In one of the most active trade deadlines in memory, a number of teams made pickups notable not just for their quality, but for their low price. At the other end of the spectrum, a number of contenders with holes sat out the deal-making, to their detriment, and one made themselves worse with a deal. Here are the trade deadline winners and losers:
Padres: Saturday's acquisition of Ryan Ludwick for pitching prospects Corey Kluber and Nick Greenwood was the best move any team made at the deadline. Ludwick immediately becomes the Padres' second-best hitter, coming in having posted a .281/.343/.484 line for the Cardinals in 77 games. In addition to his bat, Ludwick brings good range, critical for an outfielder manning the pasture in Petco Park. No matter who he replaces in the lineup -- Scott Hairston and Anthony Gwynn are most likely to lose playing time -- the addition of Ludwick is worth two additional wins to the Padres down the stretch, wins they'll need to hold off the surging Giants.
The Padres also picked up Miguel Tejada from the Orioles, which helps their shaky offense but could be a problem defensively. Tejada wasn't considered a shortstop by the market over the winter, and if the Padres play him there, as they're expected to with Chase Headley settled in at third base, he could give back more runs than he produces.
In neither of these deals did the Padres give up anything of note. Kluber, the best of the bunch, is a big 24-year-old whose pitching fairly well in the Texas League this season. He's headed to the Indians, for whom he'll have a chance to advance quickly. Even with that, Kluber was nowhere near the Padres' top 10 prospects over the winter; the prospect dealt for Tejada, Wynn Pelzer, has some upside but is having a lost season, with 83 walks in 94 1/3 innings at Double-A. The Padres didn't give up anything they'll miss, and they got a little bit closer to a division title. That's a win.
Phillies: Like the Padres, the Phillies improved their chance to win their division without giving up anything. Adding Roy Oswalt, getting the Astros to pay close to half his salary over the next 14 months, and not giving up any top prospect is a coup comparable to last year's Cliff Lee trade. Upgrading from the overrated J.A. Happ -- who will be 28 on Opening Day next year without having thrown even 300 MLB innings or more than 170 in a single year -- to Oswalt will be worth about two wins to the Phillies. This also makes the Phillies a bit more dangerous in a short series, with Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Oswalt starting. While you can legitimately wonder where the Phillies might be had they just retained Lee, at $9 million, for 2010, this trade gives the Phllies the best chance to overcome that mistake and get back to the postseason.
Yankees: To some extent, it's an exercise in lily-gilding, but the Yankees' pickup of Lance Berkman makes a dangerous lineup that much more. Berkman gives Joe Girardi flexibility down the stretch to rest the key players on an aging roster, brings OBP and left-handed power to a team that's not short of either. The price is right as well, as the Astros are sending along $4 million to help pay Berkman's 2010 salary and 2011 buyout (in all likelihood). The Yankees also added Kerry Wood. The oft-injured righty is something of an upside play for a bullpen that has been plagued by injury and ineffectiveness. With the Indians also putting money in the deal, the cost to the Yankees is limited. Like the teams listed above, the Yankees held onto their top prospects, giving up reliever Mark Melancon and infielder Jimmy Paredes for Berkman, and a player to be named for Wood.
Royals: One trend this year was that teams with expiring assets -- veterans playing out the string on losing teams who were unlikely to be retained after the season -- did a better job than usual of flipping them for something. the Royals turned Scott Podsednik, Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth into five prospects, one of whom, micro-hurler Tim Collins, has been mowing people down in the minors this year despite his listed height of 5-feet-7-inches. It isn't quite what the Rangers did on a similar day three years ago, but the Royals' conversion of pieces they didn't need into potential for the 2012 team is a sign that maybe, just maybe, they're starting to get it.
Pirates: Nowhere near this list on Friday, the Pirates made a strong move as the deadline approached by getting the Dodgers to give up lanky righty James McDonald and outfield prospect -- and PED suspendee -- Andrew Lambo for the next 25 innings of Octavio Dotel's life. Dotel isn't an impact pitcher, so the difference between him and McDonald over the next two months is worth little, and certainly not a 21-year-old who, despite recent struggles, is young for his level (Double-A) and retains some upside. The Pirates also acquired Chris Snyder, an average MLB catcher, and some cash with which to pay him from the Diamondbacks for some of their roster dead weight (Bobby Crosby, Ryan Church, D.J. Carrasco).
Astros: They traded Oswalt, Berkman and $15 million and didn't get a single prospect who projects as a core player on a championship team. You wouldn't think that would be possible. Brett Wallace is a complementary player, a first baseman who doesn't hit quite enough to bat in the middle of the lineup on a great team. Mark Melancon can be the second- or third-best reliever in a good bullpen. Happ? Fourth starter. Jonathan Villar? He could develop into a shortstop who bats seventh, or second on a bad team.
It's a disappointment for Astros fans, who now face a team that has dealt away its identity and has little chance of contending in the short- or medium-term. On the other hand, Drayton MacLane saved about $12 million, so that should make it all better for them.
White Sox: Whoops. Having traded for Edwin Jackson with an eye towards flipping him for Adam Dunn, they were left holding the bag when they couldn't complete a deal with the Nationals. Jackson hasn't thrown a quality start in five outings since his 149-pitch no-hitter and both his walk rate and rate of line drives allowed is up in that time. He may be an upgrade over Dan Hudson, who went west in the deal, but that's not certain, and if he is, it's a small difference, one overwhelmed by price and years of control.
More critically, the White Sox did nothing to address their offensive problems, and head into August with Juan Pierre in left field, Mark Kotsay DH-ing too often and Dayan Viciedo still looking for his first major-league walk (59 plate appearances). This is a huge miss for Kenny Williams, who now has to hope he can get something done via the waiver process.
Cardinals: The Cardinals misdiagnosed their needs, downgrading their offense in an effort to add a No. 4 starter in what is one of the most puzzling trades, deadline or otherwise, in years. Jake Westbrook is a command pitcher who doesn't miss bats and who is coming off two lost seasons, which creates questions of durability as he heads towards an innings count he hasn't reached since 2006. He is certainly the type of hurler that Dave Duncan has had success with, but that type is fairly common and, in a market that was clearly devaluing starting pitching, one that should have been available cheaply.
Instead, the Cards chipped away at a marginal offense by dealing Ludwick, an above-average hitter and good defensive outfielder, to San Diego, which shipped a second-tier pitching prospect to Cleveland for Westbrook (and a third-tier one to the Cardinals to complete the deal). The Cardinals, fooled by Jon Jay's .446 batting average on balls in play and unable to see the problems in their infield, struck a deal that makes little sense for them. They can't afford to lose Ludwick because Jay isn't a long-term solution, just a tweener having the month of his life. When he fades, Randy Winn is going to get too much playing time, and then you're going to see something like this in a key September game:
Lopez 3BRasmus CFPujols 1BHolliday LFWinn RFMolina CSchumaker 2BGarcia PRyan SS
... and there'll be people wondering why the Cardinals keep losing 3-1. This trade of an above-average hitter for a below-average pitcher, is why.
Nationals: They didn't trade Dunn. They get credit for dealing Matt Capps for a serviceable haul that may include a solution at catcher, but not trading Dunn with so many teams desperate for a bat was a mistake. Sure, maybe the Nats get draft picks for him if he leaves as a free agent ... but he's not guaranteed to leave. The Nats have to offer arbitration, and the last time Dunn was on the market, he had to settle for two years/$20 million from a bad team, so maybe he accepts, and now the Nats are paying a quarter of their payroll in a non-contending year to a 32-year-old first baseman who isn't having as good a season as he did last year. Keeping the high-average version of Adam Dunn is a waste of an asset that should have been leveraged for good things in 2013.
Reds: I'm not at all convinced Walt Jocketty isn't trapped under something heavy. It isn't just that the Reds didn't make a trade; it's that that didn't make a good trade rumor. With some prospects having strong seasons, one big bat blocked by a star (Yonder Alonso/Joey Votto) and a number of holes on a first-place team, Jocketty did nothing. He may yet -- two of his best deals in St. Louis, acquiring Larry Walker and Woody Williams -- happened in August, but for now, the Reds' silent deadline makes them losers.