What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Thanks to the Discovery Channel, Shark Week has become a phenomenon. Also, thanks to the Discovery Channel, their decision to move Shark Week from the end of July to the beginning really threatened to seriously monkey-wrench our annual salute to giant predatory fish and how they compare to the shark-tank that is the baseball trading deadline. Frankly, we didn’t want to lose a classic Dubsism bit, so we said “Screw it, we’re doing it anyway.”
In fact, we’ve added a new category…the Sharknado. As you read this list, it works from the top down; from apex predator to bottom-feeding scavenger. But the Sharknado category is a “wild-card,” meaning we really aren’t sure what to make of a team’s moves at the deadline. It could be chain-saw proof great whites raining from the sky, or it could be a storm of future cat food. We simply don’t have a fucking clue.
The bottom line is trading is a shark-eat-shark world; some sharks do the eating, and some sharks get eaten. It is along those lines that I draw comparisons to the moves made by baseball teams at the trading deadline.
Why such a comparison? Because no matter what, one thing is certain. Where there is trading , there is bleeding, and nothing draws the sharks like blood in the water.
Great White Shark:
Toronto Blue Jays:
It’s pretty clear that general manager Alex Anthopoulos is pushing all his chips to the center of the table, and fora host of reasons. Sure, you can point to the fact that the “glory days” of this franchise are twenty years past, but it also is important to remember this is Anthopoulos’ contract year, and what better way to up your stock than by winning a championship? Just by adding the best offensive short-stop in the game in Troy Tulowitzki and a legitimate top-of-the-rotation guy in David Price, the Blue Jays just became a team which must be reckoned with in the largely mediocre American League.
Now, if the Blue Jays had stood pat at that point, I wouldn’t have head them this high on the list, because I think the price they paid was a bit much. They gave up their two best pitching prospects; LHP Daniel Norris ranked No. 15 on Keith Law’s mid-season Top 50 and RHP Jeff Hoffman was the Toronto’s first-round pick in 2014. But Anthopoulos didn’t stop there.
The Blue Jays also bolstered a bullpen which ranks sixth in the AL with a 3.36 ERA and third with 9.08 strikeouts per nine innings with the additions of Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins. Lowe has a 1.00 ERA and nearly 12 strikeouts per nine innings for the Seattle Mariners. Hawkins adds that ever-popular “veteran presence” and he has tons of play-off experience.
After all that, I think the deal which may prove to be key is the acquisition of Ben Revere from the Philadelphia Phillies. Revere’s “slash” numbers of .298/.334/.374 with 24 steals gives the Blue Jays an option at the top of the order, which would allow Tulowitski’s bat to end up in a run-producing role in Toronto’s high-powered offense.
That offense is the key to this team. The Blue Jays are banking on the fact that their American League-leading run differential will power them to ending the longest play-off drought in the majors. Like I said, it is clearly “World Series or Bust” time in Toronto, if for no other reason that should the Blue Jays don’t even win a wild card, they Price to free agency, and if Norris and Hoffman develop into stars, you can bet Alex Anthopoulos won’t be getting his mail in Toronto anymore.
Kansas City Royals:
This time last year, the Royals were 55-52 and were over .500 only because of a recent hot streak. They got roasted in the media not trading James Shields. But then Kansas City tore up the American League for three weeks after the deadline, notching a record of 19-4 and completely changing the fortunes of the franchise. For almost three decades, the Kansas City Royals were the laughing stock of baseball.
Not anymore. The Royals could be headed to a second straight World Series.
No team improved their chances of a trip to the Fall Classic more than the Royals did. They had two glaring holes and they filled both of them. Johnny Cueto gives them the ace they sorely lacked, and uber-utility man Ben Zobrist will give the royals plenty of chances to get the black hole of offensive production known as Omar Infante out of the lineup.
Even with those holes, the Royals are already leading their division, and they just got significantly better.
San Francisco Giants:
I’ve seen a lot of criticism of this deal, which I frankly do not understand. Yes, I understand the common perception was the Giants needed to land of one of the “big time” starters of the Price/Hamels/Cueto/Samardzija mold, and by failing to do so, they’ve failed to help themselves. Yes, I understand Mike Leake doesn’t have the instant “sex appeal” of the aforementioned aces.
But, consider the following facts:
Given all that, I think the Giants did just fine. October will tell the story.
The Houston Astros are one of three teams which I believe are in contention ahead of their rebuilding schedule. The Minnesota Twins are a complete surprise, and I’m glad they didn’t mortgage the future to try to compete today. I’ll address the Chicago Cubs later in this piece.
It wasn’t hard to see the Astros were quietly building an interesting team; I pointed that out early at the beginning of this season.
The Houston Astros took a big step forward last year in the form of a 19-win improvement over 2013. Granted, they are still light-years away from contending for a division title, but out of all the teams you would not consider to be favorites, this one might be the most interesting. They’ve got a batting-title-winning shortstop in Jose Altuve. They’ve got a budding star in George Springer. They’ve got a farm system loaded with top prospects. And they’ve got no pressure to perform. That’s the stuff “dark horses” are made of.
Clearly, the Astros took a different direction than the Twins, who really did nothing, or the Cubs, who did worse than nothing. This is because Houston faced a complex problem. Like the Twins and the Cubs, they’ve been dreadful for years, the fans have lived through a horrid period of rebuilding, and now this team is looking like a potential winner. The difference with the Astros is of all those teams, Houston is the most complete and division-winner-capable right now.
This begs the question. Did the Astros achieve a precarious balance between short-term upgrades that didn’t come at the expense of long-term planning? Or did they “mortgage the future” as the cliché goes?
Frankly, I think it is the former. While it is true they gave up a lot of prospects, the Astros are also set the for the future at many positions. They have one of the best keystone combos in baseball in batting-title-winner Jose Altuve and budding superstar Carlos Correa, not to mention they are both young and under contract for years at below-market rates. The Astros have are set up for corner outfielders with Colby Rasmus, Evan Gattis, and the currently-injured George Springer. Jason Castro and Hank Conger make a solid set of catchers. They have the beginnings of a damn good rotation, with Lance McCullers, Collin McHugh, Mike Fiers, and home-grown ace Dallas Keuchel.
When you stop to consider what they added in Carlos Gomez and Scott Kazmir, it looks to me like the Astros are planning on contending for a while. Gomez is a huge improvement over Jake Marisnick in center field. Scott Kazmir will push Sccott Feldman and all those other 5-spot guys they have out of the rotation.
Don’t look now, but the Astros are for real.
I’m not in the habit of giving teams high mark for being sellers, but this year’s Tigers are a clear exception. Going into the season, they were a ricketty old wagon at best. An aging Joe Nathan was supposed to fix a deplorable bullpen situation. That didn’t happen; his “Tommy John” surgery doesn’t bode well for his future. Justin Verlander was supposed to anchor a mediocre-at-best rotation. That hasn’t happened. Once Miguel Cabrera went down, it was clear that the proverbial “window of contention” for the Tigers had closed.
Once general manager Dave Dombrowski realized that he only has a few more seasons to ride a healthy Cabrera and that it was time to look to contending again in a year or two, it became pretty clear despite all of Dombrowski’s denials the Tigers were in “fire sale” mode. It simply was no longer feasible to entertain the idea of ponying up huge cash to keep David Price and Yoenis Cespedes to keep propping open a “window” which was already broken. .
For Cespedes, the Tigers got minor league pitchers Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa. Fulmer is ranked by MLB.com as New York’s #7 prospect, while Cessa is #6.
But it was the Price deal where the Tigers really made a haul. Detroit got three…count ’em…three pitchers who could be in the rotation next year. The Blue Jays sent Daniel Norris, the team’s top prospect and biggest trade chip, 24-year-old left-hander Matt Boyd, who made two starts for Toronto this year, and Jairo Labourt, a highly touted 21-year-old who represented the Jays in the All-Star Futures Game. Both Boyd and Labourt ranked among the team’s top 15 or 20 prospects.
For a team desperate for both starting and bullpen pitching, getting five guys who could all be major-league ready sooner rather than later is a pretty good deal.
Blacktip Reef Shark:
Everybody loves the “big” deal. The bigger the flash, the bigger the splash. But some people just aren’t into flash. I’m guessing the Baltimore Orioles fit that description. To be seriously considered as a real contender, the Orioles needed a “flash” deal; instead, they took a nice, quiet move which really does improve them.
Baltimore went into the waters, latched on to a valuable player having a very nice season, and got out. Done deal, no flash; Gerardo Parra for a minor-leaguer of moderate promise. They double-down on that by picking up Junior Lake in exchange for Tommy Hunter. If those trades were wardrobe choices, they would be a blue Oford button-down shirt with a pair of relaxed-fit cotton slacks. Boring, but always in style.
To be honest, the Orioles could have used another big bat or a front-line pitcher, but like the Giants, Baltimore simply doesn’t have the talent down on the farm for such a deal.
Here’s another team that helped itself by selling the one thing they had. Let’s face it, The Phillies were like the broke guy walking into the pawn shop; everybody knew they were selling on Cole Hamels, it just became a question of could they get their price? I’m not sure they got everything they wanted, but they sure found their “sucker.” The Texas Rangers did not send every single one of their top prospects to the Phillies in return, but Hamels did cost them a six-player package all of whom are likely to be solid major-league contributors sooner rather than later.
Here’s how this worked: Rangers’ general manager Jon Daniels paid a high price to acquire three-time All-Star Hamels because as usual, Texas is desperate for pitching. To that end, the Rangers also acquired left-handed reliever Jake Diekman. Diekman struck out 100 batters in 71 innings last season with the Phillies, and he’s under contract through 2019. For that matter, Hamels is locked up until 2018 with a team option for 2019.
So why am I saying this was a terrible deal for the Rangers? There’s two reasons.
First, the Rangers should NEVER EVER EVER spend money on a free-agent pitcher, and they surely should stop trading for them. It’s like nobody down there understands that Texas is where pitchers go to die. Just ask Cliff Lee. Seriously, it would be easier to put together a list of Jewish popes than free-agent pitchers who thrived in Texas in the last 15 years.
More importantly, look at what Texas gave up to get pitching. They gave up pitching. Pitching. PITCHING! Am I the only one who wonders why that makes any fucking sense at all?
With the exceptions of minor league prospects Jorge Alfaro (catcher), Nick Williams (outfielder), the Rangers sent established starter Matt Harrison and farm arms Jake Thompson, Alec Asher, and Jerad Eickhoff to Philadelphia. I don’t get it.
My level of comprehension gets even lower Vince Young’s Wonderlic scores when you look specifically at Hamels. With this deal, the Rangers are now on the hook for $23.5 million per year until 2018, in which case they will have to pay him $20 million if the exercise their option for 2019. Stack that on top of what the Rangers are already paying Yu Darvish ($10 million, $10.8 million, and $11.8 million for the next three years respectively) plus the $50 million Texas paid for the right just to negotiate with Darvish, and the Rangers could be on the hook for close to $200 million dollars for Darvish’s rebuilt arm which might be just fine or might be lunch meat, and Hamels who promises to wilt in the Texas heat.
Doubt that? He’s already doing it. His walks and hits per innings pitched (WHIP) has been trending north for 3 years now, he’s 31 years old and isn’t getting any younger. I get that he’s still posting “ace” type numbers, and I also get he was pitching in a “band box” hitter-friendly park, but Texas has these weird “wind tunnels” that makes the ball fly out of that place as well.
The bottom line is Cole Hamels won’t make the Rangers a contender, but trading him sure gave the Phillies a brighter future.
New York Mets:
Leave it to the Mets to make a reasonably successful trade season look a sideshow. Had the not pulled off the deal for Yoenis Cespedes, the legacy of this season for the Mets would have been the saga that was the failed Carlos Gomez deal.
Why? Because the Mets are weird…very weird.
They scotched a deal they started because all of a sudden they had problems with Gomez’s hip. Gomez didn’t have a problem with his hip. The Astros, who have killed more than one deal because the doctors didn’t like it, didn’t have a problem with Gomez’ hip. But the Mets did.
Instead of getting Gomez who would have been under contract until after 2016, the Mets were dangerously close to having their big acquisitions be Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from the Atlanta Braves. Let that sink in for a moment.
Better yet is that while the Mets did save themselves by picking up a big bat in Cespedes, and while they ended up not having to give up Zack Wheeler. there’s a problem. While Cespedes makes a nice fit adding power to a lineup which can’t score, Gomez would have been in a Mets uniform next season for a cheap price, whereas Cespedes will be a free agent after the season. Not only that, but the Mets cannot re-sign him because his contract stipulates his team releases him after the season. The current collective bargaining agreement states any team that releases a player cannot re-sign him as a free agent until May 15, which means the Mets will be right back to Square One this off-season.
We all knew the Reds wanted to sell. Walt Jocketty might as well have put a Yard Sale sign up in Cincinnati during the All-Star game. He had those “Clearance Sale”sign-spinning guys on every street corner. “No reasonable offer refused.” Despite the obvious desperate nature of the Reds, they still managed not to screw this up worse than they did.
Honestly, they did well with the Johnny Cueto trade in getting pitchers who can help both now and soon. They got the Giants’ top prospect; a pitcher with mid-90s gas and stellar command. The Reds need to rebuild their pitching staff, which is now the out-of-service Homer Bailey and memories of what once was. That meant the Reds needed to get as many arms as possible, and they did a fair job of dong just that. The only team to do a better job of that lies a few hours north on I-75 in Detroit. I’m not sure why Aroldis Chapman is still a Red, but that’s not a terribly big issue since he can easily be shopped at the Winter Meetings.
Here’s the big problem the Cubs have. They obviously are reading and over-believing the press clippings about how stocked their farm system is. Combine that with with two other problems and you can see why the Cubs made one the worst trade-deadline moves of the year. As I said earlier, the Cubs are clearly ahead of schedule for contending. Couple with that with a fan base too full of people who know NOTHING about baseball, and that’s how you end up with the likes of Dan Haren.
Dear Cubs fans…here’s why your team has “no sense of urgency” (that’s the common line I heard Cubs fans puking out on Chicago sports media). Like I said, this team under Theo Epstein has a timetable for their rebuilding plan, and the Cubs are a contending a year early. Let’s do the math…
The Cubs have a shitload of young talent in terms of position players, but they are slim on pitching. In order to be a real contender, you have to have pitching. It was pretty clear pitching was on the shopping list for this off-season, which is EXACTLY why they didn’t want to start the service-time clock on Kris Bryant. The idea was to assemble a team ready to contend next year, fan pressure made them do it. That same fan pressure which led to Bryant’s promotion is why the Cubs fell into the trap of making useless move at the deadline.
Here’s the reality. The Cubs don’t need a sense of urgency. Yes, I understand that whole “1908” thing, but you aren’t going to solve over a century of suckititude overnight. Theo Epstein and his boy Jed are trying to turn the franchise; they aren’t about to give Cubs’ nation those useless glimmers of hope like 1984, 1989, or 2003. They want to build a franchise which contend chronically, not just now. If you hadn’t noticed, they have a track record of ending historic championship droughts. That means they weren’t selling tomorrow for today.
Having said that, it the pressure from the fan base that led to to this idiotic deal for Dan Haren. Not only is this the classic “well, at least we did SOMETHING” trade, but even Haren himself admits he’s nearing the end of the road.
Don’t get me wrong, any deal which involves getting rid of Junior Lake is a positive as they did to get Tommy Hunter from Baltimore, but Dan Haren won’t help you now, won’t help you tomorrow, won’t help you ever. EVER! Trading two prospects for a junk-ball artist in Wrigley Field who walks at the end of the year anyway is just bad decision making.
And it’s all your doing, Cubs’ fans. Somewhere from an undisclosed location, Steve Bartman is laughing at you.
Los Angeles Angels:
As an Angels fan, it pains me to say this, but the
Los Angeles California Anahiem Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim billion-dollar fuck-show known as Arte Moreno’s Angels may be one of the worst run franchises in baseball. They cover a lot of that dysfunction with piles upon piles of money, but this team couldn’t find success if you tied a fucking bell to it.
The main reason for that is the Angels are more dysfunctional than those families of toothless hillbillies you sees on reruns of “Cops.” Just this year there was the circle-jerk over the Josh Hamilton situation. Then there was the incident where former general manager Jerry DiPoto boxed up his office with no notice over a dispute with manager Mike Scioscia. To top it off, there this shit-storm of trades.
Despite being a major contender, the Angels had serious needs across the diamond; starting pitching, another bomber bat (preferably in the outfield), and especially bullpen help. By the time the trade deadline clock read 00:00, the only thing the Angels accomplished was to assemble a Mauchian nightmare of 3rd/4th outfielders who promise to do little more than the most unrpdoctive platoon since F Troop.
Does anybody really think adding Shane Victorino from the Boston Red Sox, David DeJesus from the Tampa Bay Rays and David Murphy from the Cleveland Indians really does anything other than clog the bench with mediocre outfielders?
This team is in a serious swoon; they had already lost three out of four games before back-to-back series sweeps at the hands of the Astros and the Dodgers. of seven games going into their weekend set against the Los Angeles Dodgers. These moves will do nothing to help that.
Bathtub Toy Shark:
New York Yankees:
Apparently, nobody believed general manger Brian Cashman when he aid a few years back the Yankees were looking to cut payroll and stop paying baseball’s “luxury tax.” This is why the media kept creating all sorts of trade rumors, none of which proved to have any real foundation other than in the minds of a bunch of keyboard pounders. .
David Price. Cole Hamels. Johnny Cueto. Jeff Samardzija. Yovani Gallardo. Aroldis Chapman. Craig Kimbrel. At some point, every single one of those guys was rumored to be headed to the Bronx. Not one of them did.
Forget about the fact the Yankees have suddenly found themselves atop the AL East. Forget about the irony in the fact the Yankees exceptionally-thin pitching staff is led by C.C. Sabathia. Forget abut the fact the Yankees just put Michael Pineda on the disabled list, and are hearing tales of “arm fatigue” coming out of Ivan Nova. did nothing on the pitching front.
To solve all those issues, the only move the Bombers made was to add outfielder Dustin Ackley from the Seattle Mariners. Staying in front ot the Toronto Blue Jays now seems like a pipe dream.
Jonathan Papelbon. That name rhymes with “yawn” for a reason. The one deal they made was for a closer, and contrary to to popular belief , closers don’t matter.
The Chum Bucket:
San Diego Padres:
How quickly things change. eight months ago, the Padres were being touted as a contender because general manager A.J. Preller stole the show at the Winter Meetings with a prodigious level of acquisitions which led Matt Kemp to refer to him as a “rock star.” Now, he might be more like a “one-hit wonder.”
Preller’s architecture of this team showed cracks early on, and as we neared the trade deadline, every baseball “expert” swore the “fire-sale” was on in San Diego. Preller refused to move several assets which could have commanded a King’s ransom at the deadline. That is why a deal for closer Craig Kimbrel never materialized. That is why none of the Justin Upton rumors developed into anything. And that is why the Padres rotation remains intact despite getting offers for Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner.
Obviously, Preller isn’t ready to break up his baby; he must think this team can contend if not now, soon. Whatever the case may be, the Padres are almost guaranteed of losing Justin Upton to free-agency. But it won’t be a complete loss. because the Padres can make Upton a qualifying offer and receive a draft pick once he turns it down. They can look to move other pieces in the off-season, or maybe Preller goes on another shopping spree. The one sure thing is that next year had better not look like this year did.
If I were to tell you this was yet another dump-job by the Marlins, you wouldn’t be surprised. Yes, they were part of that massive three-team deal that sent Mat Latos, Alex Wood, Jim Johnson, and Michael Morse to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and which also moved Cuban prospect Hector Olivera to the Atlanta Braves.
The problem is what else the Marlins gave up. Once again, Miami sold a competitive-balance draft pick, likely to be in the 30-40 range of the first round next year. This is the third time in three years the Marlins have traded such a pick, and this time, it basically equated to selling the pick so that the Dodgers would take Morse and his $8 million salary for next year. The Dodgers eventually designated Morse for assignment and then traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jose Tabata. The draft pick eventually ended up with the Braves, and the Marlins got three minor league pitchers, none of them a major-league prospect any time soon.
The bottom line is the fact Marlins continue to sell draft picks for nothing more than than salary relief is the most damning evidence they have no intention of winning anytime soon.
Los Angeles Dodgers:
As previously mentioned, the Sharknado category is a “wild-card,” meaning we really aren’t sure what to make of a team’s moves at the deadline. This all boils down to that gargantuan 13-player trade the Dodgers pulled off with the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins.
One one hand, it could be seen as the Dodgers filled several significant needs in getting two starting pitchers (Alex Wood and Mat Latos) to fill out rotation winch is largely crap behind aces Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. They also picked up much needed relievers in Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan. They also received a potential future infielder in Jose Peraza, who was rated the 26th best prospect in baseball in Baseball America’s mid-season rankings.
Say what you will, those are eye-popping numbers; not to mention, there’s the matter of trading for a guy who hasn’t pitched all year and who hasn’t been that effective in years anyway? Latos was a interesting guy two trades ago, Alex Wood might be a solid long-term investment, but then again, at one time people said the same thing about Enron.
Either way, for the third straight deadline, the Dodgers will go down the stretch with two ridiculous aces and lot of of not much else in the bullpen. But other teams have made that work in the past. In other words, your guess is as good as ours.