The trade deadline was just 11 days ago. It feels like 40 months ago. The rumors were everywhere, hanging over the heads of losing teams, giving life to winning teams. Anything was possible. Justin Verlander on the Twins? Sonny Gray on the Rockies? The Mariners acquiring every single Tyler in baseball after Jerry Dipoto had a waking vision of a flaming trade eagle? Which he has every other week? It was all possible.
Now we’re in the middle of August, and the teams are mostly set. Sure, Verlander still might get sent to the Astros. Other players will be traded. But for the most part, the teams that made moves have to live with those moves, for better or for worse.
These are the teams that would do things differently if the deadline were just 11 days later. Maybe. I don’t know. Probably not. Teams are stubborn.
There are the teams for which I would do things differently, at least. These organizations made their decisions, and I’m here to retroactively change them.
Cardinals — All-in
The state of the Cardinals is something like this: They have a rotation that’s so full, they can’t work in their best young prospect, who’s probably ready. Their current no. 3 hitter is a rookie shortstop who was injected with Temporary Serum of Stan Musial’s Pancreas, which they’ve fully synthesized at this point, but there’s no way to tell how long it will last. It was a season for Randal Grichuk and two for Allen Craig, but the serum is still pumping through the veins of Jedd Gyorko and Matt Carpenter. Total crapshoot.
And the Cardinals are winning. Like, a bunch. I was so very excited to crow about my preseason pick of the Brewers finishing ahead of them, but, as always, the baseball seasons are too long. The Cardinals are battling for first place in the NL Central, which is one step closer to meeting the Dodgers in the NLCS, which is their destiny, even if it looked unlikely a month ago.
At the deadline, there were talks that the Cardinals were interested in trading Lance Lynn, possibly to replenish the farm, possibly in a three-way deal to bring back an outfielder. Now that I’m in charge, I dial it back all the way before the deadline and get them J.D. Martinez, who was kind of the perfect fit and didn’t take a bevy of prospects to acquire for the Diamondbacks. I understand why the Cardinals weren’t interested in a rental back when they were spinning their wheels in the mud.
They’re probably cool now, though. And they would love to have Martinez.
Astros — More, dammit
This is an obvious one, and I’ve written about it before, so I won’t belabor the point. But ...
Astros first 85 games: 58-27, 3.91 ERA, third-best in AL. Astros last 29 games: 13-16, 5.20 ERA, 27th-best in MLB.— Richard Justice (@richardjustice) August 11, 2017
Yeah, that. Add in the surly Dallas Keuchel comments, and you have a team that’s lost a little puff of steam. Their main addition — Francisco Liriano as some sort of super reliever — has been a small-sample flop because he has trouble throwing strikes and hasn’t been used in short relief for years.
I’m torn, though. Do they give up prospects for Yu Darvish? Or do they beat the Yankees’ offer for Sonny Gray? Both seem daunting, but I’ll go with the Gray option because he would bring the Astros’ guaranteed payroll commitments up to, oh, $60 million next year and $30 million in 2019. That would give them the freedom to buy whatever complementary players their hearts desire to supplement their absurdly young core.
And they would have Gray for next year. It made far too much sense to work. But when Derek Fisher is in the middle of baseball’s first 60/60 season, maybe they’ll look back at this moment and laugh.
Royals — Sell, sell, sell
Oh, I know better than to doubt the Royals. They shouldn’t be here in the first place. For the first 45 days of the season, when I was writing article after article about how the Giants were on fire and running straight for the oxygen tent, I was mad at the Royals because they were so bad offensively that it forced me to write things like, “The Giants are the worst offensive team in the National League” or “the Giants are the 29th worst offense in baseball.” Ruined the impact.
Then the Royals started winning and winning, and while they didn’t exactly go on the same streak as the Dodgers, they were 44-27 after a 10-20 start. They were in position for a wild card slot, and that’s if they weren’t pushing the Indians for the Central.
Since then, they’ve gone 3-10, including getting swept in a four-game home-away stretch against the Cardinals, which put both teams here. They have six more games on the road trip (against the two worst teams in the AL), and then they’ll start a 15-game stretch against contending teams. If they can’t make up ground against the White Sox and A’s, they’ll be in a dilly of a pickle.
If I have control of the DeLorean and I’m redoing their trade deadline, I’m selling. There would be no way to sell it back then. It would have been worse than the White Flag trade of the 1997 White Sox — a punch in the throat of fans who deserve better. That’s why I’m taking all of you with me. To explain.
The Royals have been outscored on the season, and their expected record is more like 54-60. The players they traded for — Brandon Maurer, Trevor Cahill, and Ryan Buchter — have all been terrible. The most important part of this endeavor, though, is that the Royals are going to be decimated by free agency. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Jason Vargas are either going to be so expensive that they’ll prevent the Royals from signing some of the other guys, or they’re going away.
In this new reality, the Royals can swoop in with Mike Minor to appease the teams disappointed that Brad Hand and Zach Britton didn’t go anywhere. They could have dealt Vargas when his value was as high as it has ever been. Heck, they could have kept Hosmer, Cain, and/or Moustakas to keep the exclusive negotiating window and the potential that one of them might accept a qualifying offer in a weird market.
They would have had prospects, they would have been facing the same confusing offseason, and they still would have lost just as many games. There was no way to justify it back then, but we’re here, and even with the Royals just a game behind the Mariners for the second wild card, I would be ready to pull the emergency chute.
Now let’s all kick back and wait for the Royals to win 10 straight, just to make the pundit look stupid. They’re good at that.
Mariners - Trade James Paxton for all the prospects before he breaks, then crawl into a little hole and hide there forever, because baseball is not your friend, baseball will never be your friend, baseball is trying to tell you something, Mariners, you’re not wanted here
Wait, that’s not nice. Dial it back a bit.
Mariners — Get at least one more pitcher
There we go. And this seems unfair because I loved their creative approach to filling out a rotation on a budget. Marco Gonzales and Erasmo Ramirez were both fine additions for a team that didn’t have a ton of prospect capital to spend, and I applaud them for this.
That written, James Paxton might miss time with a left pectoral strain. That’s not an elbow or a shoulder, so maybe I’m making too much about this, but I’ve got the heebie-jeebies about it. Felix Hernandez has shoulder bursitis. Hisashi Iwakuma has issues with his shoulder, too. One of the pitchers they got at the deadline, David Phelps, has an elbow impingement, which always sounds like the most painful injury in baseball. Nothing is going right for the Mariners, who are resigned to the fact that baseball is their personal kite-eating tree.
Yovani Gallardo is back in the rotation, for example. After all those deals, all that planning, they’re back to where they started.
My suggestion is this: one more pitcher. It doesn’t have to be as creative as Gonzales or Ramirez. Something obvious, like Yu Darvish or Sonny Gray. Maybe if we go back and tell the Cardinals that they lose 14 in a row, they trade Lance Lynn after all. The Mariners looked like a team that would do well making some creative additions. It turns out that the dumbest, most heavy-handed prospect-for-known-quantity deals were what they needed the whole time.
If Paxton just needs a little rest, forget that I wrote this. But if he has to miss even two starts, I’m a little fidgety thinking about how the Mariners are going to maintain their contending status for the rest of the year. Paxton getting hurt right after Hernandez is absolutely brutal.
Although, I must say, isn’t it their time to have a streak of dumb luck? Shouldn’t this be when Gallardo throws six straight quality starts? We’ve seen the White Sox, Red Sox, Giants, and Cubs get it this century after not getting a lot of it in the previous century. The Royals climbed out of the depths. Why not the Mariners? Isn’t this their time? Is that too much to ask*?