Tricks of the trades: Which deals have made impact?
Angels, Nats, Orioles among the teams whose Deadline swaps have helped the most
David Price didn't let his emotions get the best of him. Yet you could almost have bottled the sense of frustration that he carried in the late innings on Thursday at Tropicana Field, when his Tigers couldn't get out from under the 1-0 deficit they had faced since the first inning.
Tampa Bay would win the game by that score, on the merits of an unearned run that scored on a triple, the only hit that Price would allow in the game. Since the Tigers started keeping records in 1914, it was the first time they'd ever lost a game in which they held the opponent to one hit.
Welcome to the twilight zone, Mr. Price.
To a surprising degree, that's the way it has been for the players -- especially the big-ticket players -- who were displaced during the midseason trading season.
There's plenty of time for this to change, of course, but when you look at trades that were seen as difference-makers, few are having the desired impact. Sellers generally win these deals about three times as often as the buyers, because when you trade away prospects to get veterans, you need two things to go right: Acquired players to perform well after the trade, and your team to either climb in the standings or win in October.
For all the time we spend encouraging teams to keep building their rosters, that can be a tricky tightrope to walk.
In the immediate aftermath this year, there are two trends to note: 1) The deals paying the biggest dividends are ones that seemed ordinary when they were made, and 2) It was a whole lot easier to upgrade a pitching staff than a lineup.
Here's an early take on the 10 deals that are making the most difference:
1. The Angels' deal with the Padres for Huston Street on July 19: A weakness early in the season, Mike Scioscia's bullpen has turned into a major strength. Street has already converted 10 of 11 save chances for the Halos, and his arrival allowed Joe Smith (10-for-10 during his time as closer in June and July) to move back into his role as one of baseball's best setup men. General manager Jerry Dipoto added another experienced closer, Jason Grilli, in late June, as well as Joe Thatcher and Vinnie Pestano in separate deals.
2. The Nationals' deal with the Indians for Asdrubal Cabrera on July 31: This was a classic move to fill a need, as GM Mike Rizzo made it a week after Ryan Zimmerman was shelved with a hamstring injury, which continues to keep him out of the lineup. A shortstop in Cleveland, Cabrera moved to second base, allowing Anthony Rendon to return to third, where he had played great in a previous stint replacing Zimmerman. Cabrera is hitting .250 with a .728 OPS -- numbers that don't seem great until you look around and see what guys like Jonny Gomes, Kendrys Morales, Austin Jackson, Stephen Drew and Gerardo Parra have done since they were traded.
3. The Orioles' addition of Andrew Miller from the Red Sox on July 31: Nobody was pursued more widely than Miller, and the left-hander has shown why he was believed to be so valuable. Buck Showalter used him eight times in the first 15 games he wore a Baltimore uniform, and the only time he was scored on was when he came in with the O's trailing. Baltimore's bullpen has generally been a strength under Showalter, and Miller is keeping that true. His value could soar in October, when he'll be known as Anytime Andrew.
4. The Yankees' deal with the Diamondbacks for Brandon McCarthy on July 6: McCarthy is doing what few pitchers have done historically. He's rising to the occasion after being thrown into the fire at Yankee Stadium. McCarthy is 5-2 with a 1.90 ERA in eight starts for New York. His impact would be bigger than it is if the Yanks hadn't gone 7-11 in games pitched by anyone else since July 26. Nevertheless McCarthy has helped Joe Girardi compete without Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia.
5. The Marlins' deal with the Astros for Jarred Cosart on July 31: Miami was tied for fifth in the National League Wild Card race at the time of the deal, 4 1/2 games out. The Marlins really haven't improved much since then but they just keep hanging around, an amazing feat given they're doing it without Jose Fernandez. Cosart has a 2.45 ERA with the Marlins, with strong work against the Rangers and Cardinals his past two times out.
6. The Rays' acquisition of Drew Smyly from the Tigers in the Price trade, July 31: Lots of people were underwhelmed by the package that VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman received for Price, but Smyly is showing that he was undervalued. He has a 2.25 ERA in three starts with his new team -- numbers that reflect well on his mental toughness -- and has shown himself to be a good fit for Tampa Bay's deep rotation going forward. No, he's not Price, but he fits at a time when Price had outgrown the franchise's budget.
7. The Giants' deal with the Red Sox for Jake Peavy on July 26: Peavy lost his first three starts with San Francisco, but he has compiled a 3.58 ERA through five starts, including wins over the Cubs and White Sox his past two times out. With Matt Cain out and Tim Hudson not as effective as earlier in the year, he's proving to be quite valuable for a team fighting to make the playoffs.
8. The Yankees' deal with the Padres for Chase Headley on July 22: Headley isn't setting the world on fire, but his .255 average and .701 OPS represent upgrades for the Yanks, who have been searching for offense at third base since June, when pitchers began catching up to unlikely hero Yangervis Solarte. The switch-hitting Headley has provided some stability in the lineup for Girardi, who will take all of that he can get. The Yankees are slowly starting to slide out of view in the Wild Card race, but a big September by Headley could be epic.
9. The Athletics' deal with the Red Sox for Jon Lester on July 31: Lester has been rock solid in Oakland (3-1, 2.93 ERA), but the A's were nevertheless passed by the Angels in the American League West standings. One of the major issues is that GM Billy Beane gave up Yoenis Cespedes to get Lester and the entire rotation has been working with reduced run support all month (ninth in the AL in runs and 10th in OPS). Unlike the trade for Jeff Samardzija, who is under control through 2015, the Lester deal has to pay off this year, as he's headed to free agency. It would help if Gomes, acquired to help replace Cespedes, wasn't hitting .211 with a .544 OPS since the trade.
10. The Tigers' deal with the Rays for Price on July 31: With Justin Verlander going on the disabled list to rest a sore shoulder, GM Dave Dombrowski's addition of Price seems shrewd. But despite Price pitching well, he hasn't moved the needle and Detroit has slid downhill. The Tigers are going to be in a major fight with the Royals for the AL Central title, so there's plenty of time for Price to become a difference-maker. You've got to think he hit bottom with that 1-0 loss to his old team.
Keep your eyes on these situations in September. They're key pieces of storylines waiting to be written.