MLB Trade Deadline: Dodgers Move Late, Get Darvish

When the MLB non-waiver trade deadline passed at 4 p.m. eastern time on Monday, it appeared the Yankees’ acquisition of Sonny Gray was the biggest trade on a fairly quiet deadline.

Then the best team in baseball stunned everyone.

Darvish to the Dodgers

After it appeared the Rangers had decided in the end not to trade pitcher Yu Darvish, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal broke the news at 4:12 p.m. that the Los Angeles Dodgers had, in fact, acquired the Japanese right-handed starter.  (Deals have to be done by the 4 p.m. deadline, but that doesn’t always mean they are reported in the media before 4 p.m., though most are.)

Dodgers acquisition Yu Darvish (Matthew Straubmuller/Flickr)

Darvish, a 30-year old four-time All-Star who has pitched to a 4.01 ERA with 148 strikeouts in 137 innings this season, will join the Dodgers for the rest of the season before becoming a free agent.

The move gives the Dodgers, who boast an MLB-best 74-31 record and a 14-game lead in the NL West, further rotation depth for the postseason, and helps for the immediate future as Clayton Kershaw sits with a back injury.

Darvish wasn’t cheap, but the Dodgers were able to avoid trading their top two prospects–considered untouchable–instead sending the Rangers 2B/OF Willie Calhoun, RHP A.J. Alexy and IF Brendon Davis.  All were among the Dodgers top 27 prospects, according to MLB.com, with Calhoun ranking as the fourth-best prospect in the Dodgers minor-league system, and the 69th-best in all of baseball.

Darvish wasn’t the only addition to the Dodgers pitching staff, as the team added two left-handed relievers in Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani.  Both add to an already deep bullpen, and will help in setting up closer Kenley Jansen.

Watson, an impending free agent, was acquired from the Pirates, who receive IF Oneil Cruz, the Dodgers’ 21st-ranked prospect, and RHP Angel German.  Cingrani, signed through 2019, was acquired from the Reds for OF Scott Van Slyke (son of Andy) and C Hendrik Clementina.

All three moves by the Dodgers appeared to happen in the final hour before the deadline, as the team is clearly “going for it.”  The additions make the Dodgers, who are already clearly the best team in baseball, the overwhelming World Series favorites as they try to win their first championship since 1988.

Gray to the Yankees

Yankees acquisition Sonny Gray (Dinur/Flickr)

Before the Dodgers acquisition of Darvish, the biggest move of the day was made by the Yankees, who acquired right-handed starting pitcher Sonny Gray from the Athletics.

The 27-year old is signed through 2019, filling a Yankees need for starting pitching both for this year and the future—Gray has a 3.43 ERA in 16 starts this season totaling 97 innings, and a 3.42 career ERA in five seasons, all with the A’s.

Given that Oakland was giving up two more seasons of Gray, they required a big prospect package from the Yankees.  They got one, acquiring the fourth, eighth and 12th-ranked Yankee prospects in OF Dustin Fowler, the 77th-ranked prospect in MLB, SS/OF Jorge Mateo and RHP James Kaprielian.  Fowler and Kaprelian are both out for the season with injuries.

The move furthers the chances of both making the postseason and making a deep run in it for the Yankees, who lead Boston by a half-game in the AL East.

Other Moves

Another of the biggest deadline moves was agreed to late Sunday night, as the Cubs acquired left-handed reliever Justin Wilson and C Alex Avila from the Tigers for two prospects:  Jeimer Candelario, a corner infielder who was the Cubs’ top-ranked prospect (and MLB’s #92) but was blocked at the major-league level by stars Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, and SS Isaac Paredes, the Cubs’ 10th-ranked prospect.

Wilson, who will likely be the setup man for closer Wade Davis, is signed through 2018.  Avila will be a free agent this winter; Tigers GM Al Avila became the first GM to trade his son at the major-league level since Al Campanis in 1967.

The Dodgers and Cubs were not the only teams to trade for relief pitching.  The Nationals, who acquired relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from Oakland two weeks ago, added their biggest piece yet in their continued search for bullpen help, getting closer Brandon Kintzler from the Twins, adding LHP Tyler Watson (Nationals #17 prospect) and increasingly-valuable international bonus pool money.

The Red Sox acquired RHP Addison Reed, who will set up for closer Craig Kimbrel, from the Mets; Dillon, S.C. native RHP Jamie Callahan was part of a return that included three top-30 Red Sox prospects but none of their top 17.

Veteran LHP Francisco Liriano was acquired by the Astros, the best team in the AL at 68-36, where he is expected to move to the bullpen.  Veteran OF Norichika Aoki and ninth-ranked Astros prospect Teoscar Hernandez were shipped to the Blue Jays in return.  The move was the only move made by the Astros, however, who lost ground to the Dodgers in a potential World Series matchup.

The Brewers got RHP Jeremy Jeffress from the Rangers, where he had been dealt at last year’s deadline.   The Indians added RHP Joe Smith from Blue Jays, the Diamondbacks acquired RHP David Hernandez from the Angels, and the Pirates acquired RHP Joaquin Arias from the Phillies, all for low- to mid-level prospects.

On a day pitching dominated the headlines, only two major-league position players were moved.  The Diamondbacks traded for 2B Adam Rosales after IF Chris Owings broke his finger on Sunday and IF Ketel Marte was placed on bereavement leave due to his mother’s death.  The Orioles, who were surprise buyers sitting 5 ½ games out of the playoffs, traded for Rays IF Tim Beckham.

A Quiet Deadline

This deadline, the story of who wasn’t traded is as big as the stories of who were.  After a July filled with rumors about numerous big-name players, most remained with their current club when the dust cleared.

These names include a trio of Tigers in RHP Justin Verlander, 2B Ian Kinsler and SS Jose Iglesias, Orioles relief ace LHP Zach Britton, Padres LHP Brad Hand, Cardinals RHP Lance Lynn, Marlins RHP Dan Straily, Blue Jays RHP Marco Estrada and LHP J.A. Happ, and numerous veterans on out-of-contention teams including the Braves, Giants and White Sox.

The relative lack of deadline drama is in part due to the high volume of trades between the All-Star Break and now, as teams opted to make moves sooner rather than later to address their weaknesses and add personnel, rather than waiting until the deadline.

Deals over the last three weeks include LHP Jose Quintana to the Cubs, OF J.D. Martinez to the Diamondbacks, IF Todd Frazier, RHP David Robertson and RHP Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees, RHP David Phelps to the Mariners, 1B Lucas Duda, LHP Dan Jennings, RHP Sergio Romo and RHP Steve Cishek to the Rays in separate deals, IF Eduardo Nunez to the Red Sox, RHP Anthony Swarzak to the Brewers, RHP Pat Neshek and C Jonathan Lucroy to the Rockies in separate deals, RHP A.J. Ramos to the Mets, 2B/OF Howie Kendrick to the Nationals, RHP Jeremy Hellickson to the Orioles, and LHP Jaime Garcia to the Twins, who in turn traded him to the Yankees.

Trades can still be made after Monday’s deadline, but players have to pass through revocable waivers to be traded, making the process more difficult.  To be allowed to participate in the postseason for their new club, players must be acquired by August 31.

ALDS Recap: Tigers def. Athletics, 3-2

The Detroit Tigers defeated the Oakland Athletics in 5 games in the American League Division Series, a repeat of last year’s series between these same two teams.  This year’s series was similar, but all 5 games took a life of their own, and some players who didn’t play in last year’s series made a difference for both sides.  Let’s look at a game-by-game recap of the series:

Game 1:  Tigers 3, Athletics 2.  The pitching matchup for Game 1 saw two AL Cy Young candidates, as Max Scherzer pitched for Detroit and Bartolo Colon pitched for Oakland.  Colon, however, wasn’t as sharp as expected, and had a very rough start.  Austin Jackson led off with a double, and Torii Hunter was hit by a pitch, before Miguel Cabrera singled to score Jackson, and a Prince Fielder double play groundout scored Hunter, making the score 2-0 Tigers.  After Victor Martinez doubled, he scored when Alex Avila singled, and the Tigers had a 3-0 lead before Scherzer had thrown a single pitch.  Scherzer only gave up 1 hit in the first 6 innings, and Colon settled down after the rough first, and gave up 6 hits in the next 5 innings before being relieved.  In the bottom of the 7th, Brandon Moss reached for the A’s on an infield hit, followed by a 2-run homer by Yoenis Cespedes, which made the score 3-2, Detroit.  Scherzer responded by retiring the next 3 batters to end his night.  In the 8th, the tying run for the Athletics reached on a Coco Crisp walk by Drew Smyly, but he did not score.  In the bottom of the 9th, Joaquin Benoit struck out the side, and the Tigers had won Game 1 to take the early series lead.

Game 2:  Athletics 1, Tigers 0.  As good as the pitching matchup for Game 1 had been, Game 2 had the series best pitcher’s duel, in a game that turned into an all-time playoff classic.  Detroit went with Justin Verlander to pitch, while the Athletics sent rookie Sonny Gray to the mound.  The Tigers Miguel Cabrera had a single in the first, but nothing else happened in that inning, and the Tigers got two men on in both the 2nd and the 5th, but couldn’t score, as Gray got out of the jams.  Verlander didn’t allow a hit until the 4th, when Josh Donaldson got the A’s first hit, before Verlander gave up 2 hits in the 5th but didn’t allow Oakland to score.  In the 7th, the Athletics got men to 2nd and 3rd, but Stephen Vogt struck out to end the threat.  In the bottom of the 8th, Drew Smyly relieved Verlander, and after a leadoff double and a 1-out walk, Smyly was replaced by Al Alburquerque, who struck out the next two batters to end the threat.  After the Tigers failed to get a hit in the 9th off Athletics closer Grant Balfour, the A’s came up in the bottom of the 9th to face Alburquerque.  Yoenis Cespedes and Seth Smith started with singles, and Josh Reddick was intentionally walked to load the bases.  The Tigers went to the bullpen and Rick Porcello, who had been a starter most of the year.  Stephen Vogt hit for Oakland, and on the third pitch, he hit a liner into left-center field for a single to win the game, 1-0.  The Athletics had won a classic and evened the series at 1-1.

Game 3:  Athletics 6, Tigers 3.  Game 3 saw two underrated starters throw for their respective teams, with Anibal Sanchez of the Tigers facing Jarrod Parker of the Athletics, as the series now moved to Detroit.  Both pitchers allowed a hit in the 1st, before settling in in the 2nd.  In the top of the 3rd, a 2-out error by Miguel Cabrera allowed Yoenis Cespedes to reach and Coco Crisp to score, and the A’s had a 1-0 lead.  An inning later, Josh Reddick hit a leadoff homer to right, making the score 2-0, and a Coco Crisp sacrifice fly scored Stephen Vogt, giving Oakland a 3-0 lead.  The Tigers wouldn’t just roll over, however, and tied the game in the top of the 4th when a run scored on a Victor Martinez double and two more scored on a Jhonny Peralta single, making the score 3-3.  In the top of the 5th, Brandon Moss homered to make the score 4-3 Oakland, then Yoenis Cespedes singled and Seth Smith homered, making the score 6-3.  There were only three hits between the teams throughout the rest of the game.  The drama, however, occurred in an at-bat in the bottom of the 9th between A’s pitcher Grant Balfour and Tigers DH Victor Martinez, as a war of words resulted in Martinez charging the mound and the two being separated by multiple players, coaches, and umpires.  This was an odd situation as Balfour never pitched inside the entire at-bat, and the two had no history.  Balfour got Martinez and two other Tigers out to end the game, and the Athletics had a 2-1 series lead.

Game 4:  Tigers 8, Athletics 6.  Oakland began Game 4 one win away from the ALCS, and got off to a quick start when a Jed Lowrie single scored Coco Crisp, giving the A’s a very early 1-0 lead.  Both pitchers, Doug Fister for Detroit and Dan Straily for Oakland, were sharp for the first 4 innings, but both struggled in the 5th.  In the top half, Jed Lowrie hit a 2-run homer to give the A’s a 3-0 lead (he had all 3 of these RBIs), and in the bottom half, Jhonny Peralta hit a 3-run homer to left field to tie the score at 3-3.  After both pitchers had easy innings in the 6th, they were both relieved in the 7th.  The Tigers, facing potential elimination, turned to 21-game winner Max Scherzer to make his 2nd career postseason relief appearance.  In the top of the 7th, however, Scherzer allowed a Coco Crisp RBI single that gave the Athletics back the lead, 4-3, just 9 outs away from advancing.  In the bottom of the 7th, against A’s reliever Sean Doolittle, Victor Martinez hit a leadoff homer to tie the game, and later in the inning Austin Jackson hit a go-ahead RBI single to give the Tigers a 5-4 advantage.  Scherzer returned to the mound to pitch the top of the 8th, now leading, but a walk Brandon Moss walk, a Yoenis Cespedes double, and an intentional walk of Seth Smith had the bases loaded with nobody out.  Scherzer proceeded to strike out Josh Reddick and Stephen Vogt, and Alberto Callaspo lined out to center, and Scherzer pitched himself out of a huge jam.  In the bottom of the 8th, a wild pitch scored a run and an ensuing double by Omar Infante scored 2 more, making the score 8-4, Tigers.  Closer Joaquin Benoit came on to pitch the 9th, but struggled.  With 2 outs, Yoenis Cespedes singled to drive in 2, making it an 8-6 game, and the tying run came to the plate.  Seth Smith, however, struck out swinging and the Tigers had won Game 4 to tie the series and send it back to Oakland for Game 5.

Game 5:  Tigers 3, Athletics 0.  Game 5 was sure to be a pitcher’s duel like Game 2 had been, especially since Justin Verlander and Sonny Gray both returned to the mound to pitch the winner-take-all game at The Coliseum in Oakland.  Both pitchers were perfect through 3 innings, in what looked like a carbon copy of Game 2.  The game turned in favor of the Tigers in the top of the 4th.  After Torii Hunter broke up Gray’s perfect game with a single, Miguel Cabrera hit a 1-0 pitch into the left field seats for a 2-run homer, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead.  After a Prince Fielder groundout, the next 3 batters reached to load the bases, giving the Tigers a chance to blow the game open, but Omar Infante grounded out and Gray had kept his team within just 2.  Verlander, however, kept mowing down the A’s hitters, and after a 3rd Tigers run scored on an Omar Infante fielder’s choice in the top of the 6th, the Tigers led 3-0 and Verlander still had not allowed a base runner.  The perfect game ended in the bottom of the 6th, when Josh Reddick walked after Verlander had been ahead 0-2 and threw 4 straight balls.  After he got out of the inning, he still was working a no-hitter, now through six innings.  While the no-no would end in the 7th when Yoenis Cespedes singled, it was clear that Verlander would not be touched on this night.  He only allowed one more hit, which came in the 8th on a Josh Reddick single.  Verlander threw 111 pitches in 8 innings and allowed just 2 hits in a game on the road with the ALCS on the line.  Closer Joaquin Benoit came in for the 9th, and he got two quick outs but then gave up a double to Jed Lowrie, and hit Yoenis Cespedes with a pitch, and suddenly the tying run was at the plate.  Seth Smith struck out, and the game and series was over, as the Tigers had shut out the Athletics to advance, winning the series, 3-2.

While the Tigers won the series, let’s first look at the Athletics.  Oakland is now 0-6 all-time in Game 5s of the ALDS.  Also, they are now 1-12 since 2000 in playoff games with a chance to advance, including 2 straight losses in such games in this series.  The A’s also lost in 5 games to the Tigers in the ALCS last year, also a series in which they had home-field advantage and were shutout at home in Game 5.

As for the Tigers, they match the feat of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL by advancing to their 3rd consecutive LCS.  The last AL team to do so was the Yankees, who made four consecutive appearances between 1998 and 2001 (by the way, those Yankee teams won all four).  Also like the Cardinals, they won one and lost one out of the first two of their three consecutive trips, although unlike the Cardinals, they will be trying to win the pennant in back-to-back years, after sweeping the Yankees last year, before eventually being swept in the World Series by the San Francisco Giants.  The 2013 edition of the Tigers will face the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, starting on Saturday in Boston.  The Tigers will host Games 3-5 of the series, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  These two storied franchises have never met in the ALCS.

By the way, Justin Verlander has now completed 30 consecutive scoreless innings against Oakland in the postseason, dating back to the 2nd inning of Game 1 of last year’s ALDS (the A’s scored in the 1st of that game).  That is an all-time postseason record for consecutive scoreless innings against one team.