Monday, August 1, 2011

Ranking the Trade Deadline


    I am returning to the blog this week for the obligatory ranking of winners and losers in the trade market, having been occupied in other writing assignments and retirement pursuits.

     This is a brief look at the way I see it:


     1: Texas Rangers: It had to be a boost for Nolan Ryan's ailing heart and the erratic beat of the bullpen when general manager Jon Daniels landed two of the best set up men in baseball: Mike Adams from San Diego and Koji Uehara from Baltimore. Consider their combined numbers this season: 95 innings, 51 hits, 111 strike outs, 17 walks. The Rangers still have a race on their hands with the Angels, but what Daniels did was shorten their rotation's assignment to six innings.

   2:  Pittsburgh Pirates: Give the Pirates credit for trying to take advantaage of their once in a lifetime opportunity in the NL Central. At a time when the Pirates were starting a familiar slide, they aded veteran hitters Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee (a combined 23 homers and 105 runs batted in), which should help lift some of the burden from their better than anticipated pitching staff, particularly if touted third baseman Pedro Alvarez proves he benefitted from a minor league exile.

   3: San Francisco Giants--Houston's Hunter Pence may have been a better overall fit, but General Manager Brian Sabean sent a message to his pitchers and patrons by acquiring the best pure hitter on the market, Carlos Beltran, and then adding two valuable infield pieces: Jeff Keppinger and Orlando Cabrera. There is no reason why the Giants shouldn't breeze in the NL West, the first step in retention of their World Series title, but also keep the name of Zach Wheeler in mind. He is the young pitcher the New York Mets insisted on in trading Beltran, and is generally ranked the best pitching prospect in the minors.

  4: Tie between Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves: The Phillies simply don't miss any more when they set their sights on a player, Pence following Roy Halliday, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt. Hidden in Houston where he was expected to carry more than his share of the load, Pence is the perfect complement to a lineup already deep in talent. The Braves, trying to keep within sight of the Phillies in the NL East and retain their wild card lead, landed a catalytic center fielder in Michael Bourn of the disbanding Astros. Bourn brought 32 steals to a team with 42 overall and a .354 on-base percentage to a team with baseball's 26th lowest.

    1: Houston Astros--The Astros couldn't get rid of everything they wanted to, but Pence, Bourn and Keppinger pretty much deflated the offense, and starters Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers may still slide through waivers. New owner Jim Crane has obviously instructed GM Ed Wade to rebuild for the future, and while Wade acquired some decent prospects for Pence and Bourn, the Astros will have an expansion look until the future becomes reality---maybe in 2015.

  2: New York Yankees--General Manager Brian Cashman either lost his cell phone or was told his credit card is already overdrawn, but when was the last time the Yankees weren't a major player in any kind of trade or sales market? Of course, they are only two games behind Boston in the AL East, should be getting Alex Rodriguez back from knee surgery in mid-month and aren't exactly hurting in any particular area except for a rotation conspicuously thin of October type reliability after C.C. Sabathia. Obviously, Cashman, protecting Ivan Nova and other prospects, obviously didn't think either Ubaldo Jimenez or Edwin Jackson were certain enough to fit that category.

   3: Angels--How strange. The Angels have produced one of baseball's best recent records in keeping pace with the Rangers, who they may yet catch and defeat in the AL West, but not since Mike Scioscia and Bill Stoneman changed the philosophy of this organization have I felt that that aura has gone backwards. It is probably too large and mysterious to get at in one paragraph. Maybe I am sensing something that really hasn't changed, maybe all that was needed, is needed, is a power hitting third baseman, a more reliable rotation beyond Jered Weaver and Dan Haren, a younger Torii Hunter and a Vernon Wells who doesn't masquerade as Gary Matthews Jr. One thing is clear: nothing changed on July 31 and we will have to see if the Angels can overcome their shortcomings--tangible and intangible.
   4: Dodgers--What more needs to be said except this: What in the world was Hiroki Kuroda thinking? I suppose a player who wants to play out his contract with one team and not uproot his family in mid-season is to be admired. On the other hand, I have never understood how a player can excercise his no-trade clause and turn down the opportunity to join a contender, as Kuroda did. Whether it was the Red Sox or Yankees or whoever, how could anything be more important to a player than to compete for a potential champion? Kuroda, I suppose, his has eyes on free agency in the winter or returning to Japan to play. In the meantime, he will go on pitching for a dysfunctional organization that has no shot at a championship---this year, next year or, perhaps, years beyond.

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