The free agent frenzy, Summer edition, did not disappoint as a vast amount of major league players changed uniforms…from the All Star break to the 4:00 pm deadline this past Friday, 41 notable players went from one team to another—not surprisingly, 20 of those moving are free agents at the end of the season.
Ever since 1976, when Andy Messersmith, a starting pitcher who challenged MLB’s reserve clause, players have been able to sign with any team they desired, after their contract had expired. Teams really did not have any choice except to throw large quantities of money at the free agent that was expected to take their new team to the next level. Owners made things a little easier in 1986 when they extended the trade deadline from June 15 to July 31. Still, owners had little control over where a player may land. Hence, the recent flurry of moving free-agents-to-be over the past several years.
If an owner believes that the team has little or no chance of re-signing a player, then the only option is to move that player, usually to a contender, and get some minor league talent in return. That is pretty much what happened over the past few weeks as some teams became sellers and other teams became buyers.
The Detroit Tigers were a prime example of a seller as they unloaded three potential free agents right around the deadline, despite the fact that, with the second wild card team being added to the post-season, they are only 4.5 games out of a playoff spot and will be getting their top hitter, Miguel Cabrera, back in a couple of weeks.
Detroit moved starter David Price, closer Joakim Soria, and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. In return, they received five pitching prospects and a shortstop prospect. One of the pitchers, Daniel Norris, was the top-rated prospect for the Toronto Blue Jays. In 2014, Norris compiled a 12.2 record with a 2.53 ERA at three minor league levels. He struck out 163 batters in 125 and had a WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 1.11. Norris is going right into the Tigers’ rotation as he starts against Baltimore this afternoon.
Teams who are in a “Win Now” mode, such as Toronto, Kansas City, and Houston, made some big-time trades in order to make a playoff push this year. The Blue Jays, in addition to getting Price, picked up All Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from Colorado, reliever Mark Lowe from Seattle and outfielder Ben Revere from Philadelphia. In the process, however, the Jays traded away 11 players, which could affect the team in the future. For a team that is only one game over .500, one wonders if the Toronto gamble will pay off. Only time will tell.
One of the largest trades, in terms of number of players changing uniforms, also took place, among the Dodgers, Marlins, and Braves. L.A. acquired five players from Atlanta, and two from the Marlins, including Michael Morse—who was then flipped to Pittsburgh for outfielder Jose Tabata. The Dodgers sent three players to Miami, and three more to Atlanta. The “Boys in Blue” missed out on Price and another ace lefty Cole Hamels, but kept their top two prospects and still remain as a legitimate contender, although their NL Western Division lead has shrunk to only 1.5 games over the surging San Francisco Giants.
Although the deadline has passed, players can still be moved…but must clear waivers before the deal is finalized. Some big names that may be traded are: second-baseman Chase Utley, outfielder Marlon Byrd, reliever Francisco Rodriguez, catcher A.J. Pierzynski, outfielder Jonny Gomes, infielder Martin Prado, pitcher Ian Kennedy, and first baseman Mike Napoli. These players could be acquired, especially if teams were to lose a key person to injury.
Two more months remain in the 2015 season. There will be more dealing, but not as extensive as the past three weeks.