A BRAVE MOVE BY
entertaining offers for Andruw Jones (left) before the July 31 nonwaiver trade
deadline, the Braves caused a stir last week when they put the All-Star
centerfielder on waivers. Atlanta had the right idea: The club has to overhaul
its aging pitching staff, and trading Jones (26 home runs, 95 RBIs, both team
highs through Sunday) for young quality arms would move the franchise in the
right direction. After the Braves had won 14 straight division titles, the
bottom fell out this year (51-59, third place in the NL East) with the staff
ERA ballooning from 3.98 in 2005 to 4.75 (ranked 12th in the league).
"Their most impressive minor leaguers are position players," says an NL
executive. "They're not as stocked with quality pitchers as they used to
be." With no deal in the works after four days, Atlanta pulled Jones off
waivers last Saturday-effectively ending the possibility of a trade until the
Bartolo Colon is most likely out for the rest of the season with a partially
torn rotator cuff, but don't write off the Angels just yet. The Cy Young
winner's replacement in the rotation is 25-year-old lefthander Joe Saunders
(3-0, 1.29 ERA), who has the stuff to become the latest rookie to make an
impact on the AL pennant race. "He's not overpowering, but he changes
speeds well and has tremendous control over his low-90s fastball and plus
changeup. He's ready to make a difference," says an AL scout. Saunders
(right), who on Sunday allowed three hits in seven innings for a 9-1 win over
the AL West rival Rangers, joined a rotation that already boasts a pair of
23-year-old righthanders, Ervin Santana (12-5, 4.09) and Jered Weaver (7-0,
1.82), and oft-overlooked 27-year-old righty John Lackey (10-7, 3.28).
? A month ago it
seemed a lock that Albert Pujols would win his second straight National League
MVP award. No longer. Mets centerfielder Carlos Beltran (left, .281, 33 home
runs, 97 RBIs) had outslugged (.663 versus .639) and outhomered (eight to five)
Pujols as well as driven in more runs (29 to 13) since the All-Star break.
? What did the
Blue Jays think they were getting when they enriched righthander A.J. Burnett
with a five-year, $55 million deal last winter? After going 49-50 in seven
seasons with the Marlins, he is still a sub-.500 pitcher (3-5, 4.81 ERA) who
can't stay healthy (two months on the DL with an elbow injury).
? With righty
Brandon Webb's status day-to-day because of an elbow injury, the Diamondbacks
needed an extra arm to keep from losing ground in the NL West race. They got it
on Monday: veteran righthander Livan Hernandez (9-8, 5.34 ERA), who was
acquired in a waiver deal with the Nationals for two prospects. The 31-year-old
Cuban brought an impressive postseason r�sum� with him: 6-2, 3.99 ERA.