There’s no deadline quite like the one around Major League Baseball’s free trade stop date. The run up to 4:00 p.m. on MLB trade deadline day is like a month of free agency all rolled into one. It’s all of the drama of the offseason rolled into a few weeks. A whirlpool of bad contracts, guys that are due for raises their teams can’t afford and the pawning off of pieces from lost seasons becomes a hysteria of player movement. And this year’s deadline was among the most complete of many, many years when it comes to showcasing everything that makes the deadline what it is.
With the newly expanded postseason, the pressure to to make a club better any way was immense. With more clubs in the race, the willingness to concede by trading off talent took much longer to materialize than in years past. However, when the ball got rolling, it was like a boulder on a hill. The landslide of deals ranged from blockbuster adds to completely wholesale sellers, and all touched in some very surprising areas.
But with any such scramble to outdo the competition, there were winners, losers and some that got left in neutral. At any rate, save for a few waiver season trades that can be proposed, but ultimately blocked by other clubs, this is how every team will look for the drive to the postseason. And here is who made out the best, who may have been hurdled and who is going to wish they did more in a few months.
Los Angeles Angels: The Anaheim-based L.A. squad (still figuring that out) has become home to the blockbuster deal. After a winter of jumping out of the blue to snatch Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, they continued to cut no corners to land the absolute biggest impact players available every time the market opens up. Their strong move to land Zack Greinke from the Milwaukee Brewers landed them the best pitcher available and put a fourth All-Star caliber starter in their rotation. They jumped in the race late and outbid their chief rivals in the Texas Rangers to get a leg up in pushing to be the best club standing in the West.
Chicago Cubs: They didn’t add anybody that will make a difference in the position of the club, but that was the point. In unloading Ryan Dempster, Geovany Soto and Reed Johnson, they dumped salary, got back young talent (the club’s main focus) and opened up space to promote prospects and move along Theo Epstein’s rebuilding goal. Now if only they can dump Alfonso Soriano too …
Pittsburgh Pirates: These next two statements are the oddest things I’ve ever written about baseball: The Pirates front office worked up a masterpiece at the trade deadline. And in doing so Pittsburgh showed that it is without a doubt in it to win right now. See how weird that was? However, in landing Wandy Rodriguez, the Pirates bumped their rotation up a notch to the level of the Cardinals and Reds. By making moves for Travis Snider and Gaby Sanchez, two buy-low, high-payout Major League ready candidates joined the team to make its future even better.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Nobody added more big names in the last week than the Dodgers. Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino were added without losing any of the team’s top minor leaguers, and now the offense is protected from collapsing from any future returns to the DL by Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier. However, they did not address their pitching staff with any of the top arms on the market like the goal was entering the deadline. Time will tell if it was fluff or actual filler.
Texas Rangers: Injury and underperformance have decimated the Rangers pitching staff, as they lost Neftali Feliz and Colby Lewis for the season in the last two weeks. But while the walls crumbled, a failure to lose patience served them well. In the end, they waited out the Cubs until the last second for Ryan Dempster, and ultimately they added the arm they needed without taking on a huge long-term salary or digging into their top minor league stars, two things they cannot afford to risk.
Atlanta Braves: The Braves added a controlled and quality arm in Paul Maholm, but it’s a far cry from a big-impact add that Ryan Dempster would have been. After that deal collapsed, the Braves got stuck in a holding pattern and behind the ball trying to round out their rotation, and didn’t get the over-the-top addition they aimed for in either Dempster or Greinke.
Cincinnati Reds: Their biggest need was a boost in the leadoff spot, as well as another outfielder for depth. They walked away with neither, and with a fully retooled Pirates squad as well as a finally healthy Cardinals team bearing down on them, their lead in the NL Central could be compromised.
Baltimore Orioles: If there was a team that needed to make an addition more than the O’s, I don’t know who it was. After seemingly having 50 losing seasons in the last 15, they’ve hung on in the AL East and are within landing distance of a Wild Card spot. However, they couldn’t land a much-needed arm in either the rotation or the bullpen. Add in the Rays, Red Sox and Blue Jays directly bearing down on them and this could be a huge failure to act for both this postseason and stopping that losing season streak.
St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals are a tough call on whether they could have done more or ultimately did too little. They made a minor addition in middle reliever Edward Mujica from Miami, but it is still a tough call about whether they have enough to cut down on the Pirates and the Reds, or if they still need more to make it really interesting in the NL Central.
Philadelphia Phillies: Are they rebuilding or just taking out the trash? On one half of the team, they spent $144 million to keep Cole Hamels in town, while on the other side, they traded off two of their only reliably healthy offensive contributors in Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence. They could just be freeing up money to spend in the fall, or perhaps they’re resigning to the fact that what they have isn’t enough and there’s no difference with or without them. At any rate, it’s an odd message they sent in the last week.
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