Recapping an Insane Trade Deadline

At 9:46 AM last Thursday, I was soundly asleep, being productive with my vacation time. Unfortunately, I managed to sleep through one of the bigger trades in recent memory. It came as no surprise to see Jon Lester dealt on Thursday – after all, Lester rumors had been swirling for weeks and it was trade deadline day. However, the return was extremely shocking: Yoenis Cespedes, who some consider the heart of the Athletics, and the inspiration of one hilarious baseball blog, was dealt to the Red Sox for Lester and noted former A/beard enthusiast Jonny Gomes. Baseball fans were up in arms over the return, questioning how the A’s could deal the heart of their team for a rental pitcher. Did Billy Beane completely blow it? What other teams made moves? Let’s jump right in.

There were minor deals that I will not provide full explanations for in the interest of time and, well, interest. Some deals just didn’t have supremely useful pieces on one or both sides, so to list them: Brewers get Gerardo Parra from Arizona for Mitch Haniger, Mariners get Chris Denorfia from San Diego for Abraham Almonte and Stephen Kolscheen, Braves get Emilio Bonifacio and James Russell from Chicago for for Victor Caratini, Athletics get Sam Fuld from Minnesota for Tommy Milone, Nationals get Asdrubal Cabrera from Cleveland for Zach Walters, Yankees get Martin Prado from Arizona for Peter O’Brien, and Yankees get Stephen Drew from Boston for Kelly Johnson.

I will project value using RoS projections, past performance, and Oliver aging curves.

Jon Lester

The trade: Boston’s Jon Lester was sent along with Jonny Gomes and cash considerations to the Oakland Athletics for Yoenis Cespedes and a competitive balance pick.

Why Boston did it: The Red Sox are in last. That isn’t a phrase that gets uttered often, but the Red Sox are in last. They have a -54 run differential, and they’re not going anywhere this year. But Jon Lester’s contract expires after the year, and the Red Sox have been rebuffed by Lester on extension offers. But, they happen to also be the Boston Red Sox. They have the ability to go out any offseason and retool their team. So they dealt Lester for a player they’ll be able to plug in next year to stay competitive. Cespedes will make an immediate impact, bringing an impact bat to a formidable middle of the order that includes Ortiz, him, and another piece added in a later trade (we’ll get to that). It’s also worth noting that Cespedes’ contract has an opt out that forces the team to non-tender him next year; thus, the Red Sox would not be able to offer a qualifying offer and would not receive compensation. The Red Sox made up for this by acquiring the Athletics’ competitive balance pick.

Why Oakland did it: Flags fly forever, baby. After dealing stud shortstop prospect Addison Russell to the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija, the Athletics made it very clear that they were going all in and that this is their year. Despite having the best run differential in baseball, the Los Angeles Angels are right on their tail, and Lester adds a likely 2 wins over the rest of the season, which is potentially huge for Oakland. They dealt the outfielder Cespedes, but the outfield is a position of surplus for the Athletics, with Crisp, Moss, Reddick, Gomes, Vogt, and a piece they would later acquire, Sam Fuld. Beane has provided manager Bob Melvin with all the pieces he could imagine to cover for Cespedes with platooning. The Athletics dealt from a deep position to add wins to a team that knows that anything less than a championship will be a failure.

Did it make sense? I’m inclined to say this made sense for both teams. Over the rest of the season, Lester’s mean projection is 1.4 fWAR. Lester’s contract then expires. Cespedes is projected to provide 1.0 fWAR RoS. We’ll also apply a 0.3 WAR decline for Cespedes next year as he nears 30. Gomes is nearly insignificant. Cash considerations is probably code for nothing. The competitive balance pick projects to be roughly the 66th overall pick in next year’s draft. According to Chris, with an assumed discount rate of 9% (which seems reasonable for Boston considering their win now mentality, but also their ability to build through the draft), the 66th pick would be worth $5M. So, assuming $7.5M/WAR…

Value (millions)
Athletics Total1.612
Draft Pick1.55
Red Sox Total5.339.75

So, as you can see, in terms of value, Boston clearly comes out on top. What with the possibility of Lester returning, it’s very possible that the Red Sox received some very, very good value in this deal. However, what is being ignored by some is Boston and Oakland’s respective positions on the wins spectrum. $7.5M per WAR may not be an accurate figure. The 1.0 fWAR projected by Cespedes coming this year means next to nothing from Boston. If anything, it’s hurting their chance at a higher draft pick, potentially costing them a few million dollars. Meanwhile, Lester’s value to the A’s this year is absolutely huge and cannot be understated. They are far, far higher than $7.5M per win on the win curve. This is their year, and anything in any other year, like Cespedes’ value in 2015, doesn’t come close to being as useful to them.

It’s all about the context. Oakland’s time is now. Boston is starting to re-tool. When you factor in the win curve, I’d say everything is about even.

The verdict: Everyone’s a winner. If Lester returns to Boston, however, this will be an absolutely incredible job by Cherington to secure some value for future years in which Boston plans on contending. That doesn’t necessarily mean Oakland lost the trade, though. Lester’s value this year is all that matters to them.

Allen Craig

The trade: St. Louis trades Allen Craig and Joe Kelly to Boston for John Lackey and Corey Littrell, as well as $1.7M in cold hard cash.

Why St. Louis did it: Oh man. This came out of nowhere. The reactions to this deal were less than pleasant for St. Louis. The scheduled starter that day for the Cards? Shelby Miller. Who happened to be Joe Kelly’s best man (and Kelly his). Teammates called it “a punch in the gut.” He wouldn’t respond to the media. He flatly responded “No” when asked for comment. The player in return, John Lackey, isn’t exactly known to be a clubhouse leader himself. The personality side of this deal really stinks for the Cards. But if manager Mike Matheny can hold things together, this has a ton of potential value for the Cards. John Lackey has seen something of a career resurgence these past two seasons, posting an 87 xFIP- and 2.5 fWAR (average projection has him slated to finish at 3.9 fWAR). However, the season before his resurgence is the key to this deal: Lackey’s 2012 elbow injury activated a provision in his contract that creates a club option for Lackey to make the league minimum next season, that Lackey will apparently play for. The Cardinals will seemingly receive a 3.5 WAR pitcher making the minimum next year who will also join them for a stretch run. It’s a risky move, but it could pay off in spades.

Why Boston did it (again): Again, the Red Sox are kinda pretty bad this year. Lackey is good this year, and that doesn’t do them much good. Allen Craig, however, is more or less the opposite. Craig has been hampered by injuries this year, struggling to an 81 wRC+ and -0.6 fWAR. He is, however, a career 123 wRC+ hitter in total, and his mean projection still has him in the vicinity of a 120 wRC+. While Craig is likely a 1B/DH that will be forced to play elsewhere with Mike Napoli and David Ortiz on the team, Craig’s bat will create an order to be reckoned with, with Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt, Yoenis Cespedes, Napoli, Ortiz, and Craig. Starter Joe Kelly was also thrown in, who has been league average at a 100 xFIP- mark, which can’t hurt, even if he doesn’t get a ton of swinging strikes.

Did it make sense? Most fans have been celebrating Cherrington for this move while condemning Mozeliak. However, this move could be a big win for the Cardinals. Again, we’ll assume $7.5M/WAR, but again, the win curve is an important consideration.

Value (Millions)
Cardinals Total:4.535.45
Red Sox Total5.339.75

So as you can see, assuming standard value of a win, the deal is pretty close. Lackey gives great value considering the short life of his contract, and Craig’s team friendly extension should be a very nice asset. But if you consider the Cards’ position on the win curve – win now – you can assume they value a win at more than $7.5M, which means the Cards probably think they made out pretty well here, and quite frankly, John Mo generally has a good idea of what he’s doing.

The verdict: Cardinals look like they came out on top here when you consider the win curve. There’s plenty of justification for both sides here but I like the Cards’ side.


Andrew Miller

The trade: Andrew Miller shipped off to Baltimore and Eduardo Rodriguez to Boston in the rare divisional deal.

Calm down, Boston: Okay, can’t say I blame them for making this deal, even if this was like the 28th trade in 6 hours. Seriously, someone check on Ben Cherington. At this point, his assistant GMs may just be moving his limbs and making calls for him, Weekend-At-Bernie’s-style. Getting to the point, this deal makes more than a bit of sense for the Red Sox. Considering, again, that they are far out of the race, a reliever probably isn’t going to do them much good. A reliever who’s contract is expiring is even less valuable. So they sent him off for a prospect considered by the majority of evaluators to be top-60 in the league. Any time you can send a reliever rental for a top-60 prospect when you’re out of the race, yeah, you should probably get on that.

Why Baltimore did it: They must have had some reason to do this deal, right? Well, the Orioles are in the thick of a race for a playoff spot. With former closer Tommy Hunter struggling and a weakened bullpen in general, the Orioles identified their area of need pretty clearly. They then identified an area of surplus: pitching depth. With potential front-line guys like Dylan Bundy and  Kevin Gausman, and a ton of back end guys like Steve Johnson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and plenty of others, they could afford to deal from depth, even if they could use a guy at the top. Rodriguez projects as a mid-rotation guy more than he does an ace. They could afford to deal Eddy and needed Miller. Their motivation here is pretty clear cut, and they continued the deadline theme of “take all of Boston’s non-long term assets to win now.”

Did it make sense? $7.5M/win blah blah blah.

Orioles Total0.32.25
Red Sox Total6.548.75

OUCH. Yeah. Miller only projects to provide 0.3 fWAR for the rest of the year and then becomes a free agent. Rodriguez will have 3 years of the league minimum and 3 years of arb, so 6 years in total. A reasonable projection formed from ZiPS with minor progression each year forms an average of almost 1.1 fWAR per year. He’s basically a young, cheap, back-end rotation guy for 6 years. Each individual year isn’t terribly valuable, but it adds up. And Baltimore dealt that for a rental reliever.

The verdict: Definitely not Baltimore.

Jarred Cosart

The trade: Jarred Cosart was sent along with Enrique Hernandez and Austin Wates to Miami for Jake Marisnick, Colin Moran, Frances Martes, and a competitive balance pick (#31, potentially). Oi.

Why Florida did it: Any time you can deal for a 24 year old with a career 3.67 ERA, you do it, right?

Why Houston did it: No. Definitely not. Cosart has posted a 110 xFIP- this year. 113 xFIP- in his career. Comparables: Jeremy Guthrie. Eric Stults. Edinson Volquez. Justin Verla… anyway, moving on. Cosart is just a well below average pitcher in his career. Enrique Hernandez has had a hot start to his career but didn’t hit at all until he reached the upper minors. Not even Austin Wates has heard of Austin Wates. (He’s a 25 year old in AAA who has had some very good BABIP luck in his minor league career.) That’s not exactly a package of all-stars. So what did Houston get back? Oh, just… a former top 50 prospect, the #5 overall selection from last year’s draft, a rookie-ball pitcher, and a potentially valuable draft pick. Uh oh.

Did it make sense: Nope.

Marlins Total7.153.25
Draft pick2.111.6
Astos Total:14.2102.4

Wow. Just really nope. Just one whole lot of nope. Nope, nope, nope.

The verdict: Realistically, it’ll be like 5-10 years before we know who wins this trade, but at the time, it’s looking like Miami was robbed (for once, not its taxpayers, at least). Marisnick alone projects to provide more value than the entire Marlins’ end. Marisnick is also only projected for 1.9 WAR/year based off of ZiPS’ projections and Oliver aging. Moran is also worth a considerable amount just being projected for 0.75 WAR/year. This is what happens when you deal long term assets, including two top prospects and a high draft pick, for a realistically below average pitcher and spare parts.

David Price

The trade: What everybody was waiting for. David Price to the Tigers, Austin Jackson to the Mariners, Nick Franklin, Drew Smyly, Willy Adames to the Rays.

Why the Tigers did it: It’s David Price. The unquestionably best player on the market. The Tigers now have 3 Cy Young winners in their rotation. They’re going for it. This is a trade you have to make if you’re going for it.  Price projects to provide something like 2 wins over the rest of the season and 5 next season before hitting the open market. He’s an incredible player. They gave up Austin Jackson, who hasn’t been playing particularly well, Drew Smyly, a useful but not irreplaceable piece, and Willy Adames, an intriguing prospect. This is a move that could have huge implications come playoff time.

Why the Mariners did it: Seattle had Brad Miller, Robinson Cano, Chris Taylor, Stefan Romero, Ty Kelly, Kyle Seager and others on the infield. Franklin was the odd-man out. They dealt for Austin Jackson, a speedy outfielder with a good track record but hasn’t done well this year. Seattle was in desperate need of an outfielder and they got what they wanted.

Why the Rays did it: Price wasn’t staying. There was no way Tampa had the money to extend him. Only problem is that Tampa is getting back in the hunt for a playoff spot. So Tampa dealt for two MLB level players and a high-upside helium prospect in Adames that the Rays apparently love. Tampa maintains its competitiveness while increasing payroll flexibility. Most fans were shocked that they didn’t get a major prospect back for him, but the argument could be made that good MLB ready players are more valuable than AA players who might possibly be good at some point in time.

Did it make sense? I think every team in the deal addressed needs here.

Value (millions)
Tigers total752.5
Mariners total430
Rays total:14.8111

The Rays got a very good amount of value back for their asset. Adames was impossible to project but 0.5 WAR/year is reasonable in my estimation. The Tigers got their guy. The Mariners addressed a need although it didn’t really move the needle much.

The verdict: When you consider the Tigers’ position on the win curve, it’s easy to see them as the winners. They improved without giving up many “now” pieces and will be in a prime position to go deep into the playoffs. The Rays got a good haul back for Price, though, receiving young MLB talent along with a lottery ticket in helium prospect Willy Adames. The Mariners lost some value here but addressed a position of need, which should be considered, I guess. In all, I’d say the Rays were the big winners, which isn’t a popular opinion, but the Tigers obviously did very well. The Mariners… meh.


So you might have noticed the absence of a certain … ornithological piece. The Blue Jays didn’t make a single deadline deal, aside from the pre-deadline Valencia deal, which I made my thoughts very well known on. The team could have used a boost pretty much anywhere. Some outfield depth wouldn’t hurt, a starting pitcher would have done a tonne for the team, a bullpen arm could have proved useful, an infielder might have been nice. Instead, Anthopoulos elected to hold his fire. Maybe the Price wasn’t right (I crack myself up). Maybe he doesn’t have any money to play with. We’ll see in August, as teams attempt to push players through waivers to deal them. But the Blue Jays could use a boost. Here’s to hoping AA is back to his old Silent Assassin ways.

Wrapping Up the Regular Season
On Framing, Platoons, and Regression to the Mean

Author: Jacob Danovitch

Jacob has been following baseball since he fell in love with it going to a baseball game at the age of four. He's played baseball from the age of six and plays competitive basketball as well. He fell in love with the sabermetric side of baseball after arguing about Yunel Escobar with a friend and using advanced stats to prove his case. Jacob enjoys music and reading in his little free time as well. He is a fan of the Maple Leafs, Raptors and Bills.

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