MLB trade deadline digest:

The Skinny: Upton, Lopez and more

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1st Chair: Shawn Camp
2nd Chair: Ryan Bukvich
Skinny: This is not so much a hot seat as a game of musical chairs. It was Camp's turn on Sunday, and after allowing the tying runs to reach base with nobody out, he held on to close out Cleveland for his second save. Manager Tony Pena appears to be managing his bullpen in audition mode, so it could be Camp or Bukvich on any given night. Remember Mike MacDougal? He's been demoted a second time – this time to Double-A, where he has one save and a 3.18 ERA in six games.
1st Chair: Matt Herges
2nd Chair: Jason Christiansen
Skinny: Herges got a stay of execution when two separate deadline deals fell through on Saturday. By night's end, he was right back on closer's death row after allowing two runs, including a homer to Scott Rolen, in another failed attempt at escaping the ninth inning. Christiansen was 3-for-3 on save chances in July and hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 10 trips to the mound. The San Jose Mercury News reported Monday that Alou would not make Christiansen a full-time closer.
1st Chair: Bob Wickman
2nd Chair: Rafael Betancourt, Bob Howry
Skinny: Wickman owners got some good news last week when he not only notched his first save since 2002, but also did so while pitching on back-to-back nights for the first time this season. Two nights later he blew a save. Manager Eric Wedge has been quick to dismiss closers all season, but after everything Wickman has been through, you have to figure he'll dig deep and summon some patience. Betancourt didn't allow a run in eight July outings and has established himself as Cleveland's primary set-up guy.
1st Chair: Greg Aquino
2nd Chair: Mike Fetters, Randy Choate
Skinny: What little value the Arizona bullpen holds was preserved Saturday when Randy Johnson stayed put. At least once every five days the Diamondbacks can count on being in a game. Aquino earned his first two Major League saves at Houston last week and is the guy for now. Jose Valverde has resumed throwing and may begin a rehab assignment as early as this week.
1st Chair: LaTroy Hawkins
2nd Chair: Kyle Farnsworth
Skinny: The Cubs made a pre-deadline move to address a weakness, but it wasn't in their bullpen. Manager Dusty Baker had already given Hawkins a vote of confidence, but it was general manager Jim Hendry who spoke loudest by not acquiring a closer before the trade deadline. After Hawkins suffered a loss on July 25, Baker said he wouldn't rule out turning to Farnsworth. He later said he'd stick with Hawkins, and his guy has responded with three straight successful save conversions.
1st Chair: Jorge Julio
2nd Chair: B.J. Ryan
Skinny: Ryan continues to pitch like a closer. He struck out the side Sunday against the Yankees and now has 19 strikeouts in his last 10.2 innings. Since June 1 he has allowed four runs on 15 hits in 32 innings. The only obstacle in his way is Julio, who as late as Friday afternoon was rumored to be headed to San Francisco. Whatever got in the way of that deal, you can bet it wasn't Ryan owners. Julio was a perfect 5-for-5 with saves on the line in July.
1st Chair: Tim Worrell
2nd Chair: Billy Wagner
Skinny: Worrell must be feeling right at home. He's once again closing games while an All-Star reliever is on the mend. He has been reunited with his 2003 set-up man, Felix Rodriguez. All he needs now is roughly 30 more saves to match last year's totals. He obviously won't reach that mark, but given Wagner's recent injury battles, it shouldn't come as a surprise if Worrell is the man deep into August.
1st Chair: Armando Benitez
2nd Chair: Guillermo Mota
Skinny: Benitez, on pace to establish a new career-high in innings pitched, has been shut down since July 22 due to elbow inflammation. An MRI revealed no serious structural damage, but it is clear he can't maintain his current workload. Enter Mota, acquired in a deadline deal from Los Angeles. He already had considerable fantasy value, collecting eight wins since May 1. His stock only rises in Florida as he should factor into the closer mix when Benitez can't go.
1st Chair: Shingo Takatsu
2nd Chair: Damaso Marte
Skinny: Takatsu has allowed two earned runs since April 20, a span of 34 appearances. He's 9-for-9 in save situations after putting away Detroit on Sunday. Marte has been effective, but if Mr. Zero gets through this week unscathed, he can say sayonara to the hot seat entirely.
1st Chair: Troy Percival
2nd Chair: Francisco Rodriguez
Skinny: The L.A. Times reported that Percival, Rodriguez and Brendan Donnelly were all scheduled to rest Sunday, so don't read anything into the fact that it was Scot Shields who earned the save. Percival had pitched four of the previous five days, earning three saves in the process. K-Rod has struck out at least one batter in 42 of 46 appearances this year.
1st Chair: Keith Foulke
2nd Chair: Scott Williamson
Skinny: Foulke lost two games and blew three saves in July while posting season-worst totals in ERA, WHIP and opponent's batting average. His splits were hardly awful, however, so fantasy owners should worry only if the uptick becomes a trend. Williamson was expected to rejoin the Sox last weekend, but was ineffective in three straight rehab assignments at Triple-A Pawtucket, which has delayed his return.
1st Chair: Ugueth Urbina
2nd Chair: Franklyn German
Skinny: The Giants didn't want to part with their top pitching prospects – most notably Double-A phenom Matt Cain – so Urbina stayed put in Detroit. Despite all the rumors Urbina had a solid week, saving two games and winning another while not allowing a baserunner in four innings. German continues to pile up saves for Triple-A Toledo, but it looks like this job is Urbina's through the 2005 season.
Were you a draft day winner or loser? If you own Randy Johnson, as The Skinny does, you have to consider yourself a loser. Forget about the run support, how about upgrading from Greg Aquino to Mariano Rivera? That's good for three or four wins right there. The winners? How about owners of Matt Herges, Ugueth Urbina or Jorge Julio. Any one of those guys was a phone call away from becoming a set-up man. Mike Harmon already broke down the rest of the trade fallout, so here's what the rest of the weekend looked like:

WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days

  • The Skinny has patiently awaited the delivery of two things this year: season two of Curb Your Enthusiasm on DVD and Tampa Bay super-prospect B.J. Upton. The second finally arrived Sunday when the Devil Rays promoted the shortstop from Triple-A Durham. To borrow a phrase from Larry David, this guy should prove to be pretty, pretty, pretty good. Just 19, Upton is already drawing comparisons to a young Derek Jeter.

Manager Lou Piniella told the Tampa Tribune that Upton will see plenty of playing time down the stretch. He'll probably make his Major League debut as a designated hitter batting near the bottom of the order, but will gradually become the team's everyday shortstop. Upton hit .315 with 14 homers, 51 RBIs and 20 steals in 88 combined games between Durham and Double-A Montgomery. He will hit the waiver wire shortly and deserves immediate attention in AL-only leagues. Julio Lugo moves to second base to make room for the former No. 1 draft pick.

  • If you miss out on the Upton sweepstakes, another shortstop for AL-only managers to keep an eye on is Seattle's Jose Lopez. He was called up Saturday and recorded his first Major League hit Sunday. Widely regarded as the top position player in the Seattle system, Lopez hit .295 with 13 homers and 39 RBIs with Triple-A Tacoma this year. He posted similar power numbers along with 18 steals in 2003 at the Double-A level. Manager Bob Melvin told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that Lopez would get a long look the rest of the way. He doesn't arrive with Upton-like fanfare, but could fit in nicely in a young lineup that already includes breakthrough fantasy contributors Bucky Jacobsen and Justin Leone.
  • How did Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Baseball PLUS managers react to the trade deadline? Well, Sunday they jumped all over Orlando Cabrera. Batting third in the Boston lineup, he homered in his first American League at bat. He also made a crucial error, but Yahoo! owners are banking on a change of address to jump-start his season. Passing him in the other direction were Jose Contreras and Dave Roberts. Roberts becomes a part-time role player with Boston and deserves a trip to the fantasy scrap heap. The Skinny will give Contreras one start with the Sox before passing judgment.

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues

  • Aaron Miles, COL, 2B – If you are a young player who receives any degree of pre-season hype, you had better deliver on that promise in a hurry or fantasy owners will forget all about you. That's exactly what has happened with Miles, who is owned in barely 15 percent of leagues after limping out of the gate with 11 runs and 11 RBIs in the season's first two months combined. We hardly noticed when he hit .361 in June. In July alone he scored 19 runs, drove in 14 and stole four bases, yet we couldn't be bothered. Sunday he collected three hits, a home run, two RBIs and a stolen base. OK, Aaron, you've got our attention.
  • John Lackey, ANA, SP – Like teammate Bartolo Colon, Lackey is enjoying a resurgence after a slow start. Since June 6, he has won six of eight decisions. He has allowed three or fewer runs in eight of his last 10 starts. Fantasy owners are just starting to catch on after he held Texas scoreless over eight-plus innings on Wednesday, striking out seven in the process. Lackey was 4-1 in July with 28 strikeouts in 32.1 innings. Anaheim fans and fantasy owners alike will be hoping for a repeat of the 2002 season when Lackey went 7-2 down the stretch for the eventual world champions.

SPEED-O-METER: Checking the latest movements on the basepaths

  • Alexis Rios, TOR, OF (3 steals/last 5 games) – In five games as a leadoff hitter, Rios is 6-for-17 with a home run and two stolen bases.
  • Corey Patterson, CHI, OF (The next Lou Brock?) – Patterson led off for the first time this season Sunday and responded with two hits and a stolen base. It was his fifth steal since July 21. Manager Dusty Baker told the Chicago Tribune the move could be permanent, and compared Patterson's combination of speed a power to that possessed by Lou Brock.
  • Marcus Giles, ATL, 2B (3 steals/last 3 games – Giles tested the patience of fantasy owners by hitting .259 in July.
  • Cesar Izturis, LA, SS (3 steals/last 6 games) – Perhaps the most under-appreciated shortstop on the fantasy market, Izturis posted the following numbers in July: .328, 17 runs, 15 RBIs, five stolen bases.
  • Jose Reyes, NYM, SS (Back in lineup) – Reyes returned to action Saturday after missing two games with an ankle injury. This latest setback came at the worst possible time for Reyes owners, as he was finally paying dividends with nine steals in an eight-day span.
  • Aaron Rowand, CHW, OF (2 steals/last 3 games) – Rowand was 7-for-13 with a homer, three runs and two stolen bases over the weekend. Now batting .400 (22-for-55) as a leadoff hitter.
  • Alex Sanchez, DET, OF (First SB since 6/20) – Sanchez hit .378 in July, but missed most of the month due to injury. His stolen base Sunday was his first in more than a month. Speedster Nook Logan was returned to Triple-A upon Sanchez' return.
  • Adam Everett, HOU, SS (3 steals/last 7 games) – In his last 11 games, Everett is batting .347 with 14 runs, four homers and nine RBIs.
  • Joey Gathright, TB, OF (Back to Triple-A) – Gathright was returned to Triple-A Durham Sunday when B.J. Upton was recalled. Gathright was 5-for-5 stealing bases with Tampa Bay and has a combined 44 steals at three levels this season.
  • Tony Womack, STL, 2B (Back on the move) – After a stretch of 20 games without a steal, Womack has swiped four bases in his last six games.
  • Tike Redman, PIT, OF (3 steals/last 4 games) – Redman went 0-for-4 Sunday to break a string of five straight games with at least two hits. Tike stole six bases in July to compliment a .364 average.

PROSPECT WATCH: Intriguing names down on the farm

  • Jason Kubel, MIN, OF (Triple-A) – ETA: September 1
    If you believe the rumors, it was Minnesota's unwillingness to part with Kubel that prevented them from acquiring Kris Benson from Pittsburgh. Sunday, Kubel gave Twins fans a reason to be relieved rather than disappointed at the turn of events. He hit a pair of three-run homers in a 9-7 loss to Syracuse. In his last 23 games, Kubel is hitting .389 with 25 RBIs. With Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Lew Ford already with the big club, Minnesota is stacked with young talent. He won't play a significant role in the 2004 pennant chance, but we should get our first look at Kubel after September call-ups.
  • Jesse Foppert, SF, SP (Single-A) – ETA: September 1
    In early July the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Foppert's rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery was way ahead of schedule and that he hoped to return to the majors by September. He took a step in that direction Thursday by pitching two scoreless innings in a start for Single-A San Jose. In two appearances with San Jose he has allowed three hits and struck out four in three innings. Foppert was inconsistent yet occasionally brilliant during his rookie season with the Giants in 2003. Getting back to San Francisco this season would be a huge boost for an organization already encouraged by the progress of prospect Matt Cain.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Eyebrow-raising numbers
23 – Career wins for Gred Maddux against the San Francisco Giants in 41 career starts. He'll go for career win No. 300 this weekend against the Giants. He is 2-1 with a 1.25 ERA at SBC Park.

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