To most people, Tuesday, July 31, 2014, is just another day in the seemingly endless stream of days that flow through one’s life on the way to the Big Adios. However, this date means a heckuva lot more if you’re a baseball fan, team, player, writer or all of the above. It’s the Major League Baseball trade deadline.
It’s so big … “How big is it?” you shout … It’s so big that it has drawn me out of the depths of my semi-retirement just so I can bring you the vital analysis you need to fully comprehend its enormity. Also, I’m kind of bored and thought this might be a fun way to kill some time.
As always, the trade deadline was quite an entertaining day indeed – a flurry of trade activity and inactivity that thrilled the senses and boggled the mind. Lots of smart moves intertwined with some very questionable moves and a lot of very questionable non-moves.
Since we can’t really know how all these trades will work out for months and, in some cases, even years, any grading now will be somewhat arbitrary. Well, arbitrary just happens to be my middle name – but it changes regularly.
Three years ago when I was originally faced with the problem of how best to arbitrarily grade each team’s performance at the trade deadline, I was equal to the task and concocted a grading system jam-packed with a commensurate amount of arbitrariness:
The Baldwin Scale™
The Baldwin Brothers – Alec, Daniel, Billy and Stephen – are as beloved a group of brothers as has ever existed. These four brothers, whose successes and failures have been entertaining us all for decades, each have differences in politics, religion and vegetarianism, as well as varying levels of talent, handsomeness and craziness. And it is from these differences that I derived the Baldwin Scale™.
Alec – The most successful of the brothers Baldwin. Sure, he’s not perfect. He’s getting less and less discerning about what roles he should be playing, though he does appear to have a recurring role on TMZ. Of all the Baldwins, he’s the one you want to be – especially if you’re into getting away with just about anything and marrying super-hot, young yoga instructors.
Billy – The busiest of the brothers Baldwin. By the time you finish reading this column, he will have started and finished filming two movies. You may not ever see his movies, but there are whole generations of Filipino and Malaysian children that are huge fans of his work. And why shouldn’t they be? He’s still got that handsomey handsomeness that makes us all wish we were Baldwins.
Stephen – The most disappointing of the brothers Baldwin. He exploded onto the scene in The Usual Suspects and then imploded just as quickly. He’s actually been making a lot of movies lately. If you don’t believe me, just check the $1 bin at your local gas station. Sure, he’s not lived up to his potential, but at least he’s not …
Daniel – The most disastrous of the brothers Baldwin. This article also serves as my annual “Is Daniel Baldwin still alive” Google search. Yes, he is. I can only vaguely remember seeing anything he’s done, but, truthfully, I might just be thinking of Alec. Recently he appeared on Celebrity Wife Swap alongside Jermaine Jackson in their “riding on the coattails of more talented brothers” episode.
While grading the teams, as is the tradition, I’m not going to name each team’s general managers (hereafter referred to as “GM”). If you think I should know who the GMs are and that it’s shabby writing to leave these kinds of details out, then you probably don’t like my writing and haven’t read this far anyway.
As before, let’s start with the bottom of the barrel because I like ending on a high note. Without further ado, here are the Trade Deadline Baldwins™:
Like Daniel himself, these teams disappointed me and pretty much everyone else in many various ways.
Phillies — This is one of the very rare times when it’s actually an insult to Daniel Baldwin for a team to be listed here. The Phillies didn’t make any trades and they have a ton of pieces they could sell off to start rebuilding their laughingstock of a team. Saddled with the third-highest payroll in the league and a weak farm system, the Phillies aren’t winning this year or the next (or the next or the next).
Rockies — There are a lot of teams in the same situation as Colorado: no chance this year, but some nice pieces in place to build for the future. However, the Rockies have tradable assets that could have been turned into more pieces for the future, but they did nothing. And people thought there’d be no repercussions from the new legalized marijuana law.
Rays — I don’t think I ever imagined the highly efficient and intellectually sound Rays would ever wind up amongst the Daniels, but they traded away one of the best pitchers in the league for a very questionable return. Maybe all the Florida is starting to rub off on the team’s management.
Some good, some bad, mostly bad. Maybe not quite fire-able, but, yeah, just go ahead and fire them.
Reds, Rangers, Royals, Mets, White Sox, Twins — I must be getting soft. Surely these teams would’ve gotten a lower ranking in Baldwin Scales of the past, but with the Phillies being so terrible, everyone comes out looking a little bit shinier. You guys are not making the playoffs. Trade your assets. Build for next season and beyond. It ain’t rocket surgery.
Brewers — I’m just as surprised as you are that the Brewers are in first place. It just doesn’t make any sense. However, I’m not sure if “crossing your fingers” counts as a deadline move. They got a fourth outfielder from the Diamondbacks. Cool. Maybe the team knows that they’re not really this good and this is their way of making a trade without really risking anything. That would skip them right over the Billys and into the Alecs.
Pirates — Okay, so you’re a small market team and your young players are what you will build everything off of. Smart. Cost-effective. I love it. But you have three outfield spots and four young outfielders. Offer one of them up and get yourself an ace pitcher. Or don’t and just sit there with your thumbs up your butts.
Dodgers — Just because you have the best team in baseball doesn’t mean it’s all good. Just about every one of your position players is a negative defender. Can you even imagine how good Kershaw, Greinke, et al, would be if the Dodgers weren’t terrible in the field. Oh, and you have four corner outfielders and no center fielder. Trade somebody. Eat a contract. Who cares? You have all the money.
Yankees — Cool trades, bro. You got a utility player to possibly replace Ichiro and then got a shortstop who isn’t a defensive nightmare, but you’re going to play him at second base so the statue of Derek Jeter can keep costing the team runs.
These guys did okay. Not great. Just okay. They could have done more, but a confluence of external and internal factors kept them from being great.
Tigers and Mariners — These two were part of the terrible-for-Tampa trade involving David Price. The Tigers got themselves another ace pitcher — that they probably didn’t really need. What they needed was a shortstop and some bullpen help. The Mariners got Austin Jackson from Detroit who sorta kinda addresses a small need on the team. They didn’t pay much to get him, but you’re in a division with the Angels and the A’s. Man up and get Price for yourself.
Angels — Even though they didn’t do anything at the deadline, I’m giving them a bit of a pass for only grabbing a relief pitcher. They don’t have anything in the minors and their budget is pretty maxed out. Of course, they needed Jon Lester or David Price, but the Rays and Red Sox probably weren’t interested in the Angels’ offer, no matter how many DVDs of Angels in the Outfield they kicked in.
Marlins — I kinda liked their small move. They’re at .500 but the odds are that’s about the best they’ll be this year. But they went out and added a nice pitcher who is cost-controlled for a while.
Nationals, Braves, Blue Jays, Orioles — Um, do you guys know that you’re doing well this year? Like even good enough to make the playoffs. Great. And you know about the Dodgers and the A’s, right? Okay, so maybe let’s add a piece or two and make yourselves actual contenders. I’m so tempted to drop these guys down a notch, but I’ve already written so many words.
Astros and Padres — Nice job trading off what littler assets you had. I would rank you higher but at a certain point you have to take responsibility for not having many pieces worth trading off.
Giants – Oh, man do I love slamming the Giants, but there is no team I can remember who has done better with less. Their last championship team was one of the worst playoff teams I’ve ever seen and then the next thing you know, they’ve won the World Series.
There may have been some mistakes along the way, but I’m pleased with the overall results.
Athletics — About a month ago, the A’s were leading their division and were considered one of the best teams in the American League. Then they traded for two staff aces and some other pieces that have them now as the favorite to make it to the World Series.
Diamondbacks — When you’re a terrible team, this is what you do. You trade off everything that isn’t tied down. And they may still trade off some other players before the next deadline. Feel free to throw in manager Kirk Gibson.
Cubs — The best farm system in baseball and some decent players already on the major league team. This is all by design. Get ready for this Chicago team to make a lot of noise in the near future. Not only do they have three of the best shortstops in the minors, they have assets to trade when the time is right.
Cardinals — Speaking of trading assets when the time is right. Here we have the Cardinals. I really liked the solid additions to the pitching staff and the minimal cost. However, with David Price out there and going for so much less than everyone thought, how the heck is he not in St. Louis?
Indians – For those of you at home who are thinking of getting into the baseball biz, this is what you do with a mediocre team at the trade deadline. Trade away your impending free agents and get what you can. You don’t have to strip down everything and start from scratch, but your hope is in the future.
Red Sox – And then there’s Boston. They won the World Series last year and this year everything fell apart. All the “ifs” turned into whiffs and they’re comfortably in last place. They still have a lot of pieces for next year and one of the best farm systems around, so what do you do? You trade for players that will make you better next season.
As always, special thanks goes to the brothers Baldwin for existing and thereby helping clear things up at the trade deadline. Also, like last year, this all took a little longer than I thought, but I’m assuming you made it this far if you are reading these words that I have typed.
Overall, it looks like everyone got just a bit more Billy and Alec than last year – which is good news for most teams even though it may just be that I’m rusty or because I’m comparing them all to the Phillies GM instead of a person with any sign of intelligence.
I understand that baseball trades are not just for my entertainment, unlike the Baldwins. However, baseball teams that have a chance to improve themselves at the trade deadline need to do what it takes to make sure their team has a happy ending.