With the MLB non-waiver trade deadline approaching on July 31, teams are clamoring to make moves before time runs out.
Many clubs know they’re out of contention to earn a postseason berth. They’re more inclined to sell in the hopes of gaining back some prospects while ridding their books of unnecessary salaries.
Others are clear-cut contenders at the top of their respective divisions. This time is generally one in which they’re looking to bolster any areas of concern, such as a particular positional upgrade, the starting rotation or the bullpen.
The most difficult bunch to predict are the teams that fall in between. Right on the bubble, these franchises have to make tough calls regarding whether to sell and prepare for the future or sacrifice prospects in the hopes of receiving an impactful, proven player in return.
On Friday, three major deals happened, so let’s run through them.
Phillies add Asdrubal Cabrera
Asdrubal Cabrera has been the lone bright spot for the New York Mets offense this season. Hitting .277 with 18 home runs and 58 RBIs, the 32-year-old switch-hitting second baseman has been productive. The Mets shipped him off for Double-A right-handed pitcher Franklyn Kilome.
Cabrera’s versatility will most likely be on display in Philadelphia. Although he’s been New York’s second baseman all season long, he’s had MLB experience at shortstop and third base, which is presumably where he’ll spend most of his time due to Cesar Hernandez’s presence at the keystone. Since shortstop has been a major position of concern for the Phillies this season, he may take on that role.
Kilome, a 23-year-old, has been in Philadelphia’s farm system since 2014 and posted a 4-6 record and 4.24 ERA in 19 starts at the Double-A level this year. Since he’s allowed 96 hits and struck out just 83 hitters while walking 51 in 102.0 innings, he may be far from making his Major League debut.
D-Backs add Eduardo Escobar
Similarly making an important offensive addition to their infield, the Arizona Diamondbacks added Eduardo Escobar in a deal with the Minnesota Twins. The 29-year-old slugger led the majors with 37 doubles and hit .274 with 15 home runs and 64 RBIs for Minnesota.
Arizona manager Torey Lovullo noted that Escobar will receive a lot of his reps at third base due to the recent injury of Jake Lamb, but he’s also someone who can move around the infield, which could come in handy. The D-Backs are another team that has struggled to receive consistent production at shortstop and Escobar is also likely an upgrade over second baseman Daniel Descalso.
Regardless of who he ends up playing over, Escobar is a proven middle-of-the-lineup type of hitter.
Minor league pitcher Jhoan Duran, outfielder Ernie De La Trinidad and outfielder Gabriel Maciel will be headed to Minnesota.
Duran, a 20-year-old starting pitcher, has been in Arizona’s farm system since 2015. This year, he went 5-4 with a 4.73 ERA over 15 starts in High-A ball.
De La Trinidad is now in his second professional season after being selected in the 19th round out of UNLV in 2017. The 22-year-old outfielder has been stellar at the High-A level this season, hitting .311 with a .403 on-base-percentage, eight home runs and 56 RBIs through 91 games. Impressively, he has almost as many walks (45) as strikeouts (48).
Maciel is a 19-year-old outfielder that has also spent the full season at the High-A level. Through 68 games, he hit .287 and recorded 16 RBIs and 14 stolen bases.
Brewers add Mike Moustakas
The most high-profile move of the day came when the Kansas City Royals parted ways with former All-Star and World Series champion Mike Moustakas, sending him to the Milwaukee Brewers for minor leaguers Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez.
Moustakas, who blasted 38 home runs last season, hit .249 with 20 homers and 62 RBIs so far this year for the Royals. He will instantly make Milwaukee’s already-talented lineup even more dangerous.
"We were looking for another big bat to add to the lineup and we got it,'' Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Friday night. "We feel like we can put together a really tough lineup on a daily basis now.’'
With Lorenzo Cain, Christian Yelich, Eric Thames, Ryan Braun, Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw and now Moustakas all in the mix, the Brewers will undoubtedly be an offense to watch moving forward.
Interestingly, Shaw will presumably move over to second base with the Moustakas addition, despite the fact that he's never played there.
"They approached me I guess about a month ago and asked my thoughts about how comfortable I was over there, this and that,'' Shaw said, per ESPN. "I feel like I can do a decent job over there. The world's going to say I can't do it. I take that challenge to heart. It's obviously going to make our lineup better, it's going to make our lineup deeper. Moustakas is a good player. He's won a World Series. He's a middle-of-the order type of guy. He's going to extend our lineup, he's going to give us another left-handed power guy.''
Phillips played 15 Major League games with the Brewers this season, but spent most of his time in Triple-A, hitting .240 with six home runs and 25 RBIs in 71 games. The 24-year-old outfielder has underachieved as a whole since he hit .305 with 19 homers and 78 RBIs at that level last season.
Lopez went 3-3 with a 5.65 ERA over 24 Triple-A appearances and made 10 appearances with the Brewers this season, posting a 2.75 ERA over 19.2 innings.
The potential impact
Heading into Saturday, the Phillies lead the NL East by 2.5 games, the Brewers trail the Chicago Cubs by 1.5 games in the NL Central and the D-Backs trail the Los Angeles Dodgers by 1.5 games in the NL West.
It remains to be seen if these trades can create separation for the Phillies and vault the Brewers and Diamondbacks to the top of their respective divisions.