Tough news came out of St. Louis yesterday, as the baseball world learned that Cardinals' first baseman Matt Adams had torn his quadriceps, and will undergo surgery tomorrow, likely missing the rest of the season.
In the short term, Mark Reynolds is likely to step into the position of first, though his career .230/.324/.456 slash line isn't likely intriguing to a team that is vying to win the National League Central and go deep into the playoffs.
Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard was almost immediately mentioned as a possible trade candidate for the Cardinals, as he is playing for a team that not only has the fourth-worst record in baseball, but is almost guaranteed to sell at the trade deadline.
Howard is from St. Louis. He was born in Missouri and went to high school and college in Missouri. With Howard having complete no-trade rights due to the 10-and-5 rule (10 years in the big leagues; at least five with one club), St. Louis would be a spot that many think he would waive a trade to.
However, a Twitter follower of mine did bring up a good point. @JasonWeisel noted that Howard has had some family issues, including an ugly legal fight where his brother attempted to sue him for just under $3 million. Could that cause Howard not to want to move back home and want to be traded elsewhere, if not stay with the Phillies? That could play an interesting role.
The need is there and the fit could be there. But I'm not fully convinced that Ryan Howard will draw any interest from the Cardinals for multiple reasons.
St. Louis is a team that focuses a lot on defense, which, to put it lightly, Howard does not have. Howard has been worth a horrid -55 defensive runs saved in his career, and is at a -3 mark this season. That is why many believe that Howard is bound to be traded to an American League team and DH.
Reynolds, on the other hand, is much better, being worth -12 defensive runs saved at first and 2 this season.
Howard is also signed through next season with a team option for 2017, which could add complications for when Matt Adams does return to action. If Adams comes back healthy, does Howard become a bench player for the Cardinals? Or do they try and trade him in a possible contract year? Those are questions that club officials will have to answer .
With a .256/.298/.519/.817 line, Howard has experiences somewhat of a revival this season, posting the highest wRC+ since he hit 33 home runs in 2011. Howard already has 10 homers this season and has driven in 24 runs.
At Busch Stadium, Howard has been a pitcher-killer, slashing .341/.468/.643/1.111 in 156 plate appearances, hitting 11 homers and 39 runs batted in.
On paper, a deal for Ryan Howard would make a lot of sense for the Cardinals. But, with anything, there are always some downsides, which could mean that the Cardinals are not the best fit if Howard is eventually dealt.
The Red Sox are now in prime position to acquire Cole Hamels.
Any way you slice it, they have the prospects to satisfy Ruben Amaro Jr. and the Phillies front office with an offer for the left-handed ace.
With the signing of 19-year-old Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada to a $31.5 million bonus, Boston not only solidified their infield for the future, but also solidified the opportunity to acquire one of the primer pitchers in baseball. And it may not even take that much of a hit to their farm system. But how is that possible?
The Phillies have demanded at least one blue-chip prospect from any team that has wanted to acquire Hamels. The Padres were rumored to have shown interest, but a deal is likely not going to be completed due to that reason. They do not have the blue-chip prospects that the Phillies covet.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, do. With the signing of Moncada, they now have the flexibility to move shortstop/third baseman Xander Bogaerts in any Hamels deal. If they do, Boston could move Hanley Ramirez back to shortstop (his natural position) and still have three viable options in the outfield, playing any three of their many outfielders, which include Shane Victorino, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Daniel Nava. All six of those options are good enough to start.
Boston could use Ramirez at shortstop until Moncada is ready for the big leagues, which may not be until 2017 or 2018. If, by then, he has outgrown the position, the Red Sox could slide him into third base, moving Pablo Sandoval to first base or designated hitter (if David Ortiz is retired by that time).
The Phillies seem to have their eyes set on Blake Swihart, a 22-year-old catcher and the Red Sox first round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. Swihart has drawn comparisons to Buster Posey, being praised for a great bat and plus defense. Instead of Swihart, the Red Sox could offer the likes of Christian Vazquez, a 24-year-old catcher and former 9th round pick, to Philadelphia. If this deal takes place at the trade deadline, Boston could call-up Swihart directly from the minor leagues, as he may be MLB ready then.
Since the Red Sox have already given the blue-chip prospect the Phillies have coveted in Bogaerts, due to the fact that they may have a better option in a few years, then they will not need to give up Swihart in any deal. It could be a nice compromise that ends up working out for both sides.
Then, the Red Sox may give up one or two red-chip prospects in the deal to Philadelphia. Overall, the deal premises are Bogaerts, Vazquez, and one or two others for Cole Hamels. Would that be a fair deal? I would think yes. Yoan Moncada's signing opened this door for Boston and could be a huge development in the talks throughout the season.
The Phillies' offseason can be summed up in one word, "future." They have clearly shown that they want to rebuild their team for the future, trading Marlon Byrd, Jimmy Rollins, and Antonio Bastardo all for prospects as they look to begin their plans for their next contending team.
Cole Hamels, a 31-year-old lefty from San Diego, is by far the Phillies best trade piece. He posted a 2.46 ERA last season in 204 2/3 innings pitched, and if he had racked up more wins, he could have gotten more serious Cy Young award contention. Considering Hamels is still relatively young and is signed to a four-year deal with an option for a fifth year, he is coveted by many teams.
The Phillies were thought to have wanted to unload Hamels at some point this offseason and at points it seemed like something could be in the works. November and December have come and gone, and Hamels is still in a Phillies uniform. Nevertheless, from a team standpoint, Hamels should still be in a Phillies uniform by July, even if the demand is high.
First, there is a lot of pitching already on the market. David Price, Max Scherzer, and James Shields are other pitchers that are either available through trade or through signing. While it will take a lot to get any of the three of them, there are other options on the table for teams to pursue. Hamels is owed $100 million guaranteed over the next four years, which would be in the range of Shields' deal to begin with. It would also take a lot of prospects to get back in return. That is not something teams want.
The Phillies asking price is still very high for Hamels, according to reports. It could take multiple top prospects and one or two low-level prospects as well. The Phillies likely will not be able to get this type of deal now in the offseason.
Look at it this way; Jeff Samardzija was traded to the Oakland Athletics this past July (along with Jason Hammel) for Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, and Dan Straily. Then, this offseason, Samardzija was dealt to the White Sox (with Michael Ynoa) for Rangel Ravelo, Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley and Marcus Semien. The Athletics got nobody even in the realm of Russell in dealing him this offseason.
This is a perfect representation showing how teams are more desperate at the trade deadline. A contending team is willing to give up more prospects in order to "get them over the hump." In the offseason, every team is 0-0, and has a fresh start. There is an idea of who could be contending next season, but nothing is set in stone until it happens.
If the Phillies want their rebuilding to take full flight, they need to hold on to a veteran and keep Cole Hamels in 2015. If everything goes as planned, his value will be higher at the trade deadline than it is now. There will be less pitching on the market, plus it is rare that a team can find a pitcher with three years of control at the deadline. The Phillies need to deal Cole Hamels in July.
From 1995 to 2012, the New York Yankees missed the playoffs just once. They made the playoffs in seventeen of those eighteen years and won five World Series championships. The Yankees were, and still are, big spenders, and their money was able to keep them winning.
Since 2012, the Yankees strategy has built them two above-average teams (by record, at least). In 2012, the MLB postseason featured the Rays, Indians, Pirates, Athletics, and Braves, but not the Phillies, Angels, Rangers, and Yankees. Younger talent has become more of a necessity, while free agents are just additions to your nucleus, not the nucleus itself.
What really led me to writing this post was the Dodgers hiring Andrew Friedman to be their President of Baseball Operations, even after a season where they won 94 games and won the National League West division. The Dodgers hiring of Friedman speaks volumes on how they're willing to make a culture change in order to catch up with sabermetrics, something that has become very important.
The Yankees, Phillies, and Rangers have not yet to do something like that. Brian Cashman was extended as Yankees GM, Ruben Amaro Jr. is still running the Phillies further into the ground, and Jon Daniels continues to throw money at free agents that still haven't helped. And yet Billy Beane (Athletics), Chris Antonetti (Indians), and Dayton Moore (Royals) are building winning teams with a minimal payroll.
Has the window closed for big market teams?
I don't know. On one hand, you still have the Dodgers winning plenty of games with the highest payroll in baseball. They didn't go anywhere in the playoffs, but still were able to get there. However, on the contrary, the Red Sox won the World Series in 2013. I don't think it is truly a question of having the money, but what you do with the money that you have.
The Dodgers are big in the international market. They signed Yasiel Puig, Hyun-jin Ryu, and Erisbel Arruebarrena to extravagant deals and still have been able to create homegrown talent in Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, Dee Gordon, and others to help take this team far. But they have been able to keep those guys with their big market (See: Kershaw's seven-year, $215 million extension).
I think the window has closed for teams that have built their team around pricey free agents. The game of baseball has turned into one of trades, prospects, and analytics, not free agents that are either on the downfall of their career or are injury prone (See: 2014 Rangers lineup). Since about 2010, teams have been better at signing guys to longterm deals during the prime of their career, rather as they get closer to reaching free agency. While this can only buy out a few free agent years, it will likely be the years that the team did not buy out when the player begins to decline or become hampered by injuries.
Take a look at Ryan Howard. Based on my calculations, through the arbitration process, Howard would have become a free agent following either the 2011 or 2012 seasons. Instead of extending Howard to a five-year deal in say, 2009, after Howard had already been one of the league's most prolific sluggers for a few seasons, the Phillies decided to wait until after the 2011 season.
Put that into prospective. Had Howard been signed to his five-year, $125 million deal back in 2009, he would likely become a free agent at the end of this season (the Phillies have a sixth year as a team option). That means Philadelphia would "only" have to deal with three terrible seasons from Howard. The Phillies did extend Howard following the 2011 season, so he is under contract through 2016, with an option for 2017. The Phillies could perhaps deal with five terrible seasons from Howard, paying him over $20 million in each and every one of them.
In short, the window hasn't closed for big market teams. But big market teams that still rely on old methods of signing contracts, giving extensions, and the traditional method of scouting will have a very difficult time contending in a major league system that has developed into a very analytical organization. So while the forward thinkers continue to thrive, the traditionalists will continue to fall. It is time for the Phillies, Yankees, and Rangers to finally change their ways.
July 31st, the MLB non-waiver trade deadline, has come and gone. After two days of digesting one of the busiest deadlines in recent memory, it is not only time to think about who made the right turns in either improving their team for a postseason run or retooled for the future, but it is also time to think about who whiffed at those opportunities. Ladies and gentlemen, here are Cover Those Bases' winners and losers of the 2014 trade deadline.
The Oakland Athletics acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs on July 4th. Their rotation took a huge step forward, although they did have to give up top prospect Addison Russell in return. When we thought the A's had made their one move, they proved us wrong. On the day of the deadline, the Athletics made the first move of the day, a big one, acquiring Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes from the Boston Red Sox. They did have to send Yoenis Cespedes to Boston, but pitching wins championships, and Billy Beane and company did their job.
Boston Red Sox
At the beginning of July, the Red Sox' trade deadline status was in question. Going into July 1st, the Red Sox were only 6.5 games out of first, and a hot month could have made them buyers. However, they went 11-16 in July, and ended the month 12.5 games out. What really makes them winners, however, is that they were able to deal every single major trade piece they had that only had one year left on their contract. The Sox dealt Jon Lester to Oakland, John Lackey to St. Louis, and Andrew Miller to Baltimore. Not to mention, they also dealt Stephen Drew to New York and Jake Peavy to San Francisco. In return, the Red Sox did not just get prospects that will be in the show in five years. They got Yoenis Cespedes, Joe Kelly, and Allen Craig, three proven major leaguers. That was absolutely fantastic. This deadline could make Boston contenders again next year.
The Cubs did exactly what everyone wanted them to do at the trade deadline, sell. They dealt Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland, getting one of the best prospects in baseball in Addison Russell, while also receiving Billy McKinney and Dan Straily. They also were able to take Felix Doubront of the Red Sox' hands, who might be able to be shaped into a pretty good pitcher. However, he is a big work in progress. And right at the deadline at 4 pm, Chicago dealt James Russell and Emilio Bonifacio to Atlanta, getting a former second round pick in Victor Caratini in return. The Cubs continue to build up young players and could be contenders as soon as next year.
During the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, the question was, "How many players are the Phillies going to sell?" This was different than prior years, when the question was, "Will the Phillies sell?" I guess people should have been asking the second question again, because the Phillies did not deal one single player at the trade deadline. Let me tell you again: they did not trade a single player. With all they talent they had in Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd, and Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies still could not make a deal. The person to blame is general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who blamed the other GMs for not being aggressive enough for his players. Unless they make some serious noise during the waiver-trade period in August, Amaro, along with the rest of the Phillies front office, failed epically. He needs to go before anything worse happens to this team.
San Francisco Giants
I really believed that the Giants were going to go out and get a bat at the deadline, particularly at second base. However, the only deal they made was getting a shaky Jake Peavy from Boston for two minor league pitchers that I feel highly about. They were not able to make the deals that they should have, especially going after either Ben Zobrist or Chase Utley. Even after the Rays decided they were going to deal David Price, they should have gone out and shopped Zobrist. The Giants were not able to get anything done, even after showing a lot of interest in him. They are competing with the Dodgers in the National League West, and when you need to be deep at every position to best them, they whiffed really badly in going out and getting a second baseman. That is why they are a loser.
Tampa Bay Rays
As soon as the Rays decided they were going to deal David Price, Ben Zobrist should have been the next guy to be moved. The Rays got a subpar return for a Cy Young award winner in David Price, only drawing Nick Franklin from Seattle and Drew Smyly from Detroit, along with a minor league shortstop. I really thought that the Rays were only going to deal Price in a fantastic deal, especially since they still can contend this season. However, that was not the case, as I believe the Red Sox got more for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes than the Rays got for David Price. That should be the complete opposite. The Rays could have easily held on to the lefty as well, as he still has another season on his contract. Tampa Bay made a head-scratcher this deadline season.