I described the winners of the 2009 MLB trade deadline in a post below this one. Now it is time to reveal the teams that made some head scratchers in July. I am depicting the losers of the deadline.
Worst Deadline- Cincinnati Reds
For some reason that is beyond me, the Cincinnati Reds labeled themselves as buyers at the deadline about a week before July 31st. The team believed that they were in contention for the NL Central title. Right now, on August 3rd, the Reds sit 14 games under .500 and are tied for dead last in the Central with the Pittsburgh Pirates. According to baseball prospectus, they hold a less than 1% chance to make the playoffs this season.
The Reds started out deadline week by trading for Seattle Mariners outfielder Wladimir Balentien. Balentien was just designated for assignment a couple of days prior and was probably going to be released by the Mariners. Trading for Balentien wasn't the worst move in the world, but they gave up a solid prospect in return. The Reds shipped reliever Robert Manuel to Seattle for Balentien. Manual, 25, was named the best reliever in all of AA last season by MiLB.com. He was pitching great for the Reds AAA affiliate at the time of the deal. In his brief time with the Mariners, he has already thrown 4.1 scoreless innings in the major leagues. Why would you give up a good prospect for someone who may be able to sign for nothing in a couple of days? Puzzling.
The Reds then rounded out their trade deadline by acquiring Scott Rolen from the Toronto Blue Jays. Don't get me wrong, Rolen was having a great season for the Jays and would have been a nice addition to a contender. The problem is, the Reds are not a contender. The only thing they are contending for is the cellar with the Pirates.
Rolen is 34 years old. He is putting together a nice season, but there is nothing to suggest that he will keep this up. He posted two sub .800 OPS seasons in 2007 and 2008. The worst part of this deal is the amount of money Rolen is owed over the next year and a half. Rolen has about $15 million left on his deal over that time. The Blue Jays did give the Reds an undisclosed amount of money, but still. The Blue Jays in return received the Reds current 3B Edwin Encarnacion, along with two young pitchers with potential. Josh Roenicke, 26, pitched for the Reds and was a solid arm out of the bullpen. The other player, Zach Stewart, was a 22 year old starter pitching in AAA with good numbers.
This trade was horrible on two fronts. The financial aspect will hurt the Reds next season along with the talent they gave up, which may hurt them for many years to come. Stewart looks like a promising young starter, while Roenicke has looks good in his breif major league career. Encarnacion has struggled this season, but not too long ago he was considered one of the Reds top prospects. He could out produce Rolen next season while playing with the Jays.
With how confusing those trades were, it was the trades the Reds didn't make that made less sense. When they labeled themselves a buyer, they eliminated a lot of interest that was there for their older players.
Francisco Cordero is putting together a solid season for the Reds. With all of the interest that George Sherrill received, could the Reds have been able to ship Cordero, and his contract, to a contender for prospects. Cordero has about $30 million left on his deal over the next 2.5 seasons. A closer is not worth that kind of money, let alone to a failing franchise like the Cincinnati Reds.
The Reds also had other pieces that would have drawn interest. David Weathers and Arthur Rhodes have pitched well this season. The Reds could have swung both of those players to a contender that may have parted with a decent prospect in return.
The Reds have a decent core of young players to build around with players like Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Edinson Volquez, and Johnny Cueto. They should be focused on locking these players up. They will not have the kind of money to do that if the continue to make foolish roster decisions. The fact of the matter is that the Reds not only missed a chance to give themselves financial flexibility at the deadline, they dug a bigger hole with Scott Rolen.
Dishonorable Mention- Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays play in the toughest division in baseball. The AL East is a tough division to win in because of the amount of money that the Red Sox and Yankees are able to spend. Couple that with the young talent of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Blue Jays chances aren't very good.
The Blue Jays had the most coveted trading chip at the deadline in Roy Halladay. There was plenty of interest by numerous teams that were in the Halladay sweepstakes. Toronto missed a golden opportunity to close the gap by hanging onto Roy Halladay at the deadline. I just don't understand why teams, like the Blue Jays, put a similar team out on the field every season and expect something to change. What they have been doing is obviously not working.
The Rays figured out last season that the way to combat the incredible amount of money that New York and Boston are able to spend, is with young home grown talent. The Rays opening day salary in 2008 was just over $43 million. The Yankees checked in at $209 million (missed playoffs) and the Red Sox were at $133 million. The Rays were able to outplay both of those teams with young, inexpensive talent. This should give the Blue Jays the idea of how important young talent can be.
The Jays opening day salary in 2009 was at $80 million. That $37 million more than what the Rays had available in 2008. If you are able to acquire good young talent for a Halladay, you are able to use that extra money on the market. So it is possible to contend with them beasts in the AL East. You just have to be smart about how you do it. The Jays were not smart by hanging onto Halladay and will pay for it. Sure they could trade him in the offseason, but teams are willing to give up more for Halladay with that extra two months included.
The only reason they are not the biggest loser, is the Rolen trade. I still have no idea what Walt Jocketty was thinking.