Most baseball fans remember the flurry of trade activity right around the July 31 deadline. There were at least 19 significant names that traded uniforms, most of them impending free agents. Now, 18 days later, how are those players doing for their new clubs?
I don’t think anyone would disagree that the team experiencing the biggest boost from their trades is the Toronto Blue Jays. A team that has not made the playoffs since 1993 (they won the World Series championship that year and the previous year, 1992), the Blue Jays made a couple of bold moves that shot them from being “pretenders” to being “contenders”.
First of all, Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos acquired perennial All Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockies. Since the July 28 deal, Tulowitzki has hit only .219 but his reputation precedes him. The five-time All Star also has two Silver Slugger awards and two Gold Glove awards in his trophy case. The Blue Jays reeled off 11 wins in a row and 12 of 15 to vault into the AL East lead. What Tulo does in October will be much more important than what he is doing now; and, oh by the way, Anthopoulos picked up a season relief pitcher in LaTroy Hawkins, who has 19 post-season games on his resume.
Then, Anthopoulos pulled off arguably the best trade of them all when he wrested David Price from the Detroit Tigers, a team that suddenly threw in the towel when they were still in contention. Price has made three starts for his new team and has a 2-0 record, with a 1.61 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. Price joined a rotation that already includes Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Marco Estrada. Also, Marcus Stroman is due to come off the disabled list any day now.
Finally, Toronto acquired outfielder Ben Revere, perhaps as an after-thought since he is batting only .216. Revere, however, is a good base-stealer and a very good outfielder (he has no errors and five assists).
If the Blue Jays won the battle of the General Managers, then the Kansas City Royals were a close second. General Manager Dayton Moore knew his team was good (20 games over .500 and eight games in front of the AL Central as of July 31) but he also knew that the Royals needed to get better if they wanted to return to the World Series (they lost to the Giants in seven games).
Moore started off by picking up the most-coveted right-hand pitcher in Johnny Cueto. In four games started for the Royals since the trade, Cueto is 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP. Then, KayCee acquired multi-talented Ben Zobrist from Oakland. Zobie has responded to being traded to a contender by hitting .333 with three homers through games this past Sunday.
Those two deals, plus the return of patriarch Alex Gordon, puts the Royals in a pretty good position to win its first-ever division title and advance to the ALCS for the second consecutive year.
Well, if we are going to talk about the winners during the trade deadline period, we also need to talk about the losers. Not too many baseball aficionados would disagree that the Los Angeles Dodgers were the biggest losers at the trade deadline. The biggest acquisitions of President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and General Manager Farhan Zaidi were starters Alex Wood and Mat Latos and relievers Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan. On paper, they looked like nice additions…but, it is what the players do on the field that counts. Most Dodger fans are lamenting that the new Dodger management could not wrest away Price from the Tigers and Cole Hamels from Philadelphia. So, what have the new players been doing?
Latos, in three starts, is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA; Wood is 1-1 with a 5.09 ERA. Johnson, once one of the best closers in the game, has an inflated 20.25 (you read that right!) ERA, allowing 12 earned runs and 13 hits in only 5-1/3 innings.
These acquisitions may do better in September and the Dodgers are leading their division, but with the highest salary in the majors, L.A. needs to have a bigger vision: either the World Series, or heads are going to roll.
By the way, don’t count out the Rangers! Hamels has been struggling but he is learning all new hitters and he will probably come around just in time for the playoffs.