Unheralded Trades Impacting the Pennant Chase

We all love the blockbuster trades that go down, either in the offseason or at the trade deadline. The excitement that stems from the Aroldis Chapman trade in 2016 or the Zack Greinke deal that just went down this year, is thrilling to fans around the league. But sometimes, the trades that don’t get the most attention turn out to be just as impactful to the success of a team down the stretch and into October.

Take last year for example. The Red Sox quietly acquired Steve Pearce from the Blue Jays for a minor league infielder. Four months later, Pearce was named the MVP of the World Series. Here are 8 trades that have impacted the 2019 pennant chase that you might have forgotten about or potentially didn’t even know about. 

March 23, 2019

Yankees Receive: Mike Tauchman 

Rockies Receive: Phillip Diehl

After some success in Triple-A for the Colorado Rockies organization, Tauchman looked like he had nothing left to accomplish at the minor league level. However, in his 59 AB in Colorado across 2017 and 2018, Tauchman struck out 25 times and posted a .468 OPS with 0 long balls. Heading into 2019, the idea of Tauchman getting any sort of playing time in Colorado seemed bleak. So they flipped him to the Yankees for LHP Phillip Diehl. Diehl was not on MLB.com’s list of the top 30 New York prospects and struggled in his only two appearances in Colorado this year. On the flip side, Tauchman has carried his success from Colorado Springs into the Bronx. He has a .926 OPS, 12 HR, and has amassed a 3.5 bWAR. Despite losing Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Aaron Hicks to injuries for a majority of the season, Tauchman has been an awesome replacement for the Yankee outfield. 

January 6, 2019

Mets Receive: J.D. Davis, Cody Bohanek

Astros Receive: Luis Santana, Ross Adolph, Scott Manea

Ranked as the #9 prospect in the talented Astros system just a couple of years ago, many scouts were high on J.D. Davis’ potential in Houston. But similar to Tauchman’s situation, Davis’ had struggles across ‘17 and ‘18 along with high competition for at bats in that lineup, there was really no place for J.D. in H-Town. Seeing that, Jeff Luhnow shipped Davis and Cody Bohanek to the Mets for three minor leaguers. Luis Santana is currently the #16 prospect in the ‘Stros system and Ross Adolph is ranked #28 (The other two MiLB players aren’t on the Top 30 lists for Houston and New York respectively). When it was reported that Davis was heading to Queens, no one really could’ve expected much from the 26 year old. The Mets had previously signed Jed Lowrie and had Todd Frazier and Jeff McNeil already in the fold. But injuries to Frazier and Lowrie opened the door for Davis to receive consistent at bats. He has taken full advantage of the opportunity as he has posted an .887 OPS, .311 AVG, and 14 HR playing both 3B and LF. Along with Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, and McNeil, J.D. Davis is a big reason why the Mets have emerged in the second half. 

August 6, 2018

Athletics Receive: Mike Fiers

Tigers Receive: Future Considerations 

After a surprising surge in the second half of the 2018 season, the A’s were in a strong position to earn a wild card berth heading into the stretch run. The one missing link the team needed was starting pitching. Typically handcuffed by finances, Billy Beane & Co. went bargain shopping to upgrade the rotation. They acquired Mike Fiers, who was pitching well for a struggling Detroit Tigers team. The righty went 5-2 with a 3.74 ERA the remainder of 2018, helping Oakland win 97 games and making the Postseason. In addition, Fiers has been even better so far in 2019. After a bit of a slow start, he threw his second career no-hitter on May 8th and currently has an 11-3 record with a 3.46 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. When people wonder how the A’s continue to keep pace with the powerhouses of the American League year after year, transactions like these are why. 

July 31, 2018

Rays Receive: Tommy Pham, Future Considerations

Cardinals Receive: Justin Williams, Genesis Cabrera, Roel Ramirez

As they were falling out of the race around the trade deadline, the Cardinals decided to trade away some of their offensive assets to build for 2019. One of the three players the dealt away was Tommy Pham, who had been in the organization for over 12 years. Pham had spent the majority of his career in the minors, but burst onto the scene in 2017 when he finished 11th in the MVP race. However, Pham failed to replicate his ‘17 into the first half of ‘18, and began to lose playing time in the crowded Cardinal outfield. So on deadline day, the Cardinals shipped him to Tampa for three prospects. Ever since, Pham has been one of the best hitters in the Rays lineup, posting an .822 OPS with 19 HR and 16 SB. Meanwhile, the Cardinals did get a decent return for Pham. Justin Williams and Genesis Cabrera are among the premier prospects in their system, and should play a role in St. Louis in the near future. But the Cardinals outfield has been in flux all year, and Pham is playing a huge role in the Rays quest for the postseason. 

July 31, 2018

Indians Receive: Oscar Mercado

Cardinals Receive: Conner Capel, Jhon Torres

Added to the list of position players the Cardinals dealt at the deadline last year was Oscar Mercado, a former second round pick. Mercado struggled early in the St. Louis system, but a position change to the outfield along with a re-worked swing elevated his status as a prospect. Despite the improvement, the Cardinals decided to move Mercado to Cleveland to acquire more depth in their farm system. Conner Capel and Jhon Torres are two low-level prospects who are both at least a couple of years away from making an impact at the big league level, but rank among the top 30 prospects in the Cardinals system. On the flip side, Mercado has been a huge boost for the Indians. When their lineup, and specifically their outfield, struggled early in 2019 it was the 24 year old who ignited the offense to allow the Tribe to jump back in the race in the AL Central. He is one of only four rookies to have at least 10 HR and 10 SB. Though we may not see the benefits of this deal for the Cardinals for awhile, we are clearly seeing how much Mercado helped fill a need for the Indians.

July 29, 2018

Yankees Receive: Luke Voit, Future Considerations

Cardinals Receive: Giovanny Gallegos, Chasen Shreve

Unlike the two previous Cardinals trades mentioned, this deal has actually paid dividends for both teams in 2019. Similar to Tommy Pham and Oscar Mercado, Luke Voit wasn’t in a great position to receive consistent at bats in St. Louis. The combination of corner bats like Matt Carpenter, Jedd Gyroko, Jose Martinez, and Co. led the Redbirds to ship Voit to New York for MLB ready relievers Giovanny Gallegos and Chasen Shreve. Coming as a surprise to many, Luke Voit has been a revelation in the Bronx. Hitting 33 homers in his 133 games so far in pinstripes. With all the injuries to their sluggers, Voit has played a huge role ensuring the Yankees currently have the best record in the AL. On the Cardinals side, while Chasen Shreve has spent most of 2019 in Triple-A, Giovanny Gallegos has been exceptional out of the ‘pen. His 0.75 WHIP leads all qualified relievers and his .158 AVG Against ranks first in the NL as well. While many NL contenders have questions in the bullpen, Gallegos is a big reason why the Cardinals are not in that position. 

August 1, 2016

Astros Receive: Yordan Alvarez

Dodgers Receive: Josh Fields 

Oof. That’s about all you can say about this deal. Sure, Josh Fields was a quality reliever for LA in 2017 and ‘18, but he also gave up a crucial homer in the World Series…against the Astros. Meanwhile, Yordan Alvarez has taken the league by storm ever since his call-up earlier this year. In just 205 AB, Alvarez has 19 HR and 56 RBI to go along with an OPS of 1.100. His presence in the ‘Stros lineup is huge, given that pitchers can’t pitch around the other sluggers in their lineup like George Springer, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, and Alex Bregman. While one might argue that Alvarez’s limitations as a DH would make it a struggle for him to play in Los Angeles, I’m sure anyone would love to have Yordan in their lineup for years to come. Josh Fields retired after the conclusion of the 2018 season. 

December 9, 2014

Athletics Receive: Marcus Semien, Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley, Rangel Ravelo

White Sox Receive: Jeff Samardzija, Michael Ynoa

After aggressively buying at the 2014 trade deadline, the A’s decided to shed a little bit of salary heading into 2015. Looking to replace Jed Lowrie at SS they acquired Marcus Semien, along with two other prospects from the White Sox. One of those two prospects was Chris Bassitt, who has emerged as one of the best starters for the A’s this season. In 21 games, Bassitt has a 9-5 record with a 3.61 ERA. However, the most valuable player the A’s received from Chicago in this deal has been one of the most underrated players in all of baseball this year. After initially struggling in Oakland, Marcus Semien has pulled it all together in 2019 both offensively and defensively. He is tied for 7th in bWAR at 5.6 and ranks as the best AL SS in terms of FanGraph’s Defensive Efficiency metric. Not to go unnoticed, Josh Phegley has caught 86 games for the A’s and already has double digit HR. For the ChiSox, Samardzija and Ynoa didn’t provide much impact. Samardzija only pitched on the South Side for one season, and posted an ERA close to 5.00 with only a 6.9 K/9 rate. Ynoa was a bullpen piece for the Sox in 2016 and ‘17, and threw 42.2 middling innings over the two years. The A’s won this trade big time.

Featured Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

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