Small-market teams turn buyers at trade deadline
Some of the biggest deals this year were made by small-market teams.
Michael Bourn, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ryan Ludwick were among the key players who changed clubs Sunday at the end of a topsy-turvy weekend, when the surprising Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks made many of the boldest moves.
Long labeled as sellers in July, those cost-conscious squads instead went shopping for immediate help as they recognized a rare chance to make a postseason run.
Just 2 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit in the AL Central, the Indians completed their Saturday night deal with Colorado for Jimenez about a half-hour before the 4 p.m. EDT deadline Sunday. Until then, they were waiting for results of the pitcher's physical.
''This was a rare and unique opportunity, especially in our market, which comes along few and far between,'' said Cleveland general manager Chris Antonetti, who also pulled off a deal Thursday to obtain outfielder Kosuke Fukudome from the Chicago Cubs.
Jimenez is under contract through 2013 at a team-friendly price. The right-hander was 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA last year, when he started the All-Star game, but he's struggled this season. He is 6-9 with a 4.46 ERA in 21 starts, and his velocity has dipped.
''If we want to stay and maintain our competitiveness, with an opportunity to win every year, we had to be bold. It wasn't a time to be timid,'' Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said.
''As difficult as it might have been to pull the trigger, it would've been more difficult not to do it and put our franchise in a position of facing some type of major rebuilding process in the near future. This decision, if we were 10 games up and not 10 games back, still would've been a difficult deal to pass up.''
Cleveland paid a hefty price for Jimenez, who spent much of April on the disabled list. The Indians gave up minor league pitchers Alex White and Joe Gardner, first baseman Matt McBride and a player to be named, expected to be lefty Drew Pomeranz.
White and Pomeranz were considered the top two pitching prospects in the Indians' organization.
''It was painful for us,'' Antonetti said, ''but we decided the time was right. We're a better team than we were.''
Bourn went from the bottom of the NL Central in Houston to the top of the wild-card standings with Atlanta - and he wasn't the only player who suddenly found himself in a pennant race Sunday.
Erik Bedard was shipped from Seattle to Boston, and Rafael Furcal went from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the St. Louis Cardinals. Last-place San Diego sent two players to postseason contenders, with Ludwick headed to Pittsburgh, and Mike Adams to Texas.
But all in all, it was a relatively quiet deadline day as the non-waiver cutoff came and went. Two of the biggest deals were completed days earlier when All-Star outfielders Carlos Beltran and Hunter Pence switched teams.
''I'm very confident with the position I've taken,'' general manager Brian Cashman said. ''It's not like I'm blowing smoke, trying to promote our guys. ... No, I believe in our guys.''
Detroit made an interesting move, getting right-hander Doug Fister from Seattle on Saturday to boost the rotation. The Tigers also received reliever David Pauley for two prospects and a player to be named.
After a record 18 straight losing seasons, the Pirates are in the thick of it in the NL Central. They showed they're serious by dealing for Ludwick a day after acquiring Baltimore first baseman Derrek Lee.
The Diamondbacks bolstered their bullpen, adding Oakland submariner Brad Ziegler as they chase the World Series champion Giants in the NL West. On Saturday, Arizona obtained starter Jason Marquis from the Washington Nationals.
''We're trying to get better and trying to make the bullpen better,'' Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said. ''I think you're seeing an effort by the organization to try and let us continue to do what we've done and go beyond what we've done. So that part of it energizes you.''
In other deals Sunday:
- The Red Sox picked up Bedard after a deal for Oakland's Rich Harden fell through late Saturday. Six prospects were involved in a three-team, seven-player swap that also involved the Dodgers.
- St. Louis acquired Furcal, a two-time All-Star shortstop, for Double-A outfielder Alex Castellanos.
- Texas bolstered its bullpen again with Adams, a day after adding Baltimore right-hander Koji Uehara. The Padres received a pair of minor league pitchers.
- Atlanta made a move to keep up with the NL East-leading Phillies, getting Bourn from the Astros, who also sent Pence to Philadelphia on Friday night.
Bourn, a two-time Gold Glove winner, is hitting .303 and leads the majors with 39 stolen bases. He goes from the last-place Astros to a playoff-contending team that has one of baseball's best pitching staffs.
''I'm excited,'' Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ''He makes the defense do things they don't want to do. Pitchers are going to throw pitches they don't want to throw.''
The Astros received outfielder Jordan Schafer and three minor league pitchers, but the Braves didn't give up any of their top prospects.
''We did not go to the mat to get Pence,'' Atlanta general manager Frank Wren said. ''If we had gone to the mat for Pence, we would have gotten him.''
Teams can still make trades for the rest of the season, but it becomes more complicated. Players must first pass through waivers, meaning any club gets an opportunity to claim them before a deal is done.
Trades must be completed before Aug. 31 for a player to be eligible for the postseason with his new team.
AP Sports Writer Howie Rumberg contributed to this report.