MLB Trade Deadline Closing Thoughts

The July 31 MLB trade deadline has now been over for a couple hours, and it seems safe to say that everything is now in the books, with the Texas Rangers’ acquisition of Ryan Dempster from the Chicago C ubs looking like the last notable deal, getting in just under the wire before the clock struck 4 PM ET. Presuming that there’s nothing else that just hasn’t been made public—or if there is, it won’t be noteworthy, here’s some closing thoughts on baseball’s annual summer trading frenzy…

*Texas may have gotten Dempster, but I don’t think any team lost more during this deadline run-up than the Rangers. They watched their chief rival, the Los Angeles Angels, add Zack Greinke to an already stacked pitching rotation. In the meantime, Texas lost Colby Lewis for the season, got news that Neftali Feliz’s rehab has been set back, had the farm system to swing a significant deal and missed not only on Greinke, but Cole Hamels and Matt Garza. Of course missing on Hamels isn’t their fault, because Philadelphia locked him to a long-term deal, but it was certainly a possibility and a good trade match if the lefty had been made available. Garza’s dealing with some minor injuries, but Texas’ 3 ½ game lead in the AL West, and six-game cushion making for the playoffs would have allowed for him to miss a start or two. And Garza, the MVP of the 2008 ALCS for Tampa, with a good track record against AL East teams, would have been a great addition to a playoff staff. Dempster is more of an insurance policy—he stabilizes the rotation and can help prevent the team from collapsing, but I have a hard time seeing him win big playoff games.

*If Texas didn’t invest their prospects, the New York Yankees found out the cost of not having any to invest. Maybe the Yanks can win the World Series with Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes and Ian Nova, or a healthy Andy Pettite in behind C.C. Sabathia, but I’d hate to have to try it when you’re an organization who lives by a championship-or-bust mantra. The only thing saving the Rangers and Yanks is that Los Angeles’ slow start might yet confine them to the wild-card and perhaps they’ll get knocked out in a one-game shot. But in a best-of-five, and certainly a best-of-seven, either New York or Texas would be a solid underdog to the Halos.

*I thought both the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers got a little carried away in adding veterans, with the White Sox pickup of Francisco Liriano and the Dodgers’ acquisition of Shane Victorino being too short-term for organizations that should be focused on rebuilding. Furthermore, with Chicago already having Kevin Youkilis and Brett Myers, while LA had added Hanley Ramirez, the teams had made reasonable efforts to get better. The Dodgers did the better of the two teams, but both put a lot of pressure on themselves to win now in a season that wasn’t supposed to be about that.

*The Baltimore Orioles appear to have avoided a similar temptation. I say “appear” because the rumors of Joe Blanton going from Philly to Baltimore were so strong a few hours ago I’m half-expecting to see a late story that says the deal was done in time and there just some hang-up before it went public. If the Orioles gave up any prospect of value this would have been a major mistake for the reasons outlined above with Chicago and Los Angeles. If it was just about taking Blanton’s contract I could have seen it, but either way, the Orioles don’t need to be adding mediocre veterans.

*I’ve got mixed feelings about the Detroit Tigers. I thought they would have been a much better fit for Dempster. Texas, as noted above, needed an ace, not another adequate #3-caliber starter. Detroit has the ace of all aces in Justin Verlander, but could have used more depth. They got a little bit in adding Miami’s Anibal Sanchez, but Dempster would have been even better. Nonetheless, I won’t pan a team too hard for not getting a 35-year-old impending free agent whose value is artificially high after four good months in an otherwise checkered career.

*Cincinnati helped their bullpen n getting Jonathan Broxton and given his ability to pitch either setup or close, it gives Dusty Baker some nice options along with Aroldis Chapman. But this team needed a bat and with a big hole in centerfield, Victorino would have been a good piece. The Reds helped themselves, but not at the spot they needed it most.

*The same goes for Pittsburgh—a good deal for Wandy Rodriguez, but they badly needed an impact bat. They did swing a deal for Miami’s Gaby Sanchez. This one could be interesting—while Sanchez has been a  complete disaster this season and finished slow last year, he has shown some potential. Certainly Pittsburgh would have liked to get more for the offense, but it wouldn’t shock me if Sanchez paid big dividends.

*St. Louis played it low-key, just adding  Edwin Mujica from Miami for the bullpen and that’s the approach the Cards should  have taken. They need to get their starting pitching figured out for the long haul—will Adam Wainwright return to his old form, can they count on Chris Carpenter next year, what’s the long-term status of Jaime Garcia? That’s got to be a bigger priority than a makeshift piece at the deadline, and given that they just won the World Series, there’s no need for win-now urgency.

*Arizona made a smart move in not trading Justin Upton, though the folks in Pittsburgh might be disappointed. The D-Backs are right in the wild-card race, have an outside shot at winning the NL West and more to the point, are on very sound footing for the future with a good farm system. There was no need to move an in-his-prime rightfielder.