You’re allowed to like the Juan Soto trade, I think. Probably feels good to leave it in the wake for all involved. Now the Padres can legitimately challenge the Dodgers as the first team I can remember that looks better than Los Angeles on paper. We’ll never know how close we came to having Soto (and maybe even Bell) in LA’s lineup. Feels like the kind of trade that would’ve made half the dynasty league quit, but I guess that’s okay in MLB where half the league quits before opening day.
The oddest bit of this trade-trickle is that AJ Preller reportedly demanded 1B Josh Bell if the Padres were going to include 18-year-old RHP Jarlin Susana. The idea that he would’ve walked away from the table in that moment is probably fiction, especially considering how quickly he sent Luke Voit to Washington in Eric Hosmer’s stead when the latter said thanks no thanks, but it’s an impressive little piece of negotiation if true.
I imagine San Diego is thrilled to get value for LHP MacKenzie Gore, who looked like a puzzle box as recently as March 2022, but he’s also a good get for Washington here and probably a place where other trades fell short. Teams tend to get huggy with controllable young arms who’ve already had major league success. Unless they’re the Yankees, I guess. No idea what happened there. Jordan Montgomery for Harrison Bader is in the running for most lopsided deal of the deadline, unless you think Bader hits enough to play everyday for a contender. If you’re willing to roll out his .303 OBP and .370 SLG because you value the defense that highly, I won’t argue. Centerfield defense is crucial. Just ask the Rays. Thing is, Harrison Bader is wearing a walking boot on the injured list as I type this. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a deal quite like this one: an injured outfielder who’s not a good hitter dealt for a good starting pitcher in the middle of his prime. Neither is a free agent until 2024. Montgomery has a 1.10 WHIP in the NL East, which is something like a 0.95 WHIP in the NL Central. Kidding, but not kidding, ya know?
Back to the Padres, or rather the players they sent away, OF James Wood is my favorite of the group, both as a player and in comparison to his perceived value around the dynasty game, although that’s been leaping over the past few weeks. He’s slashing a silly .337/.453/.601 with 10 HR, 15 SB and an eye-popping BB/K rate of 15.7 percent against 17.8 percent. That a 6’7” power bat with speed can avoid the strikeout like this is downright freakish. Get him while you can, if you can. I’m working on my updated Top 25 for this weekend, and Wood is inside the top ten right now.
It’s clearly a coup to get SS CJ Abrams on a bit of a downturn in value, but it’s also fair to say San Diego skipped some steps in his development because Abrams himself kept forcing the issue. The Nationals might stick him at short and see how it goes. Luis Garcia has played okay there, but he’s not a true shortstop on defense and has -5.2 defensive WAR per Fangraphs in just 52 games. He’s also rocking a one percent walk rate but hitting .290 (with a .296 OBP) despite the lack of patience. I think Abrams is a better player and has the skills to be an elite defender. San Diego didn’t have much reason to prize that part of his game due to their depth at the position, so it’s nice to see Abrams go somewhere that might give him the chance to settle in and become what he can become. Fingers crossed that’s their plan.
OF Robert Hassell II is the kind of player front office types feel good about getting in a trade like this because he’s a high probability major leaguer whose best tool is hit. It’s a little odd to me that he’s still in High-A, which sort of suggests San Diego always saw him more as a trade piece than a future lineup fixture for them, given how they tend to hit the gas on guys they want to see in the show. I’ve always been a little low on Hassell compared to the field, but it helps that he’s going to Washington. Lefties have a tough time getting to power in San Diego, but Washington offers extremely favorable park factors in one of the game’s hottest summer stadiums. Bobby Barrels (I hate this nickname I’m sorry) doesn’t have plus power, so this feels like a perfect fit for him.
You can squint at 6’6” 235 lb RHP Jarlin Susana and see shades of a thicker Eury Perez. He’s only pitched in the Complex League so far but will likely make his Low-A debut in the coming days. Here’s hoping it happens at a park with a video feed.
Aside from the Soto trade, I was pretty irritable this whole deadline. It’s hard to remember you owe your team nothing. I’ve been a Cubs fan since my grandparents would watch Harry and Steve in the afternoons. It’s one of my earliest memories, watching Cubs games on the little TV in Grandma’s kitchen. I’m not a fan like I once was, anyway, but it gets exhausting to watch rank incompetence sink a ship that was built to sail and sail. If your favorite team is as lost as the Cubs right now, I suggest you consider alternatives. Your team probably hasn’t gutted the roster to buy up the neighborhood and build a ginormous sportsbook, but they’ve done stuff, I’m sure. Anthony Rizzo signed for about 32 million across two seasons, and the Cubs didn’t even look his way. That’s irritating. They traded their best reliever to a team that’s elite at identifying and developing relievers. They traded a dominant player under team control for years and held players who aren’t. That front office has to be grateful for the Rockies for making them look borderline functional by comparison.
Sorry for the aside. So many funny things about this deadline: the Cardinals going to the Taylor Swift School of General Management, flying the front office out to make a deal with Washington rather than just, I dunno, sending some texts; the Red Sox pouncing on Eric Hosmer after he nixed the big deal; the White Sox going full silo mode; the Astros, Rays and Orioles swapping ideal-fit pieces among the smart teams; the Orioles GM Mike Elias saying his team is not good; and on and on. I love the game broadcasts on deadline day as the announcers try to sift through the wreckage. I watched the Nats announcers make a joke about the Angels trading Raisel Iglesias despite needing pitchers. Then a cloud of silence came over the booth. Nothing was said about Soto or Bell, but everyone seemed to tacitly acknowledge the insanity that had just taken place, laughing at the misfortune of Angels fans while your own fanbase is looking at their Triple-A team on the big league field.
I’ve mentioned Washington OF Josh Palacios and 1B Joey Meneses before, and they’re potential pick-ups for me in any league deep enough for them to matter. Meneses homered in his first game and has been deserving of some major league playing time for a few years now. Will be interesting to see if he can fake left field once in a while now that the team has Luke Voit. They also have Nelson Cruz for reasons known only to them.
Orioles GM Mike Elias said the team will mix and match in the closer role, and I kind of believe him. The Phillies say they’ll do the same with David Robertson, but he was likely acquired to help suppress the arbitration price of Seranthony Dominguez, who is arb-eligible for the first time this winter. Similar story for Felix Bautista in Baltimore and Devin Williams in Milwaukee. Might see kind of a push/pull between front office and on-field coaches. Front office types would love to leave a departing free agent at the back end, but a smarter play in my opinion is to let the young reliever rack up value. Has the added benefit of more wins for starters and just better clubhouse vibe in general. Dead horse kick alert, but the Cubs could’ve let Effross become a capital C Closer and then traded him this winter or next summer, if they didn’t want him around. I do think Williams gets the lion’s share of chances from here on out, but nobody should be surprised to see Trevor Rosenthal and Taylor Rogers take bites out of the role.
In one of my favorite trades of the day, Boston acquired 2B Enmanuel Valdez and OF Wilyer Abreu from Houston in exchange for C Christian Vasquez. Valdez ranked 39th on MLB Pipeline’s list of the 47 prospects traded this week, which feels like evidence of the ongoing blindness with which much of the public-facing prospect world treats Houston prospects. Valdez is slashing .327/.410/.606 with 21 home runs and 26 doubles in 82 games across Double and Triple A this season. He’s 23 years old. You wanna rank 20 low-minors pitchers ahead of him? Be my guest. More Valdez for the rest of us.
The Rockies were the only team to ignore the deadline altogether. They did, however, call up 3B Elehuris Montero and put him in the lineup. Kris Bryant’s days as a defender are probably done for 2022, so it’s time to add Montero even in shallow-ish leagues to see where it goes the next couple weeks.
The Dodgers put 3B Justin Turner on the IL and called up 3B Miguel Vargas. They also traded Jake Lamb, which suggests they might let both Vargas and OF James Outman carve out some playing time. Cody Bellinger is not earning his keep as a first-division regular at the moment. The move to acquire OF Joey Gallo from the Yankees for RHP Clayton Beeter makes sense from a pure value perspective, but it also pokes a hole in the lineup while they try to get him back on track. Typical Dodgers cleverness to be found in the RHP Nick Frasso acquisition. He’s ranked 32nd on that Pipeline list despite being a much, much better prospect than at least ten of the guys ahead of him. That’s not just my opinion, I think. If they’d sourced this list at all, someone probably would’ve pointed that out for them. And I mean hell, it’s the Dodgers going out of their way to acquire a pitcher with 57 strikeouts and a 0.71 WHIP in 36.2 innings across two levels this season. He’s allowed 16 hits in 36.2 innings!
When Milwaukee acquired OF Esteury Ruiz, I thought: stock up! Then they sent him to Triple-A. Maybe they’ll bring him back right away, maybe they think he needs more time in the minors. Stock sideways for now? I dunno. I still think it’s good for him. Milwaukee’s a great park to hit in, even as their development side has struggled to maximize some young hitters.
I love RHP Max Castillo in Kansas City. Outstanding pull in exchange for 2B Whit Merrifield, who may never set foot in Toronto.
Keep an eye on 3B JD Davis in San Francisco. He’s exactly the kind of dude they can extract some value from. He’s actually hit better against righties than lefties this year, so I’m curious to see how the platoon-heavy Giants employ him.
Feel like I could go on forever here given the wildness we just witnessed, but I’ll end with an RIP to Vin Scully, who could make anything worth watching, especially a ball game in the dog days of August when Vin would spin stories of baseball lore while most other announcers were just minutes of silence punctuated by the occasional rote description of action on the field. Miss you already, Vin.
Thanks for reading.
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.