The Colorado Rockies haven’t been involved in any of the trades that have been completed so far this season. However, there is still a notable impact that those trades had on Colorado and other contenders. Part of that is one of the Rockies’ closest competitors for one of the two wild card spots, the Arizona Diamondbacks, picked up a significant bat to help them in their playoff hunt. Additionally, the market for the upcoming deadline is starting to become clearer and Rockies fans should now have a better idea what it will cost to upgrade the team.
We’re now at five big deals this summer, and with one notable exception those deals have all favored the buyer. The prospect price for the buying team seemed notably light compared to prospect costs from previous seasons’ trade deadline acquisitions. While the American League standings are still close, the National League races have established that there are a lot more sellers than buyers on the trade market and the deals that have been completed reflect that.
The Washington Nationals acquired not one but two very solid relievers in their trade with the Oakland Athletics. Ryan Madson had a 2.06 ERA in 39 1⁄3 innings with very respectable 8.9 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 rates. He is 36 years old, however he has shown no sign of slowing down as has been one of the most reliable relievers since 2007 despite missing multiple years because of an elbow injury. He is under contract for a relatively affordable $7.67 million for next season.
The Nationals also acquired Sean Doolittle, who has a 3.38 ERA and sparkling 13.1 K/9 and 0.8 BB/9 rates this year. Like Madson, Doolittle is not just a one-year wonder with a solid track record and also has team control past this season. Doolittle will only cost $4.35 million next season and the Nationals will also have two very affordable team options at their disposal.
When looking at what the Nats acquired from the A’s, what would you expect the prospect cost to be? Your answer is probably a lot more than prospects ranked 15th and 17th in the Nationals’ farm system and a struggling MLB reliever. While both Jesus Luzardo and Sheldon Neuse have significant upside, both are so far away from the big leagues that normally they wouldn’t be the type of prospects to headline a deal to acquire not one but two relievers with team control.
The two trades Tuesday continued this trend. The Diamondbacks sent three infield prospects to the Tigers in exchange for the services of J.D. Martinez. Considering that Martinez was widely considered the best bat available on the market, the fact that his return did not include a single top 100 prospect was shocking. Even though Martinez is a rental, in past years some of the top rental bats required one significant prospect to beat out the competition. While the Tigers did get quantity in their return, the quality was extremely lacking.
The New York Yankees did have to surrender a top 100 prospect in their trade with the Chicago White Sox, but considering what they got in the deal it was still a light return. The White Sox continued their fire sale by packaging Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle and shipping them to the Yankees for prospects Blake Rutherford, Ian Clarkin, Tito Polo and veteran Tyler Clippard.
Rutherford was the headliner of the deal and is commonly viewed as a top 50 prospect in all of baseball. Clarkin was also highly thought of in a stacked Yankees farm system. Overall, the prospect cost for the Yankees seems substantial until you realize what they got back in the trade.
In some ways, what the Yankees acquired was a combination of the two trades above; they picked up a solid hitter who is a rental and a pair of relievers with team control. Robertson was one of the better closers on the market and Kahnle wasn’t even considered to be available because of his excellent performance this season and cheap team control. However, the Yankees managed to bolster both their bullpen and lineup at the same time at a very reasonable cost. They also offset some salary by getting the White Sox to take back Clippard and his contract. When you realize how many holes the Yankees filled, the prospect return is once again underwhelming.
The most recent trade to be completed was the David Phelps deal that saw the Seattle Mariners send four prospects to the Miami Marlins. While the sheer quantity of the prospects being return is the highest of any of the deals we’ve mentioned so far, the actual quality of them is probably the worst.
The one exception to the buyer’s market theory so far was the Jose Quintana trade. The Chicago Cubs had to give up two top 100 overall prospects, including one inside the top 10, to acquire the services of Quintana. That shouldn’t be too big of a surprise as starting pitching always seems to be the exception in both the trade and free-agent markets. Quintana’s multiple years of cheap control only accented that and drove the price up.
If Jeff Bridich and the Rockies’ front office are indeed intent on bolstering their playoff-caliber roster in trades, the good news is that they may have picked the perfect year to do so. If the main target is controllable relievers, the prospect cost for those appears to have receded from some of the astronomical prices that they have reached at previous trade deadlines. The high price of starting pitching acquisitions shouldn’t affect the Rockies, as they seem intent on riding it out with the current batch of young talented starters that they have.