With the MLB playoff race becoming clearer, several teams (Phillies, Braves, Giants) went all-in at the trade deadline by filling holes in their line-up, while others (Rangers) loaded up on arms to carry them through the stretch.
In a bit of an unusual turn of events, neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees made a major deal, despite both having questions at the back end of their rotation. (Unless you consider the acquisition of Eric Bedard a major deal, which we don’t.)
Plenty of teams look better than they did entering the last week of July, several acquired pieces to build to the future, and a few others inexplicably did nothing.
Winner: Texas Rangers
The Rangers’ offense scores the third most runs in the majors, their rotation runs five deep, and now, suddenly, they have one of the scariest bullpens in baseball.
Acquiring Koji Uehara and Mike Adams, who have combined for 111 strikeouts and only 17 walks in 2011, will allow the Rangers to power through late innings and give struggling young closer Neftali Feliz a comfortable cushion in the ninth.
Look for a late-season surge up the MLB standings.
Loser: Chicago Cubs
Not only are the Cubs sitting 22 games below .500 and saddled with millions in untradeable assets (Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano), but GM Jim Hendry is apparently uninterested in doing anything proactive to build for the team’s future.
Like, you know, picking up the phone.
Carlos Peña is set to become a free agent and was one of the Cubs’ few legitimately tradeable assets, but Hendry rebuffed any offer on the table, content to let Peña walk for next to nothing.
Nor would he trade 33-year-old outfielder Marlon Byrd, despite the fact Byrd is hitting nearly 30 points above his career average, and thus he might bring in more than he’s worth.
All Hendry did was trade Kosuke Fukudome for next to nothing, while the overpaid, underperforming Cubs play out the stretch.
Winner: Atlanta Braves
The Braves were more than happy to take advantage of the Astros’ fire sale, nabbing Michael Bourn’s top-of-the-order speed for a few decent prospects without dealing any of their prized young arms.
The Braves have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball and proven hitters in the middle of their order, but they lacked a true leadoff man. His 39 steals are by far the most in the majors, and his .363 is nothing to sniff at, either.
Atlanta’s arms will keep them in a lot of close, low-scoring games in the fall; Bourn could help win them.
Loser: New York Yankees
Ever since missing out on Cliff Lee, the Yankees have been looking for another big-name starting pitcher to pair with Cy Young candidate C.C. Sabathia.
Unfortunately, there was really only one (Ubaldo Jimenez) on the market, and Brian Cashman wasn’t willing to meet the Rockies huge asking price.
It appears the Bronx Bombers will enter the stretch run with a rotation consisting of Sabathia (dominant), A.J. Burnett (being very A.J. Burnett-y), Phil Hughes/Ivan Nova, and the reanimated corpses of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.
An unusually passive trade deadline for the Yankees.
Winners: San Francisco Giants
Several teams have employed an all-pitching, no-hitting approach to baseball in 2011 (the Mariners and A’s spring to mind), but the Giants are the only one to do so with any success.
Still, the defending World Series champs were going to have to score some runs eventually if they hoped to repeat, so adding Carlos Beltran, the best hitter on the market, was almost a necessity.
Giving up a top pitching prospect hurts, but Zack Wheeler wasn’t about to break into the Giants loaded rotation any time soon. Veteran shortstop Orlando Cabrera is on the decline, but he’s a proven winner and a useful piece.
Losers: Boston Red Sox
Monday afternoon’s news that Clay Buchholz has a stress fracture in his lower back makes the Red Sox’s deadline moves—or lack thereof—look much worse.
Boston’s young right-hander was entrenched as the third starter behind aces Jon Lester and Josh Beckett, which would help the Sox avoid having to use John Lackey much in the postseason.
Now, the back half of their rotation is a series of question marks.
Deadline acquisition Erik Bedard is injury-prone and got knocked out of his most recent start after only one-and-a-third innings. Wandy Rodriguez and Ubaldo Jimenez were there to be had, but, like the Yankees, the Sox weren’t willing to pay what the Astros and Rockies were asking.
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