The final week leading up to the trade deadline makes for some of the most exciting and exhausting news in baseball. Beat writers, fans and owners dread the July 31 date and breath a huge sigh of relief when 4:00 PM passes.
This year was no different. With teams like the Phillies, Giants and Braves looking to bolster their offense and the Yankees and Red Sox looking to make splashes in pitching, the deadline can get hairy for the serious competitors and first timers.
Here are a handful of teams that made the biggest splashes at the deadline, hoping for that final push into the post season and baseball greatness.
Cleveland Indians – Ubaldo Jimenez: The Indians made a huge splash at the deadline, trading for Colorado’s ace Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez is one of the game’s best young starters and will have an immediate impact on a team that could be one good starter away from winning their first AL Central crown since 2007.
A year removed from winning 19 games and posting a 2.88 ERA, Jimenez is struggling this season. He’s been mediocre at best, compiling a 6-9 record and 4.46 ERA on a Rockies team that is 10 games behind any chance at the post season. But the Indians are 2.5 behind the Detroit Tigers and Jimenez’s presence is a significant upgrade.
The only interesting thing that remains to be seen is if Jimenez will be effective in the American League. He’s been struggling this season and is now walking into a tougher hitting league. This move could prove to be a huge step forward for the Indians or a monumental bust.
Philadelphia Phillies – Hunter Pence: The Phillies excercised many options heading into the deadline for a right-handed bat in the outfield. But they specifically wanted someone they could put in the five-hole behind Ryan Howard to not only protect their best slugger but provide a split among the Phillies trio of leftied that include Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez.
By adding Pence, the Phils made their team instantly better and quite possibly the team to beat in the NL. Pence is also the long term answer in the outfield as he will join Shane Victorino and Domonic Brown next year as one of the fastest outfields in baseball.
Pence came at the price of two of the Phillies top prospects. But Pence gives the Phils an immediate upgrade to a team designed to win now, not 3-4 years down the road. It was the best deal for the Phils to make as they look to win their second ring in four years.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee: The Pirates are still only 4.5 game out of first in the NL Central. But their recent three-game skid thanks to the Phils has put a mini damper on their post season hopes.
But that didn’t discourage the team from going out and adding a couple bats to their line up for the home stretch. First, the Pirates added struggling 1B Derrek Lee from the Baltimore Orioles in hopes to upgrade the position. Lee is currently hitting .246 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs, significant drops from his career averages. But he will still provide more pop in the line up than current 1B Lyle Overbay has.
Right before the deadline, the Bucs added another bat to their line up in Ryan Ludwick. The right-handed power hitter from San Diego is also struggling but he will add some power to a team that is 25th in the majors in long flies.
San Francisco Giants – Carlos Beltran: Offense has been a problem for a team who is first in the league in pitching and 25th at the plate. Beltran is enjoying a strong season so far, hitting .281 with 15 homers and 61 homers (7th in the league).
Ending his seven-plus year run in New York was the toughest part for Beltran but he will have a chance to redeem himself from the infamous looking third strike in the 2006 NLCS. Beltran is historically a post season producer and the Giants will need to get that type of production out of Beltran if they want to repeat as World Champions and get past the pesky Phillies for a second straight year.
Arizona – Brad Ziegler: The right-handed reliever came from Oakland. He’s 3-2 with a 2.39 ERA in 37.2 innings of relief this season. He could help the D’Backs, who rest 2.5 out of first in the NL West. But San Fran is too good to upseat in the division. Maybe a late post season run could help them make the Wild Card race interesting.
Atlanta – Michael Bourn: Bourn adds speed to a Braves team that is struggling to score. He gives them a bona fide center fielder and a dangerous runner on the bases. His ability to manufacture runs with his wheels will benefit the Braves, who are in the bottom third in offense in the majors. It won’t make them better than the Phillies but it will help them maintain their Wild Card lead.
Boston – Erik Bedard: Erik Bedard will serve as a number five starter for the Sox, hoping to provide some sort of depth to their always injury-riddle rotation. Bedard is 4-7 with a 3.45 ERA in 16 starts.
Texas – Mike Adams: The Rangers didn’t need to touch an offense that’s top three in the majors. Instead, they upgraded through the bull pen. Mike Adams, who was 3-1 with a 1.13 ERA in 48 games for the Padres, is under contract for next season as well.
Check out MLB Trade Rumors for more deadline news.