Who knew? 11 low-key moves paid big dividends

August 28th, 2019

When the Mets acquired Minor Leaguer J.D. Davis from the Astros last January, they said all the right things about how he could play all over the diamond, had just won a Pacific Coast League batting title and was only 25 years old.

He’d gotten into just 66 Major League games over the previous two seasons, but that unknown quantity made the trade involving prospects that much more interesting. In an offseason in which new Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen reshaped his roster, Davis appeared to be a small brick in a much larger wall.

Had the Mets known then what they know now, they might have thrown themselves a party. Davis has started games in left field and at third base, hit 15 home runs in 320 at-bats and compiled an .868 OPS. Down the stretch, he has been tremendous, hitting .345 as the Mets have made a run at a playoff berth by winning 27 of 40.

In lots of ways, this is the best kind of trade. It’s not about money or pending free agency. It’s based on one organization evaluating a relatively unknown player and seeing something they like.

After every season, we look back at a long list of impact deals that flew under the radar when they were made. Here are 11 smaller acquisitions since the end of last season that have paid off:

(Statistics through Monday)

1. , Mets 3B/OF (.868 OPS, 15 HR, 113 games) -- His .345 batting average since the All-Star break is tied for the seventh-highest in the Majors entering Tuesday. In 53 games at Citi Field, he’s batting .359 with 10 homers and 10 doubles in just 142 at-bats.

2. , Yankees OF (.898 OPS, 12 HR, 77 games) -- Acquired in late March from the Rockies to provide organizational depth, Tauchman has filled in for injured stars and helped make the Yankees baseball’s most remarkable team. His .350 batting average since the All-Star break is the ninth-highest in the American League with 18 of his 41 hits going for extra bases.

3. , Rays RHP (2.30 ERA, 0.860 WHIP, 52 games) -- He joined the Rays as part of a three-team trade with the A’s and Rangers. He’s pure power, with a 96-mph fastball and an 88-mph slider, and he has used it to slip into the closer’s role. He has converted seven of his last eight save chances.

4. , Rangers UTIL (.882 OPS, 22 HR, 103 games) -- He joined the Rangers on a Minor League contract after hitting .179 in Atlanta last season. He has cooled off a bit this month, but for most of the year, he was one of his team’s two best batters.

5. , Giants OF (.856 OPS, 17 HR, 78 games) -- He’s the grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, and that’s what made this swap with the Orioles of Minor Leaguers notable. He made his debut on May 25 and has methodically played his way into an everyday job.

6. , Indians RHP (2.52 ERA, 0.820 WHIP, 41 games) -- He was signed by the Indians during Spring Training to add bullpen depth. He has done that, and more, allowing one earned run in 13 1/3 innings this month.

7. , Reds 2B/LF/3B (.847 OPS, 19 HR, 102 games) -- He signed a Minor League deal at the beginning of Spring Training, made the Reds roster and then hit a three-run homer in his first at-bat. He has an .889 OPS against right-handed pitching.

8. , Twins LHP (4.53 ERA, 1.446 WHIP, 139 IP) -- He probably needed a change of scenery after seven seasons with the Rangers and eventually pitching his way out of the rotation. He has struggled at times with the Twins as well, but he also has 10 quality starts in his last 23 turns. He has allowed four earned runs in his last three starts.

9. , Brewers LHP (3.88 ERA, 1.350 WHIP, 70 games) -- He was acquired last offseason for a Competitive Balance pick and has added a bit of stability to the Brewers bullpen, managing a 2.81 ERA in 21 appearances since the All-Star break.

10. , D-backs UTIL (.832 OPS, 6 HR, 68 games) -- He was signed for $3.75 million and a 2020 option in late January and has been a reliable contributor, mostly at second base. He’s hitting .452 with four home runs in 17 games this month.

11. , Rays OF (.783 OPS, 17 HR, 103 games) -- He has been a solid addition to the Rays since being signed in mid-January. Just back from a 10-day stay on the IL because of an oblique injury, Garcia is two homers away from his career high, set last season for the White Sox.