August 1, 2012 by kujhawk
July 31st, Just another day in the hot summer of 2012. But for the contenders in the NL and AL playoff races, it could be the most important day of the year. It’s the MLB trade deadline, and some teams desperately needed to make a move to keep their playoff and pennant hopes alive.
Lets start out west, where two NL teams were looking to add a quality outfield bat to their lineups. Both teams decided to involve the Phillies in their moves, who are having a fire sale as they try to get younger in hopes of contending for a World Series in the near future once again. The Giants acquired RF Hunter Pence and the Dodgers got Shane Victorino. Victorino will provide stability for the Dodgers, who have started a National League high eight players in left field. Victorino, who is seventh in wins-above-replacement among all outfielders in MLB, will give the Dodgers one of the league’s best outfields with Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. Pence will reside in right field for the Giants, joining all-star Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan, forming another formidable outfield in the NL West. Pence should also provide some protection for Buster Posey in a Giants lineup that has now become a much stronger part of their team.
But the biggest move by a west coast team came from the AL, when the Angels got Zack Greinke from the Brewers. This is by far the most high-profile move of the trade deadline, and a move that gives the Angles four ace-quality starters in Jared Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Dan Haren and now Greinke. The Angel’s AL West rival Texas Rangers were also going after Greinke, so rather than try to get a bat, the Angels got Greinke to prevent the Rangers from making a push for him themselves. This now makes the race in the AL West tighter than it already is, with the Rangers having only a three game lead over the Angels, and makes the Angels serious World Series contenders.
The Rangers did, however, counter the Angels acquisition of Greinke with a trade of their own. Texas got Cub’s pitcher Ryan Dempster for a couple of minor league players. He is not on the same level of a Zach Greinke, but he has put up some very good numbers for the Cubs this season. The one concern for Dempster though, is his production down the stretch in September and October, where he has compiled a 3-7 record and 4.79 ERA in his career. But his limited experience against AL West hitters could work to his advantage. He has only faced Oakland once, Seattle twice, and he has never faced Anaheim.
In the NL Central, another division that will be tightly contested coming down the stretch, the Reds added a big name relief pitcher to their already elite bullpen by getting Jonathan Broxton from the Royals for two minor league pitchers. The numbers that the Reds bullpen has been putting up this season have been outstanding. They are first among all MLB bullpens in wins (20), ERA (2.66) and strikeouts per nine innings (10.2). With the addition of Broxton, the Reds will be very tough to beat if they have a lead going into the seventh inning or later, and having a good bullpen is always key when a team is contending for a playoff spot.
The other top contender in the NL Central, the Pirates, got a relief pitcher of their own, acquiring Chad Qualls from the Yankees for infielder Casey McGhee. A few days earlier, they acquired starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros, probably their biggest move, adding some much needed depth in the starting rotation. The Pirates, who have led, shared or been very close to the Central lead for most of the season, are hoping that staying away from a high-profile name, saving a little cash and getting solid, lesser-name players will benefit them as the Central and wild card races get tighter. They also got first baseman Gaby Sanchez from the Marlins and outfielder Travis Snyder from the Blue Jays. These are under-the-radar moves that could be huge for the Pirates as the end of the season comes into sight. It’s been 20 years since the Pirates have been relevant, and with these moves at the deadline, Pirates GM Neil Huntington has accomplished that. The next step is making the postseason and maybe winning their first NL Central title.
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