COMMENTARY | The MLB trade deadline comes every season like Christmas in July, bringing with it the promise of making good teams great and turning borderline teams into potential playoff party crashers.
The July 31 stop on the calendar is generally fraught with player movement, and this season was no different. In the case of the Atlanta Braves, the NL East frontrunner was able to shore up some key areas for the stretch run.
Where did they fall on the list of winners and losers at the deadline?
Not every trading deadline is won by contending teams looking to bolster their roster for a World Series push. Sometimes, the sellers are the ones who actually come out ahead.
The Lovable Losers have certainly waved the white flag on the 2013 season, but their deadline moves have helped make sure the Cubbies will be relevant very soon. Chicago traded starting pitchers Matt Garza and Scott Feldman, along with salary albatross Alfonso Soriano and white-knuckle closer Carlos Marmol in an attempt to get younger and shed high-priced contracts. All in all, the Cubs brought back eight new prospects for their veteran talent, including Texas Rangers standout third baseman Mike Olt.
What may get lost in these deals are some very shrewd moves the Cubs pulled off to make themselves a player in the international market. On top of the prospects it brought back, Chicago also added four additional international bonus pool slots. Every club is allowed $2.9 million per season to hand out to international players, however, the Cubs' moves will add more to their available dollar amount to try and help them corner the global market.
The splash made from the Braves' cannonball into the trading pool was small but significant. The Braves traded right-handed prospect Cory Rasmus to the Los Angles Angels in exchange for veteran lefty setup man Scott Downs.
Despite Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters being unable to outrun the icy grip of the injury bug, the Atlanta 'pen has been resilient. The Braves' relievers have the best ERA in baseball, and Craig Kimbrel has not skipped a beat by saving 31 of his first 34 opportunities. Still, continually having to rely on only one left-handed reliever made adding another southpaw a no-brainer.
Downs fits exactly what Atlanta was looking for at the deadline, and it did not have to mortgage its future to get it. In 43 appearances with the Angels this season, Downs recorded 18 holds, a 1.84 ERA and held left-handed hitters to a minuscule .196 batting average.
The Fighting Showalters are battling for their playoff lives in a very competitive AL East division. With the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox both making moves at the deadline, Baltimore was in a position in which it too needed to make some noise. With the No. 12-ranked starting staff in the American League, the Orioles' main need was to add another piece to their rotation. They previously traded Jake Arrieta to the Cubs for Scott Feldman, but the ex-Chicago right-hander has not quite been the answer they were hoping for after tallying a 5.12 ERA in his first five starts with the O's.
Norris, 28, is a hard-throwing righty who amassed a 3.93 ERA for the Astros in 21 starts this season.
Arizona moved underachieving starting pitcher Ian Kennedy to the San Diego Padres for left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher, minor-league pitcher Matt Stites and a future draft pick. Kennedy was a CY Young candidate in 2011, but he has gone 3-8 with a 5.23 ERA in 21 starts this season.
Thanks to the Yasiel Puig-led renaissance going on in Los Angeles, the Diamondbacks suddenly find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture. Since the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates have all but locked up playoff bids, the D-Backs know the most likely road to the postseason will be via winning the National League West division.
The addition of Thatcher will help solidify a bullpen ranked No. 5 in the NL, but one that had only a single left-handed reliever (Tony Sipp) prior to this move. Sipp has tallied a 4.06 ERA in 46 appearances out of the 'pen, however, the southpaw actually has worse numbers against left-handed hitters than he does against righties. Thatcher brings a 2.10 ERA and a .215 average vs. lefties to the desert to help in Arizona's quest to catch the Dodgers.
The Phillies are now learning the harsh realities of trying to chase a World Series title with bad contracts. Thanks to the overstuffed deals handed out to Michael Young, Jonathan Papelbon, Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard and Cliff Lee, the Phillies have the third-highest payroll in baseball, yet they have only been able to hover in the middle of the pack in the NL East division.
The ideal situation for Philadelphia would have been to unload the veteran bloat of Young or Lee to a contender willing to take on some high-priced veterans for a chance at a ring. Instead, Philadelphia has insured that it will be facing a similar situation in years to come as the Phillies attempt to dig their way out, while the contracts of aging veterans continue to dump shovelfuls of dirt into their self-dug grave.
Love them or hate them, the Yankees continue to do everything they can to give their team a chance to contend for the big one every single season. Fans can abhor the Bronx Bombers' maniacal method of overpaying for veteran talent, but everyone secretly wishes his or her team had the willingness to improve personnel the way New York does.
To help reinforce their lineup, New York traded Class-A pitcher Corey Black to the Cubs in exchange for familiar free-swinging left fielder Alfonso Soriano. But the Yanks' No. 12-ranked AL offense was not the only concern they needed to address.
The biggest problem for New York has been the 4.01 ERA they have got from their starters, including a down-year 4.65 ERA from CC Sabathia. The Yankees also failed to improve third base in the wake of speculation that A-Rod will face some type of suspension. Michael Young was out their waiting for them -- even going so far as publicly confirming he would waive his no-trade clause to play in the Big Apple --but the Yanks did not bite.
Boston Red Sox
After adding Jake Peavy to a rotation that already includes Ryan Dempster and John Lackey, Boston is building quite the starting staff -- if this was 2007. Although having Peavy trade in his "white sox" for red ones is not necessarily a bad move, the additional two years and $19.5 million still owed to the often-injured right-hander is just a drop in the bucket for a team that already has a $158.97 million payroll. The BoSox were forced to give up their starting third baseman, Jose Iglesias, in order to make it happen.
In 63 games for the Red Sox this season, Iglesias was hitting .330 with a .376 on-base percentage. Boston now must have the .212-hitting Brandon Snyder replace Iglesias at the Fenway Park hot corner. Although the one home run and 19 RBIs Iglesias hit were not staggering power numbers, he is a truly deft defensive infielder.
Given Peavy's run-of-the-mill 4.28 ERA, trading a starting up-and-comer for a perpetually injured veteran may prove to be one step forward, two steps back when it is all said and done.
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter. He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
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