Flurry of Deadline deals shakes up game
Top contenders get stronger, while others build for the future
The Padres gave notice they're on the offensive to take their turnaround all the way to October. The Astros officially turned the page on perhaps the greatest era of their history, dealing away two icons. The Rangers upped the ante in the American League West.
Oh, and of course the Yankees managed to get even better.
Once again, the Trade Deadline provided the baseball season with a frenzy of activity in the middle of the building drama that is the stretch run to the playoffs. With deals coming down right up to the 4 p.m. ET Deadline, this year's annual summer swap meet didn't disappoint.
The Year of the Pitcher continued to dominate the scene, with arms like Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Dan Haren, Edwin Jackson, Jake Westbrook and Kerry Wood changing hands. And division leaders weren't afraid to tell the pursuers they'd better step up to the plate if they want to keep up.
Indeed, this year's contenders that weren't big players a year ago in the Trade Deadline fun jumped right into the pool and made big splashes. The Rangers picked up Lee, catcher Bengie Molina and versatile hitter Jorge Cantu, and the Padres acquired a couple of bats to help Adrian Gonzalez -- infielder Miguel Tejada and outfielder Ryan Ludwick.
It made for quite the haul for first-year general manager Jed Hoyer, who was still an assistant GM with the Red Sox a year ago.
"Jed comes from a place where this is what they do, so he's got that mentality," Gonzalez said. "Whenever you're in a position that you can win the World Series, you've got to make the team better and do whatever it takes, and they definitely added some guys that they know are dependable and are going to give you quality at-bats every time they're out there."
Considering the Padres were more than 20 games out of contention a year ago and pulled a move similar to the Astros by trading a face of the franchise -- dealing homegrown ace Jake Peavy to the White Sox -- this switch to unmistakable buyers in 2010 might be as stunning as their place in the standings. Of course the two go hand in hand.
"It's hard to remember the last time the Padres have added [to the roster] at this point," said outfielder Tony Gwynn, who grew up in San Diego following his Hall of Fame father's career before starting his own.
The Rangers, meanwhile, took an already exciting season and picked it up a notch with their acquisitions, which also included infielder Cristian Guzman.
"We've loved our club all year, but we feel these adjustments complement what we already have," Rangers GM Jon Daniels said.
And, yes, the Yankees did manage to stick their pinstriped nose into the fray in a big way, picking up veteran reliever Wood and new designated hitter Lance Berkman. Along with Oswalt, Berkman became an ex-Astro, but unlike Oswalt, this wasn't something he really asked for, just something he felt resigned to accept.
"I almost started bawling on the way home last night just thinking about it," said Berkman, who waived his no-trade clause to go to the Yankees, though he did not for a deal with the White Sox.
Once he arrived, the Texas native drafted by the Astros out of Rice University understood the impact of the life-changing trade.
"I was like, 'Man, I'm coming to play for the New York Yankees, against the Tampa Bay Rays, basically for first place in the division,'" Berkman said. "Here we are in August, or I'd be going up to play the Milwaukee Brewers. There's a definite difference."
Said Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira: "That's great, because we're a team that's all about winning and [we'll take] anyone who can come in here and help us score more runs."
With division leaders acquiring the likes of Berkman, Tejada and Lee, playoff races were altered with just a few moves -- more powerful than a few wins or losses.
The AL East certainly got a little tougher with the Yankees pulling in the Big Puma, along with Austin Kearns, acquired from the Indians to give New York 12 players who have hit at least 20 homers. The Rays only managed to pick up relief help in Chad Qualls, and the Red Sox wound up only adding much-needed catching help by acquiring Rangers Minor League backstop Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
"I think there are probably a lot of teams out there that are frustrated," Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said. "In past years, we've been able to make trades that immediately impact our big league team and that's a really satisfying feeling. Other years we haven't been able to and come away with a bit of an empty feeling. So today is more the latter. It's not the end of the story. We have August."
In the AL Central, the pursuing Twins filled a season-long need when they picked up closer Matt Capps from the Nationals, while the White Sox bolstered their rotation by swapping rookie Dan Hudson for an experienced, but still young Edwin Jackson. But the South Siders fell short of adding a big bat they sought, as well. The Tigers also added infielder Jhonny Peralta.
And the three-time defending AL West champion Angels countered the Rangers' moves by taking on Dan Haren and adding infielder Alberto Callaspo.
The Phillies made the biggest splash in the NL East, grabbing Oswalt and dealing left-hander JA Happ, while the Braves added shortstop Alex Gonzalez early and pitcher Kyle Farnsworth and outfielder Rick Ankiel late. The Mets stood pat, but the Marlins joined in the fun, acquiring lefty reliever Will Ohman from the Orioles in exchange for Rick VandenHurk.
The Cardinals made the main addition in the NL Central by getting Westbrook from the Indians to bolster the back of the rotation, while spinning off Ludwick to the Padres in a three-team deal. The Reds did not jump into the fray.
The Dodgers countered the Padres' big moves by acquiring left-handed starter Ted Lilly, infielder Ryan Theriot and reliever Octavio Dotel, while the Giants -- hot NL West pursuers and Wild Card leaders -- searched for bullpen help and wound up getting Javier Lopez from the Pirates.
The Blue Jays had some coveted relievers -- Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, Kevin Gregg -- but didn't move them. They also had one of the most hot-hitting bats around in Jose Bautista, currently leading the Majors in homers (31), but he remained in Toronto.
"There's something to be said for doing something that makes sense," Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said. "It needed to line up. There were a lot of scenarios out there that we could've made a trade, but if we weren't really compelled to do something, we weren't going to do it."
Other big names also remained where they were before the Deadline. Adam Dunn, a walking trade rumor the past few years, has not been moved out of Washington. With free agency looming, the Nationals seem willing to try and re-sign him, or take the compensation Draft picks they'd receive if he left. The Dodgers' Manny Ramirez, on the disabled list and having missed almost half the season, also came into the picture late in the game, with the White Sox, Rays and Angels reportedly interested.
Still, Dunn created a constant buzz of suitors calling Nationals GM Mike Rizzo in the past few days.
"We were on the receiving end of the calls," Rizzo said. "We were not making the calls. We received a lot of interest in Adam. We didn't see a equal return to what Adam Dunn brings to the ballclub on and off the field."
Ramirez, meanwhile, remained after what turned out to be a lot more rumor than actual discussion. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said two other teams followed up after an initial inquiry, but there really was nothing even close to what would have been as big a blockbuster as the July 31, 2008, deal with the Red Sox that started Mannywood.
"It was so late in the day and late in the process, and I believe we still need Manny," Colletti said.
For all the buyers, the results will be felt in the days and weeks to come. For the sellers, those results will be felt in terms of years.
The Astros have Happ now, and his six shutout innings made for a dandy debut. And they've got Brett Wallace, who started Saturday night in Berkman's place. Sure, they're a few All-Star seasons and a trip to the World Series away from fully replacing the icons who departed, but Happ has been one of most sought-after young pitchers in the game the past couple of years, and Wallace has been the most traded top prospect. Wallace's first went from the Cardinals to the A's in the Matt Holliday trade last July, then to the Blue Jays, following the Roy Halladay trade, and now from Toronto to Houston, after the Oswalt deal.
"Brett Wallace is a hitting machine," Astros general manager Ed Wade said. "No question about that. We've had our eye on him since the 2008 Draft. He was a first-round pick of the Cardinals at that point and has been in some pretty big trades."
The D-backs, who dispatched two starters in Haren and Jackson, received six pitchers in return. Lefty Joe Saunders, acquired in the Haren trade with the Angels, and rookie Dan Hudson, acquired in the Jackson trade with the White Sox, join the rotation right away. They also traded away catcher Chris Snyder, for three Major Leaguers, and reliever Chad Qualls. The four players dealt away takes close to $20 million off the books for next year.
"We're a last place team and have been for two years," D-backs interim general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "So this is an opportunity to address our goals, which are to put a quality Major League club on the field, and we want to go out there and create more depth as we head into the offseason. And in order to do that, we had to shift pieces in place."
That's what the Trade Deadline is all about, after all. Shifting pieces and changing uniforms, all amid a summer shower of trades.
There could be more action in the coming weeks as teams place players on waivers, hoping they clear, so they can be traded, that claims will start trade talks, or that someone might just claim them and take a big contract off their hands.
Until then, this week's flurry of activity figures to warm up the playoff run for weeks to come.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.