The Mariners mistakenly believed they would contend this season, which led to their offseason addition of Cliff Lee, their gamble on Milton Bradley and the decision to bring back Ken Griffey Jr. for his leadership. Bradley hasn’t caused problems, but he also hasn’t solved any issues in the lineup. Griffey retired with a rather brusque departure after manager Don Wakamatsu’s questionable handling of informing Griffey of plans to limit his playing time. And then they decided to cut their losses by sending Lee to Texas for four prospects, headlined by right-handed pitcher Blake Beavan and first baseman Justin Smoak. The deal, however, came at a price. The Mariners picked up a chunk of the $8 million that Lee still had coming in salary for the 2010 season.
You win some, you lose some
The trading deadline has passed. The judgments, however, remain to be handed down. History will tell the true story of which teams helped themselves and which didn't. Did anyone really think John Smoltz had Hall of Fame potential when he came out of Double-A and was dealt by Detroit to Atlanta for veteran right-hander Doyle Alexander? Just the same, when a deadline passes, impressions are made. So with baseball reaching its July 31 trading deadline for making a trade without having to acquire waivers on a player, here is a look at this year's five winners and five losers. — Tracy Ringolsby Read single-story version here
Winner — Texas Rangers
The Rangers know that given the ownership uncertainty they need to take advantage of the opportunity to advance to the postseason to create credibility with fans, and they didn’t hold back. They began addressing needs before the All-Star break by landing veteran catcher Bengie Molina from San Francisco to provide a calming influence to young pitchers, and then not only acquired Cliff Lee from Seattle to give them a veteran foundation for their rotation, but got Seattle to pick up a chunk of Lee's salary. In the days leading up to deadline they filled a need for a veteran run-producing right-handed hitter in Jorge Cantu, and added infield insurance with Cristian Guzman. While Lee carried a steep price in terms of prospects, they did not give up a player with impact potential in the three other deals.
Winner — San Diego Padres
With a team that has underfinanced ownership and a disappearing fan base, the Padres are having a dream season and have shown that they are not going to let the opportunity be wasted. They have quality pitching, and finally added offensive help for Adrian Gonzalez. Without giving up a legit prospect they took advantage of Cleveland’s money woes and out of a three-team deal wound up with the needed right-handed complement for Gonzalez in the middle of the lineup in Ryan Ludwick. They also found a patch for the offensive void of overmatched shortstop Everth Cabrera with the addition Miguel Tejada, who will weaken the defense but if they have a lead, they can always bring in Cabrera late in games. As it was, the Padres found themselves turning to Jerry Hairston Jr. at short, in recent weeks.
Winner — Houston Astros
General manager Ed Wade finally got owner Drayton McLane to see the light and realize that the Astros have a major rebuilding job, and they have been wasting money in their attempt to patch-work the team together. They are stuck with Carlos Lee, who has $18.5 million coming each of the next two years. Wade, however, did provide financial relief by moving right-hander Roy Oswalt and first baseman Lance Berkman, although they did have to pick up $4 million of the $7.5 million Berkman is owed. In addition to getting lefty J.A. Happ to step into the rotation, the deal with the Phillies provided the Astros with Single-A center fielder Anthony Gose, who Houston sent to Toronto for Brett Wallace. Wallace has legit offensive potential and the Astros are crossing their fingers he can be adequate replacing Berkman at first.
Winner — New York Yankees
The Yankees didn’t land a starting pitcher, although they were involved in talks for Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Ted Lilly. They did, however, address a major middle-of-the-lineup need at DH, and did not give up any of their top prospects. Lance Berkman, from Houston, was the major addition, but the Yankees also provided protection against left-handers by picking up Austin Kearns from Cleveland. Yes, Berkman is a switch-hitter, but he rushed back from spring surgery on his left knee with only five weeks of rehab and has struggled from the right side of the plate (.188 with one home run in 64 at-bats). What’s more, they got the Astros to pick up $4 million of the $7.5 million Berkman is owed. And just before the deadline, they brought in reliever Kerry Wood, providing another veteran arm for the bullpen.
Winner — Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers had major needs but had to be creative because of financial limitations created by the pending divorce of owner Frank McCourt. Even with that they were able to provide a limping rotation with a veteran presence by landing lefty Ted Lilly from the Cubs. They also provided a left-handed-hitting base stealer in outfielder Scott Podsednik from Kansas City. The most important move, however, came shortly before the deadline when they acquired reliever Octavio Dotel from Pittsburgh. Manager Joe Torre has a well-established track record in wearing out relievers, which makes it important to provide a new arm to handle eighth-inning chores and provide an alternative in the ninth inning so that Jonathan Broxton can have a break.
Loser — Arizona Diamondbacks
Having fired GM Josh Byrnes, the Diamondbacks spent the last couple of weeks undoing the last three years. They shipped RHP Dan Haren to the Angels, and RHP Edwin Jackson to the White Sox. And while they received LHP Joe Saunders back from the Angels to fill a rotation void along with prospects, they did not get any prospects who project to reach the level of Carlos Gonzalez, Brett Anderson and Max Scherzer, who are among the eight prospects they gave up to acquire Haren and Jackson. They faced the reality that Chad Qualls is not a closer, dealing him to Tampa Bay, and unloaded the contract of catcher Chris Snyder on Pittsburgh, where he became the Pirates' highest paid player, although they took on roughly $1.2 million for the rest of this year by adding Bobby Crosby, D.J. Carrasco and Ryan Church in return.
Loser — Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies outsmarted themselves in the offseason. When they acquired RHP Roy Halladay from Toronto they decided to trade LHP Cliff Lee to Seattle to replenish their farm system, feeling they had enough pitching. By the end of July, scrambling to try to get back atop the NL East, they were so desperate to fill the rotation void that they sent lefty J.A. Happ and two prospects to Houston for right-hander Roy Oswalt. Here’s the real rub: keeping Lee and his quality approach on the mound for the full season would have cost the Phillies roughly $1 million more than adding Oswalt for the final two months, and with Lee they would have had another 20 quality starts from a veteran pitcher with No. 1 potential than they will get by having Oswalt for only two months.
Loser — Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels have been blindsided by the strong first half of the Texas Rangers, and are a non-factor in the AL wild card. They seem to be grasping at hope by making moves for the purpose of making moves. They brought in right-hander Dan Haren, who is an upgrade from lefty Joe Saunders, but not enough of an upgrade to offset the quality of the prospects that the Angels included with Saunders to get Haren from Arizona. Among the three minor-league pitchers are lefty Pat Corbin, the Angels' second-round pick in 2009, and right-hander Tyler Skaggs, whose value is better shown by the $1 million signing bonus he received in 2009 than the fact he slipped to the 40th round because of signability questions. The failures of Brandon Wood at third also led to dealing two solid arms to Kansas City for Alberto Callaspo, a poor man’s Chone Figgins, who the Angels failed to re-sign last winter.
Loser — Colorado Rockies
The Rockies' 2-11 record in the first two weeks after the All-Star break combined with uncertainty over the future of first baseman Todd Helton to leave the Rockies in trade limbo. Helton is on a weekend rehab assignment at rookie-level Casper with the hope that he has regained enough lower-body strength after his recent back problems to be a contributor down the stretch. They could have added Jorge Cantu from Florida for lefty Franklin Morales, but hesitated because if Helton plays, there wouldn’t be room for Cantu. They had overtures from San Diego and the White Sox about Brad Hawpe, but hesitated because if Helton doesn’t play, they will move Hawpe to first, his position when he first signed.