Life on the other side just ain't that grand.
At the trading deadline one year ago, the Philadelphia Phillies led the NL East by six games. The Boston Red Sox led the AL East by two. They were going to meet in the World Series, or something like that.
The Phillies went and got Hunter Pence. The Red Sox pulled Erik Bedard.
Now look at them.
Since the moves, the Phillies are 79-76. The Red Sox are 73-83. That's a lot of mediocre ball right there, and from franchises whose payrolls and expectations would suggest – no, demand – better. Last-place teams as of Saturday morning, they find themselves in areas where even the second wild card isn't charitable enough.
Now it's just awkward. They allow for the lightning-strike final two months by holding somewhat steady to the course. For example, the Phillies sign Cole Hamels to a six-year, $144-million contract. And they prep for 2013 and beyond.
As the trading deadline goes, the Phillies have been in limbo so long they're thinking of buying a retirement home there. After a lot of conversations about the return of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay, the Phillies are at best streaky, and in reality being run out of the division.
If that comes as a surprise, consider this quote from Charlie Manuel on Saturday out of Atlanta: "One time, we had the greatest attitude and best hustle of any team I ever had. Teams used to tell me. General managers used to tell me they had just as much talent but we had more heart. I always thought we had the talent and the heart. Seriously. We kind of slipped a little bit. I think our play shows that."
[Jeff Passan: Even Cole Hamels knows big deals for pitchers are risky]
So, outfielders Pence, Shane Victorino and Juan Pierre could be had. The Cincinnati Reds need outfield help, as do the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago White Sox and San Francisco Giants. Pence has an arbitration year remaining after making $10.4 million this season. Victorino will be a free agent. And general manager Ruben Amaro has at least considered moving Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton and Jimmy Rollins as well, though Lee has partial no-trade protection and Rollins is a 10-and-5 man.
It doesn't end Tuesday, either. Executives are predicting a healthy waiver market in August. A prominent agent wondered aloud Saturday whether a player such as Lee could clear waivers, given his contract. He's due $25 million in each of the next three seasons and has a $27.5-million option – or a $12.5-million buyout – in 2016.
The Phillies and Amaro have a lot to think about, which makes them a lot like the Red Sox and rookie GM Ben Cherington. The Red Sox hope to liven up their starting rotation in the coming days. Josh Johnson, Matt Garza and James Shields (assuming the Tampa Bay Rays would leave him within the division) have been rumored, and they'd be more than happy to deal from a crowded outfield or their own rotation to get one. Like the Phillies, the Red Sox have 2013 in mind, so they passed on Greinke, who can be a free agent. The Red Sox were somewhat startled, however, at the trade that sent Anibal Sanchez to the Tigers, as the cost in prospects was steep for the short-term gain.
Cherington is not of the mind to trade Josh Beckett or Jon Lester. Beckett has 10-and-5 rights, which could complicate things. Thus far Cherington feels the same about holding on to outfielder Cody Ross, but that could change as the deadline nears, and life gets a little more frantic, and the season gets a little more hopeless.
Still seeking starting pitching: Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, Texas Rangers, White Sox, Cleveland Indians. The Ryan Dempster situation remains unchanged, leading to speculation Dempster might accept a trade to Atlanta near the deadline.
The uber-aggressive Dodgers might at least consider acquiring Alfonso Soriano as a way of coming to a Dempster trade. For the past 30 games Soriano is batting .291 with seven home runs, 18 RBI and a .350 on-base percentage, and the Cubs seem willing to cover much of his remaining contract.
The Oakland A's acquired catcher George Kottaras from the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday.
San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley continues to draw interest from a handful of clubs. The Orioles and A's seem the best fits. The New York Yankees, covering the Alex Rodriguez injury with Eric Chavez and Jayson Nix, might also get involved.
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