By Greg Hudson
July 31, 2014 was one of the craziest days in recent baseball history, and that was BEFORE the teams took to the field for play. On a day that saw several major moves, the Starting Point weighs in on the winners and losers of the trade deadline.
The Tigers are already one of the elite teams in baseball, but their deadline day move for David Price cemented their status, and gives them perhaps the single most fearsome starting rotation in the majors, with Verlander, Scherzer, and Price leading the way, making the Tigers the first team in baseball history to have the last three Cy Young winners on the roster at the same time.
Boston Red Sox
Yes, the Sox unloaded two of their starters in Lester and Lackey. But make no mistake, the Red Sox aren’t giving up on their future. They made a smart move. Lester is a free agent in the off-season, and his move to Oakland is almost certain to last only that long. Then he will most likely return to Fenway, and who did the Red Sox gain for this essentially loan to the A’s? Yoenis Cespedes. They also gained Allen Craig from St. Louis in exchange for Lackey, but while Craig is playing below his standard this season, his standard is very high. Look for him to bounce back with the Sox.
The Mariners played a minor part in deadline day, but came out the better for it. They gave up a prospect in Nick Franklin, but gained a talented and speedy outfielder in Austin Jackson in part of a three way deal with Tampa Bay and Detroit. Solid pitching and a new bat in the lineup gives Seattle a good chance to make the playoffs, despite coming from the division with arguably the two best teams in baseball: the A’s and the Halos.
The A’s pulled a Brian Cashman. They made a big move on deadline day, for sure, when they traded for John Lester. But they made a big move that will do them almost no good past this season. Lester’s contract expires in the off-season, and it’s almost certain that the Moneyball A’s won’t be willing to pay him fair value for his arm and he will take his services elsewhere. Meanwhile, once he’s gone, the departure of super slugger Yoenis Cespedes will be a noticeable loss. It seems like A’s ownership felt such pressure to bring home a World Series title this season that they are willing to sacrifice the team’s future in order to obtain it (Brian Cashman, anyone?). It isn’t a bad move, per se – not yet, anyway – but make no mistake, if the A’s don’t go on to win the World Series this year, this will go down as one of the biggest flop moves in recent memory.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays went through a torrid May and June as injuries to some of their best players hurt them both on the mound and at the plate. But they recovered and are legitimately in the hunt for a playoff spot in the AL East. This is thanks to the return of key players like pitcher Alex Cobb, and the ever-reliable David Price. But the Rays lost Price to Detroit on deadline day. While they acquired two young and high-potential prospects in the deal, they really hurt their playoff chances this year with the deal. That being said should new acquisition Drew Smyly develop into the kind of pitcher he’s capable of becoming, the Rays have a chance not only this year, but in years to come.
The biggest losers on deadline day were the Phils. The perennial playoff contenders have been through a rough period for the past few seasons, and things were supposed to be better this year with Marlon Byrd and Cliff Lee. But the team is still underperforming and there were a lot of rumors that Byrd and others might be on their way out to make way for players who might deliver the goods the Philly fans demand. But come deadline day, the the Phils didn’t make a single move. In so doing, they’ve condemned themselves to a sub-.500 season and will have to work hard in the off-season to make themselves contenders again instead of the pretenders they are this season.