When I read the news on Tuesday that David Price was going to sign with the Boston Red Sox for a nearly unbelievable $217 million over 7 years, I didn’t know quite how to handle it, at first. The first thought that came to mind once I cleared my head was not about the money, but how the relationship would be in the clubhouse between Price and the Red Sox senior man, and 3-time World Series Champion, David Ortiz. They have some history, after all. Then I considered the type of teammate that Ortiz has been throughout his career, and decided that he would find a way to get past Price’s punk attitude. Provided, of course, that Price delivers. If he doesn’t, and Ortiz doesn’t break him in two, I’d be disappointed.
At press time last week, the news about Alex Anthopoulos leaving the Toronto Blue Jays was just about to break. To say that the announcement caused some discussion in the Toronto sports media, and amongst the general public, would be an understatement.
Looking back at the situation now, it is perhaps easier to see why Anthopoulos decided to move on, and realize that most Blue Jays fans were just hoping that Anthopoulos and news Blue Jays President & CEO Mark Shapiro would work things out. When we re-examine the facts and connect the dots, it seems this was not the hasty decision it seemed to be at the time it was announced.
To summarize what we know:
- Both parties confirmed that the team had offered Anthopoulos a five year extension, to continue as General Manager of the ball club.
- Anthopoulos said that his reason for turning down the offer was that he didn’t see this as “the right fit” for him. He didn’t expand on that comment, other than to repeat it several times in various interviews with the media following the official announcement.
- Edward Rogers, CEO of the Blue Jays parent company Rogers Communications, indicated that the offer made to Anthopoulos was for the same job he had under Paul Beeston, the retiring CEO of the Blue Jays, and there would be no change in the level of autonomy Anthopoulos would be granted under the extension, other than a change in his immediate boss, Shapiro. Shapiro was officially announced as Beeston’s successor on August 31st. Rogers went on to say that the offer included a salary increase and would have provided Anthopoulos with an “opt out clause” after twelve months.
- Anthopoulos has always been very private about all matters, whether they were about his own contract, or about which pieces of the roster needed upgrading or changing.
- Anthopoulos said on Bob McCown’s Prime Time Sports show on FAN 590 1FAN 590 is an all-sports station owned by Rogers on Thursday evening that he had initially turned down the offer on the evening of Monday October 26th, and that for the next two days the Blue Jays and Rogers had come back to him in an attempt to persuade him to change his mind. Anthopoulos stated that he thought about the discussions over those two days, but on the evening of Wednesday October 28th, he advised Rogers that he was standing by his initial decision to walk away. To Anthopoulos credit he took the high road, not once speaking negatively about Rogers, the Blue Jays, or the way he had been treated. He indicated he did not have another opportunity in front of him, and that he would take things day to day and enjoy time with his family.
In view of the Blue Jays success over the final 60 days of the 2015 season and their spirited post-season run, it is easy to sit back and be puzzled by the turn of events. Since both sides confirmed that a five-year deal had been offered, we can take comfort in thinking that was accurate. Anthopoulos said the offer was, “to be the General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays”. He did not offer to explain if or how the team or Rogers wanted to change his level of authority. Rogers and the team continued to stand by their earlier statement that the offer included no changes to the role that Anthopoulos had been performing for the past six seasons.
How Did We Get Here?
So, where did it break down? Now that the dust has settled somewhat, and again looking back at recent events, it is perhaps easier for fans and the media to pinpoint several situations that might have triggered Anthopoulos’ decision.
Looking at the facts of the past twelve months chronologically, the first hiccup likely came in the fall of 2014, when Rogers made it known within the industry that Beeston would be retiring no later than the end of the 2015 season. Rogers is a communications company, but apparently they forgot to inform Beeston of their decision. Rogers started looking for his successor. They targeted several individuals, all with baseball backgrounds rather than the business background, that Beeston brought to the table. We can only assume that the move to seek a new CEO with a baseball background was likely triggered by the fact that both Beeston and Anthopoulos’ contracts expired at the end of the 2015 season, so everything fitted nicely in terms of the new President and CEO being able to hire “his guy” rather than inheriting Anthopoulos, the Beeston disciple.
Several names were suggested as Beeston’s successor, but the two that were mentioned most prominently were Kenny Williams, President of the Chicago White Sox and Dan Duquette, General Manager of the Baltimore Orioles. As both Williams and Duquette were employed, Rogers needed to obtain permission from the White Sox and Orioles before approaching Williams and Duquette. The first contact was supposedly with the White Sox principal owner Jerry Reinsdorf regarding Williams. What Rogers failed to take into account was that Reinsdorf and Beeston are extremely close friends, so once he was approached; Reinsdorf’s first call was to his buddy Beeston asking him what was going on. Beeston was not pleased, as none of us would be. Then the search turned to Duquette and Orioles owner Peter Angelos requested compensation in an amount that the Blue Jays weren’t prepared to agree to.
— Erika Gilbert (@e_gilbert) February 4, 2015
Once it became public knowledge that Rogers wanted to replace Beeston, it was glossed over and announced that Beeston would retire at the end of the 2015 season. He would be 70 years old at that time and a Blue Jays employee for 40 years. In fact he was the team’s first employee, hired in 1976, a year before the team first took the field. Apart from a few years working in MLB headquarters in New York, Beeston has been a fixture with the Blue Jays for all those years. Even when he worked for MLB, he maintained an office at Rogers Centre (then known as SkyDome).
So the search continued for a new CEO, ending with the Shapiro hire on August 31st. While the official announcement didn’t take place until late August, obviously discussions with Shapiro and the Indians were ongoing well before the hire was announced. In fact, those discussions likely went back to at least the latter part of July, when the Blue Jays were 50-51 and it appeared they were about to enjoy another .500 season. It is very likely that Rogers made it clear to Shapiro that cleaning house would be easy to justify given the team’s on field performance at the time discussions were taking place.
While both sides have denied it, rumours persist that shortly after Shapiro came on board, during a conversation with Anthopoulos, he was critical of the numerous trades Anthopoulos had made at the July 31 deadline, giving up several good prospects in order to obtain Troy Tulowitzki and David Price. Whether Anthopoulos acted on his own in these trades, as was his mandate, or whether he and Beeston had discussed the strategy we will likely never know, but the possibility exists that if both felt their Blue Jays careers were over on October 31st, why not take a gamble and go for it all in 2015? After all, they had nothing to lose. Beeston knew he was going, and Anthopoulos must have felt that he would be gone too if the record didn’t improve, because his biggest supporter was leaving at the end of the year.
After Anthopoulos made his announcement last Thursday, Globe and Mail columnist Cathal Kelly detailed a conversation he had had with Anthopoulos in September when the Blue Jays were in New York for a four game series with the Yankees. Kelly describes the conversation as being very causal, in the visitors’ clubhouse. ”You’re coming back, right?” asked Kelly. “I’m not sure” Anthopoulos responded. Kelly interpreted that as meaning that there had been no discussions about a new contract for Anthopoulos. Anthopoulos indicated he had only met Shapiro in passing, and had no feel for him. Anthopoulos apparently told Kelly that he had no interest in staying if it meant running every move up the ladder and while he was open to collaboration, he did not want to be micro managed. If that is the way the conversation took place, then it is easy to see why Anthopoulos didn’t “see a fit” for himself in the post-Beeston era. Anthopoulos also apparently revealed he had had no discussions with ownership, which Kelly thought was odd. Anthopoulos apparently agreed. Kelly indicates he was asked not to reveal the discussion at the time it occurred, but now that it has come to light, it would seem that Anthopoulos had in fact made up his mind long before the five year contract offer last week.
Shaprio held his first press conference at Rogers Centre on Monday, his first day on the job. He said all the right things, that he wanted Anthopoulos to return and is disappointed Anthopoulos decided to seek other pastures, that he was looking forward to working with a team that not only represented a city but a whole country, that the Blue Jays had a strong management team, and that he hoped all would stay. He danced around a lot of questions. There were lots of definite maybes in his responses. Perhaps we should expect that from any executive. Perhaps we should expect that from anyone in their first day in a new job. But Shapiro did nothing to settle the minds of Blue Jays fans still enjoying the team’s first post season appearance in 22 years. Shapiro did state that in order to provide some stability, he was promoting current Vice-President and Assistant General Manager Tony LaCava to Interim General Manager, and that field manager John Gibbons would return in 2016, but when asked, he made no comment about whether LaCava would be seriously considered for the General Manager’s job on a full time basis.
What Shapiro did was damage control, essentially providing himself with a little more time before having to make a formal statement on where he saw the team going. LaCava was loyal to Anthopoulos so from a continuity standpoint the appointment makes sense. LaCava also worked for the Indians for a year in the early 2000’s when Shapiro was the General Manager in Cleveland, so there is a little history there, but the announcement was clearly not a resounding endorsement. In his November 3rd column, Kelly is suggesting that LaCava shouldn’t run out and get new business cards.
As a Blue Jays fan since day one and a long-time member of a season ticket group, I wasn’t impressed with Shapiro’s first state of the union message. I hope it gets better, but I can see why Anthopoulos made the decision he did. It likely wasn’t just his inter-action with Shapiro, or the lack of it, it was probably what he has seen over the last twelve months, starting with the way the organization treated Beeston, his good friend and mentor and the new direction the Blue Jays appear to be heading.
Ironically on the day Anthopoulos’ decision became public, he was named as the MLB Executive of the Year for 2015. A nice thing to add to your resume in an industry where opportunities arise fairly often, and an industry where hopefully Anthopoulos will find “the right fit” not too far down the road.
Could this have been resolved? Yes, but the circumstances would have had to be different. If Rogers had known the success the team would enjoy on the field after July 31st, they may have handled it differently. Looking back, and using the “if only we knew then what we know now” approach, the best move would have been to promote Anthopoulos to President and CEO 2He holds a degree from a McMaster University, a well-respected Canadian institution and let him run the baseball side. The business, marketing and stadium issues could have fallen under the responsibility of a new hire with those specific skills, reporting to Anthopoulos. What difference does it make if you have a baseball guy reporting to a President with a business background, or a business guy reporting to a President with a baseball background? From my seat, it makes no difference.
Anthopoulos has earned a lot of respect in this city as a result of his work with the Blue Jays this year and his open, friendly manner with everyone he came into contact with. He was always giving of his time while working with the Blue Jays and seems genuinely disappointed that things didn’t work out between the two parties. I think that fans saw him as “one of us”, a baseball fan and a Canadian to boot.
All we can say is good luck Alex and thank you.
For all intents and purposes, MLB’s regular season came to a close last evening when the Houston Astros lost, clinching the 2nd A.L. wild card. They’ll have a chance to take the field against the N.Y. Yankees at the Stadium tomorrow, but for today, it’s time to get on with the A.L. Awards, because as Josh Flagner noted in a column last November, it doesn’t make any sense for MLB to wait until the season has been completed for more than 2 weeks before announcing the major award winners. I certainly don’t believe in doing that, either. In last year’s attempt, I swept through the AL and NL player awards1I did not proffer any picks for Comeback Plays of the Year, but came up empty in the Manager of the Year posting. Today, I’ll begin in the American League, and will get to the N.L. later in the week. In addition to my own picks, I will predict who I believe the *experts* will pick when their time comes. On to the Awards.
|↑1||I did not proffer any picks for Comeback Plays of the Year|
Many teams take a gamble on a player or two for the present at the expense of a chunk of their future at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline when they sense that opportunity to win now.
Going into the deadline, the Kansas City Royals and the Toronto Blue Jays were among those teams looking for starting pitching. Both teams were really looking for an ace. Aces don’t become available every day, so it was a sellers’ market. The Royals struck first on July 26, acquiring Johnny Cueto from the Cincinnati Reds for three pitching prospects, two of whom are now on the Reds major league roster, the other playing at Double-A. The Blue Jays followed on July 30 by acquiring David Price from the Detroit Tigers for three minor league pitching prospects, two of whom are now on the Tigers major league roster and the third finished the season in the Advanced-A level Florida State League. The Texas Rangers picked up Cole Hamels, the other ace that was available and while the Rangers are a contending team and Hamels has been valuable in their push for the post season, I have left him out of this discussion because he is the only one of the three big names that is signed beyond the 2015 season, so a comparison isn’t fair.
The Cueto and Price deals are similar. Both came from teams that were out of the pennant race. Both will be testing the free agent market after this season, so both have something to prove. Both came for prospects. In each case two of those prospects are on their new team’s major league roster. So which one has made the biggest difference?
Cueto came from the National League Central. While the National League has been identified as a little bit of a softer touch for pitchers because NL pitchers face the opposing pitcher rather than a designated hitter, Cueto had often been pitching against the three best teams in the NL over the course of the season, as the Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs all reside in the Reds division. Price had been pitching in the AL Central, which other than the Royals has been mediocre at best. Price has started eight games for the Blue Jays, winning six and losing only one. He has pitched 55 1/3 innings, given up 43 hits, 14 earned runs for an ERA of 2.28 and a WHIP of 1.012. By contrast, Cueto has started nine games, winning two and losing six. He has pitched 56 1/3 innings, given up 72 hits, 34 earned runs for an ERA of 5.43 and a WHIP of 1.420. Cueto’s numbers in Kansas City are inferior to those he put up in Cincinnati, playing with a much less successful team. Hard to understand why Cueto has gone downhill as quickly as he has in his short time with the Royals, but he needs to pick it up for the Royals to get full value for their outlay and for him to get the contract he feels he deserves after 2015. Price has been everything the Blue Jays hoped for when they picked him up. He has done nothing to diminish his value on the open market after the season. Most will agree that so far, Price has undoubtedly been the better acquisition of the two.
Conversely, the New York Mets had been hearing all year about how great their young pitching staff (plus the ancient wonder Bartolo Colon) was and if only they could score some runs, maybe, just maybe, they could win the NL East. With the Phillies, Braves and Marlins never counted on as being contenders in 2015, the Mets were seen as a good bet to finish second behind the Washington Nationals. Most pundits pegged the Nationals as a powerhouse with their young talent and strong pitching staff which was made even stronger over the winter with the signing of free agent Max Scherzer. The Mets have been able to take advantage of the Marlins, Phillies and Braves performing to plan but the unexpected bonus has been the underperforming Nationals. They have been a disappointment all season. The Mets needed to find a way to score some runs to supplement that pitching staff and they did just that by picking up their own “rental” in outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers for AAA Pitcher Luis Cessa and AA pitcher Michael Fulmer. All that Cespedes has done in 42 games since July 31 is hit .302, with 17 HR and 42RBI. In just six weeks in the Big Apple, he has almost matched his power numbers for four months in Detroit. If MLB permitted a player’s totals with two teams in two different leagues to be combined for MVP purposes, Cespedes would have a shot at winning the award. Along with the return of David Wright from injury, Cespedes has almost singlehandedly turned the Mets into a scoring machine. As it is, he is unlikely to receive enough votes in either league to win that league’s award.
While all of these deals involved big name players and the Price and Cueto deals both came at considerable cost, the Blue Jays got a very good return on their assets when they traded two minor league pitchers to the Philadelphia Phillies for Ben Revere. Prior to the 2015 season the Blue Jays acquired Michael Saunders from the Seattle Mariners with a view to making him their everyday left fielder. Saunders hurt his knee in a freak spring training accident and opted for a unique surgery that was supposed to correct the problem much quicker than conventional surgery. He did get back in the lineup early, but was ineffective and went back on the Disabled List after only 31 at bats. He hasn’t returned. In his absence the Blue Jays tried a number of players in left field, including Chris Colabello. Colabello has a productive bat, but his defense is more tailored to first base (or designated hitter…….i.e. it isn’t stellar). The Blue Jays tried to hide him in left field, pulling him for defensive purposes late in those games where they had a lead. The Blue Jays also traded shortstop Jose Reyes to Colorado just before the non-waiver deadline in order to obtain Troy Tulowitzki. That was a significant upgrade defensively, but it meant that the Blue Jays lost their leadoff hitter and some of their team speed. In Revere they saw a means of improving their outfield defense while acquiring a bat for the top of the order. Revere led the National League in hits in 2015, so even though he started his Blue Jays career slowly, he has since come along nicely (50 for 154, a .325 average) and has provided that much needed outfield defense, allowing Colabello to play first base or DH, plus he has added some speed at the top of the order. The Blue Jays acquisition of Revere might not be that far behind the Mets getting Cespedes in terms of the best return on assets by a team at the deadline.
Sometimes the big name makes the difference. Other times, a little upgrade here and a little depth there make all the difference.
It is never easy for a General Manager to decide whether to make a deadline deal or not to make a deadline deal. If the team ends up achieving its goal of winning its decision or earning a wild card spot, then it doesn’t matter whether the deal was made or not; the decision was the right one. On the other hand falling short of that post-season goal, be it by making a deal at the cost of future prospects or simply not making a deal when they had the chance, the team’s fans and the local media will likely not allow the General Manager to forget about his “mistake”.
I think we can safely say now that the two winners in the non-waiver trade deadline deals were Alex Anthopoulos in Toronto and Sandy Alderson in New York. They both pulled the trigger and seemingly did so while aiming accurately.
In my last column I wrote about the Blue Jays acquiring Troy Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockies in a surprise move. All Blue Jays fans, local media and baseball people in general all expected that any moves made by the Blue Jays prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline would be for pitching help or for so called “role players” to support existing position players, specifically an extra infielder or an extra outfielder. So as we discussed last column, the Tulowitzki move came out of the blue and personally I was of the opinion that the team would make no additional major moves. It was my opinion that after GM Alex Anthopoulos had seen the price the Kansas City Royals had to pay to get Johnny Cueto “on rental” for the balance of the season, he had shied away from trying to acquire a top flight pitcher, even on a rental basis, simply because he felt the cost would be far in excess of what he wanted to/was able to pay in terms of prospects.
Fast forward to the late morning news of July 30. It shocked me. There is no other way to describe it. As a Blue Jays fan since day one of their existence (April 7, 1977) when along with 44,648 others I sat in a cold, snowy Exhibition Stadium in Toronto and saw them defeat the Chicago White Sox 9-5, I couldn’t believe that Anthopoulos had managed to acquire Tiger ace David Price. Price is one of the top starters in MLB and he is mentioned in any conversation about THE best starter in MLB, right up there with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez, Cloe Hamels and Max Scherzer among others. The cost was excessive, in terms of numbers (three) and current potential of the prospects sent to the Motor City, but in Price the Blue Jays definitely got the best rental pitcher available at the deadline and their first ace since Roy Halladay was traded after the 2009 season. I have not included Hamels in my assessment of pitchers available, since he is not a rental and his Phillies contract contained a list of teams to which he could not be traded and it is believed Toronto was one of those teams.
Two minor deals were completed the following day in the acquisition of relief pitcher Mark Lowe from the Mariners and outfielder Ben Revere from the Phillies. Both were picked up for prospects, but none of the prospects were considered “gems”.
So the makeover was pretty much complete (save for the addition of middle infielder Cliff Pennington from the Diamondbacks on August 8) and we all sat back, took a deep breath and re-assessed the new look roster.
Undoubtedly Price brings credibility to the rotation and the pitching staff, in fact to the entire team. He is a dominant innings eater, capable of winning 10 of his remaining 12 projected starts this year. In addition to the innings and leadership he will provide, by extension he makes the bullpen better, because it means that Alex Sanchez can be slotted into the eighth inning role and the fact the when Price starts the use of the bullpen will be greatly reduced. Lowe and Revere are expected to play smaller roles with the Blue Jays.
When Price was acquired, the Blue Jays were essentially a .500 team (52-51). My initial assessment was that if he went 10-2 in his 12 starts and the team played the same .500 ball in the games not started by Price, they would end up with 85/86 wins, usually not enough to win a division or secure a post-season wild card berth. With those figures in mind and fully expecting that Price was a pure rental, I thought the team had given up far too much of its future potential for 12 starts. What has happened since has been the talk of baseball. Since acquiring Price, the Blue Jays have gone 9-1, winning the last eight in a row, including a three game sweep at Yankee Stadium cutting the Yankees lead back to a game and a half, four in the all-important loss column. It hasn’t been just Price, although he is 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA in 15 innings pitched. It has been Tulowitzki, Revere, LaTroy Hawkins, along with the continued success of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and numerous others. This streak has reduced the need for the Blue Jays to play at a .600 level outside the Price starts in order to reach 90 wins, the common benchmark for post-season qualification. Plus, they still have 10 games left with the Yankees over three series, two of which are in Toronto. The pitching, both the rotation and the bullpen has also improved tremendously since the roster makeover, which netted five new major league roster players at a cost of only one 25 man roster player (Jose Reyes) and 11 pitching prospects.
I have seen Tulowitzki play numerous times over his major league career and always knew he was a good ball player and I knew he would be an upgrade defensively over Reyes. It is only after watching him every day now for about 12 games that I realize just how good a ball player he is. Whether it is the change of scenery that is raising his game, the fact that he is no longer the only “go to” guy on his team or the fact that he is in a pennant race for the first time since the Rockies had that run to the 2007 World Series, something has re-charged his batteries. The Blue Jays have put him in the leadoff spot, something new for Tulowitzki, but it seems to be working for him and the team. While he is hitting only .244 with three home runs in his new uniform, since he joined the club, their only loss (August 2 to the Royals) was the only game he has not started. With tongue in cheek, I wish the Blue Jays had acquired him coming out of Spring Training…………….the pennant race would be over by now.
Many, myself included, felt that Anthopoulos’ job was probably on the line this season. The team has not made the post-season since its back to back World Series wins in 1992-93 and the contracts of both Anthopoulos and Team President Paul Beeston expire at the end of the 2015 season. Beeston has said he will retire at the expiration of his contract, so Anthopoulos’ future will be decided by the new President. We don’t know if Anthopoulos’ job was/still may be on the line, but one thing is for sure he didn’t make these trades like a guy whose job was on the line. The deals not only re-shaped a good team that had underachieved into a much better team that all of a sudden is getting results, they position the team well for the future. Tulowitzki is signed through 2020 and he could easily be moved into one of the power spots in the line-up if one or both of Bautista and Encarnacion depart after their contracts expire after 2016, spots into which Donaldson could also step into. There is a slim chance that Price will re-sign given the Canadian personal tax situation and the current Blue Jay policy of not signing pitchers to contracts longer than five years, but with Mark Buehrle’s contract off the books after 2015, who knows what lies in store. Price has said all the right things, acknowledging the fan support, how he has been welcomed and accepted by the fans and the team, but money still talks loudest for professional athletes.
The bats will need to continue to carry the team, 12-23 in one run games as of August 10, but it is 24-6 in games that are decided by five runs or more through the same date. Does the shoring up of the pitching staff and adding another bat give them a better chance in those one run games? It should help some, since logic dictates that if you keep scoring runs at your current pace but start giving up less runs, you should win more games and that would start with one run games.
The sample size is small, very small and may not be any indicator of what lies ahead for the last 50 games of the Blue Jays season, but one thing is for sure, we have the opportunity to see some meaningful games during August and September for the first time in two decades.
As a fan, I hope that my initial assessment that “The Price is Wrong” was incorrect.
Matthew Kline’s analysis of the David Price trade was spot on and it got me thinking about my perspective on the issue. The deal was an utter failure for the Tampa Bay Rays, their fans and the general state of baseball in Florida (do they even deserve two teams down there?).
I’ll admit I was convinced the Rays were keeping Price to make a run at this year’s pennant in an up-for-grabs AL East. Apparently the surging Baltimore Orioles convinced them it would be better to deal away the best thing (maybe the only thing) they had going for them.
Drew Smyly and Nick Franklin are serviceable Major League talents and will positively impact the team in the years to come but c’mon. The Rays should have needed a barge to haul all the prospects they got in return for the most sought-after player at the deadline. Instead, they needed only a makeshift raft. I’m left wondering how the team with seemingly all the power in these negotiations ended up getting the shortest of all possible straws.
The Seattle Mariners got an absolute bargain here! All they had to do was go along for the ride and hang on tight. They picked up a reliable everyday centerfielder in Austin Jackson just by sending Franklin to Tampa. It seems like the Rays got cheated.
If that’s what you believe then direct your anger toward the Rays’ front office. Sending away your best player while in the middle of a division race means you cannot play that “small market” public relations card that has allowed you to hide the fact you aren’t truly committed to winning championships. Having little spending money is one thing, indifference is quite another. Notice how Oakland all of a sudden doesn’t care much about payroll.
The only logical explanation I can offer is this: Dave Dombrowski, the Detroit Tigers General Manager/ President/ CEO. He is the very best in the business at what he does. At least it appears that way with all the tremendous transactions he has made in his tenure. (I also believe all but a handful of GMs aren’t given enough authority to effectively alter their teams’ rosters, thus making it hard to compete with Dombrowski who clearly does.)
The acquisition of David Price is one of the many blockbuster moves Dombrowski has pulled off for the benefit of the Tigers and their fans. The complete list is long. Most of these moves go under the radar or are forgotten about in due time, but the highlights are evident when watching the team. Take a look:
- Seems like ancient history by now but Polanco was invaluable during the resurrection of baseball in Detroit along with Ivan Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez.
- Willis was fun to watch for maybe three starts but who cares about him. This deal landed the game’s best hitter in Detroit. Maybin and Miller have had marginal success in the Bigs but again, who cares.
- Boy oh boy did I have a hard time talking to Tigers fans about this trade. Granderson was loved in Detroit and it seemed everyone refused to acknowledge this as a good trade simply because he was shipped out. He never would’ve become the player he is today had he not gone to the Yankees back then. Edwin Jackson continues his grand tour around baseball playing for the Cubs these days (his ninth team in his twelve seasons). Austin Jackson stepped seamlessly into the void left by Granderson and remained the starting centerfielder until recently being dealt in the Price trade. Coke struggles a lot but who in the Tigers ‘pen doesn’t nowadays. Scherzer took some time to pan out but I’d say winning last year’s Cy Young more than makes up for his late bloom. And I will continue to ask Detroiters if they still miss the Grandy man.
- Not Soto the catcher, some lefty who I haven’t heard anything from since. Peralta literally made history immediately dropping bombs over the Green Monster in his first two at-bats with the Tigers (the only player ever to do so). He was suspended 50 games last year and was forced to move to left field when he got back because Jose Iglesias was manning shortstop by then. Peralta still hit better than everyone not named Victor Martinez during the postseason. It would have been nice to have him at short this season too with Iglesias on the shelf.
- Turner is still trying to lockdown a permanent spot in the Miami rotation while Sanchez has soared. The American League ERA leader from last year has electric stuff even though he goes mostly unnoticed considering the arms that surround him. Infante was a Tiger earlier in his career. It was nice to see him back at second base since everyone and their mother in the Tigers’ system was trotted out at the position after he left the first time. He’s moved on again, to Kansas City this time but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him come back once more to finish his career in Detroit.
July 2013: Avisail Garcia, Brayan Villareal for Jose Iglesias.
- This was part of the trade that sent Jake Peavy to Boston. Garcia has been hurt ever since getting to Chicago which really is too bad because he and Jose Abreu would have made for an incredible 3-4 punch. Iglesias wowed everyone who watched him in the field down the stretch last year. He too has been hurt for the entirety of this season. If he can’t come back healthy and stay that way, I’ll have to say I don’t like this deal because I hated seeing Garcia go, especially to a division rival.
- As a Tigers fan, the only thing better than signing Fielder was trading him away. Kinsler is the straw that stirs the Tigers’ drink. I was ecstatic when I heard this news and have not at all been disappointed by the results thus far. Rangers fans would have to disagree I’m sure since Fielder didn’t play more than a couple months this season before being diagnosed with a season-ending neck injury.
- This one’s still up in the air a bit. Ray has become the Tigers’ top pitching prospect. Krol has looked too much like Coke when he’s been healthy. Lombardozzi was soon dealt to Baltimore for Alex Gonzalez (ugh). Put it this way though, without having dealt Fister the Tigers wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get Price.
So now I’m thinking maybe it wasn’t the fault of Tampa Bay’s front office. Maybe Dave Dombrowski is just that damn good at what he does.
Mitchell Gatzke did a great job of breaking down MLB’s deadline day deals in his column yesterday, but there is one deal in particular that he mentioned that I’d like to review a little further, specifically the David Price to the Detroit Tigers deal. Yes, there were other components to the trade, but that was the most significant part of the deal. The other major part of the deal was the absolute dearth of talent that made its way back to the Rays.
Major League Baseball’s trade deadline is a prime example of why the sport is so unique. Trades simply don’t happen as frequently or with nearly as much magnitude in other sports as in baseball.
Four O’clock PM Eastern Standard Time on July 31st is the annual deadline to finalize any non-waiver trades. (To be clear, players can still be swapped if they are passed on by all MLB teams, hence clearing ‘waivers’.) Ultimately the decisions to pull the trigger on deals are telling enough that by the next day fans have a good understanding whether their squad is chasing this year’s pennant or gearing up to make a run next season.
The final hours leading up to the deadline were the most active of any in recent memory with twelve deals being made on Thursday. Each general manager has a plan, some more thorough than others. Those intentions I cannot quite speak to because of extremely limited access. I can, however, speculate as to why certain moves were made while defending those I like and ripping the boneheaded ones.
Let’s start with the Twins stealing away a potential top of the rotation guy in Tommy Milone from the Athletics, giving up only Sam Fuld. Milone is a huge addition for Minnesota. Fuld can play a part in the Oakland outfield equation going forward but Milone might already be the best Twins starter.
There were a few deals made with the present in mind more than the future. Although it may appear one team got the better of a deal, that could very well change as prospects further develop. The Brewers and Mariners also added pieces to their outfields. Milwaukee acquired Gerardo Parra who won’t set the world on fire but is another solid option for the Brew Crew. Seattle upgraded in the form of Chris Denorfia and Austin Jackson via the 3-way David Price deal which they simply piggy-backed on, completely lucking out.
Left-handed Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller was dealt to Baltimore. The O’s would have done well to grab a starter but Miller is money out of the ‘pen. The Yankees acquired a good hitter and utility man in Martin Prado from the Diamondbacks who didn’t need him the way they’re playing this summer.
There were plenty of puzzling deals too. As good as the Prado addition was, the Yanks had me seriously scratching my head with the Stephen Drew for Kelly Johnson transaction. This one might be a case of both players needing a fresh start. It’s still odd to see Boston and New York trading with one another just before facing off in a weekend series in Fenway.
I was under the impression that Asdrubal Cabrera would be a building block in the current Cleveland configuration. Apparently I was wrong as he was sent to Washington for Zach Walters. His sudden departure might be the result of wearing out his welcome as I know was the case with the seemingly-indifferent Justin Masterson. The Tribes sent their former Opening Day starter to St. Louis for James Ramsey. That brings us to the Cardinals.
I cannot believe what the Cardinals did on Thursday. Allen Craig and Joe Kelly are heading to Boston in exchange for John Lackey and a prospect. Trading these two guys away shows you how deep the cardinals are at all positions. Craig is a victim of the Oscar Taveras craze and Kelly was just a number in the shuffle of fantastic young pitchers that St. Louis is hoarding.
Lackey has a pretty good track record in the postseason going back to his rookie season in 2002 with the Angels. He pitched and won Game 7 in that Series against San Francisco. Last autumn, after losing Game 3 to the Cardinals, he won Game 6 to again clinch the Series. The dude literally WINS the World Series. The Cards have seen it themselves and apparently decided he’s a guy they want on the mound for their side. He is owed a fair amount of praise, but all those games were in American League parks. Now we’ll see if he can do it in the Senior Circuit.
The BoSox dealing away ace Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes to the A’s for Yoenis Cespedes was a blockbuster Thursday morning splash and early sign how exciting deadline day would be. Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is going to look like a genius when he re-signs Lester to a new multi-year deal in the offseaon.
The 3-way cannonball deal that sent David Price to Detroit; Jackson to Seattle; Drew Smyly, Nick Franklin and Willy Adames to Tampa Bay was undoubtedly a direct answer to the Athletics landing Lester. And although the originally reported text from Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski to A’s GM Billy Beane about the deal was false it’s still a nice little storyline. Either way, I think it’s cool to see competitors acknowledge each other instead of ‘coach speak’ oozing from everyone who steps in front of a microphone.
Certainly the Tigers strengthened their starting rotation for this postseason but I think the deal was truly made as an insurance policy. Max Scherzer’s contract expires at the end of the season, he’s playing at an incredible level and he is a Scott Boras client. I can easily see him wearing Yankee pinstripes next year. Now that scenario wouldn’t hurt the Tigers nearly as much. The price Detroit had to pay was an everyday centerfielder. Jackson was pulled off the field minutes before the deadline. Sitting in my seat at Comerica Park I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. Never have I been to a game where the starting pitcher and centerfielder don’t finish the game on the same team.
After letting all the ideas marinate in my head I think it’s clear the deadline day winners were the Red Sox and the Braves. Boston made moves for their future, Atlanta acquired for an immediate impact. They picked up the antithesis of every player they have in Emilio Bonifacio. His style of play can really help them going forward. Boston fans should be thrilled though. They’ve now got their corner outfield spots set up for years and a solid middle of the rotation pitcher with a high ceiling.
Boston’s 2014 is looking a lot like their 2012. Of course they won the World Series last year. That’s just something for your baseball brain to snack on going into next season.
For a more in depth look into the Boston Red Sox trade deadline activity check out Matthew Kline’s column.
As yesterday moved on, it began to feel less like that the Boston Red Sox were capitulating their World Series title three months early, and much more like Christmas in July. Yesterday’s MLB Deadline (for non-waiver trades) was certainly an active one, and the Boston Red Sox were seemingly involved in nearly every deal. I’ll rate each deal going from the end of day back to the Jake Peavy last week.
- Stephen Drew to the Yankees for Kelly Johnson. Just to make sure I fully understand this deal, the Yankees on purpose took Stephen Drew (along with the rest of the money he is due for 2014, if reports are to believed), and not only that, gave back a player who can play the position the Yankees will ask Drew to play (2B. I assume it goes without saying that he can do it better, too.)? Now I’ll grant, Johnson will be likely never see the field for the Red Sox, but if they had got back a stale bag of chips along with half of a flat Diet Coke, they would have won this deal. Not only are they finally rid of Drew (permanently, one can hope), but Xander Bogaerts will be able to return to his natural position of SS, and Will Middlebrooks comes back to Boston to man 3B. The only losers in this scenario are fans who were going to Pawtucket tonight to watch Will Middlebrooks handle 3B. That, and the New York Yankees and their fans, but who cares about them, anyway? Grade for this trade: A+.
- Andrew Miller to the Orioles for Eduardo Rodriguez. This deal I’m not as sold on. Many people seem to be sold on Rodriquez as a guy who can eventually step in to the rotation as a number 3 or 4 guy. If he can do that, then I guess this trade is alright, but Miller was one of the guys I didn’t want to see sent off. Since the beginning of the 2012 season, Miller has pitched 113 1/3 innings for the Red Sox, striking out 168 (13.34 Ks/9 IP), while walking only 50 (a bit high, but greatly improved this season. He’s down to 2.8 BB/9 IP.) Rodriguez has, according to the numbers at least, regressed from his 2013 season. I’m giving this deal a C in the moment, because I think the Red Sox should have been able to get more, but perhaps it really was the best deal they could get.
- John Lackey, $1.75 million, & Corey Litrell to the Cardinals for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly. There are a couple of reasons I don’t like this deal: I don’t like the thought of sending Lackey away, not after how he has performed since the beginning of the season. I also don’t relish the thought of his $500K 2015 team option being sent away, either. As a fan, there really was no losing with what Lackey might have done in 2015. He has stated on the record to the Cardinals that he intends to honor his contract (another reason to like him), but if he helps the Cardinals to a World Series title, and they decide to pick up his option, perhaps he decides he’s changed his mind. That would be fun to watch. The other, better option, is that Lackey goes out and has another stellar season in 2015, playing for the MLB minimum. That’s winning, every way you look at it. On the other hand, there is a lot to like about this deal. Both Craig and Kelly have shown in the past that they are better than they have been so far in 2014. Kelly has dealt with injuries, which have limited his opportunities. He also cannot be a free agent prior to the 2019 season. While Craig has underperformed thusfar in 2014, he has a three year track record of being a fairly dependable bat with decent pop. As a right handed hitter, he should learn to wear out the Green Monster in left, which should juice his batting average, and may even improve his power numbers. Also, he is under contract through the 2017 for $25.5 million (plus the remainder of his 2014 salary.), and the Red Sox will have a club option for 2018 at $13 million. Compared to some of the deals the Red Sox have handed out lately, this one is a winner, as long as Craig is able to take the field. Final grade on the trade: B+.
- Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes, and cash to the Athletics for Yoenis Cespedes and the Athletics competitive balance pick. This is the deal that surprised me the most, not because Lester was dealt, which was fully expected, but the fact that the Athletics were involved, and that the Red Sox were able to acquire a front-line MLBer in exchange. While it’s true they will only have Cespedes under their control through the 2015 season, in my opinion, that is a much better haul than prospects. Cespedes shine has worn off a bit, especially after his lackluster July, but the hope has to be that by getting him in a lineup with David Ortiz, along with a (hopefully) rejuvenated Allen Craig should improve his numbers, to say nothing of playing in Fenway Park half of the time instead of the Oakland Coliseum. Jonny Gomes will be missed, but outside of his heroics, the production really hasn’t been there. He was a key contributor to the Sox 2013 title, and I wish him the best in Oakland. Red Sox final trade grade: A. If Lester comes back to the Red Sox on a -4 year $100 million deal, this deal gets bumped to an A++. I don’t expect that to happen, however. Lester grabs the most money he can, and good for him.[1. In light of what the Tampa Bay Rays were able to get for David Price, a pitcher who is 2 years younger than Lester, a level above him in terms of ability, and under team control through the 2015 season, I’m upgrading the Sox to an A+ on this deal immediately.]
- Felix Doubront to the Cubs for a PTBNL. I really don’t know what to make of this deal, but the highly intelligent Rich Mahoney had this to say about the deal:“Dubront must have made himself odious to Farrell and the front office, otherwise, why ship him out for a ptbnl.”Dubront was having a down season in 2014, but I generally like his attitude. Apparently that’s where Red Sox staff and I part company. Of course, I don’t have to deal with him on a daily basis, but I think he’s a guy that eventually figures it out and sets the league on fire. Final grade on the trade: Not able to be determined at this time.
- Jake Peavy to the Giants for Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree. I know very little about Escobar or Hembree, outside of what their baseball-reference.com pages say. I know they’re supposed to be fairly highly regarded prospects, but I don’t even care. Unloading Peavy and getting anything in return has been huge. I’ve listened with a smile on my face all season long as commentators, both local and national, have bemoaned poor Jake Peavy’s lot in life. While it’s true he’s had the lowest run support in the league, it’s also true he leads the league in home runs allowed (20), and had an A.L. ERA (4.72) that had him 41st among eligible starters. A return trip to the N.L. didn’t help, as he gave up 4 runs (3 earned) in his Giants debut on Sunday night in a loss to the Dodgers. The man who cost the Red Sox the services of Jose Iglesias might not crack the two win barrier in 2014. This is a huge win for the Sox. Final trade grade: A.
- Overall, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington made the best of a terrible situation, and made the Red Sox better not only in 2015, but in this moment. He acquired the power bats the lineup desperately needed, acquired some prospects who may pan out, and got rid of some dead wood. While doing so, he also gets to survey the roster for the final two months, including young pitchers Webster and Ranaudo. The rest of the season may not be fun for Sox fans, but it gives everyone a chance to see what’s coming in 2015. Final grade for the MLB Deadline Deals: A-. I don’t think it could have been done better.
As the MLB season marches inextricably towards the July 31st trade deadline, clubs need to begin to seriously consider whether or not they have a shot at the post-season. When it comes to the Boston Red Sox specifically, the main question is will they keep Jon Lester, or will they attempt to grab a package of of prospects for him.