From the beginning of the draft, certain teams—notably, St. Francis and Carolina—announced their intentions to compete this season by the trades they made. Others (Pottsylvania and Brownsville) picked up important pieces for the future at the cost of the current campaign.
Nary a pitch has been thrown in the 2014 edition of Bullard Alternative Reality Baseball, but Jeff Moore has already announced his team is “playing for next year.” The “chief Creep” has cut only one deal this offseason, but it was a biggie: career Pottsylvania Creeper Stephen Strasburg, as well as longtime lineup anchor Aramis Ramirez, were gone for a boatload of established players and prospects.
“We are excited to be retooling after our 2012 BARB championship and to begin looking toward our next, hopefully without another decade wait,” Moore said in a short statement.
The recipient of flame-throwing Strasburg? None other than perennial bridesmaid Scott Hatfield, whose teams have reached the BARB World Series four times (including 2013) but who has nothing to show for it.
Hatfield’s newly re-christened Kansans completed a roster makeover with the Strasburg deal. St. Francis was involved in no less than five of the nine deals struck during or after the draft. This one, no doubt the biggest blockbuster of all, saw infielder Todd Frazier, pitchers Matt Garza and Jason Motte, prospects Stephen Piscotty Jr. and Robert Kaminsky and a pair of players to be named after the season join the Pottsylvania organization.
“The full scope of this deal won’t be apparent until after the 2014 BARB World Series is played,” Hatfield said, “but we feel that we had to make a big push to get a talent like Strasburg.”
Another concern was the ego of Ramirez. “He’s a professional hitter who can still do some things well. But we’ve laid it out to him…Our view is that, for this year, he’s a role player. We hope he accepts that role.”
Earlier, Hatfield swung a few other trades that raised some eyebrows. Just before the draft began, it was announced the veteran GM had pulled the trigger to send one of the top prospects in the game, SS Xanger Bogaerts, with a PTBN (Dellin Betances) to New England. Motte was one of the pieces sent by the Yankee Stompers, as were James Herndon’s first-, second- and third-round picks in the draft.
St. Francis picked up more draft picks by sending young ace Michael Wacha to Worcester for the Eliminators’ first three compensation picks, plus Heath Hembree. Another trade was struck after the draft finished, as the Kansans sent Brooklyn veteran shortstop Alexei Ramirez in exchange for promising (but frustrating) pitcher Trevor Bauer. Ramirez was St. Francis’ first pick in their inaugural year, and he started at short in The Monastery for four years. But Hatfield’s acquisition of J.J. Hardy spelled the end for Ramirez, and he was sent packing.
Eric Caskey’s view of the deal was decidedly different. While wishing Bauer well, Caskey expressed puzzlement that St. Francis would part with such a steady player for “the least consistent pitcher alive.”
Also somewhat puzzling was the next trade Hatfield made: acquiring another shortstop! Zack Cozart became the newest Kansan, along with former Oakland teammate Tom Milone, in exchange for veteran catcher Russell Martin and two young pitchers in Edwin Escobar and Luke Weaver.
“Again,” said Hatfield, “this is about this year. Cozart is a nice insurance policy for us in the infield whose salary is very manageable, and he replaces the role that would’ve been filled by Ramirez. And with Derek Holland missing the first part of the season due to a home injury, adding Milone gives us an option of starting a second lefty if we want to. So, this basically boils down to sending a guy who would be a backup for us along with some future pitching for two guys who provide us with present depth.”
Other teams made deals as well. Early in the first round, Brooklyn and Casselton completed a trade that saw Matt Adams heading to the Moabs, along with Casselton’s first-round pick (10th overall) in exchange for Brooklyn’s fourth-overall pick. Landon Bolt selected All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez with the new pick, and Caskey picked up promising lefty Alex Wood.
Another young lefty, albeit with more of a track record, was the centerpiece of Brownsville’s trade with Nor Cal. Matt Moore, in fact, was the only player the Brown brothers picked up, but they viewed him so highly that they gave up a top-flight catcher (Matt Wieters), a promising (but injury-prone) third baseman (Brett Lawrie) and their final two picks to Anthony Guerra.
After the draft, Guerra picked up another package for a known commodity. The other Anthony (King, of newly re-named Carolina) continued preparing his team for a potential playoff push by acquiring stalwart third sacker David Wright (Carolina made some big deals before the draft and picked up Danny Salazar and Joe Mauer with early picks). The price was steep in young pitching. Righties Michael Pineda, Trevor May and Aaron Sanchez joined lefty Matt Smoral and shortstop Didi Gregorius on their way to northern California.
Finally, Casselton and Arizona agreed to a deal of mostly established big leaguers. The teams swapped double-play combinations, with Jed Lowrie and Brandon Phillips going to the desert and the Horned Toads picking up Neil Walker and Jean Segura. Carlos Gonzalez was also sent to Arizona (remember, Bolt picked up Gomez in the draft), while Wellington Castillo, Dillon Gee and Nick Vincent added to Casselton’s depth.