Breaking down the most recent baseball trades
Last season the most impactful trades didn’t seem that impressive when they were announced. But the additions of Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro by San Francisco shifted the balance of power toward the Giants in the NL West and eventually led to a World Series championship. Often it’s the little things that seem to matter most, like solid defense, eating innings and clubhouse unity.
The frenzy at the trade deadline last Wednesday never really materialized, but there were a handful of significant trades over the past few weeks that could affect the 2013 pennant races.
Boston Red Sox
The Sox weren’t shy about giving up some prospects, but were steadfast in holding on to rising star Xander Bogaerts, a 20-year-old shortstop expected to contribute next season. Boston acquired a major addition to the rotation with Jake Peavy. The former Cy Young winner usually keeps his teams in games and logs innings, taking pressure off the bullpen. He has some health questions, and the likelihood that he could miss some starts is higher than the Sox would like. But if he makes 10 starts for Boston, the Red Sox are much more likely to fend off Tampa Bay and Baltimore. Matt Thornton, acquired from the Chicago White Sox in a separate deal, deepens the Red Sox bullpen.
With the impending suspension of shortstop Jhonny Peralta, the Tigers took a preemptive strike in trading for Jose Iglesias from Boston. The defensive whiz will immediately upgrade the Tigers’ defense up the middle, and the former Cuban star hasn’t been too shabby with the bat. Detroit has enough offense to withstand the loss of Peralta’s bat, and Iglesias improves the defense. Avisail Garcia is a rising star, but the Tigers need to ensure their position in the playoffs this season, so this deal makes a ton of sense. Other than the Peralta potential situation, the Tigers’ glaring need all season has been bullpen help. Problem solved with the addition of Jose Veras from Houston. Veras has been the lone bright spot in Houston this season with 19 saves.
Like their brethren on the South Side, the Cubs aren’t expecting to seriously contend this season or next. So the Cubs are building their farm system with an eye toward sustaining success through the second half of this decade. The Cubs’ return for Scott Feldman and Matt Garza brought good value for the future, and they were able to unload Carlos Marmol and Alfonso Soriano.
Chicago White Sox
Clearly the White Sox are not going anywhere in 2013, and with an aging roster and the rise of Cleveland and Kansas City, even 2014 may not hold high hopes. So stocking the system with players like Garcia, who should be immediately useful in the big leagues, and prospects Francelis Montas, a 20-year-old flamethrower, J.B. Wendelken, another highly touted pitcher, and infielder Cleuluis Rondon, the White Sox have a brighter future than they did a few days ago. Brandon Jacobs was acquired from Boston in the Thornton deal earlier.
The season is quickly slipping away from the D-Men. I had the Diamondbacks in the Jake Peavy pool, so that didn’t work out too well. The pitching staff is not too bad, especially if Trevor Cahill can come back and be productive soon. Left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher was acquired from San Diego along with minor leaguer Matt Stites, a closer at Double-A, for Ian Kennedy. While this helps the bullpen, offensively the D-backs need lots of help. Paul Goldschmidt has twice as many homers and RBIs as any teammate. He must have some help. Arizona did not improve its roster enough to come back and catch the Dodgers.
The acquisitions of Scott Feldman and Bud Norris boost the rotation, and Francisco Rodriguez adds experienced depth to the bullpen, but the club really could use some pop at DH and protection for Chris Davis. The Orioles are 0-for-11 after an intentional walk to Davis, and don’t think teams don’t notice trends like that. The slugger will be avoided more and more as the season goes along. If rookie Henry Urrutia can fill that role as DH/Davis protector, then the Orioles will have played their hand well. If not, Buck Showlater will be left wishing he had a few more weapons in his arsenal.
Reports that the Rangers were willing to listen on any player speak to how desperate the team is to improve its offense, especially in light of the impending suspension of right fielder and best run producer Nelson Cruz. The team's slugging percentage dropped to .362 in June. The acquisition of Matt Garza gives the Rangers a respectable 1-2-3 punch with Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Garza. But the Rangers need offense badly, and that’s with Cruz in the lineup.
With Andrew McCutchen warming up and Pedro Alvarez finally becoming the power threat the Pirates envisioned when they made him the No. 2 overall selection in 2006, the offense is not bad. But for the season the Bucs are batting just .243 with a .390 slugging percentage. A hitter like Justin Morneau or even Marlon Byrd could have been helpful. But the biggest problem could be the bullpen. Clint Hurdle’s plan was working perfectly with Mark Melancon setting up closer Jason Grilli, who was near perfect. But with Grilli out for what could be an extended time, all the roles have shifted and Pittsburgh may begin to let a few close games slip away without additional help.
New York Yankees
With the Orioles adding two starting pitchers and Francisco Rodriguez, the Red Sox bolstering their rotation and even the Rays strengthening their bullpen, the Yankees didn’t do much to address some dire needs. Yes, bringing Alfonso Soriano back was a positive step, but there was nothing done to beef up the pitching staff or find a right-handed hitting first baseman, to say nothing of the gaping hole at third base. The Yankees have gotten just five home runs from the hot corner this season, or the same number the Cubs have gotten from their pitching staff.