Nationals trade 1B Adam Dunn to the White Sox for LHP Santos Rodriguez.
The Nationals have been asking for the moon for Dunn, the best bat available on the market. Dunn has shown a willingness to stay in Washington, but the Nats aren't going to retain him with the two-year, $20 million bargain contract that pulled him in nearly two years ago. The best long-term play is to turn him into future value, even in a market that seems to be undervaluing veterans. Rodriguez is a left-handed power arm who has come along slowly. At 22, he has 59 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings for Kannapolis in the high-A Carolina League. In the long term, he could be the Nats' version of the White Sox' Matt Thornton while closer Drew Storen would be their Bobby Jenks.
The White Sox have a need for left-handed power, for OBP and for an upgrade at DH. Dunn provides all three, without a huge price tag or large future commitment. He can spell Paul Konerko at first base -- Dunn is surprisingly deft handling throws -- and even take an occasional turn in an outfield corner. He is the one player on the market who could make enough of an impact to turn the AL Central race in their favor.
Cubs trade Ted Lilly to the Padres for 3B Logan Forsythe and RHP Dexter Carter.
The Cubs' signing of Lilly, which seemed like an overpay at the time, worked out well for them. With just two months left on a four-year deal, however, it's time to cut the left-hander loose and concede a lost season. The Padres are looking for a mid-rotation starter to bolster a staff that has been surprisingly effective, but has been showing signs of wear in July. Lilly is a perfect fit for the Padres, an extreme flyball pitcher made for the deep fences and dead air of Petco Park. The Padres have gotten good work from Jon Garland, a similar pitcher by type and lesser one by quality. Lilly would be the Padres' No. 2 behind Mat Latos and an upgrade over the fading Wade LeBlanc.
The Padres do not have an impressive farm system and gave away one of their better prospects, Wynn Telzer, to rent Miguel Tejada, so they're working at a disadvantage. Adding to their problems are that a number of their top prospects, like left-hander Aaron Poreda and outfielder Jaff Decker, are having unimpressive seasons. Meanwhile, Forsythe, a low-power, good-glove third baseman, could serve as an eventual low-cost replacement for Aramis Ramirez in Chicago. Carter, part of the haul for Jake Peavy, couldn't handle the Midwest League and has fallen off most prospect lists, but still features three good pitches.
Diamondbacks trade SS Stephen Drew to Cardinals for OF Jon Jay and RHP Adam Ottavino.
Having dealt away Dan Haren, the Diamondbacks seem ready to punt on the next few seasons. Drew is the one player of their core who is not signed to a long-term deal, and as a guy with four-plus years of service time who is heading into arbitration, will be in line for a healthy raise. Drew has stagnated since his breakout 2008 campaign, settling in as a .260 hitter without enough walks, power or speed to make him a star. He is the spitting image of a good, but not great player who becomes a bit too expensive for a bad team to retain through arbitration.
The Cardinals are trying to hang on in the NL Central with arguably the worst shortstop of any contending team in Brendan Ryan. Ryan's glove simply doesn't carry his empty .190 batting average. Adding Drew would be worth two wins to the Cards down the stretch, and he is the one player on the market who does that for them, adding offense, lineup balance -- the Cards can list to the right a bit -- and some speed. This is the way to leverage Jay's impressive debut; he's a fourth outfielder who has hit the ground running in his rookie season, and he could help the Diamondbacks as an upgrade over Gerardo Parra in left field. Ottavino, a former first-round pick who projects as an innings guy, has stagnated a bit and is a better fit for a rebuilding team than a veteran-oriented contender like the Cards.
The Orioles trade OF/1B Luke Scott to the Braves for SS Mycal Jones and RHP Stephen Marek.
Scott isn't a sexy name, like Dunn or Lilly or Houston's Lance Berkman, but he's as likely to help a new team as any of them are. After getting a late start in the majors, Scott has a career line of .267/.350/.504, spending half his six-year career in the brutal AL East. He's having his best season since 2006, batting .283/.353/.558 while fighting nagging injuries. He's a left-handed batter with a track record of hitting lefties, and perhaps best of all, he comes with a low price tag and isn't a free agent until after 2011.
The Braves just demoted Nate McLouth, who's having a disastrous season, and continue to fake their outfield situation, turning back to Melky Cabrera to man center field while using a rotation in left. Scott would help bolster that group while also providing, with Eric Hinske, alternatives to the sputtering Troy Glaus (four doubles, no homers in July) at first base. Scott's disciplined approach at the plate fits a lineup loaded with veterans who know how to work the count.
The Orioles have a ton of nearly-ready starting pitching but little else. Jones, a 23-year-old shortstop, is raw (37 errors, 88 strikeouts in 95 games at two levels this season) with demonstrated skills. It's an upside play for the Orioles, who also get back a reliever, in Marek, with a track record of minor-league success to upgrade the weakest part of their major-league roster.
The Marlins trade Cody Ross to the Yankees for C John Murphy.
There's a dearth of outfielders available to contenders, putting the Marlins in an enviable spot. Ross has been stretched as their everyday guy, with a skill set more suited to a platoon role or fourth-outfielder status, with less time in center field. Ross' most notable skill is an ability to hammer southpaws: .289/.349/.590 in his career. For the Yankees, who have been working around Curtis Granderson's problems all year, that skill would be a godsend. Ross would also serve as insurance for Brett Gardner in left field, who has never been asked to play this much and is a risk to fade down the stretch.
By trading Jorge Cantu, the Marlins finally signaled their direction, so moving Ross (and giving Cameron Maybin one last chance to have a career) seem like their best play. By dealing with the Yankees, they get to pick from what is an embarrassment of riches behind the plate; Murphy, the Yankees' second-round pick a year ago, is a 19-year-old holding his own in the Sally League, throwing out 28 percent of basestealers. He's a long-term play for an organization that can afford some of those, as they bide their time for the opening of their new park in 2012.
For more from Joe Sheehan, check out his newsletter or follow him on Twitter.