As we begin the week after the Trade Deadline, we now have had a couple of days to sit back and think about the moves that have transpired. It certainly was one of the most (if not the most) hectic trade periods we’ve ever witnessed and so I felt some teams deserved special recognition. Without further ado, here are my MLB Trade Deadline awards:
The “Most Improved/Holy S**** This Had Better Work” Award – Toronto Blue Jays
It’s hard to argue with the Blue Jays transactions, after they acquired arguably the two most marquee players on the market this season. Troy Tulowitzki brings offensive firepower unlike most at a premier position and David Price brings a clear-cut #1 starter-type arm, which the Blue Jays were lacking. Adding Ben Revere was also a great move considering he’s one of the most underrated outfielders – that’s what you get when you play in Philadelphia – and can be a true leadoff bat. However, at 54-52 and currently not even a wild card team (1 game back) it is a huge risk. With Price coming as a ‘rental,’ this season will ultimately be viewed as a travesty should they not even reach the wild card game. It’s the proverbial ‘chips are all in’ situation, where you’re praying for that spade on the river to complete your flush. Because if it doesn’t come, all you got to protect your entire life savings in the pot is a piss poor jack staring at your opponents pair of kings he’s had since the hands were dealt.
The “Michael Keaton Most Underappreciated Performance” Award – Pittsburg Pirates
Until recent memory, the Pirates – along with Michael Keaton – have been tossed aside and forgotten for the past 15 years. Both had a comeback in 2014, marking their respective reemergence to the figurative stages they so obviously were meant to play on. However, this year with the moves the Bucs made at the deadline, they have a chance to flip the script on the academy and take home the trophy. While these moves may have not seemed quite so impactful – considering the rest of the big names floating around – they in fact managed to strengthen each possible weakness they might have. Aramis Ramirez gives them a bat at a position, which has been unproductive due to injuries, Joakim Soria can be the 8th inning man to closer Mark Melancon, and both J.A. Happ and Michael Morse can provide depth. Probably the most important part is the Pirates didn’t have to try to commit suicide – financially of course – to receive the credit they deserve for their efforts.
The “Any Coen Brothers Movie Anti-Climactic Ending” Award – New York Yankees
Any time you sit down to watch an Ethan and Joel Coen film, you know the story will build suspense before being stripped of it in the most diluted way plausible. Well this trade deadline, all I heard was about the amount of action getting ready to take place in the Bronx, concluding with a measly addition of the 2009 draft bust known as Dustin Ackley – sorry M’s fans. While this anti-climax might seem a little less satisfactory than that of a Coen brother’s feature, there is still a chance for positive reviews from Rotten Tomatoes. The Pinstripes currently hold a strong division lead in the AL East (6 games) and look to be headed for a playoff berth, which is not a bad ending. So while their mid-season acquisition won’t turn too many heads, the 2015 path for the New York Yankees appears to be a lit one. Even with the 4th oldest team in the baseball, maybe this isn’t No Country for Old Men.
The “LeSean McCoy I’m Cheap as Hell” Award – New York Mets
This award applies more to a team involved in a trade that didn’t occur, but they deserve it nonetheless. The New York Mets let Carlos Gomez fall through according to Milwaukee Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricort and a source of his, in this manner: “The source said the Brewers then were asked to put some money in the trade to cover part of what’s remaining on Gomez’s contract, including a $9 million salary next year. Considering the talent level of Gomez and his reasonable contract, the Brewers understandably declined to put any cash into the deal. It was only then, according to the source, that the Mets came back and said they were calling off the deal because of concerns over Gomez’s medical records.” Now I don’t know about you, but that seems awfully fishy. It was almost like when the former-Eagles running back LeSean McCoy left a 20-cent tip at a restaurant in Philadelphia, “as a statement.” C’mon man. Unless the waiter hawks a loogie in your tomato soup, you have an obligation – as a man that hauls in 10+ million dollars a year – to drop (minimum) a $10 bill on the table and walk out. It’s like saying Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon along with Saul Katz can’t afford to pay a couple million more to get, in my opinion, the best outfielder available in the trade market. Is it too soon to ask if Bernie Madoff was in on the deal?
The “Inglourious Basterds” Award – Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins, Atlanta Braves
A part from the fact that the Dodgers are involved – so the title would automatically fit – this bundle of meaningless talent headlined by Jim Johnson, certainly hammers it home (he gave a game-tying home run yesterday to no ones surprise). The one scene I’m naturally drawn to when analyzing this trade is the underground pub scene where a massive bloody shootout occurs and everyone dies except one guy, who gets shot moments later so it doesn’t matter anyways. The firefight neither hurt nor benefited either side; it was just a massive waste of life. Now while the MLB version of this obviously doesn’t directly represent a loss of life, it just seems like with 13 bodies moving across the country there would’ve been a bigger impact as a result. Yet, only one guy (Mat Latos) is actually being brought on by a ball club to contribute, and in similar fashion to the final victim of the German standoff, will likely be rendered useless after the season anyways.
The “Green (and Gold) Citizen Recycling” Award – Oakland Athletics
If you take a look at the Bay Area, you can’t tell what recycles more, GreenCitizen at 1971 Shattuck Avenue or the Oakland Athletics at 7000 Coliseum Way. The only difference is that one organization uses the process of recycling to create useful materials for its business partners with waste, while the other uses up-and-coming talent. I understand we’re all products of our environment and right now two greedy old geezer owners limit the A’s options, but every time they recycle a team it doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. It doesn’t help that the O.Co Coliseum they’ve been so desperately looking to rebuild/replace serves as the metaphorical recycling center – it smells like one too. Hopefully the new material/talent brought in will be able to get them back to a serviceable/competitive level, however it just seems like it will be a matter of time until fans see those young players get shopped the moment they begin to perform above a certain level.
Age: 20 Position: Pitcher
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Height: 6’ 7” Weight: 190 lb.
Drafted out of Cypress Hill HS in the 3rd Round of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft
Casey Meisner, much like the other two prospects the Oakland Athletics traded for from the Houston Astros – Jacob Nottingham and Daniel Mengden – is a piece still a few years away. Coming into the 2015 season, he ranked #15 on MLB.com and #21 on FanGraphs within the New York Met’s farm system. Also, much like Nottingham, if the rankings were redone today, Meisner would likely see a considerable rise (possibly cracking the top 10). Either way he will head to Stockton to join the rest of the talent the A’s have compiled in the last few days. He will likely not be the last, so let’s take a look.
Meisner’s first three seasons in professional baseball have been consistently trending upwards, culminating in his current breakout season. After being eased into starting (pitching) in his first year at the pro level in the short-season Gulf Coast League – fifth on the team with 35 1/3 innings – he performed well in 2014 with the Low Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones. Through 13 starts, he tossed 62 1/3 innings while striking out 67, posting a 3.75 ERA and only surrendering 18 walks. He carries a career 2.6 walks per nine innings (BB/9), which is highly impressive.
This year Meisner really came into his own, starting in the Single-A South Atlantic League and dominating the competition over his 12 starts. Through 76 innings, he registered a 2.13 ERA (fifth in the league) and although his K’s dipped slightly (66), his base on balls total remained low (19). Along with a 7-2 record, he earned himself a call-up to High Single-A ball in the Florida State League, where he’s outperformed expectations as the youngest starter on the staff. Over his six starts, he’s led the St. Lucie Mets with a 2.83 ERA through 35 innings.
The only area of concern has been the amount of contact he’s allowed this season. Batters are hitting .256 against him (very respectable) in High Single-A, up from .212 from Single-A. That combined with a slight BB/9 rise (3.6), Meisner’s Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) has climbed all the way to 4.72 (has steadily risen each season). However, while this statistic offers an interesting measurement of how good a pitcher is “supposed” to be, he combats it by doing one thing very well, leaving runners on base. The league average left on base percentage (LOB%) ranges from 70-72%, but Meisner’s hovers around 80%. It is an undervalued skill that obviously has helped him and hopefully will continue to do so.
Coming out of high school, Meisner was sitting 88-92mph with his fastball and is now 90-94, maxing out at 95. He’s also got a curveball and a changeup. According to FanGraphs, his pitches rank as such: Fastball 55/60, Curveball + 45/50, 45/50 Changeup, 40/50 Command. To put that in perspective, these types of numbers were similar to those of LHP Steven Matz – made his MLB debut before the All Star break – who looks to prime to become a quality arm.
His curveball is his only plus-pitch – although I’ve also read it needs some fine-tuning – and the area he has the most room for improvement in will be with his changeup. It currently stands as his least developed pitch. As for his the fastball, it might have a chance to increase in velocity with his young age and frame not having filled out yet. The flipside however with this, “typical super-lanky pitcher” according to FanGraph’s Kiley McDaniel, is “with so much projection it’s hard to say exactly what Meisner’s upside really is.” The reason for the right-handers projection being so difficult is likely due to his size. A super-lanky pitcher – especially with a high ceiling like his – normally comes with command issues, however he breaks that mold. As a result, he doesn’t really fit in any typical category and outliers can difficult to judge.
Meisner is a guy who’s long-term role is difficult to project, but based on his ability to remain on a upward trending path, I could definitely see a future middle-of-the-rotation guy. The Mets seemed to know what they were doing drafting him in the early rounds and selecting a ‘high-risk high-reward’ pitcher, and so far it’s been more of a reward. He’s still two, maybe three years away from the show, but a name to remember down the road that one day will hopefully contribute to the Green & Gold.
Age: 22 Position: Pitcher
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Height: 6’ 2” Weight: 190 lb.
Drafted out of Texas A&M University in the 4th Round of the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft
Daniel Mengden was supposed to be the supplementary piece in terms of this trade. Not many will take a second look at this guy – due to Jacob Nottingham – but he does bring a solid set of skills to the table. The primary reason many scouts overlook him is because he doesn’t posses a plus pitch. However, over his first two seasons in professional ball, he has proved he possesses other abilities that can contribute to a winning equation. Sounds like an Oakland Athletic already so here’s a look at him.
Before I say anything, he’s got an Green & Gold mustache if I’ve ever seen one, top notch. Now, coming out of a four-year university (Texas A&M), he has accelerated through rookie ball and now on to the High-A Lancaster JetHawks in the California League. Much like Nottingham, he will move over to the Stockton Ports and have the pressure to perform.
Although he sustained a back injury in 2014 that only allowed him to throw 11.0 innings while in rookie ball and Low-A, he certainly made up for it once moving to the Astros Single-A affiliate, the Quad Cities River Bandits. Through 38.2 innings, Mengden maintained a 1.16 ERA over eight appearances (six starts) with 36 strikeouts and only walking eight. The most impressive part may have been the fact he only surrendered one home run over his eight starts.
Mengden’s performance got himself a midseason call up to the California League, which is where he’s now found his first bitter taste of disappointment. Continuing his role as a starter, he’s tossed 49.2 innings while registering a 5.26 ERA and giving up an astonishing 59 hits. He had an especially tough time adjusting to the hitter-friendly west coast where through the All-Star break – he threw 26.2 innings – of the High-A season, batters hit .330 off him and his ERA ballooned to 6.91. From there, he used a couple appearances out of the bullpen to help regain some confidence and since the break – he’s thrown 23.0 innings – he has actually performed well, posting a 3.91 ERA and hitters are only tagging him at a .258 clip.
Despite his ups and downs, one encouraging part of his game has remained consistent, his walk ratio. Mengden is a guy that attacks the strike zone, no matter how good or bad his stuff on that particular day. His walks per nine innings ratio (BB/9) has fluttered around 2.0 throughout his early professional career, which is a good sign. His strike percentage (strikes/pitches thrown) this season hovers slightly above 60%, which is about average, but has been consistent every time he toes the rubber.
As for his stuff, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo’s take on Mengden via mlbtraderumors.com, is that, “he doesn’t ‘wow’ scouts with pure stuff but features a solid four-pitch mix, with his curve and changeup trailing his fastball and slider.” His draft profile, which was comprised by MLB.com, says this about his four pitch combination: “His best offering is a fastball that usually ranges from 88-94 mph, though it can get straight at times. His slider is a close second, arriving at 82-85 mph and featuring some sharp bite when he stays on top of it. He also throws a downer curveball that isn’t quite as consistent as his slider, and he has the confidence to use his fading changeup in any count. Mengden may not have a true plus pitch, but he could have four average offerings”
As for the final report, Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs feels the 22-year old has a contributors role moving forward. “You’re looking at a lower risk, possibly quick-moving back-end starter type.” A scout McDaniel spoke with felt that, “Mengden’s stuff has been more fringy to average this year and he looks like a middle reliever or long man on some days, then like a solid back-end starter on others.”
Taking all of this, I could see Mengden being most effective – in the major leagues – as a reliever. Not necessarily a long-relief, but a guy that because of his ability to throw lots of strikes and rev up the velocity if necessary. I want the most out of him and I just don’t see an inning-eater being the answer because the A’s have a ton of those. I believe if the newest Stockton Port could develop his slider into a plus pitch, we could see make plenty of impact as a late-innings guy at the big league level.
Jacob Andrew Nottingham
Age: 20, Position: Catcher
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 6’ 3”, Weight: 227 lb.
Drafted out of Redlands HS in the 6th Round of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft
“The Sheriff of Nottingham” (everyone needs a nickname) is supposed to be the prize of the trade and for good reason. Still just 20 years of age, he has amazing size for a catcher and contributes heavily with his bat. It’s rare that a player with plus power – which he has demonstrated – also can hit for average. Over his short three-year career in the minors he has grabbed the attention of many and using the raving review he’s received, I have compiled an all-you-need-to-know report about the newest addition to the Oakland Athletics farm system.
Last year playing for the Greeneville Astros of the Appalachian League in rookie ball, he caught the eye of evaluators with his smooth stroke and advanced offensive approach, something not found amongst most catchers. These batting traits he carries are not ones the position he plays tends to develop, its either you have it or you don’t. Nottingham’s got it.
After slashing just .238/.325/.385 in two years of rookie ball, he exploded in 2015. Nottingham absolutely wrecked the Midwest League on the Quad Cities River Bandits (Houston’s Single-A affiliate), slashing .326/.383/.558, while blasting 10 home runs in just 59 games. Easily earning himself a mid-season call up to High-A ball in the California League – known for grooming hitters – he continues to impress. Before being traded, he batted .324 while posting a .974 OPS and while it’s just been 17 games, there’s reason to believe the positive trend is not a fluke.
While playing for the River Bandits, according to FanGraphs.com, “Nottingham produced the third-best isolated-power figure (a .217 ISO, specifically) across all of Class-A.” The crazy part is his ISO number – measuring a hitter’s power and how often a player hits for extra bases – is up nearly 70 points in High-A. Another comforting trend is his strikeout percentage (SO/PA) ratio. Although his on-base percentage (OBP) has never fluttered below .300 (lowest is .307), he did have a problem early on with striking out often. His SO/BB reached its peak in 2014 when it ballooned to 27.0%, but in just a year’s span has lowered all the way down to 18.5%.
The only knock on the kid has been his defense. FanGraph’s Kiley McDaniel who recently asked a scout about Nottigham’s defense ability the scout told him, “Nottingham gets a little too high or low on himself based on offensive results, and there are some mechanical issues to work out behind the plate, but this is normal for a 20 year old.” Whether or not he’s going to become a Gold Glover – he wont – makes no difference. The A’s have shown they have no problem sticking with ‘offense-first’ type catchers the last couple years: Stephen Vogt, Josh Phegley, Derek Norris, John Jaso. McDaniel’s final projection states, “Nottingham could be an above average everyday catcher.”
However, ESPN insider Keith Law feels the newest member of the A’s organization was a steal. In his glowing review, he sees Nottingham as a potential star so long as he can stay behind the plate. Law continues to project the future catcher as someone with a 70-grade raw power – on an 80-point scale – who could eventually develop into a 20 to 25 home run per year guy.
Now that’s a reason for Billy Beane to go after him and he expressed it yesterday during an interview on 95.7 The Game on the Damon Bruce Show. “We think that at this stage in his career, he’s got the potential to hit in the middle of the lineup,” he said. “An offensive player at a position that’s typically defensive is something that’s very hard to find, so we’re excited to have him.”
A’s fans should be excited too.
In what’s seemed like a great last couple of weeks for the currently streaking A’s, Josh Reddick may have dampened it. He also very may well have written himself a ticket to another ball club.
Despite the team going 12-6 over their last 18 games, the Oakland right fielder expressed some frustration in a pregame interview with broadcaster Ray Fosse, concerning his playing time. In a surprisingly aggressive, but honest tone, Reddick hinted at the idea that Billy Beane specifically has been trying to keep him out of the lineup against left-handed pitchers.
When Fosse asked him what aspects of lefties keep him on the bench, he flipped the question and targeted the GM: “I have no idea [what keeps me out of the lineup]. It doesn’t come from anywhere in this clubhouse. Everybody knows what situations our general manager puts up there. I couldn’t tell you what the difference is between me starting against one guy and not starting against another guy. … There’s probably so many numbers they could dig into their computers with and try to find one just to keep me out of the lineup.”
He continued by defending his manager and instead focused on pointing out Billy’s possible ‘control freak’ approach to running the franchise. “I know Bob’s in there fighting for me,” Reddick said. “The other day I was supposed to play against De La Rosa, and Bob texts me at around 1:30 and told me he had been ‘trumped,’ was the word he used. I understood right away. I know it’s not Bob. He’s fighting for me to be in there every night. It still frustrates me beyond belief when I don’t play … I wanna be in there helping my team no matter if a guy’s throwing right-handed, left-handed or center-handed. Whatever you wanna call it, I just want to be in there, be able to compete and help my team win.”
This spawns the question, is Josh Reddick’s gripe valid?
Despite the right fielder hitting .330 in 209 at-bats against right-handers and just .152 in 66 at-bats against left-handers (supporting a statistic-like approach as to if he should be starting or not) it is good to see a player wanting to compete and be in the lineup every single day. Especially since the possible All-Star candidate is hitting .287 with 11 home runs, and his 49 RBI’s rank third among all American League outfielders. However, one could also argue it’s because of Beane’s preferred ‘platoon system’ that Reddick has kept his statistics so high this season. So there are a couple things to keep in mind as to whether or not Billy Beane will use this outburst as an excuse to trade him.
1) His Contract
As many of you know, the biggest reason that Reddick has not been traded so far – like many Athletics that have come and gone before him – is because of the amount of money he makes. He’s currently earning a little over $4 million and is arbitration eligible for next season. This means not only is he under team control, but he’s cheap, two things that Beane likes from his players.
2) His Value
Although Reddick has been putting up solid numbers this season, he is a career .250 hitter who has been healthy for a whole season just once in his six-year career. In the lone season (2012) when he was healthy – he hit 32 HR’s and won a Gold Glove – he only hit .242. Based off the A’s ‘buy low, sell high’ philosophy, it wouldn’t be outrageous to think Reddick could get traded considering his past trends, that all point to this year being a ‘fluke.’
3) His Attitude
Reddick is the definition of a competitor and this was not the first time he has spoken out against management. When Josh Donaldson was traded (another sore subject), Reddick said publicly, “This doesn’t make sense to me. We just traded our best player the last 2 years.” He continued on saying he thought the trade was a sign the A’s were clearly in ‘rebuilding mode.’
The last point I made was really why Reddick’s comments yesterday were so perplexing to me. Winning cures everything and over the past two weeks, Oakland has been doing just that. Although the entirety of the season has been frustrating, the direction as of right now looks positive. Maybe he’s had enough, maybe not. Either way, here’s why I don’t think he will be traded before the trade deadline:
Beane won’t get a great enough return for him. At 28 years old and not having proved he can consistently stay on the field, no team is going to want to give up any impact players/prospects for him.
That plus the fact his production has also been inconsistent, Reddick wont be a hot commodity. If he were, we would have already heard about it. Plus the idea that Oakland’s GM will get rid of him because he spoke out is unrealistic. Billy Beane doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks about him (player or otherwise), that’s what makes him Billy Beane. The only time he has traded a player for their character flaws was because they were a hindrance to the team, on and off the field. So far in his illustrious green and gold career, Reddick hasn’t done that. I’m sure if you ask around the clubhouse, he’s one of the best teammates bar none. Whatever kind of dispute the two have – if it’s even a big deal – they’ll work it out and by my estimation Josh Reddick won’t be going anywhere.
This is the question circulating around the office of GM Billy Beane and is likely what nearly every call coming to Oakland’s “Gepetto” revolves around. With the former All-Star posting a 2.70 ERA in over 83 innings of work with 79 strikeouts, he is one of the most sought after starting pitchers for contenders this season. A part from Cole Hamels, (whose services have been swirling around trade circles for months now) Kazmir is really the only other solid left-handed starter in the trade market.
Not to say Kazmir is of Cole Hamels star-caliber, or even that he’s been a better pitcher, but as of right now one could make a legitimate argument that Oakland’s lefty is more valuable. The primary reason is because of his upcoming contract situation. Although he is going to become a free agent at the end of this season, he will likely cost less than the $23.5 million that Hamels is currently earning. The argument for why Hamels is a more valuable trade asset is because he’s under control for the next three years with a team option for a fourth, and more importantly, he has little history of injury. So as far as Scott’s future in Oakland, unless there is an overwhelming offer that comes out of left field for the southpaw’s services, I think it would be wise of Billy Beane not to trade Kazmir.
Now I’ve read a couple of articles about the reasons for trading Kazmir and I get it. With his past-injuries and second-half struggles last season, one could be concerned with his production falling off. Here were his 2014 splits:
1st half: 2.38 ERA, 4.0 K/BB, 6+ ip/g (in 19 starts)
2nd half: 5.42 ERA, 2.4 K/BB, 5.2 ip/g (in 13 starts)
However, having now finally pitched a full season since returning to the bigs in 2013, I believe he will be able to his put inconsistent past behind him. From what I’ve read, he specifically used this past offseason to build up his arm strength in order to pitch effectively deep into the summer. If that’s the case, the A’s will be in a situation to maintain a top-tier starting rotation that currently is tied for the best starting pitching ERA in the American League.
Also, Oakland can offer Kazmir a qualifying offer at the end of the year.
A qualifying offer enables teams to become eligible for draft pick compensation if a free agent leaves for free agency. The value of the qualifying offer changes from year to year and is determined by averaging the top 125 player salaries from the previous season. Much like a franchise tag in football, teams only extend these offers to top players. The return if the player rejects the offers, is one compensatory selection at the end of the first round of the MLB draft.
So in the case of Scott Kazmir, I would suggest keeping him through the end of the season so that his free agency situation becomes a win-win for the A’s. Based off of recent trends, the value of the qualifying offer for the 2016 offseason will be a little over $16 million. While this may seem like a ton of money for a frugal (that’s an overly nice way to put it) franchise, Kazmir is currently making $13 million, so it isn’t that much of a pay raise. So if he signs, Oakland gets another year of quality left-handed pitching and if he chooses to decline the offer – to pursue a more lucrative contract – then the A’s will receive, essentially, another 1st Round Pick. Plus, it gives the currently streaking 2015 squad more of an opportunity to compete and hopefully scrap their way into the playoff race.
Either way, the green and gold come out on top.