This year’s Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline saw its usual amount of comings and goings. One of the most interesting players in the deadline talks was the Philadelphia Phillies, a team that experienced a high volume of moves and non-moves, if you will. With Philly’s fate being essentially sealed, they decided to re-load, rather than rebuild. At the deadline, they decided to trade two of their starting outfielders, centerfielder Shane Victorino to the Dodgers and Hunter Pence to the Giants. In return the Phillies received a few prospects and role players such as reliever Josh Lindblom and outfielder Nate Schierholtz. What this move also did was create a starting role for once highly regarded prospect Domonic Brown, who has been up and down to the minor leagues since his initial call-up in July, 2010. Philly should finally get a sense of what they truly have in Brown over the next two months. The Phillies also elected to keep their pitching staff intact by signing Cole Hamels to a massive, six-year $144 million contract extension and not dealing disappointing pitcher Cliff Lee, a former Cy Young Award winner. Philadelphia should be back with a vengeance next season as they complete their reloading process in the fall and winter months.
The city of Los Angeles certainly saw it’s teams make a large scale commitment to “winning now” at the deadline. The Dodgers acquired bats like outfielder Shane Victorino and third baseman Hanley Ramirez as well as reliever Brandon League. The Angels acquired another ace to add to their already stellar rotation in the form of Brewers pitcher Zack Greinke. As a Yankee fan, this is a team that scares me if they are able to reach the postseason. With a rotation consisting of four ace-level pitchers (CJ Wilson, Jered Weaver, Zack Greinke and Dan Haren) and an offense, which includes phenoms Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo as well as the immortal Albert Pujols, this team is set up for a deep playoff run. Really the only thing standing in their way is themselves as they have, in many opinions, under-performed this season and currently find themselves six games back in the AL West behind the gritty Texas Rangers. If the Rangers, who acquired starter Ryan Dempster from the Cubs to bolster their rotation, falter, look for the Angels to give them a run for their money for the division lead.
In another key division race, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds found themselves gearing up at the deadline for the stretch run. The Pirates acquired first baseman Gaby Sanchez from the slumping Florida Marlins and starter Wandy Rodriguez from the Houston Astros. The Reds picked up Royals closer Jonathan Broxton to shore up the back of their bullpen. I think the nation is pulling for the Pirates in this race because of their long string of mediocrity, however, Cincy is the team I believe will come out on top. With the emergence of Mat Latos, the performances of Johnny Cueto and the bullpen and a consistent offensive onslaught, I see the Reds as the superior team. Though Pittsburgh should make a serious run at a wild card spot this year along with many other teams in the National and American Leagues.
I am a huge supporter of the second wild card spot put in place by Major League Baseball this year. As a baseball fan, it is a huge victory as many more teams will now be in the hunt for October in an attempt to win a spot in a one game playoff. Even proverbial underdogs like the Oakland A’s, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates are in the conversation. In addition to creating a great deal of intrigue in the postseason races and making a division title all that more valuable, the second wild card created the opportunity of hope for many teams, which otherwise would have been down and out. Take, for example, the Boston Red Sox who are, barring a miracle, out of the race in the AL East. Boston has had a down season by their lofty standards due to injury and a general lack of performance. However, with the new wild card system, they are merely 4.5 games out of a potential playoff spot with two months to go. GM Ben Cherington, instead of unloading some hefty contracts, more or less stood pat at the deadline. Aside for the trade of long-time third baseman Kevin Youkilis, made possible by the emergence of Will Middlebrooks, Boston preserved most of their roster in an attempt to position itself for a postseason run, assuming they remain healthy and certain players return to their potentials. In the blink of an eye, Boston could be back in the national baseball conversation as a force to be reckoned with, especially with all that talent. This second wild card prevented other teams from making similar moves signaling a move towards the future rather than the present, resulting in more potential teams in the running for a playoff berth, something that is unquestionably good for the game. As this season winds down, look for it to be one of the most exciting yet as baseball and its fans will be rewarded with excitement hanging on every pitch.