He Plays For Who?

That seems to be a common reaction a few days after the non-waiver trade deadline passes. Players are dealt, flipped, and reassigned quicker than even the most trained eye can keep up with.

Allow me to step out of our normal Cardinals and Royals coverage and take a look at the big picture for a minute. There was a lot of activity at this year’s deadline, from a lot of teams that others did not expect. There are familiar faces in new places and all of this started back around July 13…

Deadline Deals

It was then, 18 days prior to the deadline, that the Blue Jays emerged in the “seller” category and shipped Juan Rivera to the Los Angeles Dodgers for the infamous Player To Be Named Later (PTBNL) or Cash Considerations. Rivera, who returns to Los Angeles after a six-year stint with the Angeles, is a hitter that just does not seem to find a consistent stroke. Listed as an outfielder/first baseman, he has shown flashes of solid play, posting seasons with over 20 home runs and more than 80 runs batted in. However, he has followed them up with seasons of injuries and reduced playing time. The Dodgers see him as an upgrade over Marcus Thames, who was released following this move.

The Juan Rivera deal might have been the first deal this trade season, but the league and baseball fans everywhere barely noticed as the Brewers announced a deal on the same day. The Milwaukee club, who many have said will take the National League Central, struck a deal at the middle of the month to bring Francisco Rodriguez to the club from the New York Mets providing the Gotham team with two PTBNL in return. Rodriguez joins John Axford as dominant arms in the Brewers bullpen and drastically shortens the game for Brewers opponents. Most teams shied away from K-Rod due to a clause in his contract that causes a $17.5 million option to vest should he finish 55 games in 2011. He has currently closed out 34, but the Brewers seem set to use him as a setup man to Axford, making K-Rod a two and half month, eighth inning rental.

The Blue Jays were back in the news as the deadline approached. As America turned their calendars to July 27, the Blue Jays announced they were sending Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Mark Teahen and Edwin Jackson. A move that made little sense for the Canadian franchise that was deemed as sellers quickly turned into the season first flip trade. Jackson would be dealt to the Cardinals ensuring that he would in fact wear a bird, but would not be leaving the country to wear a bird of the blue variety. The deal with the Cardinals would send Jackson, Corey Patterson, Marc Rzepcynski, Octavio Dotel and three PTBNL to St. Louis in exchange for Trever Miller, Colby Rasmus, PJ Walters, and Brian Tallet. I-70 Baseball broke down the underlying details of this deal here.

Just a day later, the surprise team of the American League Central showed that it was going to do what it needed to in order to continue to win. The Cleveland Indians, in need of outfield help due to injuries, would send outfielder Abner Abreu and pitcher Carlton Smith to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for outfielder Kosuke Fukudome. Abreu has never seen time above High-A ball in his four professional years, but signed as a 17 year old so that can be deceiving. He has shown flashes of power this season though his batting average seems to have suffered for it. Smith has spent six seasons in the Indians farm system, reaching Triple-A last season for the first time. Being groomed as a reliever and possibly a closer, the youngster will need to find his footing soon if he anticipates a major league career. Fukudome has spent his entire American career, albeit a short one, in Chicago until now. He plays a strong outfield and is typically a consistent, if not flashy, hitter until this season. His power has all but disappeared and the Indians may be banking on a change of scenery to help with that.

It what seemed to be a trend, a deal that was made to strengthen a team would be overshadowed before the day was over by a deal that would be regarded as major. Major might be an understatement this time as July 28th would see the prize player of this year’s trade deadline change teams, and coasts, as Carlos Beltran traded in his New York Mets cap to join the team that left New York, the San Francisco Giants. In return, the Mets snagged one of baseball’s top prospect pitchers in Zach Wheeler. The 21 year old Wheeler has spent just two years in the minor leagues, but has thrown well. Good command, a high strikeout ratio and low walk ratio have people talking about Wheeler, and he is still playing High-A ball at this point. The Mets would look to accelerate the young man and have him in New York sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, the Giants grab an outfielder that is coming off of two injury laden seasons and appears to be back to his All-Star form. Beltran leads the league in doubles, is hitting for power and average, and is showing up on highlight reels across the country in the outfield. Many think the Giants made the move they needed to in order to find their way to October.

The following day, on the 29th of July, the Phillies would make a move to grab an outfielder and middle of the order hitter, acquiring Hunter Pence from the Houston Astros for Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Josh Zeid, and a PTBNL. Pence has hit 25 home run in each of the last three seasons and has seen his stock rise with teams around the league as Houston continues to rebuild. Pence did not come cheap for the Phillies, however, as they shipped their two top prospects to Houston in Singleton and Cosart. Singleton has spent most of his young career playing first base and showing occasional power to go along with a consistently high average. Cosart joins Singleton as 21-year old prospects on the move, as the pitcher will leave his High-A ball team in the Phillies organization where he has shown the ability to keep hitters under control while pitching to contact. Zeid is a young pitcher at the Double-A level that has struggled until finding his footing as a reliever this season. The Astros see him as an important part of the bullpen in the near future but make no mistake, it was Cosart and Singleton that made this deal happen.

With two days left before the non-waiver trade deadline, the flood gates would open and players would be moving in rapid succession on July 30th. It was the Brewers who would make a move to shore up their infield after losing Rickie Weeks to injury. The Brewers would send a struggling pitcher from their Double-A club, Erik Komatsu, to the Washington Nationals in exchange for utility man Jerry Hairston. Hairston provides immediate assistance at second and long term infield help when Weeks returns.

Utility men filling holes around the leagues was on a few general manager’s minds on July 30 and the next trade would land squarely in the middle of I-70’s team from the west. Longtime utility man Mike Aviles finds himself heading to the East Coast and the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Kendal Volz and Yamaico Navarro. Navarro for Aviles makes little sense other than a “change of scenery” type of deal. Both players are similar types – utility infielders that have yet to perform at the level their teams thought they would. Volz on the other hand spent his first professional year starting games at Low-A ball and is currently closing games at High-A, and doing both fairly well. The Royals appear to have cut at least one deal that put something back into their farm system.

It was Detroit that wanted to gear their pitching staff up for the playoff run and they were able to land an arm for the rotation and one for the bullpen in their July 30 trade with the Seattle Mariners. Detroit might have picked up one of the games most interesting relief pitchers in David Pauley. The young right hander is holding left handed hitters well below .160 on a regular basis. Fister is one of those pitchers that has remained hidden in Seattle, posting a solid earned run average, good strikeout/walk ratio and overall pitching very well, but being left with a 3-12 record. Detroit sends rightfielder Casper Wells, reliever Charlie Furbush, minor league third baseman Francisco Martinez and a PTBNL. Wells is just starting to get his feet wet in the major leagues, but is showing a solid batting average and a patient eye. Furbush is a swing man reliever capable of picking up a start or two if needed and Martinez projects as a major league caliber hitter who is performing well at the Double-A level currently.

Continuing the flurry of activity on the 30th the Washington Nationals would ship Jason Marquis to the Arizona Diamondbacks to help shore up their rotation as they fight for a spot in October in the National League West. The Diamondbacks would send Zach Walters, a Class-A Shortstop, to the nation’s capital to complete the deal. Walters is showing the ability to hit well and play multiple positions in the minors.

The Texas Rangers needed to shore up their bullpen and they made a few moves approaching the deadline to achieve that. Another July 30th deal would see the Orioles float setup man Koji Uehara to the Rangers in exchange for Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter. Davis is a corner infielder who has arrived in the major leagues on the heels of a powerful showing in the minors. He posted 24 home runs and 66 runs batted in at Triple-A this season prior to his call up. Hunter is on the same path, just from the mound. A young man that has been performing well at the minor league level and is now shoring up a bullpen in Baltimore.

The Giants would continue to shore up their shortcomings and replace injured veteran Miguel Tejada by acquiring Orlando Cabrera from the Indians for Thomas Neal. Cabrera, who has spent most of his career playing short has spent all of this season playing second for the tribe. Neal, a right handed outfielder, has shown promises of power and hitting ability a few years back but has struggled to produce lately.

The Orioles were not done on July 30th, however, and would send first baseman Derek Lee to the surprisingly competitive Pittsburgh Pirates in a deal that would bring Aaron Baker back to Baltimore. Baker may be one of the best pure hitters on the move, even though he has not played above High-A Ball. Meanwhile, the Pirates are able to replace the struggling Lyle Overbay with a strong bat that is familiar with baseball well into September.

July 30th would end with a bang and would feature one of the clubs that surprised everyone by being buyers at the deadline. The Cleveland Indians, thick in a hunt for the American League Central would land Colorado Rockies’ ace pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez. Ace pitchers do not come cheap, however, and the Indians would trade their top two pitching prospects in the package to Colorado. Alex White and Joe Gardner would be joined by former catcher and current outfielder Matt McBride and a PTBNL. McBride is a hitter that is looking to find a home defensively but with a bat like that, the Rockies will find him a home.

The Dodgers would send injured and struggling speedster Rafael Furcal to the Cardinals in exchange for Alex Castellanos on July 31. The Dodgers get a Double-A outfielder with some upside and a chance to see how well prospect Dee Gordon handles the position the rest of the year. The Cardinals get a pure leadoff man and a huge upgrade in defense at short.

The trade deadline was not going to settle into the sunset with a simple shortstop move, and the Diamondbacks were still looking to fill in their roster. They would send reliever Jordan Norberto along with first baseman Brandon Allen to the Oakland A’s for the impressive sidearm reliever Brad Ziegler. Ziegler has been unbelievable this season, including his debut run of 39 scoreless innings, and surely will give the Diamondbacks some more firepower in the bullpen.

Rumors flew on the day of the deadline with Erik Bedard of the Seattle Mariners being connected to multiple teams all throughout the day. Ultimately it would take three teams and a slew of prospects changing hands to get Bedard into Boston and a Red Sox uniform. Bedard helps fill in a vacancy left by the injury to Clay Buckholz and the Red Sox will rely on him to help guide them deeper into the postseason.

The trade deadline would see Ryan Ludwick change teams for the second straight year. This time, the former Cardinal who has been in a bit of a slump since leaving the Redbirds will find himself back in the National League Central and playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates promised cash or a PTBNL in exchange.

In a highly anticipated and rumored move, the San Diego Padres moved a relief pitcher, but it was not Heath Bell. It would be Mike Adams who would find himself in a new uniform when the calendar flipped to August and that uniform would have the Texas Rangers logo on it. The Rangers pulled off a deal for another strong bullpen arm, this time giving up prospects Robert Erlin and Joesph Wieland, two young impressive pitchers that many expect in the majors soon.

It was the Atlanta Braves who would steal the spotlight as the curtain came down on the trade deadline. The Braves would acquire Houston Astros outfielder Michael Bourn in exchange for Juan Abreu, Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens and prized prospect Jordan Schafer. Abreu, Oberholtzer, and Clemens are more of the same from Atlanta, strong pitching prospects that can make a difference very quickly for their new ball club. Schafer has finally got his chance to shine in the big leagues this season and has struggled to get a handle on big league pitching. The future still seems bright for the young man if he can turn it around.

This year’s non-waiver trade deadline brought a lot of moves, a lot of new faces, and a lot of prospects changing hands. Now you’re up to speed on who is wearing what hat as the teams begin the run to the playoffs.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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