The Yankees beat the Red Sox for Todd Frazier and Dave Robertson ahead of the MLB trade deadline. The Nationals made a move to improve their bullpen, plus power rankings and more.
Some potential trades just make too much sense not to come to fruition.
The Red Sox need a third baseman. Boston ranks dead last in Wins Above Replacement at third base this season, and recently cut its losses after three disappointing seasons of a six-year contract with Pablo Sandoval.
Todd Frazier, who has hit .207/.328/.432 with 16 home runs, 44 RBI and 41 runs scored through 81 games this season, is a third baseman. Frazier has 164 career home runs in seven major league seasons, including 40 last year.
The rebuilding White Sox were willing to trade Frazier, a 31-year-old scheduled to be a free agent after the season. The Red Sox need a bridge to top prospect Rafael Devers, the No. 12 overall prospect according to MLB.com, who is the third baseman of the future but is just 20 years old and has played just a handful of games at Triple-A.
Ergo, months of rumor and speculation that Frazier would be traded to the Red Sox.
Like Frazier, David Robertson also had a perfect fit – the Washington Nationals – to whom he had been linked since the winter. The Nats needed to make a move to improve the worst bullpen in baseball, statistically speaking.
Robertson has 131 career saves, including 123 over the past four seasons. Since becoming a full-time closer in 2014, Robertson has posted a 3.22 ERA and 2.94 FIP with 304 strikeouts in 223.1 innings. This year, he has a 2.70 ERA and 3.05 FIP with 47 punch outs in 33.1 innings, as well as 13 saves.
But things don’t always work out as scripted. The Nats traded for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson over the weekend, which took some of the pressure off the club as it assesses its closer situation for the second half stretch run.
Afterwards, the Red Sox entered the discussion for Robertson, since Boston would like to bolster its bullpen with a proven setup man ahead of closer Craig Kimbrel. Remember, before succeeding him as closer, Robertson set up arguably the greatest closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera, with the Yankees. That was five years ago, but the 32-year-old Robertson could certainly handle the transition back to the eighth inning (or earlier).
However, reports surfaced early in the week, including one from ESPN.com’s Scott Lauber, indicating Boston is unwilling to part with any of its top prospects for Frazier, any other third baseman, or reliever. That hurt the Red Sox chances of acquiring Frazier or Robertson because the White Sox have shown terrific patience with key assets like Chris Sale, Adam Eaton and Jose Quintana over the past six months, arguably getting maximum value for each.
Tuesday night, the New York Yankees swept in and acquired Frazier and Robertson for a handful of prospects, including MLB.com’s No. 30 overall prospect Blake Rutherford – beating the Red Sox to the punch ahead of the MLB trade deadline.
The move served multiple purposes for New York, which enters Wednesday 3.5 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East. First, while unclear how many at bats Frazier will take from Chase Headley, the Yankees improved their own third base situation. New York ranks 17th in the majors in third base fWAR (1.3) and tied for last in home runs by third basemen (6), and Frazier can also provide depth at another position of need, first base, and can provide power off the bench as well.
Secondly, while the Yankees intimidating back end of the bullpen includes Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances, Chapman has already spent time on the disabled list this year and Betances has often struggled to find the strike zone this season. Adding Robertson gives the club depth and an insurance policy for either pitcher, plus three great relievers are better than two. Make that four. It’s also worth noting, though Robertson and Frazier were the headliners of the White Sox-Yankees deal, the third player headed to the Bronx, Tommy Kahnle, could be the steal of the deal.
Finally, if Frazier and Robertson play for the Yankees, they won’t be playing for the Red Sox (or Nationals, for that matter), which is a bonus given New York’s quest to make it back to the postseason and win World Series championship No. 28.
Three things we learned this week
1. The Nationals are capable of thinking outside the box
David Robertson was the perfect fit for the Nationals, but Washington passed on the opportunity to acquire the 32-year-old All-Star. The White Sox have been very savvy in rebuilding their farm system, and patiently waited for the best trade offers for their top assets, including those for Quintana, Robertson and Frazier, who all ended up with unexpected clubs.
Unwilling to match Chicago’s asking price for Robertson over the winter, in spring training, or during the first half of the season, the Nationals moved on. Instead of acquiring one great closer, Washington thought outside the box and acquired two good former closers, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle, from Oakland in hopes that at least one of them will take control of a struggling bullpen and solidify the ninth inning in D.C.
Madson saved 30 games for the A’s in 2016, and has 86 saves in 12 major league seasons. The 36-year-old right-hander had a 2.06 ERA with 39 strikeouts and only six walks in 39.1 innings across 40 games this season.
Doolittle was last a full-time closer in 2014, when he earned All-Star honors and saved 22 games for the A’s. The 30-year-old lefty has 36 career saves, including three this season, and posted a 3.38 ERA with 31 strikeouts and two walks in 21.1 innings in 23 games this year.
2. The Tigers are finally, officially, sellers
The Detroit Tigers have missed the postseason in each of the past two seasons, and despite a current four-game winning streak the club is unlikely to make it back to the playoffs this year. Though the Tigers are just five games out of first place in the very competitive AL Central, Detroit sits fourth in the division with a 43-49 record.
After years of adding big names and big contracts to an aging roster in hopes of winning the franchise’s first World Series since 1984, the Tigers finally made a move to get younger Tuesday, trading slugger J.D. Martinez to the Arizona Diamondbacks for prospects.
The move wasn’t universally praised, in part because the Arizona farm system is one of the worst in baseball and Martinez (an impending free agent) was one of the best power hitters available on the market. However, by acknowledging their newfound willingness to sell, Detroit has come to terms with the fact its roster simply wasn’t good enough or deep enough to win a World Championship.
With Martinez gone, the most likely Tigers to be traded next are catcher Alex Avila, outfielder Justin Upton and reliever Justin Wilson. The club would surely like to rid itself of Jordan Zimmermann’s contract, though that seems unlikely at this point. Big name veterans like Ian Kinsler and franchise cornerstone Justin Verlander (who was rumored to be a Cubs trade target prior to the Quintana deal) might also be on the block.
Finding a buyer for Zimmermann or Verlander would be great for the bottom line since Detroit is on the hook for between $130 million and $152 million for the pair over the next three years, depending on Verlander’s vesting option for 2020.
Although the move to rebuild the farm system is best for the Tigers, the club shouldn’t necessarily blow up the roster completely. Detroit is sure to receive a lot of interest for reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer, but the Tigers should hold on to the 24-year-old right-hander and build around him.
3. The Dodgers may never lose again
The Dodgers beat the White Sox 1-0 on Tuesday night, which pushed L.A.’s record to 30-4 in its last 34 games dating back to June 7. As Scott Miller pointed out, the last MLB team to put together a 30-4 stretch was the Kansas City Royals in 1977.
The win was also the 10th straight for the Dodgers, giving Los Angeles its second double-digit winning streak of the season (and second during the 34-game period). The victory also improved the Dodgers record to 65-29, two games better than the Astros for the best in baseball. Los Angeles also holds a slight edge over Houston for the best run differential (plus-173 and plus-169, respectively).
Tuesday’s victory was the sixth shutout for the Dodgers during their historic 34-game run (all shutouts have actually come in the team’s last 22 games, and during that span, L.A. has not allowed more than six runs in a single game, and has surrendered more than four runs only twice). Seven of L.A.’s last 30 wins have come by one run, pushing the Dodgers’ record to 7-1 in one-run games during their impressive stretch.
“It is a good trade for the Yankees, for sure. I understand why.”
–Tyler Clippard, according to ESPN’s Andrew Marchand, after he was traded from the Yankees to the Chicago White Sox Tuesday
Trades have winners and losers, and though it usually takes months or years to truly evaluate which team “won” a trade, there was a clear loser Tuesday night: Tyler Clippard.
Selected in the ninth round of the 2003 MLB Draft by the Yankees, Clippard made his major league debut as a starter with the club in 2007 at the age of 22. He was traded to Washington, and evolved into an All-Star late-inning reliever, even working as the club’s closer in 2012 when he saved 32 games.
Clippard was part of two postseason series with the Nationals, and appeared in three World Series games with the Mets, one of four other organizations the 32-year-old right-hander has pitched for since leaving D.C. in 2014. However, after posting a 4.95 ERA in 36.1 innings across 40 games with the Yankees this year, and with the Yankees adding two right-handed relievers from the White Sox, Clippard’s days in the Bronx were numbered.
Now, instead of fighting for a postseason position with his first major league franchise, Clippard is headed to a last place Chicago club – at least for now. The rebuilding White Sox have little use for Clippard, who will be a free agent after the season, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Chicago try to flip Clippard for cash or a low level prospect before the July 31 non-waiver deadline, trade him in August before the waiver trade deadline, or give him his outright release if there are no takers. At least in that case, Clippard might have an opportunity to join a contender.
Play of the Week
For all the well-deserved attention Aaron Judge has gotten this season (and it’s far, far too early to worry about his post All-Star Game slump), let’s not forget Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are still arguably the two best players in baseball.
With the Nationals travelling to Anaheim this week for a two-game series with the Angels, we had an opportunity to see Trout and Harper on the same field, and they didn’t disappoint. In the top of the first inning Tuesday, Harper hit a solo home run, his 24th of the season. Trout answered in the bottom half, launching home run No. 17 of the season and his first since returning from the disabled list.
Random MLB Power Rankings
Top 10 players available at the MLB Trade Deadline
- Yu Darvish, SP, Texas Rangers
- Zach Britton, CP, Baltimore Orioles
- Sonny Gray, SP, Oakland Athletics
- Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
- Johnny Cueto, SP, San Francisco Giants
- Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers
- Justin Upton, OF, Detroit Tigers
- Zack Cozart, SS, Cincinnati Reds
- Dee Gordon, 2B, Miami Marlins
- Alex Avila, C/1B, Detroit Tigers
This is obviously an evolving list. Last week, we probably wouldn’t have had Darvish or Britton listed at all. However, after a good run of five wins in six games to get back to .500, the Rangers have lost three in a row.
Two of those losses came in Baltimore, and though the O’s are playing better of late, the club is five games under .500 and 4.5 games out in a congested AL Wild Card race. But more importantly, as Ken Rosenthal reported Tuesday, team owner Peter Angelos has given his approval to trade Britton and two other strong relievers, Brad Brach and Darren O’Day, if the right offer comes along. As for the rest, Sonny Gray is the most likely to be traded, and Upton and Avila appear more likely than not to be on the move as well.
McCutchen was involved in several rumors over the offseason, but has played much better in 2017 than he did in 2016, and though the Pirates have struggled this season, the club is playing very well right now. With Cutch scheduled to become a free agent after 2018 (assuming the Bucs pick up his option for next season), Pittsburgh might lay low this summer and gear up for one more postseason run with the former MVP next year.
One of the best measures of offensive performance, Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) helps determine the number of runs a player is responsible for creating. Rooted in Bill James’ Runs Created, and going one step further than Weighted Runs Created, wRC+ involves a complicated formula and accounts for park factors. Read more about wRC+ here.
WRC+ (Minimum 200 plate appearances)
- Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (204)
- Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (186)
- Aaron Judge, New York Yankees (184)
- Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers (178)
- Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals (172)
- Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (164)
- Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals (162)
- George Springer, Houston Astros (162)
- D. Martinez, Arizona Diamondbacks (160)
- Marwin Gonzalez, Houston Astros (160)
Mike Trout and Freddie Freeman still rank highly on the list because of their red-hot starts and subsequent DL stints. However, Freeman has hit .310/.356/.595 with three homers and three doubles in 10 games since returning from the disabled list and Trout has hit safely in each of his four games since returning to the lineup, and hit a home run in his first at bat Tuesday.
Three Houston Astros rank among the top 10 in wRC. Unfortunately, shortstop Carlos Correra, who ranks No. 12 on the list with 158 wRC+, is expected to miss up to eight weeks with a thumb injury.
HR/9 (Qualified Starters)
- Michael Fulmer, Detroit Tigers (0.51)
- Lance McCullers, Houston Astros (0.56)
- Sean Manaea, Oakland Athletics (0.72)
- Ty Blach, San Francisco Giants (0.73)
- Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox (0.73)
- Michael Wacha, St. Louis Cardinals (0.76)
- Edinson Volquez, Miami Marlins (0.78)
- Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals (0.87)
- Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians (0.89)
- Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals (0.90)
Which pitchers have done the best job keeping the ball in the ballpark this season? Tigers right-hander Michael Fulmer and Lance McCullers are neck-and-neck for the lowest number of home runs allowed per nine innings this season, both with a comfortable lead over a pair of under the radar youngsters, No. 3 Sean Manaea and No. 4 Ty Blach.
The rest of the is a relative who’s who of big league starters, including Cy Young favorites and All-Star Game starters Chris Sale and Max Scherzer.
Aaron Gleeman of Baseball Prospectus pointed out that Bartolo Colon became the oldest starting pitcher in Minnesota Twins history Tuesday night. Colon, who is 44 years and 55 days old, passed Joe Niekro (43 years, 174 days) for the honor. Gleeman also noted that Jesse Orosco is the oldest pitcher to ever appear in a game for the Twins, having done so as a reliever at the age of 46 years and 159 days.
Orioles slugger Chris Davis tied a major league record with 100 strikeouts in his first 64 games this season. Adam Dunn set the pace for the fastest to the century mark in a single season in 2012, according to Tim Kurkjian.
Nationals All-Star Ryan Zimmerman hit career home run No. 235 Sunday, which put him ahead of Vladamir Guerrero for first on the all-time Nationals/Expos franchise leaderboard. Zimmerman is now one of four active players that holds his franchise’s career home run record, joining Evan Longoria, Giancarlo Stanton and Ryan Braun in the select club.
Zimmerman and his teammates beat the Reds 10-7 Saturday to set a franchise record for reaching double-digit runs in a single season. The win was the 16th time Washington scored 10 or more runs in a game this year. Sunday, the Nats beat the Reds 14-4 to increase their record.
Cody Bellinger hit for the cycle Saturday, a feat that included his 26th home run of the season. Bellinger needs 10 more home runs to break Mike Piazza’s franchise rookie record, which he set with 35 in 1993.
The Red Sox released Pablo Sandoval Friday in a move that required the club to eat the remainder of Sandoval’s $17.6 million salary this season, as well as $37.2 million guaranteed over the next two years, and a $5 million buyout on his 2020 team option. According to Jon Morosi, the dead money owed Sandoval is the second most to Josh Hamilton ($68.4 million) in big league history.