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MLB Trades 2013: Dealt Players Most Likely to Affect Pennant Races

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MLB Trades 2013: Dealt Players Most Likely to Affect Pennant Races
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Not all trade deadline deals are equal. It's just a fact of life. There aren't necessarily winners and losers to every deal—that train of thought is for the birds.

But, simply put, some deals affect what we'll see on the field come October. Others won't. Dealing a right-handed reliever for a left-handed one might solve a minuscule need in a team's bullpen, but Scott Downs won't be on the top 10 list of reasons the Atlanta Braves will win the NL East.

The value of how much these players will actually affect their respective races is at least possible to gauge. This isn't the NBA, where one player can take an also-ran franchise and turn them into a contender. Baseball's best player last season, Mike Trout, was worth 10 wins. So, in theory, if Trout were to be traded right now, he'd be worth about 3.5 wins the rest of the way, assuming 57 games remaining on the schedule.

In case you haven't noticed, no Mike Trouts are getting traded this July. The addition of a second wild-card team has made teams far more conservative about selling off their assets, with even fringe contenders choosing to hang onto their veterans rather than send them elsewhere. With just a day remaining before the July 31 deadline, it's at least possible that Wednesday will come and pass only to have the biggest deals to have already been done.

Names like Jake Peavy, Alex Rios and the entire Philadelphia Phillies roster would create a wave. But what if none of those moves happen? 

With that in mind, here is a quick look at the players dealt thus far who could have a marked impact on the final two months of the season.

 

Matt Garza (SP, Texas Rangers)

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Barring a surprise trade of Cliff Lee, Garza was the biggest prize on this year's trade market. The Chicago Cubs had been trying to deal him for over a year, but a poorly timed trip to the disabled list prevented a deadline swap in 2012. All things considered, it probably worked out for the best. 

The Cubs found a partner a year later in the Rangers, who gave up an a solid package of C.J. Edwards, Justin Grimm and Mike Olt. There are players to be named later who will be attached to the deal, but the principals Chicago received in return could be strong.

Edwards, a former 48th-round draft choice, emerged as one of the Rangers' top minor league prospects. He was fantastic in the minors this season in low Single-A ball, and should develop into a mid-rotation starter down the line. Grimm might wind up having a career in the bigs, but his ceiling is probably as a fifth starter. Olt, should he ever find consistency, could be the real key of the deal. He's a powerful corner infielder and solid all-around, but there are understandable questions about his projection.

For Texas, though, this deal was a no-brainer—even if Garza is eligible for free agency this winter.

The 29-year-old righty has struggled with injuries a bit through his career, but has been almost uniformly rock-solid when on the mound. He was 6-1 with a 3.17 ERA and 1.14 WHIP before being dealt to Texas, on pace for perhaps the finest splits of his entire career.

And that has only continued during his first two starts for Texas. Garza has given up just three runs over 14.1 innings with the Rangers, completely shutting down the Yankees last Wednesday and performing solidly against the Angels on Sunday. If those two starts are any indication of what Garza will bring going down the stretch, the Rangers will be more than happy with their rent-a-star.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into Tuesday afternoon's slate of games, Texas is six games behind the Athletics for first place in the AL West. Garza alone isn't going to solve that problem. At his best, Garza was nearly a five-win pitcher in 2011. But if he finishes with a WAR of three or higher, the righty will have out-performed all of Texas' wildest expectations in this abbreviated campaign.

What Garza will have to be is part of the larger solution. The Rangers, with their rotation bolstered, should now look for bat on the open market. If they're able to land one—easier targeted than landed in this market—then Texas may walk away as the biggest July winners. Garza will help the Rangers a ton, but they're still one piece away.

 

Jose Veras (RP, Detroit Tigers)

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Unless you're an avid fantasy baseball player, it'd be understandable for you to wonder who the hell Jose Veras is and why we're making such a big deal about him. A semi-anonymous middle reliever for five teams over his first seven seasons, Veras found some great circumstance with his sixth club, the Houston Astros.

Since I wouldn't wish watching Astros baseball on my worst enemy, plenty of folks probably missed out on Veras' emergence as a steady closer. He locked the door on 19 games for Houston, blowing only three opportunities, en route to the finest performance of his career. The 32-year-old Dominican has a 2.93 ERA for the season and has allowed just one base-runner per inning, both easily numbers that would mark career bests.

Understanding the concept of value (never higher) versus need (the Astros don't really care if they win), Houston shipped Veras off to the Tigers in exchange for promising outfield prospect Danry Vasquez. The Venezuelan Vasquez is currently in Single-A and won't turn 20 until January. He's one of the Tigers' 10 best prospects, based on just about every publication on the planet. Landing Vasquez for someone like Veras is a solid coup for Houston.

That said, the Tigers could not go the rest of this season with such a shaky bullpen. Detroit leads baseball in just about every offensive category possible, and boast perhaps the finest trio of starters in the AL—Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez. Outside of a few holes and the looming presence of Jhonny Peralta's involvement in the Biogenesis case, there aren't many complains about this roster composition.

Of course, the only earth-shattering complaint would be about the team's bullpen. The Tigers bullpen ranks 24th in baseball with a 4.01 ERA. They've found some semblance of normalcy in the ninth inning with Joaquin Benoit, and Drew Smyly has also been excellent, but Jim Leyland only found that combo meal after trying almost everything else on his menu.

Veras' role remains to be seen in Detroit—he almost certainly won't unseat Benoit—but his presence alone acts as an insurance policy. Should Benoit struggle in the closers role or go down with injury, Veras will be there to capably handle the ninth-inning role. For a team with World Series expectations, that peace of mind matters more than anyone realizes. 

 

Francisco Rodriguez (RP, Baltimore Orioles)

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of teams in desperate need of some bullpen stability, the Orioles' push to land the top relief arm on the market was prudent. Baltimore's 3.69 bullpen ERA puts the club smack dab in the middle of MLB, but that doesn't mean the club was anywhere near comfortable with its situation—nor should it have been.

Buck Showalter has relied heavily on Darren O'Day and Tommy Hunter in the middle innings, with both coming through with solid performances. The roller-coaster ride begins in the ninth.

Orioles closer Jim Johnson leads MLB with 35 saves. He did the same a year ago with a jaw-dropping 51. But unlike that fantastic 2012 season, Johnson's actual performance in ninth innings has been all over the place. Sitting with a 2-7 record with a 3.47 ERA and 1.29 WHIP, his numbers are down in almost every category. He's getting fewer ground balls, walking a higher number of hitters and allowing 9.4 percent of fly balls to leave the yard.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

While Showalter has shown no inclination of moving Johnson out of his ninth-inning spot, he'll at least have a pretty good option in Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod had been marvelous with the Milwaukee Brewers since returning from injury, posting a 1.09 ERA and 1.05 WHIP while converting each of his 10 save opportunities.

But with Milwaukee having long since been removed from playoff contention, the chance to grab power-hitting third base prospect Nick Delmonico was too good to pass up. The 21-year-old Delmonico projects as a possible starter at a corner infield spot somewhere down the line. Manny Machado's excellence manning the hot corner likely made Delmonico expendable from Baltimore's standpoint.

What's more, these Orioles are going to need all the help they can get. They are five games behind the Rays for first in the AL East, and while they currently hold court for the second wild-card spot, they're not without competition. Four teams are within five games of Baltimore for that coveted position, with Texas and the division rival Yankees looming as large foes.

Only three teams have blown more saves than the Orioles this season. Johnson is a very big reason that's the case. With K-Rod in town, perhaps he'll be motivation for the 2012 Johnson to come back into the fold. Or, otherwise, Rodriguez might be the man most equipped to push Baltimore into its second straight postseason berth.

 

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