A few teams really helped themselves in late July and early August deals, especially in each leagues’ Central division.
The White Sox did the most to upgrade their shot at a division title, or wild card, getting Jake Peavy, healthy enough they hope for a September and playoff time boost. Now, they have added a bat in center field, in Alex Rios, and they look like they could be the AL central’s best bet for a September-October playoff run. Detroit did booster their staff with the addition of Jarrod Washburn, but I never felt the Tigers had enough to win their division, and I don’t see Washburn alone making the difference, especially because my pre-season pick for the wild-card, Minnesota, has helped themselves as much by adding Carl Pavano, and with the return of Nick Punto from the DL. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in the batting title and home rune races respectively, figure to keep the Twins’ power going strong to the bitter end.
In the National Leagues’ Central, my pre-season pick, Milwaukee, did little to help their stretch run, acquiring only Claudio Vargas, on a team with a disappointing starting staff. St. Louis, who I felt needed a bit more, including a healthy Chris Carpenter, to take the division, now feature not only an 11-3 Carpenter (with a 2.26 ERA), but Matt Holliday in the outfield, and Julio Lugo at short. The Cardinals figure to ride their current roster to a division title. The Cubs are a sinking ship, and will finish fourth or fifth. Their best hope is that Lou won’t blow a gasket and be able to return to make another run at it next season.
The Red Sox also need mentioning. The team that looked so solid in every facet only a few weeks ago, now seems to be floundering. The many deals Theo Epstein pulled of in a short time make little sense. Of course Victor Martinez is a great addition, but injuries to the staff make the trade of Justin Masterson seem like a mistake. The crown around first base is also hard to comprehend, especially since offensive leader Kevin Youkilis should be there every day. But where does that leave Martinez, let alone Casey Kotchman?
The return of Jason Bay – out of the lineup during much of the Sox’ slump – and the combination of the Red Sox’ overall talent, the managerial capabilities of Terry Francona, and the liklihood that the staff will get healthier, still, however, makes me think that the ship will be righted, and that it will be Boston on top of the East come October 4.