The 2014 MLB Non-Waiver Trade Deadline was arguably the most memorable deadline in recent history. With the likes of David Price, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Yoenis Cespedes, Austin Jackson and many more stars moving around, experts and fans alike were in full swoon mode.
But sometimes when All-Stars are on the move, the brilliant, lesser trades fall through the cracks. In an attempt to pay proper homage to such, below are the five deals from this past deadline that deserve to share a bit of the spotlight with the bigger fish.
Making intelligent moves in not usually the Arizona Diamondbacks’ strongest point (for instance, trading Gerardo Parra to the Milwaukee Brewers for a pair of non-prospects this deadline). But when the self-proclaimed “gritty” National League West team makes one, credit must be given.
Picking on the New York Yankees’ knack for stockpiling has-been veterans, the Diamondbacks exchanged 30-year-old Martin Prado and his remaining $25.6 million contract (through 2016) for catching prospect Peter O’Brien.
Considering the Yankees have Brian McCann in tow and Gary Sanchez waiting in the wings, there wasn’t any room at the current or future major-league Bombers’ roster for O’Brien. But that doesn’t mean the catcher doesn’t have a future in the big leagues.
O’Brien was drafted by the Yankees in the second round of the 2012 draft. The 24-year-old didn’t begin his minor-league career on a high note, however, posting a mere .212 batting average, park-adjusted 88 wRC+ and 4.7 percent walk rate at Staten Island in 2012.
But O’Brien quickly turned heads the following season. The then 22-year-old hit to the tune of a .291 batting average, 8.1 percent walk rate, .893 OPS and 22 home runs between multiple levels (and ending the year in Advanced-A).
Going into 2014, the Florida native was still an unranked prospect–although he did receive a C+ grade from Minor League Ball‘s John Sickels in his Pre-2013 team rankings.
To date, O’Brien has continued to display massive power, swatting 33 home runs between Advanced-A and Double-A in 2014–but has fallen off in the on-base department, walking at a mere 4.8 percent clip. He’s also struck out 27.4 percent of the time.
Yet, given Martin Prado’s offensive struggles in 2014 (a park-adjusted 91 OPS+ versus a career 107 OPS+)–not to mention his hefty contract–general manager Kevin Towers deserves a rare pat on the back for acquiring Peter O’Brien while shedding Prado.
Prior to 2014, it seemed the Baltimore Orioles would only part ways with top pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez in a trade for a stud major leaguer. The Orioles’ hesitancy to dangle Rodriguez was with good reason, too.
The 21-year-old ranked as the 61st best prospect by Baseball Prospectus prior to 2014 and appeared en route to follow Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman in the trio of young Orioles’ pitchers to come (especially with MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli announcing Hunter Harvey’s season-ending elbow injury).
But in a moment of playoff-generated desperation, the Orioles sent Rodriguez to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for left-handed reliever Andrew Miller.
Miller has proven to be a stud southpaw bullpen piece; he’s tossed a 2.34 ERA (versus a 1.69 FIP), 14.7 strikeouts-per-nine-innings clip and 5.31 strikeouts-to-walks ratio in 2014. Yet, as good as Miller is, the former 2006 sixth overall pick is set to become a free agent at the end of the season.
It’s also important to note that Miller is not even a closer.
Even if Rodriguez’s “stock is down,” according to Minor League Ball’s John Sickels, Sickels additionally admits that the left-hander has a third-starter ceiling (and a bullpen role as a worst-case scenario).
Needless to say, teams shouldn’t trade top pitching prospects for two months (plus some playoffs, if the Orioles are lucky) of a relief pitcher.
When the Seattle Mariners and general manager Jack Zduriencik signed Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million contract this past offseason, the plan was to at least post a winning season. After all, the Mariners only last did so in 2009, when they went 85-77 (but still missed the playoffs).
To-date, the 2014 Mariners are three games above .500. But despite watching the Oakland Athletics—the current American League West leader—acquire a slew of talented players over the past few weeks, the Mariners’ response was comparatively timid.
“Trader” Jack picked up 34-year-old outfielder Chris Denorfia from the San Diego Padres in exchange for pitcher Stephen Kohlscheen and outfielder Abraham Almonte. While Denorfia is an upgrade over Endy Chavez, the right-handed hitter has hardly challenged opposing pitchers in 2014.
Denorfia has posted a meager .242 batting average, 76 wRC+, 6.7 percent walk rate, one home run and eight stolen bases over 268 plate appearances this year. And despite gloving an impressive 20 DRS in 2013, the nine-year veteran has seen that metric shrink to just 2 DRS in 2014.
Granted, while the Mariners plan to use Deforfia exclusively against left-handed pitching, his 85 wRC+ versus southpaws in 2014 isn’t awe-inspiring.
Red flags notwithstanding, Zduriencik still included promising right-handed relief prospect Stephen Kohlscheen in the deal. Kohlscheen, 25, currently owns a dominant 2.70 ERA and 5.50 strikeouts-to-walks ratio between Double-A and Triple-A this season.
Especially if the Padres decide to dangle Joaquin Benoit during the August waiver period, it’s possible Kohlscheen could be given elevated, late-inning situations in 2014–and perhaps closing duties in 2015.
In addition to Kohlscheen, the Padres also acquired outfielder Abraham Almonte. The switch-hitter received decent playing time in 2014, garnering 113 plate appearances for the Mariners.
Even though Almonte did little with his golden opportunity (a 55 OPS+ and 5.3 percent walk rate), the Dominican native has swiped 209 career bags in the minors with a respectable 10.6 percent walk rate to boot.
Considering he posted a magnificent 5.5 bWAR in 2013, Gerardo Parra could have been a reasonable extension candidate. After all, outfielders that throw up 41 DRS don’t grow on trees—especially if they can also hit a little bit, too (Parra posted a park-adjusted 99 OPS+ and 7.2 percent walk rate with 10 home runs and 10 stolen bases in 2013).
But apparently the Arizona Diamondbacks had seen enough of Parra’s slumping ways in 2014.
The 27-year-old has witnessed his wizardly defense shrink to a more mortal level (2 DRS). And his limited offensive skill set has deteriorated to fringe levels (an 86 OPS+ and 5.4 percent walk rate with six home runs and five stolen bases), too.
Yet, instead of letting the comparatively young outfielder work through his struggles, the Diamondbacks cast him off for two non-prospects in Mitch Haniger and Anthony Banda.
Haniger, despite being picked 38th overall in the 2012 draft, hasn’t displayed a ton of evidence he’ll ever be a major-league player. According to Minor League Ball’s John Sickels, “[Haniger has] no glaring strengths, but no huge weaknesses.”
The 23-year-old’s .255 batting average, 103 wRC+, 7.0 percent walk rate and 10 home runs over 271 plate appearances at Double-A only furthers Sickels’ lack of enthusiasm.
Banda, who was drafted 335th overall in the 2002 draft, has at least surpassed expectations (after all, he was picked in the 10th round). After two forgettable seasons at Rookie Ball, the 20-year-old southpaw has pitched to the tune of a 3.66 ERA (versus a 3.53 FIP) and 2.18 strikeouts-to-walks ratio over 83.2 innings at Single-A this season.
Regardless of his improvements, Banda has a long road ahead to prove he’s anything more than minor-league fodder.
The Oakland Athletics didn’t need Tommy Milone. After all, the playoff-thirsty A’s acquired established, upper-rotation starters such as Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in the past week or so.
But giving away depth is new to general manager Billy Beane. In fact, the Beane of old built up depth and sold high.
In the case of Milone, the 27-year-old southpaw posted a 3.55 ERA (versus a 4.42 FIP) and 2.35 strikeouts-to-walks ratio before his unwarranted demotion to Triple-A and eventual trade to the Minnesota Twins.
And for who? Answer: Sam Fuld.
Fuld, whom the Athletics actually owned and subsequently cut earlier this season, “resurrected” his middling career with the Twins. Over his past 195 plate appearances, the 32-year-old journeyman outfielder has posted a .274 batting average, 13.3 percent walk rate, 104 OPS+, one home run and 12 stolen bases.
The left-handed hitter has also gloved a respectable 3 DRS over 377.2 innings in center field (and 0 DRS overall in the outfield) this season.
Even though the Athletics plans to use Fuld in center field to replace the injured Coco Crisp, dealing a young starting pitcher for a career 79 OPS+ hitter seems like a trade Billy Beane would never have been on the losing side of.