If Fernando Abad was hoping to avoid a summer of month-long puns about his last name in Boston, he certainly didn’t do himself any favors on Tuesday night. In his first game as a member of the Red Sox after being traded from the Twins the day before on the busiest Deadline Day in more than two decades, Abad entered a game in Seattle confronting exactly the situation Boston acquired him to handle: trying to protect a two-run lead in the eighth inning with the tying runs on base and a dangerous hitter at the plate.
Four pitches later, Abad was turning to watch Robinson Cano’s screaming line drive arc out of Safeco Field, giving the Mariners a 5–4 lead they would finalize one inning later and ensuring that the critics on social media would take their turns teeing off on him as well. (Indeed, “Abad” was trending on Twitter after the game, though the jokes were, for the most part ... um, what’s another word for “not good”?) While Abad had been effective all season, holding batters to a .614 OPS, he was particularly excellent against lefthanded hitters, limiting them to a .163/.192/.215 line with just one home run, a total Cano doubled as the first batter Abad faced in a Red Sox uniform.
There is some positive news for Abad, however. On Tuesday he was hardly alone in failing to live up to expectations for his new club. One day after there were 18 trades—the most in the wild-card era—involving 22 teams and featuring 51 players, it was tempting to call all of those trades a bust. Not only were only 18 of the players moved listed on their new team’s active roster on Tuesday evening, only nine actually saw action: Abad and fellow pitchers Antonio Bastardo (Pirates), Jesse Chavez (Dodgers), Jon Niese (Mets) and Will Smith (Giants); and hitters Carlos Beltran (Rangers), Jay Bruce (Mets), Jonathan Lucroy (Rangers) and Josh Reddick (Dodgers). None of those men did much worth celebrating. Check out their combined lines:
Pitchers: 0 wins, 2 losses, 5 IP, 8 H, 6 R
Hitters: 0 for 14, 1 walk, 0 runs, 0 RBIs
Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the lousy nights for the old faces in new places:
Bastardo: In contrast to Abad, Bastardo was a lefty reliever who not only came through but also delivered the best performance of any of the newcomers across the majors on Tuesday. Summoned in relief of ace Gerrit Cole in the bottom of the sixth after Pittsburgh had taken a 5–2 lead in the top half in Atlanta, Bastardo retired all three Braves in order, needing just eight pitches to do so, as the Pirates went on to a 5–3 win. Notably, Bastardo was the first choice out of the bullpen for manager Clint Hurdle, who knows just how effective Bastardo can be, having used him in 66 games last season in which the lefthander allowed same-side hitters just a .448 OPS. That number jumped to .934 with the Mets this season, but two of the hitters Bastardo retired on Tuesday were lefties in outfielder Ender Inciarte and catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
Niese: After spending eight league-average seasons with the Mets in which he was the personification of mediocrity (61–61 record, 95 ERA+) and drew the most memorable headlines when former teammate Carlos Beltran paid for his nose job, Niese left for Pittsburgh in the off-season, only to be returned to Queens in exchange for Bastardo. All but five of his 182 appearances for New York from 2008 to ’15 came as a starter, and it’s possible he could spot start somewhere as the season goes along, but the mop-up role he filled Tuesday is the most likely spot for him for the time being. Niese relieved Jacob deGrom and got the final six outs of the Mets’ 7–1 win over the Yankees, allowing Didi Gregorius’s ninth-inning home run and one other hit while striking out two.
Smith: His debut did not exactly go as planned. He entered to start the bottom of the eighth inning in an 8–8 game in Philadelphia, and after getting one out, allowed an infield single to Odubel Herrera and an RBI double to Cesar Hernandez. That knocked Smith from the game and opened the floodgates to a five-run frame for the Phillies that led to a 13–8 loss for San Francisco, with Smith getting tagged with the decision. His ERA jumped to 4.43, which is more than a run and a half worse than it was last year with Milwaukee, who had traded him to the Giants on Monday.
Beltran and Lucroy: By far the best pair of hitters acquired by one team on Deadline Day, these two who were All-Stars just three weeks ago for the Yankees and Brewers, respectively, are meant to not just help get Texas to the postseason but to be a part of the franchise’s first World Series championship club. In a 5–1 loss to the Orioles, a fellow first place team, Beltran and Lucroy combined to go 0 for 6 with a walk and three strikeouts, with neither hitting the ball out of the infield.
Bruce: Bruce was brought in to help the Mets’ slumping offense, particularly with runners in scoring position, and to help clarify the team’s outfield picture. Neither happened on Tuesday. Bruce’s 0-for-4 night was capped by a strikeout with two runners in scoring position in the seventh. And one day after admitting “I don’t know yet” when asked how he would set up his outfield, Mets manager Terry Collins elected to use Bruce in right, struggling Michael Conforto in left and spare part Alejandro DeAza in center, moving Curtis Granderson to the bench. With Yoenis Cespedes still limited to pinch-hitting duty with a leg injury—he came off the bench in the seventh and delivered a single as part of a four-run inning that broke the game open before being run for by Granderson—Bruce can help New York most by coming through in big spots, as Cespedes did when he was brought over at the non-waiver deadline last year. If he can also become the one part of the outfield equation that Collins doesn’t have to think too hard about, that's all the better.
Chavez and Reddick: Like the Mets, Los Angeles needed an offensive boost, hence the move to get Reddick from Oakland (along with Rich Hill, a lefty starter who is on the disabled list). Dropped into the cleanup spot—which is a bit of an odd choice for a player with eight home runs this season, even if his .816 OPS is a career high—Reddick went 0 for 4 in his Dodgers debut.
That was nothing compared to what Chavez endured, though. The newly imported righty came on in the sixth inning with L.A. already behind 4–0 and immediately put the game out of reach, surrendering three runs on two hits and two walks in just one inning of work. The Dodgers’ bullpen has been one of their strengths this season, ranking second in the majors with a 3.03 ERA, and perhaps the biggest reason they are just two games behind the Giants in the NL West and leading the wild-card race even with ace Clayton Kershaw sidelined for all of July with a back injury. L.A.’s other four relievers on Tuesday combined to allow two runs and five hits in four innings of work, so it will be interesting to see how manager Dave Roberts utilizes Chavez going forward. There was some thought that he could make a few spot starts, but even if that doesn’t work out it’s hard to imagine he’ll be worse than Mike Bolsinger, the man he was traded for, whose 6.83 ERA earned him a demotion to Triple A before being dealt to Toronto.
Now that that unpleasant night of debuts is out of the way, attention can turn to the other new acquisitions. Among the players who have not yet debuted for their clubs but hoping to get off to better starts is Matt Duffy, who will play shortstop for the Rays once he returns from an Achilles injury, outfielders Steve Pearce (Orioles) and Brandon Guyer (Indians); plus starting pitchers like Ricky Nolasco (Angels) and Ivan Nova (Pirates), reliever Joe Smith (Cubs) and new Rangers' closer Jeremy Jeffress. It will certainly be hard for their debuts to be any worse.