The MLB trade deadline is over, and as many Phillies fans prayed wouldn’t happen — but knew deep down inside it would — GM Ruben Amaro Jr. did nothing. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Sitting at 14 games under .500 and sinking, the Phils could very well be teetering on the brink of the same abyss that swallowed up the Mets post-2008. Making matters worse, the other four teams in the NL East all took distinct turns for the better at this year’s deadline. After a look at the future prospects for the Mets, Marlins, Braves and Nationals, you might want to cover your eyes.
Washington Nationals (60-49, 1st Place)
Deadline activity: Traded SS Zach Walters to Cleveland for 2B/SS Asdrubal Cabrera
This season, Cabrera has not been as good as he was in 2011-2012 — his .691 OPS is the second-lowest mark of his career — but the deal marks a clear win for the Nats in that it will put utility man Danny Espinosa and his 0 wins above replacement (WAR) firmly on the bench for the foreseeable future. Trading for Cabrera gives manager Matt Williams the possibility of getting a little bit of pop in the middle or bottom of the lineup for this year, albeit at the potentially high cost of Walters, who has a high ceiling.
Outlook: Steady … for now.
The Nationals are contenders in large part due to their starting rotation, which has helped the team to an NL-best 3.10 team ERA. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is on the shelf with an injured hamstring, but Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth, and Ian Desmond should produce just enough offense to hold on the rest of the way. D.C. should enjoy this run while it can, though. The 35-year old Werth will be receiving $21 million until 2018, while Zimmermann and Desmond are free agents after next season. Rendon is under team control for awhile, but the Nats might not have the money to keep their core intact for long.
Atlanta Braves (58-54, 2nd Place)
Deadline activity: Traded catcher Victor Caratini to Chicago (NL) for RP James Russell and OF/INF Emilio Bonifacio
Atlanta got plenty of production for the relatively low price of a class-A catcher. Russell fills an immediate need as the sole left-hander in Fredi Gonzalez’s bullpen, giving the Braves added stability in the seventh inning. The peripherals around Russell aren’t the best (his 1.53 K/BB ratio this year is a career low), but it’s tough to tell how much of that stems from possible overuse in Chicago.The Braves will have Russell’s final arbitration year in 2015 to evaluate him over a full season. Bonifacio is a known commodity at this point, but a good one. He gets on base well enough (.279 AVG/.322 OBP), and can play almost anywhere on the diamond (he’s spent time at 5 different positions this year). Both players will be needed for the wild card race.
The Braves’ core of Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Julio Teheran and Craig Kimbrel is locked up until 2018. Having the perpetually disappointing B.J. Upton on the books until 2018 hurts, especially with his brother Justin due to command big bucks if he hits the open market after next season. Losing Justin would hurt given Atlanta’s current dearth of outfield prospects, but GM Frank Wren has consistently found a way to make helpful low-cost additions (eg. Evan Gattis). The Braves will stay contenders for a long time.
Miami Marlins (54-57, 3rd Place)
Deadline activity: Traded outfielder Jake Marisnick, third baseman Colin Moran, P Francis Martes and a 2015 compensatory draft pick to Houston for SP Jarred Cosart, IF-OF Kike Hernandez, and OF Austin Wates.
The presence of Cosart in the NL East will be sending Phillies fans into conniptions for years to come, as he serves as a perpetual reminder of Amaro’s legendarily bad Hunter Pence trade. The big right-hander is the centerpiece of the deal, but the Marlins could receive plenty of production from their ancillary acquisitions. Hernandez hit .284 in 89 plate appearances with the Astros this year, and is only 22, while Wates has a .397 OBP in AAA. Marisnick was number 79 on Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects list heading into the season, but was the odd man out in the Marlins’ deep outfield.
The Marlins are quickly moving out of the cellar, despite being owned by Jeffrey Loria. Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Cosart, Henderson Alvarez and Steve Cishek are all locked up through at least 2017. Jose Fernandez is due to return next year from Tommy John surgery. With top prospects Andrew Heaney and Christian Yelich also in the big leagues, the Marlins have all the young pieces in place to make a run along the lines of their 1997 and 2003 World Series seasons. The only questions are when, and how big of a fire sale will take place when it’s all over.
New York Mets (53-58, 4th Place)
Deadline activity: None.
The Mets didn’t make any moves, but perhaps they didn’t need to. Their top tradable asset, starting pitcher Bartolo Colon, didn’t exactly generate a ton of interest, and GM Sandy Alderson ultimately decided they were better off keeping the 41-year-old. Sitting 6.5 games out of the second wild card spot as of Monday, a playoff run is unlikely, but New York has absolutely nothing to lose by holding onto Colon and possibly flipping him in the offseason, when he still has a year left on his contract.
The Mets’ last “Generation K” of can’t-miss arms flamed out in the mid-’90s, but the Amazins’ young rotation looks set for the long haul. Top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard is due to arrive as soon as September, while Zach Wheeler has continued to develop and Jacob deGrom has emerged seemingly out of nowhere. Oh yeah, and that Matt Harvey kid is getting healthy as well. There are clear holes in left field and at shortstop, but one — or both — of those could be filled in a potential blockbuster deal with Colorado…
Philadelphia Phillies (49-63, 5th Place)
Deadline activity: None.
We’ve been over this one already.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. With Jimmy Rollins’s vesting option clinched once he surpassed 434 plate appearances this year, none of those big contracts are going to come off the books without the Phillies eating significant money until at least the 2015 offseason. There are definite prospects in the system, but top 2013 pick JP Crawford won’t be playing shortstop at Citizens Bank Park until 2017, barring a major jump, and third baseman of the future Maikel Franco is struggling with a .290 OBP at AAA Lehigh Valley. All things considered, it’s time to prepare for a long stretch of irrelevance.