August 1, 2001
The Daily Prospectus
What I find interesting is the teams that stood pat.
Of the 30 major-league teams, just five sat idle over the past week. Of those, one is the best team in baseball, two are edge contenders for the postseason, and two are out of contention and should be focusing on the 2002 season. Let's take them one at a time:
Seattle Mariners: By far the most interesting case is that of the Mariners, who have the best record in baseball and can begin setting up their Division Series rotation. Despite their chasing the single-season record for wins, though, the Ms have shown some vulnerability of late, in the absence of Edgar Martinez. Since their DH went on the disabled list July 16 with a strained left quad, the Mariners have scored just 4.5 runs per game, well below their average of 6.0 prior to the injury.
Martinez is the Ms best hitter, and a critical part of a lineup that already carries too many non-contributors in Dan Wilson, David Bell, Al Martin, and Carlos Guillen. As good as the Mariners have been, they really could use one more hitter to play third base or left field, even after Martinez returns. They elected to hold on to their pitching depth at the deadline, but it would not be surprising to see them dip into it in August to make a waiver deal.
Anaheim Angels: The Angels are floating around the fringe of the American League wild-card chase on the strength of a strong, albeit largely unknown, rotation, one that ranks third in the AL according to Michael Wolverton's Support-Neutral metrics. Their bullpen, other than Troy Percival, is just as anonymous and just as effective, also ranking third in the league.
Like the Mariners, the Angels could use another bat. They've been getting by on offense thanks to some random performances by players like Benji Gil (.308 EqA) and Shawn Wooten (.295 EqA), but they desperately need a first baseman or DH with power and plate discipline. Unlike the Ms, though, the Angels don't have much to offer in trade, the result of years of terrible drafting and a lack of investment in overseas talent development.
As they did last year, the Angels will likely stay around the edge of the wild-card race, never getting closer than three or four games but never having the extended losing streak that would knock them out of contention. The franchise continues to sit in baseball's purgatory: mid-payroll, mid-talent, and mid-performance, all adding up to seasons of semi-contention and fan apathy.
Florida Marlins: The Marlins' refusal to do anything at the trade deadline was perhaps a reaction to the team's ill-timed four-game losing streak. They remain just 6 1/2 games out of the wild-card, and the same distance behind the Braves in the NL East, so they clearly can still be a factor over the next two months.
The Marlins have just one glaring hole, right field, where Eric Owens has been one of the worst regulars in the league. In the absence of Preston Wilson, though, Kevin Millar has gotten regular playing time and done what he's always done: hit. His ..315/.362/.535 performance has been a big part of the Marlins' surge over .500. When Wilson returns, Owens should be returned to the fourth-outfielder role for which he's suited, with Millar keeping his regular job.
The Fish could use another bat off the bench, as well as a power arm or two in the bullpen, but it appears that Dave Dombrowski is disinclined to trade prospects for those types of players. It's hard to argue with that strategy, especially when you see the exorbitant prices paid for middle relievers like David Weathers.
Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays were involved in the juiciest rumors over the past few days, with talk of three-way and even four-way deals flying. In the end they did nothing, and are left with a dysfunctional roster.
One of the Jays' problems appears to be that they wanted too much. In at least one case--their efforts to trade Shannon Stewart to the Twins--their asking price was astronomical, two of the organization's top prospects. Given Stewart's limitations, cost, and the prices paid in trade for comparable talent, it's no wonder that the Jays found themselves on the outside looking in at 4 p.m. yesterday.
Cincinnati Reds: The Reds did make one deal in the post-All-Star break period, sending Alex Ochoa to the Rockies for Todd Walker. Deals involving Dmitri Young and Pokey Reese never materialized, however, and the Reds remain caught in the awkward position of trying to move from non-contender to contender while not alienating their best, and most mercurial, player, Ken Griffey Jr.
The notion that the Reds would somehow be stripping their roster by trading players the caliber of Young and Reese is laughable. Young is a decent hitter, nothing more, while Reese is a defensive replacement masquerading as a regular. If they're among a team's best players, that's a sign that the team isn't very good. Jim Bowden needs to grit his teeth and get what he can for the two.
Finally, I'd like to pass along our sympathies to the families and friends of Gerik Baxter and Mark Hilde. The two young players--Baxter a Padres prospect, Hilde an A's draftee--died Sunday when Baxter's truck blew a tire as they drove through the Mojave Desert.
Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.