The Mets and Yankees operated with vastly different motives during this year’s trading period. Both were active, despite the dissimilar goals. But to some degree, we won’t be able to effectively grade the deals until a little bit further into the future.
What we can examine, however, is how those New York expats are performing elsewhere, as a quickie measuring stick to size up those trades. As we know, the Mets were more interesting in trimming salary from their payroll based on the limited market for some of their players — they recouped nearly $12 million on five players — and the Yankees sought upgrades for the playoff run.
With that in mind, here’s a ranking of those trade chips, from best to worst according to impact on the playoff races and ultimately, the team’s postseason run.
1. Jay Bruce, Indians: After hitting 29 homers for the Mets, Bruce couldn’t understand why he still was in Flushing after the non-waiver trade deadline. But as soon as Cleveland became willing to accept the remaining $5 million on his $13-million contract, Bruce found himself by the shores of Lake Erie — and the Indians apparently got themselves a bargain. Bruce was hitting .328 (19-for-58) in his first 16 games, with five doubles, four home runs and 13 RBIs to go with a 1.021 OPS. He’s played one game at first base, the other 15 in rightfield, as he’s doing some great resume-building for free agency.
2. Neil Walker, Brewers: There is some disagreement over why Walker isn’t playing in the Bronx right now. Depending on whom you talk to, the Yankees either scuttled a deadline deal with the Mets because of concerns over Walker’s health or just got cold feet with the Sonny Gray swap already in the works. Regardless, Walker appears to be physically fit with the Brewers, batting .375 (12-for-32) with a home run and five RBIs through his first 10 games. Milwaukee has mostly used him at second base, with one game at third so far.
3. Curtis Granderson, Dodgers: Small sample size, huge impact. Granderson isn’t hitting a ton (.174) through six games in Los Angeles — as you might expect from a guy who was batting .228 for the Mets. But when he does make contact, it’s loud, as three of Granderson’s six hits have been for home runs, including a grand slam Monday in Pittsburgh. Granderson has played all six games in leftfield after the Dodgers demoted Joc Pederson to make room on the roster. Granderson became the third of the Mets’ lefthanded power bats to be traded, and the first to not be a potential obstacle for the Yankees — short of a World Series meeting, of course.
4. Addison Reed, Red Sox: It didn’t seem to be a great omen for the Red Sox when Reed, traded on the July 31 non-waiver deadline, served up a home run to the first batter he faced, the Indians’ Carlos Santana, the following night. Boston acquired Reed to be the setup man to their light’s-out closer, Craig Kimbrel, but he’s had a few bumpy patches en route to a 5.79 ERA in 10 appearances. Early on, Reed unraveled in the Aug. 11 meltdown to the Yankees, taking the loss after allowing four runs during a nightmare eighth inning in the Bronx. That night, Reed hit a batter for the first time in three years. Since then, he’s settled down, giving up only a solo home run in 5 2/3 innings while striking out six.
5. Lucas Duda, Rays: Duda was the first domino to fall for the Mets, and what perfect timing — his first game in a Tampa Bay uniform turned out to be in the Bronx. Actually, the Mets came very close to putting Duda in pinstripes before the Rays came calling, and with similar prospects on the table, Sandy Alderson opted to ship him outside the city instead. Duda’s big lefty swing would have wreaked havoc at the Stadium, and he hit a pair during his Bronx stay. In 25 games, Duda was batting only .200 (16-for-80) with six homers and 10 RBIs, splitting time between first base and DH.
6. Tyler Clippard, Astros: The only major-league piece in the Yankees’ trade with the White Sox, Clippard appeared to be a lost soul during his final weeks in the Bronx, with a 4.95 ERA and having allowed seven homers in 36 1/3 innings. But Clippard stabilized some on the South Side, pitching to a 1.80 ERA in 11 games, striking out 12 in 10 innings and converting both save chances. Just when he was feeling comfortable, however, the Sox flipped him to the Astros, a 20-game swing in the standings. For first-place Houston, Clippard has a 3.86 ERA in five games and is 1-for-1 in save opportunities.
Time for nuclear deterrent
Let’s face it. The Yankees, and Major League Baseball for that matter, were extremely lucky Thursday that no one was seriously hurt after a Michael Fulmer plunking of Gary Sanchez and Tommy Kahnle throwing behind Miguel Cabrera led to a pair of benches-clearing incidents at Comerica Park.
We’ve stated it plenty of times before. Allowing pitchers to intentionally throw at hitters, for the sake of unwritten payback rules, is archaic and ridiculous in 2017. The Red Sox took numerous shots at the Orioles’ Manny Machado, one of the game’s brightest stars, earlier this season and the sport — as well as its fans — were fortunate that he escaped injury.
But if any of the Yankees or Tigers were injured in Thursday’s various melees, that could have greatly impacted the playoff races, and for what? Suspensions after the fact may serve a disciplinary purpose, but it’s not doing anything as far as prevention, and that’s the problem.
The commissioner’s office has to consider more severe punishments, let’s say an automatic 10-game suspension, on the books, if it’s determined that a pitcher intentionally drills a batter. With velocity up to all-time levels, more pitchers are throwing in the high-90s, making baseballs more dangerous than ever. They no longer should be targeting body parts with near-impunity.
Fights are going to happen. There’s various flashpoints that can trigger them. But it seems the vast majority of brawls are sparked by a pitcher’s brand of frontier justice, and that’s just too risky in the modern era. The idea of players policing themselves didn’t work so great in Thursday’s on-field melees, did it? We appreciate the Tigers’ Alex Wilson for admitting he nailed Todd Frazier on purpose — like there was any doubt — but that mindset needs to change.
Of course it’s necessary to throw inside, to make hitters feel uncomfortable. And the ball slips at times. No pitcher is 100 percent accurate. Batters always get hit. But it’s the revenge-minded stuff that can do significant damage, even beyond that one pitch, and MLB should push to get a more defined penalty down on paper as an effective deterrent.