Early Report Card Grades for the Biggest Deals of the July Trade Window
From Jon Lester and Yoenis Cespedes switching places to David Price landing in Motown, this was one historically busy July trade window.
And those were just a couple of the biggest moves from deadline day itself. What follows are early report cards for the most important moves of the final month of 2014 MLB non-waiver trade season.
The grading criteria are simple. For big league additions, it's a matter of how much a given player has helped his new team win games. For prospects, it's a question of how they've played so far and how good they project to be in the future.
There's still plenty of time for these grades to change, but from this early vantage point, the Boston Red Sox cleaned up and the Tampa Bay Rays struck out.
Oakland Athletics Acquire Jeff Samardzija from Chicago Cubs in 5-Player Swap
Oakland Athletics Received: SP Jeff Samardzija and SP Jason Hammel
Jeff Samardzija has been racking up quality innings for the Oakland Athletics, but he hasn't been an ace. Since arriving at the beginning of July, the 29-year-old has posted a 3-2 record with a 3.21 ERA. Samardzija has also made a habit of giving up big hits, as he's been tagged for six home runs in eight appearances.
Jason Hammel's career with the Athletics did not get off to a promising start. The right-hander dropped each of his first four outings with the team. The disastrous run prompted John Lund of 95.7 The Game to dub Hammel "Jim Johnson II."
In his last two starts, Hammel has been substantially better, allowing just one run in 12 frames. Still, there is a legitimate question as to just how much of an upgrade the 31-year-old is over Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz, who could otherwise occupy the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
Ultimately, Oakland parted with Addison Russell and a couple of other talented players for two pitchers who are currently the team's fourth and fifth starters.
Chicago Cubs Received: SS Addison Russell, OF Billy McKinney and SP Dan Straily
It's impossible not to notice just how fast Russell's swing is.
Since joining the Chicago Cubs organization in early July, the 20-year-old has clubbed eight home runs in 34 Double-A contests. As Peter Gammons points out, Russell was the only player from Baseball America's Midseason Top 50 Prospects list to change teams at the deadline. Russell checked in at the No. 5 spot on the list.
While Russell was the centerpiece for the Cubs, the team also received Billy McKinney and Dan Straily. Like Russell, McKinney is a former top draft pick with a considerable upside. While playing for Chicago's High-A affiliate, the left-handed-hitting outfielder has hit .314 with an .848 OPS.
The Cubs also picked right-hander Dan Straily in the deal. The 25-year-old has spent parts of the past three seasons in Oakland's rotation and profiles as a fourth or fifth starter. The right-hander is set to make a spot start for Chicago on Saturday, per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune.
The only way that the trade could have worked out any better for the Cubs is if the organization had managed to land a premier starting pitching prospect. The big-league rotation is a major weak spot for Chicago moving forward.
Los Angeles Angels Acquire Huston Street from San Diego Padres for Prospects
Los Angeles Angels Received: RP Huston Street and RP Trevor Gott
The Los Angeles Angels absolutely needed a closer, and Huston Street sure is a good one.
However, the price to acquire the 31-year-old from the San Diego Padres was extremely steep. To land Street, the Angels had to part with four of the organization's top 10 prospects, per J.J. Cooper of Baseball America.
The team's farm system was already thin, and it turns out that the bullpen wasn't Los Angeles' only area of need. According to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, injuries and underwhelming performance have sent general manager Jerry Dipoto scrambling for a starter.
San Diego Padres Received: 2B Taylor Lindsey, SS Jose Rondon, RP R.J. Alvarez and SP Elliot Morris
The San Diego Padres aren't going anywhere this year, which means it made perfect sense for the club to sell off its veterans to the highest bidder. That's exactly what the team did by shipping Street north to the Angels.
In exchange for the reliever, the Padres landed four minor leaguers including Taylor Lindsey, who was Los Angeles' No. 1 prospect at the time of the deal, per Cooper.
However, the steal of the deal was shortstop Jose Rondon. The 20-year-old has been torching the Cal League, as you can see in the video above. In 24 games, the right-handed hitter is batting .337 with a .837 OPS.
Reliever R.J. Alvarez is another player to watch out for. The right-hander has been piling up strikeouts this year, averaging 12.1 per nine innings in the minors, and "has definite closer potential," according to Matthew Pouliot of NBCSports.com.
St. Louis Cardinals Acquire John Lackey from the Boston Red Sox
St. Louis Cardinals Received: SP John Lackey, SP Corey Littrell and cash considerations
John Lackey was absolutely terrible in his second start for the St. Louis Cardinals. While pitching against the Baltimore Orioles on August 9, the starter got shelled for nine earned runs on 13 hits in five innings of work.
In his other two starts for the Cardinals, Lackey has been far more effective, pitching seven innings on both occasions and allowing four earned runs combined. The 35-year-old should be a steady veteran for St. Louis in the closing months of the season, but he isn't likely to be a drastic upgrade over Joe Kelly, the pitcher he was traded for.
For his part, Lackey is certainly glad to have cut ties with Boston. When Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe asked the starter for his thoughts on being traded, Lackey didn't hesitate to offer a candid reply.
"Pretty excited, actually."
As Shaughnessy notes, Lackey has said he plans to honor his $500,000 salary for 2015. Still, that's a situation worth monitoring.
Boston Red Sox Received: OF Allen Craig and SP Joe Kelly
Joe Kelly has proven to be a valuable pickup for the Boston Red Sox. In his first appearance for the reigning World Series champions on August 6, Kelly threw seven innings and allowed one run as the Red Sox edged past his old team, the St. Louis Cardinals.
In two outings, the right-hander has posted a 2.08 ERA. The best part about acquiring Kelly is that he remains under club control through 2019.
The addition of Allen Craig is more challenging to grade at this point. The outfielder has appeared in only one contest for Boston, as he sprained his right ankle August 1. According to Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com, the right-handed hitter is getting close to a rehab assignment.
One positive of the Red Sox's deal for Craig is that they bought low on a player who owns an impressive .291 career average.
Jon Lester and Yoenis Cespedes Switch Places
Oakland Athletics Received: SP Jon Lester, OF Jonny Gomes and cash considerations
When you have the chance to acquire a pitcher like Jon Lester, you take it. That's precisely what Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane did July 31.
Lester has been dealing since arriving in Oakland, as the left-hander has won each of his first three outings. In his last 10 starts overall, the 2014 AL All-Star has ripped off a 6-0 record with a 1.49 ERA. There's also his postseason résumé to consider. Lester has ice water in his veins when it comes to the playoffs, as he owns a 6-4 record with a 2.11 ERA.
There are, however, aspects of the acquisition that can be questioned. Had Oakland known that Lester was going to be available at the end of the month, there's an argument to be made that it wasn't necessary to trade for both Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
The loss of Yoenis Cespedes also hurts. The team's offensive inconsistency can't be pinned on the departure of the Cuban because it has been a defining characteristic of the team throughout the season. Still, losing Cespedes hasn't helped.
Finally, the impact of adding Jonny Gomes can't be forgotten. The veteran outfielder has .291 average against left-handed pitching this season and is renowned for providing one of the best clubhouse presences in baseball.
Boston Red Sox Received: OF Yoenis Cespedes and competitive balance pick
It's nearly impossible to find power hitters.
However, Boston Red Sox GM Ben Cherington pulled it off by bringing in Cespedes. Even though he has 19 home runs in 2014, the 28-year-old has never quite lived up to his ceiling. He also steps up on the big stage, and that's exactly what Fenway Park is.
As the Red Sox have already found out, Cespedes has a history of sustaining minor injuries. The outfielder recently suffered a bruised right hand, per CBS Sports.
With a strong end to this season and a productive year in 2015, Cespedes will be on his way to a monster deal at the end of the campaign when he's set to become a free agent.
Detroit Tigers Land David Price in a 3-Team Trade
Detroit Tigers Received: SP David Price
With just minutes to go before the deadline, Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski pulled off a bombshell of a trade as he acquired David Price in a three-team swap.
Now that Price is in the mix, the Tigers have the last three AL Cy Young Award winners, and the team is supposed to have one of the most imposing rotations in baseball. That second part hasn't gone to plan. Detroit's pitching staff has been hit by a flood of injuries, and Price has produced a strong start and a shaky one.
In the big picture, there is another benefit to acquiring Price. The Tigers have more leverage over Max Scherzer as they discuss a potential new deal in the offseason because the arrival of Price makes it much easier to absorb the loss of the right-hander.
Seattle Mariners Received: OF Austin Jackson
The Seattle Mariners have been one of the biggest surprises of 2014, but their offense has been dismal. That makes Austin Jackson an ideal fit in the Pacific Northwest. The right-handed hitter hasn't taken off for the M's just yet, but he provides the combination or speed and power that can make him a spark plug for the wild-card contenders.
Tampa Bay Rays Received: SP Drew Smyly, SS Nick Franklin and SS Willy Adames
This one was a puzzling move by Tampa Bay Rays GM Andrew Friedman.
The Rays went on a ridiculous run to climb back into the wild-card chase and then on deadline day the front office jettisoned the staff ace. From a business perspective, dealing Price made all sorts of sense, as the 29-year-old is set to make a mint in arbitration this winter. From a baseball perspective, it didn't make any at all—especially considering the underwhelming return.
Drew Smyly is already a quality big league contributor, Nick Franklin could be one in time, and who knows, maybe Willy Adames will be an All-Star in 2018. Still, for a pitcher like Price that's nowhere near a strong enough return. Right now, this move looks like a complete bust.
If you want want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.
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