Going on vacation in the midst of the Trade Deadline sure has been a ride.
My eyes glued to the screen, constantly refreshing the Twitter feed for the last Passan bomb while the MLB Network live broadcast played in the background, another trade season went by, and not without surprises.
For the first time in a while almost all big names, Willson Contreras excluded, found new homes and albeit the amount of trades was not massive, prospects and regulars moved were.
As in many other aspects on my life, I tend to divide things in three categories: stuff I like, stuff I hate and lastly, stuff I don’t mind/care about.
Same goes for trades: most of them fall in the latter category, with small pieces exchanging places and no particular reaction on my part. Naquin and Vogelbach sure are good fits in the Mets roster but they don’t spark my joy, and while Scott Effross is damn good, bullpen is not where I get all giggly, usually.
I’m not here to be insensible or anything though, rather I want to talk about extremes: in this first entry of the Deadline Deals recap I’ll focus on trades I liked, as in those transactions I can accept for both parties involved. There haven’t been many, win-win trades are rare and most of all trades are unbalanced one way or the other, but some were, at least on my watch!
Trade I liked #1: San Diego Padres acquire Juan Soto and Josh Bell from the Washington Nationals for CJ Abrams, Mackenzie Gore, Robert Hassell III, James Wood and Jarlin Susana
Let’s get it out there: you shouldn’t trade a Juan Soto ever.
A perennial All-Star, HOF in the making and only aged 23 he should be a pillar on which to build your franchise on. Still I get Washington’s decision: when he refused a $440M/15 deal, a lowball sure but a nice try, he almost declared his intention to enter free agency in the near future.
At that point trading him was a must: 2 years of control left are juicy and with the Nats in a total rebuild and far away from contention there was the risk of losing him for nothing, a la Bryce Harper, and this time they pulled the trigger.
The return for Soto is where I land on liking both sides of the deal: the headliners were Abrams and Gore, which are perfect examples on selling high by San Diego.
The former is a great defender, runs well, has power to come as he’s only 20 but his bat might never be close to a 50, let alone 60: abysmal swing decisions, poor plate discipline and coverage don’t bode well, a free swinging SS with plus defense that might be Willy Adames at best or Nick Ahmed in the worst case scenario.
The latter embodies the duality of a pitcher: with elite stuff, #2 ceiling, he could be amazing but he’s had all kinds of control and health issues, started the season on fire and collapsed lately, there’s a ton of risk involved to say the least.
The other two prospects I like much more for Washington: Hassell is a 5-tool OF with a chance at CF and with a bit of pop he could be a constant 3–4 WAR contributor; Wood has Aaron Judge dimensions, runs wild, has sky-high EVs and good CF fielding, if the bat ever comes close to a 50 he’s going to be a star.
Finally, another point of merit to the Nats: getting Susana for Bell is a nice upside bet on a unique 18 old hurler, a gargantuan flamingo that already throws 100+ mph and knows where the ball goes. As good as Bell is, he’s a rental, has no defensive home and he was as good as gone so props to Washington for transforming him into another future top 100 prospect.
Who wins? Who loses? Hard to say, but I’d tend to say that, while in the short term San Diego will reap the benefits, don’t be surprised if this will be a Washington masterpiece in a couple of years: Soto will be a FA and if 2–4 of those prospects hit their mark, the Nats are going to be back in contention.
San Diego has to win now, simply put.
Trade I liked #2: Baltimore Orioles trade Trey Mancini to the Houston Astros for Chayce McDermott and Seth Johnson (from Tampa Bay), Houston trades Jose Siri to the Rays for Jayden Murray
Another honest assessment: this was a long time coming for Baltimore, and Mike Elias showed yet again why he’s such a good rebuild mastermind since his Astros years.
Criticized by many, this was a perfect choice by the Baltimore FO: not letting an overperforming roster lead them astray from their path, they continued to build for the future with this and the Jorge Lopez trade.
Mancini, clubhouse leader and all, was expendable: a pure bat 1B who saw his numbers decline due to the Great Wall of Camden, he was the most paid Oriole and soon to be FA, which meant he was due for a trade.
The return seems to be better than what a rental bat usually fetches: McDermott has elite bullpen piece written all over him and Johnson is a former top 100 arm, shelved by TJS, that Baltimore got from TB as they had to clear 40-man roster space.
I also liked such a deal for Houston: Yuli Gurriel might be done and Mancini has a mutual option he might agree to, not to mention he’s a clear upgrade, has RHB pop and can moonlight in the OF corners. Moreover, Siri is a dream of a 4th OF, with elite speed and defense, above average pop, no discipline and a 40 bat, but he was redundant and a high probability #5 SP is not bad for such a player.
The TB side of the trade is a bit confusing: did they really need to gift Johnson away? And why getting Siri and DFA fan favorite Brett Phillips when they are the same oufielder?
Mancini had an instant impact in Houston, Baltimore keeps on winning without him and with more playing time for Vavra and Stowers to come, Tampa will Tampa its way to the playoffs. Everyone is happy, and so am I.
Trade I liked #3: San Diego gets Josh Hader from the Milwaukee Brewers for Taylor Rogers, Dinelson Lamet, Robert Gasser and Esteury Ruiz
Speaking of trades everyone hated and I truly appreciated, allow me to explain why David Stearns made the optimal decision by trading the 2nd best closer in all of baseball for a worse one and some pieces.
Hader is one of the best relievers in the last decade but…he’s a reliever! Being a closer adds no value, don’t sell me the mentality nonsense as middle RPs and setup men are just guys who haven’t had a chance in the 9th, and he was due to a raise upwards of $15M in arbitration, far too much even for an elite arm.
Rogers sure is not Hader, but he’s a FA to be, earns far less and can do the job either closing, he’s got his 20+ saves in 2022 too, or bridging the gap to Devin Williams, whose Airbender should be good enough to take over Hader’s duties.
In the closers’ swap the Brewers also get an interesting project in Dinelson Lamet, now in Colorado, a back end SP in Gasser and the toolbox that is Ruiz. He’s the reason I tend to side with Milwaukee in this trade, payroll space also considered: a plus runner, multi-positional fielder with good contact skills, he lacks pop and high EV but he could be a sleeper utility in a contender, which is nice to have considering possible injuries and not much depth in MIL’s system.
I also like the trade for San Diego: they are in full win-now mode and that is the only time you’d acquire a premium bullpen piece. They didn’t give up a ton, all good prospects were gone for Soto either way, and now they don’t have a clear weakness in their roster for a Playoff hunt.
Now, it may seem like everyone lost this trade, with Hader blowing his last save and Milwaukee losing a couple games in the 9th but short term evaluations are far from reality: it all comes down to what the Brewers will do with their newfound payroll freedom, whether Williams remains as dominant as he is and if Hader can close meaningful games come the should-be Padres Postseason.
There are other trades I could fathom, the aforementioned Lopez one and Cristian Vazquez to Houston to name a couple, but those three stood out for the names involved, their polarizing nature and the payroll, roster and all kinds of considerations behind such decisions.
Don’t ever forget what the goal of each GM is: building a dependable, affordable team that is able to compete year in and year out for a title without sacrificing too much future to pay for a little better chance in the present.
Oh, and then there’s A.J. Preller, who’ll trade all but his underwear for the smallest of improvements…hats off to him for always making it fun!
Next up I’ll analyze three trades I hated and why is that…watch out, Yankees fans!