Sports Commentary By: Paul Slobodzian, Writer and Editor at The Prowl and Growl
-Paul Slobodzian will be catching you up on everything you need to know before the MLB season opens this Sunday, April 3rd. Keep checking in through the week and read all four parts of Paul’s Preseason Coverage.
Every offseason, players change destinations, whether it’s via free agency or trade. Trades are an important component to all sports as it allows elite prospects or prospects who need a change of scenery to find new homes. It can be the chance for an underpaid superstar, like 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson, or an aging veteran with an unpleasant contract to escape from the confines of their team or contract.
Here’s a look at some of the blockbuster deals that took place this winter in the order of which they occurred:
November 12, 2015: Los Angeles Angels acquire Andrelton Simmons from Atlanta Braves
Los Angeles gets: Shortstop Andrelton Simmons and minor league catcher Jose Briceno
Atlanta gets: Shortstop Erick Aybar, minor league pitchers Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis and roughly $3 million
As a Braves fan, this trade was surprising. Simmons is known for his defensive wizardry, and he is commonly referred to as the best fielding infielder in the Major Leagues. I, as well as thousands of baseball fans across the country, was graced with Simmons’ presence between second and third base for the past four seasons. He will definitely be missed up the middle, but Atlanta got a lot in return from the Angels. Newcomb and Ellis were the number one and four prospects, respectively, in the Angels’ farm system, and the two pitchers now slot in at numbers two and eighteen, respectively. That goes to show how deep the Braves’ farm system truly is. Atlanta also received a veteran shortstop in the deal that can provide some “senior” leadership to all the young players with the Braves during Spring Training and into the regular season. All in all, this trade seems like a win-win for both clubs, as the win-now Angels got arguably the best defender in baseball and the Braves got a leader and top prospects for the future. It was a tough one to swallow when the news first broke, but, looking back on it almost five months later, John Coppollela make a good decision.
November 13, 2015: Boston Red Sox get Craig Kimbrel from San Diego Padres
Boston gets: CP Craig Kimbrel
San Diego gets: Four prospects including minor league pitcher Logan Allen, MiLB OF Manuel Margot, MiLB SS Javier Guerra and MiLB infielder Carlos Asuaje
Just a day after the Simmons deal became official, news broke on Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel has been about as dominant as a closer can be over his six big league seasons. Kimbrel spent his first five with the Braves before being traded to San Diego the day before Opening Day in 2015. Once again, it was another tough blow to Braves’ fans everywhere. His numbers did rise a bit from his years with the Braves, but Kimbrel was no less dominant. The Red Sox may have hit the jackpot in terms of a back-end-of-the-bullpen arm. Boston’s offense is dominant, but pitching was the downfall for them last season. Kimbrel joins a bullpen which already featured former closer Koji Uehara, and his presence at Fenway will certainly be felt this upcoming season. San Diego got quite a haul for their star closer in the process by acquiring Boston’s number five prospect Margot as well as three other solid prospects in the deal. San Diego’s all-in strategy from last season didn’t really work out as the missed the playoffs for the ninth straight year. A.J. Preller used his stockpile of talented big leaguers to pry away four top prospects from Boston to bolster a depleted farm system. Much like the Simmons deal, it seems like a win-win for both teams.
December 2, 2015: Orioles acquire Mark Trumbo from Mariners
Baltimore gets: DH/1B Mark Trumbo
Seattle gets: C/1B Steve Clevenger
In this one-for-one deal between American League ball clubs, the Orioles acquired another feast-or-famine slugger to add to the lineup. In return, Seattle got journeyman Steve Clevenger who can provide some organizational depth to a win-now team. This deal was announced before Baltimore signed free agent Pedro Alvarez (a left-handed, strikeout-prone first baseman). The deal to get Trumbo makes the Alvarez signing that much more confusing. This trade, however, has a high-risk-high-reward component to it. Trumbo is certainly capable of mashing 30+ homeruns this year, but he is also capable of batting near or below .200 with a boatload of strikeouts. I guess as a neutral fan of the Orioles, I find this deal as one that might not be that instrumental to the Orioles’ success as pitching is still a big concern within the organization.
December 8, 2015: Yankees land Starlin Castro from Cubs
New York gets: 2B/SS Starlin Castro
Chicago gets: P Adam Warren and SS Brendan Ryan
The Cubs and Yankees pulled off this deal shortly after Chicago signed utility man Ben Zobrist to a four-year deal in order to clear roster space for Zobrist and also give the veteran Castro a change of scenery. Castro began his big league career in Chicago in 2010 and looked to be a star in the making. He compiled 207 hits in his sophomore season and batted over .300. His numbers began to dip every year since then until a bounce-back campaign in 2014 in which he recorded 154 hits in 134 games and hit .292. Last year, however, Castro struggled a bit with his transition to second base after Addison Russell’s arrival to Chicago’s North Side. This deal works well for both clubs as the Yankees get an experienced hitter to fill a void at second base, and Chicago adds another solid arm to the bullpen (Ryan was released by Chicago shortly after the trade). Warren pitched to the tone of a 3.29 ERA in 43 games last year for the Bronx Bombers, and he also has the abilities to start in the rotation if at all necessary. Another good trade, in my opinion.
December 8, 2015: Diamondbacks gets Miller from Braves in blockbuster
Arizona gets: P Shelby Miller and MiLB P Gabe Speier
Atlanta gets: SS Dansby Swanson, OF Ender Inciarte and P Aaron Blair
As a Braves fan, I was elated when this notification came up on my phone on December 8th. Swanson was the number one pick in last year’s draft and Aaron Blair was the top pitching prospect in Arizona’s farm system. Plus, Ender Inciarte is a young, controllable outfielder with a lot of upside. Plus, Ender Inciarte is a young, controllable outfielder with a lot of upside. Atlanta made out incredibly well in this deal. While Shelby Miller was an all-star last season and had a great season on a bad ball club, he certainly isn’t/wasn’t worth the number one pick in the previous draft, the number one pitching prospect in Arizona’s system and Inciarte. Only time will tell as to whether this deal works out for the D’backs, but as of right now, Miller shapes up as a solid number three, maybe number two, guy in a rotation. But, hey, it was phenomenal for the Braves, so I’m happy about it.
December 9, 2015: Mets and Pirates swap Niese and Walker
New York gets: 2B Neil Walker
Pittsburgh gets: SP Jon Niese
This trade could be great for both teams. With the departure of New York’s 2015 postseason hero Daniel Murphy to the rival Nationals, the Mets were left with a void at second base and a surplus of starting pitchers. Niese was the perfect trade bait. He’s a solid lefty with respectable numbers across his eight-year career and he provides the Pirates with much-needed rotation depth. Pittsburgh also had an excess of infielders on the big league roster, and Neil Walker, like Niese, was the perfect piece to depart. All in all, Niese can slot in the number three or four spot in the rotation behind Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano, and Walker can be put in basically any spot in the lineup besides the three-five holes. On the surface, this trade appears to be solid for each team.
December 9, 2015: Astros get Ken Giles from Phillies
Houston gets: CP Ken Giles
Philadelphia gets: SP Vincent Velasquez, SP Brett Oberholtzer, MiLB OF Derek Fisher and MiLB pitchers Thomas Eshelman, Mark Appel and Harold Arauz
These two days in December were loaded with movement, and this one was another blockbuster. After taking over the closer’s role in Philly due to the Jonathan Papelbon trade last trade deadline, Giles dominated his ninth-inning opponents, converting 15 of his 17 save opportunities. He finished his 2015 campaign, which was only his second in the majors, with a 1.80 ERA and 87 strikeouts in only 70 innings. Giles will definitely provide Houston with late-inning insurance alongside fellow relievers Pat Neshek, Luke Gregerson and Tony Sipp. The Astros didn’t get him cheap by any means, though, coughing up six players in the monstrous haul. Mark Appel was the number one pick in the 2013 draft ahead of 2015 NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant, and he has had trouble getting his feet underneath him at the professional level as he has yet to make his MLB debut. Velasquez is a young pitcher who can help a bottom of the barrel Phillies team through a few rebuilding years. Oberholtzer can do the same. Fisher, Eshelman and Arauz are all still in minors with Appel. Eshelman and Appel now rank in the top fifteen prospects in Philadelphia’s farm system. Another solid trade in my opinion.
December 16, 2015: White Sox get Frazier from Reds in three-team deal
Chicago gets: 3B Todd Frazier from Reds
Cincinnati gets: INF Jose Peraza, MiLB INF Brandon Dixon and OF Scott Schebler from Dodgers
Los Angeles gets: P Frankie Montas, INF Micah Johnson and OF Trayce Thompson from White Sox
Another blockbuster in this busy offseason…who would’ve guessed it? This time, Todd Frazier was the big prize up for grabs, and the South Siders nabbed him from the Reds. The Dodgers got in on the action, discarding Peraza who is a “regressing prospect” in some analysts’ eyes as well as upgrading with the three players they got from Chicago. The Reds have undersold Frazier in this deal. He was coming off a great year with a terrible team, and Cincinnati held all the power on potential deals. They may have just been a little overzealous trying to unload a star player, or they may have not had any better offers. Either way, Schebler may very well break big league camp with Peraza, and Dixon may be up in the Buckeye State in the near future. As for the White Sox, Frazier slots in nicely in a lineup the features Jose Abreu, and he’s a clear upgrade over the Tyler Saladino/Conor Gillaspie/Mike Olt platoon from 2015. As mentioned earlier, the Dodgers now have three new pieces to add to a healthy farm system, and it’s possible that all three men could see action under the Dodger Stadium lights sometime this 2016 season.
December 28, 2015: Yankees acquire Chapman from Reds
New York gets: CP Aroldis Chapman
Cincinnati gets: MiLB pitchers Caleb Cotham and Rookie Davis and MiLB infielders Eric Jagielo and Tony Renda
The Reds weren’t done dealing after sending Todd Frazier to the White Sox because they turned around less than two weeks later and dealt their star closer to the New York Yankees. Chapman has been one of the most dominant ninth-inning arms over the past four seasons of his six-year MLB career. He has compiled a 2.17 ERA with 546 strikeouts in 319 big league innings, and he will join Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller to form one of, if not the most, formidable bullpens in professional baseball. As for the four prospects, Davis and Jagielo slot in the nine and ten spots, respectively, in the top 20 prospect list for the Reds. Both men, as well as the other two players involved in the deal, could see playing in the “Queen City” in the near future. This trade could be pivotal for the Yankees as the lack of great starting pitchers can be compensated with the unbelievable bullpen they’ve assembled. The only downside from this is that Chapman will be serving a 30-game suspension for a domestic violence dispute during the offseason, and baseball fans won’t be seeing his blistering fastball until at least early May. Chapman’s acquisition could prove to be pivotal for New York as they project to be in the middle of the playoff hunt this year.
January 9, 2016: Blue Jays and Nationals swap Revere and Storen
Toronto gets: RHP Drew Storen
Washington gets: OF Ben Revere
Discourse within the Nationals’ organization prompted this trade where disgruntled reliever Drew Storen was traded for a surplus outfielder with Toronto. Storen was frustrated with his role on the team after Washington traded for closer Jonathan Papelbon at the trade deadline, forcing Storen into the seventh and eighth innings of relief instead of his usual ninth inning save situation. He is also another player who may benefit from a change of scenery. He has spent all six of his big league years with the Nationals and has been a reliable reliever for the Nats, but he could certainly find a new role with the Jays and thrive north of the border. Now onto Revere. He was acquired by Toronto at the trade deadline last season, and he saw playing time in the postseason. Revere is most known for his plus speed as well as his above-average defensive skills. Washington already has right field occupied by reigning MVP Bryce Harper, and Jayson Werth is almost guaranteed a place in the outfield for this upcoming season. That leaves the spot left barren by the departure of Denard Span in free agency. Span, like Revere, was mostly cherished for his speed and defense, so Revere won’t be too much of a change from the Span era in center field. I personally don’t much care for the Nationals as a team, but this trade could be good them in the long run as they hope to end their postseason futility this season. The Blue Jays could also benefit from this by adding a quality reliever to couple with young stud Roberto Osuna in the late innings.
January 28, 2016: Rockies and Rays trade Dickerson and McGee among others
Colorado gets: LHP Jake McGee and MiLB pitcher German Marquez
Tampa Bay gets: OF Corey Dickerson and MiLB 3B Kevin Padlo
Colorado definitely took a step in improving their pitching staff by acquiring Tampa Bay’s late inning fireballer, Jake McGee, in exchange for an extra outfielder and prospect. McGee has been great for lackluster Rays’ teams over the past few seasons, and he will certainly help out a depleted Colorado pitching staff and provide some stability in the eighth and ninth innings. Marquez is in the low levels of the minor leagues, and he most likely won’t make his way to the “Mile High City” for a couple more years. As for Dickerson, he was forced out his spot by the signing of Gerardo Parra and Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez already starting. Tampa Bay’s weak-ish outfield got better with Dickerson joining Kevin Kiermaier and slotting in the middle of the order with Evan Longoria and James Loney. Padlo is making his way through the minors, and, much like Marquez, probably won’t play in the bigs for a few more years.
OTHER OFFSEASON TRADES:
-Mariners acquire Joaquin Benoit from Padres
-Phillies get former AL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson from Diamondbacks
-Mariners deal for Leonys Martin in four-player deal with Rangers
-Tigers get Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez from Brewers
-Braves trade Cameron Maybin to Tigers
-Red Sox send Wade Miley to Mariners for Carson Smith and Roenis Elias
-Cardinals swap Jon Jay for Padres’ Jedd Gyorko
-Mariners acquire Adam Lind from Brewers
-Tigers get Justin Wilson from Yankees
-White Sox deal for Brett Lawrie from A’s
-Angels acquire Yunel Escobar from Nationals
-Brewers trade Jean Segura to Diamondbacks