A week of moves — and non-moves
At 2 p.m. ET, as I sat in my seat just before a 2 1/2-hour flight from New York to Chicago (I’ll be covering the Yankees in the South Side this week), I shut off my phone and immediately started thinking about what would await me once I had service again. The non-waiver Trade Deadline was only two hours away. Where would Heath Bell go? What will the Yankees do? Who will land B.J. Upton? Then I touched down at O’Hare Airport, and realized all of that was a non-story.
Bell was the guy that was sure to be pitching elsewhere the rest of this season, the Yankees — as is their custom — were sure to make some sort of splash, and Upton was sure to be dealt after having his name in rumors for so many years. But none of that happened, Hiroki Kuroda didn’t waive his no-trade clause, James Shields stayed put in Tampa Bay, and the White Sox held on to Carlos Quentin.
That’s right, the biggest thing I’m taking away from the Deadline is what actually didn’t occur.
Now, on to the obligatory post-Deadline-winners-and-losers story. I know that in trades there really aren’t supposed to be any “winners” or “losers” (Neither side makes a deal if they don’t feel they’re “winning,” too, right?), but certain teams simply make out better than others.
Here are the three biggest winners and three biggest losers among the contending teams. And as always, we’ll get the bad news out of the way first …
Yankees: As MLBTradeRumors.com pointed out, this was the first time since 1999 that the Yankees went through an entire July without making a trade. And even though they’re 22 games above .500 and nurse a 6 1/2-game lead in the American League Wild Card race, they needed to add two pieces that they didn’t get: A starter and a lefty reliever.
Perhaps J.C. Romero, currently pitching for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, will work out for them, and veteran relievers can usually be had in August. But I was in the minority in thinking they should’ve dealt their prospects for Ubaldo Jimenez, who they were reportedly in on. I would’ve given up two of either Ivan Nova, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, and one of either Jesus Montero and Austin Romine. Whether or not that would’ve been enough to get the deal done, I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem the Yankees were willing to come anywhere close to doing that.
The Yankees’ hope is that just one of those three arms becomes the quality of starter Ubaldo currently is, and if you have a chance to get an arm like that now — when he’s expandable, when he’s under club control for a while and when he’s extremely affordable — you do it. Right now, the Yankees have the great CC Sabathia, and then four guys they don’t know what they’ll get out of on a nightly basis. Not good enough.
Diamondbacks: The D-backs have a real shot at winning the National League West, but they didn’t do enough to get it done. Jason Marquis and Brad Ziegler were nice and necessary additions to their rotation and bullpen, respectively, but they needed to upgrade their offense to somehow shorten the gap separating them from the Giants. Instead, San Francisco added a bat, and Arizona didn’t.
I get that the D-backs didn’t expect to compete this year and they prefer to hold on to their top prospects. But had they gone after a big bat, they would’ve had a good shot at superseding the Giants. Now? I can’t see it happening.
Tigers: I understand their hesitancy to give up a prospect like Jacob Turner, but frankly, I would’ve liked to see the Tigers do more for their rotation than just Doug Fister. Maybe one more mid-level starter like that for a team that ranks 14th in the AL in starting-pitcher ERA.
Cardinals: Fans didn’t seem too happy that they dealt an asset like Colby Rasmus and didn’t really get any long-term pieces in return. And I get that. But I give general manager John Mozeliak a lot of credit for going all in on this season — a year that could be the final one with Albert Pujols at first base and Tony La Russa as manager.
They got a necessary arm in their rotation in Edwin Jackson, who’s an impending free agent who won’t clog up their payroll and, thus, hurt their chances of resigning Pujols; they got righty Octavio Dotel and lefty Marc Rzepczynski for a needy bullpen; and they were able to pluck away from a position where they have a suitable replacement in Jon Jay.
Perhaps they could’ve waited to deal Rasmus — a guy who definitely needed a change of scenery — when his stock rose again, but then they wouldn’t look this good right now. And right now, they look like the best team in the NL Central. The Rafael Furcal acquisition is fine; I’m just not sure how much he has left.
Phillies: There was no more perfect fit for the Phillies than Hunter Pence. With him, their offense now looks on par with that vaunted rotation because they have that right-handed bat that was so critical to their production in years past. This past offseason, the Phillies added Cliff Lee to give them a ridiculous starting staff, but they lost Jayson Werth to the Nationals and missed that right-handed bat to hit behind lefties Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.
Now, they have that right-handed bat again in Pence, and they have him in the books until 2013. Pence is having a fine season, and he came into Philadelphia with an .865 OPS. He’ll get plenty more chances with runners in scoring position now. And Phillies fans will love his energy. The Phils had to part ways with their two biggest prospects, but Domonic Brown and Vance Worley stayed put. That’s another positive.
Indians: Yeah, they did give up a big chunk of their farm system to get Ubaldo. But I just love the spirit of this trade, especially from a team that has so far only been known for parting with aces — from Lee to CC. This has been a magical season in Cleveland, and somehow they’re still in it despite a shaky rotation. It doesn’t look so shaky anymore.
Braves: Michael Bourn is the perfect fit for that team; gives them their first leadoff hitter since Furcal.
Brewers: Francisco Rodriguez was a big pickup, and they got some insurance at second base. But they’re crossing their fingers that Rickie Weeks returns to full health soon.
Pirates: They got a couple of bats in Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee — two guys who know the NL Central well — and didn’t give up much.
Reds: Was surprised they were in on some of the big guys, but they have a rather large deficit, and that may have played a part in them standing pat.
Giants: Zack Wheeler is a good prospect, but Carlos Beltran is a good middle-of-the-order bat that should fit in perfectly in due time.
Red Sox: They got a nice rotation arm in Erik Bedard and a utility man in Mike Aviles; not flashy, but effective.
White Sox: I’m just glad they didn’t sell off all their pieces; they still have a shot.
Angels: Did nothing, which was pretty surprising.
Rangers: Got two big pieces for the back end of their bullpen in Koji Uehara and Mike Adams.