Walk Up Music for the July Trade Deadlines Top Buyers

It’s All Over Now – The Rolling Stones (the cover was their first #1 hit)

The July 31 (Non-Waiver) Trade Deadline has passed and, as always, there was a flurry of activity as contenders looked to bolster their squads for the division races and post season – and non-contenders looked to bring new prospects into their systems.  In this post, Baseball Roundtable will take a look at some of the most significant acquisitions – made by the most active “buyers.”  Here’s my take on the nine teams that most improved their chances to be a part of the 2017 post-season – with a Walk-Up Song for each.

YANKEES – GRADE: A

Gray Skies Are Gonna Clear up – from Tony Bennet’s “Put On A Happy Face”

Sonny Gray Photo by Keith Allison

Sonny Gray    Photo by Keith Allison

The Bronx Bombers – in a battle with the rival Red Sox for the AL East – added pitching and power. They won the sweepstakes for much sought after right-handed starter (2015 All Star) Sonny GRAY of the A’s and added lefty starter Jaime Garcia (67-52, 3.65 over nine seasons) from the Braves (after Garcia made a one-appearance cameo with the Twins). Those moves addressed the Yankees’ biggest shortcoming – starting pitching.

The Yankees, however, did not stop there.  The pinstripers also added bullpen strength in David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox. Robertson is a former closer, with a 2.95 ERA over 561 career appearances, while Kahnle boasted a 2.50 ERA in 37 appearances this season.   And, to put just a little frosting on the cake, they picked up veteran power hitter Todd Frazier – also from the White Sox.  It was quite a July haul for the Bombers.

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DODGERS – GRADE: A

It Had to Be Y(o)u … Frank Sinatra

It had to be Yu Darvish. Photo by mikelachance816

It had to be Yu Darvish. Photo by mikelachance816

While they may have the best record in baseball, the Dodgers did not rest on their laurels – they were wheeling and dealing right up until the final bell. In fact, at the bell, they picked up the top prize of the trading season – four-time All Star RHP YU Darvish from the Rangers.  Darvish makes an already strong rotation even stronger; fills a temporary void left by Clayton Kershaw’s stint on the DL; and sets up a post-season rotation of Kershaw, Darvish, Rich Hill and Alex Wood.

But Darvish isn’t the only factor in Los Angeles’ “A” rating. The Dodgers also needed to bolster their portside bullpen options.  They earned a Tony Award there, with the acquisition of lefty relievers Tony Watson from the Pirates (3.66 ERA in 47 appearances this season) and Tony Cingrani (a 17-save season in 2016) from the Reds.  Watson is likely make the biggest difference of that pair.

So, the team with the best record in baseball got even better.  That’s clearly worth an A.

WHAT’S THE BIG HURRY?

For those who don’t know why there is such a rush to beat the deadline – trades after the July 31 Non-Waiver Deadline get a bit more complicated.  Before the deadline, teams can make trades without putting the affected players on waivers. After July 31, traded players must clear (revocable) waivers. This means any other team may claim the player – with claims considered in reverse order the teams’ won-loss records. The team with the worst record gets the first opportunity to make a claim, the team with the second-worst record (if the first team does not make a claim) gets the next opportunity and on up the line.

If a claim is made, the team putting the player’s name up can: 1) Make a trade with the claiming club; 2) Let the player go to the claiming club for no return; 3) Keep the player (take him off waivers). So, in order to make a preferred trade, the player has to make it through the waivers process (at least up the line to the waiver position of the team that the offering team wants to deal with.)

NATIONALS – GRADE: B+

Feelin’ Stronger Everyday – Chicago

The Nationals may be running away with the AL East, but they recognized the need to build a STRONGER bullpen (with its ERA north of 5.00) if they were going to advance in the post season. (Read, “Get past the Dodgers.”)

They earned a solid B+  by getting that job done.  The Nationals added Twins’ All Star closer Brandon Kintzler (28 saves this season) and two relievers from the A’s:  Ryan Madson (a 12-year veteran with a 2.06 ERA with Oakland this season and a 30-save season in 2016) and Sean Doolittle (an All Star closer for the A’s in 2014.)  Suddenly, a weakness has the potential to be a strength.

Earlier in July, Washington also added versatile Howie Kendrick – a dependable bat off the bench – who was hitting .340 in 39 games for the Phillies at the time of the trade. Kendrick a 12-year MLB veteran has a career average just over .290.

IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE … FROM “BUYER” TO “SELLER”

The Twins went into their July 24 game with a 49-48 record, trailing the AL Central leading Indians by just 2 ½ games.  In the trade deadline market, they were buyers (not sellers) announcing the acquisition of Braves’ starting pitcher Jaime Garcia to bolster a suspect Minnesota rotation.  A week – and five losses in six games –  later,  the Twins were 50-53, seven games out and had become “sellers.”   Garcia, after just one start (the team’s lone win while he was on the Minnesota roster), was gone to the Yankees. Soon after, Twins’ All Star closer Brandon Kintzler (and his 28 saves) was on his way to the Nationals.

CUBS – GRADE: B+

This Could be the Start of Something Good – Exile

jOSE qUINTANA photo

Jose Quintana –   Photo by Keith Allison

The defending World Champions, who recently chased down the Brewers to take first place in the NL Central, made one of the earlier moves of the July “trading season,” acquiring STARTer Jose Quintana from the White Sox. The 2016 All Star was off to a bit of a rough start this season (4-8, 4.49 for the ChiSox), but went 2-1, 2.37 in three starts since moving across town. He should provide plenty of quality starts down the stretch and into the post season.

The Cubs also added reserve catcher Alex Avila and southpaw reliever Justin Wilson from the Tigers.  Avila provides a bit more punch from the backup-backstop spot, but the gem in the Tigers’ trade is Wilson – a proven power arm for the pen. At the time of the trade, Wilson had a 2.68 ERA in 42 appearances and had fanned 55 batters in 40 1/3 innings.

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DIAMONDBACKS – GRADE B

The Force Behind the Power – Diana Ross

jd MARTINEZ photo

Photo by GabboT

The D-backs added Tigers’ slugger J.D. Martinez (hitting .305-16-39 for Detroit) – adding a veteran POWER source to the lineup.  Martinez was the best offensive player moved in July.  Martinez’ bat bolsters the middle of the D-backs’ lineup and provides much-need protection for Arizona MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt. (Martinez hit five home runs in his first nine games for the D-backs.)

The D-backs also traded for A’s utility player Adam Rosales – to compensate for injuries to the infield corps – and added  veteran reliever David Hernandez from the Angels (2.23 ERA in 38 appearances this season) to help out in the bullpen. Not as flashy as some of the other contenders, but positive additions. Considering where the Dodgers are, the Diamondbacks are fighting for a Wild Card spot – and Martinez should win a few games for them.

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RED SOX – GRADE: B

Sparks Will Fly – Rolling Stones

Boston added depth to their offense by picking up Eduardo Nunez from the Giants. Nunez brings plenty of offensive SPARK.  In 2016, he hit .288, with 16 home runs and 40 stolen bases for the Twins/Giants – and he can hold his own defensively at multiple positions. The Red Sox also added hard-throwing southpaw Addison Reed to serve a key setup role in the pen. Reed consistently fans 1+  batters per inning and has 125 MLB saves to his credit.  Still, the Yankees appear to have won the July trade market battle – and perhaps the East Division as well.

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ROCKIES – GRADE: B-

Catcher in the Rye – Guns and Roses  (Dang, couldn’t come up with a Pat song)

Like Arizona, Colorado is a legitimate Wild Card contender. (Unfortunately, in the AL West 14 games over .500 leaves you 14 games out of the division lead.) The Rockies took a cautious approach to the July trade market, but did add to the offense and the bullpen.  Veteran reliever Pat Neshek (a two-time All Star with a 2.77 ERA over 11 seasons), acquired from the Phillies, should give the Rockies some solid innings. Neshek was an All Star this season and brought a 3-2 record with a 1.12 ERA to the Rocks.

In addition, the acquisition of CATCHER Jonathan Lucroy (Rangers) gives the Rockies a veteran presence to help a young pitching staff.  Lucroy – who hit .292, with 24 home runs, in 2016 – has the potential add to the offense (particularly in Coors’ light air).  At the time of the trade, he was hitting .242, with four homers and 27 RBI (in 77 gamers) for the Rangers. He’ll need to up is game to help the Rockies.

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RAYS – GRADE: B

Zip-A-Dee-“DOO-DAH ” – Johnny Mercer

lucas duda photo

Lucas Duda.     Photo by slgckgc

The Rays are trying to stay in the AL East chase, but a Wild Card spot seems more likely.  They added a needed power-bat in 1B/OF Lucas DUDA from the Mets. Duda is a solid 20-30 home run power source – and hit three homers in his first four games as a Ray. In addition, the Rays bolstered their bullpen with the acquisitions of three veteran arms in Sergio Romo (who was having a rough season with the Dodgers, but has a career 2.79 ERA over 10 campaigns);  Steve Cishek (who was carrying a 3.15 ERA with the Mariners and has a 2.81 ERA over eight MLB seasons) and Dan Jennings (with a 2.88 ERA over six seasons).

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ROYALS – GRADE: C

Hey, Hey, We’re the Melky(s) – The Monkees (Okay, I took some liberties here>)

The Royals reinserted themselves into the AL Central race and became buyers in the July marketplace. They added MELKY Cabrera from the White Sox. Cabrera was hitting .295-13-56, typical of the production you can expect from him.  The Royals also bolstered the rotation by picking up Trevor Cahill form the Padres (where he had a 3.69 ERA in 11 starts this season). Newcomers Brandon Mauer (Padres) and Ryan Buchter (Padres) may provide bullpen help.  Overall, Cabrera is likely to be the biggest difference maker. Still looks like the Indians have too much to be overtaken.

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