2019 Trade Deadline – The Anonymous Takes

GM’s Behind Closed Doors

By: Eve Simon

As teams move beyond their 100th game of the season, the fate of many teams seems to be determined. As the trade deadline approached and questions began to arise. Which contenders would make splashed? Which teams would disappoint? Who would look ahead to 2020?

Trade Deadline Week 2019 began with a bang as the Seattle Mariners and Atlanta Braves finally came to an agreement on a trade that sent one of the league’s best Armando Cabanas to Seattle. This was a trade that had been in the making over a year.

The trade was met with mixed feelings around the league. Insiders felt that the Braves suffered a huge loss, “months, if not years, of the Brave’s inability to realize a good thing has finally gone too far.”

A fellow NL General Manager suggested that, “their fans should be shaking their heads. The prospects are nice, but what message does it send to a team in first place?”

At the same time, there were others within baseball who felt Atlanta did a terrific job with this trade.

An anonymous executive said, “at first I thought the shopping of Cabanas in a winning season for the Braves was silly, but then I saw the return. It was an offer Atlanta simply could not refuse.”

A General Manager who has spent his entire career within the baseball profession had this succinct point which was seemingly echoed by many, “I was annoyed that Cabanas was on the market to begin with, but then decided ‘Well, if he’s on the market, then he might as well be on my team.'”

While the Mariners came away with arguably the best player in baseball, executives still shared a mixed feeling on the move on their end as well.

One GM said, “I still do not think they are the division favorite. So was it worth it? The Mariners aren’t suddenly more likely to do anything aside from maybe host a wild card game instead of travel.”

An NL GM who has seen plenty of Cabanas felt differently and said, “with Cabanas now in the fold, Seattle should easily get into the playoffs, and they will ride him all the way to the World Series.”

The Tampa Bay Rays made a splash early in the week with the acquisition of Jorge Alvarado from the White Sox. Alvarado extends the Rays lineup and filled a need at DH.

The trade received a harsh reaction from a baseball insider who felt that the “got fleeced” and that while Alvarado is great, he’s, “a 3 WAR first-basemen in a league full of them. Richardson looks like a potential ace, Will Ward is a quality OF option and then also to throw in 3 lottery tickets was way too much. Paul Goldschmidt gets signed a month into the season every year and is 80% of the player Alvarado is.”

As the deadline neared, discussions were heating up, but activity seemed to be dying. Sources throughout the league felt too many teams were being met with offers and discussions that would lead nowhere. There was an appearance that value was “out of whack” and that the 2019 deadline might be quiet.

Then deadline day came and a flurry of action ensued.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

The American League East was a busy division on deadline day. The American League’s best team, the Toronto Blue Jays, bolstered its bullpen with Gabriel Flores and added defensive whiz Rafael Luna. The Tampa Bay Rays dumped salary and added a good bullpen arm in Brad Brach. The Baltimore Orioles were as busy any team making three trades.

(On The Blue Jays)

“If Flores can harness his control, he could be the biggest addition at the deadline not named Cabanas.”

“The Jays added Rafael Luna and will continue to make the mistake of not playing Andres Yanez every day.”

“Health — it’s the biggest question mark for this team. If they avoid any more injuries, they remain the favorite to make it out of the AL.”

“Surprised Gary Sanchez was not traded. Heard they came close to a deal with Atlanta.”

(On The Rays)

“Getting anything for Austin Brice and Mac Davis was amazing. Took advantage of the Yankees.”

“In a one-game setting, this team is extremely dangerous. Giolito and Strasburg are capable of going toe-to-toe with Danny Hultzen.”

“I love this team, but they will regret trading Aumont.”

(On The Orioles)

“Never mistake activity for achievement. It’s a team that needed a new identity, but did they achieve that?”

“Fantastic return for Luna and Flores, but Gallagher and Jankowski both felt rushed and forced. I think they would have been better moving them in the off-season.”

“Hunter Bishop – a steal for the Orioles.”

(On The Red Sox)

“No moves, but nothing stupid either was done.”

“(GM) Brett won the deadline with his vacation.”

(On The Yankees)

“Rhett was handed a giant wad of cash with the Yankees budget and he’s spending and spending and spending…just not on quality players.”

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

The rivalry between Ayden and Rocky continues. The Tribe head to August with a narrow one-game lead in the division. Cleveland sent mixed signals with its trade of Montero and subsequent acquisition of Javier Martinez, while the Twins ultimately did nothing.

(On The Indians)

“An inconsistent offense that traded one of its bigger bats. Why did they sign Montero if this was their plan? For a team in first place, it seems risky and misguided.”

“Scouts love Javier Martinez, but he’s a low average and on-base slugger who can only realistically DH.”

The Indians were rumored to be involved in Joey Votto but were unwilling to take on much salary. Upon hearing that a GM said, “Had Cleveland waited a day, Montero’s salary to Detroit along with prospects would have been the perfect trade for Votto.”

(On The Twins)

“Where and what was Rocky doing? This team needed bullpen help.”

“The Twins did nothing and still became the favorite in the division.”

(On The White Sox)

“Quietly a productive deadline. The signing of Gio Gonzalez paid off and netted them a nice piece in Bill Pyke.”

“If Montero opts in (he should), will the White Sox have wiggle room in 2020 or is this team going to fight its way to another season of 81 wins and season that ends before the playoffs?”

(On The Tigers)

“Being patient was the right move. Trading Votto just to trade would have made no sense.”

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

The American League West was a division of extremes. The A’s and Mariners went for it, the Angels did next to nothing, and the Astros and Rangers made minor moves.

(On the Angels)

“Inexcusable for this team not to make a move.”

Rumored to be heavily involved on Shelby Miller, there was speculation they were the favored team to land him for a large portion of the month. A rival executive suggested, “This is a team too focused on what they have accomplished and not enough on what they can do again. It needed to do what it took to make this move.”

“Quite simply, this team will regret not trading for a pitcher.”

“As teams made moves left and right, the Angels did nothing. At some point it’s worth noting that they never panic and make moves just to make moves. They have enough in-house and are still the best team in the league.”

(On The Mariners – Not Cabanas Edition)

“Cameron Gallagher’s power is exactly what this team needed. He will help protect some of the other bats in the lineup.”

“Matt Moore is nice, but they were in on Chris Sale. They came close, they should have given that extra piece to get a deal done.”

“The deal no one is talking about — Mark Appel! He was the likely NL Cy Young winner at the All-Star break. If they can extend him, Hultzen, Hooper, and Appel are a trio that are flat out scary.”

(On The Rangers)

“I heard they narrowly missed on both Buehler and Miller, a starting pitcher would have been nice, but this team desperately needed a bullpen arm or two. Gabriel Flores, Brad Brach should have been pursued harder.”

“Ryan Braun and Addison Reed came earlier and that was plenty. The Rangers were losers at the deadline simply because of what Seattle did.”

(On The Houston Astros)

“Acquiring Brandon Gil for Cody Chapman and two nobodies was a huge win. Gil could flourish down the line.”

“Prospect for prospect swaps? Is this team’s future not as bright as others previously thought?”

“John O’Quinn, Gregory Infante, and Bryan Morris – why were they not traded?”

“Shao-Qi Fung was on the block, teams not biting was a huge mistake and Houston’s gain.”

(On The Oakland A’s)

“Buehler and Miller are young and team-controlled for years to come. Great talents, but at what cost? This is a team that remains in the toughest division in baseball. They got great players, but at a high cost and I don’t think it accelerates their timeline.”

“They started last off-season by bringing in Carlos Martinez (cost Jeremy Sullivan), Matt Moore, Juan Oramas, and previously David Price, where did that get them? To move Acuna, Pavin Smith, Luis Seda was a bit much. They then panicked and gave up too much when they found out the rest of the AL West was involved in Shelby Miller.”

“You can’t play scared and the A’s management is anything but scared. To beat the best, they needed to get better. They did just that.”

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

The Atlanta Braves hold on to a narrow division lead over the Mets, with both the Nationals and Marlins no more than four games back. There will likely only be one playoff spot for the East this year with the way the Central and West are playing out. This division certainly became more interesting with Cabanas and Appel leaving Atlanta.

(On The Braves – Not Cabanas Edition)

“The Braves had a young successful staff a year ago that included young arms Barnes, Cadet, and Pill. Barnes was moved before the year and Pill here at the deadline. Brenton has brought in plenty of other young pitchers while trading away prospects. If the direction is young pitching, why not stick with what he had?”

“I love Trevor Bauer, but signing him to that huge extension and then to make the trades they made…I don’t get it.”

“I don’t know if it will work or not, but as one of the NL’s most successful GM’s, I trust Brenton.”

(On The Mets)

“Six straight playoff appearances….watching the Braves do what they did…and the Mets still did nothing?”

“15-7 in July and still not getting a ton from Wilcox or Den Dekker. If they start hitting, the Mets will blow past the Braves.”

“Like I said on the Braves, I don’t know if this plan will work, but Bruce deserves the benefit of the doubt.”

(On The Nationals)

“A team that was eight games under .500 through the end of April and is now five games over. They hit better than are given credit for and are terrific on the mound.”

“Moving Pineda was a shocker, but Graham now and Cartwright later were good adds.”

“This is a team that is one outfielder away from winning the East. I could see them being aggressive on waivers this coming month.”

(On The Marlins)

“I might have understood the Buehler trade a little more had McCullers gotten hurt first. I like the prospects they got from Oakland…but still think trading a young ace like Walker makes little sense.”

“If the plan was to sell, why not trade Skipowrth, Pestano or Lamb? I get wanting to rebuild and compete…but they seem stuck in the middle.”

“Bill Pyke was blocked by an aging Cabrera who theoretically could opt-out. To move him for a 33 year-old Gio, who by the way needs to be re-signed was a questionable move.”

(On The Phillies)

“The Phillies got better with trades earlier in the season in Cole, Bell, and Hale. What they did near the deadline was different story. Jose Ramirez has largely been out of the bigs for a good reason. Maybe a change of scenery is what Travis Jankowski needs, but to give up value for him (they did), it makes no sense.”

“No way Cole accepts that player option in 2021 and this is a team that has added a ton of salary in Francisco and Latos. Hefty salaries and a big payroll for a team that is in the bottom third of nearly every offensive and pitching category.”

“Adding Anthony Hale and Josh Bell this year will help the Phillies immensely next year.”

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

(On The Cardinals)

“Injuries, injuries, injuries. The Reds are hot, but injuries are what might stop the Cardinals. Zach Potter’s return in a few weeks will be a big help.”

“Hitting Coach Tom Slater has no business still being employed. Just look at Longoria, Espinosa, and Rutherford. Slater’s approach to hitting is killing a team of quality hitters.”

“The usually aggressive Ryan made a mistake staying still. Potentially having the best record in the NL at the end of the year will mean nothing when up against NL West teams in the playoffs.”

(On The Reds)

“Does Scott still need a catcher?”

“For a team that wanted, er, begged, for a catcher, they struck out. They were going for elite catchers and not willing to pay an elite price. They more or less ignored the middle tier.”

“Hunter Greene’s name came up a few times, they were wise not to move him.”

“I think they were serious about coming close to moving Sale. They also were close to acquiring Javier Martinez. Martinez would have been a disaster behind the plate.”

“I don’t know if he was talked about, but I’m just glad to see Kolby Allard is still in Cincy. He’s a building block piece and while other young arms were moved across the league, Cincy was wise not to join that party.”

(On The Brewers)

“I liked the deal and the patience shown in the Shelby Miller trade. Too bad that wasn’t shown earlier in the year with Hernandez and Gonzalez. Both trades look even worse now for the fact that the price tags would have been much greater.”

“Where the Brewers came out ahead the most is with their win-win trade with the Rangers. Colomo, McDermott, and the relievers will all contribute down the line.”

“A reminder that at the start of the year the Brewers had Esteban Hernandez under team control through 2020, Jose Gonzalez through 2022, and Shelby Miller through 2022. Tearing down now, in that division, I don’t like it.”

(On The Cubs)

“Jabs needs to demand better technology from ownership.”

“I miss Jabs”

“The Mad-Bum signing still makes no sense. As much as he doesn’t want to do it, Jose Felix should have been traded. He’s the catcher that would have nabbed top talent from the Reds.”

(On The Pirates)

“Instead of trading Brandon Gil for nothing, the Pirates should have been moving one of their two catchers.”

“I would have liked to have seen what either Josh Bell or Gerrit Cole could have netted the Pirates had they waited until the deadline to trade them.”

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

July saw the Dodgers surge past the struggling Rockies to the division lead, with Colorado and San Francisco close behind. A one-game Wild Card game between the Rockies and Giants would bring tension and intense trash-talk. For all of the on-field success seen in the division, it was a rather quiet trade deadline. One NL GM had this to say about the division, “I can’t stand the NL West.”

(On The Dodgers)

“As the best team in the NL, can the Dodgers be satisfied with Fletcher as their lone addition?”

“The Martin Perez swap for Casey Crosby makes little sense to me. I think the Dodgers were better off with Perez.”

(On The Rockies)

“Colon and Ortiz provide depth, but some bullpen arms were needed.”

“Nick McCully is a scouts dream and a manager’s nightmare. He has all the tools, but struggles far too often.”

“Pineda puts the Rockies on top of the NL and will help send them to the World Series.”

(On The Giants)

“Trading Anthony Hale was bold…and questionable.”

“I love the tools of Carson Fulmer, but to trade for him while he’s recovering from a major injury and as a centerpiece for Hale? Not the move I would have made while competing with an aging roster.”

“SF’s deadline was only ok – they’re gonna miss Hale. Ibarra is good – but good lord he’s a reliever and not a starter. They didn’t address their current issue of dudes playing all out of position. They’ve got a 1B at C. an OF at 1B, a C at 3B, a good 3B riding pine. That’s gonna be an issue.”

(On The Padres)

“It’s been a far cry from the last two years in San Diego. The rebuild is well underway.”

(On The Diamondbacks)

“I heard they were very close to landing some highly sought after pitching. They ultimately made the right call to stay put.”

“The rebuild and regrowth continues. Scott has been good, Ohtani showed signs, and Morin, Vlad, and others are not far away. The future is bright in the desert.”

 

Three Things That Stood Out

  1. GM’s never value the same thing. While some are focused on production at various league levels, others rely strictly on scouts takes or prospect rankings. It can create tension amongst trade partners as evaluations can be all over the place. While there are no right or wrong methods, it is interesting to hear what everyone thinks.
  2. Trading vs. Not Trading: It will be incredibly interesting to see how the different approaches work as the season unfolds. Will the moves of Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Seattle push them past the Angels? Will the Angels decision to stand pat pay off with chemistry, consistency both now and later? Will the Braves moves keep them on top of the East or will they backfire and allow the Mets to pass ahead of them?
  3. Timing…do teams that made trades early in the year regret not waiting until the deadline? Do teams that waited until the deadline regret not making moves earlier? How will trades in 2019 effect the way trades are made in 2020?