Tuesday’s Top Twelve: 2009’s Most Impactful July Trades

Now that we have all had some time to assess a rather hectic trade deadline in Major League Baseball, it is time to think about the upcoming pennant races and how those deadline deals will impact September and October 2009.  I don’t claim to be an expert on the prospects that were given away (though I did watch the entire 7-hour MLB Network Trade Deadline Special on DVR), but I will try to analyze the deals from what I have heard.  Further, this is not limited to positive impact–just simply which trades that were made in the week or so leading up to the July 31st deadline will make the most difference in the outcome of this year’s MLB season.  So, in my humble opinion, here are the Top 12 Most Impactful Trades of the 2009 Trade Deadline Season (which does not include the honorable mention deals that nabbed the Brewers reliever, Claudio Vargas; the Rockies reliever, Joe Beimel; and the Yankees utility guy, Jerry Hairston, Jr.):

12). The Reds acquire 3B Scott Rolen from the Blue Jays for 3B Edwin Encarnacion, RP Josh Roenike, and a minor-leaguer to be named later.  I love that this is completely irrelevant.  To be honest, it shouldn’t be on this list at all because it is going to have absolutely NO impact on the 2009 pennant race, but I couldn’t help but comment on it.  Scott Rolen and another team that got tired of his “sensitivity” and sent him packing for what seems to be less than his talent would demand in return.  But, that is pretty much the story of the Scott Rolen career, huh?  Producing less than his talent demands.  Apparently, Larry Bowa made a snide comment about this trade saying how shocking it was that Scott Rolen was trying to go some place where he could be “comfortable.”  Well, that pretty much sums it up.  Have fun, Cincinnati, just make sure the sun ALWAYS shines directly on Mr. Rolen, and everyone will happy.

11). Mariners acquire SS Jack Wilson and SP Ian Snell from the Pirates for SS Ronny Cedeno, 1B Jeff Clement, and three minor-league pitching prospects.  I don’t think this will have much impact, either, but it at least gives the Mariners a glimmer of hope at coming back in the AL West and/or the AL Wild Card races.  Personally, I think this was a pretty bad deal for Seattle, as Jack Wilson is solid, but way overpaid, and Ian Snell has proven that he can’t really get it together against 8-man lineups, so how is he going to do it against 9-man lineups?  I guess he’s worth taking a chance at, but they seemed to have given up A LOT to make this deal.  Jeff Clement is a former #3 overall draft choice, and Ronny Cedeno still has some upside.  But, they also gave up three pitching prospects, including Aaron Prisbanic, who is supposedly a pretty solid prospect.  But, even if all three pitchers sizzle, the M’s gave up on a former #3 pick for an overpaid shortstop and a reclamation project on the mound.  I believe this may have more of a negative impact than anything else–down the line–because I don’t see Seattle getting back in this race this year (more on that later in the countdown).

10). Cubs acquire RP John Grabow and SP/RP Tom Gorzelanny from Pirates for RPs Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio and a minor-league infield prospect.  Now, we are getting into the deals that are more than likely going to make some sort of impact on the pennant races down the stretch.  The Cubs got a left-handed reliever–a desperate need for them–and another ex-Pirate starter that may still have something left in the tank.  Grabow was the second-best lefty reliever on the market (we’ll see the best later on this list), so it is a nice pickup for Chicago.  They seem to be putting the pieces in place after a rough start to the season to really make a good run at the NL Central.  And, if they do hold off the Cardinals and company, we all know how important the bullpen is in October baseball.

9). Marlins get Nick Johnson from the Nationals for SP Aaron Thompson.  The Marlins really needed one more veteran bat in their lineup if they are going to make a run at the either the Phillies in the East or the rest of the NL in the Wild Card race.  They have the young fireballing pitching staff to be in it until the end, but their lineup has been shaky.  Now, with Johnson to play first, they can move Jorge Cantu over to third base, permanently, and their lineup gets a lot deeper.  Also, Johnson may set an example of how important it is to TAKE PITCHES–one thing that this Marlins lineup seems to despise to do.  He will at least make the starters work.  I like this deal for Florida.  I still think that the Cubs have a better shot at the playoffs, but I think Johnson will have a bigger impact, either way, than Grabow and Gorzelanny.

8). Giants acquire Freddy Sanchez from the Pirates for SP prospect Tim Alderson; Giants acquire 1B Ryan Garko from the Indians for SP prospect Scott Barnes.  In two separate deals, the Giants traded away young pitching prospects, including Alderson, who many people believe has front-of-the-rotation potential, for two decent bats.  It sounds crazy, but the Giants are so stacked with starting pitching throughout their organization (including one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball, neither of whom have had their 26th birthday yet) and are in the race this year with an anemic offense.  Garko does not put fear in any opposing pitchers (especially as a cleanup hitter), but he can be productive, and is at least a power upgrade from Bengie Molina in the #4 spot in the lineup.  And, Sanchez is a former batting champion who hits a lot of singles and is just a professional hitter who makes pitchers get him out.  These two could put stability in a lineup that won’t need many runs to win games because of the pitching staff in San Fran.

7). Twins acquire SS Orlando Cabrera from the A’s for infield prospect Tyler Ladendorf.  This is pretty uncharacteristic of the Twins–they usually use their incredible farm system to fill holes, but this time they had to go outside and they did.  With the AL Central race getting pretty interesting, as all three teams are gearing up, the Twins addressed probably their biggest weakness with Cabrera.  Nick Punto (despite being awesome, in general) simply cannot hit.  He has given them solid defense, but they really needed an upgrade because their secondbaseman, Alexei Casillas also cannot hit.  So, they add Cabrera–who can hit and field–and let Punto and Casillas platoon at 2B and, all of a sudden, the lineup gets a lot deeper.  Plus, it seems like Cabrera, a grizzled vet with a postseason resume, is pretty excited to play in Minnesota.

6). Dodgers acquire George Sherill from the Orioles for minor league 3B Josh Bell and minor-league SP Steve Johnson.  I have said it a million times:  bullpens win in September and October.  And, the Dodgers may have added the final piece to the National League’s best bullpen.  Adding Sherril to Mota, Kuo, and Belisario as the setup team for the lights-out Jonathan Broxton makes for an incredibly formidable ‘pen heading into the big games of these final months.  Plus, if the Dodgers are going to get out of the National League, there is a decent chance they are going to have to go through Philadelphia to do it, so adding another left-hander to that ‘pen may pay extra dividends against the lefty-heavy lineup of the Phils.

5). Tigers acquire Jarrod Washburn from the Mariners for SP Lucas French and SP prospect Mauricio Robles.  Any other year and this may have been the headline deal of the Trade Deadline–and it wouldn’t have been that bad of a headline deal.  It is just that this year was jam-packed with potentially impactful trades.  And, I think this one may end up being the biggest–I tried to justify putting it higher on this list, but just couldn’t do it.  The Tigers are in first place, but also in a dogfight with two other experienced teams.  They have a clear ace (Verlander), a very good #2 (Jackson), and then there are question marks.  Yes, Rick Porcello started his career as good as anyone in recent memory, but he has slipped as of late, and there are questions as to whether or not he will be reliable in big games after 150-200 innings.  And, the final two rotation spots were big question marks with the departed French and the incredibly disappointing Armando Galarraga.  Until now.  Now, the Tigers added one of the most effective starters in the AL this year.  If Washburn was anywhere but Seattle, there might be Cy Young talk surrounding him.  And, now he slides into a rotation that becomes immediately frightening down the stretch.  This move could be the difference between the Tigers missing the playoffs by a game or two and winning the American League.  Not saying they are World Series favorites, but they are now in the conversation because of their top three starters.

4). Red Sox acquire C/1B/DH Victor Martinez from the Indians for SP/RP Justin Masterson and minor league SP prospects Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price.  A lot of people would have this trade higher.  In fact, I probably caved and wouldn’t allow myself to drop it below the Washburn deal.  But, honestly, could the hoop-la surrounding this trade have more to do with the receiving team than the players or potential impact it will have on this team, in a vacuum?  Yes, Martinez is a big bat.  Yes, Martinez is an upgrade, offensively, for a team that has been struggling to score runs.  But, how big of an upgrade is he if he will be taking at-bats from Mike Lowell or David Ortiz?  And, is the offensive upgrade over Jason Varitek enough to compensate for the defensive downgrade they will face if the put Martinez behind the plate?  Look, it is #4 on my list of most impactful trades in a jam-packed year, so I think this is a major move.  I just think that there were three moves that will have a bigger effect on the pennant races than this one.

3). Cardinals acquire OF Matt Holliday from the A’s for SP Clayton Mortensen, 3B prospect Brett Wallace, and OF prospect Shane Peterson.  I am now officially scared of the St. Louis Cardinals.  And, it’s a shame because I’ve always liked the Cardinals.  Then, they traded for Scott Rolen, so I had to dislike them.  Then, they got rid of Rolen, so I liked them again.  Now, they trade for Matt Holliday?  Holliday is not as low on my “list” as Rolen, but I am unapologetically NOT a fan of Mr. Holliday and his arrogant, annoying personality.  But, it is undeniable how talented he is.  And, the one thing that the Cardinals needed more than anything was someone to hit behind the Great Pujols, so that the Cards can either (a) get Albert more pitches to hit, or (b) make teams pay for walking him.  They have done that in Holliday.  They also acquired a seemingly energized Julio Lugo, as well, and I thought about putting these deals together, but I think the Holliday acquisition will stand on its own merit in its impact.

2). White Sox acquire SP Jake Peavy from the Padres for SP Clayton Richard and SP prospects Aaron Poreda, Adam Russell, and Dexter Carter.  Wow, that is a whole lot to give up for an injured starting pitcher.  Richard is a budding star who was already productive in Chicago’s Major League rotation.  Poreda is supposedly a big-time prospect.  Russell is not projected as a front-of-the-rotation guy, but is projected to pitch in the bigs, in some capacity.  And, Carter (the seeming throw-in to the deal) leads all minor league pitchers in strikeouts, so he’s got some stuff.  But, we are not here to analyze the future of these deals.  So, how will this deal be bigger than all but one other July deal considering the Padres didn’t even think Peavy would pitch again all year?  And the answer is that this deal will have a major impact on the White Sox and the hot AL Central race either way.  If Peavy gets healthy, the Sox have added a Cy Young winner (who, by the way, is fighting an ankle injury, so it’s not like it’s a shoulder or an elbow) to a rotation that looks really good when everyone slides down a spot.  Mark Buerhle goes from an acceptable #1 to a sensational #2.  John Danks goes from a mediocre (at best) #2 to a pretty good #3.  Gavin Floyd goes from a shaky #3 to an enviable #4.  And, Jose Contreras goes from an unreliable #4 to a pretty solid #5.  And, with the big bats in the middle of the order, this team is poised to possibly repeat as AL Central champs.  BUT…if Peavy does NOT come back, then the Sox are stuck with the four guys mentioned above plus a complete wild card in the fifth spot, now that they’ve given up Richard (who was 4-3 in 14 starts and 12 relief appearances this year).  Honestly, I think Peavy is coming back because, otherwise, I don’t think the Sox make this deal.  I think they will get him eventually, but the question is now–who fills the spot for the 4-5 starts that he will miss while rehabbing?  In a race this tight, this could make all the difference and not having Clayton Richard make those starts, even if they Peavy for 7-8 starts after that, might be all that separates the Sox from either the Twins or Tigers, or both.  So, this deal is going to have major ramifications one way or another on the AL Central.

1). Phillies acquire SP Cliff Lee and OF Ben Francisco from the Indians for SP prospects Jason Knapp and Carlos Carrasco, C prospect Lou Marson, and SS prospect Jason Donald.  I really don’t think I’m being a homer on this one.  Adding Cliff Lee (forget Francisco, for a minute) transformed the Phillies from dangerous team that probably didn’t have the pitching to repeat to one of the clear World Series favorites, if not THE favorite.  With Cliff Lee, it is hard for me to make a case for anyone else in baseball having a more complete team than the defending champs.  Lee has been phenomenally effective in the American League and now he comes over to 8-man lineups.  Lee and Hamels in a playoff series?  Other than the offensively-challenged Giants, no one in the NL can come close to matching those two.  And, oh by the way, the Phillies have the best and most complete offense in baseball–especially now that they addressed their one offensive question mark–a right-handed bench player.  Ben Francisco is pretty much the EXACT player that the Phillies needed off of the bench.  He hits for power, can run the bases, and can play any of the three outfield positions.  And, most importantly he is RIGHT-HANDED.  This deal is a complete game-changer in the National League and is, clearly, the most important of a monstrous flurry of deadline deals.

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One Response to Tuesday’s Top Twelve: 2009’s Most Impactful July Trades

  1. Doogan says:

    Nice job, I agree with where you have every one of them. I was surprised when I looked at Victor Martinez’s career stats. For a catcher they’re really good, but for a 1B/DH, they’re not all that special. Career .297 BA, career-high 25 homers. And I’ll second the fear of the Cardinals. I’m definitely rooting for the Cubs to pull out that division and for the Cards to be sitting out the playoffs.

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