Rating the trades    (08/01/00)

I can't remember a trade deadline where so many teams were involved in trades.  I guess when the Yankees decided to trade for David Justice rather than Sammy Sosa and left themselves some room to make more deals, everyone else felt that if they didn't keep up, it was guaranteed to be another Yankee sweep through the playoffs.  Maybe they will, maybe they won't... and maybe they won't even make it.

Anyway, here's how things sorted out:

The Contenders

The Yankees needed some offensive help and some starting pitching.  They got that with David Justice and Denny Neagle.  Both guys are good, although Neagle is not really the guy I'd want on the hill in the playoffs.  He's the type of pitcher that if he's not on, he gets hammered by playoff clubs.  He just doesn't have enough stuff to get by on that alone.  Justice is a quality player and I'm kinda surprised that the Yanks hadn't acquired him before now.  He certainly fits their mold: decent power, decent average, good eye for balls and strikes.  There was a time when he wasn't a particularly good defender but he's made himself into a decent all around player.  The Yanks also got Glenallen Hill, who has a world of talent (power and speed) but still looks helpless against good pitching.

Boston helped it's cause by getting Rolando Arrojo and Mike Lansing.  No, neither guy is a top of the line guy, but both are better than what the Red Sox had.  They also got Rich Croushore, who'll help in the bullpen.  If they can get Saberhagen back and Ramon Martinez straightened out, they'll be tougher than they were last year and a handful for anyone.

The Blue Jays bolstered their starting pitching with Steve Trachsel and their bullpen with Mark Guthrie.  There's nothing wrong with their offense.  Trachsel gives them some insurance in case Carpenter and Escobar can't be fixed by new pitching coach Dave Stewart.  Joey Hamilton is nearing a return, but it remains to be seen how much help he'll offer.  If he's healthy and got his head on straight, he can be a pretty tough customer.  That's a big if, though.  The Jays also acquired Rob Ducey from the Phillies to add some bench depth.

The White Sox got more hitters when what they needed was more pitching.  Cal Eldred's status is questionable and that starting staff is not as good as they looked in the first half.  Part of the reason they looked so good was run support.  And part of the reason was Eldred, who offered veteran leadership on the field.  If he's out for the season, the White Sox starting pitching will falter.  Charles Johnson will improve the defense from the catching position, but the acquisition of Harold Baines makes little sense - the Pale Hose already have too many DHs.

Cleveland made a number of moves, and if they get some help from the White Sox, have enough to make a very exciting race for the division.  They picked up Bob Wickman, Jason Bere and Steve Woodard from the Brewers, Wil Cordero from the Pirates and David Segui from the Rangers.  Cordero and Segui give them two solid offensive players - neither guy has great power, but both are decent contact hitters and will occasionally drive the ball out.  Segui also improves the infield defense and allows Jim Thome to DH exclusively.  Bere helps a rotation that already has Burba, Finley and Colon.  Wickman gives the bullpen another quality arm.  Woodard, who should benefit from the change of scenery, can be used as a quality swingman or as a 5th starter.

Seattle made a lot of noise about bringing in a big time outfielder like Juan Gonzales or Jeromy Burnitz, but when all was said and done, all they had was Al Martin... which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  For one, they didn't give up one of their big league pitchers to get him.  Nor did they give up Ryan Anderson.  Second, Martin has been killing right handed pitching (.345 BA/.403 OBA/.559 SLG).  And they can platoon him with Rickey Henderson.  The only question is which Rickey will show up: the Rickey who wants to win or the Rickey who just wants to be Rickey.  If it's the former, the Mariners will win the West with ease.

The A's also talked about a lot of moves but ultimately just bolstered their bullpen with Jim Mecir.  Mecir is a very good reliever and will help the A's by allowing their young starters to go fewer innings.  However, the A's gave up a tremendous pitching prospect in Jesus Colome and I can't help but think about Larry Andersen for Jeff Bagwell.

The Angels also made some trades which effectively took them out of the race.  Kent Bottenfield wasn't a particularly good pitcher, but then again, Ron Gant isn't a particularly good hitter.  The difference being that the Angels already had a lot of hitting, but didn't have a whole lot of pitching.  Losing Bottenfield means that Ken Hill is the ace of the staff and that the Angels hopes are pinned on the arms of young, inexperienced, injury-prone starters.

The Braves traded for Andy Ashby and BJ Surhoff.  In doing so, they gave up Luis Rivera, Jimmy Osting and Bruce Chen.  Ashby and Surhoff definitely address needs and will probably assure that the Braves win the NL East by 10 games.  However, Glavine, Maddux and Ashby won't be at the peak of their game for very much longer and the Braves farm system is now devoid of any quality pitching prospects above A ball.

The Mets got shortstop Mike Bordick, reliever Rick White and outfielder Bubba Trammell.  Each of these guys is high quality, with Trammell having a decent upside - a poor man's Brian Giles.  Bordick will provide good defense (something they had with Ordonez) and decent offense (something they've never had at shortstop).  White will add more depth to an already good bullpen.  The biggest plus is that the Mets did not give up any significant prospects - not that they had many.

The Cardinals acquired Mike Timlin and Will Clark from the O's for surprisingly little.  Clark will be a huge help while McGwire is out and once he's back will be a pretty tough bat off the bench.  Timlin will move into a set-up role and solidify a decent bullpen.  The Cards also got Carlos Hernandez from the Padres.  He has a reputation as a good defensive catcher and a knack for late game heroics.

The Diamondbacks made probably the biggest splash by acquiring Curt Schilling from the Phillies for Travis Lee, Omar Daal, Vicente Padilla and Nelson Figueroa.  Schilling gives the D-backs the best one-two punch in the majors with Randy Johnson and quite possibly the best righty-lefty top of the rotation since Catfish Hunter and Vida Blue, although I'm sure many Braves fans will dispute this.

The Giants didn't have a whole lot of resources - money or prospect - to make many changes.  They did give up one of their best pitching prospects, Scott Linebrink, for Doug Henry.  Henry will help solidify the bullpen, but the starting rotation is still the real issue with the Giants.  And the fact that they were only able to get a middle reliever for one of their best starting prospects just illustrates how devoid of talent that farm system is now.

The Dodgers also made some trades in an effort to stay in the race, but like their crosstown AL counterparts, it remains to be seen how much they'll help.  They got Ismael Valdes back from the Cubs, but he's still basically the same pitcher they were fed up with last year.  They also got Tom Goodwin to help in centerfield, but he's not gonna be much help.  The Dodgers biggest need is a lead-off guy, or at least someone who can get on base near the top of the order.  They had Devon White and Todd Hollandsworth assigned to the roles and both failed.  Tom Goodwin's career on base is only marginally higher, largely on the strength of 4 months playing at Coors this year.

Everyone else

That's it for the "contending" teams, but other teams made some improvements as well.

The Pirates received outfielder Alex Ramirez and infielder Enrique Wilson in exchange for Wil Cordero.  While neither is a can't miss prospect, Ramirez should at least be as good as Cordero in a year or two and WIlson might already be as good as current Bucs' shortstop Pat Meares.

The Phillies gave up 2 quality pitchers but in return got 3 quality starting prospects - Chen, Osting and Figueroa - a potential closer in Padilla, and a hitter who has great potential in Lee.  They also got a serviceable reclamation project in Daal.  If they can get his mechanics fixed, they'll have a former 16 game winner for his peak years.

The Devil Rays got two very good prospects in return for the talent they peddled.  Jesus Colome projects to be another bartolo COlon without all the injuries.  And Brent Abernathy looks very promising as a second baseman and lead-off hitter.

The Cubs managed to turn Henry Rodriguez into Rondell White via trades and the only added expense was lefty Scott Downs.  This will turn out to be a huge upgrade, a la Andre Dawson, next year, although I don't think White will ever top 40 homers.  The Cubs already have Mike Meyers, Carlos Zambrano and Ben Christiansen waiting in the wings, and Kerry Wood and Jon Lieber secured for next year.  If they can keep Kevin Tapani and this year's bullpen finds - Van Poppel, Worrell, Rain - the Cubs will be very close to contending next year.

The Expos, on the other hand, dumped some salary, opened up an outfield spot for one of their three excellent outfield prospects (Bergeron, Bradley and Brad Wilkerson) and picked up a quality lefty to complement their young right-handed studs Pavano, Vasquez, Hermanson and Armas.

The Padres got John Mabry, Heathcliffe Slocumb and Jay Witasick out of their deals.  They also got two decent prospects in Ben Johnson (who, at 18, hit .330/.423/.532 in Rookie League last year) and hard-throwing Tom Davey.  But that's not where they made their biggest move toward contending again.  They'll save $5 million in salary next year by replacing Martin with Mike Darr, $3 million by replacing Carlos Hernandez with Ben Davis and Wiki Gonzales and probably $2 million in arbitration by replacing Brian Meadows with Jay Witasick.  In each case, they will probably get the same or better production on the field with the replacement.  Additionally, they will no longer be under the burden of Randy Myers $6+ million salary, nor will they have to pay Tony Gwynn what they are currently paying him as he will most certainly not reach his performance goals.  He will either take a pay cut, retire or go to the AL as a DH.  Either way, the Pads will save at least another $2 million.  All totaled, the Pads will have another $18 million with which to spend on next year's squad.  They're already pretty set at first (Klesko), second (Boone), third (Nevin), outfield (Darr, Rivera, Owens, possibly Gwynn, Mabry?) and catcher (Gonzales and Davis).  They will also have a full house for the starting rotation (Williams, Clement, Eaton and Tollberg, possibly Witasick; Hitchcock, Spencer and Loewer if healthy; and Herndon, Serrano, Bynum and Lawrence if they advance as quickly Eaton did this year).  The bullpen will also be crowded with Hoffman, Wall, Walker, Slocumb, Montgomery and Whiteside.  In fact, the only position that won't have a viable starting candidate will be shortstop.  Kevin Nicholson isn't the answer and Damian Jackson, for whatever reason, simply hasn't been able to master playing shortstop everyday.  He is however, an excellent utility player, as shown by his numerous highlights this season.  Anyway, that leaves $18 million for the Pads to spend on a shortstop, more if they can find takers for Hitchcock or Chris Gomez ($7 million combined).  I guess the only question then is will there be a shortstop on the free agent market this winter who's worth spending $20 million on?

Sometimes, it's not about the talent that changes hands in trades, but where your team is, in more ways than one, after making them.

The Losers

Which brings me to the Orioles.  Peter Angelos finally gave to OK to dump salary and build for the future.  Unfortunatley, their front office du jour only did half.  The O's traded Mike Bordick, Charles Johnson, Harold Baines, Will Clark, Mike Timlin and BJ Surhoff and the only player they got in return who has a decent chance of being an integral part of the team is Luis Rivera.  The O's don't have a lot of help in the minors, with the possible exception of Calvin Pickering, so once again they'll have to fill out their roster with free agents.  It's looking like it's gonna be a long decade for O's fans.