MLB Trades 2020: Grading Top Moves Before Deadline Ends

Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout, left, looks on as teammate Tommy La Stella (9) touches home plate after his home run during the sixth inning of the first game of a doubleheader baseball game against the Houston Astros Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Michael Wyke/Associated Press

The 2020 MLB trade deadline has been pretty much everything insiders expected it would be: quiet.

While the rumor mill has been churning out some interesting reports, not too many moves have been finalized as teams continue to sort through needs and decide whether to pursue rentals or controllable players.

There is also the fact more teams will be involved in the expanded playoffs, prompting a number of clubs otherwise considered “sellers” to consider their status. Not to mention there are questions with respect to the future financial state of baseball because of the fallout from COVID-19.

Still, some teams have been busy identifying areas of weakness and addressing those needs accordingly. Let’s take a look at a few of the more notable trades in baseball ahead of Monday’s deadline.

Oakland Athletics Acquire Tommy La Stella   

Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

The Oakland Athletics were the latest team to make trade noise when they acquired infielder Tommy La Stella from the Los Angeles Angeles in exchange for 24-year-old middle infielder Franklin Barreto. 

This might seem like a subtle “one-for-one” move, but it could be immensely impactful for the Athletics.

Oakland was in desperate need of another left-handed bat, particularly considering first baseman Matt Olson’s early-season struggles. The A’s also upgraded at the second base position.

Tony Kemp is a solid on-base guy capable of playing multiple positions. But he does not offer the same kind of slugging potential as La Stella.

The 31-year-old spent much of his early career as a spot starter and pinch-hitter with the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs. But La Stella busted out in L.A., clubbing 16 homers in 80 games in 2018 before suffering an injury while slashing .273/.371/.475 with four homers and a career-high 130 OPS+.

Meanwhile, the Angels acquire an intriguing prospect in Barreto, who has major-league experience with Oakland but might benefit from more seasoning. The move makes sense for the Angels, however, as La Stella will be a free agent at the end of the season and L.A. is unlikely to make a playoff run.

Athletics grade: A

Angels grade: B   

Blue Jays Get More Pitching With Taijuan Walker   

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins made good on his declaration the team would look to bolster the starting rotation. 

The Blue Jays acquired Seattle Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker in exchange for a player to be named later, adding another starter to a rotation recently hampered by injuries. 

Walker had a 4.00 ERA in his first five starts with Seattle, but he increased his trade value by making consecutive quality starts against the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively.

This is an intriguing addition for the Blue Jays. Walker will be a free agent at the end of the year, and Toronto seemed like a candidate to seek more controllable pitchers, given Hyun-Jin Ryu and Trent Thornton are the only projected starters signed past 2022.

Moreover, Jim Bowden of CBS Sports reported the Mariners are receiving a top-30 prospect from the Blue Jays in the deal, which seems a bit lofty for Walker given he is a rental with a history of injuries.

That said, it is hard to fault Toronto for addressing a need, and perhaps the Blue Jays even feel they can re-sign Walker in the offseason. 

Blue Jays grade: B

Mariners grade: B+

Phillies Address Bullpen Needs   

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

The Philadelphia Phillies were another team in need of pitching in advance of the trade deadline, though they sought relief help over rotation upgrades.

Philadelphia traded right-hander Nick Pivetta and pitching prospect Connor Seabold to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for veteran right-handers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree.

The Phillies improved to 13-14 after defeating the Atlanta Braves on Friday, with both Workman and Hembree working scoreless innings in the win.

Workman has now thrown a pair of scoreless frames since blowing the save in his first appearance with the Phillies last Friday. Hembree has now allowed two hits and one run in 3.1 innings of work.

This is a win-now play for the Phillies and, coincidentally, they have done just that since making the move. Philadelphia has won four straight and is now comfortably in the mix for a playoff spot. Still, the Phillies will need Workman and Hembree to be effective in high-leverage spots, with Workman in particular being called upon to lock down save situations.

While Pivetta never figured things out in Philly, the Red Sox need young pitching with upside. Pivetta has decent velocity and ranks towards the top of the league in curveball spin, per Baseball Savant. Perhaps a change in scenery and a new coaching staff will help Pivetta get his career on track.

Additionally, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Seabold has plenty of “fans” among scouts around the league, although he is looked at as more of a back-end or No. 3 rotation guy.

Still, it is worth wondering whether the Red Sox could have gotten more value from two of its more notable relievers, particularly considering Hembree is under team control through next year.

Phillies grade: B+

Red Sox grade: B

All stats obtained via Baseball Reference, unless otherwise noted.