Winners, losers at fast, furious trade deadline
Detroit -- Whew!
Now that was fun, if you're a fan of fast and furious.
That's about the only way to describe the 2015 Major League Baseball trade deadline -- specifically, the week or so leading up to Friday's 4 p.m. cut-off -- which saw no fewer than 35 trades go down (and one that didn't), many of them certified blockbusters.
Why all the action?
You can thank the second wild card for that.
With five teams from each 15-team league making the playoffs these days, so many more teams can make a legitimate case that they're squarely in the hunt as of July 31.
Therefore, there are more buyers.
The sellers, meanwhile, prove to be the winners, like, for instance, the Tigers, who restocked their farm system in a big way -- six prospects, three top-tier -- for three big free agents.
There's some rumblings throughout MLB that maybe it's best to move the trade deadline back to Aug. 31, now that so many teams are contenders on July 31. The picture, theoretically, would be clearer one month later. That would be a bad move, though, particularly for the selling teams.
Moving the deadline back to Aug. 31 would turn the two-month rentals into one-month rentals, potentially cutting their value way down.
July 31 works, and these days makes for some serious intrigue, particularly with teams on the cusp. It's absolutely fascinating to see which teams go in which direction. The Tigers, for instance, were neck and neck with the Blue Jays for the second wild card, but fancied themselves sellers, trading David Price to the buying Jays.
Good stuff, indeed.
That is, if you can keep up.
With everything done and the paperwork filed, let's take a look at the trade deadline's biggest winners and losers.
1. Astros: When you've been a doormat for so long, and you wake up one day to find yourselves in the hunt again, you go for it. Every time. And the Astros did just that, boosting their rotation -- big-time with Scott Kazmir from the A's, and nicely with Mike Fiers from the Brewers. They also got dynamic outfielder Carlos Gomez from the Brewers, after his trade to the Mets fell through over medical issues. The Astros found no such issues, and now might find themselves in the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
2. Blue Jays: This team's playoff drought is even longer -- since 1993, the longest in baseball -- and they recognize the AL East is vulnerable. They stunned the baseball world in trading for slugging shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from the Rockies, plopping him into an already out-of-this-world offense. That was a clear signal David Price would be their next target, and they scored him from the Tigers, boosting a rotation that needed big-time help. Picking up Mark Lowe from the Mariners helps the bullpen.
3. Royals: They're not too keen on selling off prospects, as most teams with tight budgets aren't. But they recognize that windows in baseball can be short, and you have to go for it. When Jason Vargas went down in the rotation, they quickly pounced on Johnny Cueto from the Reds, even if it cost them three prospects, including gem Brandon Finnegan. They then added super-utility man Ben Zobrist from the A's, to help when Alex Gordon gets back and beyond. They may not fall 90 feet short of a title in 2016.
4. Mets: Interesting, it was the team from Queens that went all in, not the team from the Bronx. What a change in philosophy. The Mets picked up four significant pieces, boosting their offense -- in Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers, and Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from the Braves -- as well as adding reliever Tyler Clippard from the A's, and still managed to keep two of their top pitching prospects, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz, in the process. Wheeler would've been gone had the Mets not nixed the trade for Carlos Gomez, however.
5. Tigers: Look, they're winners today -- but since that label is built on prospects, we'll see how things look a year from now. But today, it sure looks like selling off David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria netted them three top-shelf prospects (out of six total), two that could very well round out their rotation next season (Daniel Norris, Michael Fulmer) and another who could help in the bullpen (Matt Boyd). Best part: They're cheap, so now the Tigers can take their $50 million of spending money and sign another starter, two relievers and Cespedes this winter.
1. Padres: This is a team that could've and should've cleaned up, with all the assets at their disposal, including a very good hitter in Justin Upton, and four pitchers who aren't rentals -- James Shields, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner and Craig Kimbrel. The returns could've been significant, and they could've taken the savings to shop till they drop this winter. But they did nothing. And then they try to spin it that they're going for the playoffs -- even though they're a longer shot than the Tigers. OK, whatever you say.
2. Yankees: In an odd sight, the Yankees got protective of their top prospects -- and thus didn't pull the trigger on anything, despite being in prime position to make a run at a World Series. Getting to the playoffs won't be easy, not with the Blue Jays expected to be breathing down their neck after their big acquisitions. And while they'll probably make it, they just don't have the starting pitching to win a championship. That's why it's surprising they weren't bigger players in the Cole Hamels, David Price and Johnny Cueto sweepstakes.
3. White Sox: They've gotten themselves back into the playoff picture with seven wins in their last eight games, but were tentative to pull the trigger on some reinforcements. The offense has disappointed, so they could've used a Justin Upton, Carlos Gomez or Yoenis Cespedes. (Yes, the Tigers would've traded in division for a rental.) The good news for them, though, is they have a very good front end of the rotation and a solid bullpen, so it might not matter in the long run. But if the offense fizzles in October, they'll kick themselves.
4. Marlins: They should just get a permanent spot on this list, their ridiculous owner, Jeffrey Loria, duping the public into financing his expensive but ugly stadium, and then selling off parts for financial savings whenever he can. It'd be fine if he got stud prospects in return. But the word is the Marlins did very poorly in their packages for Mat Latos (Dodgers), Dan Haren (Cubs) and Steve Cishek (Cardinals). It's easy to get Latos and Haren, both rentals, but Cishek, a stud reliever, is under club control for two more years.
5. Media: This is not a knock on any one baseball writer, but we all got a lesson late Wednesday night when the whole world was reporting the Mets had traded Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores to the Brewers for Carlos Gomez. It was a done deal, everyone was reporting. Except it wasn't. All trades are contingent on physicals, and the Mets, after checking out Gomez's, weren't satisfied, and pulled the plug on the deal, only after Flores was on the field crying about his fate. Breaking news remains important, but being first matters none if you're wrong.