The Good, The Bad, The Astros

Of the Big Four, Major League Baseball most closely mirrors the world of business because it’s much more than a schedule of games. The baseball season is a timeline and that dictates market conditions for future gains. Wins, losses, injuries, and performance create a supply and demand. Here’s a look at some of trade deadline buyers, sellers, winners, and losers:

BUYERS

New York Yankees
It’s hard to start this entry without mentioning the Big Apple, right?  There’s a reason why Yankees GM Brian Cashman chose the font silian rail for his business cards and the word “cash” is part of his name… he’s the shrewdest of all negotiators. Have you ever wondered what happens to these “prospects” the Yankees trade away at the deadline every year? Nothing. The Yankees always keep the Robinson Canos and the Derek Jeters of the world. They added 1B/DH Lance Berkman for pennies on the dollar and filled in a couple holes with some spare parts from the Cleveland Indians. Berkman looked a little awkward in Yankees garb the other night but he will pay dividends as a #7 hitter. Read that again. Lance Berkman is going bat 7th. Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns will be solid role players for the Yankees. Wood struck out the side in his first appearance as a Yankee. Situational relievers and power off the bench are at a premium come playoff time. The Big Apple is ripe for a repeat: GRADE A+.

Someone needs to remind the Texas Rangers that they don’t play in the AL East. The Cliff Lee pickup in early July was phenomenal, but did they really need those impulse buys at the cash register? Jorge Cantu’s production has dropped off significantly since May and Cristian Guzman is… well… Cristian Guzman. He’ll be relegated to the bench once Ian Kinsler returns from the DL anyway. Shame on the Rangers for not having more positional depth. What ever happened to Chris Davis anyway? The guy hit 21 home runs in half a season last year. GRADE C.

The Anaheim Angels landed Dan Haren without giving up prized prospect Mike Trout (not to be confused with former Angel Tim Salmon). Joe Saunders, a couple mid-level prospects, and a plater to be named later doesn’t seem like fair market value. Haren’s numbers will likely improve moving from a ballpark that surrendered the third most HRs in the league. Their postseason rotation could shape up to be Haren, Jered Weaver, and Ervin Santana. GRADE B.

SELLERS

Houston Astros
Billy Madison: I bet that snack pack is pretty good huh?
[the little kid smiles and nods]
Billy Madison: Wanna trade me the rest of it for this banana?
[the little kid smiles and shakes his head]
Billy Madison: You know how badly I could beat you, right?

That’s exactly what Brian Cashman did to Astros GM Ed Wade. The Astros surrendered Lance Berkman to the Yankees for two crummy side items. Triple-A pitching prospect Mark Melancon will have immediate value as a situational reliever while Jimmy Paredes will fade into minor league obscurity. Worst of all, Houston will pay most of Berkman’s contract. Michael Bourn’s bunting skills probably won’t be enough to keep Houston fans coming through the turnstiles.

Billy Madison: Bunt. B-U-N-T, in perfect cursive. Any more brain busters?
Veronica Vaughn: “Rizzuto”? [Billy ponders, then writes]
Veronica Vaughn: Rirruto?
Billy Madison: Those’re Z’s.
Veronica Vaughn: They look like R’s to me.
Billy Madison: That’s not fair! Rizzuto’s not a word! He’s a baseball player! You’re cheating!

Ed Wade cheated the rest of the AL East by making this deal. Of course, the ‘Stros tipped their hand early by dealing Roy Oswalt to the Phillies for pitcher JA Happ, Jonathan Villar, and OF Anthony Gose. While Happ will slide right into the #3 starter, Anthony Gose was the key piece of this deal. Wade quickly swapped the 19-year-old speedster for Blue Jays prospect Brett Wallace. The guy has crushed Triple-A pitching to the tune of .301 AVG 18 HRs 61 RBI and was immediately called up to take Berkman’s spot in the lineup. Wallace has now been involved in deals for Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Matt Holliday, and Roy Oswalt. Not sure what that suggests but we’ll find out over his next two months in the bigs. Wallace was a great consolation prize but the Astros still receive a GRADE F. Perhaps Ed Wade should go back to school… “the Billy Madison wayyyy!”

Washington Nationals
Nats brass has learned a few things from those summer interns who use Craigslist religiously. Post a bunch of your stuff that’s available for sale, set prices ridiculously high, and sit back while your inbox gets flooded with stupid questions. Unfortunately the asking price for free-agent-to-be Adam Dunn was too expensive (Daniel Hudson +1) for the White Sox GM Kenny Williams’ taste. Alfonso Soriano anyone?
Even though the big name stayed put, the Nats quietly pieced together some nice deals. Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps was an absolute steal. The development of closer-in-waiting Drew Storen made The Mad Capper expendable and LHP Joe Testa was also a decent bargain grab for the Nats.
The longest tenured National Christian was exported to Texas for a couple minor leaguers. RHP Ryan Tatusko projects as a #4 starter while RHP Tanner Roark has a long way to go. Without the presence of Guzman, shortstop Ian Desmond and his pancake hands will challenge baseball’s modern day errors record (Joe Cronin – 62). The biggest loser in this deal is Nats color guy Rob Dibble because he’ll be tasked with the responsibility of making non-Strasburg games interesting for viewers. No deal for Dunn, but the Nationals still get a GRADE B for their ability to land top catching prospect Wilson Ramos.

Cleveland Indians
All this guff about Lebron James had everyone forgetting that Cleveland still has a really bad baseball team too. The Kerry Wood trade makes sense because it saves money and gives 8th inning guy Chris Perez a chance to shine in the closer role. But why would you trade Jhonny Peralta and Austin Kearns when there’s no one to replace them? 19-year-old LHP Giovanni Soto (not to be confused with Cubs catcher Geovany Soto) had some success at the Single-A level and is the lone bright spot of these deadline deals. Adding insult to injury for Cleveland fans, Jake Delhomme was on Sportscenter this morning talking about how he’s ready for week 1. Ugh. Speaking of Jakes, they couldn’t get more than Corey Kluber for Jake Westbrook? Cmon Shapiro, you’re better than that. GRADE D.

WINNERS

The Boston Red Sox were penny-wise at the trade deadline and took a flier on catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Every week there’s a new All Star coming back from the DL and it’s hard to gage how good or bad this team can be. Playing it safe was the right move here.

LOSERS

Chicago White Sox failed to land Adam Dunn and settled for Edwin Jackson. Division rivals Minnesota and Detroit also got better at the deadline. Dunn would’ve been the perfect anchor in that lineup as a DH. Chicago missed its chance to set themselves apart. They might win the division, but October will be an early exit for the South Siders.

Did the Philadelphia Phillies really need to make that deal for Oswalt? It seems like that move was motivated by pure paranoia. If the Phillies kept Cliff Lee rather than dealing him to Seattle in the offseason this trade wouldn’t have been necessary. JA Happ outshined Oswalt in his first start for the Astros. Perhaps Ed Wade didn’t do so bad after all.

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What’s a “Player To Be Named Later”?

Today the Diamondbacks traded Dan Haren to the Angels for Joe Saunders, Raphael Rodriguez, Patrick Corbin, and a player to be named later. While the term “player to be named later” may remind many of the 2008 trade that sent a minor leaguer packing in exchange for 10 baseball bats, the PTBNL is more than just a throw-in.

Famous PTBNLs include David Ortiz, Scott Podsednik, and Moises Alou. These players were part of a deadline deal but not immediately traded because the receiving team was still in the process of evaluating their talents and positional needs. For sake of convenience negotiating teams usually agree on a list of 5 to 10 players that can ultimately be chosen. The player must change leagues and a cash sum is negotiated if the two teams cannot agree on a player. By rule, teams have six months to complete this part of the deal.

As for the Diamondbacks, there’s speculation that the player will be named Tyler Skaggs, a 19-year-old lefty who’s considered one of the best arms in the Angels farm system. In 14 starts this year he’s 8-4 with a 3.61 ERA for Class-A Cedar Rapids. At 7-8, Haren’s fortunes will likely change going to a contender with strong run support. He has a National League leading 141 strikeouts in 141 innings pitched this season. The Angels will owe Haren $33 Million on a contract that runs through 2012 and includes club option for 2013. Kudos to Angels GM Tony Reagins for completing this trade without surrendering top prospect Mike Trout. Their potential post season rotation would start with Haren followed by Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana, and Joel Piñeiro. Lackey who?