Deal or No Deal

By on August 5, 2012

Deal! Dodger Blue is serious this year. Newly acquired from the Florida, ah oops, Miami Marlins Hanley Ramirez is at the dish in Chavez Ravine (photo by US PRESSWIRE/Jayne Kamin-Oncea)

July 31 each year always brings fun for baseball fans, especially for teams in first place. The trade deadline is the time when contenders are buyers and look to improve their teams. Of course, for every buyer there are tons of sellers. Another dynamic of the trade deadline is the blockbuster deal. Although there weren’t any deals where big names were traded for each other, there was plenty of action at the deadline. Sellers looking to dump expiring contracts and buyers looking for a rental superstar led to some big names heading to big teams.

The Los Angeles Dodgers made some of the biggest moves, acquiring three former All-Stars. Magic Johnson is known for his great post-basketball business career and the team he co-owns acquired some valuable assets. The Dodgers traded for shortstop Hanley Ramirez and lefty reliever Randy Choate. Ramirez may be struggling hitting just .246 with 15 home runs this year, but he fills a hole at short with the injury to Dee Gordon and a great addition to a lineup that has struggled with power numbers. Despite having two of the best hitters in the game with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, the Dodgers rank 21st in batting average at .248 and 30th (dead last) in slugging percentage at .363. Then the Dodgers got that left fielder and leadoff man to satisfy their wish list. Around 12:30 p.m. on the 31st the Dodgers traded for Philadelphia Phillies’ centerfielder Shane Victorino. The “Flying Hawaiian” is known by the Dodgers fans for his postseason play against L.A., but with the acquisition of Victorino the Dodgers have their best left fielder since Manny Ramirez tore up the MLB playoffs in 2008 and their best leadoff man since Juan Pierre. In addition to a couple of athletic hitters, the Dodgers got bullpen help by trading for Seattle Mariners’ closer Brandon League. The 29-year-old righty has an ERA of 3.80 with 6 blown saves in 2012, but had 37 saves in 2011.

For the first time in nearly 20 years the Pittsburgh Pirates are poised for postseason play. Not since (skinny) Barry Bonds have the Pirates had a legitimate MVP candidate like they do with Andrew McCutchen this season with a .373 average, a .433 on-base percentage and 22 homers. The Pirates got him some outfield help by trading for Blue Jays’ outfielder Travis Snider. The left-handed hitting Snider hit .267 in 45 games in 2012 and came to the majors as one of the Blue Jays’ top prospects. The pitching for the Pirates has been incredible, as well. Closer Joel Hanrahan has 31 saves on the season and pitcher A.J. Burnett is getting talks of a Cy Young Award for his performance this year with a 3.27 ERA and 102 strikeouts to 37 walks. The Pirates added to their pitching with Wandy Rodríguez of the Houston Astros. Rodríguez, a talented young lefty, pitched well this season posting a 3.82 ERA with 98 strikeouts this season.

Although the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim already had two of the best teams in baseball, each team made moves to improve before the deadline. The Rangers (62-43) needed help with pitching, with a staff ERA of 3.94, 15th in baseball. The Rangers traded for the best available pitcher, Ryan Dempster. The Chicago Cubs’ starter had an ERA of 2.25, the second best among starters in baseball while with the Cubs. In Dempster’s first start with Texas, he gave up eight earned runs against the Angels, his season worst. The Rangers also picked up catcher Geovany Soto from the Cubs. Soto was one of the top prospects in the Cubs organization before making it to the major league club, where he hit .253 in eight seasons. The second best available starter was Milwaukee Brewer Zack Greinke, who was picked up by the Angels. Although he’s not the same player now as he was with the Kansas City Royals when he was a Cy Young winner in 2009 with a 2.16 ERA, he still has plenty of capability left in his right arm.

For all the buyers near the top of baseball, there are many more sellers near the cellar ofbaseball. However, not too many teams go from the top to the bottom as quick as the Phillies did. The five-time defending NL East champs are in last in their division and had to get rid of superstars to rebuild for the future and dump salary. The Victorino move wasn’t that surprising because he is a free agent at the end of the season and the Phillies might not have been able to keep him anyways. The surprising move was the trade of right fielder Hunter Pence. For the second year in a row, Pence has been traded at the deadline. Traded from the Astros to Philly last season, the free-swinging Pence was shipped to the San Francisco Giants at this year’s deadline. Pence, who was brought in to bolster up Philly’s right field and give them a good right-handed bat, is now expected to help the Giants’ offense. If the non-waiver trade deadline moves weren’t enough for Philly, they’ve already made a waiver trade sending pitcher Joe Blanton to the Dodgers. Also, they placed Cliff Lee on waivers and he was claimed Friday and Philadelphia has until Monday to trade him or take him off waivers. Good news Phillies fans, Cole Hamels was re-signed for the future.

There were some other big name moves leading up to the deadline. Ichiro Suzuki, who is a career .322 hitter, was traded from the Mariners to the New York Yankees. As if the top slugging Yankees at .461 and a team .336 on-base percentage needed more offensive help. The Detroit Tigers added a solid pitcher with Anibal Sanchez of the Miami Marlins, whothrew a no-hitter September 6, 2006 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Tigers also acquired second baseman Omar Infante in that deal. The Chicago White Sox added Minnesota Twins’ starter Francisco Liriano and Boston Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis. Although Liriano hasn’t been heard from much, Youkilis has six home runs and a .360 on-base percentage since changing his socks June 25. The Braves missed out on Dempster after having a deal in place before Dempster vetoed the deal. The Braves made a deal with Chicago to get infielder Reed Johnson and pitcher Paul Maholm. Though Maholm isn’t the Cubs pitcher they wanted, they’ll take his 3.74 ERA and 81 strikeouts. Finally, the MLB-best 65-41 Cincinnati Reds traded with the Kansas City Royals for Jonathan Broxton. Although they have Aroldis Chapman lighting it up, adding 23 saves and a 2.27 ERA while in Kansas City won’t hurt the Reds as Broxton will be in the setup role to get the ball to Chapman.

The moves aren’t over; the waiver deadline is August 31. Watch out to see what happens to Cliff Lee (the Dodgers are rumored to be the team that claimed Lee) and enjoy the pennant races come into fruition.

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