|Francisco Liriano can help shore up the White Sox rotation. (US Presswire)|
From Branch Rickey to Popeye's friend Wimpy offering to pay Tuesday for a hamburger today, we've been making trades since Adam and Eve were first playing stickball. But only at this year's trade deadline did people mistakenly think Hanley Ramirez was being dealt for Dracula, given the vampire-hour of that particular blockbuster.
Sorting through the used cell phone minutes win, lose and draw. ...
State of California: Last year was the first time since 1999 that none of the five California teams played in the postseason. This July, with the Dodgers, Giants, Angels and Athletics contending, it was as if someone tilted the country so the best trade chips could roll west. Zack Greinke (Angels), Hanley Ramirez (Dodgers), Shane Victorino (Dodgers), Hunter Pence (Giants) all rolled into the Land of Fruits and Nuts and Playoff Potentials.
Angels: First-year GM Jerry Dipoto hit it out of the park again, as he did with Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson last winter: Greinke was the biggest single impact player available, and the Angels boxed out AL West rival Texas to get him.
Dodgers: Aiming for "spectacular," the Dodgers landed at simply "great" at the trade deadline. They didn't get the starting pitcher they wanted when the Ryan Dempster Trade Circus failed to make a tour stop at Dodger Stadium, but GM Ned Colletti adding Ramirez to Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in the middle of the lineup was stellar. Victorino isn't the player he used to be, but with Juan Rivera and Bobby Abreu clomping around in left field like a herd of elephants, his athleticism makes the Dodgers better. Brandon League adds bullpen depth. Now, having failed to land a starter, Chad Billingsley must step up. Where have we heard that one before?
Giants: They addressed their biggest issue, adding a hitter, in acquiring Hunter Pence from the Phillies. Marco Scutaro will help the infield. Brian Sabean doesn't get the national props he should because he isn't out there schmoozing with the media, but there is a reason he's got more seniority than any other NL GM. Pence this year, Carlos Beltran last July, grabbing Cody Ross off of waivers in August, 2010 ... the guy can deal.
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White Sox: They addressed three significant issues in adding third baseman Kevin Youkilis just before the All-Star break, reliever Brett Myers and starter Francisco Liriano. Kenny Williams has developed deep trust from his players ... and this year, they from him.
Tigers: It's on in the AL Central. Question is, does Anibal Sanchez become this year's Doug Fister in Detroit? Two years in a row Dave Dombrowski has acquired rotation help for the stretch run. Though the Tigers didn't add the hitter they hoped to get, they did improve their club in two areas -- rotation, and second base (Omar Infante).
Mariners: Dealing Ichiro Suzuki before his free agency this winter was like a pocket of crystal clean air moving in off of Puget Sound. Ichiro no longer fit, but he was going to dominate the offseason. And, GM Jack Zduriencik hung onto Felix Hernadnez after approximately 2,300 more rumors that The King might be traded. Good for him.
Astros: Trader Jeff Luhnow is an absolute maniac on the telephone, we've sure learned that (and we mean it in the best way). Has to be, he did something the Astros of the past couple of years couldn't to, addressing a situation that had them paralyzed: He dealt Wandy Rodriguez ... and Brett Myers ... and Carlos Lee ... and J.A. Happ ... and Brandon Lyon. Not one of them, all of 'em. Then he dealt third baseman Chris Johnson. And he got 13 prospects in return, plus two players to be named later. The Astros are so awful you can barely look at them. But mark it down: The turnaround began in earnest in July, 2012.
Pirates: The treasure map led to two hitters who will help down the stretch in Travis Snider and Gaby Sanchez plus a starting pitcher in Wandy Rodriguez, and the Bucs were able to hold tight to all of their top prospects.
Padres: New ownership is on deck (the Ron Fowler group), which led to the re-signing of Carlos Quentin and closer Huston Street and the retaining of third baseman Chase Headley. They still need far better players. But hey, it looks like the days of being sabotaged by their own owner are a thing of the past. Don't let the Petco Park door hit you on the way out, John Moores.
Ryan Dempster: He nixed a deal to the Braves while attempting to direct himself to Los Angeles ... and never came within hitchhiking distance of Southern California. He accomplished part of his goal in landing with a team who will win, the Rangers. But now he's got to pitch in the American League for the first time in his life. Worse, he'll be pitching in a Texas park that will grow his ERA bigger than they grow their ten gallon hats. Without Nolan Ryan stuff, good luck with that. Just ask Roy Oswalt.
Marlins: An unmitigated disaster, not only did the Marlins go from swinging for the fences last winter to becoming sellers in July ... they still thought they were buyers as recently as three weeks ago when they acquired chubby, overpriced Carlos Lee. They dumped Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez and others, hung a For Sale sign on Josh Johnson and tried and failed to deal Lee over the past few days. Biggest mystery in baseball is how owner Jeffrey Loria and club president David Samson look their South Florida customers in the face.
Cubs: Hamstrung when Dempster nixed last week's proposed deal to Atlanta, the Cubs lost leverage and couldn't convince the Dodgers to part with either one of two desired young pitchers, Zach Lee or Allen Webster. So they wound up with two Class A prospects from the Rangers, who help restock the fallow Chicago farm system but are not close to the majors. The Cubs scrambled with Atlanta on Plan B and dealt lefty Paul Maholm to the Braves, but they didn't get young starter Randall Delgado in return (he would have come back in the Dempster deal). The Cubs did land highly regarded prospect Arodys Vizcaino, 21 and recovering from Tommy John ligament transfer surgery, from the Braves for Maholm. Matt Garza came up lame at the deadline and the Cubs didn't move him, nor could they move Alfonso Soriano. It all just reinforced that in rebuilding the Cubs, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are finding no shortcuts. Three years from now, we may revisit this trade deadline and declare the Cubs winners. But those are long odds looking into the future. And for today, it didn't go well for them.
Phillies: They re-signed Cole Hamels ... but at a much higher cost ($144 million) than had they figured it out last winter. They started a rebuilding/retooling (call it what you want) process too late and still don't know for sure where it's going. They've got too much money committed to too many wrong players next year. They were forced to acknowledge that their five-year reign of NL East titles is over, yet in attempting to re-tool, because they waited too long and had to spend most of their time on Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence, they couldn't even trade starter Joe Blanton.
Orioles: In need of pitching, they couldn't even trade for Joe Blanton.
Athletics: Had they moved earlier, they probably would have landed Hanley Ramirez before the Dodgers got him. As it is, they added no offensive help -- not even Stephen Drew from Arizona -- and watched the Rangers and the Angels get stronger. The flip side is, maybe all those Oakland rookies remain so energetic they won't even notice the front office did nothing to help.
Diamondbacks: The trade deadline practically overheated on the last day with news that GM Kevin Towers was looking to accomplish something heavy ... and then, poof. Nothing. Good move in adding third baseman Chris Johnson, but the Snakes wanted a big-name pitcher, they clearly wanted to move Stephen Drew, they floated Justin Upton ... and it remained desert quiet. Meantime, the Giants and Dodgers both significantly upgraded.
Rockies: Terrible season. Awful team. None of their players in demand. They couldn't even trade closer Rafael Betancourt, and listen, Jonathan Sanchez is no upgrade over Jeremy Guthrie. Ugh.
Cardinals: They talked starting pitchers and investigated the Rays' James Shields and the Twins' Francisco Liriano ... and all they wound up with was reliever Edward Mujica from the Marlins. In light of this year's quiet deadline, it's worth remembering that St. Louis' activity last July -- adding shortstop Rafael Furcal, reliever Octavio Dotel and starter Edwin Jackson -- pointed them to Comeback Trail and their stunning World Series title.
Red Sox: Stuck in that purgatory between selling and buying, the Red Sox were hoping to make a bold move and did the opposite. They didn't deal Josh Beckett, they dealt Lars Anderson and Matt Albers. Yawn. Whatever happened to gutsy trade deadline calls, like arranging a three-way deal to ship Nomar Garciaparra out of town?
Royals: They tried to acquire an established starting pitcher and failed. They admitted the Jonathan Sanchez mistake by dealing him to Colorado for Jeremy Guthrie, another problem child. They really didn't want to deal Jonathan Broxton for minor leaguers but did it anyway. Their goal was to get a running start on 2013, but they didn't.
Twins: A bad team desperate to infuse its minor-league system with young starting pitchers -- a process that did not start in earnest at this trade deadline. The Liriano haul netted lefty pitching prospect Pedro Hernandez and a minor-league infielder. The Twins apparently will be fielding trade inquiries about Denard Span well into 2014.
Mets: They fell from contention a little too early to be a buyer. So they were caught betwixt and between and wound up holding onto Scott Hairston, who could have been a valuable chip in dealing with a contender. Mistake.
Rangers: Their goal all along was to do one of two things: Either acquire a slam-dunk difference maker, or add some bench help. They set out after a Hamels, Greinke, Shields or even Josh Johnson or -- gulp -- Cliff Lee. They wound up with Dempster, who adds another layer to their rotation but is not the upgrade Greinke is for AL West rival Los Angeles.
Reds: Where's the leadoff man? Cincinnati tried to get Victorino or Span, and it's easy to see why: Their leadoff hitters rank 30th in the major leagues in on-base percentage and batting average, and even during their recent 10-game winning streak, Reds leadoff hitters checked in with a .213 OBP. Failing in their effort to find a top-of-the-order guy, the Reds opted to make a strength even stronger: Broxton, who will be used as a set-up man for Aroldis Chapman, adds depth to a bullpen with the lowest ERA (2.53) and most victories (20) in the majors.
Braves: They did not get their first choice. Dempster made sure of that when he nixed a proposed deal between the Cubs and Atlanta. But Frank Wren and Co. nicely regrouped in landing Paul Maholm. The Braves' starters' ERA (4.19) ranks 13th in the NL, while Washington's (3.13) is first. There's your difference between the first-place Nationals and the second-place Braves, who stand 3 1/2 back.
Brewers: They made a good -- not great -- deal for Greinke in landing three of the Angels' top nine prospects as ranked by Baseball America. Shortstop Jean Segura and two Double-A right-handers, Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena. But Francisco Rodriguez imploded so badly they couldn't trade him, nor did they deal third baseman Aramis Ramirez. No interest in Randy Wolf, either.
Blue Jays: Lots and lots of talk, a huge need for pitching ... and all they wound up doing was acquiring relievers Brad Lincoln (Pirates) and Steve Delabar (Mariners). GM Alex Anthopoulos is aggressive, and the Jays were rumored to be in on Justin Morneau (Twins), Garza, Johnson and Shields, among others, and pulled the trigger on none of those deals. Still, there is hesitation in putting Toronto into the "loser" category because the timing isn't quite right yet for a no-holds barred major deal. With as many starters injured as Toronto currently has, building for 2013 remains more realistic than building for this October.
Indians: The time isn't right for Cleveland to step up yet, either. Though they were hanging with the White Sox and Tigers during the season's first three months, the Indians are just not as good yet as either of those two clubs. You can argue the Indians should have dealt Shin-Soo Choo, but maybe they get more for him this winter.
Nationals: No desperate needs here, so there's little to critique in their deadline dealings. They could have added a starting pitcher given that Stephen Strasburg likely will be shut down sometime in September, but again, no significant need.
Yankees: The 2012 model Ichiro Suzuki isn't Ichiro in his prime, but all the Yanks need him to be is a suitable replacement for Brett Gardner. Casey McGehee isn't overly exciting, but he works well as injury insurance. Nothing gaudy, but solid.
Rays: Yeah, there was lots of talk around Shields, but if Evan Longoria comes back and hits in the second half, Tampa couldn't deal him. It would have been ludicrous, especially given the fact that all you have to do is look back to last September for a recent display of the Rays' comeback acumen. The Rays are close enough in the wild-card hunt that standing pat makes far more sense than dealing Shields.