The July 31 non-waiver trading deadline passed with some teams making significant moves to improve their chances at playing baseball in October. Which team ultimately wins can be fairly subjective and will not be fully known until the season ends, and in some cases the ultimate winner may not be known until the many prospects dealt get their shot at the majors.
Let’s take a look at the clear early winners in the race for October.
Philadelphia Phillies: A team that did not appear likely to make a trade, the Phillies acquired a solid bat and outfield arm by trading for highly sought after Astros outfielder Hunter Pence. The Phillies lineup now has fewer holes than before at the team prepares for the playoff push. The team was in need of relief help but was unable to find a suitable partner.
San Francisco Giants: Lacking a power bat in the lineup, the Giants swung a deal to add Beltran to the middle of the lineup. With a fragile infield, the team also acquired Cabrera and Keppinger to fortify the roster. While both are not gold glove candidates, they present solid defenders with some offensive competency.
Texas Rangers: The Rangers fortified their bullpen by obtaining Adams from San Diego and Uehara from Baltimore. The trades help the starting rotation by shortening the game to a 6 inning affair. Adams has performed well in the shadow of Heath Bell in San Diego by holding opposing batters to a .155 batting average and a miniscule 1.12 ERA. Uehara is a control pitcher who forces ground ball outs, a glaring need in the launching pad park in Arlington.
St. Louis Cardinals: Perhaps the most veteran acquisitions of all, St Louis bolstered their rotation with Edwin Jackson and their bullpen with strikeout pitchers Dotel and Rzepczynski. The team addressed the loss of outfielder Colby Rasmus in the deal by getting veteran Corey Patterson in return and improved the infield defense by obtaining Furcal from the Dodgers.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Long considered sellers as July approaches, the Pirates find themselves in the first pennant race in 19 years. The front office responded to the need for more offense by acquiring first baseman Derrick Lee and outfielder Ryan Ludwick in separate deals to provide more run support for the pitching staff.
Cleveland Indians: The Jimenez jackpot was won by the Cleveland Indians who, like Pittsburgh find themselves in a surprise pennant race sooner than planned. While Ubaldo Jimenez has not performed to the standard he set last season in Colorado, he is still under team control for three more years at a manageable salary. He will serve Cleveland well as a strong compliment to Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin at the top of the Indians rotation. The acquisition of Kosuke Fukudome provides lineup and outfield depth.
Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox addressed two areas of need by obtaining utility infielder Mike Aviles from Kansas City and Erik Bedard from Seattle. The injury to Clay Buckholz and inconsistency of Tim Wakefield and John Lackey creates uncertainty in the rotation that is addressed. The uncertainty of utility infielder Jed Lowrie who got off to a hot start in April created a position of need to solidify the infield defense and serve as insurance to give the middle infielders an occasional day off.
Other teams that made moves but may not have done enough are worth a look as well.
Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers made a surprise trade at the all-star game by acquiring Francisco Rodriguez from the cash-strapped Mets for a player to be names later and cash. The trade for K-Rod was a surprise since the team already has a solid closer in John Axford. In addition, the team responded to the Ricky Weeks injury by obtaining Jerry Hairson Jr. and Felipe Lopez from the Nationals and Rays respectively. While neither player will replace the offense provided by Weeks, they will be competent fill-ins until he returns from injury.
Atlanta Braves: Michael Bourn brings a leadoff hitter to help set the table for Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann and Dan Uggla. With a solid starting rotation, the addition of more runs will be a welcomed addition.
Arizona Diamondbacks: The team made modest trade acquisitions in Jason Marquis from Washington and bullpen arm Brad Ziegler from Oakland. In a division race with the Giants at stake, the trade acquisitions are not considered game-changers.
Detroit Tigers: The Tigers responded to division rival Cleveland obtaining the prized pitcher Jimenes from Colorado by obtaining starter Doug Fisher and reliever David Pauley from Seattle. Fisher arrives in Detroit with a 3-12 record but benefited from the pitcher-friendly confines of Safeco Field with a paltry 3.33 ERA.
Of the teams that were expected to make moves before the deadline, some were surprising in their lack of activity
Los Angeles Angels: In the midst of an AL West division race, the Angels were unable to find a suitable trade partner to improve on their current starting rotation or to bolster their lineup.
Houston Astros: While the trades of Bourn and Pence for prospects can be viewed as a positive by signaling a full rebuilding stage for the franchise, the Astros still possess Wandy Rodriguez and his bloated contract valued at three years and nearly $14 million per. Brett Myers also was inquired about but the Astros decided to hold on to him for now.
Chicago White Sox: While only four game out of first place in the competitive AL Central, the White Sox decided to dump payroll by trading starter Edwin Jackson to Toronto who flipped him to St Louis.
New York Yankees: The Bronx Bombers approached the deadline as a team with glaring needs in the starting rotation and in solid contention for another world championship. Unfortunately for Yankee fans, the team was unable to pull the trigger on a deal for any of the available front line pitchers. For now the team will monitor the waiver wire in the next 30 days while hoping that Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and a returning Phillip Hughes can take some of the pressure off of C.C. Sabathia and an inconsistent A.J. Burnett
Even though some teams made significant moves and improved their chances of winning a World Series title this season, the month of August provides a second chance for some teams to make waiver wire deals to bolster their lineups. While these deals are more complicated due to competing teams intervention in the waiver maneuvers, many solid deals have been made in recent seasons and maintains hope and interest for their local teams for the next month.
Winners today may not be the ultimate winners come October. With many days to go and more moves likely, the pennant race will soon come into view.