Niksa: Proposed MLB Trade Deadline moves, Part II

July 29, 2014, 9:00 a.m.

This is Part II of a two-part discussion regarding the upcoming MLB trade deadline. Click here to read Part I.

Trade #3: Colorado SP Jorge De La Rosa for Yankees RP Shawn Kelley and  minor leaguer Austin Romine

If there was an award given to the most frustrating team in Major League Baseball, the Rockies would be the unanimous recipient for the third year running. The team has one of the best offenses in the league and has been in the top five in most offensive categories for the last three years. The team has five guys who have hit over .300 this year (minimum 125 at-bats) and one batter who is hitting .297 through 82 games. The team is third in runs scored and first in batting average.

So why the heck are the Rockies in last place in the NL West, you ask? You may have already guessed the answer: horrendous pitching. The team is last in the majors in ERA and BAA. It has always been hard to pitch at Coors Field in Colorado because of the thinner air and the higher altitude, but these pitching statistics cannot simply be attributed to the elevation. The pitching staff, composed of Jordan Lyles, Jorge De La Rosa, Franklin Morales, Jhoulys Chacin and Juan Nicasio, has a combined 4.84 ERA, which ranks at the bottom of the league. Nicasio is currently in the minors, and both Chacin and Lyles are on the 60-day disabled list.

At 41-60, the Rockies have to be sellers at the trade deadline. Although selling arguably their best pitcher would be a questionable decision for most, it makes long-term financial sense for Colorado to part with De La Rosa. De La Rosa is due $11 million this year and will be a free agent in 2015. The Rockies, by trading him to the Yankees, could get the Yankees to eat the rest of his contract, thus saving the Rockies a sizable amount of money. The team can then use a certain portion of the $11 million to purchase pitchers in free agency and rebuild for next year.

As for the Yankees, purchasing De La Rosa would have quite an impact on a team right in the middle of a playoff race. The Yankees are 53-48 and second in the AL East, but their pitching definitely needs improvement. Ranked 17th in ERA and 17th in BAA, the Yankees could use another arm to help their injury-decimated rotation. Pitchers CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka have all landed on the disabled list, leaving a patchwork five-man rotation of Hiroki Kuroda, Brandon McCarthy, Shane Greene, Chase Whitley and David Phelps to lead the Yankees. Of the five, only Phelps, Greene and Kuroda have sub-4.00 ERAs, and even though De La Rosa has a 4.11 ERA at the moment, he has a 1.78 ERA in July and has been on fire as of late. The Yankees can definitely afford his contract, and New York is in desperate need of good pitching right now.

Just like the other two deals mentioned in Part I of this piece, this transaction makes the most financial sense because it will help both teams in both the short term and long term. For the Rockies, losing De La Rosa will sting, but this year has been a waste anyway. The team ought to cut its losses and wait for the offseason before signing players released from other ball clubs. In addition, Colorado would get Austin Romine, who can back up the oft-injured Wilin Rosario and backup catcher Michael McKenry. Shawn Kelley, the other player the Rockies would receive in the deal, has posted a solid 3.48 ERA as a reliever and would certainly improve a middling Colorado bullpen.

As for the Yanks, the team would receive everything they could want in a pitcher in De La Rosa: a strong starting pitcher who has pitched 116 innings this year and who has been on a roll in July. If De La Rosa can continue his hot streak as a starter and fit into New York’s rotation, then the Yankees would definitely improve during the stretch run. In turn, he would not need to pitch in a high-altitude environment if he was traded, something that he would certainly come to appreciate.

Trade #4: Philadelphia Phillies OF Marlon Byrd to the Cincinnati Reds for RP Tony Cingrani and OF Donald Lutz

If there is any player that knows what it is like to be traded, it is Marlon Byrd. In 2012, the 36-year old was dealt to the Boston Red Sox from the Chicago Cubs, and just last year, he was dealt again in late July, to the Pittsburgh Pirates from the New York Mets. A career .279 hitter, Byrd has been solid wherever he goes, which is why he may be on the move again at this year’s deadline.

The Philadelphia Phillies are 44-58 and fifth in the AL East, meaning the team will definitely be sellers. Just like all of the other teams that are selling now, one main motivator for Philadelphia in trading its star players is money. Byrd is set to make $8 million this year and will make another $8 million next year. The Phillies’ front office knows that Byrd and the other players on this ball club will most likely not lead the club to the playoffs in the near future, so it definitely makes financial sense for the team to sell Byrd and have someone else absorb his large contract. Furthermore, because Byrd is such a talented player, the Phillies can definitely ask for some good players in exchange for the outfielder.

As for the buyer in this scenario, the Cincinnati Reds would benefit immensely from Byrd’s services. The Reds are 51-50 and fourth in the ultra-competitive NL Central, and with other teams in the division making moves at the deadline, the purchase of Byrd would turn the Reds into instant contenders. The team is 25th in runs scored and 25th in batting average, so the introduction of Byrd, his .269 batting average, his 19 home runs and his 59 RBIs (runs batted in) would give the team a dangerous power hitter to complement speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton. The introduction of Byrd could also make current Reds right fielder Jay Bruce expendable, allowing Reds general manager Walt Jocketty the option of putting Bruce on the market in exchange for some relievers in order to help improve the Reds’ beleaguered bullpen.

This Marlon Byrd trade scenario between the Phillies and the Reds is fair because each team would shore up areas of need. The Phillies would obtain relief pitcher Tony Cingrani, a 25-year old reliever who is currently recovering from a left shoulder strain. Cingrani may possess a 4.55 ERA for this year, but he is a career 3.49 ERA reliever who had a very solid 2.92 ERA in 2013. Once Cingrani is healthy again, he would help bolster an underachieving Phillies bullpen. As for the other player in the trade, Reds outfielder Donald Lutz hit .241 last year and is only 25 years old. Although he is not at Byrd’s level as a developed talent, he should mature as a hitter as he grows older, and because Byrd is currently the only right fielder on the 25-man roster for the Phillies, Byrd’s departure would allow Lutz the chance to become Philadelphia’s day-to-day starter.

As for the Reds, the team would receive a disciplined and strong hitter who is fifth in the National League in home runs with 19 on the season. Byrd, Reds first baseman Joey Votto and second baseman Brandon Phillips would form a strong core for this squad. If Byrd can stay healthy and continue his strong hitting, he can help lead Cincinnati to the playoffs.

*Stats accurate as of July 25

Contact Matt Niksa at mattniksa80 ‘at’

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