Trade deadline roundup: Broxton deal is best of the rest

Tuesday July 31st, 2012

Newly-acquired Red Jonathan Broxton won't be a closer anymore but he suddenly has a much better shot at pitching in the posteason. (Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Baseball’s non-waiver trading deadline has come and gone. The big names changing teams on Tuesday were Ryan Dempster, who joins the Rangers rotation, and former Phillies outfielders Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, who are now on opposite sides of the Dodgers-Giants rivalry atop the National League West. (Tom Verducci has our wrap-up piece here.) There were also several smaller deals executed, most of them finalized in the final hour before the 4 p.m. deadline. Here’s a look at those smaller deals, starting with the biggest one, and not just because it involves a 300-pound reliever.

Reds acquire RHP Jonathan Broxton from Royals for LHP Donnie Joseph and RHP J.C. Sulbaran

When the Royals signed former Dodgers closer Broxton to a one-year, $4 million deal this winter coming off an injury-shortened season, it was clear that he was a lottery ticked designed to be cashed in at the deadline. It worked. With Joakim Soria out following Tommy John surgery, Broxton stepped in at closer and went 23-for-27 in save opportunities and posted a 2.27 ERA. He did his part, and the Royals did theirs, flipping him to Cincinnati for minor league hurlers Joseph and Sulbaran. In Broxton, the NL Central-leading Reds add a pitcher who is getting it done with groundballs instead of strikeouts this year, to what has arguably been the best bullpen in baseball this year (the Reds’ relievers lead baseball with a collective 2.66 ERA) where he’ll help set up Aroldis Chapman. It’s not clear that the Reds needed Broxton, but they are not a franchise that does or should take postseason opportunities for granted.

As for Joseph and Sulbaran, neither is an elite prospect, but the 24-year-old Joseph is a lefty reliever with a live arm who appeared to be putting it together in the upper minors this year, posting a 1.72 ERA, 11.7 K/9 and 4.00 K/BB between Double- and Triple-A. The 22-year-old Sulbaran, who had a memorable turn for the Dutch team in the most recent World Baseball Classic, could be a mid-rotation starter if he can (say it with me) improve his breaking stuff and reduce his home runs and walks, something he has yet to do in Double-A this year.

Red Sox acquire LHP Craig Breslow from Diamondbacks for RHP Matt Albers and OF Scott Podsednik; trade 1B Lars Anderson to the Indians for RHP Steven Wright

The most significant part of this trade seems to be that it will allow Boston to move lefty Franklin Morales back into the rotation by replacing him in the bullpen with Breslow, who was in the Red Sox organization back in 2006 and 2007 only to be claimed off waivers by the Indians just before the 2008 season. Not that the Red Sox couldn’t have moved Morales without having Breslow in their 'pen. If they thought Morales was one of the five best starting options based on his 3.46 ERA in five starts between June and early July, not having a second lefty in the bullpen shouldn’t have stopped them from employing him that way. For his part, the 31-year-old journeyman Breslow is the rare lefty reliever who is equally effective against right-handers.

The Red Sox traded high on Albers, who was having a strong season as their seventh-inning set-up man based largely on an opponents’ batting average on balls in play that had dropped 100 points from a year ago to .218. He could be in for a rude awakening with the Diamondbacks, a weaker-fielding team. The 36-year-old Podsednik, meanwhile, is a player Arizona probably could have had simply by asking nicely. Boston had purchased the veteran outfielder from the Phillies in May, and he had been toiling in Triple-A since mid-June. He adds no value to this trade.

The Anderson-for-Wright deal, a swap of minor leaguers, will only be notable if the 27-year-old Wright, who has recently added a knuckleball to his repertoire, turns into the next R.A. Dickey.

 Yankees acquire 3B/1B Casey McGehee from Pirates for RHP Chad Qualls

Speaking of players without value, Qualls is another player acquired mid-season from the Phillies for the proverbial bag of balls (in this case a player still to be named later or cash). He pitched poorly in four of his eight appearances with the Yankees, and was likely about to be designated for assignment in conjunction with Joba Chamberlain’s return from the disabled list. McGehee, meanwhile, has hit .226/.286/.356 (75 OPS+) over the past two seasons while playing the infield corners poorly (“McGehee has more trouble fielding grounders than a third baseman should,” begins John Dewan’s evaluation in The Fielding Bible Volume III), and may have been on the verge of losing his roster spot in the wake of the Pirates' deadline addition of first baseman Gaby Sanchez from the Marlins (see below).

At the plate, McGehee could be a suitable right-handed half of a third base platoon with Eric Chavez while Alex Rodriguez’s broken hand is healing, as he has hit .250/.344/.463 against lefties this year. Last year, however, he hit just .169/.228/.185 against southpaws, so take those small-sample splits with a large grain of salt. Look for McGehee to be dropped from the Yankee roster upon Rodriguez’s return, if not before. In fact, don’t be surprised if neither of these players finishes the year with their new teams, just as they weren’t about to finish it with their old ones.

Pirates acquire 1B Gaby Sanchez and RHP Kyle Kaminska from Marlins for CF Gorkys Hernandez and a competitive balance draft pick

Sanchez was a Rookie of the Year contender in 2010 and an All-Star in 2011, but his bat went missing this year as he has managed a mere .202/.250/.306 line, losing his first base job once in mid-May and then again upon the Marlins acquisition of Carlos Lee in early July. Sanchez has been in Triple-A since Lee’s arrival, but has shown signs of life down there, hitting .302/.431/.491 in 144 plate appearances. With Pedro Alvarez having come around at third base, the Pirates happily shipped faded centerfield prospect Hernandez to Miami in the hope that Sanchez can bring some of that Triple-A production back up to the majors. Sanchez is under team control through 2015, but bear in mind that he’ll be 32 in September of that year and 29 a month from Thursday. It could be that he will be a Quadruple-A hitter from here on out.

Kaminska is a 23-year-old righty reliever who throws too many strikes in that he walks no one (1.8 BB/9 in his minor league career), but gets hit hard (12.6 H/9 and 1.5 HR/9 between Double- and Triple-A this season). More on Hernandez below.

Cardinals acquire RHP Edward Mujica for 3B Zack Cox

This could be the most effective trade of the bunch from the contender’s standpoint. The Cardinals needed help in their bullpen and Mujica can provide it, though there’s reason to be concerned about his declining strikeout rate (from 9.3 K/9 in 2010 to 7.5 last year and 6.0 this year) and above-average home run rates.

Meanwhile, in Cox and Hernandez, the Marlins have acquired a pair of prospects who have lost their shine but are still young enough to turn things around. Hernandez, a former top-100 prospect who turns 25 in September, is a legitimate centerfielder with some on-base skills, though his speed on the bases seems to be evaporating already with his stolen base success rate dropping from 85 percent to 70 percent to 65 percent over the last three years, echoing the erosion of his already marginal power in previous seasons. He’s likely a bench outfielder at best, but a fourth or fifth outfielder who can play center and work a walk has some value and he’s still two years shy of his natural athletic peak.

Cox, 23, was a collegiate star for the University of Arkansas and the Cardinals’ top pick in the 2010 draft. He hit .306/.363/.434 in his first full professional season last year, splitting it between High-A and Double-A, and entered the year as one of Baseball America’s top-100 prospects. He's struggled in Triple-A this year, though, and scouts doubt his ability to play a solid third base or hit for much more than doubles power. It could be that the Cardinals have rushed him a bit as a result of the four-year, $3.2 million major league deal they signed him to in 2010, but with David Freese finally healthy and established at third base Cox became not only less of a pressing concern, but outright expendable. He now takes over as the Marlins top third base prospect and, with Hanely Ramirez out of the picture, could make his major league debut sometime next year if he can sort out Triple-A pitching.

Cox and Hernandez may not be future stars, but they’re young and talented, and the Marlins netted a competitive balance draft pick in next year’s draft. That pick could yield a player superior to either one, in the process of acquiring them for a fungible relief pitcher and a 29-year-old first baseman who couldn’t hold on to a major league roster spot on a losing team. It could be that nothing comes of any of that, but it’s nice, low-level work at the deadline from a team that also landed a significant prospect in Jacob Turner in last week's deal with the Tigers and unloaded a potentially ugly contract in sending Ramirez to the Dodgers.

-- By Cliff Corcoran
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