Grading the Deadline Deals

by Keith Glab,
August 1, 2009

This was not only the most active trade deadline in recent memory, but also the most significant.  Because of the World Baseball Classic, all of these deadline acquisitions will have an extra week with which to impact their new clubs.  With so many playoff races decided by a game or two these days, that extra week with a Cliff Lee or a Victor Martinez could make a world of difference.

Alongside the prospects listed in this piece, I have listed their organizational ranking in the 2009 Prospects Guide Magazine.  The magazine has the 20 best prospects in each organization ranked.

Indians Trade Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco to the Phillies for RHP Carlos Carrasco (1), C Lou Marson (2), SS Jason Donald (5), and RHP Jason Knapp (16)

Asher has already analyzed this trade and expressed only guarded optimism at best from the Phillies' perspective.  I think that the Philadelphia Phillis should be renamed the Philadelphia Puritans, because they just swindled the heck out of the Indians.

Just looking at the prospect rankings, it seems as though the Indians had done well.  In fact, Carrasco and Marson were both ranked above J.A. Happ (3) in these pre-season rankings.  But just because these are some of the Phillies' best prospects, that doesn't mean that they are elite.  None of these four would crack the top five on a lot of teams' rankings.

Carrasco has a fastball/changeup combo that I generally fall in love with, but he went 6-9 with a 5.18 ERA in Triple-A before the trade this year.  He's only 22, which makes him young for the International League, but he was clearly no longer the best prospect in the system.  Knapp, a second-rounder in last year's draft, would seem to have seen his stock go up this year after fanning 111 batters in 85.1 innings, but he currently resides on the seven-day disabled list with "shoulder fatigue."

Jason Donald's errors are way down this year, but so is his offensive output.  Lou Marson, frankly, seems like a Quadruple-A catcher to me.  He draws walks, but has little other offensive value.  He's only thrown out 25% of would-be basestealers this year.  How he was ranked #2 in the system is beyond me.

And what did the Phillies receive in return for this motley crew of question marks?  Cliff Lee, who has been almost as good as Roy Halladay has over the past two seasons, but who comes with a far more affordable contract.  As a bonus, they got Ben Francisco, an excellent defensive outfielder who is a decent power/speed threat on offense and whose .802 career OPS against left-handed pitching will greatly benefit the Phillies' left-hand dominant lineup.  The package of Lee and Halladay is at least as good as Halladay alone would have been due to the salary difference, and the Phillies did not need to part with prized pitching prospects Happ or Kyle Drabek, as they apparently would have needed to in order to obtain Doc H.  They basically bought Ohio for four ears of corn.

From the Indians' perspective, why in the heck did they want to trade Lee in the first place?  The Indians have scored the fifth most runs in baseball, and with a healthy Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, and Asdrubal Cabrera, they figured to have the best lineup in baseball for the remainder of 2008 and going into 2009.  Their weakness was pitching, so why trade their one good pitcher that would cost them just $9 M in 2010???

Grades: Indians - D, Phillies - A

Indians Trade Victor Martinez to the Red Sox for Justin Masterson, LHP Nick Hagadone (16), and RHP Bryan Price (19)

See, the Indians fared much better here.  They already have a stud catching prospect in Double-A named Carlos Santana.  His stat line is music to the ears of Indians fans - .874 career OPS and he's performing even better at higher levels.  He's even tossed out 31% of would-be basestealers this season.  Dodger fans are not going to look back on the Casey Blake trade with much fondness.

In contrast, Victor Martinez has only gunned down 15 % of basestealers this season.  He's gone a pathetic .193/.284/.340 in 212 at-bats since May 22 and hasn't been a consistent performer since 2007.  On the wrong side of 30, Martinez is now either a defensive liability behind the plate or an offensive liability at first base/designated hitter.  I hope that's worth it for the Red Sox, as they surrendered Masterson, who has already proven that he can dominate in the majors, and two former first-round picks.  Hagadone is coming off Tommy John Surgery and Price seems to have taken a step backwards in his sophomore season, but these guys both throw in the mid-90s and provide as much upside as Knapp and Carrasco do.

Grades: Indians - A, Red Sox - D

Indians Trade Ryan Garko to the Giants for LHP Scott Barnes (NR)

Barnes has kind of flown under the radar in a well-stocked Giants organization despite averaging more than a strikeout per inning since getting drafted in the 8th round last summer.  The Giants have enough pitching depth not to miss him overly much, and Garko instantly becomes their second-best hitter.  Unfortunatley, he's also a typical Giants hitter.  Garko doesn't walk much and he's not all that young.  Much of his career damage has come courtesy of White Sox pitching (.343/.395/.525 in 200 PA) which he will not have the pleasure of facing in San Francisco.  Basically, this is a deal that makes sense for both clubs, but it is not something that will boost the Giants into the playoffs nor make their fans cry like the A.J. Pierzynski trade does.

Grades: Indians - B, Giants - B

Red Sox trade Adam LaRoche to the Braves for Casey Kotchman

I'm not sure what the Braves were thinking here.  These players have similar offensive value, but Kotchman is much better defensively.   LaRoche is overpaid this year and a free agent next year, while Kotchman is arbitration-eligible for another couple of seasons.  It seems like LaRoche would make more sense for the larger-market Red Sox.  Maybe he was a fan favorite in Atlanta prior to getting traded.  Seems like an awfully sentimental move for a team fighting for it's postseason life.

Grades: Red Sox - B, Braves - C

Nationals Trade Nick Johnson to the Marlins for LHP Aaron Thompson (NR)

Johnson has been great this year.  He's also been healthy, which is the real surprise.  He gives the Fish a much-needed left handed bat.  Aaron Thompson's professional winning percentage is under .400, so he will fit right in with the Nationals.  Kudos to the Marlins for actually acting like they want to win for once.  Woe be Washington Nationals fans.

Grades: Marlins - A, Nationals - F

Blue Jays trade Scott Rolen to the Reds for Edwin Encarnacion, RHP Josh Roenicke (6), and RHP Zach Stewart (9)

I can't fully comment on this trade, as Rolen's contract appears to be backloaded with bonuses and deferred money, and I'm not sure how much of those the Reds will be responsible for.  But even if the Reds are responsible for none of it, this is a bad deal for them.  Roenicke and Stewart look like studs, and it's hard to believe that Dusty Baker and company couldn't find permanent roles for either on their pitching staff this year.  Edwin Encarnacion is much better-suited to a DH league and is no real loss to the Reds, but with the team suddenly out of contention for 2009, they need to be pretty sure that the addition of Rolen will be enough to get them to the promised land in 2010.  Rolen's had a very good season that has flown under the radar, but this is a guy who has played in 140 games just once in the past five years.  Third baseman traditionally do not age well, and it's hard to envision a scenario in which this move helps the Reds enough to matter.

Grades: Blue Jays - A, Reds - D

Orioles trade George Sherrill to the Dodgers for 3B Josh Bell (5) and RHP Steve Johnson (11)

Joe Torre has been widely criticized for overworking his bullpen, so Dodger fans are overjoyed to get a fresh left-handed reliever into the mix.  As someone who followed both the Cubs and the Diamondbacks very closely last year, it seems to me that the 2008 Dodger bullpen was just dandy during the stretch run and in the postseason, making the concern's about Torre's bullpen usage a bit overblown.  Still, Sherrill is a 32-year old reliever with decent peripheral stats whose contract can be controlled for another couple of years.  Bell and Johnson both look like good prospects, so this is basically win-win for both clubs.

Grades: Orioles - B, Dodgers - B

Padres Trade Jake Peavy to the White Sox for LHP Aaron Poreda (1), LHP Clayton Richard (4), RHP Adam Russell (NR), and RHP Dexter Carter (NR)

This trade would have made a lot of sense were it consummated in May.  A near-full season of Peavy would have given the Sox a legitimate chance to compete this year.  Now, Peavy has been sitting out with an ankle injury for over two months
Peavy Fun Fact
Pitchers have hit .092 against Jake Peavy in his career (34-for-369 with 164 strikeouts)
and has already proven that he has some misgivings about pitching on the South Side of Chicago.  These misgivings are well-founded, as he has a mediocre 3.84 ERA away from Petco and is 8-8 with a 3.29 ERA against the American League in his career, numbers that include starts in Petco.  Peavy is moving from the best pitcher's park in baseball to the best hitter's park in the American League.

The Sox do control Peavy's contract through 2012, but I'm not so sure that Peavy will outperform Poreda over the next three years, and Poreda would have been far, far cheaper.  Clyaton Richard seems to add velocity to his fastball with every start.  Whatever Peavy adds in September will be negated by the Sox using Bartolo colon or D.J. Carrasco as August's fifth starter rather than Richard.  Dexter Carter had been fantastic since being drafted in the 12th round last year, a welcome departure from his awful collegiate numbers.  Russell is old and likes to walk batters, which is the one thing you cannot do in Petco.  Interestingly, all four new Padres pitchers are listed at 6-foot-6 or taller.

Grades: Padres - A, White Sox - C

A's trade Orlando Cabrera to the Twins for SS Tyler Ladendorf (NR)

Red Sox fans might tell you that Orlando Cabrera will lead the Twins to a World Series title.  Uncharacteristically, Red Sox fans might be right.  While it's debatable whether he was even an upgrade over Nomar Garciaparra in 2004, Cabrera's almost certainly an upgrade over Nick Punto in 2009.  Cabrera has hit .373 with nine steals and no caught stealing in July, while Punto has hit .194 with two steals in three tries last month.  I know Punto is a slick defender, but Cabrera is at least solid defensively, and I trust the best manager in baseball to be able to use the two players in a tandem that maximizes their skills.  The Twins don't really lose much in Ladendorf.  Cabrera is reasonably cheap and will net the Twins a supplemental round pick in next year's draft that will be at least Ladendorf's equal.

Grades: Twins - B, A's - C

Mariners Trade Jarrod Washburn to the Tigers for Luke French (NR) and Mauricio Robles (NR)

There's no question that Washburn overachieved due to the Mariners' large ballpark and stellar outfield defense, as his FIP was 1.20 runs higher than his ERA before the trade.  But do you know another team with a large ballpark and stellar outfield defense?  That's right, the Tigers do, as evidenced by Edwin Jackson sporting an FIP 1.25 runs higher than his ERA.  Jackson is beginning to regress to more realistic levels, and Washburn may as well. But this is still a huge upgrade for the Detroit pitching staff, and it makes them legitimate playoff contenders despite the Twins' huge advantage in remaining schedule.  Losing French is no big deal; his upside is a future 5th starter.  Robles has fanned 10 batters per nine innings in his minor league career and could be a nice addition for the Mariners down the road.

This is a weird deal for the Mariners, only because acted like they were still in contention just days before by acquiring Jack Wilson form the Pirates.

Grades: Tigers - B, Mariners - B

Pirates trades will be discussed in a separate article.

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at