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WHEELER: Cards Rank With Deadline Winners

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UPI/Bill Greenblatt

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Lots of folks are doing “winners” and “losers” columns on the baseball trade deadline passing so I know this isn’t exactly an original idea but this is the hot story in the baseball world right now so I’m rolling with it. Plus I’ve got stuff to say about all this!

To avoid going totally nuts and making this run on for too long I’ll just choose five teams in each category, listed in alphabetical order.

Please bear in mind that the opinions expressed below consider the future implications of each deal but the evaluation is based on what each team is trying to accomplish right now. If what they did makes sense given what we know at the moment, the team’s dealing will be looked upon favorably. Sellers can be winners too…

Feedback always welcome…

Winners

Cleveland Indians

I actually like the CLE-COL trade from both sides. Acquiring a proven #1 starter in Ubaldo Jimenez, even if he’s not pitching like he did last year, is huge for this franchise. It is as important for what it symbolizes as for what it does on the field. This deal tells fans the rebuilding is over and we’re ready to contend.

It doesn’t hurt that they get a top notch talent at a pretty reasonable salary moving forward.

They paid through the nose, giving up top pitching prospects Alex White and Drew Pomeranz, but in this case it is very much worth it. It shows the players and the fans that this team means business now.

The Kosuke Fukudome pick up was a nice one as well. They didn’t give up much and they got a useful part for their injury ravaged outfield.

Detroit Tigers

In Doug Fister and David Pauley the Tigers got exactly what they needed – stability for their pitching staff. They also got two players under team control for the next three seasons. Fister is an underrated starter (3.33 ERA this year) who shores up the back of a rotation that features studs Justin Verlander and St. Louisan Max Scherzer at the front end. Pauley gives them a strike thrower in the bullpen, which they needed.

The cost wasn’t cheap. They gave up a young lefty in Charlie Furbush, a backup outfielder in Casper Wells, a Double-A third baseman who played in the Future Stars game and a player-to-be-named that will be one of their top 3 picks from the 2010 draft, all of whom are performing very well in them minors.

Adding Wilson Betemit from the Royals for a pair of minor leaguers was a good deal as well. Third base had been an offensive black hole and Betemit is a solid option for the bottom of the order.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies didn’t need much but they got a controllable middle of the order bat in Hunter Pence and that was huge for them. Having him hitting behind Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, and before Raul Ibanez, gives their lineup the same depth it had when Jayson Werth was in right field.

They gave up some really good prospects, especially RHP Jarred Cosart and 1B-OF Jonathan Singleton, but they’re not players the Phillies will need anytime in the next 2-3 years. Plenty of time to draft more talent.

They already have a killer rotation, the bullpen is getting healthier and now they add another run producer. Tough to beat that. Plus they could deal for more bullpen depth in August.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Colby Rasmus deal with Toronto will be debated for a long time but it’s hard to argue that right now the team is better than it was before the deal. Jon Jay outplayed Rasmus before the deal and will hold up just fine moving forward. By adding a top 3 starter in Edwin Jackson, a premium lefty setup man in Marc Rzypczynski, a solid right hander for the pen in Octavio Dotel and a bench outfielder in Corey Patterson the solidified most of their pressing needs in one deal.

The added bonus is that Kyle McClellan returns to the pen as well, so it’s like adding a starter and three relievers.

The long term portion of this deal may be painful but then again it may not. Even if Rasmus turns into a star, the Cardinals still have three players-to-be-named (or cash) plus the compensatory picks they will receive if Jackson and Dotel leave as free agents. In Jackson’s case they could looking at a 1st rounder and a supplemental 1st rounder. One of those picks could end up being the next Colby Rasmus for all we know. Why slam the long term aspects of this deal before you know what the team will be getting?

The Rafael Furcal deal was a no-brainer. Alex Castellanos was having a strong year but really had nowhere to go in this franchise for the next several seasons. Furcal is a significant defensive upgrade over Ryan Theriot and Daniel Descalso at short and when healthy he’s been a plus offensive player at the top of the order.

Cards filled a lot of needs and didn’t move any of their top prospects. When you consider all the drama that went along with Rasmus moving him wasn’t exactly the worst thing the team could do.

Texas Rangers

Their starting pitching is vastly underrated and the lineup is a beast. With their two deals to add premier setup men they shored up the team’s lone weakness and also got some insurance in case closer Neftali Feliz can’t find his form.

Mike Adams has been one of the game’s best setup men the last few seasons and he will pay immediate dividends, plus he’s under team control for next year too. Koji Uehara is a very underrated reliever, a big-time strike thrower with a split that gives hitters fits.

They added to key guys to the back of the pen without moving their very best prospects. The two guys they sent to San Diego, Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland, are having excellent seasons and they’re both seemingly close to Major League ready but neither is viewed as a top of the rotation starter by what I can tell.

Honorable Mentions: Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants

Losers

Baltimore Orioles

I’m not all that concerned about what they received for the players they dealt. They got what they should have in those deals. My complaint is that they didn’t move more guys. This team is nowhere close to competing in the AL East and they have several other movable parts that could have brought more than they players they dealt.

The most notable among them is right hander Jeremy Guthrie. A National League team would have really gotten something out of Guthrie and the O’s could have gotten better prospects for him than they did for Uehara or Derrek Lee.

I would have cleaned house on this team and might have even considered moving Nick Markakis if I could get the right package.

Cincinnati Reds

Man, I thought they were going to do something. I know they’ve been struggling of late and maybe that’s why they decided to keep their kids but I expected more of a fight. Maybe Walt Jocketty has a waiver deal up his sleeve. If he does, check back with me later. I might change this evaluation.

They need starting pitching in the worst way and they have lots of young talent to move. They won’t be able to fit all of their kids on the roster at the same time so you make deals to fill holes.

I don’t think a rental would have been a good idea in their situation but there had to be something more they could have done to help their squad. Maybe teams were holding them up because of their poor play of late, hoping they’d overpay in desperation. If that’s the case then maybe Walt did the right thing.

Still, they got no help at all when the NL Central is very winnable.

Houston Astros

A bad, bad team just got a whole lot worse. They traded their best all-around player and their leadoff man and didn’t get enough in return. Hunter Pence was signed to an affordable deal and while they got a couple of nice prospects from the Phillies they didn’t get anyone that could be a middle of the order threat anytime soon.

The Michael Bourn trade was even worse. None of the players the Astros got from Atlanta is considered a top prospect and Bourn wasn’t exactly breaking the bank. That deal made little sense, if any at all.

They should have cleaned house, moving the likes of Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers and Carlos Lee (even if it meant eating some of his contract) just to get younger and cheaper. The deal controllable players and didn’t get enough back. I like the prospects they got from Philly but I don’t love them.

Another team stuck at the bottom of the pile.

Los Angeles Dodgers

As with the Orioles and Astros, their lack of activity was astonishing. The Furcal deal was okay because you’re not going to get big-time prospecst for 2-months of an oft-injured shortstop in his early 30’s who is heading to free agency. Castellanos was actually a decent haul for Furcal.

What I don’t get is why they didn’t move more guys, even younger guys. James Loney is not an impact first baseman and trading him would have been a great idea. They need more power from that spot. Casey Blake could have helped a contender.

They didn’t lose ground but they also didn’t gain any, which makes them a loser in my book. Of course with all the confusion surrounding that team and their buffoon of an owner I guess maybe I should cut the front office some slack. But I won’t.

Milwaukee Brewers

Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Felipe Lopez? Ugh. I liked the addition of Francisco Rodriguez but they didn’t do anything to fix their defensive problems in the infield and if Rickie Weeks missed more than 2-3 weeks their offense will be made up of nothing more than Corey Hart, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.

They need help at second base, third base and shortstop and all they managed was a pair of utility guys.

They could save themselves if they’re able to pull off a waiver deal or two, so they’re not “done” by any stretch of the imagination but they certainly didn’t do enough. K-Rod will help but the everyday lineup still needs to be addressed.

Dishonorable Mentions: Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres

(Some of these teams will make waiver deals and that can change the “loser” label. Stay tuned for more, I think this might be a busy August in MLB.)

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