September 2, 2014
Acquired INF-L Kelly Johnson and INF-R Michael Alamanzar from the Red Sox in exchange for 2B-S Jemile Weeks and INF-R Ivan De Jesus Jr. [8/30]
Dan Duquette adds a few pieces of veteran depth to a team well on its way to a postseason berth.
De Aza gives the Orioles another versatile outfielder with experience at multiple positions. While he's a downgrade from David Lough defensively, he is a better hitter—particularly against right-handed pitchers. Buck Showalter figures to use De Aza in a platoon with Delmon Young in left field, leaving Lough to check in as a defensive sub later in games. It's worth noting that De Aza is under team control through next season, so his addition could impact the O's beyond the postseason.
As for Johnson, who is a free agent at season's end, the Orioles mark his fifth American League East team in the past two years. Beyond the trivia, Johnson gives Showalter a flexible defender who can assist at second and third base, while also seeing action at first base and left field if needed. The oddest thing about him is how he has reverse splits for his career. It's no surprise, then, to see Showalter reference how Johnson could fill in for Steve Pearce—a right-handed hitter suffering through an injury—even if, at first blush, it seems backward.
The rest of the trade is weird on a few levels. Alamanzar was a Rule 5 pick of the O's last winter, but was returned to the Red Sox earlier in the season. Apparently Duquette likes him enough to throw Weeks—the prize in the Jim Johnson deal—and De Jesus—who spent time with Boston once before—to their division rivals. Weeks' inclusion in particular is interesting, as it's not apparent that he'll have a long-term role with the Red Sox. —R.J. Anderson
Acquired RHPs Miguel Chalas and Mark Blackmar from the Orioles in exchange for OF-L Alejandro De Aza. [8/30]
Sanburn’s career trajectory has been stymied by injuries since signing with Oakland as a second round pick in 2012. He pitched a combined 48 2/3 innings during his first two seasons and after moving to the bullpen for the 2014 season he has logged 71 innings working in shorter bursts.
Coming out of the bullpen, Sanburn features a 92-94 mph fastball with impressive life, and he can reach 96-97 mph at times when he reaches back for more. With a high-powered fastball that is generated through a high-effort delivery, Sanburn backs things up with a curveball that flashes occasional plus potential. He lacks consistency on the offering but as he gets more innings and continues his development, he should be able to miss bats with the breaking ball.
Sanburn fits best in the bullpen and should stay there long term even with the shift in organization. His fastball and curveball can get hitters out regularly as long as he throws strikes with some consistency. In the end, Sanburn projects as a power bullpen arm with a seventh- or eighth-inning ceiling. —Mark Anderson
Chalas is a max-effort reliever who sits 92-95 with his fastball, showing life and arm-side run. He also throws a split-change and slider, both very inconsistent, and he has trouble finding a steady release point. Chalas has a live arm, but he often displays difficulty repeating his delivery and likely has a middle-reliever ceiling. He is famous for picking up a skunk that ventured onto the field during a game.
Blackmar is a kitchen-sink type of pitcher, throwing a four-pitch mix consisting of a four-seam, two-seam, slider, and changeup. He commands his four-seam well, sitting 88-92 mph, but lacks much movement. The two-seam has slight boring action and arm-side run at 88-90 mph. The slider and changeup are both below-average offerings and sit in the low-to-mid-80s. Overall, Blackmar is more of a command/control type who is closer to organizational filler than a prospect, but some scouts have talked about how they think Blackmar can work his way to the majors on guile. —Tucker Blair
You might remember Deduno from his work in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. If so, haven't these last 17 months flown by? If not, Deduno is a 31-year-old who relies on his low-90s fastball—a peculiar pitch due to its resemblance to a cutter—and curveball. Despite performing tolerably over the past two seasons, he was pushed into a relief role this year by Minnesota's various winter additions. The Astros, embarking on another meaningless September, figure to use Deduno to cover leftover innings this month, but would heading forward be wise to see what he could do as a full-fledged reliever.
Seldom does a manager compile numerous last-place finishes, get canned, then receive public support, yet that's what happened with Porter on Monday. Chalk it up to a growing distrust of Jeff Luhnow and his vision for the Astros, who might lead the league in PR hits (or, leastways, are tied with Seattle). The latest of these incidents occurred a few days before Porter's dismissal, as Ken Rosenthal reported the growing tension between Porter and Luhnow. Among the allegations:
Those critical of Luhnow say that he keeps a small circle, communicating mostly with director of decision sciences Sig Mejdal and others while rarely consulting the team’s on-field staff, executive advisor Nolan Ryan and special assistant to the GM Craig Biggio.
Porter deserves blame, too, for reportedly partaking in office politicking and shadow games—few managers can complain to the owner about the general manager without getting canned. His in-game managing also drew criticism, including one incident where he was unaware of the rules. The other popular knock on Porter involves his anger and stems from his confrontation with Jed Lowrie. There's also the matter of Mark Appel and his side session at Minute Maid Park, in which Porter defended the players unsettled by the former no. 1 pick's appearance—in part, according to Rosenthal, because he wasn't alerted ahead of time about Appel's presence.
But don't confuse Porter for some old-school moron who just didn't get the new-wave methods. The fact is Porter embraced advanced statistics and concepts well before he became the Astros manager. Add in how Porter was praised for his interpersonal skills, and it's surprising that his tenure in Houston ends in large part due to poor communication between Luhnow and the on-field staff. Of course, communication is a two-way street and, if Rosenthal's report is correct, it appears Porter's attempts to get on the same page might have fallen on deaf ears.
It's fair then to wonder just how the Houston clubhouse, which already appeared dubious of Luhnow and his ways, will react to Porter's dismissal—and how much Porter influenced that general unrest. (On that note, Evan Drellich is a must-follow, even for those with only a passing interest in the Astros and their day-to-day operations.) What's clear is that the Porter-Luhnow relationship failed, and both played a part in it. The Astros will find another manager (perhaps one who allows Luhnow input on his daily lineup decisions), while Porter finds another coaching gig. The world will continue to turn and the sun will continue to shine—even if it doesn't seem as bright in Houston as it did a few years ago. —R.J. Anderson
In Outman, Brian Cashman found a suitable replacement for Matt Thornton, who departed earlier in the month to the Nationals. Outman has lived up to his name against left-handed hitters since moving to the bullpen on a full-time basis last year, having held them to a .198/.286/.302 mark against. His slider-heavy approach doesn't work well against right-handed batters, so he's more of a traditional left-handed specialist than Thornton was. Still, Outman should flourish under Joe Girardi's careful watch and, as a bonus, should do it through next season for less than what Thornton would have cost. —R.J. Anderson
Acquired DH-L Adam Dunn from the White Sox in exchange for RHP Nolan Sanburn. [8/31]
Dunn announced his intent to retire after the season before he took his first swing with the A's. Nonetheless, consider it fitting that the player whose style is most reminiscent of those Moneyball-era A's will end his career in Oakland. Little needs to be written about what Dunn excels at—and besides, how he fits onto the A's roster is the bigger point of interest. The A's have Brandon Moss and Stephen Vogt already, with John Jaso working his way back from a concussion. How Bob Melvin juggles all four heading forward is unclear. If nothing else, Dunn gives the struggling A's a new face along with some on-base and slugging prowess against right-handed pitching. Right now, they need all the help they can get. —R.J. Anderson
Acquired OF/1B-R John Mayberry Jr. from the Phillies in exchange for INF-R Gustavo Pierre. [8/31]
Mayberry, a seeming non-tender candidate after the season, becomes the latest right-handed outfielder acquired by Alex Anthopoulos. Though he missed all of August with an inflamed wrist, he should return to the active roster now that September expansion is here. Provided John Gibbons takes platoon splits to heart, look for Mayberry to play some outfield and first base against lefties and hide in the dugout against righties. Should the Jays so desire, they could keep Mayberry around through 2016. —R.J. Anderson
Acquired RHP Jonathan Broxton from the Reds in exchange for two players to be named later. [8/31]
Think Doug Melvin and the Brewers aren't serious about winning? By completing this trade, Melvin agreed to pay Broxton at least $11 million through the end of next season (his $9 million salary in 2015 and a $2 million buyout on his 2016 mutual option). That's a considerable amount for a team whose highest-paid reliever makes little over $3 million. Broxton, to his credit, has rebounded from a tough 2013. He missed time with elbow flexor issues in April, which is concerning in its own right, but he has done well to limit hard contact since returning. He's been effective against lefties and righties alike, even though his repertoire consists of a mid-90s fastball and upper-80s slider. Given that Broxton is a proven closer, he figures to take over the ninth inning for Milwaukee next season. For now, he'll serve as a set-up man. —R.J. Anderson
R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @r_j_anderson