As much as we try our best to separate the wheat from the chaff here at HBT, we’re honestly still trying to get our bearings straight after cranking out over 110 posts in the past two days alone, the great majority of them being trade rumors. If you followed today’s deadline on Twitter, you should understand why that thing should come with a warning label for possible brain leakage.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t too early to take stock of what we’ve just witnessed over the past few weeks. Here’s a list of the top five teams that have improved themselves and five others who have left many of us scratching our heads.
Angels: This is an easy one for me. Sure, the Angels have lost seven out of their last 10 games and currently sit eight games out in the AL West and 12 1/2 games behind the Rays for the AL Wild Card, but acquiring Dan Haren from the Diamondbacks wasn’t just a move for this season. Haren earns a very reasonable $12.75 million in each of the next two seasons and has a $15.5 million club option for 2013. Somehow, Arte Moreno managed to swoop in, only giving up a back end starter (Joe Saunders) and two good-but-not great left-handed pitching prospects, all the while managing to keep top prospect outfielder Mike Trout. That, my friends, is a coup of the highest order.
Rangers: Isn’t this franchise supposed to be bankrupt or something? The Rangers are mostly here by virtue of trumping the Yankees and landing Cliff Lee from the Mariners. The left-hander immediately gives post-season legitimacy to a starting rotation that has managed to get by with unproven commodities like C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis. It’s a little tough to get too excited about Bengie Molina, Jorge Cantu and Cristian Guzman, but they certainly provide much-needed depth, if not an upgrade in some areas, and they barely have to pay a thin dime to any of them. Well done, Jon Daniels.
Phillies: I see the Roy Oswalt trade as an admission by Ruben Amaro Jr. that flipping Cliff Lee to the Mariners was a mistake. At the same time, he deserves a lot of credit for swallowing some pride to get this deal done. Most Phillies fans would surely rather have Halladay-Lee-Hamels-Blanton-
Yankees: We often say the rich get richer when talking about the Yankees, but in this case, I believe the rich just got a lot smarter. Lance Berkman is no Adam Dunn, not right now anyway, but he can be what Nick Johnson was supposed to be, an on-base machine against right-handed pitching (.395 on-base percentage this season, .423 on-base percentage vs. RHP career). It wasn’t the splashy move we have seen in the past and Joe Girardi may have to rest Berkman or Posada on occasion as he attempts to sort out the DH spot, but that’s a pretty nice problem to have. Austin Kearns provides more versatility as a right-handed bat off the bench than Marcus Thames and the upside on Kerry Wood is too high to pass up, especially with the Indians picking up nearly 60 percent of his remaining contract.
Pirates: I really think the Pirates deserve to be here. GM Neal Huntington managed to turn two months of Octavio Dotel and $500,000 into right-hander James McDonald and Andrew Lambo. Neither are sure things, obviously, but McDonald showed a lot of promise in the Dodgers’ bullpen last season, compiling a 2.72 ERA and 48 strikeouts over 49 2/3 innings. After getting jerked around between the starting rotation and the bullpen in Los Angeles, he should finally have an opportunity to pitch every fifth day in Pittsburgh. The Bucs also flipped some useful bullpen arms (D.J. Carrasco, Javier Lopez) and two unwanted players (Bobby Crosby, Ryan Church) for Chris Snyder and cash, John Bowker and prospect shortstop Pedro Ciriaco. No, I don’t think the Pirates have many wins in their immediate future, but there’s plenty of upside in this bunch.
Nationals: Sold high on Matt Capps and picked up Wilson Ramos, dropped a bit by not cashing in on Adam Dunn. That being said, there’s still time in August.
Padres: Big win acquiring Ryan Ludwick from the Cardinals, but lose some points if they think of using Miguel Tejada at shortstop on a regular basis.
Dodgers: Did well to pick up Ted Lilly, the best available pitcher on the market, but Ryan Theriot is already an obvious non-tender candidate. They gave up a little too much for Octavio Dotel.
White Sox: White Sox GM Ken Williams got played. Over the past two days, we heard plenty of hype about a big move — even inquiring about Manny Ramirez — but the only thing Williams was able to pull off was swapping top right-handed pitching prospect Daniel Hudson and top left-handed pitching prospect David Holmberg to the Diamondbacks for Edwin Jackson. It was widely reported that the Nationals love Jackson, but somehow, the two sides weren’t able to strike a deal for Adam Dunn. Now the White Sox are stuck with a guy who is a pretty decent middle-of-the-rotation starter, but will be a free agent after the 2011 season. Worse yet, KW failed to land a big bat.
Twins: Trading Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps is bonkers. Two days to think about it hasn’t changed my mind. I’m not saying that Capps isn’t a good bullpen arm. With his solid peripherals, he should prove very useful down the stretch. It’s just very obvious that Twins GM Bill Smith undersold on Ramos — who was having a poor season with Triple-A Rochester — and overrated the “save” stat in the process. He has also taken on someone who figures to get a hefty raise in arbitration this winter, and thus, becomes an obvious non-tender candidate for which the Twins will get nothing. No compensation. Nada. Have fun with that.
Giants: Much like the aforementioned White Sox, all we heard this month is that the Giants were in the market for a big bat. Corey Hart, Prince Fielder and Jose Bautista were just some of the exciting names being bandied about. So, who did they end up with? Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez, two decent-but-flawed bullpen arms. Don’t worry, Brian Sabean is paid to underwhelm. It won’t matter if the starting rotation continues to be brilliant (3.50 ERA – 2nd in MLB), if they can’t hang with the big boys on offense.
Cardinals: It was only a week ago that we were still thinking Roy Oswalt to the Cardinals had a reasonable chance of going down. That obviously didn’t happen. Just 24 hours ago, most Cardinals fans would have signed up for Jake Westbrook, but they would have had a decidedly different response if they knew they were giving up Ryan Ludwick in order to do it, especially to a team they might end up meeting in the postseason. Ultimately, this trade might not be remembered for what Westbrook does in a Cardinals uniform — I believe Dave Duncan could squeeze talent out of just about anyone — but for the production that Jon Jay and possibly Allen Craig will be able to provide in right field. Jay has been brilliant in spot duty with the Cards this season, but what happens when his .446 batting average on balls in play normalizes? For a team that doesn’t strike me as an offensive powerhouse, it’s a risk.
Rays: The Yankees are in first place at the moment, yet they continue to find ways to improve. The Rays? Well, they picked up Chad Qualls on Saturday. I’m not denying that they are a playoff team right now — they clearly are — but their designated hitter options have combined to hit just .246/.314/.380 with a 694 OPS this season. They are currently tied with the Mariners for dead last with just nine home runs out of the DH spot. It would have been one thing to acquire
Adam Dunn from the Nationals
, and I certainly heard plenty of clamoring for that, but even picking up a Luke Scott from the Orioles would have been a nice compliment to the in-house options, especially against right-handed pitching. A missed opportunity.
Astros: They deserve plenty of criticism for trading away two of the best players in franchise history and getting little in return — in fact, they even kicked in some money — but they were saved by picking up Brett Wallace for Anthony Gose, at least in my eyes. Wallace takes over first base from Berkman immediately and projects be a decent, if not above-average major league regular.
Diamondbacks: The return for Haren was pretty awful, no doubt about that, but they were about to acquire Daniel Hudson and David Holmberg from the White Sox for Edwin Jackson. Although, Jerry DiPoto may have Mike Rizzo to thank for that one.
Tigers: Another team, like the White Sox and Giants, in need of a big bat, yet they were only able to get Jhonny Peralta and his 722 OPS. That won’t get it done.