Aug
01

The trade deadline and the AL playoff picture

By

(Jeff Golden/Getty Images)

The trade deadline passed yesterday, and as usual there were a number of deals. While blockbuster trades for the likes of Justin Upton, Cliff Lee, or Matt Garza never happened, there were still a number of impact players that changed teams  Contending teams looked to bolster their squads for the stretch run, while the teams who are out of the playoff hunt dumped assets to save salary and strengthen the farm.  In this post, I will take a look at the moves made by the Yankees and their competition, both within the division and within the AL, to see how these deals will impact the 2012 playoff picture.

Yankees

As has become customary for the Yankees this time of year, Brian Cashman and crew did not make any big, splashy moves, citing the excessive costs demanded in prospects and players.  However, they did make a few moves to improve the team’s depth, fill holes created by injuries, and set the Yankees up for a deep run in October.

The Ichiro Suzuki acquisition was one where the hype and excitement is probably disproportionate to the expected impact of the player.  Nonetheless, it was an important acquisition, giving the Yankees speed and defensive prowess that they have missed because Brett Gardner has missed most of the season, and shows no signs of returning anytime soon.  While Ichiro had had a disappointing 2012 so far, anything the Yankees can get from him offensively is gravy.  I think he still has something left in the tank, especially against right-handed pitchers, and he can be an effective table-setting presence from the bottom of the order.

The swap of Chad Qualls for Casey McGehee served two purposes.  Not only did the trade rid the Yankees of an ineffective bullpen arm to clear a spot for the return of Joba Chamberlain, it also brought in a backup corner infielder with some right-handed pop who can fill in for the injured Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, and give the notably fragile Eric Chavez some extra rest.

Red Sox

While Boston is 7.5 games out and just 2 games over .500, the team is too talented to count out.  However, they didn’t do very much at the deadline in terms of either buying or selling.  They re-acquired lefty reliever Craig Breslow, but they didn’t make any moves to deal underachieving pitchers Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, as some speculated they might.  Rob Bradford of WEEI reported that they did discuss a blockbuster deal with the Rangers that included Josh Beckett, Kelly Shoppach, and Jacoby Ellsbury, but nothing ever emerged from those talks.  While the Red Sox did not wave the white flag by selling off any impact players, they didn’t exactly do anything significant to improve their team.  This indicates that they think that they will improve naturally as their players get healthy and start playing better, or consider them too worthwhile to give up long-term assets to increase the small likelihood that they make the playoffs (though they are only 3.5 games out in the Wild Card).

Rays and Orioles

The Rays are 6.5 games behind the Yankees in the division and 2.5 games back in the Wild Card standings, and the Orioles are a game ahead of the Rays.  Nonetheless, neither team showed a sense of urgency, as they didn’t make any trades that would increase their likelihood of winning the Wild Card or catching the Yankees.

Angels

The traditional thorn in the Yankees’ side made one of the biggest moves of the trading period, acquiring RHP Zack Greinke for Baseball America’s #55 prospect Jean Segura and 2 others.  Greinke, who was having a strong season with the Brewers, adds another frontline-caliber pitcher to an Angels rotation that already includes Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, and Dan Haren.  With Greinke in the fold, the Angels’ deep rotation becomes even deeper, and that quartet of starters could prove formidable come playoff time.  As a Yankee fan, it’s hard not to be nervous about a Weaver-Greinke-Wilson-Haren rotation come playoff time, especially when paired with Yankee-killer Mark Trumbo and 20 year-old superman Mike Trout.

Rangers

The Rangers, the current AL West leaders, made two moves to improve their team in expectation of a trip to October.  They acquired RHP Ryan Dempster, who was also connected to the Yankees, Dodgers, and Braves in trade rumors.  Dempster is currently #2 in the majors in ERA, and while few expect him to finish that well after moving to the AL and Texas’ hitter-friendly park, Dempster should be a big addition to a pitching staff with some injuries and question marks. They also added catcher Geovany Soto, who will improve the Rangers’ defense behind the plate and allow them to use Mike Napoli at DH or 1st base more often. These two moves strengthened an already-formidable team, and while the Rangers still have questions in the rotation due to injuries, adding Dempster will provide some important stability.

White Sox

The White Sox own a 2.5 game lead in the AL Central and made some additions at or around the deadline. While GM Kenny Williams reportedly tried and failed to acquire Zack Greinke, he did make a cheaper addition to the rotation in the form of Francisco Liriano. While Liriano has had an uneven season and injuries have kept him from fulfilling his incredible potential, he is talented enough that if he figures things out, he could be a major force in the Chicago rotation. Although the deal happened well before the deadline, the Kevin Youkilis acquisition has already paid dividends for Sox.  He provides their lineup with some power and patience, and can adequately fill the 3rd base slot that was causing the Sox problems earlier in the year.

As we can see, almost all of the Yankees’ playoff competitors made significant improvements this trade season.  The Angels adding Greinke is the move that scares me the most, but Texas’s acquisition of Ryan Dempster also provides a major upgrade to an already-strong team.  The Yankees’ divisional competition didn’t do much to improve, which bodes well for their chances to win the division.  While the Yankees failed to make any flashy trades, they filled some holes and should be well-positioned to win the AL East and enter the playoffs as a World Series contender.  Healthy and effective returns by Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte will be of utmost importance here.

22 Comments»

  1. Kevin G. says:

    I can;t wait until the hyped rotation of the Angels has to go up against Verlander in the one-game playoff.

    • Eric Schultz says:

      Definitely. I didn’t get to include the Tigers in this post because I ran out of time, but the Anibal Sanchez acquisition could help them take the Central over Chicago.

    • Manny says:

      good point, but i think they’re now a better team than texas and I wouldn’t be surprised if they take the AL West with 2 months left.

      • Derek says:

        Yea I would agree they’re probably better than Texas. Rangers’ pitching isn’t nearly as deep, while both offenses are comparable with probably the edge to LA. We’ll see how Dempster changes their rotation.

  2. Steve T says:

    Your last sentence says it all for the Yanks. Health is the key. Also, you forgot about the A’s. They didn’t make a big move (they did get Kottaras), but they’re still very much in it.

  3. Rahul says:

    Athletics and how about the Tigers?

  4. Dan says:

    If the Angels win their division, which it’s hard to see them now doing with that rotation and their lineup clicking, it would be hard to find a team that can beat them. If the Yankees face them and have CC-Weaver, Greinke-Kuroda, Pettitte-Wilson, Hughes/Nova-Haren, as the matchup those might be pretty even but factoring in how well the Angels have hit the Yankees its hard to imagine this series going the Yanks way. Though with the way the Yankees have played lately, its still not a guarantee that they win their division especially with the injuries and subpar pitching performances they are dealing with.

    • RetroRob says:

      Sciosa’s teams just about always underperform.

      The Phillies were eliminated in the first round last year.

      The Angels won’t win it all.

      • jjyank says:

        Yup. Playoff rosters are not built on paper. Otherwise the last two world series teams would not have even made it to that point anyway.

        Did anyone seriously think the 2011 Cardinals or the 2010 Giants were even in the top 3 post season teams of their respective years?

        • Ted Nelson says:

          Exactly… Looking at P match-ups on paper in early August is not a particularly effective way to figure out which team will win.

  5. Jose M. Vazquez says:

    Not making any moves such as giving away our good prospects for rentals is an indication ( I hope) that we will be getting younger during the next two to three years. There is nothing better than an infusion of young blood to an old team.

  6. Randi says:

    This is a good article, but a team not making a doesn’t mean that they have no sense of urgency. Said club(s) may just wait until the end of the season/free agency or there weren’t good deals to be had at this trade deadline.

  7. Jimmy McNulty says:

    The Red Sox really shouldn’t be counted out, whenever the Yankees get off to a slow start homers everywhere point out that the 2007 Yankees weren’t above .500 until late July. The O’s have a -60 run differential while the Red Sox have a +37. They’re a much better team than their record suggests and if Beckett and Lester pull their heads out of their asses watch out.

  8. Jimmy McNulty says:

    The fiveteams ahead of the Red Sox in the wild card race really aren’t that much better than them:

    The Angels +59 run differential
    Oakland +30 run diff
    Baltimore -60 run diff
    Detroit +7 run diff
    Tampa +19 run diff

    Be weary of the Red Sox.

    • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

      Until the Red Sox starting pitching shows some improvement, I think they’re gonna be up and down unless the offense goes nuts and they start bludgeoning people which is possible.

      • jjyank says:

        I’m in between both of you I think. The Sox pitching might be the death of them, but I still think they’re the most dangerous opponent here. If Lester and Beckett kick it into high gear and the lineup clicks, they could make a solid run.

        That said, I don’t think the Red Sox will make the playoffs. But I do think they’ll get hot and make a run at it. It’s entirely possible they will make the playoffs. I still don’t believe in the O’s, and the Rays without Longoria isn’t too intimidating despite their pitching.

    • Evan3457 says:

      I’m always weary of the Sox, and NESPN, and Fox, and the Sox Nation, and the whole hype.

      But I am wary of the Sox, too.

    • dkidd says:

      I’m extremely weary of them

    • Your Sox Smell says:

      Everyone is “weary” of the Boston drama queens.

  9. I know that we picked up McGehee yesterday, but the Phillies just DFA’d Mike Fontenot. He could be looked at as Chavez injury insurance.

  10. The Tenth Inning Stretch says:

    I’m not too impressed by the Dempster deal because he basically just replaces the guys who are injured there.

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