Trade Deadline Recap
The baseball season has finally hit the back third, as August brings us one step closer to the post season, and total victory for one team. July ended with a bang, wrapping up the non-waiver trade deadline. There’s a lot of hype about the trade deadline, because a lot of people think that it means no more trades can be made on the season. But that’s just untrue. It’s the non-waiver trade deadline, which means that teams can just swap players, and they can play immediately. Now, for the rest of the year, players have to clear waivers before they can go to another team.
There were a lot of moves made, as the addition of the second wild card team in each league turned a lot more teams into buyers than sellers this time around. We’ll take a look at five of the bigger trades, and examine whether or not they’ll be season-changing additions for the teams involved.
Los Angeles Angels
With the emergence of Mike Trout in 2012, the Angels have a very solid lineup to run out on any given night. Pujols, Trumbo, and Trout are about as lethal a combination as any in baseball. So with the lack of success from Ervin Santana, and the injury to Dan Haren, the Angels felt that starting pitching was where the help would come in. Enter Zack Greinke: 9-4, 3.39 ERA, and 1.25 WHIP have put him back in the running with the greatest pitchers in baseball, and set him up for a season even better than when he won the Cy Young a few years ago.
What Greinke adds to this Angels team is another staff ace. That makes three such pitchers on one team, sealing a weak point that wasn’t exactly weak. It also makes sure that the Angels definitely have a part of the team that is markedly better than any of their A.L. West competitors. Texas is strong – there’s no doubt about that. But the Rangers’ starting pitching isn’t the greatest, by any means. The Angels now have the pitching to quickly close the gap in the division, and take a commanding lead before the final leg of the season even begins. He was an exceptionally good acquisition for the Angels, to be sure.
San Francisco Giants
Something happened to the Philadelphia Phillies this season. Whether it was an injury bug or bad luck, this team is facing the very real possibility of its first losing season in 10 years. That fear turned the Phillies into sellers on the trade market, and made them dump two of their biggest offensive contributors. The Giants were the recipients of Hunter Pence, who is hitting .267 with 17 home runs and 60 RBIs. Pence’s draw has always come from his power, especially since that power came while playing for an awful Houston Astros team. If you’re looking for a player that has a very respectable average while also hitting for a fair amount of power, then Hunter Pence is who you want.
The Giants weren’t hurting for power this season, especially with the quick adjustment Melky Cabrera made, coming from the Kansas City Royals in the offseason. But adding Hunter Pence to an already electric offense will help to propel San Francisco to the post season. Pence should provide just the right pop in the lineup.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers were real buyers this July, benefitting from the Phillies as well, with the acquisition of Shane Victorino. The Miami Marlins also had a fire sale at the deadline, and the Dodgers were lucky enough to land Hanley Ramirez. Neither of these additions are big gets, even if both are big name players. Victorino’s numbers have been falling steadily each season. 2012 has seen his power numbers slide off considerably, with only nine home runs to this point. His average is down as well, at .258. The draw is that he is an outstanding left fielder. So much so, in fact, that his acquisition caused the Dodgers to designate star and former power man Bobby Abreu for assignment.
Hanley Ramirez is pretty much the same kind of addition as Victorino. His average hasn’t been anywhere near the .300 mark in the last couple seasons, and he has O.K. power numbers still. But he’s easily one of the best (if not the best) defensive third basemen in baseball. A key defensive upgrade with a little offensive pop can go a long way towards a championship season. Especially since the Dodgers are looking for any little bit they can to put the Giants in their taillights. Both additions will be helpful, but neither one is in itself something spectacular.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have been busy for weeks leading up to the deadline, starting with Kevin Youkilis. Grabbing Youk from the Boston Red Sox was a major upgrade for a team that was already performing better than expected. (Hey, remember when everyone but me thought the Kansas City Royals would be the biggest competition for the Tigers in the A.L. Central?) Youkilis adds a solid third baseman to the other Sox team. His defense might not be tops in the game, but his bat is still potent. A lineup containing him, Adam Dunn, and Paul Konerko is going to win a lot of games. But his average has fallen off recently, and while some of that can be attributed to the disruptions in Boston (and the dissidence between Kevin and manager Bobby Valentine), some may also be about age. Who knows how long this patch at third base will really last.
The other big addition this last week came in the form of a starting pitcher. Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, and John Danks have done quite well this season, but Chicago felt it needed to add someone. Apparently Francisco Liriano was the best choice available. Yes, I’m scratching my head over that one, too. Liriano has been awful this season. He’s currently 3-10, with a 5.18 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. He was so bad early in the season that he was actually moved from the rotation to the bullpen to help get him right. Apparently it didn’t work much. Liriano has been okay in the last few years, but his last really good season was 2010, when he 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA. Since then he’s hardly been a pitcher worth having in the rotation. The White Sox are hoping that most of his struggles were about the offensive production in Minnesota, but when you’ve put up a 3-10 record, it’s not all about the offense (or lack thereof).
Both trades should be interesting to watch the remainder of the year. I don’t think Liriano will be what the Sox hope he will, but Youkilis should be good for the remainder of this year.
The Tigers were also recipients in the Miami Marlins fire sale, with the additions of Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez. Infante fills in a hole at second base for the Tigers, which had, up to that point, been a revolving door between Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago, and Danny Worth. None of those players had been anything worthwhile this season, and all three had been a collective dud in the power department. Infante isn’t exactly the power guy on this or any team, but his OPS (on-base + slugging percentages) was ninth among MLB second basemen coming into the trade, which was an amazing upgrade for the Tigers, who were last at that position in OPS for the first four months of the season. Whether or not Infante can make a successful transition back to the American League remains to be seen. But he literally cannot be any worse than what was already there.
Sanchez was meant to finalize a rotation that didn’t necessarily need any retooling. For whatever reason the majority of analysts and fans thought the Tigers were missing something at the back end of the rotation. I don’t know what they were hoping for, other than a second Justin Verlander, but Scherzer has been as good as ever, Porcello has been pretty decent, and Fister is finding his groove again. As for Drew Smyly, he did an outstanding job with only one year of professional experience. I don’t think they were missing anything with those five. But, Sanchez is here anyway. He has suffered from a lack of run support in Miami, much like Fister’s troubles in Seattle. But in his first start as a Tiger, he didn’t get any more help. Whether he’ll be a difference maker or not, who knows. He can definitely be a decent long reliever in the postseason (if Detroit can get there), but getting a rental pitcher for the remainder of the season doesn’t seem like the best option in the long term. I guess the “now or never” mentality is alive and well for the final two months of the season.
It’s really hard to believe that either of these two will be key pieces to the 2012 puzzle for Detroit, but both do provide upgrades at their respective positions.
There were plenty of other trades made by teams still in the hunt for October, but these were those that are likely to have the most profound impact on division races (with the A.L. Central, A.L. West, and N.L. West likely to go down to the wire). Hopefully the commitment by all these teams pays off come October.