The big news today is the trade that sends Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Brewers had fallen way out of contention and were looking to get something back for their talented young pitcher. Greinke is 9-3 with a 3.44 ERA this season. He was possibly the biggest prize on the trade market, especially among pitchers. And this trade makes the Angels team even more frightening on paper than it was before.
The Angels, who were also the big winners in the offseason, added the former Cy Young Winner to a starting rotation that includes Cy Young front-runner Jered Weaver, All Stars C.J. Wilson and Dan Haren, and the struggling Ervin Santana. This move makes their rotation even deeper, and puts them in a great position down the stretch run. They are trying to chase the Texas Rangers who have a 4 game lead in the AL West. After snaring the biggest prize, the Angels hope they have the firepower and now a deep enough rotation to overtake the Rangers before the one game wildcard playoff. The Brewers got a rookie shortstop back for Greinke in addition to a big, talented Double A pitcher and another Texas league prospect.
As we get closer and closer to Monday’s trade deadline, there are plenty of teams that could use some help and plenty of players available to be had. I’ll give a quick rundown of the teams that are looking to buy, and who might be available.
New York Yankees: The Yanks made their big move to get Ichiro. They may chase down another bench player to help ease the loss of A-Rod, but they like the Eric Chavez/Jayson Nix combo they have right now. They still have the best record in the league, and the two teams behind them that are really in contention (Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays) are likely not going to make any moves due to financial constraints (Tampa) and not wanting to dump prospects and possibly get behind the 8-ball after a promising, though unexpectedly good season (Baltimore).
Chicago White Sox: The White Sox have also already likely made their moves. The addition of Kevin Youkilis to be their starting third baseman has paid off in a big way. And adding Brett Myers to help stabilize a young bullpen is a good move too. They are also surprisingly exceeding expectations, but this team has a lot of talent and wants to stay in the playoff picture. Detroit is breathing down their necks, but they think they have enough offense, and now enough pitching to hold the Tigers at bay. Kenny Williams is very aggressive, so I wouldn’t put anything past them. But I’d bet that they make no more moves.
Detroit Tigers: The Tigers made a splash picking up a starting second baseman and back of the rotation starter from the Marlins. Omar Infante immediately improves their defense at second, and is hitting 280 with 10 SB. Anibal Sanchez has been hit and miss, but is young and very talented. He’ll be an upgrade as a 4th or 5th starter on this very talented Detroit team. They are right behind the White Sox and have a slight lead on the Indians (who have claimed that they are also looking to buy), but I’m thinking this race will be between Detroit and Chicago.
Texas Rangers: This Ranger team is very good. The only area where they could improve would be in the starting rotation after losing Colby Lewis for the year and still missing Neftali Feliz. They were big players in both Ryan Dempster and Zack Greinke. With the Angels making such a big splash, it almost forces the Rangers to do something. Dempster is still on the market, but has made it known that he wants to be in LA. The Phillies have flirted with putting Cliff Lee on the market, and he’s been incredibly successful with the Rangers in the past. That makes a lot of sense, but it depends on how high the asking price is. The Rangers want to make a move, and they have a deep enough farm system to get anyone they want. But with options dwindling, and being loath to overpay, they may stick with what they have to make a run.
Los Angeles Angels: The Angels haven’t done a lot, but they got the biggest name available, Zack Greinke.
Washington Nationals: The Nationals have the best record in baseball. They are off to a great start and have an incredibly talented young team. Their pitching staff is very good, but with Stephen Strasburg’s innings limit coming up, the Nationals are in the market for a low end starter. Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman and Ross Detwiler have been fantastic, and now John Lackey has been called up to back them up. Look for them to snag someone like Kevin Millwood to give them depth and some veteran leadership.
Atlanta Braves: The Braves are looking for pitching. I never thought I’d type that sentence. Their offense isn’t incredibly potent, but it gets the job done and there really isn’t a spot to plug in anyone else. All the guys they have are good, but none are really great. When they lost shortstop Andreslton Simmons, they made a trade to pick up Paul Janish, a slick fielding, light hitting middle infielder that will fill the hole until Simmons comes back. But with no other offensive moves on the horizon, their need for strong pitching becomes even more of a necessity. The Braves actually worked out a trade for the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster, but Dempster vetoed the trade, saying he’d rather go to the Dodgers. That hurts. They were in the running for Greinke, but lost. They have a strong farm system, but being hamstrung financially by an indifferent ownership group, they need a player who would be under club control, or someone they can get cheap. The Braves need help, but their options are running low. There has been a lot of talk about them going after James Shields and possibly Matt Garza. But Garza is likely too rich for their blood and there are concerns about Shields. They may make a move, but it has to work out for them. That makes the list of potential moves pretty small.
Cincinnati Reds: The Reds have the best second half record in baseball. They’ve played incredibly well, despite the loss of MVP candidate Joey Votto. They may be in the market for some insurance, but they don’t want to overpay for someone who will go to the bench when Votto is healthy. They may make a move, but being strong in the rotation and around the rest of the diamond, I don’t expect anything major.
Pittsburgh Pirates: What can this team do? They have gotten off to a great start for a second straight year. But after an ill-advised pick up of Derek Lee last year, they still finished under 500. There is a good chance they will finally have that winning season and make the playoffs this year. So the problem is they want enough help to ensure they get to the playoffs, but don’t want to overpay for someone just when they are starting to be good. They made one strong move that didn’t cost them too much when they added Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros. The veteran lefty will give them some experience and help out a starting rotation that includes the over achieving A.J. Burnett and Erik Bedard, and the talented, young Jeff Karstens and James McDonald. The Pirates are playing well, and should have enough talent to stay in the race all year.
St. Louis Cardinals: Still hanging around in the NL Central race, the defending champs have plenty of talent and feel like they belong in the race. The NL Central has not been that strong in recent years, but the Reds are hot right now and the Pirates are playing well. They have no glaring weaknesses, but some back of the rotation pitching or bullpen help would be appreciated. I don’t know that they make a move, but it’s possible.
San Francisco Giants: The Giants have plenty of pitching again. But they can always use some offense. And they made a good move adding Marco Scutaro from the Rockies. Brandon Crawford isn’t hitting much, and is pretty young. Scutaro brings playoff experience and some extra offense to a team that needs a lot of it. I don’t see them making a move for pitching, despite Tim Lincecum’s struggles. But an extra bat on the bench, perhaps one that can play second or right field, is a possibility, as long as the cost isn’t too prohibitive.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers have made a big move by adding Hanley Ramirez. He’s an immediate upgrade at third base, and will fill in at short until Dee Gordon gets healthy. They needed more offense behind Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, and so far Hanley has been money. The bullpen is solid, but could use some help. The biggest need for the Dodgers is in the back of the rotation. They know Ryan Dempster wants to be there, but that may make that trade difficult. The Cubs don’t want to just give him away, but by requesting the Dodgers he’s given them all the power. It makes too much sense to not happen, but I don’t see Epstein caving for a deal he believes is below Dempster’s value. I think that will be the last move they make, and it will likely give them all they need to stay in the race.
This is always an exciting time of year. Lots of teams have needs and lots are looking to unload commodities while they can get value back. This year is strange as there are a lot of teams in the middle who want to be neither buyers nor sellers. As the deadline gets nearer, teams inevitably blink and overpay for someone, or give someone away for nothing. We’ll see what happens, but there is still plenty of time for deals to go down.