MLB Trade Deadline 2015: Recap and Report Cards for Every Key Deal
The MLB non-waiver trade deadline is in the rearview mirror, and what a ride it was. Loads of marquee names switched uniforms, with big deals going off throughout the week and right up to the July 31 4 p.m. ET cutoff.
By the time the dust settled, bushels of All-Star-caliber players and top-rated prospects changed hands, and the balance of power shifted perceptibly across both leagues.
Let's break down the action from a busy deadline Friday and assign grades to each team that engineered a noteworthy swap. We'll also look back at, and grade, some of the biggest blockbusters from the days leading up to the deadline, highlighting only trades that involved elite talent. (You'll find those slides after we wade through the most recent key action.)
Our grades are based on a combination of factors, including how well the trades filled the respective teams' needs, and whether the talent and/or salaries exchanged were fair and comparable. And while talent controlled beyond this season is obviously preferable, we're not significantly dinging contenders for rolling the dice on a rental if it makes sense.
We won't know how all of this plays out until, well, it all plays out. In the meantime, let's assess where things stand in the dramatically reshaped MLB landscape.
Yoenis Cespedes Traded from Detroit Tigers to New York Mets
The New York Mets received outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for right-handed pitching prospects Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa, per Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press.
As I wrote on July 20, it was time for the Tigers to cash in on their impending free agents and restock a farm system that was considered the worst in the game by Baseball America, ESPN.com's Keith Law, Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter and basically everyone else.
They did exactly that, dealing ace David Price (more on that later) and, then, Cespedes.
In return for the slugging Cuban, the Tigers received Fulmer and Cessa, the No. 7 and No. 16 prospects in the Mets' system, per MLB.com.
That's a fine, if not headline-grabbing return for a two-month rental, and Detroit can always chase Cespedes in free agency if it so desires.
New York Mets
The Mets have the pitching for a deep playoff run, but their anemic offense could prevent them from getting to the postseason at all.
Cespedes, who's hitting .293 with 18 home runs and 61 RBI, doesn't fix that by himself. But he'll inject a hefty dose of pop into a mostly punchless lineup.
Dan Haren Traded from Miami Marlins to Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs received veteran starting pitcher Dan Haren in exchange for minor league right-hander Ivan Pineyro, infielder Elliot Soto and cash, per ESPN.com's Jesse Rogers.
Miami isn't getting anything from the top shelf, or even middle shelf, of the Cubs' loaded farm system. But the Fish are getting a bit of value for Haren, whose stock wasn't terribly high with all the ace-level arms on the market.
Count that as a minor victory.
Haren isn't the missing piece that will push the Cubbies deep into October, but he's a veteran arm who can chew up innings.
And the Los Angeles Dodgers are picking up his entire $10 million salary this season, per Chuck Schilken of the Los Angeles Times.
Yes, Haren might be worse off in a smaller ballpark during his home starts at Wrigley Field, but this is a low-risk gamble worth taking.
Gerardo Parra Traded from Milwaukee Brewers to Baltimore Orioles
Davies, a Triple-A arm and the No. 3 pitching prospect in the Orioles' organization, per MLB.com, is a good return for Parra, especially considering he'll be a free agent after the season and would likely have bolted from Wisconsin anyway.
Left field has been a black hole for Baltimore this season, and the O's will now fill it with a guy who's hitting .328 with a .369 on-base percentage and nine home runs.
Parra doesn't match the reinforcements brought in by the division-rival Toronto Blue Jays (more on that soon), but he's a solid addition as the Orioles attempt to defend their AL East crown.
He's also a rental, however, so the usual risk of giving up a top prospect for potentially just two months of production applies.
Ben Revere Traded from Philadelphia Phillies to Toronto Blue Jays
The Philadelphia Phillies sent outfielder Ben Revere to the Toronto Blue Jays for minor league relievers Jimmy Cordero and Alberto Tirado, per Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com.
Minor league bullpen arms don't always get the heart racing, but Cordero (2.70 ERA between High-A and Double-A) and Tirado (3.23 ERA at High-A) have legitimate upside, with Tirado clocking in as the Jays' No. 9 prospect, per MLB.com.
Toronto Blue Jays
In Revere, the Jays get a speedy outfielder who's hitting .298 with 24 stolen bases and has two more years of team control remaining.
The deal is not a difference-maker by itself, but it adds another weapon to Toronto's already hyper-potent offense.
Mark Lowe Traded from Seattle Mariners to Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays added reliever Mark Lowe and in return sent minor league left-handers Nick Wells, Jacob Brentz and Rob Rasmussen to the Seattle Mariners, per Mike Axisa of CBS Sports.
It's been a season of disappointment for the Seattle Mariners, who entered 2015 hoping to win the AL West and are instead reduced to selling off bullpen pieces.
Of the pieces Seattle got back, Rasmussen is the closest to the Show, as he's logged 12.1 MLB innings. Wells and Brentz, meanwhile, are currently in rookie ball.
"Two lottery tickets and an up-and-down big leaguer, basically," as Axisa put it.
Toronto Blue Jays
We'll get to the Jays' seismic deals soon, but this is another nice, win-now addition.
Lowe owns an excellent 1.00 ERA with 47 strikeouts and a scant 11 walks in 36 frames. He should strengthen a suspect Toronto bullpen.
Kevin Jepsen Traded from Tampa Bay Rays to Minnesota Twins
The Tampa Bay Rays shipped reliever Kevin Jepsen to the Minnesota Twins for right-handers Chih-Wei Hu and Alexis Tapia, per LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are under .500 entering play Friday and mired in fourth place in the AL East. This move is by no means a white flag, but it signifies Tampa Bay is prioritizing stocking the farm system over making a run.
Hu, in particular, is an interesting piece. Signed as an international free agent in 2012, the 21-year-old owns a 2.38 ERA in 16 starts for Class-A Fort Myers and Triple-A Rochester.
The Twins needed relief in the bullpen as they prepare for an improbable playoff push, and they got it in Jepsen, who posted a 2.81 ERA in 46 appearances for the Rays with 34 strikeouts in 41.2 innings.
Jepsen figures to set up closer Glen Perkins, who has wobbled a bit, blowing a pair of saves since making the All-Star team.
Ben Zobrist Traded from Oakland A's to Kansas City Royals
Brooks is a Triple-A arm with limited big league experience. But the real potential gem here is Manaea, who has battled injuries but boasts strikeout stuff and was the Royals' No. 4-rated prospect, per MLB.com.
"Manaea is considered the guy with the most upside, and probably the type of player we didn’t think we could get in this type of deal," A's general manager Billy Beane said after the trade, per CSNBayArea.com's Joe Stiglich.
Translation: Mr. Moneyball believes he got a steal.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals paid a steep price for Zobrist, especially considering he's a rental. But given his ability to slot capably into second base and the outfield, he's an incredibly useful piece for a club in need of some help in those areas.
Jonathan Papelbon Traded from Philadelphia Phillies to Washington Nationals
In perhaps the most inevitable deal of the deadline, Jonathan Papelbon was shipped from Philadelphia to the nation's capital in exchange for minor league right-hander Nick Pivetta, per ESPN.com.
It's been a bumpy ride for the Phils and Papelbon; it was high time for the club to deal him.
And the Phillies engineered a decent swap, landing the Nats' No. 10 prospect entering 2015, per Baseball America. More than anything, though, this trade was about terminating an increasingly dysfunctional relationship.
"I kind of became the scapegoat," Papelbon said of his days in Philly, per Scott Allen of the Washington Post. "I was the only one in the clubhouse I felt like that answered questions honestly and was honest with who I was as a player, and was honest about where our team was at."
The Nats now have a potent 1-2 bullpen punch with Papelbon, who slides into the familiar closer role, and former closer Drew Storen, who immediately becomes one of the best setup men in the game.
As part of the deal, Washington agreed to exercise an $11 million guaranteed option for Papelbon in 2016. That's not chump change for a reliever who will turn 35 in November, but it also means the Nationals are getting more than a rental.
Scott Kazmir Traded from Oakland A's to Houston Astros
The Houston Astros acquired Scott Kazmir from the Oakland A's for two High-A minor leaguers, right-hander Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham, per David Brown of CBS Sports.
This feels like a somewhat skimpy return for a pitcher of Kazmir's stature, especially in light of the prospect packages some other arms netted. Neither Mengden nor Nottingham cracked the Astros' top-10-prospects list heading into the 2015 season, per Baseball America.
But Nottingham, in particular, looks like an intriguing talent with some pop, clubbing 14 home runs with a .903 OPS between Single-A and High-A.
A's fans are right to wonder if they could have gotten more, but they also know enough to trust in Billy Beane.
Without raiding the high levels of their farm system, the Astros added an elite arm to their rotation, and a Houston native to boot.
It doesn't hurt that Kazmir has opened his Astros career with 14.2 scoreless frames over two starts.
Mike Leake Traded from Cincinnati Reds to San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants acquired Mike Leake from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for High-A pitcher Keury Mella and Triple-A first baseman Adam Duvall, per ESPN.com.
The Reds received a solid return for Leake. Mella is San Francisco's No. 1 prospect, according to MLB.com, while Duvall has 26 home runs this season in the hitter-happy Pacific Coast League.
Not bad for a middle-of-the-rotation rental arm.
San Francisco Giants
After trying and failing to land David Price and Cole Hamels, per CSNBayArea.com, the Giants settled for a second-tier starter to augment a rotation that's littered with question marks after ace Madison Bumgarner and surprising rookie Chris Heston.
Yes, they gave up a lot. And yes, Leake will be a free agent at season's end. He's a nice add, though, for a club looking to repeat as champions.
Leake should certainly benefit from a move out of bandbox Great American Ball Park and into the pitchers' paradise that is AT&T Park, as his 4.93 home ERA and 2.28 road ERA attest.
Carlos Gomez Traded from Milwaukee Brewers to Houston Astros
The Houston Astros acquired outfielder Carlos Gomez and right-hander Mike Fiers from the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielders Brett Phillips and Domingo Santana and pitchers Adrian Houser and Josh Hader, per MLB.com's Brian McTaggart.
The rebuilding Brew Crew further stocked their system. Phillips and Hader were among the Astros' top 10 prospects going into 2015, per Baseball America.
They also are losing Gomez, a two-time All-Star who's locked up through 2016. But this was the time to sell high, and they got a nice package.
The Astros raided the farm, but they also landed a guy who owns a solid .262/.328/.423 slash line with eight home runs. And, again, he'll be around next year unless they elect to move him. Fiers, who has 121 strikeouts in 118 innings, will add pitching depth.
Gomez nearly wound up in New York, but the Mets nixed the deal Wednesday because of concerns over the outfielder's right hip, per Anthony DiComo and Adam McCalvy of MLB.com.
Assuming Gomez is healthy—and Houston must be reasonably convinced he is—he'll boost the Astros' lineup as they seek to gain some separation in the AL West.
Johnny Cueto Traded from Cincinnati Reds to Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals dealt a trio of minor league southpaws—Brandon Finnegan, Cody Reed and John Lamb—to the Cincinnati Reds for Johnny Cueto, one of the biggest aces on the block, per MLB.com's Jim Callis.
Trading away your best pitcher always hurts. But Cueto is an impending free agent who was almost certain to bolt for richer pastures in the offseason.
And the Reds got three quality arms that each "have a chance to be big league starters," according to Callis. Finnegan in particular, Callis noted, is a name worth following, as he "made history in 2014 as the first player to appear in the College World Series and World Series in the same calendar year."
Could the Reds have received even more if they'd held off to the deadline and lured the clubs that missed out on Price and Hamels into a bidding war? Possibly. But they found a willing buyer in Kansas City and got a nice return.
Kansas City Royals
Dealing away highly regarded, cost-controlled talent for a rental is always a calculated risk, particularly for a team with a limited budget like the Royals.
But Kansas City understands that its window is now. After coming agonizingly close to a championship in 2014, the Royals are going all-in for a return trip to the Fall Classic. You've got to respect that.
Troy Tulowitzki Traded from Colorado Rockies to Toronto Blue Jays for Jose Reyes
In easily the most surprising move of the 2015 trade season, the Toronto Blue Jays acquired shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins from the Colorado Rockies for shortstop Jose Reyes and three right-handed pitching prospects: Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco, per Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan.
Tulowitzki's name had floated around the rumor mill, but the 30-year-old All-Star and one-time franchise player said he was "blindsided" by the trade, per ESPN.com.
Colorado netted a solid prospect haul, headlined by Hoffman, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2014 draft.
The Rockies also gave themselves some financial wiggle room, as Tulo is owed $106 million after this season, while Reyes' deal has $50 million remaining, per USA Today.
If Tulowitzki stays healthy and mashes north of the border, Rockies fans will pine for him. But with Colorado mired in last place, it was clearly time for a shakeup in the Mile High City.
Toronto Blue Jays
On the surface, this is a head-scratching move for the Blue Jays, taking on an expensive, injury-prone hitter when their offense is already the class of baseball.
But general manager Alex Anthopoulos is clearly pushing in all his chips in an effort to break the club's 22-year postseason drought, the longest streak of futility of any major North American pro sports team.
If it works, he'll be a genius. If it crashes and burns, he almost surely won't be around to clean up the mess.
Cole Hamels Traded from Philadelphia Phillies to Texas Rangers
The Philadelphia Phillies shipped ace left-hander Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers along with reliever Jake Diekman for veteran hurler Matt Harrison and five prospects: catcher Jorge Alfaro, outfielder Nick Williams and pitchers Alec Asher, Jerad Eickhoff and Jake Thompson, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
After much foot-dragging, the Phillies traded Hamels at arguably the best possible moment, fresh off a 13-strikeout no-hitter thrown July 25.
And, indeed, the Phils netted a bounteous return, including three of the Rangers' top 10 prospects heading into the 2015 season, per Baseball America. Could they have gotten more over the winter, seeing as Hamels is signed through 2018 with an option for 2019? Possibly.
Mostly, it's just nice to see that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has at long last read the writing on the wall and initiated a full-scale fire sale.
The Texas Rangers are a marginal playoff contender at best this season, so a rental wouldn't have made sense.
Instead, they landed one of the game's elite left-handers, a guy they can keep around for four more seasons if they want to.
Giving away top prospects stings—no two ways about it—but this pain came with plenty of gain.
David Price Traded from Detroit Tigers to Toronto Blue Jays
The Detroit Tigers waived the white flag, sending left-handed ace David Price to the Toronto Blue Jays for left-handed pitchers Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt, per the Jays' official Twitter account.
As with Cespedes, credit Detroit for pulling the trigger. The Tigers surrendered a couple of months of Price for an excellent package of young arms headlined by Norris, an MLB-ready talent ranked the 18th-best prospect in the game by ESPN.com's Law.
Plus, if the Tigers really want him back, they can jump into the Price sweepstakes this winter, assuming the former AL Cy Young winner tests free agency (spoiler alert: he will).
Toronto Blue Jays
This is the same argument as the Tulowitzki deal: The Jays are going all-in, so paying dearly for a rental makes sense.
This trade, though, is more sensible than the Tulo swap because it addresses a glaring need—pitching—rather than bolstering an existing strength.
It's possible this will prove to be a disaster in a year or two when Norris is lighting the league on fire and the Jays are looking back at a crash-and-burn 2015 stretch run.
But you can't deny their moxie.
Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins, Atlanta Braves Make 13-Player, 3-Team Trade
Let's take this incredibly complex, three-team deal one club at a time.
The Los Angeles Dodgers got starting pitcher Mat Latos and outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse from the Miami Marlins; starting pitchers Alex Wood and Bronson Arroyo, relievers Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan, and infield prospect Jose Peraza from the Atlanta Braves, plus cash considerations from the Braves and Marlins, per MLB.com's Ken Gurnick.
The Braves got Cuban infielder Hector Olivera, injured relief pitcher Paco Rodriguez and pitching prospect Zach Bird from the Dodgers, and a competitive balance pick from the Marlins.
The Marlins got minor league pitchers Jeff Brigham, Victor Araujo and Kevin Guzman from the Dodgers.
Got all that?
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers took on some salary, but they have money to burn. And they added two starters in Latos and Wood who should bolster the shaky, injury-depleted back end of their rotation.
They also added two experienced bullpen arms in Johnson, who was Atlanta's closer, and Avila.
More than anything, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman gets bonus points for creativity and for plugging multiple holes.
The Braves received an intriguing if injury-prone talent in Olivera, with the Dodgers on the hook for his $28 million signing bonus, per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register.
At the same time, Atlanta surrendered a lot, including a cost-controlled arm in Wood. SI.com's Cliff Corcoran summed it up best when he wrote, "If Olivera doesn’t pan out, this trade will prove to have been a disaster for the Braves."
None of the prospects the Marlins got leap off the page, making this a salary dump, plain and simple. That's not necessarily a negative, as it'll free up the Fish to add pieces down the line.
But for a club that was supposed to contend this year, it's a disappointing deadline wake-up call.