Trade Deadline Not Just About Red Sox and Yankees


Jul 29, 2009

Trade Deadline Not Just About Red Sox and Yankees Now, we wait for the rest of the dominoes to fall.

With baseball's trade deadline fast approaching, this is the fun part. Deals are already starting to happen — and each time a big trade goes down, a ripple effect goes off around baseball, with each team reacting. Teams start looking down the depth chart at their Plan B's and Plan C's, and deals that we never expected to see suddenly become possible.

We can extrapolate a lot, for example, from the Phillies' trade on Wednesday afternoon that landed them 2008 AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee.

The Lee trade means a couple of things. Most likely, it means that the Phillies have spoken for all of baseball and said that the Blue Jays' asking price for Roy Halladay is too high. They're right. Everyone wants pitching help, but no one wants to give up their entire farm system for it.

It also means that with Lee gone and Halladay realistically not going anywhere, the rest of baseball can now focus on their backup plans.

Every contender, especially in the hard-hitting American League, needs pitching help. And if they can't get a Cy Young winner, they're going to go after the next-best thing.

All month, we've heard hype about the Red Sox and the Yankees. But there's a lot more to the deadline than just watching the league's two titans. Part of the beauty of deadline drama is asking that all-important question: Who absolutely has to make a deal? Who really needs it? Whose playoff hopes depend on it?

The answer to that question might not lie in the AL East. Either the Yankees or Red Sox are winning that division, and whoever doesn't, becomes the odds-on favorite to take the wild card. And once you're in, you're in — everyone in that eight-team October tournament has a shot at a World Series title. But elsewhere around the league, you'll see other teams that are still trying to ensure a spot in the playoffs. And for those teams, a deadline deal could make a world of difference.

There's plenty of pitching available. After Lee and Halladay, the next-best name being thrown around is that of Jarrod Washburn. At 34, the Mariners lefty has quietly put together the best season of his career by far — he's compiled a 2.64 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP in 133 innings. And with the M's starting to fade out of the playoff race, Washburn has become available.

That's not all. There are plenty of solid pitchers on teams that are starting to fade away, and their names are being heard in trade rumors — think Bronson Arroyo, Doug Davis, Aaron Harang and Jon Garland. These guys could certainly have a say in who makes the playoffs and who doesn't.

Take a quick look at the Tigers. Their offense has plenty of heavy hitters, and their rotation is star-studded but not deep. Think maybe they could take on an extra starter? They should — Washburn is an option for them, and if that doesn't work, they should look into other ideas before it's too late.

How about the Angels? Like the Tigers, they currently own a slim division lead and need to protect it. They're all over the market for starting pitchers and landing one would go a long way toward pushing them into the playoffs.

Currently chasing the Angels for the AL West lead, Texas is equally in need of one more piece. The Rangers have made starting pitching their top priority, and reportedly, they've been offered Scott Kazmir in a deal with Tampa Bay.

But in Texas, there are two big caveats. One is that their farm system is loaded with future superstars, mainly Neftali Feliz and Justin Smoak, and if they trade the wrong guy now, they could be really sorry down the road. The other concern is that the Angels are a great team, having won four of the last five West titles. The Rangers might land a big arm but fall short anyway, and no one in Texas wants that.

But that's what makes the trade deadline fun. It's not always about the game's top teams and its biggest payrolls — there are other teams at the fringe, teams for whom one trade can be the difference between October drama and September disappointment.

The end of July is a turning point every year. Every GM has to make a decision right now — are they in or are they out? And for the teams that stay in, these last couple days could make or break the season.

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