Trade deadline winners and losers
The biggest winner at the trade deadline is an easy call this year. It's the team that dispelled the notion that it was incapable of making a monster trade, that established itself as the favorite in baseball's most winnable division, the team that landed one of the greatest hitters and greatest clutch hitters for nothing more than a song. And for not such a great song, at that.
The Dodgers, the storied West Coast franchise without a World Series title in 20 years and with a lot of front-office tension following a few recent failed free-agent signings, managed to acquire the great Manny Ramirez -- in a deal first reported by SI.com -- on a giveaway plan, surrendering only two OK prospects in the deal with Boston. Sensing the Red Sox's last-minute desperation at the deadline, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti agreed to take Ramirez, and all Colletti had to give up was a young third baseman who could never seem to crack the Dodgers' lineup (Andy LaRoche) and an A-ball pitcher who has already undergone Tommy John surgery (Bryan Morris). Making it even sweeter, Boston agreed to pay the $7 million remaining on Ramirez's salary.
Not only that, but the Dodgers will get the best of Manny, as the prearranged deal had any acquiring team agreeing to waive the two $20 million option years that Ramirez found so onerous. So he goes to L.A. as a content and motivated man, free-agent riches awaiting the slugger whose $160 million Red Sox deal turned out to be one of the best ever, even if the Red Sox became so exasperated with him that they tried to give him away a couple times in the last four years. And in the end they finally did give him away.
1. Dodgers. The trade for Manny was such a steal that it might make owner and Bostonian Frank McCourt forget the $36.2 million that he sunk into the disintegrating Andruw Jones last winter ... for a few minutes anyway. The Dodgers' offense has been atrocious, and this can only help. Joe Torre has to love seeing Ramirez on his side for a change. His only problem is that he now will have five outfielders who consider themselves starters -- including Juan Pierre, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Jones. Oh yeah, and they got infielder Casey Blake from the Indians, too.
2. Manny. All his petulance and pouting paid off. He got those club options that were tormenting him dropped and this winter will have the chance to shop for a multiyear deal on his terms. While he lost a lot of good will earned over the years in Boston, he'll be able to bathe himself in green, assuming he can find a team to take this hitting savant who's all ego, id and wrists.
3. Brewers. It's easy to forget they actually made the most beneficial deal of this trading season, as it happened a month ago. But CC Sabathia has been brilliant since going to Milwaukee, helping to instill pennant fever in that deserving town.
4. Cubs. While the Brewers made the biggest splash let's not forget that the Cubbies still have the best team in the National League, something they proved with their four-game sweep at Miller Park, their home away from home. Rich Harden is a "top five'' pitcher in the game, according to one GM, assuming he stays healthy. If he doesn't, well, they imported Harden's own personal insurance policy in Chad Gaudin in the very same deal. The one negative was their whopping $500,000 fine for draft shenanigans, which was only $250,000 less than Patriots coach Bill Belichick got for cheating, setting the stage for what could be one of the messier franchise sales ever.
5. Angels. The team that needed a big stick to pair with Vladimir Guerrero got it when it landed switch-hitting star Mark Teixeira. Casey Kotchman was a steep price to pay merely to enhance their October chances (let's face it, the Angels were assured of making the playoffs no matter who played first base). Yet it was a great gamble for Arte Moreno, who may be baseball's best owner. One thing seems sure: He has baseball's best team.
6. Scott Boras. Baseball's most famous agent couldn't have written a better script for his players. Ramirez got out from under the two option years (meaning Boras will get paid for a new Ramirez deal starting in 2009), Teixeira went to the great Angels (meaning he and Ramirez will both be in Boras' backyard, though Teixeira will be in the literal sense, as he plans to stay in Boras' guest house in the O.C.), Ivan Rodriguez went from the so-so Tigers to the big stage in the Bronx and a fourth Boras client, Xavier Nady, went back to New York after a brief and productive time in Pittsburgh.
7. A's. As one competing GM said, "They've set themselves up for 10 years with their trades.'' Of course, genius GM Billy Beane couldn't have done the same kind of pennant-race rebuilding if he operated in a major media market. But out on the left coast they accept an early white flag. It also doesn't hurt that Beane really knows what he's doing. Josh Outman, who came for average starter Joe Blanton, is going to be better than Blanton. So between the Blanton and Dan Haren deals the A's are in great shape for the future again.
8. Ned Colletti. This trade can be the first line of his varied bio. He began his baseball career as a public relations man in Chicago, and the Manny deal works as a great PR move, too. He has come under heat from ownership for the inexplicable disappearance of the real Andruw Jones. But this makes amends. For today, anyway.
9. Ken Griffey Jr. His Reds tenure didn't work out as hoped, so it was probably a bittersweet moment for the future Hall of Famer. But the good part is that he goes to a great city with a chance to play in October for the first time since he left Seattle, and he gets to go back to center field, a position he never really wanted to leave. The deal fulfills GM Ken Williams' wish to unite with perhaps his favorite player (and also his desire to make a deal, any deal). But it's going to be interesting to see whether Griffey can still play center after he didn't exactly look like a Gold Glover in right for the Reds. In case he's worse than they think, the Sox do have Alexei Ramirez and Jerry Owens to caddy for him.
10. Yankees. They're all still celebrating in the Yankees front office after hearing just after the trade deadline that Manny was gone from the AL East. The dread of seeing those dreadlocks is gone (Manny was about a .450 hitter against the Yankees the last three years). As a bonus they also got Nady, fine lefty setup man Damaso Marte and Hall of Fame catcher Pudge Rodriguez, who upgrades their offense and catching depth.
11. Braves. GM Frank Wren did as well as he could to rent Teixeira, pulling in a slick-fielding young first baseman in Casey Kotchman. While the power numbers aren't there, some scouts believe they will come. Kotchman can't compare to what they gave up for Teixeira (a bunch), but hey, Teixeira enhanced their chances in two different seasons. It just didn't quite work out.
12. Red Sox. They had no choice but to move the Manny circus out of town after he publicly ripped their fine owner John Henry, pushed down their nice 62-year-old traveling secretary Jack McCormick, begged out of games for no apparent reason and generally turned himself into a negative, even nasty, sideshow. Under those conditions there wasn't much more they could do better than get two-time All-Star Jason Bay. While Bay has yet to play one big game in his career, he is contracted for next year at a reasonable rate ($7.5 million), and you also know he won't touch the traveling secretary or turn the season into one unhappy mess.
13. Indians. They were the one team to get a big-time prospect. "LaPorta's going to hit 40 home runs in the majors some year,'' one GM said. Plus, the catcher they got from the Dodgers for the serviceable and versatile Casey Blake, Carlos Santana, is a pretty good one who has no evil ways.