Early Report Card Grades for the Biggest Deals of the 2016 MLB Trade Window
As usual, the days leading up to MLB's Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline didn't disappoint. Teams completed more than 20 trades, some more significant than others.
Narrowing down that list to only the biggest deals wasn't easy. For example, you could make a case that the Boston Red Sox's additions of closer Brad Ziegler and starter Drew Pomeranz—especially significant moves if your rooting interest lies in Beantown or you're a fan of the Baltimore Orioles or Toronto Blue Jays—deserve to be included here.
But there were bigger deals that went down, some of which haven't worked out the way anyone involved hoped they would. It's all subjective, of course, but that subjectivity also played a part in the grades each team received on the pages that follow.
Player performance was the main driving force behind a team's grade, but since so many of these deals involve prospects who have yet to break into the majors, potential and upside had to be taken into account as well.
These grades could be drastically different in two weeks, much less two months, when the baseball world will be in the thick of the playoffs. We'll find out whether they're better or worse when we revisit these deals later on.
July 25: Aroldis Chapman Gets Traded to the Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs Got: CL Aroldis Chapman
Other than a blown save opportunity against the Seattle Mariners on July 30, Chapman has been the dominant late-inning force Chicago thought it was adding to the back end of its bullpen.
The flame-throwing southpaw has added a tick to his already supersonic fastball since joining the Cubs, according to Brooks Baseball, and allowed only two baserunners over 7.2 innings of work spanning eight relief outings, striking out 11.
As for Hector Rondon, the man whose job Chapman took, manager Joe Maddon was right when he told MLB.com's Carrie Muskat he believed a move out of the ninth inning would benefit the 28-year-old. In five appearances setting up for Chapman, Rondon has scattered three hits over 5.1 scoreless frames.
Were he not dealing with a triceps issue that's kept him out of action since Aug. 2, those numbers would be even more impressive.
While some may take issue with the price the Cubs paid, none of those players had a clear path to playing time in Chicago, and only one—Adam Warren—was even on the big league roster. For a team under immense pressure to end a 107-year championship drought, this was an easy move to make.
New York Yankees Got: OFs Rashad Crawford and Billy McKinney, SS Gleyber Torres and RHP Adam Warren
The Yankees get high marks for merely turning a short-term rental into a four-player package. That they were able to land a top-25 prospect in Gleyber Torres, per MLB.com, puts this trade over the top for general manager Brian Cashman.
How this deal will ultimately be graded in the Bronx rests on whether Torres becomes the next great Yankees shortstop. Torres has all the tools needed to reach that lofty goal, but the 19-year-old is still years away from contributing in the majors.
Warren has been terrific in his return to the Bronx, delivering nine innings of scoreless relief, and his ability to eat innings will prove invaluable for the club down the stretch. While Rashad Crawford and Billy McKinney have talent, neither figures to be much more than a fourth outfielder or part of a platoon.
Aug. 1: Jeremy Jeffress and Jonathan Lucroy Get Traded to the Texas Rangers
Milwaukee Brewers Got: OF Lewis Brinson, LHP Luis Ortiz and a player to be named later
It seems like a mediocre return in exchange for a pair of All-Star-caliber talents in the prime of their careers, but the Brewers did manage to walk away with a top-20 prospect (Lewis Brinson) and top-60 prospect (Luis Ortiz), both oozing potential.
An above-average defender in center field, Brinson, 22, has flashed his combination of power and speed in his second taste of Triple-A and the Pacific Coast League. In nine games with Colorado Springs, he's hitting .417 with five extra-base hits, nine RBI, four stolen bases and a 1.017 OPS.
A promotion to Miller Park when rosters expand in September doesn't seem outrageous, especially if he's going to contend for the Opening Day center field job next spring.
While the 20-year-old Ortiz has already reached Double-A, he's further away from the majors than Brinson. Entering the year, he'd never thrown more than 50 innings in a season as a professional and is only up to 74 innings this season.
Ortiz probably has another full year in the upper levels of Milwaukee's farm system before he's ready to face big league hitters. Building arm strength and refining his arsenal against improved hitting will be the keys to how quickly he'll move.
Both players are potential stars, and since the Brewers are going nowhere this year (or next), Milwaukee can afford to take its time and let the pair continue to develop at their own pace.
Texas Rangers Got: RP Jeremy Jeffress and C Jonathan Lucroy
That the Rangers were able to add Jeremy Jeffress and Jonathan Lucroy without having to give up Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara or Jurickson Profar is nothing short of remarkable and should have Texas fans singing the praises of general manager Jon Daniels.
That said, neither one has been able to live up to the hype surrounding their arrivals in Arlington.
Jeffress has mixed solid outings (two perfect appearances) with three that saw him allow a combined six hits and three earned runs, while Lucroy hasn't hit for average or flashed his excellent on-base skills.
But Lucroy has made up for it with big-time power, logging five extra-base hits (four home runs) and posting a .980 OPS in nine games. He's also been a massive improvement over Robinson Chirinos when it comes to controlling the opposition's running game.
As the season progresses and the pair get more comfortable in their new surroundings, this grade will rise.
Aug. 1: Andrew Miller Gets Traded to the Cleveland Indians
Cleveland Indians Got: LHP Andrew Miller
Indians manager Terry Francona understands the cost of doing business in the big leagues.
"You don't get a guy like Andrew Miller without giving up some really good players," he told reporters after this trade, which cost Cleveland four prospects, including two of its best. "It's not like you're going to steal Andrew Miller. It's costly. But I think our team deserves the chance."
While Miller hasn't been quite as dominant as he's been in the past—he's surrendered two home runs in 3.2 innings for the Indians after allowing five over 45.1 frames for the Yankees—there's little doubt that he'll make Cleveland's bullpen significantly better in the long run.
His impact in the clubhouse shouldn't be overlooked either.
"I think he's such a good teammate and a guy that wants to win, that he accepts the role that's available," Indians designated hitter Mike Napoli, previously a teammate of Miller's with the Boston Red Sox, told USA Today's Gabe Lacques. "It's not about himself. As a teammate, it makes you love him so much more."
Adding Miller cost the Tribe a small fortune, and he's had some bumps in the early going, but the Indians get a bonus because GM Chris Antonetti had the guts to go for it this season.
New York Yankees Got: RHP J.P. Feyereisen, CF Clint Frazier, RHP Ben Heller and LHP Justus Sheffield
Top-100 prospects Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield got the bulk of the attention when this deal was announced, and rightfully so. Frazier is a five-tool player capable of playing all three outfield spots, while Sheffield projects as a No. 2/No. 3 starter despite his slight frame (5'10", 195 lbs), per MLB.com.
But don't sleep on the two relievers, J.P. Feyereisen and Ben Heller, a pair of strikeout artists with impressive minor league numbers. Heller, who the Yankees added to the 25-man roster Thursday, has filthy movement and velocity on his fastball, as Bleacher Report's Stephen Meyer noted on Twitter.
Aug. 1: Jay Bruce Gets Traded to the New York Mets
Cincinnati Reds Got: IF Dilson Herrera and LHP Max Wotell
Early reports had outfield prospect Brandon Nimmo as the centerpiece of the package heading to Cincinnati from New York in this deal (Yahoo Sports' Tim Brown was the first), and the Reds would have gotten a higher grade had that remained the case.
But the Reds ultimately wound up with 22-year-old Dilson Herrera, who, while talented, now joins a crowded group of middle infielders in Calten Daal, Jose Peraza and Alfredo Rodriguez who will all be pushing for big league playing time within the next year or so.
Max Wotell has some life on his fastball but looks like a back-of-the-rotation starter whose stuff might play up in a relief role.
It's a solid return for the Reds, but not an overwhelming one, especially since the outfield is a far more pressing issue for the club than the middle of the diamond.
New York Mets Got: OF Jay Bruce
Jay Bruce was supposed to not only provide a boost to the Mets lineup, but also provide insurance for the team in case Yoenis Cespedes opted out of his contract and departed as a free agent after the season.
Instead, Bruce has struggled, hitting just .171 with two home runs, four RBI and a .580 OPS in nine games. Three of those RBI came on one swing, a three-run shot off Yankees starter Nathan Eovaldi at Yankee Stadium last week.
"You look at what he's done with runners in scoring position—he's put up huge numbers, and we need that right now," manager Terry Collins told reporters after the game, which the Mets won 4-1. "That was not just a big hit for us tonight, but for him also."
Still, Bruce's overall performance has made what seemed like an easy decision—picking up the $13 million option the team holds on him for the 2017 season—anything but that.
Aug. 1: Carlos Beltran Gets Traded to the Texas Rangers
New York Yankees Got: RHPs Nick Green, Erik Swanson and Dillon Tate
This was essentially a one-for-one deal, as neither Nick Green nor Erik Swanson looks like more than organizational depth at this point in their development. It's all about gambling on Dillon Tate, the fourth overall pick in last year's draft who has lost velocity and struggled in his first full professional season.
"If he was doing what he was doing out of the draft last year that got him picked fourth, we couldn't touch him," Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters. "It was a great buy-low situation for us."
The 22-year-old right-hander still has considerable work to do before he'll be close to contributing, but the chance to get a youngster with ace potential in exchange for a short-term rental was, once again, masterful work on Cashman's part.
Texas Rangers Got: OF/DH Carlos Beltran
Carlos Beltran has been exactly what he thought the Rangers hoped he'd be—a productive, professional, steadying presence in the middle of their lineup.
"The feeling is that I've got to go there and help. Help as much as I can," Beltran told MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan. "They get me because they think I can contribute and they think I can help the team continue to win ballgames." In nine games, Beltran has hit .310 with four extra-base hits, four RBI and an .872 OPS.
As was the case in the Jeffress/Lucroy deal, Texas added a legitimate difference-maker without sacrificing a significant piece off its big league roster. If Tate blossoms into an ace and the Rangers don't win it all this year, this deal won't look nearly as good as it does now. But the Rangers can't worry about that.
Aug. 1: Rich Hill and Josh Reddick Get Traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles Dodgers Got: LHP Rich Hill and OF Josh Reddick
Nearly two weeks after completing this trade, Rich Hill has yet to throw a pitch for the Dodgers.
"We just feel that it's prudent to take a little more time," manager Dave Roberts told the Los Angeles Times' Andy McCullough about Hill's status as he continues to recover from a blister issue. "We don't have a date on when Rich is going to pitch for us."
That's a problem when it comes to grading this trade because Hill isn't some 20-year-old prospect. He's a 36-year-old starter Los Angeles needs in its rotation every fifth day. Nothing Josh Reddick could do can overcome that, especially with the way he's swung the bat so far.
In eight games as a Dodger, Reddick is hitting .125 with seven strikeouts and a .301 OPS, though he did record his first multihit game for Los Angeles on Wednesday night.
"It can be really frustrating," Reddick told J.P. Hoornstra of the Orange County Register of his early struggles in Chavez Ravine. "You kind of get over here because you're a guy that they really wanted. You want to come over here and contribute. It is kind of tough to be able to handle it that way."
Not nearly as frustrating as it is for Dodgers fans, who have watched their favorite team go just 5-4 since the trade.
Oakland A's Got: RHPs Jharel Cotton, Grant Holmes and Frankie Montas
The A's weren't especially active during trade season, but Oakland did well here to add three controllable, live arms to its system in exchange for a pair of short-term rentals.
Grant Holmes is the biggest prize in the package, a top-100 prospect with the upside of a No. 2/No. 3 starter, three above-average pitches and a knack for making batters swing and miss. Only 20 years old, he's also the furthest away of this trio from helping the A's in the majors.
Jharel Cotton, 24, has been masterful since joining Triple-A Nashville, allowing seven hits and one earned run over 15 innings of work, walking one and striking out 17. He figures to get a look when rosters expand in September and battle for a rotation spot next spring.
The liveliest arm of the bunch belongs to Frankie Montas, who remains sidelined by a rib injury. Montas' fastball sits in the upper 90s and touches triple digits, with the 23-year-old capable of maintaining that velocity deep into games.
It's why the A's figure to continue developing him as a starter, but it's not hard to imagine he has a future as a shutdown closer with that kind of heat.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs and are current through games of Aug. 11. All contract information courtesy of Cot's Contracts (via Baseball Prospectus).
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