Trade deadline review: Winners
Having looked at the trade deadline’s losers earlier today, we turn our attention to the winners. Here, in alphabetical order, are the contenders that made out the best with regards to their dealings, not only on Tuesday but in the weeks leading up to the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
Chicago White Sox: Even with a minor league system that ranked dead last coming into the year according to both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, general manager Kenny Williams found enough spare parts to shore up several areas of weakness. He didn’t wait until the last minute to do so, either. On June 24, he acquired Kevin Youkilis to fix the team’s black hole at third base, landed late-inning relief help in Brett Myers on July 21 and on July 28 he took a reasonable risk that the erratic Francisco Liriano can help the rotation with the aid of pitching coach Don Cooper. With the news that John Danks will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, the latter move could be particularly important as the ChiSox try to hold off the Tigers in the AL Central.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: The Angels only made one major league move for the deadline, but it was a big one. On July 27, they sent an attractive three-player package to the Brewers to obtain righty Zack Greinke. With a 3.44 ERA and 8.9 strikeouts per nine, the 28-year-old former Cy Young winner was nothing less than the top player dealt during the deadline crunch. The move has bumped rookie Garrett Richards from the rotation for the moment, though Greinke is more likely to wind up replacing Ervin Santana, who is living on borrowed time, having been rocked for a 5.97 ERA and 1.9 homers per nine this year.
Los Angeles Dodgers: They didn’t hit a grand slam by any means, but the team’s new owners did send a bold signal that the McCourt era is over by trading for Hanley Ramirez, who’s not merely a rental but an affordable 28-year-old superstar ($31.5 million for 2013-2014) if he can rediscover his 2006-2010 form. They also shored up a glaring need in leftfield by acquiring Shane Victorino, who was actually drafted and developed by the Dodgers before being lost as a 2004 Rule 5 pick. Their bullpen machinations — the additions of lefty Randy Choate and righty Brandon League — were merely treading water given Scott Elbert’s elbow inflammation and the inclusion of Josh Lindblom in the Victorino deal.
They didn’t land Ryan Dempster, who preferred Los Angeles to Atlanta if he had to be traded, or replace the unproductive James Loney/Juan Rivera platoon at first base. But given the beating that their farm system has taken in recent summers — as ex-owner Frank McCourt mandated the trade of better prospects in exchange for taking on minimal salary — the fact that the Dodgers held onto their top four pitching prospects (Allen Webster, Zach Lee, Chris Reed and Garrett Gould) as well as the rehabbing Rubby de la Rosa is laudable, and should help them down the road.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Chasing not only their first playoff spot since 1992 but their first winning season in that same time, the Pirates drew criticism in some quarters for not being more aggressive, but in obtaining Wandy Rodriguez, Gaby Sanchez and Travis Snider, they acquired players who won’t be mere two-month rentals, and they didn’t trade any of their top five prospects. Granted, it takes a bit of faith to believe that Sanchez and Snider can be above-average contributors given their struggles this season, but general manager Neal Huntington made strong value plays by buying low on both, knowing that the bar for upgrading the offense at first base (where the Bucs have hit .235/.289/.388) and leftfield (where they’ve hit .198/.241/.318) is so low that just about anything would help.
In Rodriguez, the Pirates get a mid-rotation starter who could be around through 2014, with the Astros footing a significant portion of the bill; as with the Yankees paying most of A.J. Burnett’s salary, it’s a neat feat being able to compete on somebody else’s dime. Particularly given that the Reds and Cardinals were among the deadline’s losers for their relative inactivity, Pittsburgh’s playoff chances received a solid boost this week.
San Francisco Giants: Although they didn’t do as much as their NL West rivals in Los Angeles, the Giants did make a couple of important moves to help shore up an offense that ranks 11th in scoring at 4.00 runs per game, 13th in slugging percentage at .379 and dead last in homers at 62. The biggest was the acquisition of rightfielder Hunter Pence in exchange for three players, including rightfielder Nate Schierholtz and catching prospect Tommy Joseph. Pence’s production in Philadelphia (.271/.336/.447) has actually only been around that of the surprisingly productive Schierholtz/Gregor Blanco combo in right (.268/.349/.432) despite a much better hitting environment; even so, his 17 homers are more than any Giant, and he’s more likely to maintain his current level or even improve slightly than the existing platoon was.
Meanwhile, with Pablo Sandoval hitting the disabled list with a hamstring strain and the team’s second basemen hitting a combined .249/.299/.284, the addition of the versatile Marco Scutaro could be big; the 36-year-old wasn’t hitting in Colorado, but he has a stronger track record than either third base fill-in Joaquin Arias or second baseman Ryan Theriot.
Texas Rangers: They didn’t land top targets Greinke or Cole Hamels, or secondary targets Josh Johnson or James Shields, but the Rangers did pull off a nifty move at almost literally the last minute, getting Dempster for a pair of prospects they aren’t likely to miss. Meanwhile, they held onto top prospects Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt and Martin Perez despite endless overtures from teams envious of their fantastic farm system. The importance of Dempster quickly became apparent when the team announced that Neftali Feliz, who had been scratched from a rehab start over the weekend, would undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his season. In a much smaller move, the Rangers also landed some catching help in the form of ex-Cub Geovany Soto, who has hit much better since returning from in-season knee surgery.