The MLB trade deadline was busier than usual this year with big names changing uniforms, mostly on the pitching side. The ripple effect of trading closers to become middle-relievers on contenders is just as impactful.
The final tally, two legitimate fantasy aces, three new closing situations and one of our game’s most disappointing hitters going to baseball’s premier offensive environment.
Let’s start at the top since pitching has been so frustrating this year. Yu Darvish moves to the game’s best pitching environment and arguably its best team, in Los Angeles for the Dodgers. But Sonny Gray owners don’t get nearly as lucky, trading the Oakland Coliseum for Yankee Stadium.
Darvish’s run environment in Texas that was 1.12 on a scale where 1.00 is exactly average, according to FantasyPros, to 0.87. That’s 21% less expected runs divided by two (only half the games are at home) so 10.5%. That means that had Darvish pitched for the Dodgers all year, his ERA would be 3.59. Start the Dodger projection there. But then there are league factors. Unfortunately those are minuscule this year as the NL ERA (4.32) is virtually identical to the AL one (4.36). Darvish is coming off a 10-run outing when maybe he was distracted but changing teams and leagues and moving is a distraction, too. I don’t like chopping off bad starts but if we did then his ERA going forward would be about 3.08. So that’s the range for Darvish: 3.08-to-3.59 ERA with a ton of Ks.
There are reverse park factors for Gray. While Yankee Stadium is neutral for runs, expected to increase Gray’s ERA by just 3.5% going forward, homers are a different story. LHB at Yankee Stadium get a homer boost of about 51% in the Bronx (1.51) while the Coliseum is the best park at suppressing lefty power (0.73). So that’s a boost in homer rate of 78% in home games so call it 39% overall. But Gray doesn’t give up many homers, just five on the road. So maybe that sticks and he gives up eight at home, or 13 for the rest of the season. That’s an expected seven extra runs. So Gray’s ERA as a Yankee this year should be 4.00-to-4.25.
The lost closers are just a write-off. The new closer is the game for us. Who will be the closer in Minnesota with the departure of Brandon Kintzler? Matt Belisle? Look at foundation stat: He’s minus-8 in Ks-minus-Innings and 37 years old. His FIP is 4.20. You’re probably going to pay a price for any saves. But everything is of course contextual now.
With the trade of Addison Reed, the Mets turn to AJ Ramos. He’s helpful in Ks. Jeurys Familia is about to start throwing, though, and may be 2-3 weeks away, as a wild guess. Or he could not pitch again. I’d take Ramos but would not fight for him.
Similar to Ramos but without the obvious threat that could remove him from the job at any time is Shane Greene in Detroit. Greene makes sense as a failed starter with stuff who finds glory in relief. But first he has to find the plate. He’s 95 mph with the heater and sports more Ks than innings. But the control is so bad despite the sub-3.00 ERA. He cannot walk upwards of 5.00 per nine innings. Control has never been a problem before, however (unlike with Ramos).
A sleeper starter to grab is the always volatile Francisco Liriano, moving from Toronto to Houston. The lefty should find better success for the Astros, given that Minute Maid Park is the sixth-worst run environment for righty batters. Note that last year, Liriano after he killed his owners was dynamite after switching to Toronto, posting a 2.92 ERA (3.98 FIP) with helpful Ks. Liriano may just need a reset more than most. I’d take a chance given he’ll possibly be able to be had for a minimum or even zero bid this week. (UPDATE: Manager A.J. Hinch says Liriano will pitch out of the bullpen; but Lance McCullers just landed on the DL so Liriano may be in the rotation very soon.)
The big hitter of note changing teams is Jonathan Lucroy, who has crushed his owners (.242 average with four homers). He’s moving to Colorado. That seems like a match made in heaven for a struggling hitter. Hey, why not play on the moon? On paper his homers would go up about 12% (after cutting it in half) but A) who cares at his current level and B) he’s the anti-hit trajectory guy with twice as many grounders this year. Still, his rate of homers on flyballs is just 4%. Nothing about him makes sense. He’s just 31. The walks and Ks are both down. He’s not even hitting doubles (15 this year) when he had 53 in 2014. I would not be trading for Lucroy thinking Colorado is going to be a miracle fix. If someone will pay you preseason value for Lucroy based on playing in the dry, high air, trade him. He should only be a hold.
The less-heralded Lucas Duda is the hitter to grab. He’s started fast in Tampa and has an adjusted OPS of 130 or better (100 is average) in three of the last four seasons (the other was injury ravaged). The ex-Met could easily hit 15-18 bombs the last two months playing in more friendly parks.