clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

What should have happened at the MLB trade deadline

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

With more than a week to reflect on the non-waiver trade deadline, it's time for some reactions—specifically, what didn't happen. The big news centered around the blockbuster moves that (supposedly) turned the A's and Tigers into locks for the ALCS, but perhaps just as importantly, several teams didn't fix some problems that really needed to be fixed.

Here, we'll take a look at the moves that should have gone down, and what it means that they didn't actually happen.

Rangers offload aging talent, prepare for coming seasons

The Rangers lost out on an opportunity to sell some of their best talent at a premium price, something that has drawn a mixed reaction from the baseball community.

The debate centers around this question: Can the Rangers' current roster contend when healthy? Perhaps the better question is whether they can contend for a title with a rotation that isn't exactly built for playoff success, to say the least.

Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Martin Perez all sit on the 60-day disabled list, and their absences have created a disastrous season for a Rangers rotation that looks straight out of the minor leagues. But when those three are healthy, how good is the starting pitching?

Harrison, who won 18 games with a 3.29 ERA in 2012, has pitched 28 innings since then, allowing 18 earned runs. He clearly has the ability to slot in as the team's No. 2 starter, but he last showcased that ability two years ago. Holland, who pitched three scoreless innings in a Double-A rehab start on Saturday, won 16 games in 2011 and posted a 3.42 ERA in 33 starts last season. Perez tossed two shutouts in eight starts this season before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery, but he has yet to make more than 20 starts in a season.

20140423_jla_bd3_130.jpg.0_mediumWhat kind of pitcher will Martin Perez be next season? It's anyone's guess. Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

In short, all three have the potential to make a serious impact next season, but the Rangers will be pinning their hopes on pitchers who have proven to be fragile and inconsistent at times. With certain rotations boasting multiple All-Stars, will the Rangers be able to keep up in October, when pitching becomes ever so important?

That's assuming the team makes it out of the crowded AL West, the division that could be the best in baseball if the Rangers come back strong next year. (The A's and Angels are competing for the league's best record this year, along with the wild-card contending Mariners.)

Alex Rios came up in talks with a number of teams, though his underwhelming stats (4 HRs, .738 OPS) might have prevented anyone from taking on his rather hefty salary. That's a more reasonable non-move, but the Rangers' prospect-filled infield, including Jurickson Profar, Rougned Odor and Luis Sardinas, gives GM Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington a unique situation—too much young talent to place in the starting lineup. Instead of trying to move Odor and Sardinas (or even shortstop Elvis Andrus) for a pitcher, Daniels stood by.

Maybe the Rangers will bounce back next season and make it to the playoffs, and maybe their young infielders will break out. But the team certainly had a chance to bring in some pitching help, and its inability—or unwillingness—to do that could come back to bite the Rangers.

Royals grab an elite power bat

I wrote part of this section before the Royals acquired Josh Willingham on Monday, but the point still stands—maybe.

Kansas City hasn't lost since August 2, a span of eight games, and that was the team's only loss since the trade deadline. Overall, the Royals are 16-3 since their four-game losing streak to start the second half, a stretch that has put them half a game ahead of the Tigers in the AL Central.

And yet, the Royals still have the fewest homers of any team in baseball. Only Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas have double-digits home run totals, and the latter of the three has a .262 on-base percentage. Gordon leads the team in slugging at .436.

Does the addition of Willingham solve the problem? That remains to be seen, especially with the former Twins outfielder hitting .156/.229/.250 in August. His power is also a bit deceptive; though Willingham's 12 home runs look nice, he has just six other extra-base hits this season (five doubles, one triple), including one double since the beginning of July. His value could be more in reaching base (.345 OBP), instead of in his power that seems to come and go.

For what was left on the market, GM Dayton Moore did very well to grab Willingham, though the jury is still out on how much the move will help Kansas City. Recent hot stretches from James Shields and Danny Duffy, along with most of the bullpen pitching lights out, could carry the team into the playoffs, but there are still plenty of games to play, including two three-game series against the Tigers in September. Going against that dominant Detroit rotation, it might have helped just a bit to pursue a better power bat—or even one in addition to Willingham—to help provide more offense.

Rockies acquire pitching help

The Rockies might never have an elite rotation because of their ballpark's location, but they'll never even sniff the playoffs if they continue their current run of pitching failure.

With a team ERA bordering five, the Rockies are once again out of the playoff picture, and with a relatively stacked lineup when healthy (Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer, Nolan Arenado, etc.), the team certainly could have afforded to deal a hitter or two.

Of course, that didn't happen, but the Rockies still have the chance to acquire some pitching this offseason (more on that in a second). Plus, they have a few top-level pitching prospects, like Jon Gray, Eddie Butler and No. 8 pick in the draft Kyle Freeland. But by deciding against moving any hitting talent this trade season, the Rockies didn't get the value they could have received, and likely elongated the losing period that Tulowitzki has stated he's tired of.

Over at Purple Row, Jeff Aberle spelled out the issue back on July 30:

Here's how I see this situation playing out - the Rockies will more or less sit tight at the deadline, they'll suffer a season of somewhere close to 90-95 losses, and then they'll do everything they can to get the band back together on that 90-95 loss team.

That's not a recipe for success, and the Rockies look set for another tough season in 2015 if they don't make a big move or two in the offseason, which might not be possible given payroll limitations. And who's causing the lack of financial flexibility? The hitters Colorado neglected to deal.

Dodgers acquire top starting pitcher

The Dodgers might win the NL West anyway, but they could have done it a bit more comfortably had they sprung for a starting pitcher. Their complacency could also come back to bite them in the postseason.

Though they were involved in the David Price talks to a certain extent, the Dodgers ultimately only grabbed right-handers Kevin Correia and Roberto Hernandez to "bolster" their rotation, though Correia's 4.79 ERA (including 5.54 post All-Star break) isn't a huge confidence booster. Hernandez's recent hot hand (including a quality start in his first appearance with the Dodgers) has given him respectable numbers, but it remains to be seen if he can continue his success long-term.

Of course, the Dodgers still have a playoff-quality rotation, one that could do great things in October. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Josh Beckett all have ERAs under three, and Hyun-Jin Ryu isn't far behind at 3.21. But with Dan Haren and his 4.57 ERA (4.46 FIP, 0.1 WAR), the fifth rotation spot could be an issue, to say the least. That's also assuming Beckett reverts to early-season form; he has a 6.55 ERA since the beginning of July, with no quality starts. That's a problem.

Padres trade Chase Headley for a better return

The Padres really needed to get Chase Headley off their team, and they succeeded in that regard. But for such an underwhelming return, there was little for Padres fans to get excited about.

Yes, acquiring Yangervis Solarte (who is hitting .296 with an .832 OPS in San Diego) and Rafael De Paula (plus some financial flexibility) was certainly better than losing Headley for nothing, which was all but certain to happen this offseason if the third baseman stayed in San Diego.

But if the Padres front office had played its cards right, there might have been a bigger return than just a lifelong minor leaguer and a low-level pitcher. There is a huge discrepancy between Headley's career numbers at home (.244/.332/.374) and on the road (.285/.359/.442), something that should have helped significantly with his value. (His OPS is already 61 points higher with the Yankees than it was with the Padres this season.) He was also one of the best infielders on the market, even with his recent struggles, and it's clear that moving to the AL East from the NL West (polar opposites when it comes to hitter friendliness) can change any hitter for the better.

Headley's trade value has certainly plummeted ever since his breakout season in 2012, and the Padres shouldn't have expected much for him anyway. But the club definitely had a bit of leverage because of the Yankees' obvious need for a third baseman, and the Padres may have received two players who could end up having small positive impacts with the big league club beyond this season.