Soriano the biggest winner in deals

Lackluster trade deadline yields very few offensive difference-makers

Updated: August 1, 2013, 7:02 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

The 2013 trade deadline -- as in, the July 31 deadline itself -- went by with scarcely a whimper, barely audible on the offensive side of the ball.

This was a pitchers' market, if one could describe it as a "market" at all, with few high-impact players changing teams after the All-Star break. As you'll see below, this year's trade deadline requires minimal change to your hitting strategy … but it does require adjustment, as any trade season does.

As we did in 60 Feet, 6 Inches, let's examine the "winners" and "losers," fantasy-wise, of these deadline deals on the hitting side. First, here's the full trade rundown, all the deals since the All-Star break that included a meaningful fantasy name:

• The Baltimore Orioles acquired SP Bud Norris from the Houston Astros for DH L.J. Hoes and SP Josh Hader. (July 31)
• The Kansas City Royals acquired OF Justin Maxwell from the Houston Astros for SP Kyle Smith. (July 31)
• The San Diego Padres acquired SP Ian Kennedy from the Arizona Diamondbacks for RP Joe Thatcher, RP Matt Stites and a 2014 competitive balance round B draft pick. (July 31)
• The Boston Red Sox acquired SP Jake Peavy from the Chicago White Sox and RP Brayan Villarreal and OF Avisail Garcia from the Detroit Tigers and sent SS/3B Jose Iglesias to Detroit and Garcia, RP J.B. Wendelken, SP Francellis Montas and SS Cleuluis Rondon to Chicago. (July 30)
• The Oakland Athletics acquired 3B Alberto Callaspo from the Los Angeles Angels for SS Grant Green. (July 30)
• The Atlanta Braves acquired RP Scott Downs from the Los Angeles Angels for SP Cory Rasmus. (July 29)
• The Tampa Bay Rays acquired RP Jesse Crain from the Chicago White Sox for players to be named or cash. (July 29)
• The Detroit Tigers acquired RP Jose Veras from the Houston Astros for OF Danry Vasquez and a player to be named. (July 29)
• The New York Yankees acquired OF Alfonso Soriano and cash from the Chicago Cubs for SP Corey Black. (July 26)
• The Baltimore Orioles acquired RP Francisco Rodriguez from the Milwaukee Brewers for 3B Nick Delmonico. (July 23)
• The Texas Rangers acquired SP Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs for SPs C.J. Edwards and Justin Grimm, 1B Mike Olt and a player to be named. (July 22)

Winners

Alfonso Soriano, New York Yankees: No individual hitter benefited more from being traded than Soriano, though that's as much a statement about the market as his move. Still, returning to the New York Yankees could rejuvenate Soriano, now 37 years old but reunited with former teammates Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, with whom he hasn't played in 10 years. More importantly, it places him in a homer-friendly ballpark -- bear in mind that power is his best asset at this stage in his career -- in the American League, which affords a designated hitter role that can keep him fresher and protect the Yankees from relying too much on his mediocre glove. One thing Soriano's move to New York did not do was grant him the benefit of additional lineup support; the Yankees have actually averaged fewer runs per game (3.86) than the Chicago Cubs (3.98) this season. He'll play regularly and, in Yankee Stadium, shouldn't have much trouble maintaining -- or perhaps even increasing -- his 13.7 home run/fly ball percentage and 27-homer pace. There's no reason to give him any "old man" treatment judging by his ADP in recent years, at least not for the remainder of 2013.

Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox: You might think either Brock Holt or Brandon Snyder warrants this treatment, but ask yourself, do you honestly believe that the Boston Red Sox traded their most skilled infield defender, Jose Iglesias, to make room for a player with sub-.100 isolated power in his minor league career (Holt) or one who has struck out in 29.3 percent of his career trips to the plate (Snyder)? This Holt/Snyder platoon is a placeholder; once the Red Sox recognize that the duo doesn't provide net positive value either offensively or defensively, the team will be forced to turn to one of its future pieces at the hot corner. The real question: Who will get the call first?

Middlebrooks, who at only 24 years old already has a reputation for being injury-prone and impatient at the plate, hasn't done much in Triple-A Pawtucket to warrant excitement, batting .238/.292/.390 in 26 games there in the month of July. He might be the more obvious pick as next in line, but fantasy owners outside of AL-only formats with bench space to burn might be wasting their time speculating. At least Middlebrooks has power to offer in spurts, if you like short-term streak-chasing.

[+] EnlargeXander Bogaerts
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsXander Bogaerts could make his major league debut with the Red Sox sooner rather than later.

Bogaerts, the Red Sox's top prospect, is the exciting name to track. He didn't get the call to replace Iglesias for two reasons: One, he's still adapting to the defensive chores of third base (he's a converted shortstop), and two, the Red Sox needed an infielder who could handle multiple positions. However, Bogaerts' bat appears big-league ready, as he's a .273/.381/.473 hitter in 42 games for Pawtucket since his promotion. As a 20-year-old shortstop-turned-third baseman, Manny Machado comparisons have already begun; those comparisons might be lofty, but the situation isn't as dissimilar as you might think. If Bogaerts is manning third for the Red Sox every day come Aug. 20, don't be at all shocked.

Junior Lake, Chicago Cubs: Soriano's departure -- and perhaps eventually Nate Schierholtz's, if he clears waivers in August -- locks Lake in as a regular center fielder for the Chicago Cubs, which is a plus if you nabbed him in a deep-mixed or NL-only league. Keep in mind, he had appeared in only six games in the outfield in the minors; he was a converted shortstop without a clear place to play. Though Lake is unlikely to maintain his .316 batting average -- it's driven by an unsustainable .381 BABIP and he was a .271 career minor league hitter (albeit .295 in Triple-A) -- at least the Cubs can now afford patience through his slumps. That's important because what Lake brings to NL-only owners' table is speed; he averaged 31 steals per 162 games played in the minors.

Losers

"Only" owners who hoarded their FAAB: (This columnist sheepishly raises his hand.) Though it wasn't a decided strategy of mine in the annual Tout Wars-National League experts league to hoard FAAB for a cross-league buying bonanza -- I did attempt bids ranging between $21-31 on many premier pickups, including Jose Fernandez, Tony Cingrani, Marcell Ozuna and Jacob Turner, but lost out to higher bids -- by July, I ended up with a mountain pile of FAAB (that's Free Agent Acquisition Budget, for those unfamiliar) to spend on a premier talent traded into the league. Come 4:01 p.m. ET on Wednesday, the most exciting new NL'er up for bids was … Scott Downs.

This wasn't completely unexpected; this year's was a weaker market than usual, and many of the candidates to make the AL-to-NL hop carried high contracts that would have been unattractive to frugal teams like, say, the Pittsburgh Pirates or Arizona Diamondbacks. Now FAAB hoarders in NL-only leagues must hope for one of two things: That an unexpectedly good minor league prospect earns an early promotion or that a player sneaks through waivers only to be traded into the NL in August. While the latter is possible, let's not forget that some of the top candidates to do so bring pricey contracts: Alex Rios ($17-plus million remaining through 2014), Justin Morneau ($14 million 2013 salary) and Alexei Ramirez ($23-plus million remaining through 2015) are just three examples. Any of the more attractive candidates, like Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse or Mark Trumbo, has a much more palatable contract and is therefore far less likely to make it through waivers.

Expect someone like Cody Asche, who failed to crack the "Winners" list above because his Philadelphia Phillies didn't clear third base for him by trading Michael Young, or future such examples to fetch far greater FAAB bids than usual in the coming weeks. There's a good chance that NL-only waiver wires won't be an easy landscape to travel the rest of the way with many mediocre names going for bloated prices.

Not that the American League had it much better. Judging by the trades list at this column's top, most moves remained intraleague, making the week's top NL-to-AL player merely … Jose Veras. Bleagh. Plus, AL-only owners who opened their FAAB wallets the week before to snatch up Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano will readily share their tale of being aggressive spenders when an impact talent switches leagues. Why wait?

That said, at least the AL stands slightly greater prospects of August league-switchers. Michael Young, Cliff Lee, Kyle Lohse and Rickie Weeks have contracts that make them good bets to clear waivers, and many of the AL's contenders have budgets that could absorb them, meaning that there's slightly greater incentive to follow a hoarding strategy.

Texas Rangers lineup: Why didn't this team more aggressively pursue offensive help, considering that the team has been shut out four times in its past 13 games, averaging 3.31 runs during that span? In addition, a suspension threatens to prematurely end the season of Nelson Cruz, who leads the team in homers (24) and RBIs (72), and Lance Berkman has hinted at retirement in recent days. Losing Cruz would prove a crushing blow to this squad, which lost Mike Olt in the Garza trade, meaning there's one fewer immediate fill-in should the Rangers need one. If you're an owner of Rangers hitters, it might be wise to temper your runs/RBIs expectations for the final two months. If there's anyone with a minimal chance at being impacted, it's Leonys Martin: Typically the team's No. 9 hitter, he might slide into the leadoff spot, with Ian Kinsler dropping to third, if Cruz is banned.

Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers: Jose Iglesias' acquisition is as compelling evidence as there is that the Detroit Tigers believe Peralta will be among the players suspended for at least 50 games as a result of the Biogenesis investigation; why would a team trade a prospect like Avisail Garcia for a mere late-inning defensive replacement? No, Iglesias is "suspension insurance," which general manager Dave Dombrowski effectively confirmed when he told the Detroit Free Press on Monday that "if there is a lengthy suspension in which Jhonny does not play … we now feel very well protected." At the very least, Iglesias' arrival signals that the Tigers aren't planning on Peralta being back for 2014, so even if the veteran somehow escapes punishment, expect to see a lot of Iglesias at shortstop in the coming weeks. It's time to finalize your contingency plan, Peralta owners.

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