By the time Major League Baseball's trade deadline passed on Monday afternoon, it was clear that the San Diego Padres had made the season's biggest addition by netting Mike Clevinger from Cleveland as part of a nine-player swap. In the days since, there's been plenty of analysis published on what Clevinger means to the upstart Padres' postseason chances, or highlighting the prospect portion of Cleveland's return (Gabriel Arias, Joey Cantillo, and Owen Miller). Comparatively, there hasn't been as much coverage aimed at the big leaguers Cleveland added: right-hander Cal Quantrill, outfielder Josh Naylor, and catcher Austin Hedges.
With that in mind, let's break down what each of those three players brings to Cleveland.
One talent evaluator who talked to CBS Sports called Quantrill the key to the deal, in part because of how kindred pitchers, such as Zach Plesac, have fared under Cleveland's watch.
According to Statcast's calculations, Plesac is the most similar pitcher to Quantrill in regards to pitch movement and velocity. True to form, Quantrill throws a mid-90s sinker with low spin, a changeup that was held as his best offering during his younger days, and a slider that has become his primary pitch. Quantrill's slider isn't a big-time bat misser, but it is effective as a means of stealing strikes and evading barrels within the zone.
Quantrill was the No. 6 pick in the 2016 draft on the belief that he could develop into a mid-rotation starter. He hasn't lived up to that promise yet, and has instead pitched out of the bullpen in 10 of his 11 appearances this season. That includes five occasions (his Cleveland debut being one) where he recorded four or more outs. It wouldn't be surprising to see Cleveland keep him in relief (perhaps in a multi-inning capacity) for the rest of 2020 before moving him back to the rotation in '21, especially if they entertain dealing Carlos Carrasco.
In the meantime, the best-case scenario here is that Cleveland works with Quantrill -- who is believed to be intelligent and competitive -- to optimize his delivery and his pitch arsenal. Expecting Quantrill to take a Plesac-like leap heading into next spring would be foolish, but, to be fair, it's not like anyone expected Plesac to morph into what he's become, either.
If Cleveland can help Quantrill become a legitimate big-league starter, then they'll have him under team control through the 2025 season.
Naylor's addition accomplishes three things: 1) it reunites him with his younger brother, Bo, who is one of the top prospects in the system; 2) it provides another fan base with the opportunity to learn about the time his acts led to the introduction of the term "knife prank" to the lexicon; and 3) it gives a woeful Cleveland lineup a boost, both now and down the road.
Naylor has been about 12 percent worse than the league-average hitter in his first 115 big-league games, but it's not worth throwing in the towel. He turned 23 in June, and industry sources believe he'll settle in with a more consistent role. After all, Naylor has hit throughout his career (during a 54-game stint in Triple-A in 2019, he batted .314/.389/.547 with 10 home runs and nearly as many walks as strikeouts), and he possesses some positive innate attributes that hint at a brighter future: ample bat speed, big-time raw power, and a patient approach.
The bigger concern with Naylor is how many runs he gives back on defense. Cleveland already has Carlos Santana and Franmil Reyes at first base and DH, suggesting left field is Naylor's landing spot. That's not ideal. Though he has a strong arm, he's a well-below-average runner whose speed-over-distance breakdown compares favorably to Rhys Hoskins' during his left-field days. Hoskins, of course, has been a first baseman only since the start of 2019. Naylor will probably follow suit beginning next season, after Cleveland buys out Santana's club option.
Naylor is scheduled to be under team control through the 2025 season. In other words, he could be part of the middle of Cleveland's order for some years to come.
You can forgive Cleveland fans for considering Hedges to be the least exciting part of the return. He's the oldest player involved, at 28, and the one who has the most big-league experience. In accumulating that experience, he's provided ample reason to be dismissed as a typical defensive-minded backup catcher who is employed for his plus catch-and-throw abilities.
Hedges' career 65 OPS+ is propped up by his uncharacteristically productive 2018. He's had four campaigns in which he's tallied more than 150 plate appearances, and he's finished with an OPS+ north of 75 exactly once. History isn't kind to him or his offensive exploits, but there is some reason for hope to be found in his season to date. For one, if Hedges hits to his career norms, then he'll be a noticeable improvement over what Cleveland has received from Roberto Perez and Sandy Leon; for another, there is evidence that he has improved in some fundamental regards that could bear fruit.
While Hedges has taken only 73 plate appearances this season, he has displayed a reprogrammed approach at the plate. He's swinging, swinging and missing, and chasing far less frequently. For his career, he's offered at more than half the pitches he's seen; in 2020, he's swinging at less than 40 percent. Hedges' more discerning approach has been accompanied with an elevated exit velocity: he's up to 90.8 mph on the season, his highest since 2016.
Generally, making better swing decisions and hitting the ball harder are positive indicators. Whether or not Hedges can continue to do both is to be determined, but, if he can, then it's at least conceivable that he'll outperform his old offensive benchmarks heading forward -- and that he'll offer more value than expected from now until he hits free agency after 2022.