Each MLB Team's Most Boneheaded Decision of the Year

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2018

Each MLB Team's Most Boneheaded Decision of the Year

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    Everybody makes mistakes, including MLB franchises.

    As we churn through August and approach the stretch run, let's gaze back and identify each team's most boneheaded decision of the year.

    By "year" we mean anything that happened on or after Jan. 1. And by "decision," we mean anything from a trade or signing to a non-trade or non-signing. Sometimes it's the moves you make that haunt you; sometimes it's the ones you don't.

    Does this involve a degree of 20/20 hindsight? Sure. But mistakes are mistakes. Here are 30 that sting.

American League East

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    Baltimore Orioles: Not blowing it up before the season

    The Baltimore Orioles entered the season with designs on contending. So much for that.

    They've been dismal from the word "go" and traded key pieces such as infielder Manny Machado and closer Zach Britton in the weeks before the non-waiver deadline.

    The returns for those players weren't terrible, but Baltimore could surely have gotten more in the offseason if it'd acknowledged its window was already closed.

       

    Boston Red Sox: Not adding an ace at the trade deadline

    The Boston Red Sox are running away with the American League East behind an offense that leads baseball in runs scored and OPS. They're also facing uncertainty in the starting rotation.

    Ace Chris Sale, who's put together a Cy Young Award-caliber season, is on the 10-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation. David Price and Rick Porcello have been inconsistent. If Sale's shoulder issue lingers, it's worth wondering whether the Sox have enough starting pitching for a deep postseason run.

    Boston could have gone after a frontline starter at the trade deadline. Instead, it acquired right-hander Nathan Eovaldi from the Tampa Bay Rays. He's pitched well thus far but owns a career 4.16 ERA and is a mid-rotation option at best.

       

    New York Yankees: Not adding an ace before the season

    The New York Yankees rolled into the season with a high-powered young offense and strong bullpen. But they passed on a chance to add an ace-level arm in the offseason.

    Specifically, New York was linked to right-hander Gerrit Cole, who ended up going to the Houston Astros and is putting together a stellar season.

    With ace Luis Severino struggling, veteran CC Sabathia on the DL, Sonny Gray sporting a 5.34 ERA and left-hander Jordan Montgomery out after Tommy John surgery, the Yanks sure could use a Cole-level talent as they head toward the playoffs.

       

    Tampa Bay Rays: Trading Jake Odorizzi too soon

    The Rays have had the typical low-key season. They've hung around the fringes of contention but generally opted to sell at the deadline, most notably shipping right-hander Chris Archer to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a solid haul.

    There's not too much to criticize, though the Rays may regret trading righty Jake Odorizzi to the Minnesota Twins in February for prospect Jermaine Palacios, who's hit .227 in High-A and Double-A.

    A better play would have been to hold on to Odorizzi until the non-waiver deadline, when Tampa Bay could likely have gotten more from a pitching-hungry contender.

       

    Toronto Blue Jays: Not calling up Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

    It's been a dismal season for the Toronto Blue Jays. Star third baseman Josh Donaldson has been beset by injuries, and the Jays are fluttering near the division basement, above only the lowly Orioles.

    They could have injected some excitement by calling up top prospect and future superstar Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who has shot like a bolt of lightning from Double-A to Triple-A and hit a combined .389 with a 1.096 OPS.

    A September call-up is likely, but Vlad 2.0 should have been in Toronto a lot sooner.

American League Central

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    Chicago White Sox: Not trading Jose Abreu

    The Chicago White Sox can look to the future with excitement. Their big league roster and farm system are laden with young talent.

    You can never have too many up-and-comers, however, and the ChiSox whiffed on a chance to add more when they held on to first baseman Jose Abreu at the trade deadline.

    Granted, Abreu's production has tailed off this season. He's gotten hot lately, however, and his combination of power and controllability through 2019 would undoubtedly have interested multiple buyers.

       

    Cleveland Indians: Trading Francisco Mejia

    This is a tough one. On the one hand, the Cleveland Indians are trying to break baseball's longest active title drought (69 years). They needed to make a bold move to shore up a bullpen that has been hit by injuries. So they did, trading touted catching prospect Francisco Mejia to the San Diego Padres for relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber.

    Hand has been excellent so far for the Tribe. If his contributions lead to a championship, it will be worth it.

    That said, potentially elite offensive catchers don't grow on trees, and Mejia is hitting .316 with an .861 OPS for the Padres' Triple-A affiliate. If he ends up raking in the majors and the Tribe don't win it all with Hand, this will be a move Cleveland regrets.

       

    Detroit Tigers: Not doing more at the trade deadline

    Other than flipping Leonys Martin to the Indians for decent minor league infielder Willi Castro and moving Mike Fiers to the Oakland Athletics in a waiver trade, the Detroit Tigers haven't added to their MiLB stash.

    Right-hander Michael Fulmer, left-hander Francisco Liriano and shortstop Jose Iglesias come with warts and/or injury concerns, and the Tigers might have been underwhelmed by the offers they received.

    But a couple of middling swaps is a bad look for a franchise in unambiguous rebuild mode.

       

    Kansas City Royals: Not blowing it up before the season

    Much like the Orioles, the Kansas City Royals entered the season under the illusion they could compete.

    That illusion has been thoroughly shattered, and the Royals were forced to make moves such as trading third baseman Mike Moustakas (whom they had re-signed in the offseason) to the Milwaukee Brewers.

    The Royals are apparently embracing a rebuild, but it's a day late and a dollar short.

       

    Minnesota Twins: Counting on a repeat of 2017

    The Twins were one of the coolest stories of 2017, as they rose from the ashes of a 103-loss season to claim the American League's second wild-card slot.

    Rather than aggressively upgrade the roster during the offseason, the Twins made ancillary moves like the Odorizzi trade and rolled into the season with largely the same cast.

    Injuries and regression have relegated them to also-ran status. That's not especially surprising considering the so-so plus-27 run differential Minnesota posted last season, easily the worst among postseason qualifiers.

American League West

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    Houston Astros: Trading for Roberto Osuna

    The Astros wanted bullpen reinforcements at the trade deadline. They had options, including the Padres' Hand, who would have given them needed left-handed balance in a righty-heavy unit.

    Instead, they acquired right-hander Roberto Osuna from the Blue Jays.

    Osuna is a talent, no question, and has pitched well for the defending champions. He is also coming off a 75-game suspension for violating MLB's domestic violence policy.

    Maybe he'll help Houston repeat, but the Astros will come to regret the move.

       

    Los Angeles Angels: Not getting more starting pitching in the offseason

    This might seem unfair since the Los Angeles Angels managed to reel in two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani this offseason. Surely the hope was he'd join with injury-prone right-hander Garrett Richards to form a strong top-of-the-rotation duo.

    It was unclear how Ohtani's talents would translate stateside, however, and, sure enough, an elbow issue put his pitching career on ice while Richards again fell victim to injuries. Overall, the Angels rotation ranks 18th with a 4.27 ERA.

    Once again, the Halos have failed to put together a team capable of helping superstar Mike Trout, the best player on the planet, to the promised land.

       

    Oakland Athletics: Not adding a co-ace at the deadline

    It's tough to critique the small-market Athletics' charmed season, in which they've gone from presumed also-rans to likely postseason qualifiers.

    The A's even went into buy mode at the deadline and snagged reliever Jeurys Familia from the New York Mets.

    If there's a nit to be picked, it's that they could have added a co-No. 1 to join Sean Manaea atop the starting staff. Fiers is fine mid-rotation filler, but the Oakland unit might not be deep enough to get the club past the division series.

       

    Seattle Mariners: Not adding more starting pitching

    Broken record alert: As they try to snap a 16-year postseason drought, the Seattle Mariners need more starting pitching.

    Their corps ranks 19th in the game with a 4.28 ERA. Erstwhile ace Felix Hernandez appears to be finished.

    Yet general manager Jerry Dipoto merely tinkered at the trade deadline, and now it looks like the M's will miss the dance once again.

       

    Texas Rangers: Not unloading more at the deadline

    To their credit, the Texas Rangers saw the writing on the wall and sent left-hander Cole Hamels to the Chicago Cubs days before the trade deadline.

    On the other hand, they hung on to other assets such as future Hall of Fame third baseman Adrian Beltre and resurgent outfielder/designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo, who might have netted more MiLB chips.

    Texas needs to rebuild and should have initiated a full-blown fire sale.

National League East

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    Atlanta Braves: Not going big at the trade deadline

    This is a quibble. The Atlanta Braves are blossoming ahead of schedule and having an excellent season. It looks like their young core is going to carry them to the playoffs.

    Plus, the Braves did add pieces at the trade deadline. They just didn't add the piece, a star-level talent who could have positioned them as title contenders.

    Then again, they might be title contenders without that major splash. At the very least, they are an exciting team on the rise.

       

    Miami Marlins: Trading Giancarlo Stanton for a pittance

    The Miami Marlins blew up their roster during the offseason. The biggest move was the trade of reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees.

    What did the Fish get in exchange for the generational slugger? Not enough.

    Miami netted veteran second baseman Starlin Castro, who's having a decent season but is also costing the spendthrift Marlins $21 million through 2019. It also got right-hander Jorge Guzman, who has struggled with command issues at High-A, and throw-in prospect Jose Devers.

    Stanton, meanwhile, has bashed 32 homers for the Yanks. Insert Derek Jeter conspiracy theory here.

       

    New York Mets: Counting on the health of the starting rotation

    The Mets this season were hoping for renewed health from a once-vaunted starting rotation that had been decimated by injuries. You know what they say about the definition of insanity.

    Jacob deGrom is an ace. But Noah Syndergaard and the rest of the unit have dealt with various health issues and, not surprisingly, the Mets are buried in fourth place.

    Trading deGrom at the deadline was an option, but it's understandable why New York kept its team-controlled star. The rest of the roster, on the other hand, needs to be overhauled.

       

    Philadelphia Phillies: Not going big at the trade deadline

    Is there an echo in here? The Philadelphia Phillies are blossoming ahead of schedule and having an excellent season. It looks like their young core is going to carry them to the playoffs.

    You get the idea. The Phillies made a run at Machado but fell short. That would have been cool.

    Still, they're well-positioned now and for the future. It's tough to offer more than a tepid critique.

       

    Washington Nationals: Not trading Bryce Harper

    It's easy to see why the Washington Nationals didn't trade Bryce Harper at the deadline. He's the face of the franchise, and the Nats were hanging around the fringes of the NL playoff scene.

    Harper would have been one of the most interesting commodities on the market, however, and could have fetched a return somewhere in the vicinity of what the Orioles got for Machado.

    Now, the Nationals are probably going to miss the postseason, and Harper may skip town for a massive free-agent payday. Sure, the Nationals could re-sign him in the offseason, but they placed him on waivers, and he was claimed by the Los Angeles Dodgers, though no trade was consummated. Washington could have dealt him on or before July 31, reaped a prospect reward and then brought him back.

National League Central

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    Chicago Cubs: Signing Yu Darvish

    When the Cubs inked right-hander Yu Darvish to a six-year, $126 million contract in February, the move had the look of a team trying to get back to the championship stage.

    Six months later, it looks like a disaster.

    Darvish has had triceps and elbow injuries and is out for the season. When he pitched, he did so to the tune of a 4.95 ERA.

    There's hope for the Cubs even without him, but the hope for Darvish to ever be an effective contributor and not a payroll albatross is fading by the moment.

       

    Cincinnati Reds: Not making moves at the trade deadline

    The Cincinnati Reds are in last place. They should be rebuilding.

    Instead, the Reds mostly sat on their hands at the trade deadline and failed to unload potentially intriguing assets such as right-hander Matt Harvey and center fielder Billy Hamilton.

    Neither would have jolted the farm system to the top of the rankings, and Cincinnati did ship Adam Duvall to Atlanta. But the Reds' relative inaction was puzzling, to put it mildly.

       

    Milwaukee Brewers: Not acquiring an ace

    The Brewers are in the NL playoff mix and made moves prior to the deadline, including acquiring Moustakas from the Royals.

    They didn't bolster a starting rotation that sports a middling 3.97 ERA and lacks a bona fide ace to carry them into October—unless you believe in Chase Anderson and his 5.23 August ERA.

    Teams have made runs without shutdown No. 1 pitchers before. It's not a prerequisite for postseason success. But it helps a bunch.

       

    Pittsburgh Pirates: Acquiring Chris Archer

    The Pirates sold key assets over the offseason and then turned into surprise contenders.

    With an outside shot at making the playoffs, the Buccos got bold and acquired Chris Archer from the Rays for talented right-hander Tyler Glasnow, rising outfielder Austin Meadows and player-to-be-named-later Shane Baz.

    It was a steep price to pay, and Archer has a 4.91 ERA with the Pirates and left his most recent start because of leg discomfort.

    Archer is under team control through 2021, so it's way too early to render a verdict. But for a team that had appeared to be initiating a rebuild, this was a curious and possibly foolhardy move.

       

    St. Louis Cardinals: Not adding at the deadline

    The St. Louis Cardinals acted like tepid sellers at the trade deadline and shipped outfielder Tommy Pham to the Rays, among other moves.

    Lo and behold, the Cards were 69-57 entering play Tuesday and on the cusp of the second wild-card spot.

    You could argue that validates the Cards' decisions, but what if they'd acted like buyers instead and grabbed a bat to boost an offense that ranks 15th in baseball with a .733 OPS?

    It would have increased their chances of getting to the playoffs and challenging the Cubs and Brewers for National League Central supremacy.

National League West

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    Arizona Diamondbacks: Not re-signing J.D. Martinez

    The Arizona Diamondbacks acquired outfielder J.D. Martinez from the Tigers two weeks before the 2017 non-waiver trade deadline and got a massive jolt from the slugger, who posted a 1.107 OPS for the Snakes and helped them reach the playoffs.

    Over the offseason, Martinez (like most free agents) languished on the market. Arizona, however, didn't bring him back.

    Instead, Martinez signed a five-year, $110 million deal with the Red Sox in late February. In hindsight, that's a bargain. Martinez leads MLB in homers (38), RBI (106) and slugging percentage (.662). Think those numbers would look good in a Diamondbacks lineup that ranks 18th in baseball with a .724 OPS?

    If Arizona could build a time machine and outbid Boston, here's betting it would.

       

    Colorado Rockies: Extending Charlie Blackmon

    Charlie Blackmon had an MVP-caliber season in 2017. He hit .331 with 37 home runs and finished with 6.5 WAR by FanGraphs' measure. On the surface, the Colorado Rockies' decision in April to extend him for six years and $108 million makes sense.

    But Blackmon has tumbled to Earth in 2018 and sports a paltry 0.8 WAR. He's 32 years old.

    How will this deal look on the back end, when Blackmon is in his late 30s? In a word: yikes.

       

    Los Angeles Dodgers: Not adding a bullpen ace

    The Los Angeles Dodgers entered the season with Kenley Jansen locked in as their closer. At the trade deadline, they grabbed Machado and Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, among others, but passed on stars such as the Padres' Hand and Orioles' Britton.

    Jansen landed on the disabled list Aug. 10 with an irregular heartbeat and was roughed up in his return.

    It's hard to argue with the Dodgers' glitzy, win-now deadline additions. But buttressing the bullpen would have been a good idea.

       

    San Diego Padres: Signing Eric Hosmer

    The Padres had no real hope of competing in 2018 but opted to sign first baseman Eric Hosmer to a franchise-record eight-year, $144 million contract anyway.

    Less than a season in, the returns aren't great.

    Hosmer has been meh at the plate, with a .259 average and 12 home runs. More damningly, the four-time Gold Glover has posted a minus-4.8 ultimate zone rating and minus-0.3 WAR.

    That's a lot of coin for a non-contender to pay a guy who's been worse than a replacement-level scrub.

       

    San Francisco Giants: Standing pat at the deadline

    The San Francisco Giants have been treading water all season, hanging around .500 and trying for one more even-year run.

    It would have been foolish of them to decimate a thin farm system at the trade deadline, but it was equally foolish to stand pat.

    The Giants needed to mortgage the future, add some bats and arms and shoot for the moon or acknowledge the inevitable and trade bankable assets such as right fielder Andrew McCutchen and, yes, maybe even ace Madison Bumgarner.

    Now, with the news that six-time All-Star catcher Buster Posey could be lost to season-ending hip surgery, San Francisco is limping toward mediocrity with nothing to show for it.

       

    All statistics accurate entering Tuesday and courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.

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