Deadline Day: Is That All There Is?

Now that’s entertainment, right? Deadline Day was, in its way, at least as much fun as NBA Free Agent Day. But, unlike Free Agent Day, it doesn’t look like it produced much in the way of a shakeup in the standings. The teams that were expected to sell sold, the teams that were expected to buy bought, the rich got richer, the poor got prospects.

But a bigger disappointment, as far as we’re concerned, is how few deals produced unexpected Fantasy upside for those of us in redraft leagues. Downside, sure. If you were hoping that Hunter Strickland would become Seattle’s closer, we share your pain. And there was a lot of rearranging of deck chairs, whether the chairs wound up on the Titanic or the Love Boat. We were hoping that Tony Kemp would land an everyday job someplace, but with the Castellanosful Cubs he figures not to play a lot more than he did while he was DFA’d. Likewise, Shane Greene and Zack Greinke are probably marginally more attractive with their new teams than they were with their old ones, but not so’s you’d notice, even if there’s a redraft league out there somewhere where they’re available.

Still, there were a few moves that in our view (1) significantly enhanced the value of (2) a player who might actually be available. We see four of them:

Ryne Stanek from Tampa Bay to Miami. This one, we’d have thought, is a trifle obvious, but no one seems to be writing about it. It looks to us as if, what with the trade of Nick Anderson and the inability of Tayron Guerrero to get the ball over the plate, the Marlins have hung out a “Welcome Closer” sign for Stanek, which is something we’ve been waiting for since 2017. As Sergio Romo’s season makes clear, even on an atrocious team a closer has some serious value. Stanek, meanwhile, has been on the IL for a couple of weeks, but he’s rehabbing now and should be back by the end of the week. And he’s a really good pitcher. When he’s on, as he mostly was during the first half of this season and nearly all of last, he throws in the mid-90’s and has three plus pitches. He’s been opening games regularly for Tampa Bay, and as you know, a closer is just an opener turned upside down. If there’s anyone else pitching for Miami who’s remotely as good as Stanek for an inning or two, we can’t detect him.

Jake Faria from Tampa Bay to Milwaukee. Craig Edwards wrote about him yesterday, opining that he is a “bullpen piece” right now, though he might compete for a rotation spot with the Brewers next spring. Perhaps true, but we think it wouldn’t take much for him to get that shot sooner. Faria pitched quite well as a starter with the Rays in 2017, but it’s been largely downhill since then, due mostly to injuries. Faria’s been pretty good in AAA this season, and not bad in the ten innings he’s pitched in the majors. He became a reliever for the Rays, and maybe that’s how he’ll stay.

Consider, however, the Brewers’ starting rotation. At the moment, they’ve got three guys (Jhoulys Chacin, Brandon Woodruff, and Jimmy Nelson) on the IL, none of whom looks close to returning. The collective second-half ERA of the team’s remaining starters is 4.78—better than that of some very good teams (the Yankees, the Red Sox), it’s true, but probably not good enough to get the Brewers where they need to be, especially since their bullpen has been distinctly permeable. And now they’ve added to the rotation Jordan Lyles, who fits right in with the uninspiring already-resident crew. Meanwhile, their most effective starters in Triple-A have been Aaron Wilkerson (career MLB ERA 6.97) and Burch Smith (career MLB ERA 6.87). If Faria, now likewise in Triple-A, starts getting stretched out and pitches effectively enough to be promoted, we won’t hesitate to grab him.

Sean Reid-Foley, staying put in Toronto. With Marcus Stroman gone, Reid-Foley has been plugged into the rotation. We think he’s more than just a stopgap. Reid-Foley caught our eye in his 7-game debut last season by virtue of his high strikeout rate and low hard-hit percentage. After a horrible outing in April, he’s pitched effectively when he’s been in the majors this season, including 3 1/3 innings against the Red Sox when he was absolutely untouchable. We don’t deny that he walks too many guys, and probably always will, or that he’s been unspeakably bad in Triple-A this year. The downside is huge, but so is the upside, and he might be worth grabbing if you need strikeouts fast.

JT Brubaker, Pittsburgh farmhand. We’re inclined to think that the Pirates aren’t packing it in yet. A casual glance might suggest that they are, since they traded a first-stringer (Corey Dickerson) and an erratic innings-eater (Lyles). But those guys were pretty expendable, and the Pirates remain in contention for a wild-card slot, albeit just barely, if that’s how they want to go. The problem for the Pirates this season is that they haven’t been able to find starting pitchers they can count on. The veterans have been injured (Trevor Williams, Jameson Taillon, Steven Brault) or terminally disappointing (Chris Archer). So one by one they’ve been promoting guys from Triple-A, whereupon those guys get rocked either immediately (Mitch Keller, Nick Kingham) or eventually (Dario Agrazal). Meanwhile, here’s Brubaker, who’s been superb in the minors for two seasons, throwing extremely hard and getting a lot of ground balls. And now he seems to have a strikeout rate that comes close to matching his velocity. He’s had some arm problems, but he’s healthy for the moment, and with the trade of Lyles the Pirates have a vacancy in their rotation. We think Brubaker is next in line to fill it, and that he’ll distinguish himself when he does. Of course, that’s what we thought about Keller….

We hoped you liked reading Deadline Day: Is That All There Is? by The Birchwood Brothers!

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The Birchwood Brothers are two guys with the improbable surname of Smirlock. Michael, the younger brother, brings his skills as a former Professor of Economics to bear on baseball statistics. Dan, the older brother, brings his skills as a former college English professor and recently-retired lawyer to bear on his brother's delphic mutterings. They seek to delight and instruct. They tweet when the spirit moves them @birchwoodbroth2.

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Isn’t Brubaker still not cleared to throw??