs during the month of April I’ve ever seen for a former Silver Slugger (2006-2009). The shroud surrounding the city of brotherly love was felt all season most of all by Cole Hamels, I’m sure. The rumors have persisted since it had become apparent the team was going nowhere with its current and future stock in early 2014. It seemed it would only be a matter of time before management realized that it was pointless to let the best years of Hamels’ career be wasted miring in last place. So come July 31st and sure enough, the Texas Rangers bite hard on the line for the 2008 World Series MVP.
Along with Jake Diekman (a fine lefty reliever), Hamels garnered Matt Harrison, Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Jake Thompson, Alec Asher and Jerad Eickhoff. The first name you might recognize, as Harrison helped Texas advance past Tampa Bay in 2011 en route to their World Series loss to the Cardinals. He’s been oft-injured as late, but has returned to decent form this year as a back of the rotation starter. With Harrison, Philly didn’t trade away all of their present for the future, at least. However, their future is brightly centered on Jorge Alfaro, one of the best catching prospects out there*. The other four players had been ranked well within the Rangers system, and should be able to contribute within the next year or so on a major league level. So while it’s sad to see Hamels depart, it’s some consolation to know that Philly can start their way towards their winning ways once again. Also, of course, in his final game with Philadelphia, Cole Hamels pitches a no-hitter. Best of luck, pal. We’ll miss you in red and white….well, the correct red and white.
*-What does this mean for Carlos Ruiz? Besides Utley and Howard, he was the only player remaining from 2008’s World Series Championship team, and my personal favorite Phillie. Guess his time there is nearing its end? It’s also awesome to note that with Hamels’ no-hitter on July 25th, Ruiz has caught 4 no-hitters (1 combined and 2 with Roy Halladay), tying Boston’s Jason Varitek for the record.
3) Mets Media Mania
For the past year or so, Wilmer Flores was considered a harbinger of doom on a team rising higher than ever for the first time in nearly a decade. Flores was a fine enough player, but moreso the mediocre team the New York Mets had been the whole time they were re-building. Rumors flew about who would eventually replace him the year that the pitching clicked and the offense finally came through around him – most of all about Troy Tulowitzki (who wanted to be a Yankee but ended up needing his visa and never even came to Citi Field). So last Wednesday, two evenings before the big trade deadline passed, a trade finally manifested itself during a matchup against the San Diego Padres that would see Carlos Gomez traded from the Milwaukee Brewers over to the Mets for Flores and his injured hurler teammate Zach Wheeler. As the details filtered out across the internet and elsewhere, it made it through to the broadcast booth and inevitably the dugouts. When the Mets went back to the field a few minutes later, Flores was visibly weeping, knowing that he was about to leave the one place he’s called home for about half his life (he was drafted at age 16 in 2007). How cruel can the Mets organization be that they would force their shortstop to continue playing when they know his career there is over? Typically when a trade occurs, a player is benched in favor of a back-up so that player can be informed of his new living situation (see: Tulowitzki’s ignominious exit in the 9th last Tuesday). In fact, San Diego’s manager Pat Murphy pulled Justin Upton Wednesday night just to fuck with the media….and it would have been hilarious if not for the morose outcome of the Mets side of things.
The worst part of this? It was all for nothing, as at the moment Flores was meant to field his position again, the deal with Carlos Gomez was falling through due to a perceived bad hip. Manager Terry Collins was totally unaware of any trade, and played his shortstop like he would have normally, finding out of the debacle along with the rest of the world. In the end, Flores became a folk hero of sorts, endearing himself to the New York fan base, especially when he topped his week off with a walk-off home run against the Washington Nationals. As for the rest? Wheeler alternately voiced his desire to stay with New York and not be used as a trade chip, even after the deal fell through with Milwaukee. The Brewers found a team that truly believed Gomez is perfectly healthy (Houston, good job guys). The Mets even got a hard-hitting center fielder to complement their upswing as of late: Yoenis Cespedes, part of Detroit’s fire sale. So everyone wins, right? Really, this should be a lesson to all of us that drool over rumors and right-down-to-the-second reporting – let the game breathe. This isn’t always about facts and figures and numbers. Sometimes it’s about a guy who loves playing baseball.
4) Dodging Some Bullets?
The Dodgers were slightly late to the party, but that’s because they had to stop at the bank. Turns out the trade they made early in the week with Miami for Mat Latos and Michael Morse transformed into a grander trade with Atlanta (more on that in a second) that almost turned into a massive trade along with Detroit for David Price. While we knew some of the potential details that never went through, we do know that Price ended up north of the border while LA was left looking at some sloppy…wait a second, they actually cleaned up fine. In the end, the Dodgers got Latos, Morse, Alex Wood(another fine pitcher, stellar on my fantasy team), Bronson Arroyo, Luis Avilan, Jim Johnson and utility player Jose Peraza. Not a bad haul, especially considering all the big names (Cueto, Price and Hamels) are likely not in the longer term plans for LA. Price may not have stuck with them, Cueto was likely out after this year as well, and who knows about Hamels. I just think Texas offered better prospects to Philly, must have been -this close- for LA. Anyway, the Dodgers certainly weren’t bridesmaids this year, after scoring big the last few years for players like Adrian Gonzalez, Zack Greinke and Carl Crawford. On the other hand, in return they barely gave up anything: six prospects of varying degree that were probably never going to see the majors in the depth system they had in LA. So, I’d say it’s a perfectly fine summer for the Dodgers. Now they just need to stave off the Giants for the division title.
5) Head of the Class – Royals and Astros
Early trades to the AL leaders Kansas City and Houston were simple afterthoughts to the bigger stories, but they are nonetheless quite important. Johnny Cueto, finally released from Cincinnati’s downfall, finds himself on the best team in baseball, bolstering a rotation sporting Edinson Volquez, the youthful Danny Duffy and Jeremy Guthrie. If Yordano Ventura can return to form, the Royals are the team to beat in the AL, certainly now a feat to be expected for all the aforementioned teams. Once Alex Gordon returns (and with Ben Zobrist also coming to the Royals), the outfield and bats will stay on target for a great postseason run, perhaps even better than last year’s surprise. Speaking of Zobrist’s former team, the Oakland Athletics, Scott Kazmir found himself on the eastern edge of Texas, falling into the number 2 spot behind wunderkind Dallas Keuchel, who will likely be in the running for the AL Cy Young. Along with Mike Fiers, the rotation should be as solid as Kansas City. Will we see these two face off in a Championship Series? I wouldn’t mind either making it to the end myself, and it would be fun to see either of them take on a rejuvenated Yankee or Blue Jay team as well. Also, these two trades should be a lesson to teams in the lead: just because you have a fantastic lineup doesn’t mean you can’t tweak a few spots, especially to add depth.
More Notes in Sports:
-I don’t want to clog this up too much (past 2000 words already) but I wanted to mention that my early predictions this year are pretty much down the drain – Detroit (my pick to win it all) has pulled the plug, while the Twins have flourished. Texas and Houston have climbed to the top, while Seattle has faltered. The AL East was always going to be a free-for-all, so that’s not much of a surprise. In the National League, I fared a little better – other than the Giants near the top instead of the promising (and now disappointing) Padres, I almost had the standings completely accurate. I’ll have new predictions for the postseason match-ups once they’re official in the fall, but suffice it to say, the AL will be completely different than I thought.
-My favorite current Met Bartolo Colon received a statue in his home country of the Dominican Republic, oh and it’s because it’s in front of a baseball academy in his honor. Fantastic stuff, need to visit.
-The Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies were last weekend, and this year’s class included some of the greatest players of my youth – Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio and John Smoltz. Proud to say I watched these guys play, glad to see them honored again.
-In non-baseball news, my favorite hockey player, Mike Cammalleri received good news this week as the NJ Devils are allowing him to return to his former sweater number of 13. The Devils seemingly had been superstitious dating back to 1982 when they were formed, and had never given a player 13 before. With Ray Shero stepping in as GM, times are changing. Will this open up a hellgate in Newark? Only time will tell. Also, fun fact, fellow Devil Jordin Tootoo changed from 20…to 22. Think about it.
Alright, I think I ramble too much, but I love sports and I love talking about it. So until next time, I hope you enjoy this as much as I do! Also, hopefully I’ll have some news on sports other than baseball and hockey?