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Trade Retrospective: How Did the Twins Do in the Ryan Pressly Trade?

t’s been just over two years since the Twins traded Ryan Pressly to the Houston Astros for two young prospects. Minnesota is just now seeing the results of that trade with Jorge Alcala joining the Twins bullpen. Gilberto Celestino, the other player included in the trade, is part of the Twins 60-man player pool. After two years, how have the Twins fared in the Ryan Pressly trade?
Image courtesy of © Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Time can change the view of a trade, so here’s what was said back in 2018 at the time of the deal.

What Did People Say at the Time of the Trade?
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said, "We had ranked all the relievers that we had interest in a few weeks ago taking a really deep look at all of them (and) we felt Pressly was the best combination for stuff, control — how much time he would be with us — and acquisition cost and ability to plug right into our bullpen. We like his stuff a lot."

At the time, Twins general manager Thad Levine said, both scouts and data analysts found the team’s haul in the deal “very exciting.” When referencing the Eduardo Escobar trade and the Pressly deal, he said, “I believe four of them will go right into our top 30 prospects, and that’s meaningful. What we were able to accomplish yesterday may not pay dividends tomorrow, but on the horizon, that just got brighter.”

Alcala was still starting in the Astros organization at the time of the trade. Here is what Baseball America said, “Alcala has a plus-plus fastball, but there are times as a starter where he gears down to try to maintain his stamina. At his best, he’s reached triple digits in the past. There are days when Alcala looks like a one-pitch pitcher trying to start, but seen on the right days, he has the makings of being a devastating bullpen option.”

When looking at Celestino, Baseball America projected him to “end up as a plus defender in center with the ability to hit .270 with 15-20 home runs, with a fourth-outfield future as a decent fallback option.” When the Twins acquired them, Alcala and Celestino were among the top-15 prospects in the Astros' farm system, according to MLBPipeline.com.

Pressly’s Houston Success
Pressly has pitched a grand total of 78 1/3 innings in an Astros uniform over the course of three seasons. He was a first-time All-Star last season at the age of 30 after posting a 1.36 ERA in the first half. During that same stretch, he held opponents to a .176/.208/.282 slash-line with 47 strikeouts compared to six walks. He was one of the best relievers in the game, but things haven’t gone as perfectly since then.

In 2019’s second half, Pressly ran into some struggles and dealt with an injury. His ERA jumped to 4.91 and his WHIP rose from 0.78 in the first half to 1.23 in the second half. He was forced to undergo arthroscopic right knee surgery and didn’t pitch in a game from August 15-September 21. He’d make the team’s postseason roster, but his ERA was 9.00 or higher in every round of the playoffs.

So far in 2020, Pressly was in line to become Houston’s closer in place of Roberto Osuna. Pressly had a finger blister during Summer Camp and he has been dealing with elbow soreness. He left his only appearance of the year early with a cut on the cuticle above his thumbnail. The team seems optimistic that he will be able to avoid any extended time on the injured list.

Minnesota’s Trade Return
Jorge Alcala split time as a starter and reliever in 2019 and the Twins were aggressive with him after switching him to the bullpen. He made six relief appearances (10 2/3 innings) at Double-A and allowed two earned runs while holding opponents to a .502 OPS. At Triple-A, he did even better as he didn’t allow an earned run and he struck out 11 batters in 7 2/3 innings. He made two big league appearances as a September call-up and only allowed one hit.

Since switching to the bullpen, Alcala has been able to focus on using his best two pitches, his fastball and his slider. His fastball is constantly in the mid-90s and so far this season it is averaging 96.8 mph. His slider has also ticked up a few miles per hour from 85.9 mph last year to 88.0 mph in 2020. He’s looking like he could be Minnesota’s closer of the future.

Gilberto Celestino was added to the Twins 40-man roster this off-season after a breakout season. He was always seen as a strong defender, but his offensive improvements helped put him on the prospect map. He changed his base at the plate and started his swing earlier after working with Kernels hitting coach Ryan Smith. From May 9 through season’s end, he hit .303/.374/.464 with 38 extra-base hits in 98 games.

Who Won the Trade?
It will probably be multiple years before Twins fans will know if the organization “won” this trade. Houston got what they wanted out of the deal with Pressly turning into one of baseball’s best right-handed relief pitchers. He set an MLB record for consecutive appearances without giving up a run, the team has signed him to an extension, and he could be the team’s closer this season if he proves to be healthy.

Minnesota got two players in return that could impact the big-league roster for multiple years. MLB.com updated their top-30 prospects this week and both Alcala (27) and Celestino (16) make the list. Alcala missed more bats than previous seasons and seems destined for a bullpen role. Celestino is one of the best defenders in the Twins system, but if his offensive improvements could make him an impact player at the big-league level.

Looking back, what do you think about the trade? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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33 Comments

Still TBD at this point, we'll see how those 2 turn out. Alcala could be pretty good if he can improve his command. I liked the Escobar return better at the time, still do so far. 

Even at the time, I thought they made a pretty good haul on a reliever. My comment at the time was that Alcala could become Pressly at some point in the next few years, and Celestino has a ton of potential. 

 

That 2018 trade deadline is really starting to bear fruit. 

    • glunn, DocBauer and rdehring like this
The optics on this have changed. Presley’s injuries and the Twins going from worst to first in terms of bullpen rankings take any sort of edge off.

I guess I’m just not as high on Alcala. He could be great, but the chances of him reaching Presley’s level (see stats above) are pretty slim. That’s not any sort of discredit to Alcala....Presley has been top-shelf when healthy.

Same for Celestino. The guy may be a nice player someday. But, his track record to this point isn’t blowing anyone anyway. It’s hard to see him suddenly exploding and becoming a superstar.

I’m not really arguing the Twins “lost” the trade. Presley can’t seem to stay healthy. But, a healthy Presley would look pretty nice between Duffey/May/Romo and Rogers at the back end. You’re basically shortening playoff games by one more inning. That’s not insignificant in the short-term and is likely more than they’ll ever get out of Alcala/Celestino (if he can pitch). Also, we know the team is great now. I’d rather have the known commodity now (if he can pitch) than the unknowns. Alcala and Celestino becoming average-to-good players after the window closes (hypothetically) isn’t a preferred outcome, IMO.
    • glunn and dbminn like this

 

The optics on this have changed. Presley’s injuries and the Twins going from worst to first in terms of bullpen rankings take any sort of edge off.

I guess I’m just not as high on Alcala. He could be great, but the chances of him reaching Presley’s level (see stats above) are pretty slim. That’s not any sort of discredit to Alcala....Presley has been top-shelf when healthy.

Same for Celestino. The guy may be a nice player someday. But, his track record to this point isn’t blowing anyone anyway. It’s hard to see him suddenly exploding and becoming a superstar.

I’m not really arguing the Twins “lost” the trade. Presley can’t seem to stay healthy. But, a healthy Presley would look pretty nice between Duffey/May/Romo and Rogers at the back end. You’re basically shortening playoff games by one more inning. That’s not insignificant in the short-term and is likely more than they’ll ever get out of Alcala/Celestino (if he can pitch). Also, we know the team is great now. I’d rather have the known commodity now (if he can pitch) than the unknowns. Alcala and Celestino becoming average-to-good players after the window closes (hypothetically) isn’t a preferred outcome, IMO.

I do not think that anyone thought that Celestino would be a superstar. 

    • Dman likes this
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Tom Froemming
Aug 07 2020 06:14 AM

This is going to be an interesting one to look back on for awhile, I'm guessing. I think it's worth pointing out that Pressly was only under team control through 2019, the Astros signed him to an extension. How you try to bake that into the equation, I'm not sure, because there's a counter argument the Twins could have done just the same.

 

Alcala's stuff is exciting, but it's difficult for me to see him ever becoming the type of pitcher Pressly has been. That guy has a 6.56 K:BB ratio with Houston. Alcala might have the strikeouts in him, but his command isn't great.

 

Celestino is out of a lot of people's minds with there being no minor league baseball (sob), but as Cody wrote, he hit he hit last season. Also, center fielders are difficult to find. Not sure if it's going to be with Minnesota, as I could see him getting traded sometime in the future, but I'd bet Celestino is going to be a major leaguer.

 

    • glunn, DocBauer, dbminn and 2 others like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Aug 07 2020 06:37 AM

it certainly worked out for Houston. Hopefully it does for us too and at the end of the day we can say that this was a trade that ultimately benefited both teams... I guess the real question is whether or not Pressley would have helped us advance in 2019... I don't think we beat the Yankees with him, but I do wonder if we had a better seed and didnt' have to play them due to a better seed.

    • glunn, birdwatcher and DocBauer like this
Worth noting that Pressly’s injury and subsequent struggles late in 2019 was a fluke event caused by a batted ball off his knee. It may be appropriate to discount that injury and its effects in this evaluation. (His 2020 injuries so far might be fair game, although he may have left the alternate reality Twins as a free agent last offseason too.)

That said, while the above may improve the Pressly side of the ledger, the Twins assembled a very good bullpen pretty quickly after his departure, so even a quality Pressly may have been superfluous.

Although there are still nagging questions from last year’s ALDS where Duffey, Littell, and Stashak all contributed negatively early in the series — would Pressly have been a little more “ready for prime time”, reduced our reliance on the above 3 names, and helped us set a different tone for the series? Some of that may be on Rocco’s decision making too. But any Pressly effect is probably small enough that it could be eclipsed by a good postseason series in the near future.
    • glunn, birdwatcher, Dman and 2 others like this

As you mentioned, Cody, we will know in a few more years. Although this trade could pay dividends for the Twins for another six to ten years, so may be a bit longer. So far, I am satisfied with the trade and happy with the general philosophy of the new FO.

    • glunn and DocBauer like this

If you think having Pressly on the staff would have made the difference in the playoffs last year against the Yankees, then we lost the trade.

 

I don't think it would have made a difference. Our bats were asleep.

Even if the two do not turn out and the Twins "lose" the trade, it is always important to look at when the trade happened and what the team was looking at.Some people are anti-trades or feel if the player you trade away performs better than who you get back you should not have done it.However, it is not that simple.You need to evaluate how the trade or non trade may have affected the team down the line.  

 

Last season our pen early on was struggling and Pressley was dealing, and came off of a great season, so many questioned the deal.However, as shown Pressley struggled later on when the Twins pen was doing well.Pressley would have been near the bottom of our pen based on how they were doing last year at the time.This year, where would he have fit in?Who would we have not signed or traded for if Pressley was with us?To me, the only trades that are really bad is if you trade guys of similar positions and one does amazing and the other fails to be even replacement level.Even though not same position, the worst trade in recent time was Hicks for John Ryan Murphy, because they were both young guys that were not doing well.Hicks figured it out for most part, Murphy never did. 

    • DocBauer likes this

Thanks for the retrospective.I would like to see Celestino instead of Jake Cave on the current roster.I know that Cave is a vet and we should ignore his terrible stat line (except for the one big homer), but what I like is Celestino's defense and if Buxton goes out again I would like a real CF out there.  

 

Alcala looks like a rookie right now.I hope he will pull it together because he has the pitches to succeed. 

Really the book has closed on Houston's side there was only 1 + season of control left on Presley. The 30 million 3 year extention was not part of the trade.
    • Dman likes this
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Doctor Gast
Aug 07 2020 08:35 AM

 

This is going to be an interesting one to look back on for awhile, I'm guessing. I think it's worth pointing out that Pressly was only under team control through 2019, the Astros signed him to an extension. How you try to bake that into the equation, I'm not sure, because there's a counter argument the Twins could have done just the same.

 

Alcala's stuff is exciting, but it's difficult for me to see him ever becoming the type of pitcher Pressly has been. That guy has a 6.56 K:BB ratio with Houston. Alcala might have the strikeouts in him, but his command isn't great.

 

Celestino is out of a lot of people's minds with there being no minor league baseball (sob), but as Cody wrote, he hit he hit last season. Also, center fielders are difficult to find. Not sure if it's going to be with Minnesota, as I could see him getting traded sometime in the future, but I'd bet Celestino is going to be a major leaguer.

 

Alcaia has been raved about lately & he has potential but w/ video of Celestinoalso shows some his potential. We need desperately a viable sub for Buxton, Celestino could be that one, actually we need someone for some time. I also saw his high leg kick much like Lewis, I`m not criticizing but I expect someone will  

 

This year, where would he have fit in?Who would we have not signed or traded for if Pressley was with us?. 

Without an extension, Pressly would have been a free agent last winter. And as a native Texan who had yet to sign more than a 1-year deal with the Twins, it's quite possible he was more willing to sign that extension with Houston than he would have been with Minnesota.

 

My first thought was that having Pressly in 2019 meant we wouldn't have traded for Romo at the deadline, because Romo was a rental and Dyson had an extra year of control. (We could have still signed Romo in the offseason so the 2020 team would have been much the same.) But then I remembered how we comfortably acquired Romo a few days before the deadline, and only managed to get Dyson right up against the deadline. So maybe it's more likely we would have passed on Dyson because he was a more difficult acquisition, despite the extra year of control? Still may not have changed the 2020 team much, but maybe worth keeping an eye on the prospects exchanged in those two deals.

    • jorgenswest, birdwatcher, Dman and 3 others like this

 

Really the book has closed on Houston's side there was only 1 + season of control left on Presley. The 30 million 3 year extention was not part of the trade.

Generally correct, although the extension was 3 years, $20.4 mil. And that includes his $2.9 mil arbitration salary for his last year of team control in 2019, which would have been mighty attractive given Pressly's performance (especially if you consider the knee injury a fluke which may not have happened under different circumstances).

 

Technically he could have signed some kind of extension with Minnesota too, but I doubt it -- I don't think he was eager to commit here, and I don't think the Twins would have been eager to hand him $17.5 mil for 2020-2021 (plus a 2022 option which could have become guaranteed at $10 mil).

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birdwatcher
Aug 07 2020 10:19 AM

This trade bothered me, simply because it created a shortage rather than being a trade from surplus.

 

I want this team to become a consistent trade deadline seller from surplus, regardless of where they're positioned in the standings. As a buyer, you give up Jaylin Davis, Prelander Berroa, and Kai-Wei Teng for Sam Dyson. As a seller, you get Dakota Chalmers for your 6th BP option, Fernando Rodney. I'd be cool if they traded Sergio Romo, who's under contract through 2021, for some team's #15-20 prospect, if Stashak, Littell, Alcala or someone else emerges.

    • gagu likes this

Celestino heated up more and more as the year went on. For the last two months of the season (54 games), he hit 352/414/535. I am pretty excited about him, to be honest!

    • birdwatcher, DocBauer, rdehring and 1 other like this

 

Without an extension, Pressly would have been a free agent last winter. And as a native Texan who had yet to sign more than a 1-year deal with the Twins, it's quite possible he was more willing to sign that extension with Houston than he would have been with Minnesota.

 

My first thought was that having Pressly in 2019 meant we wouldn't have traded for Romo at the deadline, because Romo was a rental and Dyson had an extra year of control. (We could have still signed Romo in the offseason so the 2020 team would have been much the same.) But then I remembered how we comfortably acquired Romo a few days before the deadline, and only managed to get Dyson right up against the deadline. So maybe it's more likely we would have passed on Dyson because he was a more difficult acquisition, despite the extra year of control? Still may not have changed the 2020 team much, but maybe worth keeping an eye on the prospects exchanged in those two deals.

Exactly my point.It is not possible to just simply say trade is judge just by the players involved.Also, at the time we traded Presley away, we were not contending that year.Yes he has 1 more year of control, but that increase value.Each move though affects other moves.I get annoyed when people try to say this was a terrible trade, because you will never know how not doing the trade or a different trade would have played out.  

 

Without an extension, Pressly would have been a free agent last winter. And as a native Texan who had yet to sign more than a 1-year deal with the Twins, it's quite possible he was more willing to sign that extension with Houston than he would have been with Minnesota.

 

My first thought was that having Pressly in 2019 meant we wouldn't have traded for Romo at the deadline, because Romo was a rental and Dyson had an extra year of control. (We could have still signed Romo in the offseason so the 2020 team would have been much the same.) But then I remembered how we comfortably acquired Romo a few days before the deadline, and only managed to get Dyson right up against the deadline. So maybe it's more likely we would have passed on Dyson because he was a more difficult acquisition, despite the extra year of control? Still may not have changed the 2020 team much, but maybe worth keeping an eye on the prospects exchanged in those two deals.

 

I like your analysis here.I think they still make the Romo Trade even if they had Pressly as it freed up a spot for 1st base prospects (Lewin Diaz who would need to be added to the 40 man) and added a pitcher that didn't need to be added to the 40 man while also netting Romo.At that time we felt we needed two or three options so I think that Romo deal happens regardless.I wonder though if we had Pressly if we could have avoided the horrible Dyson trade. So that is something to consider.

 

My thinking at the time was the year we traded him he wasn't going to help us.We were not going to make the playoffs.The next year we certainly could have used him but in the end I don't see him as someone who would have been a difference maker as we won 100 games without him and the issues we had in the playoffs were soooo numerous even if we had him he wouldn't have made a difference.So while we missed a year and a half of a fairly elite reliever I think the return works in our favor assuming of course the players received make it to MLB.

 

I too don't think he would have signed an extension with the Twins and I don't think the Twins would have offered the money that he ultimately received as they seem to have a philosophy of not investing high dollar amounts in the pen.Hard to say for sure though maybe he would have taken a discount to stay on the Team he came up with and maybe they could have gotten a deal done but I don't think you can take that to the bank in fact the odds seem low to me that he would have stayed.

 

Assuming they were not going to be willing to pay market value to sign him I think the trade looks really good for the Twins right now.They have 5 or 6 years of Control of Alcala who will never be quite Pressly like but still very good and a potential productive center fielder that could give them a lot of future flexibility.It is early but I don't see Celestino as an All Star type player but a very good player certainly better than 4th outfielder if he continues to hit.If both those players do hit MLB then IMO the Twins win this trade handily.If only Alcala makes it having him for 6 years versus the 1 and a half we didn't really need Pressly it is still a win in my mind.Even if neither player made it at this point I don't think I would be that disappointed in the effort to get better given where the team was at that time.

 

Still too early to say how this all turns out but I still like this move.

 

This trade bothered me, simply because it created a shortage rather than being a trade from surplus.

 

I want this team to become a consistent trade deadline seller from surplus, regardless of where they're positioned in the standings. As a buyer, you give up Jaylin Davis, Prelander Berroa, and Kai-Wei Teng for Sam Dyson. As a seller, you get Dakota Chalmers for your 6th BP option, Fernando Rodney. I'd be cool if they traded Sergio Romo, who's under contract through 2021, for some team's #15-20 prospect, if Stashak, Littell, Alcala or someone else emerges.

We may not have had much in terms of bullpen that year, but we were not going anywhere that year either.Turns out the loss of him was not a big deal for our pen last year.In terms of the Dyson deal we did get hosed on fact his arm fell apart.It is great to have so much depth you can trade away at deadline for prospects and not really hurt your team, but that is not normally how things are done.Cleveland did last year, but most of the time dynamics do not allow trading high end guys.The most common would be pitching.  

 

Without an extension, Pressly would have been a free agent last winter. And as a native Texan who had yet to sign more than a 1-year deal with the Twins, it's quite possible he was more willing to sign that extension with Houston than he would have been with Minnesota.

 

My first thought was that having Pressly in 2019 meant we wouldn't have traded for Romo at the deadline, because Romo was a rental and Dyson had an extra year of control. (We could have still signed Romo in the offseason so the 2020 team would have been much the same.) But then I remembered how we comfortably acquired Romo a few days before the deadline, and only managed to get Dyson right up against the deadline. So maybe it's more likely we would have passed on Dyson because he was a more difficult acquisition, despite the extra year of control? Still may not have changed the 2020 team much, but maybe worth keeping an eye on the prospects exchanged in those two deals.

 

I think that is an interesting thought.I know it is a bit out there but if that was the case the trade ends up being Pressly, Outfielder Jaylin Davis and pitchers Prelander Berroa and Kai-Wei Teng for Alcala, Celestino and Dyson.Dyson ends up actually hurting the team in 2019 and is no longer with the team so if the subtraction of Presley could be linked to the needed adding of Dyson then the Presley trade does look a lot worse.

 

Granted the Dyson deal was an odd and unforeseen case of bad luck but still if you taking everything into consideration that would be a high price to pay for losing Presley and only gaining Alcala and Celestino.Personally I think there is some merit to thinking this way but there is no way to prove they would or wouldn't have made those moves if they still had Presley. 

If Alcala gains some control he could be as good as Pressly. That may be a big if.
    • Major League Ready and DocBauer like this

221 So many variables. Safe to say it was a win for Houston, but it could also easily turn out to be at least a wash for the Twins. While Pressly pitched well in his final month in Minnesota, two earned runs in 13 innings, dropping his ERA from 4.14 to 3.40, he was lights out in Houston. After giving up an earned run in his first one inning appearance, he gave up a single run over the following 22.3 innings, with 33 k's and just 3 walks. His 2018 WHIP in Minnesota was 1.364, in Houston, 0.600. Pressly changed his approach with the Astros. By far the biggest factor in Pressly’s success was in locating his pitches, using his curveball as an out pitch. He also scrapped his two-seam fastball after the trade. His K/W ratio was 3.63 in Minnesota, 10.67 in Houston! He followed up in 2019 with a 6.00 ratio last season.In short, Pressly raised his game to a level that he wouldn't have seen had he not been traded. It's been said that his transformation with the Astros led to the Twins hiring of Wes Johnson. I'd argue that Johnson´s hiring alone makes the Pressly trade a win for the Twins.

    • by jiminy and wabene like this

Alcala has a long way to go before being counted as an elite pitcher at the level of Pressly, a guy who can be slotted into a high leverage role for a playoff team. I'm not saying that to knock the trade -- you also have to take into account years of service time, and cost in salary, as Alcala's value will be accruing at low coast for several years to come, while Pressly's cost is already up to market rate. But I don't think you can just look at Alcala's velocity and say, Done! Elite pitcher in the making! As we've seen so many times, velocity is not enough to achieve consistent success.

 

He's got good stuff, and the odds he can contribute in the near future are very good. But what I saw in his last game was an awkward, off balance, inconsistent, out of control delivery, andinconsistent command of his pitches.He got swings and misses, but he also frequently was off target and gave up a massive home run. That is not the kind of elite level relief pitching that you can plug into a late inning role on a playoff team.

 

Can he still become that? Sure. But it's not a sure thing. Most people don't suddenly jump up a level in control and consistency. He's young enough that it's too early to judge -- he should be in the minor leagues right now, working on a consistent, repeatable delivery, away from the prying eyes of people who would unfairly judge him before it's fair to do so. If there were minor leagues, that's where he would be, and should be until he is truly ready. I know that. So I'm not judging him. But that works both ways: If it's too early to judge him negatively, it's also too early to judge him positively. We simply don't know yet whether he will mature into a consistent, lights out, late inning reliever, or will always be a somewhat wild, somewhat unreliable flamethrower.

 

That doesn't make the trade a failure, just because Pressly put it all together and the return is still unknown. The trade could still deliver many years of low-priced value that will far exceed the cost of one year of an elite reliever several years before.

 

I will say, though, that I was disappointed at the time to lose Pressly. His sudden emergence was not really out of the blue. Many people at this very site had pointed out that his peripherals, particularly his spin rate, were elite, and could indicate an emerging star. I think with the upgrade to our pitching staff he very likely would have blossomed here just as he did in Houston. I would love to have seen the Twins sign him to an extension and lock up a potential bullpen ace for years to come. And the extension he signed with Houston would still be a bargain if he hadn't gotten injured. I don't think he's any more of an injury risk than anyone else, so I don't think it's fair to judge the trade harshly on that basis. Truly elite players are had to find, and I think one sure thing is probably worth two prospects who may or may not pan out. I'd love to have him locked up for two more years right now, as Houston does. Given the choice to reverse the trade or keep it, I'd probably still go with keeping Pressly.

 

But I'm certainly not upset about it. This front office is very, very smart! I think the odds great that we will get years of great value from Alcala, and he will produce many more productive innings, at many millions of dollars less cost, than Pressly will. That's how you build long-term success. And if Celestino emerges as a reliable backup CF, all the better. I have no problem with this trade.It's just not one of my favorites--yet. It could still become the greatest trade they ever did, if Alcala surpasses Pressly in production next year, and then keeps it up year after year at sub-market wages. That is a very strong possibility. The roster these guys have put together boggles my mind, with elite depth in both the lineup and the bullpen, at league average salary. It's as good a front office, and as good a foundation, as there is in the game. So I'd need a really, really good reason to second guess anything they do, and this trade is most certainly not an occasion to do that.

    • DocBauer and gagu like this
This trade was one of the few clear failures of the Falvine regime. Made no sense.

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