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Aug. 07, 2006
Aug. 07, 2006

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Aug. 7, 2006

SI Players: Life On And Off The Field
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SURFING
  • LAIRD HAMILTON WAS ONCE ONE OF ONLY A HANDFUL OF MEN WITH THE SKILL AND THE GUTS TO RIDE THE MASSIVE AND MURDEROUS WAVE KNOWN AS JAWS. BUT THEN CAME THE BOUNTY HUNTERS AND THRILL-SEEKERS, AND THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS SPORT SUDDENLY GOT A WHOLE LOT SCARIER

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Done Deals
Not all the hyped trades got made, but the Rangers and the Yankees found helpin furious action before the deadline

This is an article from the Aug. 7, 2006 issue Original Layout

What made thisyear's midsummer trade session unique was that it came close to living up toits hype. By the time the nonwaiver trade deadline passed on Monday, big nameshad changed uniforms (Bobby Abreu, Greg Maddux), there had been a surprise ortwo (less than 12 hours after offering Carlos Lee a $48 million contractextension, Milwaukee shipped him to Texas), and frantic negotiations had barelybeaten the buzzer (10 deals involving 31 players were struck in the final 16hours).

The best and worstmoves of the week:

AL ContendersMuscle Up

In Lee, theRangers acquired the kind of impact hitter that the AL West--rival Angelsneeded to take control of the wide-open division. (At week's end only 3 1/2games separated the front-running A's from the last-place Mariners.) A30-year-old leftfielder who becomes a free agent after the season, Lee is asignificant addition (.294, 28 home runs, 82 RBIs) to a Texas lineup thatranked seventh in the AL in runs and was desperate for righthanded pop. ThoughLee is potentially a two-month rental, the sweetener in the deal for theRangers was prospect Nelson Cruz, a 26-year-old rightfielder who has power andspeed (.302 average, .528 slugging, 20 homers, 17 stolen bases at Triple ANashville). What's more, Texas gave up little to get Lee and Cruz: an averagerightfielder (Kevin Mench), a .241-career-hitting centerfielder (Laynce Nix)and a failed closer (righthander Francisco Cordero).

"Not only doesCruz have a much bigger upside," says an NL scout, "but he also couldbe better than Mench right now. I bet he makes a difference for them thisyear." After Lee had turned down their contract offer, the Brewers feltcompelled to unload him, but the Rangers wouldn't do the deal unless Cruz wasincluded.

The Yankees wereanother club happy to oblige a team looking to dump players, gettingrightfielder Abreu and righthander Cory Lidle from the Phillies. Though headedfor a career-low 12 homers, Abreu, 32, was on pace for 142 walks and 101 RBIsand had the fifth highest OBP (.427) in the majors. He's also an upgrade forthe injury-plagued New York outfield, which had an ineffective AaronGuiel-Bernie Williams platoon in right. Likewise, Lidle (8-7, 4.74 ERA) is animprovement at the fifth starter's spot, where the Yankees had gotten onlythree quality starts this season; Lidle had 13 in 21 starts with the Phils. NewYork gave up Triple A lefthander Matt Smith, Class A shortstop C.J. Henry (afirst-round pick in the 2005 draft) and two Rookie League prospects. "Thiswas a salary dump by Philadelphia, but it's still pretty amazing that [theYankees] did all this without giving away any of their top prospects," saysa National League executive. "This deal should punch their ticket toanother postseason."

NL DreamingTeams

At week's end theBraves were 48-56 and 6 1/2 games behind in the NL wild-card race, yet generalmanager John Schuerholz was making moves as if his team were a World Seriescontender. Desperate to prop up his woeful bullpen, Schuerholz made a costlytrade in dealing talented infielder Wilson Betemit to the Dodgers for eminentlyhittable reliever Danys Baez and 23-year-old third baseman Willy Aybar.Betemit, 26, is a switch-hitter who feasts on righthanders and is versatile inthe field. (He can play second, third or short.) Schuerholz overpaid to getBaez (.283 batting average against), a potential free agent this fall who isn'tlikely to pitch more than 30 innings in an Atlanta uniform. As for the23-year-old Aybar, he has struggled at the plate (.250 average) and in thefield (five errors in 29 games) in his rookie season. "Betemit is thesuperior player, now and in the future," says an NL scout.

Getting Betemitprovided L.A. with long-term security at third base, but at the same time theclub sacrificed the future in a bid to vault from last in the NL West to theplayoffs this season. The Dodgers (50-55, five games back in the division andfive behind in the wild-card race) gave up Gold Glove infielder Cesar Izturis,26, and Triple A shortstop Joel Guzman, 21, who was rated L.A.'s top minorleague power hitter by Baseball America, in separate deals for a pair ofprobable free agents: 40-year-old Maddux (9-11, 4.69 with the Cubs) and30-year-old shortstop Julio Lugo (.308 with the Devil Rays), respectively.

Beltway Busts

The neighboringNationals and Orioles squandered opportunities to reload for the future whenthey stunningly opted to retain their franchise players. Baltimore committed amajor blunder by shooting down the Angels' sweet offer of 23-year-oldrighthander Ervin Santana and 22-year-old Triple A shortstop Erick Aybar forshortstop Miguel Tejada. But even more perplexing was Washington's decision tohold on to leftfielder Alfonso Soriano, who is eligible for free agency thiswinter. "[Keeping Soriano] makes no sense," says an NL executive."There were fair deals on the table for [the Nationals]; they were justasking for way too much. Unless they're willing to shell out the big bucks tosign him long-term, which seems unlikely, this looks like a mistake."

The Market IsStill Open
The nonwaiver deadline has passed, but these players could still draw interestand be traded this month if they clear waivers.

Aaron Boone, 3B,Indians
The promotion of hot prospect Andy Marte last weekend made this veteran (.248,38 RBIs through Sunday) expendable.

Livan Hernandez,RHP, Nationals
Despite a rocky season the Cuban workhorse remains attractive because of hispostseason résumé (6-2, 3.99 ERA).

Jon Lieber, RHP,Phillies
The struggling sinkerballer (4-8, 6.09) could be snapped up quickly if heshows glimpses of his 17-win performance in 2005.

Mark Redman, LHP,Royals
Headed toward free agency this fall, the All-Star's stock has risen with his7-2, 4.65 showing since June 4.

> Get thelatest news in Jon Heyman's Daily Scoop at SI.com/baseball.

PHOTODARREN CARROLL (LEE)SUDDENIMPACT - Lee boosts the Texas lineup, while Abreu (inset) fills a hole inrightfield for New York.PHOTOAL TIELEMANS (ABREU)[Seecaption above]