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This Week in Baseball: The Dust has Settled After the Trade Deadline

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The trade deadline has come and gone for the 2016 season.  Some of the trades were expected but others not so much, and some just didn’t seem to make sense.  Now that the dust has settled, who went where and will they be difference makers; I’ll give you  an overview and tell you what I think this week in baseball.

I knew the San Diego Padres were selling this year, but they dealt a lot of players before the deadline.  Melvin Upton was the first to go in a trade to the Toronto Blue Jays for RHP prospect Hansel Rodriguez.  Next to go was RHP starter Andrew Cashner in a huge trade with the Miami Marlins.  Along with Cashner, RHP Tayron Guerrero were acquired in the deal.  RHP Colin Rea was part of the deal, but due to an elbow injury that occurred in his first outing with the Marlins, was sent back to the Padres.  In exchange the Padres got 3 RHP, Jarred Cosart, Carter Capps, and Luis Castillo along with first base prospect Josh Naylor.  

Another big change the coming to the Padres was the trade of Matt Kemp to the Atlanta Braves for Hector Olivera.  Kemp was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in December of 2014.  In the trade, the Dodgers included $32 million order to cover part of Kemp’s $107 million dollar contract that goes through 2019.  In his 1.5 seasons with the Padres he averaged .264/.299/.466 at the plate, which isn’t bad but not so much worth his $18.25 million dollar price tag.  The Braves will assume $10.5 million of that price tag for 2016.  ESPN reports that the Padres are expected to designate Olivera for assignment after he returns from a suspension he is serving for violating the league’s domestic violence policy at the end of April.  Even though the Padres will assume the remaining 4 years of salary on Olivera’s 6 year $62.5 million dollar contract, it is still cheaper than keeping Kemp and frees up approximately $12 million in team salary.  

The winners in all this madness are the Marlins in the short term, but the Padres in the long.  Cashner was a good choice and main target for the Marlins.  He is a strong middle rotation pitcher that should help add experience and stability the back of the starting rotation.  I see Cashner’s ERA improving now that he has the 6th ranked defense in the league backing him up.  The Padres may not see any effect from the players they received this year, but they undoubtedly freed up some salary space to be able to make more moves in the off season.  

Earlier in the week the Pittsburgh Pirates traded their All Star closer Mark Melancon to the Washington Nationals for lefty reliever Felipe Rivero and prospect Taylor Hearn.  Then, at the deadline, the Pirates changed the face of their starting rotation by trading Jon Niese back to the New York Mets Antonio Bastardo (the very player they traded to get Niese last season), and also moved Francisco Liriano in a deal with the Blue Jays.

Melancon (31) has been with the Pirates since 2013 and has improved his number of saves each season, even finishing last year with the most in the league, 51.  Melancon is aging and would have been a free agent at the end of the season; his trade was not a surprise, it was a smart move by the Pirates to be able to get something for him while they still had control of the contract.  Rivero has limited experience in the majors but the 25 year old has time to develop.  He will not replace Melancon, but filling a hole in the bullpen will work for now.  

The trades of Niese and Liriano was more shocking.  A team trading 2 actively starting pitchers is not unprecedented but certainly far from typical.  

Niese had been par for the course.  If there is one thing that can be said about him it’s that he his fairly consistent.  From 2009 to present Niese has had an ERA somewhere between 3.4 and his current 4.9; not bad but far from the best.  He makes a decent middle rotation starter for most teams, if not a number 5 guy.  The “funny” thing about the trade is that the Pirates are getting back the pitcher the traded away to get Niese.  

Liriano on the other hand has had a drop in performance from seasons past to 2016.  His ERA has ballooned to 5.46, a little more than 2 runs more than the average from the past 3 seasons.  Because if the decline and his $13.6 million dollar contract the Pirates had been shopping Liriano and simultaneously looking at other starters.  The Blue Jays made the right offer filled with budding prospects and are hoping the change in scenery will bring back the “old” Liriano.  Additionally, the Pirates picked up Ivan Nova from the New York Yankees.  

The Mets are feeling the heat from the Nationals and the Marlins this season so they wanted to make a statement at the deadline to let them know they are not out of the playoff race.  I already mentioned reclaiming Niese although that doesn’t make much of statement, but picking up Jay Bruce from the Cincinnati Reds is another story.  

Bruce was a target for the Mets in 2015, but the deal fell through due to a failed physical by a player that was included in the deal.  This time, they got their man.  Bruce has been with the Reds his entire career, but there is little room for loyalty in the game of baseball.  He is carrying a .265/.316/.559 with 25 home runs and a league leading 80 RBIs but was not helping the Reds get where they want to be, so they let the prodigal son go for  Dilson Herrera and Max Wotell.  The Mets want RBIs and are hoping Bruce can bring them.  

The Texas Rangers came out on top at the deadline as well when they landed Milwaukee Brewers All Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy.  The Cleveland Indians were the first to throw their hat in the ring for the elite catcher, but he exercised his no trade clause and vetoed it.  The mistake by the lake lost out and the Rangers came in for the steal.  

The Rangers have been a contender in the AL West for years.  Like many teams, catcher is a position where they don’t expect to get much power and they were no different.  A player like Lucroy (if he makes the transition from NL to AL well) could be a game changer for the Rangers.  He packs an offensive punch with a .299/.359/.482 average with 13 home runs and 50 RBIs.  adding that kind of power to an already powerful line up could be the push the Rangers need to make it deep in the playoffs.  The Rangers also acquired Carlos Beltran from the Yankees.

The Tampa Bay Rays have been struggling this season and were seen as sellers.  Rumors flew around internet like hotcakes and they were mainly about the fate of the starting rotation.  The Pirates, Rangers, Astros, and Red Sox were just a few that were interested in the Rays assets if they were ready to sell.  Matt Moore, Jake Odorizzi, and even Chris Archer were being highly scouted, and it was said they for the right deal, the Rays would sell.  In the end, Moore would be the only pitcher to leave and move from one city by the bay to another; San Francisco.  In exchange the Rays received the currently injured 3rd baseman Matt Duffy and 2 prospects.  With the pick up of a 3rd baseman, many questioned if Longoria was in jeopardy, but the Rays quickly addressed the issue and said the Duffy would most likely transition the short.  The Rays also dealt outfielder Brandon Guyer to the Cleveland Indians and 1st baseman Steve Pearce back to the Baltimore Orioles.

The Oakland Athletics were another team that is looking to the future vs trying to improve upon the present.  The Los Angeles Dodgers have the largest payroll in the league and they were looking to buy.  The once touted outfielder Yasiel Puig has been faltering and the A’s had the solution; Josh Reddick.  Although Reddick doesn’t have an earth shattering number of home runs or RBIs, he still has a .296/.368/.449 average respectively.  It’s doubtful that he will hit a ton of home runs, but playing for a team that actually gets players on base should improve his RBIs.  

The Dodgers also acquired pitcher Rich Hill.  Hill has been having a good season; he’s 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA.  Could have A’s have gotten a few more wins with Hill? Yes.  Would he have helped them in the long run? No.  The 3 pitching prospects the A’s received for Reddick and Hill are far more valuable at this juncture.  

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