Trades set stage as contenders ready for stretch run
Deals during August waiver period could further shape pennant races
And now the rest of your regularly scheduled Major League Baseball season may continue.
Wednesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline has passed, and just in time for August, September and the adrenaline-charged pennant races that surely will follow, the baseball landscape has been altered and we're left to make our initial assessments of this year's flurry of moves before waiting to see how they pan out.
This we know: Players are moving on to different cities, where they'll fit into different uniforms while their new teams will try to make the best of 2013 with them and their old teams will move on without them. The results of these deals will become evident as the schedule rolls on. And we'll do it all over again next year.
Or next month, in reality. Let's not forget August, the waiver portion of the trade season, where deals can still happen, albeit in a different format, before the waiver Deadline of Aug. 31.
But the first portion of our trade season is a wrap, so here's a division-by-division look at what went down.
American League East
It's fitting to start at the top of this hotly contested division, because the most significant players in baseball during this non-waiver period have been the Red Sox. They made big headlines a day before the Deadline expired by landing one of the premier starters on the block, Jake Peavy, in the three-team deal with the White Sox and Tigers. This not only solidifies the club for this year's pennant race a starting rotation that still misses injured Clay Buchholz, but it makes Boston stronger for 2014, since Peavy is signed through then.
Boston also dealt for another White Sox pitcher, left-handed reliever Matt Thornton, on July 12 to shore up the late-inning bullpen mix, so Boston enters August with one of the best records in the AL and depth in the pitching department, never a bad option on the road to October.
"We're really excited to bring Jake here," Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said. "He's obviously a proven Major League starter. He's had a ton of success in his career. And I think if there's one thing we wanted to do -- if we could pull it off -- is to add a starting pitcher. As we looked at the next two months, we're in position to compete for a playoff spot and we just felt like adding a starting pitcher was probably the most important thing we could do to protect our chances to do that."
|"As we looked at the next two months, we're in position to compete for a playoff spot and we just felt like adding a starting pitcher was probably the most important thing we could do to protect our chances to do that."|
|-- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington|
Thing is, they'll have to be better in that area because the team chasing them, the Rays, is hotter than anyone right now, and Tampa Bay didn't let the Deadline pass without putting in its two cents.
That came in the form of Monday's deal with the White Sox that netted reliever Jesse Crain in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations. In Crain, who is on the disabled list with shoulder woes and could return within a few weeks, the Rays hope to have yet another lockdown arm for their bullpen.
The Rays like what they have, because they didn't make any more moves at this first Deadline, although the elbow problem that has just forced starter Matt Moore to the 15-day DL might inspire Tampa Bay to look for another arm in the upcoming waiver period.
Not surprisingly, the contending Orioles didn't sit quietly. Baltimore got one of the season's starting-pitching prizes right before the Deadline on Wednesday, landing right-hander Bud Norris from the Astros in exchange for Minor League outfielder L.J. Hoes, Minor League southpaw Josh Hader and a 2014 Competitive Balance Draft pick.
This move followed Baltimore's July 23 acquisition of reliever Francisco Rodriguez from Milwaukee for Minor League infielder Nick Delmonico.
With Norris in the mix, Baltimore has shored up a rotation that has had major inconsistency issues but looks a lot more potent heading into August now that lefty Wei-Yin Chen is back and pitching well.
Elsewhere in the division, the Yankees got another bat and a familiar face on Friday when they acquired outfielder Alfonso Soriano, the former Yankee, in a deal with the rebuilding Cubs, who received Minor League right-hander Corey Black, and the Blue Jays stood pat after a furious winter of dealing.
The Tigers loaded up last year for the postseason run that took them to the World Series. This year they're doing the same in hopes of making their season just a bit longer.
Detroit landed shortstop Jose Iglesias in the three-team, Peavy-headlined deal with the White Sox and Red Sox, which was about getting a young, slick-fielding shortstop with an emerging bat and also possibly about having shortstop covered in the event that Jhonny Peralta is suspended for his alleged connection to the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal.
The Tigers also strengthened their bullpen, getting Jose Veras, who was closing for the Astros, in exchange for outfield prospect Daury Vasquez and a player to be named later.
Elsewhere in the division, the Indians showed confidence in their up-and-coming club, tinkering only a bit with their bullpen by securing the talents of left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski from St. Louis in exchange for Minor League infielder Juan Herrera on Tuesday.
The Royals took the momentum of a seven-game winning streak that has put them over the .500 mark and landed a talented young outfielder in Justin Maxwell from Houston right before Wednesday's Deadline. Kansas City gave up Minor League righty Kyle Smith in a deal that will give them more offensive options heading into the stretch run of the season.
And the White Sox, who were rumored to be shopping Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez and others, took bold steps in their renovation plans, saying goodbye to Peavy and Thornton while welcoming one of the division's highly touted offensive prospects in 22-year-old Avisail Garcia.
"It's tough. This is obviously not the position we want to be in right now," White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said on Tuesday night after the Peavy deal. "We didn't re-sign Jake Peavy this past offseason with the intention we were going to be in a position at the Deadline where it was obvious that it made the most sense for the long-term health of the organization and strength of our system to move him."
Out West, the biggest move was made by the Rangers on July 22 when Texas acquired starter Matt Garza from the Cubs in exchange for infielder Mike Olt and right-handers Justin Grimm and C.J. Edwards and a player or two to be named.
"He's an extremely talented pitcher that has had success in the toughest of divisions and the biggest stages who is throwing the ball as well as anybody right now," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said of Garza. "It's a power repertoire, a little bit of a different look from what we've got.
"And he was available. That's a pretty important thing, too. There are a lot of pitchers we'd like to acquire that aren't available. He was, in our opinion, the best guy on the market, and we wanted to go out and make a push to get him."
Texas hopes to use every bit of the rotational stability Garza provides, having now fallen well behind Oakland in the division race and needing a pick-me-up for the late season.
The A's, meanwhile, didn't see the need to do much, understandably, but shored up their infield and offense on Tuesday by trading within the division and landing Alberto Callaspo from the Angels for infield prospect Grant Green. Callaspo fits the Billy Beane mold. He's useful and under contract for 2014 with a reasonable tab of $4.875 million.
The Angels, who have fallen out of contention, didn't do anything but sell. They traded Callaspo and also unloaded lefty reliever Scott Downs to Atlanta on Monday, getting righty reliever Cory Rasmus in return.
The Astros were possibly the least surprising club of all. Sticking to the plan it's been enacting since last year, Houston continued to trade veterans (Norris, Veras and Maxwell) for prospects. The Astros could very well continue to do this during the waiver period in August.
National League East
There wasn't a lot doing in this division, even though plenty of talk surrounded the Phillies, who have so far stayed silent.
The first-place Braves, who are threatening to run away with the East crown, made one slight alteration by strengthening their bullpen with Downs but otherwise took it easy.
The Marlins continued their rebuild by parting ways with starter Ricky Nolasco (Dodgers) on July 6 for a group of prospects. And the Nationals, who could still make a late-season run at the top, landed outfielder Scott Hairston from the Cubs on July 8 but didn't seem to feel pressure to do anything major.
"We feel good about our core players and we feel that we're solid at our position players," Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said. "We like our rotation, we like our bullpen arms. … We've got ourselves a pretty talented group of guys that we're committed to, and we like where we're at."
The most active club in this division -- and in baseball -- during this time of year has been the Cubs. General manager Jed Hoyer has been highly motivated in unloading age for youth, and the July 8 Hairston deal and the Garza and Soriano deals bear that out.
They didn't do anything on Wednesday, but it would hardly be shocking to see them do more in August.
Meanwhile, the division's high flyers, the Pirates and Cardinals, didn't do much of anything in the Deadline season aside from St. Louis' very minor Rzepczynski move. Both teams seem fit to take what they have and battle it out to the end the way they've battled up to this point in one of the more competitive -- and compelling -- division races going.
The still-contending Reds were quiet during the non-waiver period as they await the return of injured outfielder Ryan Ludwick, who could provide a non-trade return down the stretch. The Brewers are in sell mode -- having unloaded Rodriguez -- but perhaps not yet as much as everyone thought.
The Dodgers were all-in last year, all-in over the winter, and pretty much all-in this July, adding yet another piece to a high-payroll team that has found its stride in the last month.
The addition of Nolasco gives Los Angeles more stability in an already-strong area. It was willing to take a flyer on Carlos Marmol. And it added catching depth late on Wednesday by landing Drew Butera from Minnesota in exchange for a player to be named later or cash.
The Rockies and Giants didn't do anything noteworthy in the July period, but the D-backs and Padres did, right at the wire.
Arizona shipped struggling starter Ian Kennedy to San Diego for reliever Joe Thatcher and pitcher Matt Stites plus a Competitive Balance Draft pick, shoring up its bullpen for a desired run at the Dodgers. The Padres, playing for the future, are hoping that the change of scenery can possibly restore Kennedy to his near-Cy Young Award levels of a few years ago.
So that about does it ... for now.