Some people may say that the 2009 trade deadline was relatively calm in comparison to past years, but I disagree. It’s not every year that the defending World Series champs trade for a reigning Cy Young award winner, and that’s not the only Cy Young winner that changes teams.
Both the Tigers and the White Sox made big moves to take a run at the up-for-grabs AL Central. The Tigers picked up Jarrod Washburn from Seattle for a pair of prospects while Chicago shipped a package of minor-league talent off to San Diego for Jake Peavy (second times a charm, eh?)
The nosiest team at the deadline was Cleveland, who traded away nearly every major talent except for Grady Sizemore. Ryan Garko to San Francisco, Cliff Lee to Philadelphia and Victor Martinez to Boston. Let’s take a look at how some of the major moves affect the teams involved.
CLEVELAND INDIANS: A very disappointing season left them in the unenviable position of having to call it quits this year. They moved a lot of major pieces, and surprisingly didn’t get a whole lot of top talent in return. Cliff Lee brought back some nice pieces from Philadelphia, but the Phillies managed to hold onto their best pitching prospect and their best position prospect.
Single-A starter Jason Knapp is the headliner of the deal for Cleveland, a tall righty that has been called by some as a “Roy Halladay clone”. If he ends up with a Roy Halladay type career, then Cleveland wins this deal easily. More likely however, is that Knapp eventually becomes a back-end rotation guy. Triple-A right hander Carlos Carrasco, shortstop Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson round out the deal, which also sent outfielder Ben Francisco to Philadelphia.
None of the last three have superstar potential, but all three could eventually become serviceable major leaguers. But all three are young and cost-controlled which is just what the Indians need as they rebuild a broken team.
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES: Already the class of the NL East, they became the favorite in the entire league by beefing up their rotation with Lee, in addition to adding a solid reserve outfielder. With not much serious contention from within their own division, this is a move that addresses not only their August and September needs, but their October ones as well.
Lee gives the Phillies a one-two punch at the front of their rotation that matches up well against any other NL team. Offense has never been a problem for the homer-happy Phillies, and now they have a rotation to let that offense relax a little. The move allows the Phillies a chance at repeating as champions without mortgaging the future. They held on to their best prospects and improved their current standing.
Kyle Drabek and the freshly promoted Dominic Brown both remain in Philadelphia’s impressive farm system and they’ve added Cliff Lee to their major league roster. He’s not Roy Halladay, who they were in on for several weeks, but in the end, he’s still Cliff Lee and that’s pretty darn good.
BOSTON RED SOX: The Sox were certainly busy the past few weeks, starting by dealing for Pittsburgh’s Adam LaRoche (the Pirates seem to be the AAAA-affiliate for both the Red Sox and the Yankees the past two or three years). Only a few days after getting LaRoche, they decided he wasn’t what they were looking for and spun him off to Atlanta for Casey Kotchman.
In between, they grabbed the best bat available in Victor Martinez. The Red Sox needed offensive help sure, but trading for Kotchman and Martinez doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Kotchman can only play first base and Martinez is a first baseman who can somewhat masquerade as a catcher. With David Ortiz, Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis on the roster, there’s going to be a crunch in everybody’s at bats.
Unless the Red Sox plan on drastically cutting Jason Varitek’s time, who, while slipping offensively is still an above-average defensive catcher, Mike Lowell will probably see the most bench time. While the additions of Kotchman and Martinez allows Francona flexibility in allowing his players to rest, is it smart?
While it’s hard to quantify a catcher’s defensive contributions, statisticians and scouts continuously rate Victor Martinez as well below average defensively. Is the upgrade his bat provides worth whatever they’ll lose on the other side of the ball. Every Boston fan tells me how great Jason Varitek is calling games and guiding pitchers through no-hitter after no-hitter.
And is Martinez really the answer to Boston’s offensive woes? He’s hitting reasonably well for the season, but most of his numbers are due to a torrid start. He’s batting .211 since the calendar hit June and only .175 in July. He has a decent track record but he’s also a catcher on the wrong side of 30 and they don’t age particularly gracefully.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX: General Manager Kenny Williams traded for Peavy several months ago only to have Jake Peavy nix the deal. But persistent devil that he is, he tried again this week and Peavy approved. They gave up pretty much the same package they initially offered, headlined by Aaron Poreda and Clayton Richard.
With Peavy, the White Sox suddenly have a deep and dangerous rotation but they also have the financial obligation of Peavy’s contract. While it seemed like a bargain a few years ago, in the current economic climate it’s a lot for any team not the Red Sox and Yankees to take on.
But the thing is, Jake Peavy’s hurt. He’s currently rehabbing an ankle problem and it’s the type of injury that could become a recurring problem. Peavy’s a Cy Young caliber pitcher when healthy, but he’s had problems staying that way. The White Sox may have shipped off a boatload of young talent for a chronically injured star.
DETROIT TIGERS: The emergence of Edwin Jackson (epic trade fail by Tampa Bay, btw) in addition to Justin Verlander rediscovering his ace stuff gave the Tigers a pretty devastating 1-2 rotation punch. But after them the rotation was a little patchwork.
Trading for Jarrod Washburn was a smart move. Sure he’s having a career year, getting a little lucky and had Seattle’s insanely good outfield defense backing up his flyball tendencies, but he’s a solid buy for Detroit. He’s moving to a similar situation in Detroit (spacious outfield, decent outfield defense) and gives the Detroit the legitimate third starter they can run out in the playoffs.
Luke French, a decent but not blue-chip prospect went the other way in the deal, along with a relief prospect. About the best the Mariners could expect for a two month rental of Washburn.
SAN DIEGO PADRES: Jake Peavy was a San Diego icon, but his contract was holding the organization back from any real improvement. Getting low-cost prospects back from Chicago was just a bonus to getting out from under the albatross of a contract.
The Padres still won’t be any good for awhile, but at least now they have a little more financial flexibility to construct a team, and not just stick a group of players around one guy.