Mike Trout to Zack Greinke: Grading the 14 Best Moves from the 2012 MLB Season

John AltamuraContributor IIOctober 25, 2012

Mike Trout to Zack Greinke: Grading the 14 Best Moves from the 2012 MLB Season

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    The 2012 MLB season had its share of memorable transactions. Some of these transactions had little or no bearing on the outcome of the pennant races. Others, such as the Anibal Sanchez pickup by the Detroit Tigers and the Marco Scutaro trade by the San Francisco Giants, proved to be postseason game changers. 

    It wasn't just trades and free-agent pickups made by clubs that proved to be beneficial. Players such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Mike Trout all were promoted successfully to the big leagues this season.

    As 2012 draws to a thrilling conclusion, lets take a look at 14 transactions that made a difference.

The Bryce Harper Era Begins

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    April 28: The Washington Nationals recall Bryce Harper from Syracuse (AAA).

    The highly anticipated debut of Harper took place on a cool April evening at Chavez Ravine against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The former Sports Illustrated cover boy faced off against Chad Billingsley and recorded his first major league hit, a double, in the top of the seventh inning.

    Harper wound up finishing the game 1-for-3 and would never return to Syracuse. He finished 2012 with a .270 BA, 22 HR and 59 RBI.

    The move to recall Harper proved to be a wise one as the Nationals would secure their first NL East championship and postseason bid.

    Grade: B

The Angels Promote Mike Trout

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    April 28: The LA Angels recall Mike Trout from Salt Lake (AAA)

    April 28, 2012 may become one of those relevant days in baseball history.

    On that day, two up-and-coming players, Trout and the Washington Nationals Bryce Harper, would make their 2012 debuts. It would be the major league debut for Harper and a major league return for Trout, who spent a short stint up from the farm in 2011.

    Trout would cement himself as one of the best players in the AL in 2012 with solid numbers (.326 BA, 30 HR, 83 RBI) across the board. He led the league in runs scored (129), stolen bases (49) and played in his first All-Star Game in Kansas City in July. 

    Trout's remarkable season most certainly earned him Rookie of the Year honors and has given Angel fans something to look forward to for 2013.

    The decision to recall Trout from the minors was one of the best moves made this season. 

    Grade: A 

Middlebrooks Gets His Shot

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    May 2: Will Middlebrooks recalled from Pawtucket (AAA).

    The last days of the Kevin Youkilis era in Boston coincided with the arrival of highly-touted prospect Will Middlebrooks. The 24-year-old third baseman got his opportunity to shine when Youkilis went on the 15-day DL in early May.

    His stellar play in Youkilis' absence earned him a spot on the team and forced Boston GM Ben Cherington to explore trade possibilities. Youkilis was eventually traded to the Chicago White Sox and Middlebrooks would become one of the only bright spots in what would become a lost season.

    He would finish his rookie season with a .288 BA, 15 HR, 54 RBI.

    The move to bring up Middlebrooks facilitated a changing of the guard in Boston to a younger and less expensive team.

    A good thing for the future.

    Grade: B 

McLouth Released, Signed by Orioles

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    May 31: Pittsburgh Pirates place Nate McLouth on waivers for the purpose of giving his unconditional release.

    June 5: Signed by the Baltimore Orioles

    The Pirates were 25-25 when they decided to release Nate McLouth. From a statistical point of view, the Pirates made a wise decision at the time as he was batting a measly.145 with an awful .385 OPS.

    Something strange happened though, as McLouth would find his confidence and swing with the Orioles.

    Making his debut with the Orioles on Aug 4, McLouth went 2-for-4 and would finish the season with an improved batting average (.241) and OPS (.694).

    His real impact was felt in the postseason as he batted .308 with several clutch hits against the New York Yankees. The controversial foul ball almost game-tying home run in Game 5 could have made McLouth a hero and potentially led the Orioles into the ALCS against the Tigers. 

    You can't really blame the Pirates for releasing McLouth, but you have to wonder what would have been if they had kept him.

    The move turned out to be a brilliant one by Baltimore as McLouth turned out to be a postseason offensive spark plug.

    Grade: B+

       

Youkilis Comes to the Windy City

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    June 24: The Chicago White Sox acquire Kevin Youkilis and cash from the Boston Red Sox for Brent Lillibridge and Zach Stewart.

    The end of the Youkilis era came without much fanfare as he was moved before the trade deadline to the White Sox. The move helped both clubs as the White Sox were in need of a steady bat at the hot corner and the Red Sox were looking to move on.

    Youkilis played well at times for the White Sox, finishing the season with so-so numbers (.235 BA, 19 HR, 60 RBI) and providing veteran leadership for a team which led the AL Central for a majority of the season. 

    It remains to be seen whether or not the White Sox will bring back or buy out Youkilis for 2013. The move made sense at the time and was worth the $1 million contract buyout risk.

    Grade: C+


Ichiro Traded to the Yankees

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    July 23: Seattle Mariners trade Ichiro Suzuki and cash to the New York Yankees for D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar.

    The Yankees made a shocking pre-deadline trade by acquiring Ichiro from the Mariners for two minor leaguers. The longtime Mariner made himself right at home at Yankee Stadium and had a good conclusion to his season.  

    Ichiro batted .322 in 67 games with the Yankees and provided strong outfield play in the absence of the injured Brett Gardiner. His real impact would be felt in the postseason as he batted .275 with an .710 OPS.

    Ichiro was one of the only Yankees who showed any signs of life during the postseason. Mitchell and Farquhar have not made an impact at all on the major league level so this trade has been a win for the Bombers. 

    Grade: B+

Sanchez Solidifies Tigers Rotation

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    July 23: Tigers acquire Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante and draft considerations from the Miami Marlins for Jacob Turner, Brian Flynn, Rob Brantly and draft considerations.

    The trade for Sanchez didn't seem much at the time as the Tigers were leading the AL Central by a 1.5 games. The real effect of the trade wouldn't be felt until October as Sanchez would prove to play a crucial postseason role for the Tigers.

    Sanchez has been solid in the postseason, posting a 1-1 record with a 1.35 ERA in two starts. His best start came against the New York Yankees in Game 2 of the ALCS, pitching seven shutout innings. 

    Sanchez will start Game 3 of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants at Comerica Park.

    The trade has turned out to be better than advertised for the Tigers. Both Sanchez and Infante have made solid contributions in the playoffs. The three prospects the Tigers gave up as part of the deal all have the potential to be contributors on the major league level.

    Still, most Tigers fans would gladly trade a few prospects for a World Series ring.

    Grade: B+

Marlins Move Hanley to the Dodgers

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    July 25: Miami Marlins trade Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough.

    The Miami Marlins had high hopes for 2012 with the opening of their new ballpark and the free-agent acquisitions of Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle. Those high hopes soon evaporated away into despair as the Marlins fell quickly out of the pennant race.

    Miami was 13.5 games out when it was decided to trade away Ramirez. They were able to save $31.5 million in salary that they would have owed Ramirez for 2013-14.

    Ramirez wasn't able to lead Los Angeles to the postseason as he put up pedestrian regular-season numbers (.271 BA, 10 HR, 44 RBI).

    Eovaldi, the right-handed pitcher who was acquired from the Dodgers in the trade, didn't put up great numbers as well (3-7 record, 4.43 ERA in 12 starts). McGough is still in the low minors and won't be major league ready for a few more years. 

    From a financial perspective, the Ramirez trade was a win for the Marlins. Eovaldi is still young and has potential to become a contributor at the major league level.

    With that said, this was a good trade for the Marlins.

    Grade: C+ 

Greinke Goes to Orange County

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    July 27: Los Angeles acquires Zack Greinke from the Milwaukee Brewers for Jean Segura, Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg.

    The Los Angeles Angels have never shied away from making a move that would potentially aid them in making the postseason. That was the hope when the Angels acquired Greinke from the Brewers in exchange for Jean Segura and two minor league prospects.

    Greinke pitched well for the Angels, going 6-2 with a 3.53 ERA in 13 starts. Unfortunately, Anaheim were unable to make the postseason as they finished third behind the A's and the Rangers.

    The trade was still worth making for the Halos. It will increase in value if they are able to retain Greinke, who is a free agent this offseason. 

    Grade: C+

Scutaro Joins the Giants

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    July 27: The San Francisco Giants acquire Marco Scutaro and cash from the Colorado Rockies for Charlie Culberson.

    It has been quite a postseason for Scutaro as his efforts are one of the main reasons why the Giants are in the World Series. The NLCS MVP is having a spectacular postseason batting .365 with an .853 OPS.

    The Venezuelan native was acquired from the Rockies shortly before the trade deadline and caught on quickly with the Giants. He wound up batting .362 and provided infield versatility as he played both second and third base.

    Culberson has not caught on yet on the major league level as he batted .136 during his brief stint with the Giants this season.

    It is safe to say that the Scutaro trade was one of the most successful trades during the 2012 season. One that continues to pay dividends as the Giants pursue their second World Series championship in the past three years.

    Grade: A

Pence Traded to San Francisco

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    July 31: Philadelphia Phillies trade Hunter Pence and cash to the San Francisco Giants for Nate Schierholtz, Tommy Joseph and Seth Rosin.

    It was a long season for Phillies fans as they spent most of the season struggling to stay within striking distance of contention. These failed expectations led to the trading away of Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton and Pence.

    The Pence trade to San Francisco was a no-brainer for Philadelphia. They were able to trade away their right-fielder for a serviceable player in Schierholtz and two up-and-coming prospects in Joseph and Rosin.

    Schierholtz batted .273 in 37 games for the Phillies. Joseph was ranked by Baseball America as the Giants' second best prospect prior to the 2012 season.

    Rosin posted a 2-2 record with a 4.08 ERA in Single-A ball.

    Pence hasn't exactly panned out in San Francisco as he posted a poor .219 BA for the season. He has also struggled mightily in the postseason, posting a dismal .188 BA through 12 games.

    The move was a good one by the Phillies and could become great if Joseph and Rosin turn out to be studs. 

    Grade: B-


Cubs Trade Dempster to Texas

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    July 31: The Chicago Cubs trade Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers for Christian Vilanueva and Kyle Hendricks.

    The Chicago Cubs are in the midst of a rebuilding project that is not scheduled to be completed anytime soon. As a result, several veteran players were made available for trade by new president Theo Epstein during the 2012 season. One player who wound up packing his bags for a new city was longtime Cub Ryan Dempster.

    The Dempster trade helped the Rangers solidify their starting rotation which had dealt with injuries to Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz. He was able to win seven games after the trade, albeit with a very high 5.09 ERA.

    Epstein hopes Vilanueva will become a fixture at third base in the future. He also hopes the Dartmouth product Hendricks will develop into a quality major league arm.

    For a team that hopes to win their first World Series since 1908, the Cubs are certainly on the right track.

    Grade: B

Cal’s Heir Apparent Arrives

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    Aug 9: Orioles promote Manny Machado from Bowie (AA) to the majors.

    The Orioles are hoping Machado can follow in the footsteps of other Hall of Fame greats such as Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken Jr.

    He has certainly off to a good start, putting up strong numbers in his first 51 games (.262 BA, seven HR, 26 RBI). The postseason was a mixed bag for the 20-year-old as he had a good Wild Card Round game (.333 BA), followed up by a poor showing against the New York Yankees in the ALDS (.125 BA in 19 at bats).

    The former 2010 first-round draft pick has a bright future ahead of him and the Orioles made a good choice by bringing him up to the majors to gain valuable experience.

    Grade: B+

Fire Sale at Fenway

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    Aug 25: Boston Red Sox trade Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto and cash to the Los Angeles Dodgers for James Loney, minor leaguers, Ivan DeJesus, Jr., Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa and Jerry Sands.   

    The fire sale!

    The Boston Red Sox were able to shed more than $250 million worth of salaries in one crazy day. The salary massacre left the Red Sox a drastically different team from the one that took the field on Opening Day 2012.

    The trade made a ton of sense for the Red Sox as they were 60-67 and 13.5 games out of first place at the time. The season in essence was lost months earlier as injuries and clubhouse discontent permeated throughout the Fenway clubhouse.

    Prospects De La Rosa and Webster have the potential to be contributing arms in the future. 

    With Bobby Valentine gone and the team void of high-priced underachieving talent, Boston is poised to come back strong in 2013. The trade of Beckett, Gonzalez and Crawford may have been disappointing to some Red Sox fans, but could turn out to be a brilliant move by GM Ben Cherington.

    Grade: A