Unfortunately, due to work constraints, your normal NL Week in Review writer, Robert Emrich, was unable to complete this edition of the column. The powers that be, desperate to find a fill-in, settled on the second-rate scribe that you’re currently reading. Blame them for any vaginal discomfort you might experience due to the horrid opinions that you undoubtedly have.
So the trading deadline has come and gone and we’ve already seen some huge strides being taken by the usual suspects as well as some unlikely trading partners. CC Sabathia, Joe Blanton and Rich Harden were dealt early on but there were still plenty of big names to be bandied about around July 31. Not only did the perennial Manny Ramirez trade talks finally lead to an actual move, but we also saw other future Hall of Famers filling out their “Change of Address” forms in Ken Griffey Jr., Ivan Rodriguez and Kyle Farns…Almost had a little of that vag discomfort we were talking about earlier, huh?
So let’s start with the team that seems to be the biggest mover and shaker in the NL, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Not only did they trade Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte (to the Yankees earlier in the week for a package revolving around OF prospect Jose Tabata), but they also shipped out Jason Bay in the aforementioned Manny Ramirez deal. This was a huge three-way trade between the Red Sox, Pirates and Dodgers that brought the Pirates four more prospects to add to their cache of young talent. The specifics of the deal were:
Boston gets: OF Jason Bay (from PIT)
LA gets: OF Manny Ramirez and cash (from BOS)
Pittsburgh gets: 3B Andy LaRoche (from LA), P Bryan Morris (from LA), OF Brandon Moss (from BOS) and P Craig Hansen (from BOS)
It’s quite evident that Pirates GM Neal Huntington is opting to get rid of their aging talent and revitalize their rebuilding process now. With young major league talent in C Ryan Doumit, OF Nate McLouth, SP Ian Snell, SP Tom Gorzellany and CL Matt Capps, the team has a nice little core to build around and a very solid minor league system to pull from. I am impressed in the courage for Huntington to sacrifice the present to improve their team’s future. You also have to think that he has hopes that the LaRoche brothers will be able to lean on each other and turn their once-bright careers around. They also look to have the money to spend on one marquee free agent if they would be willing to come to Pittsburgh. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see them move contracts like Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson this offseason.
The other NL team in the trade, the Dodgers, received the power threat that they’ve been searching for ever since Jeff Kent hit the wall of being older than dirt. Ramirez provides LA with a legitimate clean-up hitter while also allowing them to drop an unproductive Kent down in the order. Prior to this move, they also acquired Casey Blake to man 3B which makes their line-up a little more balanced top to bottom. Blake also provides the benefit of a strong batting average with runners in scoring position, batting .393 in those scenarios. However, the team does seem to be very righty-heavy with Matt Kemp, Andruw Jones, Russell Martin, Blake, Kent and Manny looking to get regular playing time.
vThe real winners of the trade were the Boston Red Sox though. Effectively, the trade was half a season of Manny Ramirez (plus his whole contract), Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss for one and a half seasons of Jason Bay. I’d make that move in a heartbeat every time. The money doesn’t matter to the Sox as they’re a major-market team making a bundle in merchandising, ticket sales, etc. so that’s a moot point. Bay is a player in his prime, signed at an affordable rate for 2009, and is a player that is sure to give more of himself to the team than Manny. And if they can sign him to an extension, they have their OF for the next few years set with Bay, Jacoby Ellsbury and JD Drew.
Another huge trade was the Atlanta Braves moving 1B Mark Teixeira to the LA Angels for 1B Casey Kotchman and prospect P Stephen Marek which was possibly the steal of the year. Any question marks about the Angels disappointing offense disappeared as the power-hitting first baseman returns to the familiar AL West. With that pitching staff and the bats of OF Vladimir Guerrero and Teixeira, they can contend with any team in a slugging match.
The real story here presumably is Frank Wren trying to see if he can get fired from Atlanta in less time than it took for him to get fired from Baltimore. Casey Kotchman? A player with limited power on a team that is pretty much devoid of it? They have four regulars with slugging percentages under .400 (SS Yunel Escobar, OF Jeff Francouer, OF Gregor Blanco and OF Mark Kotsay) and with 3B Chipper Jones looking more and more like his age, they really should have brought back someone to provide some protection for C Brian McCann. Stephen Marek? Doesn’t impress me at all…He’s in his fourth year of minor league ball and this is the first season he’s made it to AA. At 24 (turning 25 this September), he’s probably not going to amount to anything.
Perhaps the most head-scratching trade was that of OF Ken Griffey Jr. to the Chicago White Sox for 2B Danny Richar and P Nick Masset. The Reds moving him was a no-brainer as they had vocally stated that his 2009 option wasn’t going to be picked up, but the White Sox being the team to pick him up? Sur…pri…sing…
Just where do they plan on playing the oft-injured CF-cum-RF? With the corners occupied by freshman phenom OF Carlos Quentin and veteran OF Jermaine Dye, would the White Sox seriously consider playing the aging Junior in CF? OF Nick Swisher CAN move over to 1B and displace Paul Konerko to the bench, but SHOULD he? That is the question. The most logical assumption would be having Griffey DH and moving Jim Thome back to 1B, a position where he’s only played four games at since his trade from Philadelphia. However, in Griffey’s first game with the team, the team played him in center defying all logic.
Probably the most unlikely of buyers were the sad-sack Houston Astros. With a myriad of problems and the strength of the teams ahead of them in the NL Central, one would think that the struggling Stros would toss in the towel and start moving their excess. With an already weak farm system, they further depleted it by moving prospects in order to acquire P Randy Wolf (from the Padres) and Latroy Hawkins (from the Yankees). The point of these moves…I have no idea. Why they’d want to try to get a better draft pick is beyond me.
Another strange aspect of this year’s trade deadline was the inactivity of some teams, namely the New York Mets and Tampa Bay (Not the Devil) Rays. Both teams were named in a lot of rumors, but ultimately both came up empty. There are still trades to be made in August for players that clear waivers, but one must assume that the quality dramatically drops as most of the decent names would get claimed or pulled back. Only time will tell if their idleness will come back to haunt them.
So that’s the column. Hope you enjoyed it and if not, feel free to send me PM’s with any suggestions or helpful tidbits that you think I might be able to use. Also if there are any questions or topics that you want me to touch upon for the next edition, send me those as well.
Posted originally: 2008-08-05 01:39:35