Brewers and Bucs win at Deadline
Yankees, Red Sox and Angels also come out as winners
The deals weren't numerous, but they certainly were notable. Plenty of big names changed hands in advance of the 2008 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but what stood out was how few smaller names moved. The usual barrage of moves for bench and bullpen help never materialized, even while stars such as Manny Ramirez, Mark Teixeira, Jason Bay, CC Sabathia, Ivan Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Rich Harden found new addresses.
Still, even with impact players moving around, it's not entirely clear just yet who made out well and who got fleeced. Here's an attempt to sort it out, based on what we know today.
Brewers: Remember this is winning in a trade, not on the field, so Milwaukee doesn't get docked for its fiasco of a series against the Cubs. The Brewers added the best player who changed hands this month. Even though they gave up a big-time prospect in Matt LaPorta, they didn't relinquish any of their other top prospects and they didn't really have a place for LaPorta.
In trading for Sabathia, the Brewers also did one of the most important things a buyer can do: They struck early. When you're making a deal for a rental, every extra game counts. CC Sabathia made five starts for Milwaukee before Manny Ramirez finally got his walking papers from Boston. In a National League playoff race that could be decided by a game or two, those starts matter a great deal. Additionally, Ray Durham was an excellent pickup at a low price for the Brew Crew -- if only someone would tell manager Ned Yost that Durham is on the roster.
Angels: Is this really the same team we're used to seeing? The Angels acted aggressively and wisely in upgrading an offense that needed a lift, and they did it by sending two players to Atlanta that they'll never miss. Casey Kotchman is a fine player, but is replacable, and Stephen Marek is intriguing, but far from a sure thing. Mark Teixeira, however, makes Mike Scioscia's lineup much tougher to pitch to by adding both power and on-base ability. Beware the Halos come October.
Yankees: New York gave up a rather promising player, Jose Tabata, as part of the package for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte, but the Yanks had holes that needed to be filled. The better move for Brian Cashman, though, was to jettison Kyle Farnsworth in order to achieve an upgrade at catcher. Ivan Rodriguez certainly isn't the player he used to be, but compared to Jose Molina, he's a massive upgrade.
Red Sox: It's a modest win for the Red Sox, since they gave up two very good prospects, and they didn't address their desire for bullpen help. But they turned two months of a headache (Manny Ramirez) into a year and two months of a similarly productive player (Jason Bay), minus the headache.
Cubs: This is just about the definition of a good deadline deal. Chicago acquired a big-time player (albeit a risky one who still isn't guaranteed to stay healthy till October). The Cubs, like the Brewers, struck early to maximize the value of their new acquisition. They gave up a significant number of interesting players, but not a single one who really looks like a big-time, difference-making player in the Major Leagues. And, to top it off, they got a useful spare part as a throw-in, picking up Chad Gaudin along with Harden.
Rays: Actually, the Rays are more a losing would-be buyer, since they didn't actually buy. But that's the problem. A team with a need for a bat and starting pitching to burn simply couldn't make a deal, despite furious efforts. The Rays' window isn't closing in the same sense that the Brewers' might be, but Tampa Bay had a tremendous opportunity to strengthen an already strong team without doing noticeable damage to a very deep farm system. Jason Bay would have been a huge help to this team, but they couldn't quite pull the trigger.
Dodgers: Is Manny Ramirez still a great hitter? Sure. But he's also in decline. He's definitely not the hitter he once was, even two years ago. But Ramirez isn't the problem here -- it's what the Dodgers gave up, and whose at-bats Ramirez will take. The Dodgers have already marginalized their two truly unproductive outfielders, Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones. If that's the case, Ramirez may eat into the playing time of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, and it's not all that clear that he's a drastic upgrade over Ethier, or even a noticeable upgrade over Kemp. Throw in the fact that Andy LaRoche is a very promising young player, and the Dodgers are going to have to play deep into October for this one to look good.
Pirates: Perhaps the tide is turning in Pittsburgh. In past years, the Bucs showed a distressing unwillingness to shed their veteran assets at the Deadline. The new regime, however, had no compunction. The Pirates got a high-ceiling player and some useful bodies in their trade with the Yankees, and then brought in four very interesting players in Thursday's blockbuster. Pirates fans are undeniably tired of waiting on rebuilding efforts, but this one looks like it actually has some steam.
Several: A number of teams overplayed their hands on Thursday and ended up with nothing. Teams like the Orioles, Royals, Giants and Padres should have been looking ahead to 2009 and beyond. Perhaps they were. But by refusing to budge, most of these teams hurt themselves. It sounds as though the asking prices for spare parts were far too high for most buyers, so the usual flurry of relievers and bench players didn't change locations on Thursday. That's part of the reason a second-division team signs veterans: Bolster the farm system by trading them at the Deadline.
Nationals: Washington gets a separate mention here for a combination of action and inaction. The Nats moved Jon Rauch, one of the few relievers who might have commanded a significant bounty, for Emilio Bonifacio, an infielder who is much more tools than performance at this point. Whereas it was unwise for Kansas City to ask too much for Ron Mahay, Washington should have been able to get more for Rauch. The Nationals then sat on their hands with the rest of their potential trade chips, meaning they missed chances to get better in two different ways.
Cardinals, Phillies, Mets: There's little doubt that all three of these teams need relief help, but the above-mentioned sellers never dropped their prices enough for things to make sense. However, a lefty reliever is often the kind of thing you can find in August, so the dealing may not be done.
White Sox: The White Sox have a lot of moving parts here, so it remains to be seen how exactly it all plays out. Playing Griffey in center field, which the Sox say they will do, significantly weakens the club's outfield defense while providing a modest offensive upgrade. Every at-bat Griffey takes away from Paul Konerko helps the Sox, but this situation is going to require a deft touch from manager Ozzie Guillen.
Astros: Give them credit for optimism. A club clearly out of the race steadfastly refused to admit the obvious, and went into buying mode. It's not as though Houston gave up a great deal for Latroy Hawkins or Randy Wolf, so you can't really call them a loser. But it's hard to figure out why in the world they added two rental veterans to a team that simply isn't going anywhere this year, and that probably needs to be radically made over before it contends again.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.