Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

MLB Trade Deadline 2015: who improved their rotation the most?


He looks pretty good in Canadian blue.  Photo via

He looks pretty good in Canadian blue. Photo via

It was by most accounts the busiest trade deadline ever.  Lots of high impact players moved.  And we were worried that the 2nd wild card would curtail the trade market!

Here’s a couple of good summary links: a division-by-division overview of teams post-deadline,’s Trade Central, with a review of every 2015 trade, and a nice trade-by-trade grade at

Lets look at those teams that altered their rotations and talk about how much they improved.  In order of perceived impact:

1. Los Angeles: added Mat Latos and Alex Wood, replacing two placeholders who had taken over for the injured Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu.  Add Latos and Wood to what the Dodgers were already rolling out and I feel like they have become the new team to beat in the NL.

2. Toronto: adds the best pitcher on the market David Price to a team that really, really needed a bump in their pitching.  Price is used to the AL East and gives Toronto (coupled with their big Troy Tulowitzki move) a leg up on their divisional rivals.  The rest of the division mostly stood pat in terms of the trade deadline, and the division is there for the taking.  I believe Toronto can catch the Yankees; they’ve been incredibly unlucky by RS/RA and should regress upwards.

3. Kansas City: Johnny Cueto immediately replaces the injured Jason Vargas in a “nice timing” move, and KC solidifies its grip on the division.  This move wasn’t about getting to the post season as much as it was about winning once they get there.  Cueto is their 2015 version of James Shields; the workhorse who they can lean on in the 5- and 7-game series.

4. Houston: added Scott Kazmir and Mike Fiers, who will slide in to the 4th and 5th spots and supplant the under performing Scott Feldman and others who need more time in AAA.  While not as flashy as some other teams’ moves, this makes the back of Houston’s rotation stronger.  And, it should be noted, Houston’s main AL West rival (Los Angeles) not only didn’t make a move but just lost one its key starters to injury (C.J. Wilson).  Houston’s rebuilding plan looks like its at least a year ahead of schedule and coupled with serious injury issues to their competitors look like the favorite in the AL West.

5. Texas: adds Cole Hamels, who Philadelphia *finally* moved after sitting on the pot for 2 years.  I think this move is more about 2016; I don’t really see Texas making a move in 2015.  But it is a significant move: Hamels could give Texas one of the best AL 1-2 punches when Yu Darvish comes back, and then they have a nice collection of arms to choose from to fill out the rotation (Gallardo, Holland, Perez, Lewis, Martinez).

6. San Francisco adds the underrated Mike Leake, who slides into the #3 spot, prevents the Giants from even considering using Tim Lincecum in the rotation any longer, and certainly gives them an upgrade over what they were getting from Tim Hudson.  SF isn’t *that* far back from LA in the division … but more importantly is working hard to secure a WC spot.

7. Pittsburgh makes a minor move in adding J.A. Happ, who slides nicely and fortuitously into the spot that A.J. Burnett may be giving up to injury.

8. Chicago Cubs curiously added Dan Haren to their rotation; adding a mediocre #5 starter to a team that plays in a hitter’s park may back fire.  I would have thought Chicago would have been more aggressive to try to secure the 2nd wild card, but then again is it fair to say their rebuilding plan is also a year ahead of schedule right now?  Maybe they go big in the off-season to add starters behind Lester/Arrieta.


Sellers and the Impacts to their rotations:

Detroit moved backwards, selling their ace but acquiring a good prospect in Daniel Norris.  This move also lets them try out a couple of starter prospects for the rest of a season where they’re clearly not going to catch Kansas City.

Oakland was a seller but didn’t augment their rotation very much, getting a #5 starter in Aaron Brooks.  Oakland has been completely snake-bit this season, sporting one of the best run differentials in the game but having lost 75% of the one-run games they’ve played.  Billy Beane isn’t afraid to deal though and he’s got more than enough starting pitching coming off injury to compete in 2016.

Philadelphia got the rotting corpse of Matt Harrison in return for Hamel, along with a whole slew of players; I doubt Harrison ever pitches for them.

Cincinnati sold off their two best pitchers and now are doing open auditions at the MLB level for their 2016 rotation.

Miami finds themselves in a familiar place, selling off assets so as to line the pockets of their owners needlessly.  They lose two rotation guys but augment from the D/L and the farm system.  They’ll regroup for 2016 and continue to challenge as the worst organization to their fan base.

Seattle was sort of a seller, flipping off back of the rotation guys for spare parts.  They did not meaningfully alter their core rotation.  Their problem is simply under-performance.

Atlanta curiously parted with one of the most valuable resources in the game; the effective MLB-minimum starter.   They ended up with draft picks and prospects and a Cuban wild card in Hector Olivera.

Milwaukee parted with a 5th starter, giving those starts to their #1 prospect Taylor Jungmann.  A good deal for them.


12 Responses to 'MLB Trade Deadline 2015: who improved their rotation the most?'

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  1. Haren filled the overpaid ex-Nat failure slot in the Cub rotation vacated by Edwin Jackson.


    4 Aug 15 at 11:47 am

  2. Hah. You know, for a supposedly “smart guy” Epstein makes some seriously questionable moves sometimes. The 4-year contract for Jackson made no sense and he just swallowed roughly $20M of the $56M deal by releasing him. He made a *huge* bet on Lester and you can count on one hand the number of 9-figure contracts that have ended well for the team. He acquired Montero and a lot of future dollars, and now it looks like Schwarber is better and about 20 times cheaper. He gave Castro a ton of money and now his best prospect (Addison Russell) has moved to 2B to account for it, which is blocking another huge prospect in Javier Baez. Now that being said he’s made fantastic trades, no doubt, acquiring great players (Rizzo, Russell, Arrieta) and drafting incredibly well in the first round (Bryant, Schwarber). But outside of those two players they’ve gotten practically *nothing* from their drafts for the last 5 years. I mean, nothing.

    So I’m not sure what I think about Epstein the genius-boy general manager/baseball executive.

    Todd Boss

    4 Aug 15 at 12:07 pm

  3. Todd Boss

    4 Aug 15 at 1:47 pm


    Kind of an off-shoot of my post; he talks about the same 9 starters I mention who moved at the trade deadline.

    Todd Boss

    4 Aug 15 at 4:07 pm

  5. I had forgotten until they mentioned it on the telecast last night that AZ traded Scherzer to Detroit . . . for the immortal EJax (plus Ian Kennedy). What a colossal, franchise crippling trade-deadline mistake. After half a season of 5.16 ERA and 1.496 WHIP from Edwin, AZ traded him to the White Sox. I understand that things worked out a little better for that Scherzer kid in Motown.

    In looking up the EJax stats, though, I can’t see why Epstein ate his contract. His ERA this year was 3.19, three runs better than last season. They gave him no starts. His WHIP was a little high at 1.355, but lower than his career average. His K/9 was 6.7, right near his career average of 7.0. Sure, he was overpriced for a middle reliever, but you’re still paying him if you cut him.

    A good, grinding win from the Nats last night, finally.


    5 Aug 15 at 5:13 am

  6. EJax release this year: yes, somewhat inexplicable. His Fip was even lower than his ERA. No idea. You can’t tell me that he wasn’t goign to be a better option as #5 starter than Dan haren.

    Todd Boss

    5 Aug 15 at 2:36 pm

  7. Arizona is an inept, bumbling franchise and has been for years. Scherzer trade was a while ago; i’m sure there was some dumb*ss reason they came up with to justify it at the time.

    Todd Boss

    5 Aug 15 at 2:37 pm

  8. see this post on Arizona in general:

    Todd Boss

    5 Aug 15 at 3:29 pm

  9. Joe Ross over Doug Fister in the rotation! Did anyone see that coming? Always saw Williams as a veterans’ manager.


    6 Aug 15 at 11:30 pm

  10. New posting on it today; short answer, yeah that shocked me too.

    Todd Boss

    7 Aug 15 at 8:44 am

  11. It’s the right move, though. I’ll look forward to the post.

    And how about the new and improved Treinen???


    7 Aug 15 at 9:05 am

  12. New posted.

    didn’t mention Treinen but yeah, he looked pretty good in his short sample size. Probably was given the following instruction; stop screwing around, go after hitters, make them hit your waving 98mph fastball, find a pitch that’s effective against lefties and frigging work on it. It makes you wonder; if he cannot be successful as a one-inning guy, can he possibly be successful as a starter? I keep holding out hope that he goes back into the rotation discussion and could be a darn effective sinkerballer at the MLB level; maybe not. If he can’t get lefties out, he’s doomed.

    Todd Boss

    7 Aug 15 at 10:03 am

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