Now that the trade winds are done blowing, now that the dust has settled and now that I’m done using those cliches, let’s check out what the National League East teams did for themselves at this year’s trade deadline…
Philadelphia Phillies – There are a handful of dates that we celebrate annually: birthdays (ourselves and loved ones), wedding anniversaries, holidays, etc. For Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr., it’s likely that July 29th has reached that level. For the third straight year, Amaro Jr. pulled off a deal to make a strong Phillies team even stronger. While there was some talk about the Phillies adding another arm to their oft-injured bullpen, the need for a strong right-handed outfield bat has been apparent since spring training. By acquiring Hunter Pence from the Astros, the Phillies didn’t just add a talented right-handed hitter for this year’s postseason, they added a young talent who can be under team control through 2013. Coming into this season the Phillies age was one of their most mentioned drawbacks. The 28 year-old Pence is a quality response to any aging questions. Pence didn’t come cheap. The Phillies had to fork over two of their top minor league pitchers, Jarrod Cosart and Josh Zeid (whose switch to the bullpen made him instantly more effective), as well as their top hitting prospect (albeit in the low minors) Jonathan Singleton. However, the Phillies were able to improve their team without trading away their prized youngster, rookie Domonic Brown. While it’s true that Brown’s 2011 season has been short of highlights, he was highly sought after during the trade deadline. Instead, he will likely be a part of the Phillies outfield of the future. It’s also worth noting that in the last four years the Phillies have pulled off three trades with the Astros and current GM (and former Phillies GM) Ed Wade. Some in Philadelphia like to say that Wade has done more for the Phillies organization as the Astros GM than he did as the Phillies GM.
Atlanta Braves – For a little while it seemed like the Braves had missed out on any opportunity to improve their outfield issues. Beltran was the first to go. Pence soon went to the rival Phillies. BJ Upton was BJ Unavailable. With the trade deadline approaching, all signs pointed to the Braves showing up to the prom dateless. Then the music faded in, the crowd parted, and the answer that was there all along stood out…Michael Bourn. In acquiring Bourn the Braves got more than just the majors stolen base leader, they got themselves the center fielder they desperately needed, the leadoff hitter they desperately needed and a potential sparkplug for an offense that had been lacking spark almost all season. Perhaps even more impressive, the Braves didn’t really give up a whole lot in order to get him. Outfielder Jordan Schafer was once considered a top prospect in baseball but that was back in 2008. Since then he’s been suspended for HGH use, undergone wrist surgery, played through a couple disappointing seasons and is currently on the disabled list with a fractured finger. The other three players received by the Astros, all minor league pitchers were not considered top prospects although they do have some potential upside, if brought along correctly.
New York Mets – The trade deadline was a tricky situation for Mets GM Sandy Alderson to manipulate. The team had played just well enough to keep fans’ faint hopes alive through the All-Star break. However, potential free agents Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes, as well as the handcuffing option on Francisco Rodriguez’s contract all had potential to affect the team’s future. If this were a choose your own adventure book, it’s at this point that the reader would have to decide between keeping the team as is and fighting for the postseason, or giving up on playing in October 2011 for the potential of October baseball in the coming years. Alderson wisely chose the latter. He not only kept Reyes but he made known his intentions to keep Reyes in a Mets uniform for years to come. By trading away Rodriguez and his option, Alderson was less concerned with the two prospects he will get (they will both be chosen from a list of five Brewers minor leaguers sometime in September) than he was with making sure the Mets could focus their money next year on Reyes. Obviously there are many factors that will determine whether or not Reyes calls Citi Field home next season, but Alderson made sure that Rodriguez was not among them. The Beltran trade was a challenge as well. While the Mets didn’t have to get rid of Beltran, the idea of not getting anything aside from memories in return for him when he (likely) signs elsewhere was not ideal. However, potential trade partners were well aware that Beltran is only a rent-a-player and, while valuable, is likely not someone worth sacrificing the future to acquire. Reports suggested that the Mets were offered a variety of mid-level prospects from a few teams in exchange for Beltran, but they held out and eventually scored Giants prospect Zach Wheeler. The tall righty was not only considered one of the top pitching prospects in the Giants organization, he is generally ranked one of the top 40 prospects in all of baseball.
Florida Marlins – The only trade the Marlins made was acquiring veteran outfielder Mike Cameron from the Red Sox for cash or a player to be named later (or a player to be named Cash, I guess). This is not to suggest that there weren’t players of interest on the Marlins team. Pitchers Ricky Nolasco, Leo Nunez and Randy Choate, as well as utility player Omar Infante could have fetched the Fish a nice return. However, the Marlins did not consider themselves buyers or sellers during this trading season. Instead they intend on keeping their young team in tact as they build for the future (or the near future as they move into a new stadium next season). While none of the players mentioned are rookies, they are all young enough to be participants in a potential Miami rebirth.
Washington Nationals – The Nationals could be considered sellers these past few weeks, although they were more like garage sale sellers than major vendors. Over the course of the past few weeks the Nationals traded a couple minor leaguers for Jonny Gomes, who is barely a part of the Nationals present and is unlikely to factor into their future. Should they choose to offer him arbitration, and should he decline and sign elsewhere, the Nats would get a supplementary draft pick, but other than that this trade doesn’t appear to have much of an impact on anyone aside from the players involved. Washington did net themselves a couple of talented minor league hitters, outfielder Erik Komatsu and infielder Zachary Walters. Neither of these players has reached Triple-A yet, but the prices, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Jason Marquis (and his contract) respectively, were not especially steep. Hariston Jr. and Marquis were most likely not going to play a role in the Nationals future.
Properly evaluating deals involving prospects is not an easy task. Who knows what Cosart, Wheeler, Komatsu or any of the others will ever achieve, or whether or not they’ll even achieve them with their new teams? While the deals involving NL East teams ranged from acquiring missing pieces for the postseason, to bringing in potential future stars, to maintaining the core squad, it seems that each of the teams came out ahead at this year’s trade deadline. Maybe we should revisit this article in a year or two to see how things really panned out.
Shai Kushner is a Senior Writer for BaseballDigest.com. Email Shai at: BaseballDigestShai@gmail.com. Follow Shai on Twitter at: @BD_ShaiKushner.