In the end, Trevor Bauer said goodbye to the Cleveland Indians with a temper tantrum, and Yasiel Puig bid adieu to the Cincinnati Reds with a round of fisticuffs.
This is not a bad fan fiction but instead a very real reality. Amid an otherwise quiet Trade Deadline Eve, Bauer and Puig suddenly found themselves at the center of the three-team deal between the Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres on Tuesday night.
The trade was first reported by ESPN's Jeff Passan, who later expanded on the full package:
This is assuming, of course, that the trade eventually gets finalized. There are still medicals to review, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network. And then there's the matter of Puig's immediate fate.
The slugging right fielder may be facing a suspension for his final act as a Red, wherein he earned an ejection for his part in a benches-clearing brawl with the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park:
For what it's worth, Puig didn't start the melee. That was the doing of left-hander Amir Garrett, who had the less-than-brilliant idea to challenge the entire Pittsburgh dugout to a duel.
Still, Puig didn't try very hard to keep himself out of the fray. And given that he's just as well known for his short fuse as he is for his moonshot home runs and laser-guided throws from right field, there's something oddly appropriate about a brawl being the 28-year-old's parting gift to Cincinnati.
For his part, Bauer may be thankful Puig has taken any and all "Get a load of this knucklehead" attention away from him.
Bauer would otherwise still be the top knucklehead in the baseball news cycle for what happened Sunday in Kansas City. As he was getting pulled from a rough outing against the Royals, he angrily airmailed a baseball over the center-field wall and got chewed out by Cleveland manager Terry Francona:
Just as there's more to Puig than his loose-cannon tendencies, there's surely more to Bauer than his own inability to keep a handle on his cool. The 28-year-old is a true student of the game who's been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last season-and-a-half.
And yet that "oddly appropriate" phrase also rings true of Bauer's ultimate display as an Indian, which earned him a fine but no suspension. He was, after all, just as well known for his polarizing personality and occasional foolishness as he was for his pitching during his time in Cleveland.
Hence the unavoidable narrative of what's easily the biggest blockbuster of the 2019 trading season: One disruptive star has been swapped out for another, and what an occasion it is!
Of course, there's also a baseball aspect to this trade that warrants a decidedly more serious discussion.
If this deal answers one question in particular, it's the one about whether the Indians would really trade a pitcher of Bauer's caliber while they're in the middle of a pennant race.
Evidently, the answer is yes. And against all odds, the Indians are now arguably better without Bauer than they were with him.
Although Cleveland's offense has gotten better with each passing month, it still needed additional firepower before it could stand against the slugger-studded lineups of the Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox.
Now along comes Puig, an All-Star who's been on fire with a .925 OPS and 15 home runs since May 24. And also Franmil Reyes, who has an .847 OPS and 27 home runs overall. Together with Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and a rejuvenated Jose Ramirez, the core of Cleveland's lineup looks vastly improved.
The Indians will only control Puig through the end of the season, but the 24-year-old Reyes isn't due to reach free agency until after 2024. Logan Allen, who rates as MLB.com's No. 98 prospect, will also be in for the long haul when he arrives.
That may indeed be soon as a replacement for Bauer. If not, the Indians will fill his shoes and then some if Corey Kluber (broken arm) and Carlos Carrasco (leukemia) make strong returns off the injured list.
Which is to say that this trade is so much more than what it might have looked like if the Indians had gotten a lesser return for Bauer. There were many potential scenarios in which they would have seemed like they merely wanted out of his $13 million salary for 2019 and final arbitration payout in 2020.
The obligation to pay Bauer both this year and next is now on the Reds, who may live to regret it.
It's not that Bauer is a bad pitcher. Even in taking a step back from the 2.21 ERA and 11.3 strikeouts-per-nine rate he authored in 2018, he's still managed a 3.79 ERA and 10.6 K/9 over an MLB-high 156.2 innings. In Cincinnati, he'll be part of an outstanding rotation trio with Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray.
But because the Reds are seven games under .500, it's unlikely their first two months with Bauer will have a point. They'll only justify this trade if they flip him over the winter or contend with him in 2020. If they mean to go all-in on the latter, they'd better fix an offense that's been one of the worst in the National League.
Taylor Trammell's involvement in this trade only heightens the risk from Cincinnati's perspective. The toolsy outfielder is the No. 30 prospect in all of baseball with an ETA of 2020. Put another way, he might have been the Reds' center fielder of the future as soon as next year.
Now it's the Padres who can look forward to that eventuality, and they didn't have to give up too much to make it happen.
Sure, they might miss Reyes and Allen. Or, it'll gradually become clear that Reyes was a lesser version of Hunter Renfroe, and that Allen was truly expendable relative to fellow pitching prospects MacKenzie Gore, Luis Patino and Adrian Morejon.
It's not often a deadline deal has this much going on. Beyond being centered on two of the biggest and most controversial stars in baseball, this three-team dandy features three clubs making their own calculated risks for the short, long and longer terms.
In so many words, it's one hell of a trade.