The Trade Deadline
Every year, teams in contention trade away parts of their future in order to gird themselves for a run at the playoffs. Sometimes it works out, like when the Braves traded Vince Moore, Donnie Elliott and Mel Nieves to the salary purging Padres for Fred McGriff back in 1993. That same year, the Giants refused to part with Salomon Torres for Dennis Martinez and it cost them. The Braves eventually caught the Giants and won the division by a single game on the last day of the season. This year's trade season has already begun, so I'll analyze what's transpired already and make a few guesses as to what else might happen.
Kenny Rogers finally got out of Oakland and back to the East coast. He'd been begging to get out for quite some time, even though the A's were in the hunt. When GM Billy Beane told him he'd better pitch and pitch well or he'd never leave, Rogers turned in his best game of the season, shutting down the Rockies for 7+ innings and making some spectacular defensive plays. In exchange, the Mets gave up Terrence Long and Leoner Vasquez. Long has been touted as a potential 30/30 guy, but that seems like a long shot considering the park he now plays in and the fact that he's never hit more than 16 homers in a season. Vasquez doesn't look too promising. So what will Rogers mean for the Mets? It's all good for Rogers owners. He's a ground ball pitcher now backed up by arguably the best infield defense in the majors. It also moves either Yoshii or Hershiser to the bullpen, making it stronger. Chances are good for 8+ wins and good ERA and ratio.
Livan Hernandez got dealt to San Francisco for Jason Grilli and Nate Bump. Hernandez is still trying to recuperate from Leyland's well documented abuse and now he'll be managed by a guy who has been almost as brutal to young pitchers, Dusty Baker. Ortiz has been his latest victim with more 125+ pitch games than Curt Schilling and Kevin Brown combined. In fact, only Livan Hernandez and Randy Johnson average more pitches per start. And if you haven't noticed, Ortiz has walked 19 guys in his last three starts, covering 14 innings. As for Livan, simply run away. He's now pitching in a better park to hit in. It could get pretty ugly. As for Grilli and Bump, they along with Brad Penny and AJ Burnett, all acquired in trades in the past year, could make for a promising rotation in a couple of years.
The Pirates, now without Jason Kendall AND Keith Osik, traded Jose Guillen for Joe Oliver and Humberto Cota. Guillen has always had a ton of talent and on the surface it seems like the Bucs gave up too soon, especially if all they got was a retread like Oliver. But Cota is a very good catching prospect and in a couple of years could move Kendall to another position. Yes, he's that good.
OK, Now for the situations that bear watching and the possible trade targets:
The Reds starting rotation. Harnisch is ailing and Avery is walking the planet. If Villone can continue to pitch well, he'll stay. Parris has pitched very well and Neagle is almost back. Still, I can't help but think that the Reds will make a deal for another starter. My guess is Appier for 2 reasons. 1) Bowden has had good success dealing with KC over the past couple of years and 2) He's a right hander with a funky delivery that should give Houston's predominately right-handed line-up fits when the two face again in late September, possibly with the division title at stake. Another possibility would be Juan Guzman from Baltimore.
The Cardinal starting rotation. Even though the Cards aren't really in the playoffs, I think they want to relieve themselves of Darren Oliver, who hasn't panned out they way they thought, and acquire a ground ball "ace". The reason being is that they want to have a leader going into next year to front Morris, Benes and Ankiel. I suspect they'll try to acquire one of the Orioles high priced starters, either Erickson or Guzman for Adam Kennedy+ and ship Oliver to some team that plays in a park with a spacious outfield, either the Mariners or the A's.
Javy Lopez looks done for the year, so it's likely that the Braves will seek to supplement Eddie Perez. The Pads have 4 catchers at the major league level (Davis, Nevin, Leyritz and Myers) and will likely ship Myers back to the Braves, from whence they signed him last year. (Note: Whadya know, it happened. The Pads got a huge A-ball pitcher named Doug Dent in return. Myers will be pretty good - he's always been a decent hitter and now he's playing in a better hitter's park.)
The Braves are also looking to strengthen first base. This has been a troubled spot all year, although Randall Simon has done a serviceable job of late. Still, I expect the Braves to get a veteran at the cost of either Micah Bowie or one of their lower level pitchers like Winston Abreu, although it wouldn't surprise me to see Chen packaged. The organization seems to have soured on him after his spring struggles. The likely target is Fred McGriff, who'll give them a big lefty bat to sit between right handed Jordan and Jones in the order.
The Brewers keep making trades, although I'm not sure why. They currently sit 12 games out of first and their pitching is thinner than Calista Flockhart in a corset. With Burnitz out for another few weeks, the only move I can see them making is shipping unhappy Fernando Vina out of town, maybe to the Phillies, but more likely to some AL team.
The Rockies keep saying they want to deal away most of their team but it doesn't look like they'll be accomplish that. Had the Red Sox and Blue Jays stayed closer in the standings, I'd have guessed that the Yankees would have dealt for Castilla and Bichette, but that's not likely now. The Indians or Red Sox may still deal for Castilla and Darryl Kile may still be on his way somewhere (Indians? Phillies?) but other than that, I can't imagine too many Rockies will be contacting United Van Lines any time soon.
It seems like every time the media writes the Padres' obituary, they come back with a vengeance. Even though they have lost 4 in a row, they are only 5 games and one good third baseman out of first place. The Pads will try Phil Nevin for a while and if that doesn't work and they are still close, they'll make a waiver deal. While I'm not optimistic about them getting a substantial waiver deal done, I do think Nevin might be the answer. At the end of May, he was hitting .205 with 4 homers. Since then, he has hit .289 with 8 homers and 22 RBI... in 83 ABs.
Well, those are the gaping holes. Just about every contender needs bullpen help and a deeper bench, but those kind of deals are almost impossible to predict. Regardless, I've set aside next Monday to evaluate all of the deals from this week. Here's hoping you don't get bit by someone else's trading bug.