As much as we love to make instant judgements and rush out trade grades as the season of movement is happening, we all know that the find verdict on the deals made leading up to baseball’s annual trade deadline won’t be rendered for months or years.
Last year’s Braves are the perfect example.
They addressed needs, but they were shopping on the margins. They traded for three outfielders, with OPS+ marks of 78, 87 and 100. Not exactly like adding Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the lineup, right?
But the pieces they added produced. Duvall, owner of the 100 OPS+ with the Marlins, hit 16 homers in the last two months, then added a combined three homers and 10 RBIs in the NLCS and World Series.
Eddie Rosario, owner of the 87 OPS+ with Cleveland, hit as many homers with the Braves as he did with the Indians (seven for each club) but in exactly 200 fewer plate appearances. He was basically unstoppable in the NLCS against the Dodgers and their elite pitching staff, racking up three homers, nine RBIs, a .560 batting average and .607 on-base percentage. Unsurprisingly, he was named the NLCS MVP.
And then there’s Jorge Soler. He had that 78 OPS+ with 13 homers in 94 games for Kansas City, but hit 14 homers with a 130 OPS+ in 55 games for Atlanta. Then he hit three homers in the World Series, including one of the most iconic blasts in Fall Classic history, the baseball he literally hit out of the stadium in Houston. He was the World Series MVP.
The common thread? All three were good hitters who had produced good seasons. All three were helped by the change of scenery, and an opportunity to prove themselves again.
Obviously, we couldn’t help but wonder what recently traded players might fill that same kind of role this October (and early November). So let’s take a look.
Robbie Grossman, Braves
Pre-trade numbers: 320 PA, .205/.313/.282, 2 HR, .595 OPS
Thoughts: Because he was traded from the Tigers to the Braves, it took maybe a half a second after this deal was announced for everybody to make the Soler/Rosario connection. Knowing I was planning to write this article, I knew I wouldn’t be alone but didn’t realize EVERYONE would have the jokes. Oh well. Grossman doubled in his first plate appearance with the Braves, which Atlanta fans have to feel is a good sign.
As you see by his season numbers, this has been a disappointing season for Grossman (and a massively disappointing season for his former team in Detroit). He had a 128 OPS+ during the shortened 2020 season, then a 114 mark in 2021, to go along with 23 homers and 20 stolen bases in his first real, full season as a starter, at age 31. His OPS+ with the Tigers in 2022 was an anemic 74, meaning his production was 22 percent below the average major leaguer.
But, look, a lot of success in the postseason is about finding the right opportunities in the right situations. And even with his overall struggles this season, Grossman still mashed left-handed pitching. In 96 plate appearances, he hit .364 with a .479 on-base percentage and .999 OPS.
That, folks, will play. If Grossman is a full-time outfielder for Atlanta at any point the rest of this season, things have gone wrong for the Braves. But that’s not why they brought him to town; they have him for one reason only: to face left-handed pitchers in big games/moments.
Brandon Marsh, Phillies
Pre-trade numbers: 323 PA, .226/.284/.353, 8 HR, 8 SB, .637 OPS
Thoughts: Like Grossman, Marsh recorded a base hit in his first AB with his new team. Unlike Grossman, the Phillies are hoping he’s an everyday solution, more because of his solid glove than anything. The Phillies are, putting it kindly, defensively challenged. Marsh is a huge upgrade, and that’s important.
To be a Soler/Rosario type impact guy, though, the question is this: Will he hit in the biggest moments of October? First, the Phillies have to get there. They open play Friday tied for the last spot with the Cardinals and Brewers (though one of those two will wind up as the NL Central champs, so the Phillies are only competing against whichever team finishes second in the division). The Giants are the next-closest team, but they’re 6.5 out and didn’t exactly push all their chips in at the deadline.
Back to Marsh. This is his second MLB season, at 24 years old. He’s not likely to smash a ball out of the ballpark like Soler did — his eight home runs in 2022 are only two behind his professional season high of 10 in A-ball in 2018 — but he can get hot. He started this season looking like a potential All-Star, batting .340 with a pair of homers and 15 RBIs in his first 16 games, but when the Angels fell into a spiral, so did Marsh. He had a .672 OPS in May, a .482 mark in June and a .641 OPS in July.
And Marsh has been better in the more important at-bats; his OPS with men on base is .787, contrasted to an OPS of .539 with the bags empty. A change of scenery, and getting into a better lineup, should help.
Joey Gallo, Dodgers
Pre-trade numbers: 273 PA, .159/.282/.339, 12 HR, .621 OPS
Thoughts: Has anyone ever needed a change of scenery more than Joey Gallo needed to get the heck out of New York City? The move made sense at the time, but it could not have worked out much worse for either Gallo or the Yankees. To go with the change of scenery, Gallo’s also working on a change of appearance, with the beginnings of a beard he wasn’t allowed to have in New York with the club’s no facial hair policy.
Gallo didn’t get a hit in his first AB with his new team, but he did get an opposite-field single against the shift — no really — in his second AB with the Dodgers. And he’s more like Grossman than Marsh, in that the Dodgers will wait to put him in ideal situations, because even with all his struggles, he still has massive power and can change a game with one swing of the bat.
Jake Lamb, Mariners
Pre-trade numbers: 77 PA, .239/.338/.433, 2 HR
Thoughts: Feels a bit odd to have Lamb on this list, because his roster spot with the Dodgers was essentially taken by Joey Gallo, a similar left-handed hitter. He did a fine job for what was asked of him, but didn’t produce the same type of power shown by Tristan Thompson, another backup outfielder in LA. So Lamb was traded to Seattle.
He’s bounced around since leaving Arizona, playing with the A’s, White Sox, Blue Jays and then Dodgers. He’s not secured a regular role, but at 31 years old he still does have the power that helped him hit 29 homers in 2015 and 30 more in 2016. The M’s won’t ask him to be a regular, but he has the potential to pop postseason home runs that would help elevate him to hero level for the postseason-starved Seattle baseball fans.