MLB Trade Deadline 2014: Identifying Best Deals from Thursday's Transactions

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MLB Trade Deadline 2014: Identifying Best Deals from Thursday's Transactions
USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 MLB trade deadline had a little bit of something for everyone.

Usual suspects were finally moved, yanking their names forcefully from the headlines. Unexpected names went right along, too, opening up a realm of new possibilities as contenders make a playoff push and pretenders stockpile talent quicker than those involved in the nuclear arms race.

Heck, even players themselves were benefactors of Thursday's deadline. Some guys simply wanted out, while others were in need of a change of scenery to salvage careers or eventual money come new contract time.

With the deadline fully in the rear-view mirror, let's take a knee-jerk look at the best deals of the day.

 

John Lackey Lands with Cardinals

USA TODAY Sports

Stuck in the quagmire that is the National League Central, the St. Louis Cardinals entered the fray in search of pitching and got it in a big way.

After the addition of Justin Masterson Wednesday, the Cardinals hit the trade deadline in an aggressive manner and struck a deal with the Boston Red Sox for veteran hurler John Lackey, per ESPN.com.

The maneuver is very much a short-term one to hunt for a title. Allen Craig is 30 years old and hitting just .237 on the year, but the real hurt is the loss of 26-year-old Joe Kelly on the mound, who, for all intents and purposes, has plenty of room to improve.

But again, this is about the now.

Lackey is 35 years old and has a club option at $15.25 million, per Spotrac. Of course, there is a strange clause that dips his pay to the veteran's minimum if a prior injury flares back up. Best of all, he is still in top form, as evidenced by his 11-7 record and 3.60 ERA in 21 starts with the miserable Red Sox.

Of course, not everyone—such as USA Today's Bob Nightengale—is a fan of the move:

Sure, Craig struggled this year. He has been mired in a season-long slump. Hey, it happens. But just a year ago, the Cardinals believed in this guy enough that they gave him a six-year, $33 million contract.

And now, they dump him off for a guy who may be around for only two months, as well as a pitcher who was huge during the Cardinals' World Series berth last year?

Still, there is something to be said for the tenacity of the front office in St. Louis. The plan was clearly to never surrender any of the talent in the farm system, and the team managed to stick to the plan in the process of landing a guy who can solidify a rotation on the path to a potential division title and playoff push.

Given the goals in mind, this classifies as a mission accomplished.

 

Red Sox Reel in Yoenis Cespedes

USA TODAY Sports

So those aforementioned Red Sox dump Lackey's contract off the books and acquire two rather high-upside players.

As if that were not enough, the long-term-minded front office then went out and swung a megadeal with the Oakland Athletics to bring in Yoenis Cespedes, per ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes.

Any way this one is sliced, it's a win. Look at Oakland, which lands an elite pitcher in Jon Lester who is in the final year of a deal that pays him $13 million, per Spotrac. Perfect for a team that is just 2.5 games in front of the rest of the pack in the American League West. 

But more importantly, look at these Red Sox rebuild. At just 28 years old, Cespedes's track record speaks for itself, as his numbers and SportsCenter help illustrate:

YEAR AB HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
2012 487 23 82 .292 .356 .505
2013 529 26 80 .240 .294 .442
2014 399 17 67 .256 .303 .464

ESPN

Not enough? Check a rather simple statistic courtesy of John Buccigross:

Oh, and he's pretty good at a place called Fenway Park, as noted by Beyond the Box Score:

The point is, the rebuilding Red Sox are walking an amazing tightrope. Think of it this way—most organizations would be content to ship away major assets in exchange for promising prospects to build for the future.

Not the Red Sox.

No, Boston is adamant about 2014 merely being a blooper reel and 2015 being a shot right back into contention. The Red Sox have done just that by shipping players away—as any front office would—but only for proven major leaguers in return.

It's an admirable approach, and one that might just see the Red Sox in contention this time next year. Cespedes personifies the Red Sox at this stage of the game.

 

David Price to the Tigers

USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers smelled blood in the water and struck.

According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman (via CBS Sports' Mike Axisa), the Tigers scored David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays, while the Rays took on Drew Smyly, Nick Franklin and Willy Adames. Seattle was the third wheel in the shindig, gobbling up Austin Jackson.

Let's not call this a win-win for everyone, as the Rays front office just crippled a locker room that had fought hard together to come back from 18 games under .500. Price had won six in a row. So much for that playoff push.

But for Detroit? What a deal. A note from ESPN Stats & Info says it all:

The Tigers are in first place in the AL Central and were on the hunt for additional help, but Price coming to town was a dream, not something anyone saw actually coming to fruition. The caveat is that Price gives the Tigers a player who has done nothing short of improve:

SEASON IP BB SO W L WAR WHIP ERA
2010 208.2 79 188 19 6 4.4 1.19 2.72
2011 224.1 63 218 12 13 2.4 1.14 3.49
2012 211.0 59 205 20 5 6.4 1.10 2.56
2013 186.2 27 151 10 8 2.8 1.10 3.33
2014 170.2 23 189 11 8 2.6 1.14 3.11

ESPN

Really, the only other loser of the deal seems to be Price himself, who was a bit confident he was not going anywhere well before the deadline:

Whoops.

But really, Price is a winner in this ordeal as well. He has one more year of arbitration before hitting free agency, is freed from the shackles of a small-market team and gets a shot at a World Series.

What's not to like?

 

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