I don’t closely follow prospects, so I can’t intelligently comment on the winners and losers of this week’s trading frenzy (and I think it does qualify as a frenzy), but I will make some observations.
The Indians and Pirates are going all-in for their fans
Cleveland was particularly busy this week, picking up Ubaldo Jimenez from the Rockies and Kosuke Fukudome from the Cubs, while also offloading Orlando Cabrera on the Giants. Their team got better, but I’m not sure it’s enough. They’ve been a great story this year but they’re 2 1/2 games behind a better team in Detroit, and a game and a half ahead of a White Sox team that’s probably better than they are too. You can see why they want to strike now, while there’s a reasonable chance they can catch the Tigers, particularly if Jimenez pitches like he did in the first half of 2010, but Indians fans better hope they didn’t mortgage too much of the future on two or three more wins that may not win them their division.
The Pirates were less ostentatious at the deadline, but they’re also more hopeless. After being swept by the Phillies this week, they stand 4 1/2 games behind Milwaukee and 2 1/2 behind St. Louis, with a strong Cincinnati team right behind them. Acquiring Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick sends a message from the front office to the team and its fans that they’re serious about winning this year. Winning, though, could be defined as finishing over .500 for the first time since 1992. As great as their story has been, the Pirates won’t contend for a postseason berth, but .500 could be a step in the right direction.
The Phillies just picked up the worst swing in baseball
I know it isn’t fair to pick on the Phillies here. Hunter Pence is a good player, worth almost four wins per season over the last four. But the guy’s swing looks like a blindfolded epileptic trying to break open a pinata. Didn’t this team have Jayson Werth in right field last fall? I understand that Domonic “Sic” Brown hasn’t lived up to expectations, and the Phillies are already favorites to win the World Series, but this move seems like an attempt to keep up with the…
Giants, who made the week’s biggest splash
Depending on Jimenez’s health, Carlos Beltran may have been the best player dealt at the deadline. He’s not the player he was a few years ago, but he’s still a four-to-five win bat who makes one of the National League’s worst lineups look almost average. I don’t see what the Giants wanted in Cabrera (though he’s one of my favorite players), but by getting Beltran, they closed the gap between themselves and the team they’re likely to meet again in this year’s NLCS. Although…
The Braves won’t go down without a fight
Atlanta’s been in an awkward position all year, looking way up to Philly most of the season, but comfortably holding the Wild Card spot. Any move they made would be primarily for the benefit of a short series, probably a rematch of last year’s NLDS with the Giants. While one player rarely swings a series alone, they got a good one, and filled their most gaping hole with the acquisition of center fielder Michael Bourn, who may be the most underrated player in baseball.
The Rangers are getting good at this
The AL West has belonged to the Angels and A’s for so long that the Rangers, while they tend to be major players on the free agent market, have typically been sellers at the trade deadline in recent years. After picking up Cliff Lee last season, they opted to shore up the bullpen in 2011, acquiring Mike Adams from the Padres and Koji Uehara from the Orioles. The Uehara deal is a little preplexing from both sides, considering the O’s picked up two players with major league experience (albeit limited upside), but both are live arms who will shorten Rangers games as they try to hold off the Angels to win their second straight division title (and perhaps another pennant).
The Red Sox worked on the fringes
Mike Aviles was a good pickup, and will likely take a lot of at-bats from Marco Scutaro at short while possibly spelling Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia from time to time, but he’s no big splash. Erik Bedard has high upside, but considering health in the starting rotation is the team’s only real weakness, it’s odd that they went after an oft-injured starter to fill the void. If Clay Buchholz ever comes back, I’ll be interested to see which of John Lackey, Andrew Miller, and Tim Wakefield holds on to the fifth spot in the rotation.
The Blue Jays will be good next year, but good enough?
Picking up Colby Rasmus, a young player with star potential and major league experience, for very little in return, was another in a series of great moves by Alex Anthropolous. The move will make a lot more sense, though, if the Jays decide to play the free agent market as well, going after Price Fielder or a frontline starter this fall. Rasmus makes them better, but they’re still 10-12 wins from contending in the AL East, or even for the Wild Card. If they’re willing to take on some more salary in 2012, baseball’s best division could be deeper than ever.