DFP: How Badly Did the Rays Screw Up?

In Facepalm by GW


The most striking aspect of yesterday’s deadline was just how many trades involved major league players. The classic mode of deadline dealing is this: sellers send soon-to-be free agents to buyers in return for prospects. Yesterday, by contrast, sellers picked up Yoenis Cespedes, Joe Kelly, Allen Craig, Drew Smyly, Nick Franklin, and Tommy Milone. Of the bunch, only Franklin is anywhere near prospect status.

This wrinkle certainly made the deadline more approachable for the average fan, and more active (i.e. fun) than it otherwise would have been, but is this something we can expect to see in future seasons? I doubt it. Contending teams just aren’t in the business of sending off good players on reasonable contracts. No one is in that business, in fact. So why did it happen? The convergence of a unique group of buyers and sellers.

1. The buyers were either desperate or loaded. The A’s and Tigers are perennial contenders, but neither has won the World Series recently. Mike Ilitch is famously old, and Billy Beane is famously unsuccessful in the playoffs. Neither team has much in the way of prospects, but they found themselves in the midst of an arms race and felt pressure to marginally increase their WS chances. The Cardinals are an altogether different story. They have been so successful at building a team of young players on good contracts that they couldn’t find at bats for top prospect Oscar Taveras.

2. The sellers are good. Would anyone be surprised if 365 days from now the Red Sox and Rays were among the two best teams in the league? And I mean before their deadline acquisitions. Both teams have underperformed this season, but it’s easy to imagine Jonah Keri stories next July about how we should have known that both were good, and are too quick to overrate the results of a single season. The Rangers fall into this group, as well, even though they didn’t make any notable moves yesterday.

Of course, a similar convergence could happen in the future, but I don’t think yesterday was an indication that the league has abandoned the complete tear-down philosophies of the Cubs and Astros, either.

Tampa Remorse?

The biggest trade of the day was the Rays sending David Price to the Tigers in return for Smyly, Franklin, and prospect Willy Adames. The Rays famously turned down Addison Russell, which seems like a much better return. If the Cubs had chosen the Smyly/Franklin platter over Russell, I would have been flummoxed, to say the least. I’m wondering, though, if we are underestimating the Rays’ desire for quantity in their big sells.

When the Rays sold James Shields and Wade Davis, the most publicized name in the return was stud hitter Wil Myers. However, they also received Jake Odorizzi, Mike Montgomery, and Patrick Leonard. Odorizzi was the #68 prospect heading into 2013 by consensus, and though Montgomery’s stock had fallen, he was consensus #41 going into 2012. In trading Matt Garza, the Rays turned down young lefty Derek Holland and outfielder Engel Beltre in favor of the volume package of Hak-Ju Lee, Chris Archer, Brandon Guyer, Robinson Chirinos, and Sam Fuld. This past offseason, they sent Alex Torres and Jesse Hahn to the Padres for Logan Forsythe, Brad Boxberger, Matt Andriese, Matt Lollis, and Maxx Tissenbaum.

Not all the Rays trades are huge, of course, but it seems like their priorities are different from a team like the Cubs. Theo Epstein talks about impact talent ad nauseam. Tampa, on the other hand, can’t really afford to supplement their core in free agency the way that the Cubs will (hopefully) be able to do. They seem to prioritize getting multiple big-leaguers in each deal, even if it means slightly devaluing star power.

Cubs Trade Deadline Summary

In total, the Cubs shipped out Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, Darwin Barney, Emilio Bonifacio, James Russell, and a player to be named later. Returnees Victor Caratini, Jonathan Martinez, Felix Doubront, Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, and Dan Straily have been examined previously.

  • Baseball America’s John Manuel really likes what the Cubs did, ranking Russell and McKinney as the two best prospects to change teams in July and Caratini the eighth.
  • Jim Callis sees things a little differently.
  • Baseball Prospectus is not crazy about Caratini.

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