Updated Grades for the Top 10 MLB Trade Deadline Splashes of 2015

Karl Buscheck@@KarlBuscheckContributor IIIAugust 20, 2015

Updated Grades for the Top 10 MLB Trade Deadline Splashes of 2015

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    Johnny Cueto has been one of the most valuable additions of the entire trade season.
    Johnny Cueto has been one of the most valuable additions of the entire trade season.Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    From Johnny Cueto to David Price and Troy Tulowitzki, some of the giants of the game changed addresses at the 2015 MLB trade deadline.

    For all of the clubs that orchestrated those summer splashes, the thought process was simple: improve their chances of getting into October and making a run for a World Series title.

    With the deadline now three weeks in the past, it's time to break out the red pen and give updated grades for the 10 biggest moves of the trade season. The 10 swaps that made the cut are ranked from No. 10 to No. 1 with the deal that earned the highest mark landing the top spot.

    The Kansas City Royals aced the deadline by acquiring Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto last month, but the No. 1 spot goes to another team that also picked an ace for the stretch drive.

10. Washington Nationals Acquire Jonathan Papelbon from Philadelphia Phillies

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    The Deal: The Washington Nationals received RHP Jonathan Papelbon from the Philadelphia Phillies for RHP Nick Pivetta.

    The Reports Card

    It's no easy task to grade the Washington Nationals' acquisition of Papelbon because he simply hasn't been busy since landing in the nation's capital.

    Following his trade from the Phillies back on July 28, the veteran has only appeared in six games for Washington. The right-hander has shut the door in all three of his save attempts for the Nats, but he hasn't exactly been perfect when he's been on the mound. So far, the 34-year-old has given up a run in three of his six outings.

    It's not Papelbon's fault that his opportunities have been so limited, but the fact remains that his impact has been almost non-existent in his first three weeks with his new squad.

    The Grade: Incomplete

9. The Houston Astros Acquire Carlos Gomez from the Milwaukee Brewers

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    Carlos Gomez hasn't been his usual dynamic self since joining the Houston Astros.
    Carlos Gomez hasn't been his usual dynamic self since joining the Houston Astros.Associated Press

    The Deal: The Houston Astros received CF Carlos Gomez and RHP Mike Fiers from the Milwaukee Brewers for LHP Josh Hader, OF Domingo Santana, RHP Adrian Houser and OF Brett Phillips.

    The Reports Card

    Carlos Gomez can't catch a break.

    The center fielder's brief tenure with the Astros was epitomized by a scene in the club's 5-1 win over the Detroit Tigers on August 14. After striking out in the eighth inning, Gomez tried to break his bat over his leg but needed three tries to make it happen.

    Afterward, Gomez insisted to Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle that it was no big deal: "It’s something where you’re [ticked] off in the moment, but it’s not something that really bothers..."

    What has been bothering Gomez is his right knee. The center fielder suffered the injury back on August 11 when he robbed Matt Duffy of the San Francisco Giants, per Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. His numbers suggest that the pain hasn't gone away just yet. He is 2-for-20 in his last six games. In 17 games for the first-place Astros, Gomez is slogging along with a .197 average and just three extra-base hits.

    Meanwhile, Mike Fiers, who was also part of the six-player swap with the Milwaukee Brewers, hasn't had too much chances to make an impact with his new team. Fiers has pitched three times, including a disastrous relief appearance in his debut with the club on August 3. After serving up six earned runs in that five-inning stint, Fiers has only allowed one earned run in his last two starts.

    The Grade: D

8. The Texas Rangers Acquire Cole Hamels from the Philadelphia Phillies

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    The Texas Rangers have been rolling along in August, but Cole Hamels has yet to live up to the hype.
    The Texas Rangers have been rolling along in August, but Cole Hamels has yet to live up to the hype.Associated Press

    The Deal: The Texas Rangers received LHP Cole Hamels and LHP Jake Diekman from the Philadelphia Phillies for C Jorge Alfaro, OF Nick Williams, RHP Jake Thompson, LHP Matt Harrison and RHP Alec Asher.

    The Reports Card

    As September rapidly approaches, the Texas Rangers are right in the mix for a playoff trip. The AL West squad is only 1.5 games back of a wild-card spot and four games behind the Houston Astros in the division.

    But the credit for the Rangers success doesn't go to Cole Hamels, and the team's blockbuster summer addition knows it.

    "Being able to go out there and pitch and make quality pitches is something that I haven't been able to do here for the past couple weeks," Hamels remarked, according to Jean-Jacques Taylor of ESPN.com. "And that's something I definitely have to work on."

    The lefty has taken the mound on three occasions for Texas, racking up a 5.23 ERA and a .303 opponents' average in the process. The reason the Rangers remain in such a favorable position as the stretch drive ramps up is the offense just keeps putting runs on the board. In August, Texas ranks No. 3 in baseball in that category.

    Jake Diekman, who arrived at Globe Life Park as an extra piece, has actually been a reliable arm out of the pen for the Rangers. In 11 outings, the left-hander has posted a 2.38 ERA. That figure stands out in  Rangers relief group, which has posted the third-worst ERA (4.48) in the bigs.

    The Grade: C-

7. The Toronto Blue Jays Acquire Troy Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockies

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    Even though Troy Tulowitzki has been struggling at the plate, the Toronto Blue Jays just keep on winning.
    Even though Troy Tulowitzki has been struggling at the plate, the Toronto Blue Jays just keep on winning.Associated Press

    The Deal: The Toronto Blue Jays received SS Troy Tulowitzki and RHP LaTroy Hawkins from the Colorado Rockies for RHP Jeff Hoffman, RHP Jesus Tinoco, RHP Miguel Castro and SS Jose Reyes.

    The Reports Card

    His name had been churning around in the trade rumor mill for more than a year, but Tulowitzki admitted to being "shocked" when the Colorado Rockies pulled the trigger on the move that sent him to the AL East

    "I felt like I got blindsided a bit. I thought I was in the loop, in the conversation," Tulowitzki told Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post right after the deal transpired. "So it definitely caught me by surprise. I was shocked and it caught me off guard."

    Based on the way the shortstop has been playing since joining the Jays, it would appear as though that shock hasn't faded away just yet. So far, the right-handed hitter is swinging at a clip of .219 with a .384 slugging percentage.

    While those are some underwhelming numbers for the five-time All-Star, it's impossible to ignore the "Tulo effect." When Tulowitzki starts, Toronto is 15-3. Thanks to that ridiculous record, the grade doesn't sink too low—even if the 30-year-old hasn't played up to his own lofty standards.

    There's the addition of LaTroy Hawkins, who also came along in the swap, to factor into the equation. So far, the 42-year-old reliever has provided a stabilizing effect on the Jays 'pen, sporting a 1.17 ERA in his first eight outings.

    The Grade: B-

6. The New York Mets Acquire Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers

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    Yoenis Cespedes has connected on just two home runs since arriving in New York.
    Yoenis Cespedes has connected on just two home runs since arriving in New York.Associated Press

    The Deal: The New York Mets received OF Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers for RHP Luis Cessa and RHP Michael Fulmer.

    The Reports Card

    Cespedes is famous for his cannon of a right arm and his unreal power. So far, it's been more of the former that's been on display during the Cuban's stint with the New York Mets. As you can see courtesy of the Mets Twitter account, the NL has already learned just how impressive Cespedes' arm is.

    At the plate, he has been far from a dud, as he's hitting .274. But he also hasn't provided the Mets with much pop, going yard just twice and posting a .425 slugging percentage in 17 games.

    History suggests the 30-year-old will heat up if the Mets can make it to the postseason. In 10 playoff games, Cespedes is the owner of a .350 average and a .920 OPS. Now the Mets, who lead the Washington Nationals by 3.5 games, need to give him the opportunity to add to those totals.

    The Grade: B

5. The New York Mets Acquire Tyler Clippard from the Oakland Athletics

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    Bringing in Tyler Clippard has ended up being a vital move after injuries and a suspension depleted the New York Mets bullpen.
    Bringing in Tyler Clippard has ended up being a vital move after injuries and a suspension depleted the New York Mets bullpen.Associated Press

    The Deal: The New York Mets received RHP Tyler Clippard from the Oakland Athletics for RHP Casey Meisner.

    The Reports Card

    Adding Clippard to the bullpen in the days before the deadline proved to be a stroke of genius by general manager Sandy Alderson.

    The team snagged the veteran on July 27, and then a day later setup man Jenrry Mejia was slammed with a 162-game ban for a second positive test for performance-enhancing drugs. At the time, Alderson insisted that the two moves were unrelated.

    "Our track in talking with Oakland about Tyler as well as other players was independent of this situation," Alderson said, via Adam Rubin of ESPN.com.

    Then on August 3, the Mets' relief crew took another hit when Jerry Blevins, who had been rehabbing his broken left arm, slipped on a curb and re-fractured it.

    Simply put, the Mets would be in all sorts of trouble if the club hadn't imported Clippard, who has proved to be highly reliable. While helping to bridge the gap from the starters to closer Jeurys Familia, Clippard has recorded a 2.38 ERA in 12 outings for the NL East front-runners.

    The Grade: A-

4. Houston Astros Acquire Scott Kazmir from the Oakland Athletics

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    With a 2.43 ERA, Scott Kazmir has quietly put together one of the best seasons of any starter in the AL.
    With a 2.43 ERA, Scott Kazmir has quietly put together one of the best seasons of any starter in the AL.Associated Press

    The Deal: The Houston Astros received LHP Scott Kazmir from the Oakland Athletics for C Jacob Nottingham and RHP Daniel Mengden.

    The Reports Card

    Kazmir has only had one bad inning with the Houston Astros.

    As noted by ESPN Stats & Info, the lefty had allowed just three earned runs in his first four starts for the club before getting tagged for four earned runs in the first inning of the Astros' 9-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on August 17. In the defeat, Kazmir ended up allowing six earned runs in 5.1 innings of work.

    While he's now been on the hook for the loss three out of the five times he's pitched for the Astros, it's difficult to fault Kazmir when he's compiled a 2.59 ERA during that stretch.

    He has been with Houston for less than a month, but the veteran sees plenty of reason for optimism at Minute Maid Park. As he noted to Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle, the upstart club reminds him of the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays squad that advanced to the World Series.

    "A lot of guys got called up at the same time," Kazmir said. "It was kind of like the group that this is right here, just a bunch of young guys that are looking to prove themselves.”

    The good news for those rising stars is that Kazmir is right there to provide a perfect example of how to thrive in the big leagues.

    The Grade: A-

3. The Kansas City Royals Acquire Ben Zobrist from the Oakland Athletics

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    The Deal: The Kansas City Royals received Ben Zobrist from the Oakland Athletics for RHP Aaron Brooks and LHP Sean Manaea.

    The Reports Card

    Zobrist has been on fire since joining the Kansas City Royals.

    The super-utility man, who has been providing the club with cover in both left field and at second base, clocks in with a .379 average and four jacks. Manager Ned Yost has noticed the impact Zobrist has made since heading to Kansas City.

    "He's made a pretty big difference," Yost said, via Robert Bondy of MLB.com. "Hitting second in that order, on-base percentage guy. He's hit a number of clutch home runs for us already, clutch base hits. He's just been a really, really big piece to it."

    Zobrist has been a lot more than just an "on-base percentage guy" as of late. As Dave Holtzman of Fox Sports Kansas City noted, the right-handed hitter is in the midst of a remarkable streak, reaching base in 19 of his last 28 plate appearances. That's good for a .679 OBP.

    The Grade: A

2. The Kansas City Royals Acquire Johnny Cueto from the Cincinnati Reds

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    The addition of Johnny Cueto has provided the Kansas City Royals with a much-needed ace.
    The addition of Johnny Cueto has provided the Kansas City Royals with a much-needed ace.Associated Press

    The Deal: The Kansas City Royals received RHP Johnny Cueto from the Cincinnati Reds for LHP Cody Reed, LHP Brandon Finnegan and LHP John Lamb.

    The Reports Card

    Cueto has made a seamless transition to life in the AL.

    "I've always thought and said that pitching in the American League is tougher than pitching in the National League because of the designated hitter," Cueto said, according to Mark Schmetzer of the Associated Press. "You have to concentrate one through nine."

    Apparently, Cueto hasn't had any trouble concentrating. In his first four outings for the Kansas City Royals, the righty has been filthy, allowing six earned runs in 30 innings (1.80 ERA). His arrival at Kauffman Stadium has provided the Royals with a much-needed boost in the one department the team had been subpar in: the starting rotation.

    With the best record (73-46) in the AL, it was easy to miss the fact that the rotation was a looming issue for Kansas City. On the year, the club's starting pitchers have thrown the fewest innings in the AL. With Cueto now in the mix, manager Ned Yost doesn't have to rely nearly as much on his outstanding bullpen. Instead, he can save his top guns for October when it really counts.

    The Grade: A

1. The Toronto Blue Jays Acquire David Price from the Detroit Tigers

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    David Price has fit right in with the Toronto Blue Jays on the mound and in the clubhouse.
    David Price has fit right in with the Toronto Blue Jays on the mound and in the clubhouse.Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    The Deal: The Toronto Blue Jays received LHP David Price from the Detroit Tigers for LHP Daniel Norris, LHP Jairo Labourt and LHP Matt Boyd.

    The Reports Card

    Price has been downright electric since heading north of the border.

    In his first three starts for the Toronto Blue Jays, the lefty has reeled off a 1.61 ERA while piling up 24 punchouts in 22.1 frames. As Jose Bautista explained, the addition of Price—along with the likes of Troy Tulowitzki, LaTroy Hawkins and Ben Revere—was just what the AL East squad needed.

    "It’s almost like being at war and running low on ammo," Bautista said, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. "And the next thing you know, here comes a little parachute with a crate. And it lands right next to you.

    "And it’s full of ammo.

    "You’re like,' Yeah, baby.'"

    While he's been dealing on the mound, the veteran starter has also been a hit in the clubhouse. As Nightengale noted, Price rides around on an electric scooter and bought eight of them—for about $750 each—for his young teammates. Price believes the scooters will be a shrewd investment.

    "The clubhouse chemistry at this level means so much," Price said. "Just ask the [San Francisco] Giants. Ask the [St. Louis] Cardinals. Ask the [Kansas City] Royals."

    It's difficult to disagree with Price's assessment. Ever since the ace arrived at Rogers Centre, the Jays are having fun off the field and taking names on it.

    The Grade: A+

    Note: All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and MLB.com.

    If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.

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