There were relatively few moves, but the massive names that were moved mitigated that lack of action. Here are the winners, losers and those that are purely delusional:
- Los Angeles Angels:
As I’ve stated before, I’m not a big fan of Casey Kotchman whose main attribute appears to be that he’s going to come cheap for the next few years; but he doesn’t hit for enough power and is the type of first baseman—-a Sean Casey-type—-who you can find relatively cheaply. The Angels needed and got a bat to protect Vladimir Guerrero and be a threat on his own in Mark Teixeira. He’ll fit right into the way the Angels run their team and want to do very well to raise his paycheck as he enters free agency.
Manny Ramirez is the run producer the Dodgers needed and all they gave up was Andy LaRoche and a single A pitcher named Bryan Morris to get him. Ramirez will be heavily motivated to prove to the Red Sox and everyone that he’s still a $100 million superstar and I’d expect him to go on a tear. Joe Torre has handled so many egos and infantile adults that Manny should be no problem without Torre having to resort to being an enabler for him. The Red Sox deserve no blame for how things ended with Manny; one thing that they likely would have done over again might’ve been not to allow Manny’s bat to justify the team turning it’s head to Manny’s fits of pique. The Dodgers took advantage of the Red Sox desperation to get Manny out of town to pay pennies on the dollar in terms of players and nothing in terms of Manny’s salary.
*One note about Dodgers owner Frank McCourt: there’s been talk that there are factions in the Dodgers front office that are debating on which player moves to make, whether to deal youngsters for veterans and how much money to spend. McCourt has so much dead or near-dead money on his roster—-Andruw Jones, Jason Schmidt, Nomar Garciaparra, Rafael Furcal—-that he’s well within his rights to say enough’s enough. Casey Blake can play third, Manny left and the Dodgers are a genuine contender to come out of the National League because of these reasonably priced moves that were only possible because McCourt said no to other costly decisions.
White Sox GM Kenny Williams has been after Ken Griffey Jr. for years and since Paul Konerko has been so awful that I think Williams was sick of looking at him, it’s worth the risk of playing Griffey in center field hoping that the change will wake up his bat to late 90s levels (likely) and his legs to their Gold Glove-range (possible). I’ve never been shy to say that in his prime, Ken Griffey Jr. is the best baseball player I’ve ever seen and if the new venue and contending status of the White Sox wakes up Griffey’s slumbering greatness, it’s a brilliant move.
They didn’t give up much to get him in Nick Masset and Danny Richar. Masset’s already 26 and hasn’t shown much more than the possibility of being a reliever or spot starter. Richar’s shown some pop in the minors but probably isn’t an everyday player in the majors and might stick as a utility player. Giving Griffey frequent rest days down the stretch, moving Swisher to first base and sitting Konerko is probably the best move for right now and should maximize the deal for the White Sox.
The Yankees filled the majority of their needs without giving up a major chunk of their rebuilt minor league system (there’s been the argument that they didn’t give up much of anything and after the changes in the deal with the Pirates, that may be true). Xavier Nady is a solid righty bat who can play the outfield and first base; Damaso Marte is a lefty reliever who can get out righties as well; Pudge Rodriguez is still a big time defensive catcher who hits for average and Yankees GM Brian Cashman managed to get something of use for Kyle Farnsworth. That he refused to give up anything to the Mariners in exchange for taking Jarrod Washburn’s contract also deserves praise. Washburn may still end up with the Yankees because he’ll get through waivers and the Mariners might wake up and realize that getting Washburn off the books is better than holding out for prospects to save face.
They cleared out players like C.C. Sabathia and Casey Blake who they weren’t going to keep anyway and got some solid young prospects for them; they’ll still be able to move the likes of Paul Byrd and get a mid-level prospect for him in August because he should easily pass through waivers.
It’s been said that they had to get Manny out of town, but I think things could have been smoothed over for the rest of the season if they really wanted to do it, but after the accusations by Manny against owner John Henry, Henry must’ve told Theo Epstein to get Manny out of Boston no matter what he had to do to get it done. They surrendered Brandon Moss, Craig Hanson and are paying Manny’s salary. Moss looks like he’s going to be a good big leaguer; Hanson’s been terrible, but he’s never really been given a legitimate chance as an important part of the Red Sox bullpen. I still think that when they fell out of the race in 2006 and Jonathan Papelbon was shut down for the season, they would’ve been better-suited to give Hanson a chance as the closer instead of using Mike Timlin. Hanson’s motion isn’t ideal, but he throws very hard and still has a chance to be a useful reliever.
Getting Jason Bay was about the best that Epstein could’ve done under these circumstances, but Jason Bay is not Manny Ramirez; has never played in one meaningful game in his entire career and probably has no clue what he’s in for during a Yankees-Red Sox imbroglio. He’s been an all-field hitter in his career and might feel pressur
ed to aim for the Green Monster in games at Fenway and looks to me like the type of player who might get that “deer-in-the-headlights” look amid everything involved in replacing Manny, playing in Boston, etc.
This whole Manny-mess distracted the Red Sox from finding bullpen help and while Manny’s departure will make for a quieter work environment, it makes them a weaker team and no amount of clubhouse harmony will make up for diminished on-field performance.
They did well in getting Jon Rauch from the Nationals, but they needed a bat. Josh
Byrnes can’t be blamed for not getting the likes of Manny or Raul Ibanez (the Mariners were supposedly being outrageous with their demands); and I wouldn’t have added Conor Jackson to a trade for Mark Teixeira either. Their pitching is going to keep them in contention and a resurgent Randy Johnson over
the last two months should combine with Brandon Webb and Dan Haren to counteract a lack of hitting, but there’s something not right with this organization and it’s hard to pinpoint what it is. Perhaps the absence of Eric Byrnes and his fiery, kamikaze personality has robbed the team of their intangibles, but that pitching staff and the bats they have should be enough for a better record than 56-52 with or without Byrnes.
They needed pitching and didn’t do anything to assuage manager Tony La Russa’s disgust at the tight rein on the team purse strings. They’re fading out because of that bullpen and the good work that La Russa and Dave Duncan have done is going to waste. I wouldn’t be surprised if La Russa asks to be let out of his contract at season’s end without compensation for the new team he goes to manage; it looks like the Cardinals told him they’d spend some money to get players if they were in contention and he was lied to. He has a right to be angry.
- New York Mets/Philadelphia Phillies:
They didn’t do nothin’.
Why exactly do they need Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins? The Astros are 14 games out of first place and should be clearing some veterans for whom they could get prospects. Ty Wigginton, Geoff Blum, Darin Erstad, Doug Brocail, Brian Moehler and Geoff Geary could all have brought back something of value; instead, they added more fading veterans. It seems that Drayton McLane is harkening back to comebacks of Astros past, but those teams had great top-to-bottom pitching staffs and weak rivals; this team doesn’t and should clear out the house of middling veterans.
So let me get this straight, the Blue Jays, with an injury-ravaged pitching staff; fading veterans; and a GM who should be accruing moving boxes for his impending dismissal are indulging in fantasies of contention because they just got finished beating up on the Mariners and Orioles and were looking to acquire either Jason Bay or Raul Ibanez? For what? I feel like grabbing GM J.P. Ricciardi in a headlock a la Biff from Back to the Future and repeating the lines:
Hello? Hello? Anybody home? Huh? Think, McFly. Think!
The team isn’t any good! It’s time to start all over again by keeping Roy Halladay and pretty much nothing else. This is what happens when an under fire GM is allowed to stay in his job well past his expiration date; he shouldn’t even be allowed the option of trying to make deals like this because if he’d pulled them off, things only would be worse in both the near and distant future.
They don’t have much to bargain with, but they presumably could’ve gotten something for Khalil Greene, Scott Hairston and Jody Gerut; instead they did nothing. And just one question: in their current situation, what was the purpose of allowing Jake Peavy to throw 127 pitches on Sunday? For pitchers with a smooth, stress-free motion a few extra pitches probably aren’t going to hurt them; but with a guy like Peavy, for whom every pitch is taking a toll on his arm, why would they let him go so far over his usual threshold with the team buried and awful? What was the point?
They tried to upgrade their offense with the likes of Jason Bay, but for a young team who’s in an unexpected position, making drastic moves can have the opposite affect and send a team into a tailspin. If they could’ve made a big move without giving up a chunk of their farm system, then fine; but they held their fire and didn’t panic which was a smart move. There will be bats available in August and they’ll be able to bide their time and see if their current bats who’ve underperformed—-like Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena—-get hot.
The new Pirates front office led by GM Neal Huntington is getting roasted for the deals they made, but only time will tell as to what players like Jose Tabata, Bryan Morris, Daniel McCutchen, Ross Ohlendorf and Andy LaRoche are going to become. At least they didn’t do similar things that former GM Dave Littlefield did and bring in expensive, finished veterans like Matt Morris. In three years, these deals may look pretty good.