Sunday, August 3, 2008

MLB trade deadline winners and losers

By Rick Morris

We make these designations with the understanding that there may be a few shoes yet to drop in terms of waiver moves in August (we're looking at you, Paul Byrd and Jarrod Washburn!).

1. LA Angels: My preseason pick to win the World Series just picked up their necessary slugger in Mark Teixeira, who now teams with Mad Vlad to form October's premier 1-2 punch in the American League now that Manny's going to be Manny in SoCal.

2. NY Yankees: The Marte/Nady pickup from Pittsburgh was nice and relatively cheap (assuming that the sell-by date on Jose Tabata has passed). The Pudge deal with Detroit was just ridiculous. Look out for the Yankees in the final year of their hallowed stadium.

3. Milwaukee: CC and Sheets will make the Brew Crew very tough to beat (think Big Unit/Schilling '01) in the postseason, Sabathia's '07 October stumbles aside -- and the trade with Cleveland greatly advances the chances of getting there. Captain Cheeseburger cost the team in terms of prospects, but kudos to an organization who is striking while the iron is hot.

4. LA Dodgers: Manny's a pain, but the team desperately needed his bat. Now, if Torre is smart enough to marginalize Pierre and Jones instead of Kemp and Ethier at this point, the team will be all set to make a move past Arizona.

5. Chicago White Sox: There's a lot of hand-wringing about The Kid's (in?)ability to play center field at this point, and where the pieces will fit together, but if Ozzie juggles the pieces skillfully, everything should be OK. Move Swisher between CF and 1B, give Konerko some at-bats for Thome at DH and give Konerko and Griffey the non-Swisher games at each position and the team should be fine (and let Griffey back up the MVP contenders in the outfield corners when they need the occasional day off). Everybody involved will get fewer at-bats than they think they deserve, but this squad has successfully coalesced before. I still question whether the starting pitching will hold up in the postseason, but with this offense, I no longer consider this team an automatic one-and-done in October.

6. Chicago Cubs: Rich Harden is fragile, which is fitting given the team's litany of arm injuries this decade, but he's as good as CC and Sheets when healthy, if not better. Harden/Zambrano could easily be a curse-breaker for the North Siders.

7. Boston: They lost quite a bit when they traded their first-ballot Hall of Famer, and the ripple effects in the lineup might be wide-reaching, but they had no choice and got a decent return. Although David Ortiz will get pitched around a lot more, Jason Bay will not disappoint given the realistic level of expectations he faces as a replacement. The scenario of Manny outright quitting on the team as he did in 2006 and sabotaging their playoff hopes was an unacceptable risk, especially given the team-wide slump that he almost singlehandedly triggered with his mutiny.

8. Philadelphia: Joe Blanton helps, but not much. They still look to have enough to get past the Mets, but last year's quick playoff exit raised expectations for more that this year's team probably can't meet.

9. Cincinnati: They may not have received real value for Griffey, but any chance to see more of the 2009 lineup on the field is a plus for this team on the rise. With a quality offseason, this team could content not just for the division, but for the pennant next year.

1. Minnesota: The ultimate "do something with nothing" team pushed their luck a bit too much by not acquiring an impact bat or two. These slappies will lose significant ground to Chicago by mid-September.

2. Arizona: This team is poised for the future better than at least 25 franchises in baseball, but they need to make a greater commitment to winning now. A bat to legitimately replace Eric Byrnes was a must.

3. Detroit: Yes, the bullpen needed another arm, but a journeyman having an overachieving year for a player who helped hold their team together was a horrid swap.

4. Tampa Bay: See Arizona. The future is great, but the team is on the verge now, and could have used a right fielder or DH to add to what they have.

5. St. Louis: By standing pat, the team is gambling that the many career years that players are having are not flukish and will continue. I would say "See you in 2009," but even the future looks cloudy with Milwaukee and Cincinnati building long-term powerhouses.

6. NY Mets: This is another team counting on improving from within -- given the rampant underachievement of the early part of the season, that may seem like a good idea -- but in this climate, you're either moving forward or standing still.

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