Archive for 2016 Trade Deadline

KATOH Trade-Deadline Roundup: Prospects and Teams

In the table below, you’ll find a treasure trove of information pertaining to the prospect-y players who changed hands this trade deadline. There were 47 of them in all. The “KATOH” and “KATOH+” columns refer to each player’s projected WAR forecast for the first six years of his major-league career, as evaluated by my newly updated KATOH systemKATOH denotes WAR forecast for first six years of player’s major-league career. KATOH+ uses similar methodology with consideration also for Baseball America’s rankings. The right-most column refers to lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen’s scouting grades, which should serve as something of a sanity check for my admittedly flawed projections.

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The Thing All the Trades Had in Common

The non-waiver trade period wrapped up yesterday with teams pushing 18 trades through on a frantic final day. The Giants and Dodgers both paid high prices to load up for a dogfight in the NL West, the Rangers filled some big holes to prepare for a hopeful postseason run, the Indians pushed in with a big bullpen upgrade, and the Mets put the finishing touch on their defense-doesn’t-matter roster in an attempt to slug their way back to the playoffs.

But while the types of veteran upgrades acquired by contenders were quite different, there was one central theme that seemed to run through almost every trade; buyers giving up on previously well-regarded players currently in the midst of devaluing themselves. Or, if you want to look at it from a more optimistic viewpoint, sellers targeting buy-low young talents who might have a chance to prove that their current struggles are just a blip on the radar.

This theme even showed itself in the two biggest deals yesterday.

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Ranking the Prospects Traded at the Deadline

Below is my ranking of the prospects dealt during this year’s “Trade Season,” a span of time encompassing the second half of July, essentially from the Drew Pomeranz deal onward. Each tier of prospects is separated by the Future Value grade I’ve placed on them. For further explanation on what goes into FV, please go here. I’ve also included a brief, one sentence summary of each player’s skillset as well as links to the full reports I’ve written here for the site over the past few weeks and hours. Players who didn’t get full write-ups have slightly longer blurbs written in this post. Players with the same FV are ranked within their tier simply in the order I like them.

Dilson Herrera isn’t technically a prospect and is therefore not on the list but his full report is here. Hector Olivera is also not a prospect, not because he’s exhausted his rookie eligibility but because the reports I’ve gotten there, as well as what I’ve seen in person, have been quite bad.

60 FV Prospects

Anderson Espinoza, RHP, San Diego Padres (report)

Traded from BOS to SD for Drew Pomeranz

Summary: One of the most electric arms in the minors, Espinoza has a shot at three plus or better pitches and a realistic #2 starter’s ceiling but is still just 18 and obviously risky.

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Scouting Three New Rays Prospects

Tampa Bay has aggressively scouted the lowest levels of the minor leagues in Florida and Arizona looking to get in early on burgeoning young talent. In the Brandon Guyer deal, the Rays acquired soon-to-be 21-year-old RHP Jhonleider Salinas, who is of that ilk. Salinas has been up to 95 for me in the AZL, sitting 93-94 with inconsistent feel for a changeup in the 85-87 mph range as well as an upper-70s slider. Both have flashed average. Though his delivery is oddly paced, Salinas has a loose, quick arm which make his pitches projectable, though it’s unlikely he ever has a starter’s command. He has more upside than the typical return for a platoon outfielder.

Jhonleider Salinas, Tool Profile
Tool Present Future
Fastball 60 60
Slider 40 50
Changeup 40 50
Control 30 40
FV 35

The other piece in the deal is 2015 seventh-rounder Nathan Lukes, who’s had a successful statistical season, hitting .301/.375/.453 in the Midwest League before a promotion to Hi-A Lynchburg. Lukes is more about bat control than he is bat speed and I’m skeptical about his ability to keep hitting as he moves to the upper levels of the minors, though he’s an above-average runner and plays a decent center field and he might be an up-and-down fifth outfielder just based on that. He projects as an org player for me.

In the deal that sent Steve Pearce to Baltimore, the Rays acquired switch-hitting C Jonah Heim. He’s more comfortable hitting right-handed and has average power from that side already — and might grow into some more — but the carrying tool here is the defense. Heim is mobile for his size and blocks balls in the dirt well. He also has an above-average arm. If Heim can find that sweet spot of physical development that allow him to make more of an offensive impact than he’s currently capable while retaining the quickness that makes him a good defensive catcher, then he might be a regular. It’s more likely he ends up as a back-up or platoon type of catcher.


Twins and Angels Swap Throwers Meyer and Busenitz

Though both technically still prospects, RHPs Alex Meyer and Alan Busenitz (who were involved in yesterday’s minor Angels/Twins trade that saw the clubs exchange Ricky Nolasco and Hector Santiago, as well) are now 26 and 25 years of age, respectively, and probably needed a change of scenery. Both only realistically profile as middle-relief options barring intervention from the player-development gods.

Meyer has a first-round pedigree. Drafted by the Nationals 23rd overall back in 2011, he was seen as a bit more of a project than the typical college arm because of wildness. He was traded to Minnesota for Denard Span in November of 2012, a watershed moment in the history of the Minnesota Twins, as they shifted their franchises strange obsession with pitchability prospects toward high octane howitzers.

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Scouting Phil Bickford, Conundrum

For a player who hasn’t even ascended to Double-A yet, newly acquired Brewers RHP Phil Bickford has had a very interesting career. As a rising senior in high school, Bickford was sitting 87-90 mph and generating very little buzz. In the middle of the following spring, however, he was suddenly sitting 91-96 with unusually advanced command and feel for a slider. He suddenly became a first-round prospect, but teams also had very little history with him and had a difficult time getting to know the kid at all.

When draft day came, Bickford’s stock was seen as volatile but the Blue Jays popped him 10th overall. He didn’t sign. The circumstances that led to the collapse of negotiations are foggy. It makes sense that it was something medical, but Bickford has never had surgery or missed time with any kind of shoulder or elbow ailment, no benign soreness of any kind.

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Projecting the Prospects Traded Yesterday

In case you hadn’t heard, a lot went down yesterday. Here are the prospects who changed teams on deadline day, as evaluated by my newly updated KATOH system. KATOH denotes WAR forecast for first six years of player’s major-league career. KATOH+ uses similar methodology with consideration also for Baseball America’s rankings.

*****

The Jonathan Lucroy Trade

Lewis Brinson, OF, Milwaukee

KATOH: 7.7 WAR
KATOH+: 9.9 WAR

Brinson posted some terrible numbers in the low minors, but he’s gotten progressively better the past few years, especially in the strikeout department. His 20% strikeout rate from last year was still a bit high, but not alarmingly so. With 31 extra-base hits and 10 steals to his name this year, Brinson has shown a tantalizing power/speed combination.

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Scouting Not-Quite-Prospect-Anymore Dilson Herrera

I awoke to the news of the Jay Bruce trade’s initial iteration, one that included Brandon Nimmo, a prospect on whom the industry is, at best, lukewarm. The new version of the deal is headlined by Dilson Herrera who, because of the number of plate appearances he’s recorded in the big leagues, is technically not a prospect anymore. But he played in this month’s Futures Game and has spent all of 2016 in the minors and writing one more scouting report after this trade deadline won’t bring me any closer to insanity than I’ve already come, so let’s talk about Dilson Herrera.

Herrera signed as an international free agent out of Colombia with Pittsburgh back in 2010. He received a $220,000 bonus. In 2013, he played in his first Futures Game before becoming part of the Marlon Byrd waiver deal later that August. Herrera reached the big leagues at age 20 and has had brief stints with the Mets during each of the past two seasons.

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Scouting the Prospects in the Francisco Liriano Trade

As part of yesterday’s last-minute deal involving Francisco Liriano and Drew Hutchison, the Blue Jays also received two prospects in C Reese McGuire and OF Harold Ramirez.

McGuire was the 14th-overall pick in the 2013 draft because he had a favorable profile as a glove-first catcher with a plus arm and a chance to grow into viable offense. He hasn’t. McGuire’s body has matured but his bat speed is below average and his swing is completely devoid of any power-creating loft. He tracks okay and has some bat control, but I don’t think he’s going to hit enough to play everyday and he profiles as more of a back-up catcher or low-end starter than as an average everyday player.

Reese McGuire, Tool Profile
Tool Present Future
Hit 30 40
Raw Power 40 40
Game Power 20 30
Run 30 20
Field 50 60
Throw 60 60
FV 40

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Pirates Shed Salary at the Cost of Two Prospects

The trade of reliever Mark Melancon by the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Washington Nationals sent a clear message: the Pirates are in retool mode. Not rebuild mode — they’re too good for that. And certainly not go-for-it mode — the Pirates barely had a 1-in-10 shot of making the playoffs, and you don’t go for it by trading away one of the best relievers in the game. No, the Pirates were retooling, selling from the immediate future to improve in the very short-term future, and, to a lesser extent, the long-term future. The crux of the return, left-handed reliever Felipe Rivero, will contribute for the Pirates both immediately and moving forward. That’s the difference between he and Melancon — he’ll be sticking around for more than one season. Prospect Taylor Hearn is the longer-term play; small-market teams like the Pirates live for long-term plays.

Which is what makes Monday’s last-minute deal for broken pitching prospect Drew Hutchison — one which allowed them to dump Francisco Liriano’s salary on the Toronto Blue Jays but also cost them prospects Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirezso puzzling on the surface. While neither prospect cracked Baseball America’s recent top-100 update, McGuire and Ramirez are both legitimate prospects, the type of pieces that can be essential to a franchise like the Pirates by providing cheap value, allowing them to continue chugging along at an affordable operating cost while retaining the pieces that really matter. McGuire is regarded as one of the best defensive catching prospects in the minors, one whose receiving ability alone gives him a near-certain path to the majors. Ramirez is an athletic bat-to-ball outfielder with a plus hit tool who’s playing center in the minors even if he’s likely to move to a corner.

In Hutchison, the Pirates get back a Ray Searage reclamation project, and little more. Hutchison’s still just 25 with some former prospect shine, but the career ERA in more than 400 innings is nearly 5.00, and he’s got a serious home-run problem. Maybe Searage can coax some ground balls out of him.

But Hutchison’s not so much what this deal was about. The motivation behind this deal was clear. It was a straight salary dump. The Blue Jays are taking on the entirety of Liriano’s salary, which amounts to roughly $17 million through the end of next season. They had the space available to take on the money — though it is interesting to wonder how this could impact their ability to re-sign Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion in the offseason — and they were willing to do so for the price of the prospects.

To rationalize this deal from the Pirates’ perspective, you’ve got to believe the organization thinks it can do more with the $17 million and Hutchison to help it win next year and moving forward than it could with Liriano and the prospects. It may be a tough sell, but it is what it is. And to believe that, you’ve got to believe the organization views Liriano as broken.

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Immodest Support for New Oakland Pitcher Jharel Cotton

Jharel Cotton was omitted from all the notable top-100 lists entering the 2016 season. He was excluded from all those same lists entering the 2015 season, as well. And the 2014 one. And 2013 one. And 2012. And so on. A review of the literature suggests that, since the dawn of the uncreated light, Jharel Cotton’s name has been omitted from top-100 prospect lists.

One sort of document from which Cotton’s name hasn’t been omitted is the author’s weekly attempt to identify and/or monitor compelling fringe prospects, the Fringe Five. Cotton finished atop the haphazardly calculated Fringe Five Scoreboard last year and is currently fourth on this year’s edition of the scoreboard.

Why Cotton has been excluded from the aforementioned top-100 lists isn’t precisely for me to say. Why he’s been included among the Five, however, is because both (a) he’s produced excellent strikeout and walk numbers and (b) his repertoire suggests that his performances are sustainable.

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Trade Deadline 2016 Omnibus Post

As it has been the past few years, the 2016 non-waiver trade deadline brought about a flurry of activity that was hard to keep up with even if it was the only thing you were doing. Since most of us have other things that we have to or would like to occupy our time with, we figured we would save you some hassle and create an omnibus post with all of our trade deadline content so that you have it all in one place. For clarity’s sake, I’m going to limit this to articles about trades that actually took place.

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Rangers Put Finishing Touches On Title-Contending Roster

It doesn’t really matter how you think the Rangers got here. Whether you think it’s been team skill or team luck, whether you believe more in the third-best record or 14th-best run differential, today is the first day of August, and only the Cubs have a bigger division lead around the rest of baseball. The way things are set up, the Rangers are almost certainly going to the playoffs. They need to hang tight, sure, but they’ve been free to build for a playoff series. They sit in an enviable position.

The front office has been busy. A few days ago, they brought in Lucas Harrell and Dario Alvarez. Monday, they paid for Carlos Beltran. And most significantly, they’ve now also paid for Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress. This post is about that last move, and obviously, the key is Lucroy, who’s looked like an excellent fit for the Rangers for months. Lucroy will provide something the Rangers didn’t have, and they’ll get to keep him for another year in 2017. Yet don’t sleep on the Jeffress addition. He’s far from being a throw-in, and he’s going to help this team in October.

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Carlos Beltran and Texas: A Match Made in Heaven

Some trade-deadline decisions are painstakingly difficult. The line between buyer and seller can be microscopically thin and the undeniable appeal of winning win can easily tempt teams to hold onto talented players when logic dictates that selling is the right call. For the Yankees, the decision was harder than it should have been this season. For the Rangers, it was as clear as day.

The Yankees are a .500 team sitting just five-and-a-half games out of a wild-card position, and yet the decision to sell couldn’t have been more obvious to those of us on the outside without emotional or financial stakes on the line. Selling is not part of the Yankees’ M.O. They expect to win and, more often than not, they deliver on that expectation. But with a roster laden with aging veterans and little-to-no evidence of an emergent winning core, the obvious choice was for the Yankees to improve their future outlook by trading players who had minimal chances of being key contributors to the next winning Yankees team. To general manager Brian Cashman’s credit, they made the right call and returned impressive prospect value for relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. Today, they cashed in another obvious trade candidate and sent Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers.

For the Rangers, six games up in the division despite a roster with blatant holes and an unimpressive run differential of +3, the decision to buy was an easy one. They’re a team that’s benefited from luck, but one that also possesses enough core talent that it’s more than conceivable a few roster upgrades could put this team in position to win in October. As has been discussed ad nauseam this season, the American League is lacking for obvious powerhouse postseason favorites, unlike the Senior Circuit which is starkly stratified by roster talent. Add to the mix the fact that the Rangers have a farm system dripping with top-tier talent and now was as good a time as any for the Rangers to push their chips all in.

A Beltran/Rangers pairing was such a strong and evident match on paper that Dave Cameron correctly predicted the trade last week (in addition to the Jeremy Jeffress acquisition!). When looking to upgrade a roster, the first place to check is a team’s weaknesses and the Rangers this season have far and away received the worst production out of the designated-hitter position in the American League thanks primarily to Prince Fielder’s ineffectiveness. With Fielder out for the season and a hitter of Beltran’s quality available on the trade market, this match was kismet.

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The Rays Make a Smart Bet on Matt Duffy

After months of rumors, the Rays finally traded a starting pitcher, shipping Matt Moore to San Francisco in exchange for a three player package headlined by infielder Matt Duffy. Eno Sarris already talked about what the Giants are hoping they get in Moore, so let’s talk about what they gave up to upgrade their rotation with a young controllable starting pitcher.

The prospects in this deal are both interesting. Lucius Fox cost the Giants a $6 million signing bonus last year after being declared an international free agent, and we rated him as the Giants #3 prospect this spring, noting his upside as a high-end athlete who might hit. He’s not close to the big leagues, but there’s some real upside here, especially if he turns out to be an above-average defensive shortstop; you don’t have to hit that well to have value if you can field at that level.

The other prospect, Michael Santos, is your typical deadline trade chip; a projectable hard-thrower in A-ball, nowhere close to the big leagues, with about as wide a range of outcomes as you could imagine. We ranked Santos as the Giants #16 prospect back in the spring, and he’s pitched well (though without missing bats) this year, so there’s some value there, though like Fox, he’s a long ways away.

But there’s one piece of the trade that isn’t a long-term project. While they got two A-ball lottery tickets in the deal, they also got back a big league infielder who put up a +5 WAR season last year. And more than anything else, this deal will probably be decided by the answer to the question: what is Matt Duffy, really?

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Scouting the Prospects in the Matt Moore Deal

Bahamian (won’t ever get tired of typing that) SS Lucius Fox is headed to Tampa Bay as the primary prospect return for LHP Matt Moore. Fox was receiving late-first-round grades as a domestic amateur before reclassifying as an international prospect before his senior year and signing for $6.5 million during last year’s J2 period. Fox ranked third on FanGraphs’ 2015 J2 sortable board and was #2 in my personal rankings.

Fox turned 19 last month and is extremely young for the full-season Sally League, where he was hitting .207/.305/.277. Fox’s body was simply not ready for full-season ball. Though he’s exceptionally twitchy and athletic, he hasn’t matured enough to compete and succeed at that level. There’s bat speed here as well as feel for moving that barrel around the zone and Fox has the physical tools to be an above-average hitter who pulls out a dozen or so annual homers. The left-handed swing has more power potential than his more conservative right-handed cut.

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Giants Add Lefty Starter Matt Moore’s Resurgent Stuff

The Giants just added a 27-year-old left-hander with a 93 mph fastball and major-league success under his belt on an affordable contract until 2019. That left-hander, Matt Moore, hasn’t recorded the same ERA or strikeout rates he’d produced before his Tommy John surgery, but if you look under the hood, the stuff seems to be back.

That stuff, and that contract, made it worth the hefty price: 21-year-old right-handed pitcher Michael Santos, exciting young 19-year-old Bahamian shortstop Lucius Fox, and — most painful of all — 25-year-old major-league third baseman Matt Duffy. Dave Cameron will have more on the choice to include Duffy, but either way, it’s a price you pay for a pitcher you believe can serve at least as a middle-of-the-rotation guy. A price you pay if you believe Moore has his stuff back.

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Giants Pay Steep Price for Brewers Reliever Will Smith

While deals for Zach Duke and Mark Melancon might have made it appear as though the price for relief pitching was coming down, the San Francisco Giants, in need of some help at the back end of the bullpen, have just paid a pretty high price to get the left-handed Brewers’ reliever Will Smith.

Here are the full terms.

Giants get:

  • Will Smith (RHP)

Brewers get:

For the Giants, pursuing a reliever made a lot of sense. They have some useful pieces there, surely: Santiago Casilla has been generally reliable at the the end of the bullpen, Derek Law has pitched well with more exposure, and Hunter Strickland has been solid at time. As a whole, however, the group hasn’t done a lot to add to the Giants’ chances of reaching the postseason this year.

The Giants’ 19.8% strikeout rate is barely ahead of the Colorado Rockies’ (19.7%). By ERA (3.76) and FIP (3.92), the Giants pen sits in the middle of the National League pack. By WAR, however, the team places ahead only of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the abomination the Cincinnati Reds have put together. By Win Probability Added (WPA) among NL relievers, Casilla (0.63, 37th), Strickland (0.53, 39th) and Law (0.52, 40) — who, again, represent the back-end of San Francisco’s bullpen — are well behind the game’s better pitchers. The rest of the relief corps is hovering around zero or worse. They’ve landed someone who should be able to bolster the bullpen significantly this year, and perhaps into future seasons.

In 2015, mostly in the capacity of setting up Francisco Rodriguez, Will Smith was one of the best relievers in baseball, . He made 76 appearances, strinking out 35% of the batters he faced — and no NL reliever without a save had a higher WAR than Smith’s 1.4 mark. He moved into 2016 with the closer role his to lose, but lose it he did when he lost his balance while removing a shoe and twisting his right knee during spring training, an injury which required surgery. Smith hasn’t been as lights out this season, striking out 24% of batters against a 10% walk rate in 22 innings. Although his ERA and FIP have not stabilized due to a couple home runs, his strikeout rate in July has crossed the 30% threshold, providing some encouragement that Smith is on his way back.

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Cubs Complete Bullpen Makeover with Joe Smith

For the second time in as many years, the Chicago Cubs effectively remade half their bullpen on the fly. Last year, it was a series of former-starters-turned-reclamation projects that somehow all worked out. This year, they’ve gone the more traditional route. It started with the little pickup of left-hander Mike Montgomery, which didn’t stop them from the big-ticket acquisition of Aroldis Chapman. Young, hard-throwing Carl Edwards Jr. has been a welcome addition, and apparently Joe Nathan is a thing again.

Shortly before 4:00 p.m. EST brought the close of this year’s trade deadline, the Cubs made one more move to set up their bullpen for this year’s championship run.

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Brief Scouting Thoughts on the Enigmatic Dillon Tate

Dillon Tate’s career at UC Santa Barbara began in the bullpen and he transitioned to a starting role in 2015 as a junior. He threw 103 innings in 2015, a significant increase for a raw pitcher who’d only thrown 43 the year before. Regardless, he was holding his velocity deep into games and was among those considered by the Diamondbacks for the top-overall pick in last year’s draft. Tate’s stuff waxed and waned during his junior season but was back by draft time. He was up to 98 for me at NCAA Regionals and flashing a plus breaking ball. The Rangers drafted him fourth overall shortly thereafter.

That Tate has previously dealt with and bounced back from a downward turn in his stuff is especially significant considering he’s going to have to do it again. Reports on Tate suggest the quality of his arsenal is down across the board — and, indeed, he’s struggled to miss bats for the past two months. During spring training, Tate was 94-96 with a plus slider and flashing an above-average changeup. The fastball velo has been down in the 90-93 range lately and Tate is currently sporting a 5.12 ERA at Low-A Hickory.

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