2014 MLB Waiver Trade Deadline: Grades for Notable Trades and Claims
As the 2014 MLB August waiver trade deadline approached, there were several teams that had large holes to fill but had been unable to strike the deal or make the claim that netted them the player they needed.
That changed in an instant Sunday, as there was a flurry of activity in both leagues that earned high grades. Of course, there were some moves that created more questions than answers.
Let’s take a look at the more notable trades and claims that went down this past month and give each club a grade based upon the deal that was struck.
To be clear, we are not going to dissect every move. Some of them just aren’t as impactful as the others. We are only going to examine the ones that stand out.
Explaining the Grade and Who Was Not Included
Before we get into grading 10 of the more notable MLB August waiver trades and claims, let’s set a foundation.
Grades will be based on performance or expected impact.
For example, players who were acquired by an MLB contender in the first three weeks of August have already had enough time with their new clubs to get a grade based upon performance. Trades or claims that occurred after that will be assessed on how well they could potentially fill an area of need.
For teams unloading players after falling out of contention, grades will be issued on how well the return aligns with the organization’s needs on the field and/or with regard to payroll. There is some subjectivity to this, of course, but reasons will be given as to why a particular mark was awarded.
A few more things.
Trades that were made between two teams that are likely out of contention will not be discussed. The same goes for deals that involve a player who went to a contending team but was in the minor leagues Aug. 31. And if a player is on the disabled list, he will not be looked at.
That means the acquisitions of Jacob Turner by the Chicago Cubs and Vinnie Pestano by the Los Angeles Angels will not be analyzed. Nor will the acquisition of John Mayberry Jr., who is on the DL but was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, per Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal. Right now, there are no grades to give.
And if a move isn’t discussed, it isn’t because it was overlooked. It is because it wasn’t deemed notable enough. For examples, see the purchase of Geovany Soto by the Oakland A's and acquisition of Chaz Roe, whom the New York Yankees received on Sunday from the Miami Marlins for cash, per MLB.com's Steven Petrella.
Oakland A's Acquire Adam Dunn from the Chicago White Sox
The Oakland A’s sent minor league pitcher Nolan Sanburn to the Chicago White Sox for designated hitter/first baseman Adam Dunn, per Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle added that the White Sox are paying $1 million of the remaining money on the left-handed hitter's contract.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox bullpen is one of the worst in baseball. That is not an exaggeration.
Entering play Sunday, the unit had a 4.39 ERA and had walked an MLB-worst 197 batters, per splits over at ESPN.com. It had also blown 19 out of 48 save opportunities.
That makes the addition of Sanburn, who was ranked as Oakland’s No. 12 prospect (now No. 11 in Chicago's system, per MLB.com), a shrewd move if for no other reason than he has the stuff to be successful. Per MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo:
Sanburn reached 99 mph as a college reliever, and he can throw his fastball by hitters up in the zone. His low-80s curveball has good depth, and it gives him a second power pitch. Sanburn can also display a tight slider and a sinking changeup, giving him more than enough options to start.
Because of concerns about Sanburn's command and durability, Oakland has decided to move him to the bullpen. His ability to locate his pitches and keep his pitch counts down are less impressive than his pure stuff.
As Mayo noted, control is an issue for the young right-hander. It will be on the White Sox to work with him on improving in that area.
As CBS Sports’ Matt Snyder noted, the A’s were “one of the best offensive teams in baseball through July.” The magic didn’t last, however.
Part of the reason for the decline in production is that Yoenis Cespedes was sent to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes. The other factor is that the offense is largely built on platoons.
Now, manager Bob Melvin normally pushes all the right buttons, but it was time to add a full-time power bat to the middle of the lineup. Dunn’s .340 on-base percentage and .433 slugging entering play Sunday will fit in well with what the A’s like to do.
Los Angeles Dodgers Acquire Kevin Correia from the Minnesota Twins
The Los Angeles Dodgers sent a player to be named later to the Minnesota Twins for right-hander Kevin Correia.
After posting a 5-13 record with a 4.94 ERA and a 1.461 WHIP for manager Ron Gardenhire, Correia was correctly deemed expendable.
That is because he is scheduled to hit free agency, in part, and the Twins obviously have no desire to bring him back. More importantly, though, Correia simply wasn’t pitching well enough. And when the Dodgers expressed interest, general manager Terry Ryan was more than happy to offer him up.
Even if the return is a player who simply adds depth, it will be considered a win for Ryan. Correia was only taking up a roster spot.
Los Angeles Dodgers
For the first start anyway, this looked like a fantastic get for general manager Ned Colletti. After all, Correia went six innings in his Aug. 11 debut and gave up one run on four hits en route to the victory.
Since then, however, things have been bad. In his last three outings (two starts), he has a 10.38 ERA, 1.206 on-base plus slugging against and has allowed 10 earned runs in less than nine innings of work, per game logs at Baseball-Reference.
Los Angeles Dodgers Acquire Roberto Hernandez from the Philadelphia Phillies
The Los Angeles Dodgers received Roberto Hernandez from the Philadelphia Phillies for two players to be named later. On Aug. 28, the Dodgers completed the trade by sending Victor Arano to the Phillies after Jesmuel Valentin was moved Aug. 16.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. had put several players on waivers after not making any major moves in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Seeing as how Hernandez is scheduled to hit free agency at the end of the season and has a manageable salary at $4.5 million for the year, a move was expected. At the time of the trade, the right-hander was 6-8 with a 3.87 ERA and a 1.347 WHIP.
Considering that the Phillies received Arano (4-4 with a 4.08 ERA at Single-A) and Valentin, who is a polished defender with a .273/.341/.412 slash line and 47 RBI across two levels, this one goes in the win column for Amaro.
Los Angeles Dodgers
At the time of the trade, the Dodgers were dealing with inconsistencies in the rotation and had lost Paul Maholm to a torn ACL. It was a move made for depth.
Shortly after his acquisition, though, Josh Beckett and Hyun-Jin Ryu were both placed on the disabled list, making the trade for Hernandez look like a stroke of genius on Colletti's part.
Going into action Sunday, Hernandez was 2-1 with a 3.52 ERA, 3.00 FIP and a 1.217 WHIP in four starts with the Dodgers. All told, he has helped bridge the gap in the rotation and has been a fantastic pickup.
Kansas City Royals Acquire Josh Willingham from the Minnesota Twins
Ryan was just sitting on Willingham at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. It was a curious move, considering the club was not in the playoff picture and was surely going to lose the slugger in free agency this winter.
Finally, he dealt his biggest trade chip for Adam, who had recently been converted from a starter to a reliever after a promotion to Triple-A. The conversion may not be permanent, though. He has started one game and finished another since joining the Twins, compiling a 5.14 ERA with 10 hits allowed in seven innings.
If Adam can turn into an effective setup man, this will be a worthwhile move. If not, Ryan will have to be second-guessed.
Time will tell how this trade is judged.
Kansas City Royals
At the time of trade (Aug. 11), general manager Dayton Moore said that Willingham “is a proven bat, one of the best on-base guys with 250 plate appearances right now in the game,” per MLB.com’s Dick Kaegel. How right he was.
In 15 games with the Royals going into action Sunday, Willingham had a .377 on-base percentage and was slugging a robust .489. And given the lack of power in their lineup, he has done exactly what he was brought in to do.
Matt Thornton Is Claimed by the Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals claimed left-handed reliever Matt Thornton from the New York Yankees on Aug. 5 and assume his contract.
This move has to be classified as a solid win for Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. It is also an example of an executive knowing exactly whom he wants on his roster.
See, Rizzo claimed Thornton the previous week but had been unable to finalize a trade. That didn’t dissuade him from grabbing the setup man the next time he had the chance.
Thornton hasn’t disappointed either.
In 10 appearances heading into action Sunday, he hasn’t given up a run and has allowed only five hits and walked one batter. More importantly, he is pitching in high-leverage situations quite effectively and has left 75 percent of inherited runners on the basepaths, per game logs taken from Baseball-Reference.
It must be noted that Thornton is under contract for $3.5 million next season, meaning that there is a chance that this grade will look quite a bit different in the middle of 2015.
For now, though, this is a fantastic move.
Los Angeles Angels Acquire Gordon Beckham from the Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox sent second baseman Gordon Beckham to the Los Angeles Angels for a player to be named later or cash considerations.
Chicago White Sox
After putting up a .270/.347/.460 slash line with 14 home runs and 63 RBI as a rookie in 2009, Beckham never again finished a season with an OPS over .700 or more than 60 RBI. Even his heralded defense regressed, evidenced by a minus-0.5 and a minus-1.8 UZR (ultimate zone rating) in 2013 and 2014, respectively, per FanGraphs.
It was time for him to go.
Seeing as how we don’t know whom the White Sox are going to get in return, the grade has to be considered incomplete. But if we look at how disappointing Beckham was after his rookie season, getting much of anything has to be considered a success for GM Rick Hahn.
Los Angeles Angels
When general manager Jerry Dipoto acquired Beckham, he noted that the right-handed hitter was “wearing out left-handed pitching” and felt “it’s a real nice platoon advantage for us,” via MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez.
That is sound thinking—in theory. In reality, Beckham has amassed only 105 at-bats versus lefties in 2-14, putting together a .286/.336/.419 slash line with nine RBI, according to splits over at Baseball-Reference.
In other words, the numbers don’t match the rhetoric.
Since arriving, Beckham has appeared in seven games and is batting .200 with a .654 OPS. We shall see how this plays out, but it seems like a curious move by Dipoto.
Baltimore Orioles Acquire Alejandro De Aza from the Chicago White Sox
Chicago White Sox
As with the trade involving Dunn, Hahn targeted minor league pitching in this deal.
At first blush, Blackmar (10-1, 3.18 ERA, 26 G, 18 GS) has some promise, but Chalas (3-4, 4.48 ERA over two levels) is going to need some work just to make a case that he should be called up—ever. True, he made the jump from High-A to Triple-A this season, but there is nothing to suggest he will make any type of impact on the South Side.
Still, getting two prospects for De Aza is a bonus, even if only one of them ends up making his presence felt.
Dan Duquette, the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations, said when this move was announced that he'd “been trying to balance out” the batting order “with the addition of some left-handed bats,” via Wilson.
As long as he wasn’t looking for someone who does the little things well and is heady on the basepaths, this move fills that need.
Simply put, De Aza is not a fundamentally sound baseball player. He routinely misses the cutoff man and runs himself into trouble. He is also known for taking bad routes in the outfield on a regular basis.
In fairness, though, De Aza has some ridiculous directional splits to right field. According to FanGraphs, he has a .331/.328/.577 slash line with five home runs and 11 doubles in 130 at-bats when he pulls the ball. Given Camden Yards' short porch in right field, that could play into the platoon that manager Buck Showalter is sure to employ with his new outfielder.
Make no mistake: De Aza will end up causing grief at some point. The only question is whether or not his offense will make up for the lack of fundamentals during the time he is with the Orioles.
New York Yankees Acquire Josh Outman from the Cleveland Indians
The New York Yankees sent a player to be named later or cash to the Cleveland Indians for left-handed reliever Josh Outman.
In an article that appeared on Cleveland.com, Paul Hoynes wrote that “Outman wasn’t part of the solution in the Indians' bullpen and now he’s not part of the Indians.”
He was effective against left-handed hitters during his time with the Tribe but struggled against righties and was designated for assignment June 25. Considering that the Indians traded Drew Stubbs to Colorado this past offseason to acquire him, this has to be seen as an overall loss.
New York Yankees
After losing Thornton to the Orioles, the Yankees needed a lefty in the pen and got one in Outman. He has appeared in one game for the club going into action Sunday, facing one batter and giving up a hit.
Outman is under team control for one more season and makes just $1.25 million this year, giving this trade some potential. That is, of course, if he can do the one thing he is getting paid to do—get lefties out. He's done so thus far, to the tune of a .196 opponents' batting average against lefties.
Outman is included here because he is a true lefty specialist.
Milwaukee Brewers Acquire Jonathan Broxton from the Cincinnati Reds
This trade serves two purposes for the Brewers.
First, as Fox Sports’ Andrew Gruman noted, “Broxton should immediately jump into the eighth-inning role for the Brewers, solving a problem Milwaukee has had since Will Smith began to decline around the All-Star break.”
That will pay dividends during the final weeks of the regular season.
Second, Francisco Rodriguez (4-4, 3.00 ERA, 39 S) is set to hit free agency this offseason. And after the type of year he is having, he will likely command a multiyear contract that the Brewers appear unwilling to give him.
Broxton now becomes one of the lead candidates for the closer’s role in 2015 and beyond.
It is a risky move, considering that Broxton is owed $9 million next season and has a $9 million mutual option ($2 million buyout) in 2016. That said, it's an acquisition the Brewers needed to make. General manager Doug Melvin scores on this one for addressing an area of need with a proven commodity.
Clearing at least $10 million from the payroll has to be seen as a win, especially if that money was for a setup man. See, with Aroldis Chapman under team control through 2016, Broxton’s contract was simply too large for what he was asked to do.
The savings will surely come in handy this offseason as general manager Walt Jocketty tries to plug holes at shortstop and in left field. If there is any value in the players coming back, this is a great deal for the Reds.
Baltimore Orioles Acquire Kelly Johnson from the Boston Red Sox
Less than a month after acquiring Kelly Johnson from the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington sent him and minor leaguer Michael Almanzar to the Baltimore Orioles. In exchange, he received Ivan De Jesus Jr. and Jemile Weeks, according to MLB.com’s David Wilson.
Boston Red Sox
Cherington had absolutely no use for Johnson, so moving him made sense.
In Weeks, the Red Sox get a gifted player who has immense ability but has failed to put it together at the major league level. With the infield and outfield situations as murky as they are for the Red Sox, however, the depth Weeks adds will serve them well.
This will be De Jesus’ second stint with the club. He appeared in eight games for the Red Sox in 2012 and struck out six times in eight at-bats. Now, he has a wealth of potential and can play multiple positions on the infield, so, like Weeks, he has value.
The only way to look at this move is that with rosters expanding, Johnson adds defensive depth. To that effect, the injuries to Manny Machado (knee surgery)—and to a lesser degree Steve Pearce (abdomen)—mean that Johnson will be used at multiple positions, per Wilson.
True, Johnson can’t hit a lick, but that isn’t what he will be asked to do. Expect Showalter to find the best fits for him in the lineup and use him in situations that suit the club’s needs.
Interestingly, this is the second time Almanzar (.277/.356/.422 at Double-A Portland in 2014) has gone from the Red Sox to the Orioles. He was selected by Baltimore in the Rule 5 draft last offseason and “returned to the Red Sox on July 1 after playing nine games in the Orioles system,” per Ricky Doyle from NESN.com.
This deal earns a grade higher than expected because of Johnson’s versatility, not because of his ability to create offense.