Trade Deadline Wrap-Up

marc w · July 31, 2018 at 6:37 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

The M’s had a busy trade deadline, sneaking in a last-minute trade for Marlins CF Cameron Maybin. Perhaps the most gratifying move for this FO wasn’t even one involving the M’s – it was watching the Angels pull the plug and move Ian Kinsler to an actual contender. Let’s go over the M’s moves.

1: The M’s acquire duel bullpen specialists in Zach Duke and Adam Warren

I wrote at length about Duke yesterday, so I’ll focus more on Warren here. Warren’s obviously a righty, and he’s been a solid contributor to a bullpen that simply has no room for more contributors. The Yankees bullpen is the game’s best by quite a ways, and one of the big reasons is its depth. Yes, yes, Chapman and Betances at the back, but they’re getting phenomenal seasons from Jonathan Holder, Chad Green and AJ Cole. The result, as Dan Szymborski wrote about today, is that Adam Warren’s been relegated to mop-up duty because that’s the only spot they’ve got for him. With Zach Britton joining the ‘pen, the Yankees are selling off the bottom third or so of their relievers, many of whom have actual value, as opposed to the bottom third of most other teams’ bullpen.

In exchange, the M’s give up merely international bonus pool money. A few years ago, the Yankees followed the logic of the CBA-dictated international bonus pools and spent many multiples of their putative “cap,” bringing them a windfall of international talent – talent they’ve been relatively good at developing. This year, they’re taking the market by storm again, but they’re staying within their cap as well. How? By selling off excess relievers for bonus pool spending authority. The deal for Chasen Shreve helped them net the best pitching prospect in this year’s class in Osiel Rodriguez. The deal for Warren will probably fund another deal they already had a handshake on. The Yankees stay under the luxury tax, avoid penalties in the J2 signing period, and reap huge rewards if they’re able to turn one of their signings into the next Luis Severino. The trade makes plenty of sense for the Yankees.

It also makes sense for the M’s, who don’t give up any talent to pick a guy with a strong three-pitch mix with good deception. Despite the pedestrian velocity on Warren’s four-seam fastball, it’s a real swing-and-miss pitch. He pairs it with a slider with some two-plane break and what used to be his bread and butter, a diving change-up around 7 MPH slower than his 91-92 MPH fastball. This season, he has pronounced platoon splits, with righties struggling against fastball and slider while lefties have seen his FB much better. Over his career, though, those splits disappear – he’s had essentially no splits to speak of, thanks to that great change-up. In 2014, for example, he had fairly noticeable reverse splits. He’s fine to use as a ROOGY before the M’s get to Colome/Diaz, but he’s not hopeless against lefties.

I mentioned this a bit over a month ago when the M’s were facing the Yanks, but Warren’s another product of the freakishly effective Yankee pitching development program. That post noted that new starter Jonathan Loaisiga’s FB had nearly identical movement to Luis Severino’s – both were just shy of 9.4″ of vertical rise. Adam Warren checks in this year at 9.46. Ex-Yankee Nick Rumbelow’s at 9.78″. Domingo German’s at 9.0″. What about Jonathan Holder? 9.33. You get the point. All of these fastballs are remarkable similar in terms of vertical movement. They’re fairly similar in horizontal movement, but the vertical movement part is almost spooky. Why? Because I’ve traditionally thought that vertical movement is a byproduct of backspin that’s strongly influenced by your arm angle. Higher arm angle = more backspin, as your spin becomes more efficient. Is this just the Yanks hording high-spin pitchers and molding their mechanics?

No – take a look at this table on spin rate from Statcast. Domingo German really does have freakishly high spin rates. But Nick Rumbelow’s are almost as freakishly LOW. Adam Warren’s are well below average, while Luis Severino’s are above average. The Yankees are taking guys with much, much different spin rates and still getting the exact pitch “shape” they want – a mostly straight version with good-not-great vertical rise. If they wanted Domingo German, say, or Jonathan Holder, to have a big-time rising FB, they could probably do that. If they wanted Nick Rumbelow to throw a bowling ball sinker, they could probably do that. They don’t, though. They’ve got to tailor the spin efficiency of each to produce this 9-and-change vertical profile. It’s that pitch that seems to pair best with a change and breaking ball, either slider or hard curve. I don’t get why you’d want carbon copies, but I’m not going to judge the ballclub that’s created one of the most fearsome bullpens of all time.

The one concern I’d point out is that sometimes when you acquire a Yankee, the Yankee development magic stays in the Bronx. Nick Rumbelow has…underwhelmed, let’s just say. Adam Warren himself was traded once, in 2016, when the eventual Champs in Chicago picked him up for the stretch run. He was…fine, I guess. Sure, sure, David Robertson (cutter – he doesn’t throw a four-seam – vertical movement? 9.34″) did fine for a while with the White Sox, and Chapman was fine with the Reds and Cubs, but it’s something to watch. Still, the M’s needed a surer reliever in a tough spot in the 6th-7th than either the out-of-favor Juan Nicasio or the scuffling Nick Vincent, and now they have one. They improved their 2018 odds without sacrificing any prospects. Tough to complain about this one.

2: M’s get CF Cameron Maybin from Miami for SS Bryson Brigman+international bonus pool money

The M’s have not gotten a lot of production from their center fielders. Dee Gordon hit better there than he has at 2B, but that’s both not saying much and balanced by some poor defense as he got used to playing OF. Guillermo Heredia started off the season brilliantly, drawing plenty of walks and hitting for a decent average. Since then, though, it’s been a free fall, as pitchers just throw the ball down the middle (his walk rate in July is 1.7%) and his BABIP has fallen as well. Heredia’s season wRC+ is down to 85, and worse, it’s forecasted to be even worse going forward. Worse, his career defensive numbers are ugly in CF. The M’s needed an upgrade, and got one.

Cameron Maybin is not a world-beater, and with a better season line AND better batting projections AND better CF defense, he figures to be an improvement over Heredia and the plan B of just stuffing Ben Gamel in CF. But the M’s may be hoping for more than just incremental improvement while they try to work on Heredia’s swing in AAA. Maybin’s ground ball rate is still pretty high, but he’s running his lowest GB:FB ratio since 2010. That’s backed up by Statcast data, which says he’s essentially doubled his launch angle to 8.6 degrees this year from 4.1 last year, continuing a trend from 1.9 in 2015. None of that showed up as actual *production* early on, though. Maybin was dreadful in April and May, but has really come on in July, hitting his only 3 HRs of the season, and batting .309/.426/.456 over 82 PAs. If they know he did something or if they suspect any mechanical changes are feeling more normal to him, then maybe he could clear higher bars than “a better hitter than Guillermo Heredia.”

To get the vet, the M’s gave up their 3rd-round pick from the 2016 draft, SS Bryson Brigman. Brigman had been a notable prospect as a kid/high schooler, but went to the University of San Diego instead, whereupon the M’s drafted him as an eligible sophomore. He was talented enough to get picked in the 3rd round, but lacked any semblance of in-game power, putting up a so-so ISO with metal bats. That seemed to be confirmed in his first go-round in pro ball: his SLG% was under .300 in both 2016 and ’17. He’s fared much better in 2018 in the hitter-friendly Cal League, but even with an average over .300, his SLG% is still below .400. There’s bat-to-ball skill, and some solid plate discipline, but he’s not a can’t miss guy by any stretch.

ANY trade for a rental (Maybin’s a free agent after this season) can come back to bite you, but this seems like a decent deal for an upgrade at a position of need right now. Do the M’s need to restock their system? Yes, clearly. But is this a worthwhile price to pay for a non-elite MLB’er like Maybin? Yes, just as clearly. The M’s have made it clear that they’re playing for 2018 – it’s wild card or bust. We can have a separate debate over whether that was a good strategy, but given where they are in the standings, and given Oakland just saw their 4th SP have Tommy John surgery out of their expected 5-man rotation this year…you give up a bit of potential to give yourself the best possible shot. People like, uh, me have been saying that while the deals for relievers are perfectly fine, they’re technically upgrades on the M’s best player group. The biggest problem at this point is the line-up, and today the M’s decided they couldn’t say they gave it their all if they didn’t deal with their CF problems. This has to hurt for Guillermo, but he’s young and can regroup in AAA. Another day, another deal I legitimately can’t find too much fault with.


3 Responses to “Trade Deadline Wrap-Up”

  1. Stevemotivateir on July 31st, 2018 7:44 pm

    I was secretly thinking Derek Holland might have been on the radar and a realistic acquisition. A starter should still be of interest to Dipoto, regardless. Maybe someone like Ervin Santana would be a possibility if he looks better over his next 2 or 3 starts?

  2. sexymarinersfan on July 31st, 2018 9:13 pm

    Seattle picked up Mike Leake last year after the trade deadline on waivers. Jerry could still pull something off.

  3. Stevemotivateir on July 31st, 2018 9:20 pm

    Danny Duffy has looked a lot better of late. They have a need for a DH, and we happen to have one that will be out of options next season, so there’s that.

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