I can guarantee you that the Orioles' failure to move infielder Jonathan Villar or reliever Mychal Givens at the 2019 season's one and only trade deadline wasn't for a lack of effort on the part of general manager Mike Elias. But it does take two to tango, and Elias wasn't in giveaway mode.
Villar, 28, is an interesting player, and his numbers are pretty solid in 161 games with Baltimore dating back to last year: a slash line of .261/.329/.409 while stealing 44 bases in 53 attempts. Still, no team offered enough to pry Villar away.
Perhaps he's perceived as a good player on bad teams, but one that might not thrive on a team in the midst of a pennant push. Villar was traded after the 2015 season by a Houston Astros team that was on its way up and at the trade deadline last summer by surging Brewers team.
Villar, who currently makes $4.825 million, is arbitration eligible again in 2020 and could command in excess of $6 million. Not exactly a fit for a team that wants to keep payroll low as the rebuild takes full hold.
Unlike Villar, who has pretty much played up to his abilities and was not deemed worthy of helping a contender, Givens' 2019 hasn't remotely lived up to his great promise of being a dominant setup man or closer. He receded away from greatness and now is a question mark moving forward. In a marketplace where relievers were being moved almost willy-nilly, the fact that nobody could muster up an offer to get Elias to say yes speaks volumes.
Givens, 29, stands to make between $3.5 million and $4 million next season. The O's will do their best to move him this offseason -- an attempt that would be helped a great deal by Givens returning to form in August and September. Otherwise, as unimaginable as it seems, Givens also could end up being nontendered.
The next time Elias can work his magic will most be likely be at the 2019 Winter Meetings in San Diego Dec. 8-11.
Trade Deadline Winners:
The biggest winner at the trade deadline was the
Houston Astros. Just like in August 2017 when he pulled a last-minute rabbit out of his hat by acquiring Justin Verlander, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was able to convince ownership to take on a sizable investment in right-hander Zack Greinke. The Arizona Diamondbacks picked up a substantial part of the tab (reportedly $24 million), which allowed the D-Backs to get a solid return: infielders Seth Beer and Josh Rojas and right-handers Corbin Martin and J.B. Bukauskas.
The Astros also picked up a solid middle-inning guy in Joe Biagini, who posted a 3.78 ERA and 1.34 WHIP with 50 strikeouts in 50 innings for the Toronto Blue Jays this year. Additionally, Luhnow took a flier on right-hander Aaron Sanchez, the one-time young ace of the Blue Jays. In 2016, Sanchez led the American League in ERA (3.00) and went 15-2.
The key to these acquisitions is that the Astros don't make trades for pitchers and simply hope they pitch better. This front office and analytics department has real, concrete ideas as to how they can improve the pitchers they pick up. Sanchez, who's dealt with perpetual blister issues as a starter, could be a middle-innings monster for the Astros during the postseason.
The Greinke deal makes the Astros an overwhelming favorite to represent the AL in the 2019 World Series.
Another team that advanced their cause was the
Cleveland Indians. They made a fascinating three-way trade with the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres. True, they gave up the best talent in the deal in right-hander Trevor Bauer. But in return, they received two outfielders who vastly improve their offense: Yasiel Puig (22 homers, 61 RBIs with a .777 OPS) from the Reds and Franmil Reyes (27 homers and 46 RBIs with an .849 OPS) from the Padres.
That return alone seems fairly adequate, but the Indians still added three prospects in pitching prospects Logan Allen and Scott Moss and infield prospect Victor Nova. Allen and Nova came from San Diego, while Moss came from Cincinnati.
By getting the immediate firepower on offense -- while also adding some prospects -- for a pitcher who had kind of worn out his welcome and only had one year of control left was a stroke of genius.
Trade Deadline Losers:
While my take is that Houston dealt their way into a favored position to play in and quite possible win this upcoming World Series, the two teams that have been Nos. 1 and 2 in my power rankings for weeks on end -- the
Los Angeles Dodgers and
New York Yankees -- failed to improve their chances to win a World Series.
Let's be clear: both of these teams can still win the World Series, but with more than 55 games left in their season, it's almost mind numbing that neither was able to take even a flier at helping their pitching staff.
In the case of the Dodgers, they almost immediately announced after the 4:00 p.m. EST deadline that their No. 1 pitching prospect, Dustin May, would be brought up to lift the overall depth of their staff. While I think May currently might make sense as a sort of special postseason weapon out of the pen, it looks like the Dodgers will make use of him as a starter for now.
Meanwhile, two key right-handed pitchers for the Yankees -- starter Luis Severino and reliever Dellin Betances -- have yet to throw a competitive pitch in 2019. Yet, what the Yankees seem to be saying is, "We have enough pitching in house, so much so we didn't need to add." I have watched and admired Yankees GM Brian Cashman as "the man" for a long time. His failure to make a deal for a starting pitcher almost seems to be a case of dereliction of duty. It'll be a long time before I stop scratching my head.
I am not sure where this got blown, but the failure of the Cincinnati Reds to take Yasiel Puig out of their game after he had been traded is a big time screw-up. In fact, it seems as if Puig was traded, not informed and subsequently got mixed up in an ugly brawl that easily could have caused a serious injury to the player. Suppose Puig had suffered a serious season ending injury during the brawl. Who would have owned his rights and could that have negated this blockbuster deal?
The commissioner must act quickly at clarifying how this happened and how the rule should read moving forward.
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