2014 trade deadline notes

This year’s trade deadline was surprisingly busy, all things considered. There’s a lot to cover, but let’s start with the basics:

All the big moves were about starting pitching. And it’s not surprising, given the recent impact of pitching on the outcomes of games. But the biggest three moves of the day were centered around starters with the potential to impact getting into — or getting through — the playoffs.

Boston makes big trades

The A’s and Red Sox started things off by swapping Lester and Gomes for Yoenis Cespedes. Read more about that here.

Then the Sox dealt another starter, John Lackey, to the Cardinals. This deal was a morning blockbuster that got lost in the madness of the big deals that preceded and followed it. Lackey bolsters the front end of the Cardinals’ rotation with Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn.

While Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly have been disappointing, a late return by Michael Wacha in September could give St. Louis the push into the playoffs if they’re able to stay in the thick of things. (Kelly was part of the package sent to Boston.) The Brewers have hung onto the Central lead so far and the Pirates have been particularly pesky for the Cards, so the move seemed a needed one.

Lackey is owed only $500K next year, the league minimum, due to his 2011 Tommy John surgery. That’s part of what made him an attractive target. The Cardinals also receive 22 year old minor league pitcher Corey Littrell and $1.75 million cash, while trading away aforementioned pitcher Joe Kelly and outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig.

Boston also traded reliever Andrew Miller to the Orioles for prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, a much lesser deal than the original reports that Baltimore was the leading team in talks for Lester. That aside, the Red Sox continue a future-building plan like that of 2012. As I noted earlier this week, there may be reason for confidence in such a move.

The year’s headlining deal

The Tigers, not to be outdone, went for the biggest fish, Rays ace David Price. It resulted in a three-team trade that also satisfied the Mariners.

A’s pitcher Sean Doolittle’s reaction to the biggest trade of the year was, yes… priceless.

New York’s infield acquisitions

The Yankees were particularly active as they continue to try to salvage Jeter’s final season despite a rash of injuries to starting pitchers. The trade for Boston’s Stephen Drew might not do that, but perhaps he did need a change of scenery. A .176/.255/.328 line certainly leads to that conclusion. It’s an interesting change of hands indeed. The Yankees swapped Kelly Johnson (another change of scenery candidate with a .219 batting average) to acquire Drew, whose contract expires at the end of the season. Drew would see more time at second and third than his native shortstop position, for obvious reasons.

Just minutes later, New York was discovered to have traded for Arizona’s Martin Prado. The Diamondbacks receive prospect Peter O’Brien, who is a catcher, and a PTBNL (player to be named later) or cash. Prado arrived in Arizona as part of the Justin Upton trade with Atlanta. The Yankees take on $25.6 million of his deal, through 2016.

New York certainly now has the depth it wants, but how the newly acquired infielders will be employed is another question entirely. Recently acquired Chase Headley and Derek Jeter occupy the left side of the infield, and Joel Sherman reports that Drew will play second. With first base also blocked by Mark Teixeira, this could be a rare long play on the part of the Yankees. It’s also possible Prado could DH, as Carlos Beltran is only hitting .239.

Moving players… the Marlins?

One of the most surprising notes of the afternoon was the Marlins and Astros trading a number of young players. In exchange for Colin Moran, Jake Marisnick, Francis Martes and a 2015 compensation pick, the Marlins received starter Jarred Cosart, shortstop Enrique Hernandez and outfielder Austin Wates.

While the Marlins are still peripherally in the Wild Card race after an 8-2 stretch, it’s uncertain how much the 24 year old Cosart can do for their cause. After pitching to a sub-2 ERA in limited work last year, Cosart has showed quite a bit of vulnerability of late.

His ERA has ballooned from 3.60 to 4.41 over his last four starts. He allowed at least five runs in three of those starts, and he didn’t make it out of the 6th inning in any July outing. He certainly has solid stuff, but he’ll need to return to form to have any sort of meaningful impact on the Marlins’ postseason chances.

Enrique Hernandez is an interesting acquisition, though, as he dominated the upper minor leagues and is hitting .284/.348/.420 in 89 trips to the plate in the majors. Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria has slightly lower numbers in 340 at-bats, so it will be interesting to see how the Marlins decide to use Hernandez over the next few weeks.

This move may make sense in terms of the Astros and their long-term plan, considering their recent failure to sign three draft picks. They found another way to push off success a little longer in an attempt to properly time the rebuilding process.

Dan Johnson is editor-in-chief of Three for Ten Sports and former managing editor of The Collegian at Grove City College.

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