The non-waiver trade deadline is the most famous day for roster moves in MLB, but Thursday's flurry of moves contained some potentially important decisions for teams' futures as well.
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Thursday marked the deadline for teams to set their 40-man rosters in advance of December's Rule 5 Draft. The draft, which was implemented to keep teams from hoarding young players in their minor leagues without seeing the light of day, allows for other organizations to select from a list of eligible players and add them to their own active rosters. The player must then stick on his new club's 25-man roster for the duration of the upcoming season or be returned to his former team. That's an overly simplified explanation, but it'll suffice for our purposes.
Many of the names added to teams' 40-man rosters Thursday are foreign to fans, but a handful of noteworthy players were added to the 40-man roster by their respective clubs. The most notable may be Noah Syndergaard, the Mets pitching prospect who could be in New York by this summer. Jameson Taillon, Miguel Sano, C.J. Edwards, Alex Meyer, Eduardo Rodriguez, Jorge Alfaro, Eddie Rosario, Blake Swihart, Brian Goodwin, A.J. Cole, Zach Lee, Jorge Bonifacio and Jose Peraza were just some of the other names added to rosters that prospect-watchers took note of Thursday.
But when one door opens another closes, as it did for some veterans. To make room for the next generation, players such as Ike Davis, Jose Molina and Juan Nicasio were designated for assignment by their teams. Those players will all likely find new landing spots, but all may have to settle for backup or reduced roles as cast-offs.
The day also brought an interesting trade, as the Padres dealt former first-round pick Reymond Fuentes to the Royals for low-minors pitcher Kyle Bartsch. Fuentes, 23, got a taste of the majors in 2013 and batted .294/.363/.416 with 25 steals between two levels in the minors this past season. The Royals, not short on speedy outfielders, could find a use for Fuentes as early as this season.
Cards Make A Splash
In a deal with more mass appeal, the Cardinals and Braves dropped a bomb on the baseball world Monday when the Cards acquired Jason Heyward in a four-player trade.
Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden headed to St. Louis in the deal, with young starter Shelby Miller and pitching prospect Tyrell Jenkins going to the Braves. Jenkins is the only player in the deal without major league experience.
The headliner is Heyward. The 25-year-old has become known as a defensive whiz in right field, and he's produced seasons with double-digit homers and steals in three of his first five seasons in the majors. Heyward batted .271/.351/.384 with 11 homers and 20 steals this past season, winning a Gold Glove for his efforts in right field with the Braves.
The Braves' motive for moving Heyward was strictly financial -- Heyward will be a free agent after the 2015 season, and the club was bearish on its prospects for re-signing him -- but Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said regardless of the future, the move improves his club in the near-term.
"We really felt that this might be the best way to improve our team," Mozeliak said. "Really make a change about how you think about the St. Louis Cardinals for 2015. The acquisition of Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden really answers two things that we needed. One is an impact everyday player and the other one is a reliever who can pitch late in the game."
Walden will likely fill a late-inning role for the Cardinals, but he won't threaten Trevor Rosenthal for saves in the early going.
The deal was not without upside for the Braves, though. In Miller, the organization acquired a player who started 62 major league games -- and won 25 of them -- before his 24th birthday. Miller was once a first-round pick of the Cardinals and he possesses a skillset that, if his 2014 issues can be corrected, plays very well in fantasy and in real life. Jenkins, who has yet to pitch above Class-A ball, was also a supplemental first-round pick of the Cards, and the former Baylor quarterback recruit has intriguing potential as well.
As far as Heyward's outlook for 2015, all the pieces are in place for a strong offensive season. Unless the Cardinals pony up and sign him to a long-term deal, Heyward will be playing for a contract. The presence of one of the game's best leadoff hitters, Matt Carpenter, means Heyward will likely be in a run-producing spot in the lineup. And he's moving to the National League Central, a division that will include fewer meetings with tough lefties Cole Hamels and Gio Gonzalez.
Martin Heads North, Eh
From a guy joining the NL Central to one leaving it, Russell Martin made a big move to the Great White North Monday.
Martin, who spent the past two seasons leading the Pirates back to the playoff discussion, signed a five-year, $82 million deal with the Blue Jays, removing arguably the only viable starting catcher from the free agent market. The $82 million deal is the largest ever handed out to a free agent by Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
With Martin in the fold, the Jays may look to unload last year's starting catcher, Dioner Navarro. Martin's high on-base percentage and ability to work with a pitching staff make him an attractive player in real life, but neither of those play in most standard fantasy leagues. Martin's move leaves him as largely an AL-only player going forward.
Quick Hits: The Nationals' starting rotation next season could look very different or very much the same as it did in 2014. The team is rumored to be listening to offers for both Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, per USA Today's Bob Nightengale, and Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish hears the club could make a run at Max Scherzer if one of those starters is offloaded. That's a lot of chess pieces being moved for, arguably, a marginal gain in 2015, but the team may feel pressured to shake up a squad that bowed out in the Divisional Round of the playoffs this past season ... the market for Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas has changed with each passing day, with teams entering and leaving the mix depending on who you talk to. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported Thursday that the Braves may be a dark horse in the race -- confusing, to say the least, after Monday's trade of a young corner outfielder -- and the Phillies, long believed to be the leader for the 24-year-old, were said to be cooling on Tomas after scouting him in recent workouts. Wherever he ends up, Tomas should be mashing from the outset in 2015 ... teams have engaged the Reds in trade discussions involving Jay Bruce, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Padres are among the clubs reportedly showing interest ... more in line with their perceived needs, the Braves met with Jon Lester on Thursday ... the White Sox have interest in Melky Cabrera ... Torii Hunter is garnering interest from the Twins, Royals and Blue Jays, among others, after Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski admitted last week that the club was out of the running for the 39-year-old.