Sunday, July 29, 2007

Trade Deadline Analysis, Part I

Behold! The Phillies' Season!

Padres trade RP Scott Linebrink to Milwaukee for 3 prospects

Winner: San Diego
While the prospects that the Padres got back for Linebrink aren't all that great - only Will Inman was on BP's Top 100 Prospects list, and he's the sort of control-artist righty who gets compared to Greg Maddux up until major league hitters start sitting on his fastball - but in Petco, they don't need to be. What they do need to be is reasonably effective and cheap, which is how Kevin Towers likes to build a bullpen, and how he'll continue to be doing so for the forseeable future. Linebrink's decline has been well documented just about everywhere else, though the real issue is what exactly the Brewers need him for. The one weakness in their bullpen lately has been Francisco Cordero's sudden exposure to Kryptonite/reversion to form, and Linebrink can't help with that. He makes an already-deep middle relief corps deeper, but surely the free-falling Brewers had other, more pressing needs than yet another sixth inning guy.

White Sox trade 2B Tad Iguchi to Phillies for tasty snacks
Winner: Phillies
"Stand" Pat Gillick moved quickly on this one. When Chase Utley went down, thanks to the Nationals' using one of their less accurate peanut vendors as a starting pitcher and drilling Utley in the hand, it looked like you could stick a fork in the Phillies' season. Well, another one. They already look like Toshiro Mifune at the end of Throne of Blood, but that's neither here nor there. But Gillick acted swiftly and reeled in Iguchi for the low, low price of minor league slinger Michael Dubee. Iguchi is the definition of "rent-a-player" in that he's in his walk year, he's needed for a specific time, and apart from one horrific month he's actually been pretty good this year. Also, by his mere existence he keeps Abraham Nunez out of the batters' box, and that's a good thing. Getting Iguchi is actually a double benefit, as the Mets are looking for second base help as well, and with Iguchi (and Jorge Cantu) off the market, they're stuck looking at guys like Mark Loretta. So Gillick filled a need on the cheap, blocked a rival, and shored up what could have been a devastating loss - none of which makes up for the awful winter he had, but it's a nice change of pace.
As for the White Sox, one gets the feeling that Kenny Williams is trying to save his pennies for the off-season, and getting Iguchi off the books for a couple of months helps a little bit with that. This also lets him take a look at Danny Richar, the spoils from an earlier trade with the Diamondbacks, so it's a case of addition, or at least opportunity, by subtraction. The guy actually involved in the trade, Dubee, is by all accounts going to be lucky to make it to organizational soldier status. That makes it clear that this deal was simply about getting Iguchi out of the way.

Tampa Bay trades a whole bunch of guys to a whole bunch of teams in order to restock their bullpen
Winner: Tampa Bay
While the Flatfish have a plethora of starting pitching prospects coming through the system (some of whom did not attend Rice and thus have a chance at actually pitching in the majors before their shoulders flee to Canada for political sanctuary), their bullpen has been historically bad this year. And by "historically bad", I mean Franco-Prussian War kind of history. No matter who they've run out their, the Rays relievers have gotten pounded like Peter McNeely. So, swapping some of their infielder spare parts and ineffective arms for, respectively, Dan Wheeler, some minor leaguers, and Grant Balfour is a win all the way around.
Getting Wheeler for Ty Wigginton in particular is a win, as the Yankees had apparently already said no to a Wiggington-for-charred-remains-of-Scott-Proctor deal. Being able to snag one of the most coveted relievers on the market - and fill a need - for a surplus corner infielder with massive platoon splits and mediocre defense is a win. The Rays already have Pena, Iwamura, Upton, and Gomes to fill the slots that Wiggington played, so they lose nothing by dealing him and get a valuable commodity back. The Astros, on the other hand, already had a bunch of Wigginton types (Ensberg, Lamb, Loretta, you get the idea) and had no real need for another one. Dumping Ensberg and losing Wheeler to get a guy who's, well, Ensbergian, isn't the sort of move a team on the fringes of the wild card race needs to make.
Ditto the Jorge Cantu trade to Cincinnati. Cantu had already dumped accelerate all over his bridges with Tampa Bay, and his position(s) were being ably filled by a plethora of guys. They had no need for him, and they dealt him to address an organizational weakness. If Cantu puts it together, he allows the Reds to move whipping boy Edwin Encarnacion, but that's a big if. In the meantime, he's at Louisville.
Meanwhile, Seth McClung was part of the Rays' long-running legacy of failure in the pen - superb at Durham, dreadful in Tampa. (See: Salas, Juan). Getting him out of their system, even if he's second all time in saves by a West Virginia native simply removes the temptation to try again. Getting Grant Balfour back is an unexpected windfall, even if his extremely small showing with the Brewers was horrific. His track record indicates he's got better things in store, and so does the Devil Rays' pen.
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