Tick-Tock A last-minute flurry of deals at the trade deadline caused some intrigue

August 08, 2004

As the trading deadline approached last Saturday afternoon, Twins
first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz was chatting with reporters in
the Minnesota clubhouse at the Metrodome when bench coach Steve
Liddle interrupted and quickly ushered Mientkiewicz into manager
Ron Gardenhire's office. About an hour later Mientkiewicz stood
outside the visitors' clubhouse wearing Red Sox gear. "This
hasn't sunk in yet," said Mientkiewicz, who had just been traded
to Boston as a part of a blockbuster four-team deal that sent
shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs. "All I know is I'll be
burning up a lot of cellphone minutes in the next few weeks."

Although Diamondbacks ace Randy Johnson went untraded and
remained in Arizona, a flurry of 11th-hour deals--eight trades
were made within an hour of Saturday's 4 p.m. ET
deadline--resulted in 49 players being moved on Friday and
Saturday, including several between contending teams. Here are
the big winners and losers.

WINNERS

Cubs By adding Garciaparra, a five-time All-Star, a two-time
batting champion and a career .323 hitter, Chicago now has a
lineup that's a worthy complement to its vaunted starting
rotation. Since returning to the Red Sox on June 9 from a right
Achilles injury, Garciaparra was quietly having a solid season,
hitting .321 with 21 RBIs in 38 games. But he had become
disgruntled in Boston after the Red Sox attempted to trade him
and acquire Alex Rodriguez last winter, and he should benefit
from a change in scenery. This season Cubs shortstops ranked last
in the majors in hitting (.221) and runs scored (32). Acquiring
Garciaparra without having to deal away starter Matt Clement was
a coup for G.M. Jim Hendry.

Marlins They are the biggest winners after pulling off a
six-player trade with the Dodgers. Florida sent righthander Brad
Penny, first baseman Hee Seop Choi and minor league lefthander
Bill Murphy to Los Angeles to acquire one of baseball's best
setup men in righthander Guillermo Mota (2.14 ERA in 63 innings).
The Marlins also landed catcher Paul Lo Duca (.301, 10 homers, 49
RBIs with the Dodgers) and rightfielder Juan Encarnacion, which
will allow Miguel Cabrera (seven errors through Sunday) to move
from rightfield to leftfield, where the young All-Star is far
more comfortable.

Mets At week's end they were 8 1/2 games out of a playoff spot,
but by adding righthanders Kris Benson from the Pirates and
Victor Zambrano from the Devil Rays, New York is remaking itself
for a playoff run next season. Benson is eligible for free agency
this fall but says he's open to signing a long-term deal with the
Mets. New York's cost was high in both deals--they dealt prized
pitching prospects Matt Peterson (to the Pirates) and Scott
Kazmir (to the Devil Rays)--but under the wizardry of pitching
coach Rick Peterson, Benson and Zambrano could thrive.

LOSERS

Dodgers Despite having the second-best record in the National
League, L.A. traded away their clubhouse leader (Lo Duca), their
second-best reliever (Mota) and an every-day outfielder
(Encarnacion) for a middle-of-the-rotation starter (Penny) and a
strikeout-prone, unproven first baseman (Choi). First-year G.M.
Paul DePodesta hoped to use the players obtained in the Florida
deal to get Randy Johnson and centerfielder Steve Finley from the
Diamondbacks, but DePodesta succeeded only in acquiring Finley.

The Dodgers traded Lo Duca thinking they had a strong chance of
acquiring catcher Charles Johnson from the Rockies, but Johnson
vetoed the trade. With Brent Mayne, a .255 hitter, behind the
plate, L.A. will miss not only Lo Duca's strong clubhouse
presence but also his .301 average. The Dodgers' bullpen, best in
the NL (2.93 ERA through Sunday), is severely weakened with
Mota's departure. The consequences were felt immediately: on
Saturday the L.A. bullpen blew an eighth-inning lead for the
first time this season after giving up two runs to the Padres in
a 3-2 loss.

"Is this a risky move? It is," says DePodesta. "But in order to
achieve something special, you have to step out and do something
bold."

Yankees The best that G.M. Brian Cashman could do to upgrade his
aging rotation, with no coveted prospects to deal, was to trade
struggling starter Jose Contreras for White Sox righthander
Esteban Loaiza, who has had a mediocre season (9-5, 4.86 ERA)
after finishing second for the AL Cy Young Award last year.
Loaiza has appeared in just one postseason game and was 3-2 with
a 6.04 ERA since June 1.

Red Sox Not only did Boston fail to get something remotely close
to equal value for Garciaparra, but it also wasn't able to
improve a starting rotation that except for righthanders Pedro
Martinez and Curt Schilling was 19-23 with a 4.75 ERA at week's
end. By moving Garciaparra, a potential free agent at the end of
the season, the Red Sox were able to improve their shoddy
defense, which ranked second in the majors in unearned runs
allowed (69), by acquiring two former Gold Glovers in
Mientkiewicz and Expos shortstop Orlando Cabrera. The two
additions, however, could be liabilities if they don't turn
around offensively--Mientkiewicz was a .246 hitter, and Cabrera
had a puny .298 on base percentage--and they don't fill any
long-term needs. Like Garciaparra, Cabrera can become a free
agent after the season, and Mientkiewicz is a 30-year-old with
declining skills.

"We're better equipped to win a World Series now than we were
before," said Boston G.M. Theo Epstein, who reportedly had
attempted to deal Garciaparra to the Cubs as part of a
multiplayer package that would ultimately bring Johnson to
Boston. For the Red Sox and the other contending teams that
scrambled to make last-minute deals, only time will tell.

COLOR PHOTO: TANNEN MAURY/EPA In a blockbuster Garciaparra was traded to the Cubs, while Mientkiewicz (inset) went to the Red Sox. COLOR PHOTO: CRAIG LASSIG/REUTERS In a blockbuster Garciaparra was traded to the Cubs, while Mientkiewicz (inset) went to the Red Sox. COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO (LO DUCA) The Dodgers made a high-risk move by sending catcher Lo Duca to the Marlins.

MORE MOVES?

Teams can still make deals after July 31, but a player must clear
waivers in order to be traded. Here are five likely
candidates.

BRET BOONE, 2B, Mariners

Rebuilding Seattle is willing to deal him, but his low average
(.250) and hefty contract (he's close to vesting for 2005 at $9
million) have lowered his value.

Jason Kendall, C, Pirates

Pittsburgh would be happy to unload the $35 million remaining on
Kendall's contract; after dealing away Paul Lo Duca, the Dodgers
need a catcher.

Cory Lidle, RHP, Reds

Reasonably priced starters rarely clear waivers, but Lidle, who
could become a free agent after the season, might. Lidle
struggled in July (7.76 ERA) but has postseason experience.

Ugueth Urbina, RHP, Tigers

Urbina, who saved four postseason games for the Marlins last
fall, is one of the few established closers on the market.

Larry Walker, RF, Rockies

Since returning from a groin injury on June 22, Walker was
hitting .323 with six homers. Last week Walker, who is making
$12.5 million this year, reportedly snubbed trades to the Marlins
and the Rangers, but he has said he'd consider going to another
contender.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)