July 31, 2012
Deadline Madness UPDATED
As the deadline drew near, the Red Sox were reportedly seeking a left-handed reliever who would allow them to move Franklin Morales into the rotation, most likely to avoid an inevitable Aaron Cook explosion. They got their man in Breslow, a southpaw who’s been quite consistent over the past several seasons compared to his fungible peers. Since being signed by the Padres in an open tryout in 2005, Breslow has never been on the DL and has never had a seasonal ERA higher than 3.79. He also has no platoon split to speak of, which means he can be deployed with equal confidence against hitters of any handedness. Breslow relies on a fastball-cutter mix and tops out in the low-90s. While he lacks the velocity and bat-missing ability of fellow Sox southpaw Andrew Miller, he’s shown an ability to suppress balls in play and has improved his control in the last couple seasons. It’s not an approach that leads to fame or fortune—with the Diamondbacks, it led only to low-leverage innings—but it keeps him in major-league meal money.
The 31-year-old Breslow—whom we’re contractually obligated to refer to as “cerebral”—spent the 2006 and 2007 seasons in the Boston organization but pitched only 12 innings for the Sox in the majors. This time around, he’ll play a more prominent role. Sox fans should be pleased to see him, since his arrival means Matt Albers won't be making any more perplexingly high-leverage outings. Breslow is earning only $1.08 million in 2012, but he’ll make a bit more in his final year of arb eligibility this winter, and a bit more than that as a free agent after next season.
All in all, the Sox traded two spare parts for one useful one, in the process clearing a spot on the 40-man for the returning Chris Carpenter and Andrew Bailey. A minor move, but a beneficial one. —Ben Lindbergh
A second-round pick in 2006 out of the University of Hawaii, Wright scuffled at the upper levels of his development but has remade himself as a knuckleball pitcher. He’s presently 27 years old and pitching at Double-A with relative success. How one scouts a knuckleball has been a question asked by scouts for decades, and in that time, no good answer has presented itself. All you can ask is how effective a guy is with the pitch, and right now, Wright has a 2.49 ERA with 101 strikeouts and just 86 hits allowed in 115 2/3 innings. He has also walked 62 batters, however, so there are clear control issues.
The problem with knuckleballers is that they've, for some reason, always been a source of fascination with the internet baseball community. I don't know if it's just the quest for something different, but “knuckleballer” doesn't automatically mean good; R.A. Dickey is a freak occurrence. Nobody seems to want to talk about Charlie Zink, who everyone went nuts about for no reason other than he was a great story, and Zink is a far better comp for Wright at this point than Dickey. —Kevin Goldstein
Acquired 1B-L Lars Anderson from the Boston Red Sox for RHP Steven Wright. [7/31]
Anderson, an 18th-round pick in the 2006 draft who signed for an $825,000 bonus, has seen his stock plummet since reaching the upper levels of the minors. He's gone from a very good first base prospect to a nearly 25 year-old spending his third straight year at Triple-A, posting practically identical numbers each year. At his age, with a career line of .262/.357/.422 in 342 games for Pawtucket, Anderson is what he is. He has a fantastic feel for the strike zone and a modicum of power, but his below-average bat speed often leaves him behind good velocity. As a first base-only type, he doesn't have enough of a stick to profile as anything more than an up-and-down player at this point. —Kevin Goldstein
A 30th-round pick in 2008, Sulbaran signed for a $500,000 bonus and has had an up-and-down progression through the Cincinnati system, dogged by inconsistencies and questions about his makeup and commitment. Throughout all of this, he's racked up a career rate of 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings, and the stuff has always been intriguing. His fastball generally sits in the 90-92 range, and he can touch 95, but there are nights when he rarely gets out of the 80s while battling his mechanics. His secondary offerings are just as tantalizing and frustrating; he can flash a plus curve one night while losing feel for the pitch and abandoning it on others, and the same goes for his changeup. If he puts it all together, his ceiling is as high as a no. 3 starter, but there's an equal chance that he ends up in middle relief or just flat out never gets there. His range of future possibilities is immense, and in many ways, very much up to him.
Sulbaran seemed like enough for Broxton, but somehow the Royals pulled off a coup and also received a very good relief prospect in Joseph. A third-round pick in 2009, Joseph has a career rate of more than 12 strikeouts per nine thanks to a low-to-mid 90s fastball that plays up due to a delivery that features deception (albeit with considerable violence). He has a plus slider as well and projects as a good set-up man if he can throw more strikes. He's reduced his walk rate this year, but he's completely fallen off the rails at times due to his mechanics, so there is some risk in the projection. —Kevin Goldstein
McGehee is swapped in a challenge trade for the second time in nine months. Last December, the Pirates acquired McGehee from the Brewers for Jose Veras with the hope that he could bounce back. He did—to an extent. McGehee’s .251 True Average is closer to his so-called glory days of 2009-10 than his disastrous 2011. Still, the Pirates had no use for McGehee thanks to their Gaby Sanchez acquisition and Pedro Alvarez’s emergence. Stretching Eric Chavez thin is never a good idea, and the Yankees were facing the proposition of doing just that thanks to injuries to Alex Rodriguez (major) and Mark Teixeira (minor). McGehee isn’t ideal, but it’s not like Chad Qualls caused Yankees fans strong, positive emotions anyhow. —R.J. Anderson
Acquired RHP Matt Albers and OF-L Scott Podsednik from the Boston Red Sox for LHP Craig Breslow. [7/31]
The Diamondbacks traded a pitcher with a 2.70 ERA (Breslow) for one with an even shinier 2.29 mark (Albers), but the new one is more of a mirage. Albers is 29 years old and has a 4.30 career ERA in relief, even after his low BABIP-induced success this season. If you’re not yawning yet, you probably should be. Albers gets grounders, but except for last season, when he enjoyed a fleeting spike in called Ks, he’s never been strong in the strikeout department. While his control has been a bit better with Boston, his command has slipped at times, causing him to leave the ball up too often for someone who thrives down in the zone. Since the second half of last season, he’s allowed 12 homers in 68 2/3 innings, which is way too many for a guy who puts a lot of people on base. Like Breslow, he’ll be a free agent after 2013.
Scott Podsednik hit .387 in 19 games for the Red Sox. Then he strained his groin and went on the DL. When he recovered, the Sox simply didn’t bother to bring him back up, despite his 24-for-62 small-sample performance. That tells you most of what you need to know about Scott Podsednik. His .281/.330/.360 line in Pawtucket tells you the rest. Any impact he makes on Arizona before the end of the season will be negligible. —Ben Lindbergh
Acquired RHP Jonathan Broxton from the Kansas City Royals for RHP J.C. Sulbaran and LHP Donnie Joseph. [7/31]
When Walt Jocketty assembled this year’s Reds team during the offseason, he made strengthening the bullpen a priority. Jocketty traded for Sean Marshall and then signed Ryan Madson—two of the league’s better relievers in recent seasons. Madson’s season-ending Tommy John surgery and Nick Masset’s shoulder inflammation threatened the Reds’ best-laid plans in the springtime, but things have worked out well. Aroldis Chapman is one of the game’s best closers now, Marshall is doing his thing, and Jose Arredondo and Logan Ondrusek help bridge the gap between the game’s starter and the game’s finishers.
By adding Broxton to the pot, Jocketty is helping alleviate some of the pressure put on Marshall, Arredondo, and Ondrusek. Although Broxton isn’t the late-innings force he once was, he can still help a team win. Broxton’s FIP happens to be lower than both Arredondo and Ondrusek’s this season. There is, however, a danger in reading too much into Broxton’s shiny ERA and improved peripherals. Broxton’s strikeout rate has again declined, and his struggles against left-handers are notable; lefties drawn 11 of his 14 walks issued and connected on five of his seven extra-base hits allowed.
Acquired OF-R Gorkys Hernandez and a 2013 competitive balance pick from the Pittsburgh Pirates for 1B-R Gaby Sanchez and RHP Kyle Kaminska. [7/31]
In 2007, Hernandez was the Midwest League MVP with a line of just .293/.344/.391, but he was seen as a super-toolsy teenage center fielder with plenty of upside. Five years later, the upside just hasn't shown up. He remains a plus-plus defensive outfielder with outstanding range and a strong, accurate arm, but offensively, he has never taken a step forward. He's a line-drive hitter with little power, few walks, and not enough average to make up for it. He could have a decent career as a fourth outfielder, but that's also the maximum expectation for him.
Cox dropped in the 2010 draft due to bonus demands before landing in St. Louis with the 25th overall pick and obtaining a $3.2 million big-league deal. He was one of the most divisive players in the draft, and that hasn't changed in his two years as a pro. His supporters see an easy plus hit tool, but his detractors wonder whether he has the ability to hit for average. His approach has deteriorated as a pro, and his power earns average scores (18-20 per year) from even the most optimistic scouts. He's stocky and unathletic, and while he has good defensive fundamentals and a plus arm, he's not especially rangy at third base. There just aren't the star-level tools for him to turn into an impact player and, if anything, he has gone backward since the controversial signing. —Kevin Goldstein
Acquired 1B-R Gaby Sanchez and RHP Kyle Kaminska from the Miami Marlins for OF-R Gorkys Hernandez and a 2013 competitive balance pick. [7/31]
It wasn’t all that long ago that the Marlins were trading for a veteran first baseman to take playing time from Gaby Sanchez, who is in the midst of an absolutely terrible season. (The Marlins are now trying to trade Carlos Lee, by the way. Just let that sink in for a moment.)
Like last night’s deal for Travis Snider, this is a buy-low pickup for the Pirates trying to shore up their roster without giving up a whole lot. Unlike the Snider deal, though, Sanchez will actually have to improve his production to provide an improvement over Casey McGehee. The fact that the Pirates were playing McGehee at first is a pretty good illustration of how few options they have at first base, though. This is also a move that has some future upside for the Pirates, and it affects this year’s playoff chances. Sanchez is still young and has several seasons of club control left. If he can rebound from his dismal 2012 season to date, the Pirates may have a long-term solution at first.
Gorkys Hernandez is a guy who didn’t fit into the Pirates’ long-term plans, because they already have Andrew McCutchen in center field. Also, because Gorkys Hernandez cannot actually hit the baseball. So between having nowhere to play him and no reason to, he won’t be missed. The competitive-balance draft pick going to the Marlins is probably more interesting, and not just because of the sheer novelty of trading draft picks. For now, they’ll probably continue to use Carlos Lee at first unless they can unload him. Long-term, it seems like they’re clearing a spot for Logan Morrison, who is currently on the disabled list. —Colin Wyers
A 25th-round pick in 2007 and a six-year Marlins veteran, Kaminska is merely a throw-in as a big, strike-throwing reliever with modest stuff. The 23-year-old has a 5.11 ERA at Double-A this year and is seen as an up-and-down type at best. —Kevin Goldstein
Qualls returns to Pennsylvania four weeks after the Phillies ditched him. There is nothing positive to report from Qualls’ time with the Yankees. He pitched 7 1/3 innings, struck out two, walked three (albeit one intentionally), and allowed five runs. On some days, Qualls has the sinker sinking and provides a glimmer of hope that he figured things out. Those are too rare in occasion, however, to merit a role of relative importance. If the Pirates can hide Qualls in the bullpen during big spots and turn to him only against righties in double-play spots, then perhaps he can provide utility. Otherwise, don’t expect Qualls to finish the season in Pennsylvania. —R.J. Anderson
Acquired RHP Edward Mujica from the Miami Marlins for 3B-L Zack Cox. [7/31]
In November 2010, the Marlins traded Cameron Maybin to the Padres for relievers Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica. Since the swap, Maybin has been worth three wins, despite a disappointing 2012. Webb and Mujica have totaled less than half a win while making more than twice as much money. Trading a position player with any promise for a pair of bullpen arms is usually a pretty low-percentage play: if the everyday player pans out to the extent that he can stay in the lineup, the team that trades for him will win the deal.
In his first season in Florida, Mujica gave the Marlins what they wanted: a lot of innings without walks. This season, he fractured his little toe at the end of June, which cost him a couple weeks, but he returned early enough to establish his health before the deadline. Overall, he’s more or less been the same Mujica on the mound. His strikeout rate is down a tick for the second straight season, but over 39 innings, that doesn’t mean much, and he hasn’t lost any velo. Because he’s always around the plate, Mujica allows a lot of homers, and since he doesn’t miss many bats, he’s not a great fit for a late-inning role. The Cardinals won’t ask him to be: he’ll slot into the middle innings as a bridge to Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte, where he’ll be just fine. Mujica is under team control for next season, so the Cards can cross 70 or so relief innings off their to-do list for 2013.
Cardinals fans might be disappointed that the team didn’t do more at the deadline, but according to our Adjusted Standings, the Cards’ underlying stats suggest that they’ve been the class of the Central and the majors’ least lucky team. They could have used another starter, but St. Louis can expect to have better success with the same team over the next two months. —Ben Lindbergh
R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @r_j_anderson