In 2014, the Los Angeles Angels had the best record in the MLB at 98-64, but this year they won’t even be participating in the playoffs as they fell just short after a 9-2 loss to their AL West rival Texas Rangers. The Astros also lost on Sunday to the Diamondbacks, but the Angels didn’t take advantage of securing the final AL Wild card spot. Los Angeles finishes 85-77 in 2015 and now they will have decisions to make this offseason about how to better their team around Mike Trout. I don’t expect the AL West to be a very good division in 2016, so there could be another opportunity for the Angels to make the playoffs again.
The San Diego Padres came into the 2015 MLB season as a team with high expectations after acquiring players like Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, James Shields, Craig Kimbrel, and Wil Myers this offseason. Yet, the Padres really underachieved this season by securing a 74-88 record with a loss to the Dodgers on Sunday. The main reason that I consider the Padres to be the most disappointing MLB team is because of how much money they are paying those players and yet they didn’t provide very good results. Now, San Diego will have to find a new manager after firing Bud Black midseason and the team will be stuck with big contracts for a few years and very few talented prospects left in their minor league system. Things didn’t quite work out for the Padres this year, but if they find the right manager then maybe things will turn around for them.
The Oakland Athletics have decided to traded relief pitcher Tyler Clippard to the New York Mets for minor league pitching prospect Casey Meisner. What I like about this trade for the Mets is that it provides them with a guy that can be a reliable setup man in the 8th inning or the closer in the 9th inning. New York has a decent bullpen already, but they are relying upon unproven players like Sean Gilmartin, Carlos Torres, and Hansel Robles to perform in high-pressure situations. Clippard brings a reliever that has experience in the NL East division and he is one of the most reliable players in tough situations. Clippard has a 2.79 ERA with 17 saves for Oakland this season and he automatically brings some more stability to a Mets bullpen that will need that especially in the race for the postseason. Meanwhile, Oakland is once again planning for the future by getting 20-year old starting pitcher Casey Meisner from the Mets minor league system. Meisner is still in High-A and he is really raw, but he was the Mets’ 15th best prospect so he does have really good potential. He has been impressive in the minor leagues so far and to get him for Clippard could turn out to be a really good deal in the future.
Mets grade: B+ – With the unproven relievers in the Mets bullpen they needed some more stability which is what they received with Tyler Clippard. He likely will fill the Closer’s role for New York and he is an immediate help to the bullpen to try and help the Mets get into the playoffs. It might have been too much to give up by trading Meisner to the Mets, but I guess that is the price that New York had to pay to acquire a proven closer like Clippard.
Athletics grade: A+ – Clippard was good for Oakland this season, but Billy Beane made the right move by getting rid of him while has value was still high. Oakland received a really good prospect compared to what they thought they would get for Clippard. Meisner is a little bit raw, but the Athletics really have nothing to lose by acquiring a guy that has tremendous potential to be an impact player at the MLB level.
Shane Victorino’s time in Boston is over as the Red Sox traded him along with cash considerations to the Los Angeles Angels for 2nd basemen Josh Rutledge. Victorino hasn’t been productive the past two seasons with the Red Sox as has started to decline with age. The Angels have been desperate for some outfield production and they have had injuries in that area that they’ve had to address recently, but they are really rolling the dice on an aging player like Victorino. He has struggled this year with the Red Sox as he is hitting .245 with only 1 home run so far, but maybe the change of scenery in Los Angeles will make him a more productive player. I think this is a really risky deal for the Angels because of his history of injuries, yet Rutledge wasn’t making an impact for the Angels at the MLB level for the Angels anyway. Meanwhile, Rutledge probably has more of a future with the Red Sox as he is only 26 years old, although he is just likely to give some versatility to the team while Dustin Pedroia is on the DL. Rutledge can play a few positions in the infield and he can probably be used by the Red Sox as a utility player at best. It will be interesting to see how or if he is productive at the MLB level considering that he never got a taste of the MLB level with the Angels this season. The Red Sox needed to get rid of Victorino at some point anyway, so why not get a player that can at least help out at the MLB level when injuries occur. This trade is decent for the Red Sox and it is one of those deals that you won’t really know how good it is until Rutledge gets an opportunity for some playing time.
Angels grade: C- – The Angels desperately needed some help in the outfield because of inconsistent production and injuries which is why they acquired Victorino. However, Victorino is just a 34 year old washed out outfielder that hasn’t been productive with the Red Sox the past 2 years anyway. Maybe a change of scenery will help Victorino, but this is a risky trade for the Angels to make.
Red Sox grade: C+ – Boston needed to get rid of Shane Victorino at some point to make room for some of their younger talent in the outfield, but since they waited so long to trade him then his value went down. Josh Rutledge is nothing more of a fill-in for the Red Sox in the infield and even though is a young player he still doesn’t have much of a future with Boston. Rutledge is just more of a depth piece and he is just an unknown player at this point and we’ll see how well he does with the Red Sox.
It isn’t much of a surprise, but the Reds have traded star starting pitcher Johnny Cueto in exchange for 3 left-handed pitchers Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, and Cody Reed. Cueto is a free agent after the season and it was clear that Cincinnati probably wasn’t going to be able to re-sign him, so now he essentially becomes a rental player for the Royals. Kansas City has struggled pitching wise this season and they expected young pitcher Yordano Ventura to be the ace of their rotation, but he has struggled this year as he is 4-7 with a 4.86 ERA. Also, Jason Vargas is out for the season with a torn UCL which has thinned the Royals starting rotation out even more. Cueto is coming off a terrific start against the Rockies on Saturday and he will give Kansas City a consistent pitcher to try and make a deep playoff run this season. The Royals already have enough hitting and they probably have the best bullpen in the MLB right now and now that they have Cueto it will really make their team nearly complete. I’d still like to see the Royals go out and get another one or two starting pitchers, yet it’s unknown whether they can pull off another trade. Meanwhile, it is a good trade for the Reds because they are getting 3 players that don’t need much more development and they are almost pretty good major league ready players. Brandon Finnegan has already had success at the MLB level as he is 3-0 with a 2.96 ERA this season. I think he’ll have a good opportunity to get more playing time with Cincinnati and he will help improve a struggling Reds bullpen right away. John Lamb has a lot of potential as well and he was considered one of the top 20 prospects in all of baseball. Lamb was a 5th round pick in 2008, so it is highly likely that he is ready to at least make his debut for the Reds really soon. Cody Reed is probably the furthest away from all 3 players from getting to the MLB level, but he has been impressive in the Royals minor league system this season in Double-A as he has a 2.53 ERA. This is a terrific trade for the future for Cincinnati and they got some pretty good prospects in return for Cueto which will help speed up the rebuilding process.
Royals Grade: A- – The Royals were desperate for starting pitching and getting a consistent all-star caliber pitcher like Johnny Cueto will help a lot to make them a complete team. It does hurt to give up some talented prospects especially John Lamb, but that is the price that a team has to pay to get a great pitcher like Cueto. The Royals probably didn’t have much of a use for Lamb and Finnegan anyway. Cueto is only a rental player for the Royals which is why this trade doesn’t get a better grade.
Reds Grade: A – Cincinnati knew they weren’t going to re-sign Cueto and as hard as it was to trade him away it was the right move for the Reds. The Reds aren’t going to the playoffs this season, so it would have been a waste to keep Cueto on the roster and then lose him in free agency. I really like how they are getting some major league ready prospects in return that can help the team right way especially Brandon Finnegan who can help in the bullpen. I would’ve liked to see Cincinnati get some more variety in the trade instead of all left-handed pitchers, but it was still a good trade for them either way.
3. Toronto Blue Jays – Record: 49-49
Analysis: The AL East division is still wide open and the Blue Jays are in a good position to make the playoffs, but the Blue Jays will need to upgrade their pitching before they can be considered serious contenders. Toronto is by far the best offensive team in baseball as they have scored 515 runs so far this season. However, the Blue Jays are 22nd in the league with a 4.04 ERA. I don’t believe Toronto will go after a big name pitcher like Cole Hamels or David Price, but they could acquire a mid-level starter like Carlos Carrasco or Dan Haren. The Blue Jays definitely will be buyers at the trade deadline and they will likely make a move to address their starting pitching.
2. Houston Astros – Record: 54-43
Analysis: Houston already acquired starting pitcher Scott Kazmir, but I have no indication that the Astros are done with acquiring some more players before the trade deadline. The Astros have tons of prospects that they can use to go out and acquire big names, yet it isn’t likely that they go out and acquire another big name starting pitcher. I believe the Astros need to improve their offense the most and it is likely that they go out and get another hitter. Ben Revere would be a good fit because he can fill in while George Springer is injured and he gets on base very well which would help jump start the Astros lineup. Houston also could choose to go out and get a big bat like Adam Lind from the Brewers to replace the duo of Chris Carter and Jon Singleton at 1st base. Either way, the Astros probably aren’t done acquiring talent especially since it has been a long time since they have seen much success.
1. New York Mets – Record: 49-48
Analysis: The Mets have one of the best starting rotations in the league, but the problem is that New York is one of the worst teams in the MLB in terms of offense. Sure, the Mets did just acquire Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from the Braves, but that trade alone doesn’t make the Mets a playoff team. If New York can acquire a big bat like Jay Bruce or Justin Upton then this team is automatically a playoff team. Also, the team is interested in athletics 2nd basemen Ben Zobrist and that is a deal that I wouldn’t be surprised if they can pull it off. Overall, the Mets are desperate to get a big bat to add to the middle of the lineup or they most likely won’t make the playoffs.
3. Oakland Athletics – Record: 44-54
Analysis: The Athletics are trying to replenish their minor league system with top prospects after going all in during 2014 by acquiring big name players like Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija. This season hasn’t quite gone as planned after general manager Billy Beane made a lot of moves this past offseason. Oakland already traded star pitcher Scott Kazmir just a few days ago and I have a feeling that they aren’t done trading away players before Friday’s trade deadline. I’d be shocked if Ben Zobrist is still playing with the Athletics at the start of August as his name has come up a lot in trade rumors. Either way, Oakland is looking to rebuild their team and they will certainly be busy before the trade deadline.
2. Milwaukee Brewers – Record: 43-54
Analysis: Milwaukee has a lot of talent on their roster and I’m pretty sure that almost every player on their roster is available. Gerardo Parra looks like the player most likely to be traded as he has terrific defensive skills and can be used as a 4th outfielder on a contender or even start for a team with injuries in the outfield. Milwaukee could even trade Carlos Gomez and they could surely get some good talent back for him. Either way, Milwaukee isn’t in a position to contend and they have talented players that they are willing to trade.
1. Philadelphia Phillies – Record: 35-63
Analysis: I’d be majorly shocked if the Phillies aren’t busy trading players away before the trade deadline. Big names like Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, and Ryan Howard all have a very good chance of being traded. The Phillies could get some big prospects if they end up trading those players and it will help to speed up the rebuilding process that the team just started.