Well with less than an hour until the trade deadline, there is a lot of chatter. With the flurry of activity in the last few hours, here’s a rundown of a few trades you may have missed and my thoughts on a couple key players who could be on the move.
The biggest news of the day (so far) is the trade that sent the Phillies’ Shane Victorino to the Dodgers. The Dodgers are adding offense for a playoff run the day after adding Bradon League from Seattle to shore up the bullpen. They have also made two huge offensive moves now, adding an upgrade at third base (currently short while Dee Gordon is hurt) in Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino to take over left field from Bobby Abreu. Victorino can immediately upgrade the top of the lineup, and improve the outfield defense tremendously. He was a center fielder in Philadelphia, but can play all three spots. It’s the biggest splash of the day on a name that was a common topic of conversation for the past few weeks. In return, the Phillies got reliever Josh Lindblom and a minor league starter in Ethan Martin. With their struggles this season, and Shane’s impending free agency, they tried to get something for him instead of re-signing him. It makes sense for the Phils, as they have a ton of money tied up in contracts to Halladay, Papelbon, Howard, Utley and Rollins. I don’t know the exact figure, but it’s over $100 million to 5 guys. And that’s not even counting the money they owe Lee and whatever money Cole Hamels gets in his new deal. With their new financial issues and an underachieving season, the Phillies may look to move more players, including Hunter Pence, Cliff Lee and Juan Pierre.
Since my last update, there have been a few more trades that hit the wire. The biggest (after the one I just touched on of course) was the White Sox taking a gamble on Francisco Liriano. In an inter-divisional trade, the ultra aggressive Kenny Williams strikes again. He gets Liriano from the Twins for a fairly modest haul. His struggles this season are well documented, but recent improvements were enough for Williams as he hopes Liriano will continue to miss bats in Chicago after tweaking his slider and making it a much tougher pitch to hit. The Twins get back Eduardo Escobar, a weak-hitting utility guy and Pedro Hernandez who doesn’t project to be much more than a mediocre bullpen guy. Hard not to pull the trigger when you are giving up so little, and this could end up being the biggest upset trade of the year. High risk if the ERA stays where it is despite the pitch shift, but after essentially poaching the starter for free, the rewards could be boundless.
The A’s made a small splash picking up catcher George Kattaras from the Brewers. He will be in a time sharing situation with Kurk Suzuki, unless they try to trade him. Kottaras is an okay catcher who hits righties better than lefties. The Brewers got Fautino De Los Santos back, who has a live arm but no control. It’s a good move for both teams as the Brewers are out of it and the A’s are continuing their surprising wildcard run. This trade helps them out without costing them their future.
In yesterday’s biggest move, the Braves finally got that starter they’ve been searching for. After being turned down by Ryan Dempster and not having the money to commit to signing Matt Garza or Zack Greinke long-term, their options were running low. Their hesitation about James Shields made them blanch at the price tag the Rays put on him. So they set their sights a little lower and pulled the trigger on a different Cub, lefty Paul Maholm. Maholm isn’t the star the other pitchers on the market are, but he’s been fantastic in this second half with an ERA of 1 in his last 5 starts. In addition they added Reed Johnson who hits lefties even better than the injured Matt Diaz and plays superior defense. The Cubs got Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman in return. Not much is expected of Chapman, but Vizcaino is a stud whose fastball has touched triple digits. He’s mainly been a reliever in the majors, but has started in the minors. The one holdup on him is that he’s out with Tommy John surgery right now. Otherwise the Braves would have never given him up. But if he comes back strong from the surgery, he could be a major piece of this Cubs bullpen as they move forward with this re-build or possibly a starter.
The fire sale in Chicago continued with Geovany Soto being shipped off to Texas. They got back a Double A pitcher who doesn’t project as much, but Soto’s offense has devolved to the point that they couldn’t ask for much. Soto is there in case Napoli leaves for free agency, but they can’t really expect him to be a good substitute with his stagnant bat. Other than a slight upgrade in defense, Soto doesn’t seem like a very good replacement.
The Pirates made a nice snag in taking Travis Snider off the hands of the Blue Jays. The epitome of a AAA player, Snider destroys Triple A pitching but hasn’t been able to find that consistency in the majors. He’s had some good stretches and has plenty of talent. Hopefully a change of scenery will be all he needs to achieve his potential. It’s a great add for the Pirates who are hoping to build a team that contends for a long time. The Blue Jays got reliever Brad Lincoln, who has a live fastball in the mid-90s and will be a great set up man in that bullpen.
And as I write this, the last trade that has been announced is tied with the Dodgers Victorino move as the biggest of the day. The Phillies continue to dump salary by sending Hunter Pence to the Giants. They get back Nate Schierholtz, who has been a quality fourth outfielder that hits for pretty good average, but only seems to have warning track power. Maybe moving to Citizens Bank will see more of those doubles clear the wall. In addition, the Phils got back Tommy Joseph, a Double A catching prospect with upside and Seth Rosin, who made a successful transition from bullpen to starting rotation in the Cal league. However the Dodgers are the more immediate winners. Pence takes over right field from the Gregor Blanco/Nate Schierholtz tandem and is an immediate upgrade. He makes that Giant offense much more formidable and plays a good right field. Now with Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Pence and Melky Cabrera, the Giants finally have an offense that can frighten some people.
And as the Phillies continue to fortify the NL West, it looks like we are going to have an exciting final few months out there, as the Dodgers and Giants both make a big push to make the playoffs. Both are big winners as the trade season winds to a close. There may be a few more moves yet as Dempster to the Dodgers stagnated to the point that he’s agreed to consider other teams, specifically the Yankees. But Cliff Lee was apparently taken off the market. Not many teams wanted to take on his contract, but a return to Texas made so much sense. The Red Sox took Josh Beckett off the market after gauging the interest of the Braves and Rangers, and James Shields seems to be staying put in Tampa Bay, where they think they have a shot at a wildcard run. Ty Wigginton and Juan Pierre could be on the move out of Philly and no one is sure what will happen with Matt Garza in Chicago. And the Marlins may continue their fire sale by dumping Josh Johnson if they like a deal for him. We’ll see what happens. I’ll write about any updates that come down the tube. But we are in the middle of the most exciting day of the year for baseball.