Recently, Chaim Bloom was asked about the team’s intentions at the trade deadline and he gave a longer answer, but part of that answer was, “And so really our North Star is just continuing to advance the ball there. Continuing to build our core. Those are going to be the most attractive opportunities for us.” In other words Bloom is not targeting rental players, but rather players that have multiple years of control and can be part of the team’s young core moving forward.
On its face this makes sense. Who wouldn’t want to build their young core with more controllable talent? The problem with young, controllable talent is that it simply costs more to acquire and teams are reluctant to give it up. Even teams that are out of it and don’t look like they will contend any time soon are hesitant to trade controllable players because their next wave of prospects is always right around the corner and with baseball’s extended postseason pool, opportunities await for teams that try.
Recently, the Angels under GM Perry Minasian made a bold move. Rather than doing what the world was expecting and trading the greatest baseball player on the planet, he held onto Shohei Ohtani and added top-of-the-rotation talent Lucas Giolito and hard-throwing reliever Reynaldo Lopez. In order to make this trade happen he gave up a couple of prospects who both project to be major leaguers, albeit not stars. As I write this, the Angels remain three games back of the third AL wildcard spot. The supposedly smart calculated move for the Angels would be to sell and bolster their poor farm system. Instead, Minasian bet on his guys.
The calculus for Minasian was less about what was the best baseball decision from a statistical standpoint, but rather what gave his team the best chance from a human perspective. What message does this send to Ohtani and his fellow superstar Mike Trout? It says very clearly, “we believe you guys can bring us where we need to go and here is some help.” The type of move boosst morale by way of the actions of the GM speaking louder than his words. If Minasian had simply said, “yeah, I believe in my guys” and yet did nothing, what message does that convey to the players in the clubhouse?
I would even go so far as to argue that this move to acquire Giolito and Lopez not only improves their odds of making the postseason this year, but improves their odds of keeping Ohtani long term. He wants to win, he’s been very clear about that. This is a winning move. This shows Ohtani that the franchise is serious about contending and he can look at the contract they gave to Trout and see that they are also serious about keeping their best players here long term.
Moreover, if we look at past seasons we can see how rental players have positively impacted numerous second half and postseason runs. Last year, the Philadelphia Phillies made a surprise run to the World Series. Helping them get there was reliever David Robertson, who threw 23.1 innings down the stretch with a 2.70 ERA. In the postseason, he dominated over 7.2 IP with a 1.17 ERA. They reached the World Series while ultimately coming up short.
The best recent example of rentals paying dividends is the 2021 World Champion Atlanta Braves. In need of offensive help, particularly in the outfield, they added rentals Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario, and Joc Pederson (and Adam Duvall, who had one year of arbitration eligibility left). Soler hit 14 home runs and had a 132 wRC+ to propel the Braves to their strong second half over 55 games and added a 145 wRC+ in the playoffs. Rosario was good down the stretch but reached Super Saiyan levels in the postseason slashing .383/.456/.617 with 3 HR and 11 RBI. Pederson might have only posted a 75 wRC+ in the postseason but his three clutch home runs led to a Joctober to remember. Duvall had 16 home runs and played great defense in 55 games down the stretch. Think Braves fans were upset they traded prospects for these rentals? There is no chance they win the whole thing without them.
If we look back to 2019, the Nationals acquired rental reliever Daniel Hudson from the Blue Jays for Kyle Johnson. Hudson went on to post a 1.44 ERA over 25 innings in the second half and had 9.2 innings and four saves on their way to a World Series victory. By the way, Hudson was on the mound for the final frame striking out two batters and was the one who recorded the final out to clinch game seven at 10:50 PM. I doubt the Nationals think about Johnson when they look up at their lone World Series banner.
Let’s take a look at our own history. In 2018, the Red Sox sent Jalen Beeks to Tampa Bay for pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. Who among us will ever forget his 22.1 innings in that legendary 2018 championship run? When I think of Eovaldi that season I think of the reckless abandon he had for his body in service of delivering the World Series to the Fenway Faithful. I think about his 6 innings and 97 pitches in relief during game three of the World Series, I don’t think about the fact that the aforementioned game ended in a loss. I think about the fact that that heroic act led to his four-year $67.5 million dollar deal from Dave Dombrowski as a thank you for his service.
Baseball history is built on rentals that have worked out wonderfully, we have banners that show as much. Bloom needs to set aside his cold, rational approach and give in to his humanity for once. Let us have some fun in October. Let us believe that we can get to October. Let us see that Bloom himself believes this team is worth investing in. Afterall, anything can happen in October.