I always enjoy the knee-jerk reactions following the trading deadline. Everyone is rushing to label winners and losers, when in reality it will take at least two months, if not several years before these trades can be properly evaluated.
Still, pundits will claim that the Red Sox were losers for not making a move when the best deal available to them would have required giving up young studs Jon Lester and Craig Hansen. Never mind the fact that they are currently in first place in the AL East and potential Wild Card competitors the White Sox and Twins didn’t make a move to fill their most pressing needs (pitching and hitting respectively). Most agree that the Nationals were winners by not trading Alfonso Soriano for B-Level prospects rather than the grade A gems Jim Bowden was seeking, but that might not hold should the Nationals fail to sign their left fielder to a long term deal.
With all that said, here’s a look at some of the general managers involved in the dealings prior to Monday’s 4 p.m. non-waiver trading deadline.
Tim Purpura: Remember when I said it would take months/years to sort out the winners and losers? Purpura is the exception. The Houston Astros GM created the perfect storm of negativity that makes the team’s multi-million dollar acquisition of Roger Clemens about as useful as a garden gnome. It might look nice to its owners, but everyone who sees it will wonder what the heck it’s doing there.
Not only did the Astros fail to acquire targeted offensive stars Miguel Tejada or Alfonso Soriano, but they simultaneously managed to tick off stud starter Roy Oswalt by including him in trade offers. Purpura also boosted closer Brad Lidge’s confidence by not immediately squelching a rumor that owner Drayton McLane had ordered the struggling closer dealt at any price. The Mets offered a bag of batting practice balls with a case of Gatorade — flavor to be named later. Now that he’s turned the clubhouse chemistry into something akin to nitroglycerin, not only are the Astros still likely to miss the playoffs (on Tuesday they were six games back to Cincinnati in the Wild Card race), they didn’t even cash in by dealing Clemens. Maybe they can cut a post-deadline deal with Travelocity.
Brian Cashman: The Yankees ship out a slew of second-tier prospects and a washed up fifth starter and come away with a better fifth starter in Corey Lidle, an All-Star right fielder in Bobby Abreu and a big bat in Craig Wilson. This game is so easy when your franchise can print its own money.
Bill Stoneman: The Rangers added a needed arm in the form of Kip Wells and then grabbed the biggest bat on the market in Carlos Lee. That’s a big difference in a pennant race where four games separate the first and last place teams. Meanwhile Stoneman’s Angels balked at the asking price for Soriano and couldn’t close a deal on Tejada (though that’s more because Peter Angelos doesn’t know a good deal when he sees one). The net result — their offense will have to rely on the rookies it wouldn’t trade away.
Peter Angelos: He’s not technically a GM, but with the way Angelos runs the Orioles, neither is Jim Duquette. It’s clear that the O’s aren’t going to make any progress in the AL East without significant changes to their roster and particularly their pitching staff. Sources indicated the Astros offered Roy Oswalt, Adam Everett and Morgan Ensberg for Miguel Tejada. They also passed on the Angels’ package of pitcher Ervin Santana and shortstop prospect Eric Aybar. Tejada is a great player and he will continue to help the O’s. But we know exactly how good the Orioles can be with him on the roster. And for the past three years, that hasn’t been good enough. Unless he gets shipped in the offseason, this will haunt the Birds.
Dayton Moore: Of all the team’s dealing, the Royals GM is the one that makes the Nationals look the worst. He shipped out underachieving Denny Bautista and bullpen-relegated Jeremy Affeldt, marginal slugger Matt Stairs (.261, 8 HR), and oft-injured closer Mike MacDougal. He got back top pitching prospects Tyler Lumsden and Blake Johnson from the White Sox and Dodgers respectively, and an everyday first baseman for the future in Rockies’ slugger Ryan Shealy. Those were the kinds of assets the Nationals were looking for … and didn’t get … despite having (arguably) better players on the block.
Jim Bowden: When Bowden joked that the fire department was hosing down his red-hot phone last week, they must have been using liquid nitrogen. After touting an “everyone must go” philosophy, Bowden refused to slash prices and as a result the Nats moved nobody at the deadline. Not Soriano, not Livan Hernandez, not Ramon Ortiz, not Tony Armas Jr., nobody. Adding Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez and Ryan Wagner was a huge score, but Bowden deserves some heat for not unloading anyone else, even given injuries to Jose Guillen and Jose Vidro.
Even if they retain Soriano, the team still must rebuild its farm system and its major league pitching staff. And high priced free agents, will likely not be the answer.
While the local media and fans love that Soriano is here to stay this year, out of town writers are treating it as a forgone conclusion that he’ll bolt after the season. For now fans are content to drink the Kool-Aid that Washington’s slugger and ownership are engaged in some sort of Barney sing-along, with love just oozing everywhere, but it will take some doing to get Soriano inked. And that doing will likely take a no-trade clause. Why? Because someone out there will offer it to him. The bottom line is this: If Stan Kasten’s philosophy about no-trade clauses hasn’t changed since 4 p.m. yesterday, holding on to Soriano was probably the wrong move.