Acquired LHP Kyle Lobstein from Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for LHP Zach Phillips. [8/31]; Claimed OF-R Drew Stubbs off waivers from Texas Rangers. [8/31]; Acquired OF-L Michael Bourn from Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for OF-R Jason Heinrich. [8/31]
Imagine your weird uncle pulling the last tasty bits from a picked-through buffet, and you’ll have kind of an idea of how the Orioles augmented their roster on the final day of August. There’s only so much you can do this late in the game, but Baltimore did its best to address the remaining issues on the playoff-bound(?) roster without giving up anything substantial of value. In essence, they took a look at their free(ish) options, and dug in accordingly.
The first and most important acquisition is probably Kyle Lobstein, which is pretty indicative of how bad the Orioles’ rotation is. Consider this: the Pirates, who are also fighting hard to make the playoffs, couldn’t find a slot for the lefty in their rotation despite riding guys like Chad Kuhl and Ryan Vogelsong these days. However, the strikeout-allergic lefty may be just what the Orioles need to shore up their rotation and/or bullpen in these all-important late-season games.
(I’m kidding, of course. The Orioles needed Ervin Santana. Lobstein probably doesn’t help the team win games in his current form. With few strikeouts and plenty of walks, he’s more than likely the break-glass-if-emergency guy ready to fill in when/if Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman needs a mid-September break. With an offense like the Orioles’, perhaps you can survive a few Lobstein four-inning starts, though.)
In addition, the Orioles snagged both halves of a moderately-useful outfield platoon in Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs. Bourn is, weirdly, the more interesting of the two veteran outfielders, having somewhat resurrected his career in the Arizona desert this season. One might even use the phrase “Bourn-again” if one wanted to alienate his audience during a headline. (Editor's note: Sold.) Far removed from the speed-and-defense star of the early part of the decade–the player FRAA never thought he was, I might point out–the Bourn of today is an averagish defender, a slight positive on the basepaths, and a below-average hitter (.237 True Average) who puts far too many balls on the ground while at the plate.
Meanwhile, Stubbs hasn’t gotten much of a chance this season, whether with the Braves or the Rangers. In theory, he should still be able to hit left-handed pitching and fill in at all three outfield positions, and he’s hit enough in his limited action to think he can still go. But he, like the other two players the Orioles picked up on August 31, are not desirable options as regulars or even post-season bench pieces. Lobstein is unlikely to push one of the team’s healthy starters out of the rotation (even if Wade Miley has turned into a pumpkin), and Bourn and Stubbs are likely far inferior to Hyun-Soo Kim and Nolan Reimold. These are certainly not the players the O’s want to be relying on come the latter part of the season, which is precisely why they were available. They’ll get some September reps, but these are not the guys the team hopes to see in October, if ever again. —Bryan Grosnick
Acquired LHP Colton Turner from Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for C-B Dioner Navarro. [8/26]
Turner is a two-pitch lefty who has been performing well this season. He lacks projection given his age (25) and frame. His fastball is solid at 90-93 mph, with some sink, and he has moderate control of it. His other pitch is an 83-85 mph slider that tops out at 87, with short, late action that lacks depth. The break on the slider gives it more of a hybrid cutter/slider look, and it can flash, though it lacks consistency. More than likely he is an organizational arm, but being left-handed means you always have a chance. —Steve Givarz
Acquired OF-B Coco Crisp from Oakland Athletics in exchange for LHP Colt Hynes. [8/31]
For someone with the injury-prone label, Crisp has proven to be a reliable source of runs over his 15-season career. (Sidenote: Coco Crisp has been around for 15 seasons?! Where does the time go?) After missing much of the 2015 season with injuries, Crisp has turned things around somewhat in his 2016 campaign, and now the longest-tenured Athletics regular is off to the place where his career started in Cleveland as a reward.
Once a player whose value was predicated mostly on defense and baserunning value, Crisp has aged out of that particular mode, becoming something of a hitting-first player. For years, Crisp was a very, very strong runner, earning +4-6 baserunning runs (BRR) on the regular. These days, his stolen base numbers are down, his speed is a bit diminished, and his defensive profile in the outfield is left field or bust, despite his pedigree in center.
But on the positive side, throughout Crisp’s Athletics career, he’s been a fine hitter, with his True Average only dipping below league-average (.260) in his brief, futile 2015. A true switch-hitter, Crisp has always been more effective against right-handed pitching, and that split has been especially pronounced in 2016. His .307 OBP and .416 slugging percentage against righties is far superior to his .267 OBP and .325 slugging against southpaws, while also emphasizing his improved power from the left side. The Athletics have used him much more often against right-handers, a trend I’d expect to see carry over to Cleveland.
It’s difficult to see precisely where Crisp will slot in for the Indians, probably finding a role as the evolved version of Michael Martinez as a switch-hitting fill-in on the corners or bumping Abraham Almonte. But it’s likely that he won’t displace Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, Tyler Naquin, or Rajai Davis from their platoon roles, unless it’s to give them a break. A return to his first major-league franchise may provide some good feelings, but a return to his previous levels of performance probably isn’t in the cards. If he keeps exchanging speed for power, he could end up being a reasonable pickup for the Tribe, but–like many of us–he’s very different than what he used to be. —Bryan Grosnick
Acquired OF-B Daniel Nava from Los Angeles Angels in exchange for a player to be named later. [8/29]
It wasn’t long ago that Nava was the feel-good independent league story that made us all imagine that we could emerge from (relative) obscurity and do anything. An on-base machine, the switch-hitting Nava could do no wrong in his tenure with the Red Sox–every plate appearance was the team playing with house money, so even if his power was minimal, or his defense was just OK, it was easy to plug him in as a fan favorite and be happy with his above-average (.274 True Average for his career) offense.
In 2015 he got off to an extremely rough start in Boston, rebounded after being picked up by Tampa Bay, but cratered again in Los Angeles. Instead of posting his usual OBP just north of .350, it has been down to .309 in limited action. When taking into account the rest of his skills and tools--or lack thereof--that profiles as a replacement-level outfielder, and he’s rightly found himself in the Pacific Coast League for a chunk of the season.
With the Royals, he’s likely to be an emergency option or a breather for the team’s other, higher-performing outfielders during September. He certainly doesn’t fit the rangy mold of the team’s usual outfield composition. After two seasons that have been this bad, it would take a minor miracle for Nava to come up from Omaha and have a major effect on the end of this Royals season. But he’s already made the (near-)impossible happen once, so I’ll keep an eye out just in case. —Bryan Grosnick
Acquired OF-B Eric Young Jr. from Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for cash considerations. [8/31]
As an outfielder and hitter, Young is a pretty good baserunner. He hasn’t been particularly good for the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate this season–his .254 True Average down there was worse than league-average offensively–which makes sense given that he wasn’t particularly good for the Braves or Mets in limited action last year either. Limited in his ability to reach base and almost wholly without power (career ISO .081), Young’s saving grace would be using his speed as a rangy outfielder. Of course, as Mets fans know, his noodly arm and questionable routes left him … well … in left field, and not particularly good in that role.
I’d estimate that Young was acquired for one reason and one reason only: he could well be the Yankees’ base-stealing, run-acquiring postseason weapon, the 25th man on a roster needing one speedster to grab an extra base in a critical situation. (Spoiler alert: with an eight percent chance of making the postseason, don’t count on this.) If he’s used in any other capacity, the Yankees will probably already have been eliminated from playoff contention or are on their way out. I guess in some ways Young is both canary and carbon monoxide-leaking coal mine. —Bryan Grosnick
Acquired three international bonus slots from Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves as part of a three-way trade in exchange for SS-R Dylan Moore. [8/24]
This is stupid.
Remind me again why anyone in their right minds would trade international bonus slots to the Rangers of all teams. Sure, A.J. Preller is gone, but isn’t this a franchise with a long and storied history of fantastic international signings? Do you want to roll down the list? They just snagged David Garcia out of Venezuela (Baseball America’s no. 7 overall international prospect), and that’s one year after inking Leodys Taveras (no. 3 overall by BA) and Miguel Aparicio (no. 14 overall by BA). And that’s after (somewhat) recent hits like Nomar Mazara, Rougned Odor, and Jurickson Profar. But sure, let’s help them snag more international talent.
Basically, the success or failure of this trade comes down to whether or not you think Dylan Moore–the prospect the Rangers dealt away–has any hope of being a productive major leaguer of any kind. Given his lack of helium and age of 24, it’s possible that the Rangers sloughed off some org depth in order to acquire nearly a million dollars worth of prime international beef. Great job, Atlanta and Miami. Expect some hate mail from the rest of the AL West in five or six years. —Bryan Grosnick
Acquired C-B Dioner Navarro from Chicago White Sox in exchange for LHP Colton Turner. [8/26]
It’s always interesting when a team re-acquires a player whom it had recently parted ways with. The Mets and Pirates recently played this game with their Jon Niese-for-Antonio Bastardo swap, and now the Jays have brought Navarro back into the fold after a sojourn with the South Side Sox. That trip to Chicago to compete to be the starter–a job he’d lost when the Jays inked a native Canadian to man the position last season–did not go as well as planned. This year, Navarro has been one of the worst regulars in baseball, posting -2.4 WARP after his True Average dipped from league-average to bad-even-for-a-catcher (.221) this season.
Of course, just because his recent offensive performance has been bad, that doesn’t mean that we necessarily should expect that to continue. PECOTA still expects a reasonable .249 True Average for the rest of the season, which is perfectly acceptable for your switch-hitting backup catcher. Of course, Navarro is also a terrible defensive catcher, based on BP’s metrics.
Over his career and this season as well, he’s hurt his team quite a bit through blocking, throwing, and framing. The framing is the big negative (-16.8 runs in 2016), but he’s also cost the Sox a little via throwing (-0.7 throwing runs) and blocking (-0.2 blocking runs). That’s the main reason that BP considers him a terrible, bad, no-good overall player by career WARP (-5.3 over his career) as opposed to the serviceable backup value that metrics like FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (6.5 career fWAR) and Baseball-Reference's WAR (7.6 career bWAR) ascribe to him.
Back with the Jays, Navarro should be a nice pinch-hitting and backup option behind Russell Martin, provided he doesn’t have to spend too much time behind the dish. Perhaps more importantly, he can provide the team with the flexibility afforded by a reasonable set of three catchers–namely Russell Martin can be used in pinch-hitting situations on the days he rests, and the team can be more proactive in leveraging whomever the best hitter is off the bench, regardless of position. Of course, the team could have done this anyway once the rosters expanded in September, but their existing options weren’t likely as good even as the diminished version of Navarro we’ve seen this year. And even if he’s now just a replacement-level backup, isn’t it nice to have the devil you know rather than a catcher you don’t? —Bryan Grosnick
Acquired OF-R Jeff Francoeur and cash considerations from Atlanta Braves as part of a three-way trade with Texas Rangers in exchange for C/1B-R Matt Foley and two international bonus slots. [8/24]
Before traveling to his fourth NL East ball club five days ago, Francoeur was the prototypical 2016 Atlanta Brave: too flawed of a player to have a roster spot on 25 other MLB teams. Before that, he was the prototypical 2015 Phillie: a washout. Before that, he was the prototypical former big-league outfielder trying to learn how to pitch: it didn’t go very well. Before that, he was the prototypical pre-World Series Dayton Moore acquisition: a terribly flawed player signed to a too-long contract based on a flurry of good games and an Atlanta Braves pedigree. Prior to that, he was the prototypical late-aughts New York Met: he was just awful. Prior to that, he was a disappointment in a few seasons with the Braves, because prior to that he nearly set the city aflame (too soon?!) as the prototypical next Brave superstar: a home-grown Atlanta kid with power and a cannon arm in the outfield.
Nowadays? He’s kind of the prototypical player to get traded after the non-waiver deadline. A platoon hitter without any sort of huge contract to fall back on, he’s a journeyman’s journeyman. Have bat, will travel, but use against right-handed pitching at your own risk. This year, Frenchy hasn’t exactly excelled against any flavor of pitching (.732 OPS against lefties, .644 OPS against righties), but he’s been above replacement-level again, pairing good-enough offense (.262 True Average) with below-average defense in the outfield. In addition to his platoon offense, Francoeur has earned a second life as an elite clubhouse guy, which is only fitting for someone derided by sabermetricians for so long due to his inability to post an above-.300 OBP while hitting in the heart of lineups.
This combination makes him a pretty decent pickup for a Marlins team with a weak bench that could use a platoon partner for Ichiro Suzuki with Giancarlo Stanton out of commission and a Wild Card spot that needs claiming. Apparently, the Marlins thought that the Francoeur upgrade was good enough to spend two bonus slots and a barely-prospect on. In a perfect world, he’ll crush left-handers and his clubhouse influence will carry the Marlins through the Wild Card and into the “real” playoffs. In the real-world, perhaps this deal moves the needle and perhaps it doesn’t, but Ichiro, Jeff Mathis, and Frenchy give the Marlins one of the greatest position-player-pitching collections in MLB history. At this point in the transaction season, that’s really all one can ask for. —Bryan Grosnick
Acquired RHP Fernando Salas from Los Angeles Angels in exchange for RHP Erik Manoah. [8/31]
How quickly do you think the Mets can teach Salas a Warthen Slider? The newest member of New York’s bullpen has been a reliable relief arm since his advent in St. Louis a half-decade ago, but now he’ll have a chance to move from the lovely–but out-of-contention–southern California summer to the less-lovely–but still-in-it–borough of Queens. Though Salas has been a steady fixture for two teams during his major-league career, a weapon like the Mets’ vaunted out-pitch could go a long way in recapturing some of his previous effectiveness.
See, in 2015 Salas had a very good–and mostly unnoticed–season in the middle of the Angels’ bullpen. Since then, his strikeout rate has fallen hard (especially thanks to a diminished whiff rate on his heater in the second half of the season), his walk rate has risen, and both his DRA (4.44) and FIP (4.60) are worse than his 2015 form. Though his velocity has been roughly the same as last season, he’s demonstrating more of a split than he has in the past–when he was virtually split-less–and hitters are pulling the ball just a little more than they had in previous seasons.
All of this combines to say … he’ll likely be something like what he was over the rest of 2016, only in a different league. These last few innings could certainly change his optics, though. He’ll become a free agent at the close of this season, and a nice little run with the Mets could help him launch a slightly-more-impressive push for cash in this offseason’s reliever market. With a combination of fastball, curve, and change and no real dip in velocity, it’s perfectly plausible that Salas could bounce back to something roughly resembling his 2015 performance.
Of course, his 2015 performance didn’t look that much like his 2014 form, or his form from any period before that, except for his brief run as closer for the Cardinals all the way back in 2011. With the Mets’ signature slider? Who knows. But he’d have to learn it on the fly, and fast, for that to make any difference. So perhaps it’s more likely that he’ll be a moderately-effective sixth- or seventh-inning option for the Mets, and perhaps we’ll have to wait until later–maybe 2019?–to see the best version of Salas again. —Bryan Grosnick