Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Importance of the Non-Trade Deadline for the Rest of the League

Earlier today we took a look at how important the July 31st trade deadline was for the four teams still vying for the postseason, what about the teams that ultimate made the playoffs but fell short. If the team had done more before the deadline could we be talking about an entirely different ball game here on October 18th? While the Cubs, Mets, Blue Jays and Royals play on because of what their GM’s did could the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees have done more?

The Houston Astros season may be defined by the non-trades more so than the actual trades that went on. Houston was “in” on basically any and all relief pitcher before the deadline making runs at both Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman before settling for Oliver Perez and an outfielder that was nearly dealt to the New York Mets in Carlos Gomez. It’s hard to say how the five game series would have went with Kansas City but having either Kimbrel or Chapman on the mound and not Tony Sipp in a huge Game 5 may have made all the difference in the world, not that Sipp has been ineffective whatsoever this season.

The Texas Rangers did make a big deal or two before the deadline acquiring Mike Napoli and Cole Hamels in July. Texas had their eyes set on 2016 when they acquired Hamels and by the team was back in the thick of things in the American League West Division many of the impact players were already traded or unavailable at the trading deadline. It’s hard to put the ALDS loss on the Rangers manager, GM or pitcher Cole Hamels. The Rangers, and specifically their defense in that 7th inning, gave the game to the Toronto Blue Jays and the Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista took it.

The Pirates made a few quiet deals at the trading deadline but the team seemed to take a step back offensively when Jung Ho Kang went down with an injury. You can fault the Pirates for seemingly not having enough depth to cover him but even with Kang I can’t see Pittsburgh making up three runs against the Cubs starter and ace Jake Arrieta. Sometimes you just run into a buzz saw and that’s what the Pirates did. They threw their best pitcher out there with their best offensive team they could muster without Kang but they learned the hard way that no team has ever won a game without scoring a run. Hard to fault the GM for that, especially after winning 98 games during the regular season.

The St. Louis Cardinals were the best team in Major League Baseball in 2015 winning 100 games and the National League Central Division. The team battled injury after injury this season losing Matt Adams, quite possibly their best offensive weapon, Adam Wainwright, their ace starting pitcher, and Carlos Martinez, their ace without Wainwright, and won despite it all. The team looked flat, tired and discouraged against the Chicago Cubs and the Cubbies fed off of it. Without Adams in the lineup and without a suitable backup Jason Heyward got little to hit for much of the second half which basically amounted to an exit in the ALDS. If Mike Matheny had more weapons at his disposal and more depth we may all be laughing about parity in Major League Baseball right now with the Cardinals battling once again for a World Series championship.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and their $300-plus million payroll surprisingly needed to do more at the July 31st trading deadline with the team trying to hold off the San Francisco Giants in the division. Instead of the Dodgers adding a more reliable starter to pair with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke they added Mat Latos, who failed, and Alex Wood in a trade with the Atlanta Braves, who could have been better, leaving the team’s pitching staff exposed in a short series. The Dodgers needed bullpen help, another reliable starter and quite possibly an outfield bat and got none of the above in July. The team added Corey Seager to the mix at shortstop and Chase Utley at second base but it was the pitching AND the offense that let them down against the Mets ultimately leading to another early exit for the team with the highest payroll in baseball and their manager Don Mattingly.

Finally we look at the New York Yankees who had seemingly a comfortable lead in the AL East Division race and were sprinting towards the finish in July. Michael Pineda went down a day before the trading deadline and instead of New York acquiring a starter they called up their top pitching prospect Luis Severino in a move that worked out exceptionally well for New York. A few weeks later the Bombers learned that Mark Teixeira would miss the remainder of the 2015 season with a fracture in his shin after fouling a ball off it in a game and once again Brian Cashman dipped into his farm system again and found a great replacement in Greg Bird. It was when Nathan Eovaldi missed the remainder of the season with elbow inflammation that Cashman and the Yankees luck seemingly ran out. New York’s offense got exposed against good pitching, especially left-handed pitching, and there was nothing the Yankees sole acquisition, Dustin Ackley, could do about it. The Yankees limped into the postseason and if the season was about a week longer they may not have even got that far all because the team lacked depth and the big acquisition to put them over the top.

In two instances, the Pirates and the Rangers, the teams that lost were unlikely to change that scenario with a big trade or acquisition before the trading deadline. In the other four instances the teams, the Yankees, Astros, Dodgers and Cardinals, would have had a much better shot at things if the trade deadline was navigated differently. Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s hard to change things now but if those team’s general managers could I believe they probably would at this point. 

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