There are less than two weeks before MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline passes in 2016, but we can’t help looking back at some of last winter’s most notable deals as we wait for more to happen.
It’s common for fans and analysts to crown a “winner” and “loser” for any kind of swap between two or more teams. However, those conversations happen right when a deal takes place more often than down the road when it’s easier justify either side of the argument with a player’s performance.
As usual, last winter contained a ton of player movement, both on the free agent market and through trades. The initial perspectives on the following four swaps are no longer relevant because there’s no question each of them now look incredibly lopsided.
Let’s revisit these trades for a stroll down memory lane as the current trade market continues heating up:
The main pieces in this deal were clearly Alonso and Pomeranz, and the events from the past week further makes San Diego the clear winner.
I remember when Alonso was supposed to replace Adrian Gonzalez at first base, but it just never came to fruition. Despite being a top-50 prospect by the time he made his Padres debut in 2012, he slashed an underwhelming .271/.339/.386 in parts of four seasons. He’s erased a dreadful April in Oakland by getting hot in the months that followed, but has still only produced a .259/.325/.360 line through 278 at-bats, which is pretty much in line with his underwhelming performance in San Diego.
For Pomeranz, performance was less of a question once he left Colorado – it was taking the ball every fifth day. He never threw more than 100 innings in a season since debuting in 2011, but did post a 3.08 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 155 innings for the A’s.
The emergence of his cutter – which he used 39.3 percent of the time with the Padres in 2016 – enabled him to post a 2.47 ERA and a career low 1.06 WHIP through a career-high 102 innings en route to being named an All-Star for the first time. Injuries and inconsistent production from Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross led to the southpaw becoming San Diego’s best pitching asset, which not many expected back in April.
The Padres have now ended up with Anderson Espinoza, an 18-year-old top pitching prospect who’s drawn Pedro Martinez comparisons. I bet that’s a trade general manager A.J. Preller loves more than ever right now.
New York Mets receive 2B Neil Walker
Pittsburgh Pirates receive SP Jon Niese
Hindsight is definitely 20/20, and in more ways than one.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson would probably love having Daniel Murphy on his roster right now, but they could’ve done a lot worse after whiffing on Ben Zobrist. Sure, Walker isn’t hitting .352/.390/.613 like Murphy, but he’s provided dependable defense and his .246/.316/.421 triple slash is reasonably close to his career numbers. Plus, he’s already matched last year’s home run total (16) with plenty of season left to go.
New York is a little thin in the rotation these days, but jettisoning Niese was a smart move. Most figured he’d have a career year with pitching coach Ray Searage because that’s what pitchers do in Pittsburgh, but it hasn’t happened. Through 106.2 innings, he’s posted a 4.89 ERA and 1.56 WHIP, has been relegated to the bullpen while the Pirates make him available in trade discussions and GM Neal Huntington said this about the initial trade (quote via theScore):
“In hindsight, maybe the two fringe prospects and trying to figure out where to re-allocate the money might have been a better return (for Walker). That’s where the results take us.”
Yikes. Huntington apologized soon after, but he can’t take back what he said – even though he’s not wrong.
Baltimore Orioles receive OF Mark Trumbo
Seattle Mariners receive C Steve Clevenger
This is easily the most underrated acquisition of the year and it only happened because the Orioles were afraid they wouldn’t re-sign Chris Davis to a long-term deal.
Wanting to get more athletic and free up some money, new Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto dealt Trumbo (again) for a catcher who was third on Baltimore’s depth chart behind Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph. Unfortunately for Seattle, Clevenger has been limited to just 22 games and 68 at-bats after fracturing the third metacarpal in his right hand.
It wasn’t too much of a loss on the field anyways, as the backstop produced a .221/.303/.309 line with only four extra-base hits (three doubles, one homer) when he was healthy.
On the other hand, Trumbo has enjoyed his time in the middle of Baltimore’s lineup. While he’s cooled off following a hot start (.337/.385/.573 in April), the outfielder/designated hitter still has a .900 OPS, leads everybody with 28 homers, has driven in 68 runs and earned his first All-Star selection since 2012.
This is all coming at a perfect time for Trumbo, since he’s scheduled to hit free agency this winter in the midst of a pretty weak class.
From the moment this deal became official, we all figured it would end up being pretty lopsided. We just didn’t think it would happen this quickly.
Inciarte isn’t playing as well as expected and has missed some time with injury. However, the real value in this deal for the Braves lies in Swanson and Blair, who the club thinks will be part of the next competitive Atlanta team. Even though Blair is 0-5 with a 7.99 ERA so far in the big leagues, they’re likely thankful they don’t have the Dbacks’ problem.
Arizona tried using a disabled list stint earlier this year to get Miller back on track, but his 7.14 ERA, 1.75 WHIP and .312 opponent batting average were so bad they demoted him to Triple-A to figure out what the heck is going on. One would imagine he’ll eventually get back to normal, but to say it’s been a frustrating year is probably an understatement.
With more trades expected to start flying over the next couple weeks, it will be interesting to see which teams come out winners and which ones come out losers. Only time will tell.