MLB Trade Deadline Report Cards: 10 Teams That Cleaned Up at the Trade Deadline

Chris SbalcioCorrespondent IJuly 31, 2012

MLB Trade Deadline Report Cards: 10 Teams That Cleaned Up at the Trade Deadline

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    It is Wednesday, August 1, and everyone in baseball knows what that means. The 2012 July 31 non-waiver trade deadline has passed, and any deals that hope to be done from now until August 31 will have to be completed by attempting to pass players through waivers. Not an easy venture.

    So, as usual, 2012 saw its fair share of players switch uniforms over the past week or so. But which teams made the best trades? Which moves will most greatly benefit their clubs, giving them a better shot at reaching the postseason, or maybe just enhance their chances of victory once they get there?

    I've come up with a list of 10 teams who have made the best of the trade deadline for themselves, and now I'm going to bring us all back to school. For every team listed, I will assign a grade on how well I think the move will work out for the club this season, and perhaps into the future as well.

    Now, these 10 clubs all made good moves, so we're not going to see any "Ds" or "Fs" here, but really, just look at which teams were smart this deadline, and which made honors, if you will.

Detroit Tigers

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    The Detroit Tigers have thus far not been the team we were expecting them to be when they went out and signed superstar first baseman Prince Fielder to a lucrative contract last offseason. They scuffled out of the gate and have yet to stay in first place in the AL Central for more than a few days consecutively, instead watching Chicago spend the most time atop the division in 2012.

    The Tigers have mainly suffered from slumps this season. It's not that they are a bad team or incapable of winning the division, it's just that they haven't been playing up to their capabilities.  

    With that being said, there wasn't really a lot that the Tigers could do to improve their team at this trade deadline, but what they needed to get done, they got done in a hurry.

    With Miami initiating yet another of their famous "fire sales," the Tigers jumped at the opportunity to bring back one of their former players, second baseman Omar Infante, while also adding some depth to their rotation by acquiring Anibal Sanchez. Infante will finally give the Tigers a reliable second baseman to pencil into the lineup everyday at a position that has been a detriment to the club so far this season.  

    Sanchez gives Detroit a solid fifth starter down the stretch, which it needed since it had to give up top prospect Jacob Turner in order to get the deal done.

    While this trade will certainly help the Tigers this season as they attempt to win either the Central or one of the two wild cards, the loss of Turner will definitely be felt sometime in the near future, and that surely takes away from this deal.

    Grade: C 

Miami Marlins

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    The Miami Marlins found themselves in a tough spot approaching the trade deadline. After an offseason that saw them spend big in an attempt to bring a winning team to the field in the first year of their brand-new Marlins Park, signing big-name free agents Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle, the Marlins have endured an awful first season in Miami. Everything from disappointments by their new players to managerial controversy to a huge injury to their one All-Star, Giancarlo Stanton, has led the Fish to initiate one of their famous "firesales."

    However, as bad as it all sounds, the Marlins have thus far done a great job of bringing in some great young talent in return for all of their current players. Most notably, the Marlins were able to acquire right-handed pitchers Jacob Turner and Nathan Eovaldi from the Tigers and Dodgers, respectively. While we aren't going to see the returns from these deals so much this year, it won't be long before both Turner and Eovaldi are taking the mound regularly in Miami and pitching well for the Fish.

    However, what detracts from the Marlins' deadline success is the fact that early this month, Miami traded prospects Matt Dominguez and Rob Rasmussen to the Astros for Carlos Lee in an attempt to give the offense a boost. This deal was obviously a mistake and now only seems like the Marlins gave away those players for a three-week rental that they are now stuck with for the rest of the year.

    They made the decision to sell a little late, but it still seems to have worked out for the best.

    Grade: C+

Atlanta Braves

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    Things did not go exactly as planned for the Atlanta Braves at this year's trade deadline.

    First, it looked like they would make the first big splash when they agreed with the Chicago Cubs on a deal involving Ryan Dempster. However, Dempster took his time deciding on whether or not he would accept the deal, and his final verdict did not favor the Braves. So the Braves were forced to try to find another pitcher to add into their rotation.

    The Braves wound up acquiring left-handed starter Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson from the Cubs in exchange for right-handers Arodys Vizcaino (currently on the DL after undergoing Tommy John Surgery) and Jaye Chapman.  

    Vizcaino is the real question here. If he returns from surgery and becomes the starting pitcher he has shown the potential to become, this deal could be an awful one for the Braves. If not, and he simply becomes a decent reliever, then this deal is worthwhile.

    Maholm is having a resurgent season in 2012, posting an impressive 9-7 record with a 3.74 ERA for an awful Cubs team. Moving from Wrigley Field and the Cubs offense to Turner Field and the Braves offense could do wonders for him, and that's likely exactly what Atlanta is gambling on.

    Johnson was just an add-on in this package, but could provide some decent outfield depth and a potent bat off the bench for the Braves.

    Grade: B-

Chicago White Sox

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    While not necessarily during trade deadline season (i.e. the last few weeks of July), the Chicago's first major trade came all the way back on June 24, when the White Sox acquired third baseman Kevin Youkilis from the Boston Red Sox for right-hander Zach Stewart and utility player Brent Lillibridge.  

    Boston was willing to give up Youkilis for very little return due to the fact that rookie Will Middlebrooks had been playing extremely well upon being called up to the majors, and the White Sox pounced on the opportunity. So far, it has really paid off.  

    But that was not the end of Chicago's moves as it approached the deadline.

    Astros closer Brett Myers was acquired by the White Sox for a few minor prospects and a player to be named later, shoring up the bullpen for Chicago. Myers can easily handle high-pressure situations late in ballgames, as evidenced by his 19-for-21 record in save opportunities this year.

    Finally, the White Sox pulled off a trade with their division rivals, the Minnesota Twins, for left-handed starter Francisco Liriano. Liriano has been very inconsistent over the course of his career and has struggled mightily this season, posting a 3-10 record with a 5.31 ERA. His strikeout numbers remain consistently high, at 109 over 100 innings this season, which is likely the reason Chicago took a chance on him.  

    They only gave up two minor leaguers to acquire him, making this a low-risk move meant to provide depth to a rotation that relies heavily on Chris Sale and Jake Peavy, neither of whom have recorded as many innings as they have at this point in the season in each of the past three years.  

    Overall, nothing special, but a decent trade deadline for the White Sox.

    Grade: B 

Texas Rangers

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    For awhile there, it actually looked like the Rangers would make it past the deadline only making a deal for Cubs catcher Geovany Soto. But, literally one minute before the 4:00 trade deadline, they swept in and stole Ryan Dempster to plug into their rotation.

    It seemed like a lock that the Los Angeles Dodgers would be the last ones standing at the end of the Dempster battle, but about 10 minutes before the deadline, it became apparent that a deal would not be struck between the clubs, leaving it between two last-minute entries to the sweepstakes, the Yankees and the Rangers.  

    With around three minutes left until the deadline, it was sure to be the Yankees.  

    When the clock struck 4:00, it was the Rangers. 2010 Cliff Lee deja vu all over again, huh?

    Dempster will definitely give the Rangers a boost down the stretch and into the playoffs, but he is not the ace that Texas was looking for. He has only been considered an ace-type in the NL for half of a season, and before 2012, he was a No. 4 starter in most rotations, at best.

    He definitely has a legitimate chance to flop with Texas, but in that respect, he also has a legitimate chance to dominate like he has all year. Dempster has not faced the majority of the AL hitters in anything other than interleague play, being an NL lifer. 

    The Rangers needed to do something, and only giving up RHP Kyle Hendricks and 3B Carlos Villanueva for Dempster makes the deal worthwhile, but this trade won't be enough to counter the Angels' trade for Greinke.  

    As usual, Texas will need to rely on its offense if they plan on making a third straight Fall Classic appearance.

    Grade: B

New York Yankees

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    The New York Yankees are well-known for their presence at deadlines past. That was why it was such a big surprise when the deadline came and went last year without any new players heading to the Bronx.

    This year, the Yankees reverted back to their old ways and made an early splash.

    Who would've thought that Ichiro Suzuki would ever be a Yankee? Leave the Mariners, the only franchise he has ever known, and even switch to left field to accommodate Nick Swisher? No way anyone saw that coming, but there's also no way anyone could argue how good a deal it was for the Yankees.

    I mean really, New York acquired one of baseball's all-time great hitters—albeit in a very down year—for almost nothing. All the Yankees sent the Mariners in return for the face of their franchise were RHP D.J. Mitchell and RHP Danny Farquhar, both of whom have been pretty bad this season and were in no way, shape or form in the Yankees' future plans for the ball club.

    At the very least, the Yankees have effectively replaced the speed factor that they lost with Brett Gardner's season-long injury struggles. Ichiro at this stage in his career is essentially the same player as Gardner, just maybe a bit slower.

    However, Ichiro has the ceiling that Gardner does not, with the ability to be a high-impact presence in the lineup if he can rediscover the swing that once led him to 10-straight 200-hit seasons.

    In a last-minute deadline deal, the Yankees also traded the recently acquired Chad Qualls to the Pirates in exchange for corner infielder Casey McGehee, who will help shoulder the load at third base with Eric Chavez in the absence of Alex Rodriguez.

    Grade: A-

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    I'd say it's safe to say that the Dodgers were by far the busiest team of the trade deadline. It seemed like they were in on just about every potential deal, but in the end, they wound up making three trades that could very well be difference-makers in their quest for an NL West crown.

    Their first deal was their biggest, and maybe the deal that this deadline will be remembered for. That was the trade that sent Nathan Eovaldi and minor league pitcher Scott McGough to the Miami Marlins in exchange for left-handed reliever Randy Choate, and yes, superstar third baseman/shortstop Hanley Ramirez.

    Yes, it is true that Hanley is not the same Hanley he was two or three years ago. His average is down, and he didn't seem happy having to move to third base to accommodate Jose Reyes in Miami, but now, it's a fresh start.

    Maybe the California living will agree with him and revitalize his promising career. If so, it's a fantastic trade for the Dodgers. Eovaldi was a decent pitcher for the Dodgers, but nothing that they couldn't replace internally.

    Second, Los Angeles picked up right-handed reliever Brandon League, a former closer, from Seattle for a couple prospects. While this appears like a minor deal, League has experienced various amounts of success in his career and could prove to be an invaluable piece of the LA bullpen. 

    Finally, the Dodgers acquired centerfielder Shane Victorino from the Phillies for reliever Josh Lindblom and prospect Ethan Martin. Strangely enough, Victorino originally came to Philly after the club claimed him in the Rule 5 Draft from—you guessed it—the Dodgers. So, full circle for Victorino, who has had a rough season for Philadelphia in 2012, but really, who hasn't?  

    Victorino will play left field and bat lead off for the Dodgers, joining Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to form one of the game's best outfields.

    So, in conclusion, the Dodgers were able to acquire four excellent players for very little in return, with only Eovaldi's absence likely to be felt the rest of the season.

    They may have missed out on Ryan Dempster, but with a rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Chris Capuano, Chad Billinglsey and Aaron Harang, they will likely be just fine.

    Grade: A-

San Francisco Giants

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    The San Francisco Giants are in the midst of a division race with the Los Angeles Dodgers that brings back flashes of the great 1951 campaign that ended with Bobby Thompson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" when a walk-off home run gave the then-New York Giants the pennant over the then-Brooklyn Dodgers.

    OK, I'll admit, that's a bit of an exaggeration. It's not that epic of a race just yet, but with all the deals between the two clubs, it very well could be. With the Dodgers being very active this deadline, and also very vocal about all of their plans, the Giants needed to counter with something big, and they did just that.  

    First came the small move, when San Fran acquired Marco Scutaro from the Rockies, giving them some infield help in a time when it is surely needed, as Pablo Sandoval was just recently placed on the DL. Scuatro is going to play every day, one way or another, as the rest of the Giants infield is questionable after Sandoval, once he returns.

    Brandon Crawford, Ryan Theriot, Brandon Belt and Aubrey Huff have all had their struggles at the plate this season, and Scutaro could play any infield position over them, other than first base, where Sandoval could shift to.

    The big move though, was that to acquire right fielder Hunter Pence from the Phillies. Pence will immediately displace Gregor Blanco in right, giving the Giants one of baseball's best outfields in combination with the surprising production of Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan this year.

    Pence will likely give Buster Posey some protection in the lineup, making their offense even more dangerous, and with the pitching rotation that San Francisco already possesses, adding this one bat could prove to be a huge difference-maker in the NL West.


Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    It turns out the Zack Greinke sweepstakes wasn't as much a move of necessity by the Angels as it was a move of prevention. You see, what was likely the prime motivation for the Angels to trade for Greinke was so that their division rivals, the Texas Rangers, could not acquire him themselves. And the Angels didn't even have to give up much in return, only forfeiting shortstop prospect Jean Segura and two Double-A pitching prospects.

    The Angels already had a trio of ace-type starters in the persons of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Dan Haren, so with the addition of Greinke, the Angels now have four aces. So while this move was initially made as a deterrent to the Rangers, it now makes the Angels an even more dangerous opponent in any playoff series.  

    The Greinke acquisition also greatly enhances their ability to work around a potential one-game wild card playoff, as they will be able to freely use Weaver to win the do-or-die contest, feeling comfortable starting either Greinke or Wilson in Game 1 of the ALDS, which would likely be against the New York Yankees and CC Sabathia.

    While it was Philadelphia's rotation that got all the hype last year, it should be Los Angeles —or Anaheim, if you prefer—that gets the hype this time, because this rotation turns them into a World Series favorite.

    Grade: A+ 

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    The Pittsburgh Pirates are without a doubt baseball's biggest surprise here in 2012. No one really expected much more than a third or fourth-place finish from the Bucs this year, with the Cardinals, Reds and Brewers looking like the real contenders in the NL Central.

    However, before a dominant 10-game winning streak by Cincinnati, it was Pittsburgh that led the division, and even now, the Pirates sit in a tie with the Atlanta Braves for the first Wild Card spot. The Pirates are for real in 2012, and they sure acted like it at the trade deadline.

    The first move made by the Pirates was probably the biggest, as they traded three prospects to the Astros in exchange for left-handed starter Wandy Rodriguez. The Pirates are what they are this year because of the starting pitchers that they have given a second chance to.

    A.J. Burnett, acquired from the Yankees as a salary dump after an awful tenure in the Bronx, and Erik Bedard, signed as a free agent over the offseason, have both been rotation fixtures, although it seems unlikely that Bedard will earn a spot on a potential postseason roster.  

    The Pirates rotation has been carried by Burnett and James McDonald and was really in desperate need of another reliable starter. Jeff Karstens has been good through nine starts this season, but after those three, it was Bedard and a question mark, as final rotation member Charlie Morton went down for the season, undergoing Tommy John surgery.

    Wandy would likely start Game 3 of any playoff series that the Pirates might play in, after McDonald and Burnett, so his addition is a very important one for Pittsburgh.

    The Pirates made three more trades on Tuesday right before the 4:00 deadline, acquiring right-hander Chad Qualls from the Yankees for corner infielder Casey McGehee, first baseman Gaby Sanchez from the Marlins for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and outfielder Travis Snider from the Blue Jays for right-hander Brad Lincoln. These are all actually excellent moves by the Pirates, upgrading at each spot which they traded from.

    Sanchez is an upgrade both offensively and defensively over McGehee, Snider is an upgrade offensively over Hernandez and Qualls is an upgrade over Lincoln as a former closer.

    Quietly, Pittsburgh GM Neil Huntington navigated the trade deadline masterfully and made some moves that will likely send his team to the postseason for the first time since 1992, possibly with their first ever NL Central title.

    Grade: A+