In the months leading up to this year’s MLB trade deadline on August 31st, adjusted from its usual date of July 31st, it was widely expected to be dull and lifeless.
With the playoff field being bigger, the schedule being shorter, and the obvious effects of COVID-19 such as uncertainty over the completion of a season and the financial limitations that the billionaire owners say they have with lost ticket sales, it was fair to assume the deadline would be void of it’s usual blockbuster trades. Whether that be by teams trying to make an end of the season playoff push with a difference making addition, or the bottom dwellers trying to sell off good players with expiring contracts in hopes of reloading for the future. We, as fans, have come accustomed to “ticker watching” on this day looking for that big trade that came out of nowhere. Even in this season marred by change, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this deadline did not disappoint. Below we will recap some of the most influential trades of this 2020 deadline.
- San Diego Padres Get: RHP Mike Clevinger, OF Greg Allen, and a PTBNL (Player To Be Named Later)
Cleveland Indians Get: C Austin Hedges, OF Josh Naylor, RHP Cal Quantrill, INF Gabriel Arias, LHP Joey Cantillo, and INF Owen Miller.
Some fans around the league question the legitimacy of this COVID-19 stricken season, but the Padres made it clear that they don’t care, they are going all in. They made the biggest move of the deadline by acquiring the 29-year-old starting pitcher Mike Clevinger from the Indians, who has the stuff to potentially be the ace of the staff for years to come. Clevinger has two years of team control remaining after this season, so he can be viewed as both a short and long-term gain for the Padres. Although trading for an ace, on a team-friendly deal, with multiple years of team control costly, as evidenced by the haul the Padres had to give up to get Clevinger, this deal could still be viewed as a win for the Padres. Clevinger has the ability to be one of the best pitchers in the league and getting an ace with multiple years of control, just as the team, led by Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, is starting to blossom, is the type of move you need to make if you are serious about contending for a World Series title. They had to make the most of the window they have now busted open, and this deal gives them the opportunity to do just that for not only this year, but at least two more after.
From the Indians’ perspective, it can be a little puzzling to see them trade away a potential ace while they are currently sitting atop their division, tied with the Chicago White Sox. Unfortunately, that is the reality of a small market team with multiple stud players. They always must be listening to offers on their guys because the harsh reality is that they won’t always be able to afford to keep players like Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Shane Bieber, and Clevinger on their roster. With the emergence of the aforementioned Bieber, as well as the whole starting pitching staff being a strength of the team, Clevinger became expendable. It also doesn’t help that he seemingly lost the trust of his teammates when him and former teammate Zach Plesac broke team protocols and went out for a night in Chicago whilst on the road to play the White Sox. Plesac was sent home immediately, but Clevinger made matters worse by hiding the fact that he broke protocol and riding with the rest of the team on the ensuing plane ride back to Cleveland. It was only then, after two days of exposure for the rest of his team, did he admit to going out. It is unfathomable that he could make that decision to go out, and then to lie about it and potentially expose his teammates to the coronavirus. Not to mention, his former staff-mate on the Indians, Carlos Carrasco, is a leukemia survivor, and as such, considered high risk for the virus. It’s unclear the role this incident played in the Indians dealing Clevinger, but it wouldn’t be surprising to find out it was a factor in the decision. With that being said, the Indian’s made out alright in getting Naylor and Quantrill along with the Padres 7th, 9th, and 11th ranked prospects. These are the types of returns that are customary when dealing someone of Clevinger’s caliber. They didn’t knock it out of the park and walk away a clear winner (can you ever be immediately considered a winner when dealing an ace?), but they did get a return that should help them achieve continued success in the future.
2. Oakland Athletics Get: INF Tommy La Stella
Los Angeles Angels Get: INF Franklin Barreto
Oakland Athletics Get: LHP Mike Minor
Texas Rangers Get: Two PTBNL
The Athletics are currently leading the American League West, so the additions of La Stella and Minor were made with the intention of putting them over the top and becoming clear World Series contenders. La Stella is a versatile defender brought in to man second base, which has been a weak point for the A’s this year, and he will slot in nicely to the No. 2 spot in the lineup. La Stella is currently slashing .273/.371/.475 with an OPS+ of 130 (MLB.com). He is going to be a major upgrade at the plate for the A’s. He was once nicknamed “3am” by his former Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon. Maddon said that La Stella can “wake up at 3 a.m. and hit anyone”. He is showing that he is certainly worthy of that nickname, and the A’s hope he can keep it up for a World Series push.
Minor on the other hand, is a little more complicated. While he has been an effective starting pitcher for most of his career, he has struggled mightily this season, and currently owns an ERA of 5.60. The A’s are hoping he can regain his 2019 form where he pitched 208 1/3 innings with 200 strikeouts to the tune of a 3.59 ERA (MLB.com). If they want to make a deep run in the playoffs, they will need Minor to step up.
3. Chicago Cubs Get: DH Jose Martinez
Tampa Bay Rays Get: Two PTBNL
Chicago Cubs Get: LHP Andrew Chafin and Cash
Arizona Diamondbacks Get: PTBNL or Cash
Chicago Cubs Get: LHP Josh Osich
Boston Red Sox Get: PTBNL or Cash
The Chicago Cubs came out of the gate to start this season as the hottest team in baseball. They held the best record in baseball at 12-3, and showed no signs of slowing down. Unfortunately, some of their flaws started catching up to them and they’ve cooled off a bit, as of late. They looked like a sure-fire World Series contender through the first month, but questions have been arising as of late that they hope to have answered with these trade deadline day moves.
With an injury to Kris Bryant, along with underwhelming performances at the plate from right-handed hitting Steven Souza Jr., Josh Phegley, and Albert Almora Jr., they were alarmingly ineffective vs left-handed pitching. The latter three were rostered specifically to hit left-handed pitching but have proved incapable up to this point of the season. As a result, Theo Epstein, and the Cubs brass, acquired Jose Martinez from the Rays. The Cubs are familiar with Martinez, who played for the rival St. Louis Cardinals from 2016-2019, and he owns a .946 career OPS against left-handed pitching (MLB.com). He provides power and stability for the DH spot against lefties, which the Cubs have been lacking tremendously.
Chafin and Osich were brought in to strengthen the Cubs biggest weakness in the 2020 season, left-handed relief pitching (if not relief pithing as a whole). The Cubs bullpen has been largely ineffective, save Rowan Wick, Ryan Tepera, and Jeremy Jeffress. The face of these struggles has been former all-star closer, Craig Kimbrel, but in taking a deeper look a lot of it can also be attributed to lack of left-handed pitching depth. Not even just lack of effectiveness, I’m talking lack of physical left-handed pitchers. The only lefty to reside in the Cubs bullpen before the deadline was Kyle Ryan. Ryan is an effective big-league reliever, but he is still trying to regain some velocity and movement on his pitches, as he was late getting ramped up for the MLB restart. Other than him, they had nobody to join him in the pen since Brad Wieck went down with a hamstring injury the first week of the season. The additions of Chafin and Osich should improve a depleted bullpen for the Cubs.
4. Toronto Blue Jays Get: LHP Robbie Ray
Arizona Diamondbacks Get: LHP Travis Bergen and Cash
Toronto Blue Jays Get: RHP Ross Stripling
Los Angeles Dodgers Get: Two PTBNL
The Blue Jays used this deadline to strengthen up their staff in acquiring Robbie Ray and Ross Stripling. Ray is a former all-star (2017) who is a free agent at the conclusion of this season. He’s a veteran pitcher that can help stabilize the staff for Toronto and boosts their chances at making a playoff push in this season with an expanded field. While Ray strikes out batters at an elite rate (27.9%), he has consistently dealt with control issues throughout his career and it has resurfaced again this year as he has allowed an MLB-worst 31 walks in 31 total innings pitched (MLB.com). If Ray gets his control figured out, even just for the final stretch of this season, the Blue Jays have the pieces to get into the playoffs.
The other major trade that the Blue Jays made was getting Ross Stripling from the Dodgers. Stripling has been a very effective swingman for the Dodgers since 2016, but he has been struggling a bit this season. The Dodgers trading him seems a bit bizarre since you would assume 4 years of high leverage pitching effectiveness would trump 33 2/3 innings of struggles. Especially for a World Series favorite, who got no immediate help in return, but this is a unique issue of the Dodgers actually having too much talent on their MLB roster. Stripling’s pedigree would have been enough to keep him rostered on any other contender, but the Dodgers just didn’t have the room. Yes, they are that good.
5. Miami Marlins Get: OF Starling Marte
Arizona Diamondbacks Get: LHP Caleb Smith, RHP Humberto Mejia, and PTBNL
Against all odds, the Marlins are currently in playoff position. Most assumed, even in a shortened season, that the Marlins would be sellers come deadline day. Turns out, they were buyers, and got one of the best outfielders in the trade market. Starling Marte is currently slashing .311/.384/.443 (MLB.com). The OBP of .384 is the highest of his career, even better than his days in Pittsburgh. With Marte, the Marlins are well equipped to hold onto their current playoff spot. The Dbacks were unlikely to pick up Marte’s $12.5 million club option for 2021 so they got some value out of him before seasons end, and Marte, 31, will likely be playing to show teams he is worth a new contract this coming offseason. He is a welcomed addition to a team competing for a playoff spot in the expanded field.
Photo Credit: Tony Dejak, Associated Press
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