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.

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Samardzija-Hammel deal makes sense for A’s

Playing for the present

For what the Cubs got in this year’s first blockbuster trade and what it means for them, check out yesterday’s piece. The deal was a play to the future for the Cubs, but what about the A’s? Was it a wise decision?

There are always risks in trades. Heck, there are risks in signings, draft picks, promoting players at certain times. Risk is all part of the game. But don’t let yourself think for a minute that this deal was a bad move for the A’s just because it’s a win-now play that could have consequences.

The Oakland Athletics lead the AL West by 3.5 games with the best record in baseball, 55-33. The move is a play from strength. While there may be an effect on the future due to some impact on the farm system, acquiring two pitchers in a trade signals to A’s fans that the front office thinks this is their year.

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Cubs’ trade furthers a successful rebuild

Why trading Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel will work out in the long term for the Cubs

After winning consecutive NL Central titles in 2007-2008, and finishing second in 2009, the Chicago Cubs have suffered through four straight losing seasons. Going further back, the last time this team won the World Series was 1908, almost a full 106 years ago. It makes sense that the Cubs would go to extraordinary lengths to build a team that will contend for longer than just one or two years.

News of a blockbuster trade between the Cubs and the Oakland A’s just serves as evidence of what the organization is trying to do. The fact that they traded their two statistically best starting pitchers for three potential future stars shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Despite stellar seasons by Jeff Samardzija (2.74 ERA) and Jason Hammel (2.98 ERA), the Cubs are virtually out of the playoff race. At 38-47, they are in last place in the NL Central, twelve and a half games behind the Milwaukee Brewers, and eight and a half games out of the second NL wild card spot. Coming into the season, the Cubs did not expect to be legitimate contenders, but rather hoped to build for the near future. To better understand how this trade accomplishes that goal, it helps to break it down by what the Cubs gave up, and what they gained.

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Cuban Crossovers: Yoenis Céspedes, Jorge Soler, final notes

This post concludes my series on a number of high-profile Cuban players who defected to the MLB.
Monday, Jose Abreu.  Tuesday: Yasiel Puig.  Wednesday: Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.  Thursday: Aroldis Chapman.
This last post on the subject features two more 2011 defectors, Yoenis Céspedes and Jorge Soler.

Yoenis Céspedes was a household name while playing in Cuba, leading the league in all sorts of offensive categories. Jorge Soler was a promising 20-year old who had performed well in the World Junior Baseball Championship. Both defected in 2011, but Cespedes was the first to be approved as an MLB free agent.

Yoenis Céspedes

Céspedes was already proven from his numbers in Cuba, and was also in his prime. Céspedes’ famous YouTube video isn’t one of the gems of modern PR, but it worked. Well, maybe that had more to do with his raw talent. In any case, the deal he signed with the Oakland Athletics in February 2012 was a fairly lucrative one, at 4 years and $36 million.

There were a few questions about Céspedes — mostly about his defense — but his talent was widely recognized. Two years after falling short of signing Aroldis Chapman, the A’s had landed a big-name Cuban talent. The analysis (more from MLB Trade Rumors for specifics) have borne out exactly as evaluated:

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