There has been a flurry of action in baseball over the last couple of days and a lot of catching up to do. We'll go chronologically from the last time we discussed MLB trades (the Harden and Sabathia trades).
The first is Oakland trading Joe Blanton to the Phillies for prospects. This was kind of a smaller trade but a fairly beneficial one for bother sides. Blanton is a decent pitcher who was helped by pitching in Oakland, a severe pitchers' park. Blanton has pretty good stuff but is a fly ball pitcher through and through and moving to a smaller park in Philly can't be good in the long term. That being said, Blanton does provide a big upgrade in the rotation and allows the Phillies to push Adam Eaton to the bullpen where he is much more suited at this point. On Oakland's side, they got one good prospect and two decent ones. Adrian Cardenas projects as a decent 2nd baseman who'll do a little bit of everything but not much of anything. Still, if he reaches his expected plateau, he could easily be a starter for a team right in the thick of things. Josh Outman will probably be a one-inning lefty reliever and Matt Spencer is a big ol' masher who probably doesn't make enough contact to make much of an impact.
The next trade was the Brewers acquiring Ray Durham from the Giants for two dudes. If this were five to ten years ago, the Brewers might be excited. But since it is 2008, Ray Durham is old, atrocious with the glove and can't really hit like he used to. Still, if he can fill in and produce at all he could be a useful bench player. Luckily, the Brewers gave up nothing but a pitcher with no out pitch or control and an outfielder who can run but takes bad reads on fly balls and cant hit worth a lick. Man, the Gigantes are terrible.
The third trade is the Nationals trading reliever Jon Rauch to the Diamondbacks for Emilio Bonifaco. Rauch has good control but not much else, despite his large frame that should produce power and a downward plane for pitches. Still, if Rauch stays in control, he is a solid middle reliever who will help the DBacks. The Nationals got nothing in return. Bonifaco is a utility player for a AAA team at best. Great going, Washington.
The next big trade was the Yankees move to get Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte from the Pirates for a collection of prospects. Nady is having a career season that he probably won't be able to keep up for too long. Still, he at worst is the best 4th outfielder in baseball and a guy who absolutely destroys lefties. Nady is also a lot younger than any of the Yankees current options in the OF/1B/DH rotation and could thrive with some lineup protection around him. Marte is one of the better lefty relievers out there who isn't limited to just one or two batters. With only two real pitches (slider and fastball), Marte can become a little predictable but his low arm slot makes him a tough read and instantly upgrades a thin Yankee bullpen. The Pirate got a decent haul though they probably could've/should have held out for at least one sure-thing kind of prospect. Ross Ohlendorf is headed towards a very productive career as a late-inning reliever. At this point, Ohlendorf is a less experienced version of Marte who is cheaper and might still have room for growth. Daniel McCutchen and Jeff Karstens are similar players with McCutchen projecting slightly better. Both have good velocity and command but no real out pitch. Both could be solid back-of-the-rotation guys or relievers. Jose Tabata is an interesting prospect. Very talented and younger than both of your humble authors, Tabata has good power for a small man (only listed at 160 lbs) and shows all of the physical tools needed to be a very good Major League outfielder. Still, something seems to not be clicking with Tabata, as he doesn't seem to care at all about what he's doing. If the Pirates can somehow motivate the talented Tabata, this trade could be a steal. If not, Tabata will simply become another name on the long list of players with some talent who never put it all together.
The next trade was Cleveland unloading Casey Blake upon the Dodgers for two prospects. Blake is a solid hitter who will continue to be just that out in LA. A very solid deadline pickup at the plate. The problem is that, while he's fine on balls hit right at him, Blake can't move at 3rd, possessing no lateral quickness. For a team with a lot of groundball pitchers (especially Derek Lowe) this is a problem, as the team has now exactly one average or better fielder in the infield (1st baseman James Looney). The Tribe picked up two good prospects in Carlos "Black Magic Woman" Santana and Jonathan Meloan. Santana recently converted to catcher and has shown remarkable progress behind the plate even grading out as a great receiver depending on who you ask. In addition, he has a solid swing that gets good contact with average power. Ideally, his development will continue and very shortly he'll allow the Indians to move Victor Martinez to first base full time. Meloan has struggled this year as a starter but had a solid career up to this point as a reliever, which is likely where Cleveland will put him. He doesn't have great velocity and some of his pitches tend to flatten out despite being 6'3" but he has pretty good break and control and makes a lot of hitters swing and miss, especially the first time through a lineup.
The next trade is Mark Teixeira to the Angels from the Braves. The best team (record-wise anyway) in baseball gets better as the Angels add one of the best 1st basemen in the game to an already solid lineup. Teixeira is a switch hitter who has almost no dropoff on either side of the plate. He is patient and powerful, something the Angels have been lacking. In addition, Teixeira provides above-average defense at first, something the Halos place a lot of emphasis on. With Vlad the Impaler still banged up (isn't he always?), Teixeira is the Angels best position player and should take a heavy load off Guerrero's shoulders to be the man in Anaheim. While my gushing over Teixeira would imply that the Braves got screwed, that's actually not the case. Casey Kotchman, the new starting 1st baseman is like a poor-man's Teixeira. Probably better with the glove, Kotchman has shown similar patience to Teixeira but doesn't have the same power as Big Tex. Kotchman has had a sub-par season, in part because he hasnt shown the same patience as he has in the past. That being said, there is no reason he can't turn it around and become an above-average player once again. The other prospect involved is minor-league reliever Stephen Marek, a young gun with great stuff but poor control and, due to his small stature, a tendency to leave flat pitches up in the zone.
The Yankees' second trade being discussed here is the one-for-one trade of Kyle Farnsworth to the Tigers for Ivan Rodriguez. This trade filled two huge roles for two contending teams that are just now getting back into the race they probably should have been in all along. The Yankees get Rodriguez to replace the injured Jorge Posada, who is likely done for the year. Pudge is merely a shell of his former self, now showing little to no power and just slapping balls the other way. His defense has slipped and he is no longer one of the best ever behind the plate. Still, he is an upgrade in every single aspect of the game over 2+ months of Jose "The Worst" Molina. The Tigers, possessing Brandon Inge, a slight upgrade offensively and slight downgrade defensively from Rodriguez behind the plate, felt comfortable dealing for some desperately needed help in the pen. Farnsworth is prone to snapping and punching an infant or two at any given moment, but he has good stuff and has been a good reliever this year. The Tigers late inning combo of Todd Jones and his 26 MPH fastball and Joel Zumaya and his 153 MPH fastball going nowhere intentionally hasn't been working, so Farnsworth can step in and provide some stability to the weakest part of the Tigers' team.
The next trade completed was the salary dump by the Reds, who sent Ken Griffey, Jr. to the ChiSox for two fringe prospects. Junior is on his last legs as a useful player and it's sad to see how much his bat-speed has declined and how limited he is in the outfield after spending a career with one of the sweetest strokes around and routinely making impossible plays seem like second nature. Griffey still can hit a mistake and therefore is a solid player to pick up, especially at the price the White Sox paid. Still, Griffey hurts an already bad outfield defense for the team, but should be helpful in that he reduces the at-bats for Paul Konerko, who has had an absolutely abysmal season. The prospects the Reds got back are nothing to write home about so I won't...just kidding. Nick Masset is a good-stuff, no-control pitcher who doesn't project too well but could become a useful pitcher if given correct training. Danny Richar is probably nothing more than a utility player who could be useful on a contender and even start on a bad team. Neither player has much of a ceiling, but considering Griffey's age and salary, the Reds got a decent return for one of the greatest players to ever grace us with his presence.
The final big trade of the deadline was the 3-team monster that saw Manny Ramirez heading to the Dodgers, Jason Bay heading to the Redsox, and 4 prospects of various repute heading to the Pirates. The player receiving top billing in this trade is obviously Manny Ramirez. Ramirez isn't a great baserunner and is a constant adventure in the outfield. In addition, he will often mail-in at-bats and his erratic behavior can become a problem in the clubhouse. But! Manny Ramirez can flat out rake. Ramirez instantly becomes the best hitter on the Dodgers and makes their team that much more potent...assuming he improves his attitude. At worst, he allows the Dodgers to bench either Juan Pierre or Andruw Jones, two of the worst players in the Majors sporting gigantic contracts. At best, Ramirez provides that middle of the order presence that pushes the team to a playoff spot. The Redsox give up a great player in Ramirez but get a good one (and one who isn't disgruntled) back in Jason Bay, formerly of the Pirates. Bay is not the hitter Manny is (or at least used to be) and this is likely a downgrade this season for many reasons. While Ramirez would strike fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers, Bay is much less known and imposing. Bay is a much better defender (though he's not great), but that may be negated this season as Ramirez had a lot of experience playing in the oddly shaped confines of Fenway Park. But that actually leads to why this was a good trade for the BoSox. While Ramirez' contract was up at the end of the season (and he would undoubtedly have left), Bay is still under control for a few more years and at a much cheaper price. Once Bay gets into the swing of things in Fenway, he could make up a fair portion of the production Ramirez gave plus improve the outfield defense of Boston and his low price tag could allow the Sox to invest in other positions. The Pirates did pretty well for themselves here. Andy LaRoche joins his brother Adam in Pittsburgh on the other side of the diamond. Andy is like a less athletic, more skilled version of Adam. He has shown good patience at the plate and can hit for very good average and decent power. LaRoche can also supply decent defense at third, but he probably will never be a star and is a candidate to decline rapidly when he reaches his 30s. Craig Hansen was a former 1st rounder for the Red Sox who has great stuff but has fallen out of favor because of poor command and an inconsistent delivery. If the Pirates can convince him to change up his motion a bit and vary his pitch selection (not likely) he could become a middle of the rotation guy for at least 5 years. Brandon Moss is a tweener outfielder who isn't quite good enough to play center, but doesn't hit quite enough to warrant an everyday slot at a corner outfield spot. Still, he projects to be a 3rd or 4th outfielder for a good team and certainly can be a useful player. The prospect with the best potential of the group is Bryan Morris, who had some good stuff before going down with Tommy John surgery. He seems to be recovering very well and could be a good front of the rotation starter for a contender, however pitchers are very hard to project because of the recurrence of injuries and Morris could simply be on the clock for another one. But if he remains healthy, he would be the best piece of what was a productive deadline for the Pirates where they stockpiled a number of solid players who could produce for the club while they develop a few stars.
That was long and in depth, I hope you enjoyed it. If not, please watch this: