At first glance, the biggest story of the 2009 trade deadline is the deal that never happened. Roy Halladay is still a Blue Jay.
None of the eight or so teams rumored to be interested in Halladay, arguably the best right-hander in the American League, were willing to pay Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi's asking price in prospects and then take on Halladay's $16 million in salary for 2010.
As early as Tuesday, some clubs resigned themselves to making different, less expensive deals to boost their rosters for the coming stretch run. Philadelphia traded for 2008 Cy Young winner Cliff Lee - without giving up either star rookie J.A. Happ or top prospect Kyle Drabek. With the National League races in the East and West somewhat settled, this trade shifts the balance of power further towards Philadelphia in the face of the Los Angeles Dodgers' deadline inaction.
In the American League, however, with virtually nothing decided, several contenders made big deals on Thursday night and Friday morning to try to make themselves better for August, September and October.
The Boston Red Sox, who had made two trades for middling talent in the past few days, made two big splashes on Friday afternoon with trades for All-Star catcher Victor Martinez (acquired from Cleveland for RHP Justin Masterson, LHP Nick Hagadone and RHP Bryan Price) and first baseman Casey Kotchman (from Atlanta, for 1B Adam LaRoche and cash).
Perhaps the most intriguing developments came from the AL Central, as both the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox added significant arms to their starting rotations. Detroit acquired LHP Jarrod Washburn from Seattle for rookie LHP Luke French and a minor-league prospect, LHP Mauricio Robles. Chicago, hours later, completed a trade for RHP Jake Peavy, coming from San Diego in exchange for four pitching prospects, including rookie LHP Clayton Richard.
Minnesota tried to keep pace with its Central Division rivals by trading for SS Orlando Cabrera, sending minor league IF Tyler Ladendorf to Oakland to get him (Oakland also included cash considerations in the deal).
The Yankees, content to stay the course with their rotation and starting lineup, made a minor deal with Cincinnati to acquire veteran utility man Jerry Hairston, Jr. in exchange for a minor-league prospect, C Chase Weems.
Interestingly, with the exception of Seattle's virtual concession of the AL West race with the trade of Washburn, all was quiet. Texas and Los Angeles/Anaheim made no moves.
"So...let's go around the table one more time. Where are we? What kind of day has it been?"
- Leo McGarry, The West Wing, IV.22 - "Commencement"
Here's my take on this week's front-office action, by division, in order of predicted fiinsh.
NEW YORK YANKEES: GRADE - B
New York's acquisition of Hairston is a sign of Cashman's absolute confidence in the club he has right now. With the Yankees off to an 11-3 start since the break, the most dangerous offense in the game, and a rock-solid bullpen to back up their star-studded rotation, the Yankees will cruise to the division title.
BOSTON RED SOX: GRADE - B+
Don't let anyone fool you: the acquisition of Victor Martinez will be a boost for the Boston's recently anemic offense, but will not make a big difference in the standings. Trading for catchers at the deadline is a double-edged sword, as the Yankees learned in 2008. Martinez' inexperience as a battery mate for Boston's increasingly shaky pitching staff will likely cancel out his offensive production. Kotchman was a brilliant acquisition long-term, with the decline of Mike Lowell at third making Youkilis' return to the position inevitable, but for the moment it creates something of a logjam. They would be a prohibitive favorite to win the Wild Card if more pitching help was on the horizon. I still pick them to take it, but in a close race with Texas.
TAMPA BAY RAYS: GRADE - D
Tampa's inaction will render them the real loser of this deadline. By failing to make a play for one more pitcher, they've given up their chance at the division title. By failing to turn an aging Pat Burrell into a mid-level prospect or two, they're stuck with the declining outfielder for another year at a much higher salary than he's proven to be worth. At 7.5 games out of first place on July 31, and mediocre head-to-head records against New York and Boston, Tampa Bay's chances of returning to the postseason are slim to none.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS: GRADE - C
The one deal they did get done was a swap of third basemen with Cincinnati, picking up Edwin Encarnacion for Scott Rolen. I don't know what this accomplishes for them. Not being able to get a deal done for Halladay early may very well haunt them in a year and a half, but the jury is still out. The upside? Another year of "Doc" tutoring their younger pitchers can only help this team.
BALTIMORE ORIOLES: GRADE - N/A
There were no players on this team worth selling that the team would be willing to sell, and no incentive for them to try and buy anyone, either. Just another year at rock bottom for Baltimore.
DETROIT TIGERS: GRADE - A+
Yesterday, this team had enough offense, but desperately needed one more quality arm to separate themselves from Chicago and Minnesota. Washburn, with his newfound sinker, was just what the doctor ordered. A top-three of Justin Verlander, Jarrod Washburn and Edwin Jackson should take this division.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX: GRADE - A-
The trade for Jake Peavy will likely pay off brilliantly for Chicago - when their new prize comes off the disabled list. According to ESPN, the White Sox don't expect Peavy to be ready to go until "late August." I'm inclined to think that a month of his services this year will prove a bit too little, a bit too late.
MINNESOTA TWINS: GRADE - B
The Twins absolutely needed to upgrade from Nick Punto and Alexi Casilla, and made the right move to do so. But with Kevin Slowey done for the year, and Liriano and Perkins' inconsistency, they don't have the arms to keep up with the Tigers or White Sox. Barring a miracle, this team will be on the outside looking into October.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS: GRADE - N/A
This team will need a year or two of seasoning before they're ready to contend. No trade would have helped them as much as letting the young guys behind Meche and Greinke keep working out the kinks in the majors.
CLEVELAND INDIANS: GRADE - F
The Indians managed to give away their two best players for below market value. To trade Cliff Lee to the Phillies without receiving either Drabek or Happ was inexcusable. To compound the error by not insisting on Clay Buchholz in the Victor Martinez deal was inexplicable. That the Indians will live to regret this week? Inevitable.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM: GRADE - N/A
The Angels are going to count on getting back either Torii Hunter or Vlad Guerrero to keep themselves on top of this division. It will probably work out for them. Kendry Morales and Juan Rivera are hitting everything in sight, and any rotation with Jered Weaver and John Lackey at the top of it is to be feared and respected. They win the West yet again in 2009, without having to add a piece.
TEXAS RANGERS: GRADE - N/A
Texas' young pitchers are one season away from dethroning Los Angeles as the major power in the West Division. There's nothing that says they can't steal the Wild Card from Boston. I just wouldn't bet that way.
SEATTLE MARINERS: GRADE - B
With the loss of Erik Bedard to injury (again), and their lack of offense, the Mariners probably did not have the weapons to contend for the division title or Wild Card this year. They got the best deal they coudl get for Washburn, reportedly backing away from the table with the Yankees after Cashman refused to part with either of his two best position prospects, OF Austin Jackson and C Jesus Montero. Time will tell if the move pays off, but at least GM Jack Zduriencik didn't get played like Cleveland's Mark Shapiro.
OAKLAND A'S: GRADE - C+
They must really like this Ladendorf, to offer Orlando Cabrera and cash. I'd make a joke about someone paying Cabrera to go away, if this was any other general manager but Billy Beane. Another long season for Oakland will end mercifully in September. This team's young pitching has a lot of potential, but they're likely two years away.