John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The last-minute Zack Greinke blockbuster aside, baseball's trade deadline was reminiscent of the winter meetings, as fans waited for the wheeling and dealing to begin in earnest.
It's pretty clear that teams are more risk-averse than ever, the result of information overload throughout the sport and GMs who'd seemingly rather reveal family secrets than trade top prospects.
The result was a yawner of a deadline, despite the supposed urgency that came with the rule change this year doing away with waiver trades, meaning that this was the one chance teams had to buy or sell.
Neither New York team did as much as expected, but at least the Mets pulled one of the big surprises by adding Marcus Stroman rather than dealing Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, or Edwin Diaz.
The biggest shocker was the Yankees doing nothing to address their need for starting pitching come October, a need that was highlighted by the Astros' acquisition of Greinke.
With all of that in mind, let's hand out trade deadline-grades for the local teams.
I believe the thinking in trading for Marcus Stroman was primarily to create leverage in potential trades for either Wheeler or Syndergaard by taking one of the few premium available starters off the market for contenders.
As it turned out, the offers didn't reach the level GM Brodie Van Wagenen expected, leading him to declare Syndergaard off-limits after the righthander's superb start on Tuesday night, and then hold onto Wheeler as the 4 p.m. deadline passed on Wednesday.
In that sense, I applaud Van Wagenen's refusal to settle for an underwhelming deal simply because Wheeler is headed for free agency. With the Mets playing their best baseball of the season, holding onto his pitcher gives this team an outside shot at making a Wild Card run, while keeping open the possibility of extending Wheeler's contract or at least recouping a draft pick for him.
Same goes for pulling Syndergaard back. The only way it made sense to trade him was if the Mets could fill multiple needs for next season in a package that would have essentially made up for dealing away two top pitching prospects for Stroman.
So I don't think it went exactly as planned, but the consensus around baseball is that the Mets gave up relatively little for Stroman, making the deal a no-brainer, at least in a vacuum.
In the context of team-building, meanwhile, it remains to be seen if the trade pays off. Since Stroman can be a free agent after next season, Van Wagenen has declared the Mets all-in on 2020 with this trade, but will they go the extra mile to keep this rotation intact? Or will they let Wheeler walk? Will they trade Syndergaard come the offseason?
Furthermore, will dealing away two pitching prospects be a problem in the long run for an organization with little such depth?
Finally, if Van Wagenen was prepared to pivot from his original plan and put more focus than expected on the rest of the 2019 season, he should have found a way to add a reliever to a bullpen that remains the Mets' biggest flaw.
YANKEES: C -
It's tempting to go lower than that, considering that Brian Cashman came up empty, refusing to overpay for the starting pitcher he needs, but to be fair, there are some mitigating factors:
For one thing, he was boxed out on certain pitchers, as the Blue Jays wouldn't deal Stroman his way unless they got top pitching prospect Deivi Garcia, the Mets wanted a huge overpay to consider a deal for Wheeler, and Greinke, who has a no-trade clause that includes the Yankees, presumably wanted no part of playing in New York.
For another, the Yankees are hardly desperate, coasting along with a big lead in the AL East. The perception is that they need a big starter to win a championship in October, but the Yankees are capable of doing so anyway, and Cashman knows potential difference-makers Luis Severino and Dellin Betances could be back soon from season-long injuries.
Still, Cashman has to take a hit here for perhaps being too protective of prospects, saying the asking prices were simply too high for his liking.
In truth, I fault him more for refusing to give Miguel Andujar when he could have traded for Gerrit Cole going into the 2018 season, but it's fair to ask if he could have been more proactive at this deadline in trying to deal for Trevor Bauer, who is under contractual control through 2020.
The Indians received a strong return for Bauer in the three-way deal with the Reds and Padres, getting immediate impact with outfielders Yasiel Puig, Franmil Reyes, and reliever Logan Allen. But Cashman probably could have topped that offer by including Garcia, the diminutive strikeout pitcher, outfielder Clint Frazier, and perhaps infielder Thairo Estrada.
I asked a couple of scouts about that, and one agreed, saying Bauer had the potential to dominate in October, while worrying Garcia could break down physically, but the other scout said he worried about Bauer's quirky personality in New York and believes in Garcia's potential.
And then there's the question of whether the Yankees could have convinced the Giants to trade Madison Bumgarner after they said no to the Astros and everybody else. It seems Cashman wasn't inclined to do so, believing in the analytics that see the renowned lefty as being in decline.
We'll see how it all plays out. Cashman has built a foundation that should guarantee the Yankees plenty of opportunities to win championships in the coming years, so he wasn't selling out this season when he believes his team could win it all anyway.
Come October we'll see if he was right or wrong. Especially depending what the Astros have to say about that.