Deadline is over but important trades likely to happen in August
Think the trading season is over? You should do what every general manager is doing with his roster once the deadline passed: think again.
August is nearly as good a time as July to make tweaks to possible postseason rosters or to make steals toward rebuilding plans. John Smoltz (1987, to Atlanta from Detroit) and Jeff Bagwell (1990, to Houston from Boston) were both swiped in August trades.
But you don't have to go back too far to see the importance and frequency of August deals. Over the past three years there have been 38 trades in August, with nine of them coming on the last day of the month, the last day for players to be eligible for postseason rosters. The trades will start to go down in the next few days; each of the last three years has seen post-deadline trading activity begin no later than Aug. 6.
Players can be traded at this point if they clear waivers or if a deal is worked out with the team that wins a waiver claim. Rarely are impact players traded in August. Nontheless, you do see important complementary pieces moved in August, such as Delmon Young last year (he became the Tigers' top hitter against the Yankees in the ALDS), Jeff Francouer, Mike Fontenot and Jose Guillen in 2010 (all to pennant-winning teams, the Rangers and Giants), and Ronnie Belliard and Jon Garland in 2009 (to the NLCS-bound Dodgers).
Of course, steals still can be had. Last year the Rangers traded power reliever Pedro Strop, who has a 1.34 ERA for Baltimore this year, to the Orioles for what turned out to be 11 1/3 innings from reliever Mike Gonzalez (postseason included). In 2009, the Rays swiped Sean Rodriguez from the Angels for a broken-down Scott Kazmir.
What kinds of players are likely to pass through waivers? Players with bloated contracts, such as Heath Bell of the Marlins and Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs are likely to get through unclaimed -- lest a claiming club be stuck with the player and the bill. Jim Thome has been traded in August twice in the past three years -- why not again?
Relievers tend not to get through waivers, but Francisco Rodriguez of Milwaukee might be one because he is an expensive setup arm. The typical August deals involve complementary position players, which could include players such as Jeff Francouer of the Royals (again), Carlos Lee of the Marlins, Jose Lopez of the Indians and Scott Hairston of the Mets.
When Pittsburgh visits Cincinnati tonight for the start of a big three-game series, here's something you rarely see any more: Cincinnati playing a good team. Check out these schedule quirks for the Reds:
• They are in the middle of a seven-week stretch in which they will have played 38 of 44 games against teams with losing records at the time they met.
• From their last series before the All-Star break until the final week of the season, the Reds have an 85-day stretch in which they play just three road games against a winning team (Aug. 27-29 in Arizona).
• The Reds lead the majors in wins against losing teams (38).
• The Reds rank 14th in wins against teams .500 or better (26), with fewer such quality wins than the Mets, Blue Jays and Mariners.
Cincinnati has used a strong bullpen and amazing health from its starting pitchers to post the best record in baseball. Lately, you can add a cupcake schedule to the list of reasons why the Reds are hot. Give them credit: They have taken full advantage of the soft part of their schedule (20-3 in the first 23 games of this 44-game window) and the underbelly of the NL Central (17-6 against the Brewers, Cubs and Astros).
Now, don't be mistaken: Cincinnati is a good team. Just how good? We might not know until the last week of the season, when the Reds finish with three games in Pittsburgh and three in St. Louis. Of course, by then they may be tuning up for the postseason.
The Yankees supposedly made a blockbuster move in getting Ichiro Suzuki from the Mariners. The idea was that Suzuki suddenly would revert to his younger self just by the elixir of the pinstripes -- perhaps he even would regularly crush balls into the short porch in rightfield at Yankee Stadium to finally showcase all the latent power he's been keeping under wraps for a decade.
Suzuki certainly was worth the low price the Yankees paid, especially because he can still play defense and run the bases well. But The Pinstripe Effect and Suzuki's hitting skills at age 38 have been exaggerated in the euphoria of adding a charismatic name player.
Yes, the Yankees did well in recent years in adding veterans such as Bobby Abreu (2006), Xavier Nady (2008), Jerry Hairston (2009) and Kerry Wood (2010) in July or August moves. But like any other club, New York has whiffed as much as it has hit it big. There was no Pinstripe Effect for:
• Sidney Ponson (2006): went 0-1 with a 10.47 ERA in the five weeks before he was released.
• Ivan Rodriguez (2008): hit .219 with a hacktastic .257 OBP in 33 games.
• Richie Sexson (2008): hit .250 with one home run while lasting 22 games before he was released out of his last job in MLB.
• Lance Berkman (2010): hit .255 with one home run in 37 games.
So far Suzuki is the same player he was in Seattle: A guy with little power who is one of the worst outfielders in baseball at getting on base (.250 batting average, .270 OBP in nine games). Suzuki has come to the plate 1,181 times over the past two years -- more than any other outfielder in baseball except for Michael Bourn. And Suzuki is dead last among regular outfielders in getting on base (.301), ranking 69th of the 69 outfielders with at least 700 plate appearances.