Winners and Losers at the Deadline (08/01/01)
Those expecting a flurry of trades at the deadline this year weren't exactly disappointed. Although the playoff landscape was not dramatically changed by any blockbuster deals, several teams definitely improved their chances down the stretch by what they did. The teams are listed in the order of most improvement.
The Astros improved as much as any team did at the deadline. While Scott Elarton has good potential, he's not the ace type starter everyone thought he was gonna be a couple of years ago. His velocity, which was said to be in the high 90s in the minors, is usually in the low 90s, and like a lot of very tall pitchers, he has trouble maintaining effective mechanics. Last year's 17-win outburst may have been as much a product of run-support and luck as any special talent.
So trading him for Pedro Astacio is at least a wash. However, I think Astacio will be a big gain for the Astros. Elarton is predominantly a flyball pitcher; Astacio is predominantly a groundball pitcher. Without the thin air carrying his most of his mistakes out of the ballpark, Astacio should be able to take advantage of a pretty good Astro infield defense. In Colorado he never got much of a chance to do that because any mistake pitch resulted in a homer. Enron Field should be a little more forgiving.
The Astros also brought in Mike Williams to bolster their bullpen. His slider, Mike Jackson's splitter and Octavio Dotel's fastball will make things very tough on the opposition leading up to Billy Wagner in the ninth.
The Cubs needed more offense and they got it with Fred McGriff and Michael Tucker. True, Tucker isn't gonna dramatically change the Cubs offense, but with Bill Mueller returning, he lengthens a line-up that now has good on base hitters at the top (Eric Young and Mueller) and a middle that has some pop (Sammy Sosa, McGriff, Rondell White). The addition of Delino DeShields brings position flexibility and more depth to the bench.
The Cubs also added a solid arm in David Weathers to an already imposing bullpen. Should Kyle Farnsworth return soon as expected, the Cubs bullpen will be arguably the best in baseball.
San Francisco Giants
Despite run production/suppression that supports no better than a .500 record, the Giants were aggressive in getting Andres Galarraga, Jason Schmidt and John VanderWal. As has been said numerous times in the media, Galarraga's biggest contribution will probably be in the clubhouse rather than on the field. He should be a solid contributor in the RBI department, if only because he'll be hitting behind Rich Aurilia, Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent. VanderWal gives the Giants the best pinch hitter in the game and a preferable alternative to Shawon Dunston in the outfield, if only Dusty Baker would recognize it.
Jason Schmidt is an intriguing play simply because he has so much potential. Then again, so do Shawn Estes and Russ Ortiz. So it's not clear that Schmidt will develop any more consistency than he had in Pittsburgh. One thing is for sure is that he's preferable to running Mark Gardner out there every fifth day.
The Giants also picked up some solid relievers in Wayne Gomes and Jason Christiansen. Both guys can be dominant for stretches. GM Brian Sabean is hoping that is this stretch that they choose to dominate.
New York Mets
It seems odd that the Mets should be here considering they traded away their most effective starter to date, but getting Matt Lawton will be a bigger boon than losing Rick Reed a curse. Along with a healthy Benny Agbayani and Jay Payton, the Mets will actually have a pretty decent outfield. None of them will bang more than 25 homers in a good year. But in a line-up with Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo, Todd Zeile and Robin Ventura, the Mets won't have any easy outs until you get to shortstop. Get more production from the shortstop position and the Mets will have a very, very tough line-up.
While losing Reed is a setback, he's far more replaceable on the open market this winter than Al Leiter, who the Mets considered trading. In fact, he's probably gonna be adequately replaced by Bruce Chen, whom the Mets got in trade from the Phillies. Chen's biggest flaw is giving up homers. Pitching at Shea will help. So will having Mike Piazza calling the pitches.
Boston Red Sox
The Sox didn't do a whole lot, but they did shore up the one place they might be vulnerable: the bullpen. That sounds odd because the bullpen is one of their strengths. But because they have so many starters who can't give them much more than 5 or 6 innings a start, they have to use the bullpen more than anyone, especially with Pedro Martinez out. So they traded 2 promising arms - Tomo Ohka and Rich Rundles - for Ugueth Urbina. Urbina gives them a great set-up man and a closer alternative should Derek Lowe struggle. He'd probably be the better as the closer anyway as Lowe has been more consistent as a set-up man.
Of course, for the Red Sox Nation, there is always the fear that the front office just gave up the next Jeff Bagwell or Dennis Tankersley for 2 months of mediocre performance from a stiff. Well, this won't help, although one would be hard pressed to define Urbina as a stiff. He's one of the top 5 or 6 relievers in the game. However, Ohka looks like a decent middle-to-bottom of the rotation starter and Rundles looks very promising in A ball right now. If it's any comfort, both Bobby J. Jones and Mike Meyers looked as good as Rundles does at this point in their careers.
Jermaine Dye gives the A's a lot more depth in the outfield and strength off the bench, the latter of which is crucial to post season success. He also gives them something they've lacked in right field for the last several years - quality defense.
While dealing Pedro Astacio for Scott Elarton is iffy at best, getting Jose Ortiz and Mario Encarnacion in the Jermaine Dye 3-way could be huge. GM Dan O'Dowd has tried everything short of spending a billion dollars when it comes to assembling an effective pitching staff at Coors, with little success.
The only logical alternative to build a team that can score so many runs that the pitching won't be a factor. So, he traded for Alex Ochoa and then made the deal for the 2 Oakland youngsters. Given Juan Uribe's power, the Rockies now have a team that could field a 20-homer hitter at every position but centerfield. And that's at sea level.
The Brewers made good at the deadline by getting Ruben Quevedo in exchange for David Weathers. By 2003, the Brewers could have a very solid young rotation with Quevedo, Ben Sheets and Nick Neugebauer at the top of their rotation.
The Phillies didn't help their cause much either. Adding Turk Wendell and Dennis Cook might help, but neither is a slam dunk out-getter. Neither is that much better than departed Wayne Gomes. What they needed was a good groundball starter like Pedro Astacio to give them some innings to keep the bullpen rested. The Phillies do have several decent young starters - Nelson Figueroa, Dave Coggin and Brandon Duckworth - so the hope is that Wendell and Cook will give them enough depth in the bullpen so they don't have to push the youngsters.
The Phils also added Felipe Crespo, a versatile player who would be a solid replacement for Marlon Anderson at second.
Stayed the Same
New York Yankees
As expected, the Yanks have made a number of moves this season. Some of the moves followed logic: they needed some help in the bullpen so they traded for Jay Witasick and Mark Wohlers. Other deals and non-deals, haven't made as much sense. Dealing for Sterling Hitchcock for instance. Hitchcock is still recovering from last year's elbow surgery. With Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, Orlando Hernandez and Ted Lilly, one would think that the Yanks had enough starting pitching. Perhaps this is a sign that the Yanks aren't expecting Hernandez back this season. If not, having 6 starters seems to be an unnecessary luxury in the face of below average offensive production from left field.
San Diego Padres
The Pads were able to deal Sterling Hitchcock's salary, but the 2 guys they got in return will probably not have any impact on their future. They're looking to trade Woody Williams and might get a deal done with the Cardinals for Ray Lankford. If they get that done, move the Pads up to the slightly improved bracket, as Lankford is a decent outfielder, better than any one they have in the high minors, and moving Williams will open another spot in the rotation for one of their stable of promising young hurlers.
The D-backs did address their top priority in getting a decent starter (Albie Lopez) to fill in behind Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. However, their bullpen is still thin and their offense, outside of Luis Gonzales and Mark Grace, is increasingly non-existent.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers added some pitching in James Baldwin, Mike Trombley and Terry Mulholland. With the injuries to Andy Ashby and Darren Dreifort, and the questionable status of Kevin Brown, Baldwin and Mulholland add some insurance. However, it's questionable how much or even if their additions will be any more beneficial than letting some of the Dodger's farmhands have a go. Trombley essentially replaces Mike Fetters. The downside of the deals, though, is that the Dodgers added more salary to an already bloated payroll.
Chicago White Sox
Like the Pads, the ChiSox were able to get out from under a heavy contract (James Baldwin) but were not able to get anything significant in return. Onan Masaoka has a chance to become a decent lefty out of the bullpen.
On the plus side, the Pirates dumped some salary. On the minus side, the got rid of their 4th best hitter and their second best starter. They did get a decent prospect in return, but unless Ryan Vogelsong turns out to be the next Doug Drabek, these deals were a wash.
The Indians desperately need starting pitching. After CC Sabathia and Bartolo Colon, they don't have a starter with an ERA under 5.40. Because ownership wouldn't allow him to add any more payroll, GM John Hart wasn't able to get what the Indians really needed. The point may end up moot as the Twins look like they shot themselves in the foot with both barrels. They did add Milton Bradley, who one day might be an impact outfielder. Just not this year.
St. Louis Cardinals
Do the Cards feel they can contend this year in the Central? It's not clear but the answer appears to be "no". Which is surprising since they are getting solid contributions from 4 starters, Big Mac is back hitting bombs every time he swings the bats and JD Drew has returned from his hand injury. With everyone reasonably healthy, this team can score runs with just about anyone. With Darryl Kile, Matt Morris, Bud Smith and Dustin Hermanson pitching well and Rick Ankiel due to return in September at the latest, the only real issue the Cards have is in the bullpen. So their only move was to trade lefty reliever Jason Christiansen for minor leaguers? Who knows. Rumor has it that they'll deal outfielder Ray Lankford for Padre starter Woody Williams. If that deal comes to fruition, the Cards might call up Ankiel to pitch in Christiansen's spot in the pen.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays were rumored to be a big player in the trade frenzy, but ended up doing nothing. Rumored to be heading out were Shannon Stewart and/or Jose Cruz Jr in exchange for some starting pitching. But nothing happened. At some point, if they hope to contend in a division with the Yanks and Red Sox, the Jays are gonna need more than just Cris Carpenter and Roy Halladay.
Even though the Mariners are almost mathematically assured of a playoff spot, their place in the World Series is anything but assured. They still have several spots in the line-up that are producing below average offense - third base and left field are the most glaring - that will need to be addressed. If they don't, a veteran pitching staff like the Yankees or Red Sox most certainly will in a short series.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals traded Jermaine Dye and Rey Sanchez and all they got out of it was Neifi Perez and a couple of marginal prospects? Who's running this organization? Hmm, nevermind.
The Braves are desperate. Other than Greg Maddux, their starting pitching has been mediocre. Their bullpen has been in flux all season. And their offense is sputtering, 10th best in the NL. So what do they address at the trading deadline? Their defense by trading for Rey Sanchez. Although they didn't give up much to get him, see Mets, New York for the results for a team with a mediocre offense with an automatic out at short.
Getting Rick Reed might be a good thing: he might defy his home/road splits - 3.17 ERA at Shea, one of the best pitcher's parks in the majors, 4.83 away from it. But getting rid of Matt Lawton was definitely a bad thing. For a team that is ranked 7th in the AL in scoring while playing in a hitter's park, and depends greatly on it's outfield defense, trading away it's best hitter and best outfielder is a step in the wrong direction. Especially if they don't have any viable replacements.
The Twins already had a decent starting staff and a decent bullpen. So the additions of Rick Reed and Todd Jones are probably not gonna have much effect. Losing Lawton, however, will. Even though the Indians didn't make any significant moves for the stretch run, they might just win the division on the strength of the Twins' mid-season maneuvers.