This article is part of our Rounding Third series.
After a slow week of trades last week, Major League Baseball really stepped up the last 48 hours.
If you want to hear Tuesday night's podcast, where Fred Zinkie and I shared our reactions to those deals, you can listen here:
Here's my quick reaction to each AL team's activity in the last week, looking with an eye towards possible free agent options. I'm hitting the AL first, as I'm in AL Tout Wars and another AL-only league, with bidding coming up in both. I'll grab the NL later in the week.
- Traded Trey Mancini to the Houston Astros; received Chayce McDermott from the Astros and Seth Johnson from the Tampa Bay Rays; Jose Siri went to the Rays from the Astros.
- Traded Jorge Lopez to the Minnesota Twins; received Cade Povich, Yennier Cano, Juan Nunez and Juan Rojas from the Twins.
- Traded cash considerations to the Rays for Brett Phillips, who had been designated for assignment.
On one hand, after Tuesday's win over Texas the Orioles are 53-51 and one of the feel-good stories in baseball, sitting 1.5 games behind the Rays for the third Wild Card spot, behind the Guardians and ahead of the White Sox respectively by a half-game each. On the other hand, they are miles away from true contenders like the Yankees and Astros and trail even the Blue Jays by 5.5 games. I get that for a team that's been as down as the Orioles, there's inherent value in just making the playoffs, but it was also incumbent on them to see what they could get for Lopez, even if they are of the belief that these gains are real. Losing Mancini is tough emotionally, but less so strategically, as his bat is just average for a first baseman or for a corner outfielder with minimal range. Plus, he'll be a free agent this offseason and they can simply sign him again if they want to go after him.
Felix Bautista seems like the most obvious candidate to close after Lopez's departure, but manager Brandon Hyde suggested that the team might use a committee of Bautista, Cionel Perez and Dillon Tate initially. My guess is if Bautista gets the first chance and converts it, he'll likely get the next one as well. Bautista got the last out in a non-save situation Tuesday, needing only three pitches to strike out the final batter after Nick Vespi allowed a solo homer. Terrin Vavra has started the first two games in place of Mancini and could be a sneaky AL-only pickup.
BOSTON RED SOX
- Traded Christian Vazquez to the Astros; received prospects Enmanuel Valdez and Wilyer Abreu.
- Traded Jake Diekman to the White Sox; received Reese McGuire in return.
- Traded a PTBNL to the Reds for Tommy Pham.
- Traded Jay Groome to San Diego; received Eric Hosmer, Max Ferguson and Corey Rosier, along with (major) cash considerations to cover most of Hosmer's contract.
I don't really see what the Red Sox are doing here. They downgraded at catcher by losing Vazquez, agreeing instead to split the duties behind the plate between McGuire and Kevin Plawecki. That's fine, if they were set out to rebuild, as they got a really good prospect Valdez (111 in James Anderson's recently updated ranks) and another decent one in Abreu. But then they added Pham for this year, and took on Hosmer without his contract (San Diego is footing the bill on most of Hosmer's remaining three years), sacrificing the prospect return.
Maybe they see 2023 being similar to 2021, where they can quickly reboot back into the playoffs, and hence don't need to rebuild. But like the Orioles, they're a long ways from competing with the Yankees, which has to be their yardstick.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
- Traded McGuire for Diekman.
- Made multiple pronouncements that they were seriously in on negotiations to try to trade for Shohei Ohtani, albeit couldn't come to an agreement.
Sure, they were close to acquiring Ohtani, much like "Brian" had relations with many girls in the Niagara Falls area:
It's possible that the White Sox can still win the division just by playing to their potential and getting/staying healthy. But this was a really disappointing showing.
Speaking of disappointing, once again, the Guardians opted not to make any significant moves, despite an already-low payroll and real chance to get into the playoffs and even win the division. I guess if we're willing to give the Orioles a pass for trading away Lopez and Mancini, I suppose we can do the same for Cleveland, but this feels different. They traded away significant players in recent years and have failed to significantly improve previously competitive teams. Their strong farm system remains intact, and I guess the notion here is that they'll strike when that system produces more Major League-ready talent. They could have dealt for Willson Contreras to address a clear need but opted against a two-month rental.
- Traded Robbie Grossman to the Braves; received pitcher Kris Anglin.
- Traded Michael Fulmer to the Twins; received pitcher Sawyer Gipson-Long.
One might ask if this is it, and it's worth that question in the cases of Andrew Chafin and Gregory Soto. I'm not an insider, so I don't know what the Tigers were asking for in those cases — it could simply be that they were asking for the moon for both. The Mets don't have many lefties they can use in their bullpen, which is why starter David Peterson has been getting some work there. I don't think that the Tigers otherwise had much to offer. Grossman has a chance to be Atlanta's latest outfielder reclamation project and provides some depth in the wake of Adam Duvall's season-ending wrist injury. Fulmer is a dark horse to close in Minnesota on a part-time basis, given manager Rocco Baldelli's method of handling the bullpen. There's not much here in the way of increased opportunity in Detroit; Willi Castro was already getting a decent run of playing time, as was Victor Reyes. Be still my beating heart.
- Traded Enmanuel Valdez and Wilyer Abreu to the Red Sox; received Christian Vazquez.
- Traded Chayce McDermott to the Orioles and Jose Siri to the Rays; received Trey Mancini from the O's and Jayden Murray from the Rays.
- Traded Jake Odorizzi to the Braves; received Will Smith in return.
In the course of about three hours, the Astros made three targeted strikes, netting players to address three of their weaknesses: catcher, left field/first base and the lack of a healthy left-handed reliever. Every pitcher and broadcaster solemnly swears that Martin Maldonado is one of the greatest defensive catchers of our and anyone else's lifetime, but he's a sinkhole at the plate. Vazquez should be a clear improvement and has been heating up as of late. I'm listing "left field" for Mancini as the Astros have suggested they'd prefer that Yordan Alvarez DH more than play the field, but it's just as likely that Mancini will get some of his time at first base on occasion, replacing the newly discovered speed skills of Yuli Gurriel. Watch Gurriel's playing time close in the coming weeks, as he could get squeezed both by Mancini and later by Michael Brantley's return from the IL, though the latter doesn't appear imminent. Odorizzi's departure clears the decks for Lance McCullers to step in as the sixth starter.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
- Traded Andrew Benintendi to the Yankees; received pitchers T.J. Sikkema, Chandler Champlain and Beck Way in return.
- Acquired Anthony Misiewicz from the Mariners for cash considerations.
- Traded Emmanuel Rivera to the Diamondbacks; received Luke Weaver in return.
- Traded Whit Merrifield to the Blue Jays; received Max Castillo and Samad Taylor in return.
If you include the deal in late June that sent Carlos Santana to the Mariners, the Royals were sneakily busy in turning over their roster, yet it was still surprising that they couldn't find a market for Brad Keller (who got bombed by the White Sox on Tuesday night) or Zack Greinke. Aside from the curious Rivera/Weaver deal ("...we can fix him...," said both teams), the Royals mostly piled on more arms in the farm system for them to fail to develop properly. Castillo and Sikkema caught my eye the most.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM
- Traded Brandon Marsh to the Phillies for catcher Logan O'Hoppe.
- Traded Noah Syndergaard to the Phillies for outfielders Mickey Moniak and Jadiel Sanchez.
- Traded Raisel Iglesias to the Braves; received Tucker Davidson and Jesse Chavez in return.
Marsh has struggled at the plate this year, but the Phillies clearly valued both his ability to play center field and his long-term upside, parting with a pretty good catcher prospect in O'Hoppe. It wasn't a surprise to see Thor get dealt, but the return had to be pretty disappointing, though it makes sense as a rental. Moniak at least should get another shot with the Angels with Mike Trout out and Marsh gone.
It was surprising if not shocking to see Iglesias go right at the deadline. He had signed a four-year deal with the team in the offseason, but obviously the Angels are much farther from contending than they had thought. Jose Quijada got the first save without Iglesias there last night, but it could be a committee with Chavez, Ryan Tepera and Aaron Loup also factoring in. Quijada has a 3.15 ERA and 24 strikeouts in 20 major-league innings but also has 12 walks in that span.
- Traded Cade Povich, Juan Rojas, Yennier Cano and Juan Nunez to the Orioles, getting Jorge Lopez in return.
- Traded Spencer Steer, Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Steven Hajjar to the Reds, getting back Tyler Mahle.
- Traded Ian Hamilton to the Guardians for Sandy Leon.
- Traded Sawyer Gipson-Long to the Tigers for Michael Fulmer.
Like the Astros, the Twins made targeted strikes to shore up clear weaknesses. Lopez should close games immediately (as he did on Wednesday afternoon against the Tigers), Fulmer will join Jhoan Duran and Griffin Jax as a top setup man, and Mahle joins former Reds teammate Sonny Gray at the top of the rotation, pushing down Joe Ryan, Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer. The Twins paid out a decent premium for Mahle and a lot of volume otherwise (of the non-Reds prospects, only Povich rates in James Anderson's Top 400 prospects), but at least they held onto Royce Lewis with their wheeling-and-dealing. More importantly, they saw the Guardians and White Sox essentially stand pat.
NEW YORK YANKEES
- Traded T.J. Sikkema, Beck Way and Chandler Champlain to the Royals for Andrew Benintendi.
- Traded Hayden Wesneski to the Cubs for Scott Effross.
- Traded JP Sears, Luis Medina, Ken Waldichuk and Cooper Bowman to the A's for Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino.
- Traded Jordan Montgomery to the Cardinals for Harrison Bader.
My take on the Yankees' activities probably won't differ from many. The first three trades all targeted specific needs and made perfect sense. Benintendi is a good OBP guy that might steal an occasional base and play good defense, at least in terms of range if not in terms of his throwing arm. The prospects they gave up to the Royals have some strikeout upside but also have their fleas, which befits Benintendi's value and contract status. Getting Effross rather than David Robertson was a surprise, but he's cost-controlled and can be kept longer, so I get it. The Montas deal was pricy but not as pricy as the Luis Castillo deal and is exactly what they need to get through a seven-game series. Trivino will also help pitch in as part of the bridge to the ninth inning, with an off-chance that he'll get a save or two should Clay Holmes struggle again.
But I'm struggling to figure out the Montgomery trade. On one hand, Montgomery has some flaws, most notably the perception that he cannot go deep into games, particularly in the playoffs. But trading him away without netting another starter, especially with Sears gone, doesn't make sense to me. They're now an injury away from turning to Clarke Schmidt or Luis Gil in the rotation, all for a player in Harrison Bader who's not guaranteed to come back this year. Bader is a true center fielder, and maybe that reflects the Yanks' concerns about continuing to use Aaron Judge in center field whenever Aaron Hicks needs one of his frequent rest days.
- Traded Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino to the Yankees, getting JP Sears, Ken Waldichuk, Luis Medina and Cooper Bowman.
- Traded Austin Allen to the Cardinals for Carlos Guarate.
The Montas trade hurts "our A's" fans, but it was inevitable. We'll see Sears in the big leagues again this season, and though many have argued that his stuff isn't great, he's acquitted himself well in his brief trials so far. Waldichuk is arguably the headliner in the deal. Overall, I think that the A's did okay here, given that Montas dealt with a shoulder problem a month ago. Trading away Trivino (which ... I might have mocked the likelihood of happening, oops) help clears the runway, but only partially, for someone else to close. A.J. Puk and Zach Jackson have had recent opportunities, and the A's just activated Dany Jimenez from the IL after he missed time with a shoulder injury. All three have closer potential, albeit for a dwindling number of saves.
What caught my eye here was who didn't get traded. Sean Murphy's name was floated, most notably in connection with the Guardians, and I didn't even hear many rumors about Ramon Laureano. Both certainly merited some attention, though I suppose the A's justifiably didn't feel the urgency to move them.
- Traded Noelvi Marte, Edwin Arroyo, Andrew Moore and Levi Stoudt to the Reds, getting Luis Castillo in return.
- Acquired Jake Lamb from the Dodgers for cash considerations.
- Traded Michael Stryffeler and Andy Thomas to the Giants for Matthew Boyd and Curt Casali.
- Claimed Travis Jankowski off waivers from the Mets.
The Mariners got the best starting pitcher on the trade market, and they paid a heavy price for Castillo with their prospect package to the Reds. Marte and Arroyo headline the group, but both Moore and Stoudt are interesting in their own right. But all of a sudden they have a playoff rotation that could conceivably win a series against a favored team by rolling out Castillo, Robbie Ray and Logan Gilbert. It also allows them to shorten the number of innings that George Kirby needs to throw.
Boyd won't make it back as a starter this year and Casali is also currently hurt, though he could eventually give them an improvement over Luis Torrens behind the plate as the backup to Cal Raleigh. Jankowski helps the M's out in the very short term in the outfield, but a slew of their outfielders that are on the IL are due back soon.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
- Traded Christian Cerda to the Diamondbacks for David Peralta.
- Traded Jayden Murray to the Astros and Seth Johnson to the Orioles, getting Jose Siri in return.
That's it? That's it. The Rays could have used Willson Contreras or Sean Murphy, but they either opted against going that route or found the asking price too high. With Mike Zunino out for the season and Francisco Mejia (shoulder) on a rehab assignment, there was definitely room for improvement. Perhaps the Rays' tepid acquisitions reflect the sea of red on their depth chart. Among the key players also out include Wander Franco, Manuel Margot, Kevin Kiermaier, Harold Ramirez, Andrew Kittredge, J.P. Feyereisen, Shane Baz and Matt Wisler. Peralta and Siri are actually getting a significant run of playing time right now.
I'm surprised Martin Perez didn't get traded at the deadline, as he's got to be at the peak of his value right now, and there was a paucity of quality starting pitchers on the market. The Rangers did spend big this offseason on Marcus Semien, Corey Seager and Jon Gray, so I get the impulse to not sell off. But trading Perez would be similar to the Reds trading Brandon Drury or the Orioles trading Jorge Lopez — it doesn't really hurt them in the near future and gets them a longer-term asset. Meanwhile, we'll wait and see who the next Rangers closer will be, as trading Bush doesn't really change anything.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
- Traded Jordan Groshans to the Marlins; received RP's Anthony Bass and Zach Pop in return.
- Traded Nick Frasso and Moises Brito to the Dodgers; received Mitch White and Alex De Jesus from the Dodgers.
- Traded Max Castillo and Samad Taylor to the Royals, getting Whit Merrifield in return.
I didn't really understand the Jays' moves on the surface, but with a little digging in they make a bit more sense. The top relievers (Jordan Romano, Adam Cimber, Tim Mayza and Yimi Garcia) for the Jays have pitched well, but the back end of their bullpen has been a little shaky. Bass is on a superb roll right now and of course has pitched with the Jays in the past. Groshans is a bigger name than prospect right now, having hit one homer despite being healthy at Triple-A Buffalo all season. White provides rotation insurance for the Jays, which unfortunately they'll need right away with Ross Stripling going on the IL with a glute injury. I expected them to maybe go for a bigger name in the rotation, but Tyler Mahle wasn't an option due to his COVID-19 vaccination status. And yet ... the Jays traded for Merrifield, who notably wasn't eligible to play in Toronto when the Royals earlier traveled there. There's been some uncertainty whether Merrifield will choose to get that vaccine, but hopefully that will be addressed before the Jays return home from their current road trip. It's possible that he won't play everyday anyhow, nor will he run as frequently as he did in Kansas City.
AL-ONLY OPTIONS RANKED
Most leagues have Sunday night FAAB bids if they use a weekly system, but others, like my home league "Amici," go on Thursday night. Thus, I'm going to include trades that occurred beginning on Friday for this quick-and-dirty set of ranks. Your ranks may differ based your team's needs. I'm going to limit this list to traded and traded-adjacent players. If there are any other separate call-ups, or other notable omissions, feel free to ask me in the comments.
- Luis Castillo
- Tyler Mahle
- Felix Bautista
- Eric Hosmer
- David Peralta
- Tommy Pham
- Jose Quijada
- Mickey Moniak
- Terrin Vavra
- Mitch White
- JP Sears
- Jose Siri (assuming he had been dropped after getting demoted)
- Tucker Davidson
- Travis Jankowski
- Jake Lamb
- Jesse Chavez
- Harrison Bader - Bader would rank fourth on this list if I knew he would be back next week, but I don't think he plays until September, if at all.
- Will Smith
- Luke Weaver