Last week, I ranked the thirty major league teams based on their level of need to make moves prior to Sunday’s trade deadline. Some teams had a pressing need to acquire players in order to enhance their odds of making the playoffs. Other teams needed to capitalize on the high value of their assets and move them for the best possible returns of prospects. In reviewing the list now that the deadline has passed, most of the teams fell right in line with their rankings.
But the activity of certain teams over the weekend proved quite interesting. A couple of teams with a number of trade chips and a need to move them stood pat, while others made moves that clashed with their biggest needs. Another team primed for a playoff push made lateral moves, which is almost as bad as not doing anything at all. Obviously, each front office has its own way of operating and generating a game plan, but I can’t help but wonder what some of these teams were thinking this week.
Here are the teams whose activity approaching the deadline was questionable, and their rankings on the Trade Deadline Necessities list:
#20 – Minnesota Twins
At seven games out of the AL Central lead and even further away from the Wild Card, the Twins have no real shot at competing this year. While they have several nice pieces to build around, it’s also entirely possible that they fall into the problem area of mediocrity over the next few seasons, being neither good enough to contend nor bad enough to merit a complete overhaul. The Twins had five players rumored to be sought after, and moved none of them.
Granted, the interest in Michael Cuddyer cooled considerably over the last few weeks, but Denard Span, Jim Thome, Jason Kubel and Scott Baker were all linked to different teams. The Twins had feverish discussions with the Nationals about Span, but a deal could not be worked out. The Phillies inquired on Thome, but the Twins probably figured his pursuit of 600 home runs was a worthwhile marketing ploy in a lost season. Kubel drew interest from the Pirates, who eventually settled on Ryan Ludwick. He isn’t likely to return after the season so the Twins must have felt the offers weren’t commensurate with what he could provide to an acquiring team.
The Twins lack of activity was somewhat understandable, even if it would have made sense to make a bigger push to move Kubel, and especially when compared to the next team on the list.
#18 – Chicago Cubs
I am absolutely dumbfounded that the Cubs only dealt Kosuke Fukudome this week. Certain tradable players, like Aramis Ramirez and Kerry Wood, expressed a desire to remain in Chicago. But other players, like Carlos Pena and Marlon Byrd, were essentially rendered untouchable for reasons beyond anyone outside of Jim Hendry’s office. If available, Pena would have been a fantastic target for teams like the Angels and Diamondbacks. Plus, he signed a one-year deal with the Cubs, so it isn’t like they would have dealt away a superstar in the midst of a multi-year contract.
Byrd is signed to a reasonable contract right now and was on the Braves radar given his abilities as a center fielder. The same can be said of Reed Johnson, who also stayed put. The Cubs haven’t gone anywhere in a few years, and aren’t going anywhere now or over the next few seasons. This was the perfect year to deal some of their attractive assets, and they stood pat. Their lack of activity was especially confusing when juxtaposed against Ed Wade, who may not have made fantastic moves for the Astros, but who wheeled and dealed on the understanding that virtually any return improved the Astros.
#15 – Oakland Athletics
Of all the players that attracted interest — Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp, Brian Fuentes, Michael Wuertz and Conor Jackson — only Brad Ziegler changed addresses. Ziegler brought back Brandon Allen, a burly 1B/OF type with power quite similar to Michael Taylor and Chris Carter. The As seem more like a victim of circumstance here, as the teams searching for players at those positions solved their problems elsewhere. But they could have made more of an effort to at least move Crisp, an adequate center fielder on a reasonable deal that certainly would have improved teams with up-the-middle weaknesses.
#12 – Baltimore Orioles
Getting rid of Derrek Lee was great, as Aaron Baker will do more for the Orioles than Lee did, even if he stinks in, or never makes it to, the majors. They shouldn’t have been expected to deal Vladimir Guerrero, as his injury and suckitude sapped any potential trade value. But Jeremy Guthrie stayed put despite rampant rumors that he would be dealt. It’s hard to fathom why he wasn’t dealt.
Sure, the sudden emergence of Ubaldo Jimenez as an available trade target changed the landscape of the starting pitching market, but teams will pay more for 1+ years of a starter than one or fewer years. Given the state of the Orioles organization, any reasonable offer for their de facto ace would have greatly improved the system. Guthrie will probably be dealt in the offseason, or by next year’s deadline, but the Orioles could have extracted a better return now, when he can impact one more playoff race.
#10 – Tampa Bay Rays
Perhaps the clubhouse issues surrounding B.J. Upton are perceived to be more problematic by front offices than fans and analysts. Or maybe the Rays requests were too rich for the liking of potential trade partners. Either way, it is puzzling that Upton wasn’t moved this weekend. The Braves and Nationals were clearly searching specifically for a center fielder, and others were obviously looking at outfielders in general, yet the rumors about Upton’s departure almost vanished after Thursday.
Under control until 2013, and expendable to the Rays given the promotion of Desmond Jennings, Upton will be dealt. It’s just a matter of when. Perhaps the Nationals’ struggles to acquire Denard Span and the extremely thin free agent crop of outfielders will expedite a deal this offseason, but it sure seemed for a while that his departure from Tampa Bay this week was inevitable.
#8 – Los Angeles Angels
The Angels are a mere three games behind the Rangers in the AL West, and have issues on offense at easy-to-fix positions like first base or the corner outfield, and they did nothing. It would have taken an awful lot of improvement to give the Rangers a run for their money, and with the division leaders fixing their one glaring weakness by bringing in Mike Adams and Koji Uehara, it will be even tougher for the Angels to contend.
If the front office felt similarly and decided against dealing prospects when they are nothing more than a quasi-contender, fine, but acquiring Carlos Pena really wouldn’t have cost much. Nor would trading for Casey Kotchman. Mark Trumbo has power, sure, but his on base percentage leaves much to be desired, and the difference between he and an acquisition might not have put the team over the top, but it would have helped more than it hurt the farm system.
#2 – Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks biggest issues were finding a shortstop to fill in for Stephen Drew so that Cody Random and Willie Bloomquist weren’t pressed into regular duty, and improving first base beyond Juan Miranda and Brandon Allen. Instead, they traded Allen for a middle reliever in Brad Ziegler, and dealt shortstop prospect Zach Walters for Jason Marquis, a starter that will help them, but one that wasn’t needed. I’ll put it this way: not bringing in a shortstop capable of coming close to replacing Drew hurts much more than Marquis and Ziegler will help.
#1 – Pittsburgh Pirates
Sigh. While getting swept by the Phillies really hurt their playoff odds, the Pirates had a chance to make a real impact move or two to capitalize on their success. Instead, the deadline passed with the Buccos making two lateral moves: trading for Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick, neither of whom can do much of anything anymore. Lee is an upgrade over Lyle Overbay, but so is basically anyone else already on the roster.
As far as Ludwick goes, the 2008-09 version would really help the Pirates. The 2011 Ludwick is no better than Matt Diaz. The Pirates probably weren’t going to make the playoffs even if they made an impact move, but trading for Lee and Ludwick seems more like trying to create the perception of effort than actually trying to improve the team.