Trades Solidify Division Leaders, Give Little Hope to Also-Rans

Chaos is the word to describe the flurry of trades coming seemingly every few minutes as the trade deadline approaches.

As of now, division leaders in the AL West and East and in all three NL divisions seem to have solidified their positions, with at least one cellar organization making a significant improvement in its outlook for the future.

At first look, it seems like the floundering Dodgers have significantly improved with the acquisitions of Scot Podsednik, Ryan Theriot, and Ted Lilly. With the likelihood of Podsednik being a solid replacement for the missing Manny, not to mention getting on base and stealing bases from the leadoff position, of the veteran Theriot solidifying the infield as the new second baseman, and of lefty Lilly providing a solid, inning-eating presence in the starting rotation, one would think the Dodgers are poised to make a real run at the Padres. BUT, look at what the pitching-rich but light-hitting Padres have now done: They’ve added power and run production in both the infield and outfield with the additions of Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tijeda, while, unlike other National League contenders, giving up no players from their major league squad.

In the East, The Phillies have likely improved with the acquisition of Roy Oswalt, but that is not etched in stone. J.A. Happ was a key part of their run to the World Series last year, and his disappearance this season has been a real mystery. As soon as the trade was announced, Happ high-tailed it to the Astros, and pitched 6 shoutout innings, lowering his 2010 major league ERA to 1.27. Given his non-use in Philadelphia, the trade is a plus for the Phillies, but at this stage in their careers, and given their respective ages, I’d rather have Happ than Oswalt. And meanwhile, the first-place Braves have solidified their position with the acquisitions of SS Alex Gonzalez, OF Rick Ankiel, and relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth.

In the Central, the Cardinals seemingly have been in the hunt for every available pitcher, and finally landed a good one in Jake Westbrook. If he stays healthy, he could be the difference in their fending off the Reds, who received their own rotation-boost by the return to action of Edinson Volquez after 1-1/2 years of inaction.

In the American League East, the ny yankee scumstripes landed not one, but two power-hitting outfielder/first basemen/dh-types, in Lance Berkman and Austin Kearns, to solidify their position in first., and Kerry Wood to add yet another are to their bullpen. But, Tampa is inching closer, and the Red Sox may soon have their load of injured players back. Nothing certain in that division, despite what the “experts” say.

In the Central, the White Sox took a giant step backward in trading for the over-rated, ineffective, and overpaid Edwin Jackson. Detroit was able to replace the injured Brandon Inge with Jhonny Peralta, but those other injuries to Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen have not been addressed. The Twins, on the other hand, made the biggest deal among teams in the division, by acquiring a needed closer in Matt Capps. I’m sticking with them to win the AL Central.

And then there is the AL West. I picked the Angels to win the division again, but then when Kendrys Morales was lost for the season, I said the Angels were through, that they could not win the division without his bat. Showing real panic, Angels GM Tony Reagins has made some deals that make on shudder, giving up far too much for far too little, and “solidifying” positions that did not need solidifying, all the while ignoring the hole at first base. Trading young starter Sean O’Sullivan for infielder Alberto Callispo may have been an improvement overall, but giving up the talented O’Sullivan when your pitching prospects are few and far between, without a first baseman in the deal, was mistake number one.

The major mistake, however, was the deal with Arizona, for Dan Haren. Haren is a terrific starter, with many excellent years ahead of him. But what did they give up? JOE SAUNDERS AND group of young prospects. You cannot tell me that Joe Saunders, over last three seasons, has not been just as effective a starting pitcher as Haren, and he is one year younger. At best, the trade is a wash, and given the Angels’ other needs, was a huge mistake. Couple all of this with the losses of starters Scott Kazmir and Joel Pineiro, Reagins and the Angels have mortgaged the future to try to win a division title that is out of their reach.

The Rangers, acquiring Benji Molina, Cliff Lee, Jorge Cantu, and now Christian Guzman to replace the injured Ian Kinsler, have a hugh, insurmountable lead, and the Angel organization should have realized that before trading away Joe Saunders.

The other team that did real well in the flurry of trades was the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks. They helped themselves immensely by ridding themselves of Edwin Jackson, and his $4.6 Million contract (How in the world???), and they acquired two young pitchers in the process, and they obtained a front-line lefty starter and a parcel of young talent in the Dan Haren-for-Joe Saunders deal. An added bonus is the fact that Saunders earns about 1/3 of what Arizona was paying Haren. Note their 2008-2010 W-L records: Haren 37-27, Saunders 39-24.

On a final note, with David DeJesus out for the year, and with the trades of Scot Podsednik and Rick Ankiel, who is going to play the outfield in KC for the rest of the season?

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