July 31, 2007
Early returns from the trade deadline show two clear winners and a pair of teams in Los Angeles whose inability to swing a deal does not bode well.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers.
• Atlanta Braves: The Braves got one of baseball's best hitters in Mark Teixeira, a left-handed reliever in Ron Mahay and the second-best relief pitcher on the market in Octavio Dotel. Yes, they mortgaged quite a bit – Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus and Matt Harrison, all of whom went to Texas, were their Nos. 1-3 prospects on Baseball America's preseason list – but general manager John Schuerholz trusts his scouts to restock the minor leagues. And with the National League up for grabs, the Braves jumped in to take it.
• Boston Red Sox: GM Theo Epstein never budged when Texas asked for Clay Buchholz or Jacoby Ellsbury, and the Red Sox still ended up with the best reliever out there, Eric Gagne. Kason Gabbard and David Murphy didn't have much of a future with Boston, and 17-year-old outfielder Engel Beltre is at least four years away. Isn't it funny to think back to spring training, when Boston was worried about its bullpen and Joel Pineiro was slated to close? How's this for the seventh, eighth and ninth: Manny Delcarmen, Hideki Okajima, Gagne and Jonathan Papelbon.
• Texas Rangers: Maybe Jon Daniels would have been better served focusing on one big prospect for Gagne instead of his three-player haul. And perhaps he could have gotten more than one big-league-ready player for Teixeira and Mahay. Both are just picking nits. Daniels turned around a bereft farm system over a whirlwind 24 hours, and while that might not be enough to save his job over the next year or two, it could leave his incumbent sitting pretty.
• New York Yankees: Complain away, Yankees fans, about Boston acquiring Gagne. Just know that GM Brian Cashman has better sense than to deal any of the Yankees' young starters when their rotation is full of pitchers who will be playing shuffleboard in a year or two. Getting Wilson Betemit before Alex Rodriguez opts out of his contract was a good buy, even if it does mean the Yankees must rely on Kyle Farnsworth or Joba Chamberlain in the late innings.
• San Diego Padres: Over the last month, GM Kevin Towers has remade a team that was already rather good. In getting Rob Mackowiak (who, since June 29, has the major leagues' fifth-best batting average at .403) and Morgan Ensberg on Tuesday, the Padres added depth to complement the earlier acquisitions of Milton Bradley and Michael Barrett for pennies on dollar. To boost the presence while balancing the future (by trading Scott Linebrink for three pitching prospects), Towers toed the gentle line between overindulgence and passivity.
• Los Angeles: The Dodgers and Angels both needed a bat in the middle of their lineups. The Dodgers and Angels still need a bat in the middle of their lineups. Their eagerness to hold onto prospects is admirable, certainly, but there comes a point at which their gunshy nature – particularly the Angels' – becomes a detriment. The Angels have the pitching to win the AL West, maybe even the pennant. But that lineup just won't do it.
• The Gagne whiffs: Condolences to Seattle, Milwaukee, Detroit and the New York Mets, whose fans will cringe at every lead from hereon blown in the eighth inning.
• Houston Astros: Acquiring Ty Wigginton for Dan Wheeler set the standard for this deadline. The Astros blew it by holding onto Mark Loretta and Mike Lamb, seeing as their farm system is among baseball's worst.
• Chicago White Sox: The asking price proved too high for outfielder Jermaine Dye, leaving the White Sox empty-handed. Though they still could move Jose Contreras, who likely will pass through waivers, Chicago had a chance to reap good value from either Jon Garland (for Edgar Renteria) or Javier Vazquez and chose not to.
• Pittsburgh Pirates: Matt Morris? Really? Unless the Pirates plan to sneak him through waivers and spin him to another team, they inherit his $9.5 million salary next season. And even in a market that overpays pitchers, that's too much for someone who has allowed 162 hits in 136 2/3 innings.