In some cases, getting attached to your team's newest player requires extra effort. Josh is here to help.
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Josh Worn is a professional complainer who has masked his true talent for years with occupations such as fish monger, electronics salesman, and truck driver. He now vents his frustrations about the Detroit Tigers on a regular basis at the blog Walkoff Woodward. A former bad athlete, Josh can be followed at @WalkoffWoodward on twitter or contacted at email@example.com, if you have a need for someone to write sentences and then turn them around, and around, and around, and around before submitting them for publishing.
The Cardinals, who simultaneously put a bad situation out of its misery and increased their postseason chances, lead the parade of trade deadline winners.
In over a decade of writing professionally about baseball, I have never stooped so low as to write a “trade deadline winners and losers” piece. Normally, I run from a cliché like the Wehrmacht withdrew from a battle, attacking even as I back away. This is probably why I have never been invited to many parties. Normally, the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline is such a violent anticlimax that there isn’t much to say, making it acceptable to dismiss it as if it were a guest-star on Downton Abbey, issuing no more than a single word, a hostile glance, and a pregnant pause. The 2011 trading deadline was so active it demands a more thorough going-over. Today winners, tomorrow losers, and Wednesday I will be invited to the King’s Charity Ball (but no one will tell me it isn't a costume party).
Winners Atlanta Braves Between injuries and disappointing performances, the Braves were being strangled by their outfield. The unit as a whole has done less hitting than that of any team in the league except the Padres. Center field was a particularly sore point, as it has been for a number of years—in 2008, Braves center fielders ranked eighth in the NL in True Average, then dropped to 13th in 2009, 15th last year and again this year. Bourn isn’t Ty Cobb, but should represent a serious upgrade for the Braves in the center-field line, as he ranks fourth among all NL center fielders in TAv (250 PA and up department). Braves leadoff hitters have also been among the worst in the league, having hit .254/.306/.365 overall. Weird stat alert: In 57 plate appearances at Turner Field, Bourn has never drawn a walk. Having hit only .218/.289/.348 against southpaws to date, the Braves needed a right-handed bat and didn’t get one, but Bourn’s value should hardly be dismissed in light of that. They gave up two solid pitching prospects, a third that should be rated a throw-in, as well as an outfielder that has proved he can’t play in the majors, at least for them. That’s not a bad deal for a part they needed so badly and who also remains under contract. Baltimore Orioles
Unlike some rebuilders who pretended they had no need to sell (hellooooo, Cubs!), the Orioles got something, moving the underrated Koji Uehera and the superannuated Derrek Lee in separate deals. The returns aren’t particularly special. Chris Davis will give the lineup the left-handed power it has been missing all year, but potentially nothing else—he’s arbitration-eligible after the season and has a strike zone wider than a rhino’s buttocks. Tommy Hunter pitches to contact and thus will be undermined by the league’s worst defense. Aaron Baker is a 23-year-old first baseman in High-A ball, which likely means we will never hear his name again. Nevertheless, a roll of the dice is better than standing pat with decayed assets.
Boston Red Sox
Theo Epstein got off to a shaky start, giving up future Generic Second Baseman Yamico Navarro and a Standard Model Reliever for Mike Aviles, which seems like a high price to pay for a 30-year-old defense-second infielder who has hit .222/.261/.395 this year. Given Jed Lowrie’s shoulder injury, Kevin Youkilis’ frequent day-to-dayness, and Marco Scutaro being, well, Marco Scutaro, it’s understandable that they felt they needed more depth, having already been forced to resort to Drew Sutton and an ahead-of-schedule Jose Iglesias. Still, Aviles is a sneeze away from being out of the league altogether, whereas Navarro has some long-term value.
Michael examines what each team in the NL East desires most as the trade deadline approaches.
Right after the All-Star Game and the unofficial first half of the baseball season, teams and fans alike turn their attentions to the next big landmark of the year: the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Fans clamor for their favorite teams to acquire this player or that one. Teams haggle with other teams for the right price. Numerous mentions of clubs being “buyers” or “sellers” fill the media coverage of the deadline. People all around refresh MLB Trade Rumors hundreds of times a day.
In honor of this yearly ritual of rampant speculation and overanalysis, let us take a look at what each NL East team would like to see happen in terms of transactions by the July 31 trade deadline. Call it a wish list for the NL East, if you will.
Just one of the 12 candidates on the Expansion Era Hall of Fame ballot reached 75 percent - and not the most worthy one.
It's a good thing I'm not part of Baseball Prospectus' contingent at the Winter Meetings in Orlando, because this morning's news would have had me trashing my hotel room and pointing my rental car in the direction of the Expansion Era Committee, which announced its voting results for the Hall of Fame. From among the 12 candidates — eight players and four non-players — only Pat Gillick gained election, while Marvin Miller was bypassed yet again.
The race to get shortstops while the getting's good could put the Rays in the catbird seat with Jason Bartlett.
The shortstop market is probably the most dynamic component of the Hot Stove position-player market. Lots of teams are looking for help, especially where dire need has sucked unlikely candidates like Jerry Hairston Jr. or Miguel Tejada into the breach on one club last season—a contender, no less! And then there's the perpetuation of players like Yuniesky Betancourt, Cesar Izturis, or Tommy Manzella, easy fodder for die-hard contractionistas dug into Bud's bunker, as well as those grognards terminally committed to bellyaching about something about the game itself—why not the shortage of shortstops as the latest evidence that 30 teams is simply too much of a good thing?
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The Angels keep on rolling, the Nationals make their call on who's in charge, and the Rays go black to lighten the mood.
Their top three starting pitchers have spent time on the Disabled List. Their primary set-up reliever is out for the season after their record-setting closer left as a free agent in the winter. Their hard-hitting designated hitter has been plagued by injuries all season, and their center fielder missed more than a month; these injuries befell a lineup that lost its power-hitting first baseman to free agency in the offseason.
Should the defending AL pennant-winners get in on Roy Halladay, or Victor Martinez, or keep their future intact?
By one measure, the Tampa Bay Rays have been the best team in baseball to date. They have the top third-order record in the game, better even than the two teams they're currently chasing in the AL East, or the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL. The Rays are doing it with offense-fourth in MLB in Equivalent Average-this season, as opposed to last year's team that played outstanding defense. The 2009 Rays have just a mid-pack squad as measured by Defensive Efficiency, a significant dropoff from last year's highly publicized improvement. The loss of Akinori Iwamura has played a part in that, but for the most part we're seeing regression by the same set of players who took the field a year ago.
The eight premium players who might get dealt, and what it would take to get them.
CC Sabathia, Rich Harden, and Joe Blanton have already been dealt in a flurry of early activity, leaving many contenders playing from behind in the race to improve their team by the trade deadline. With three of the top arms off of the market, the list of trade targets is hitter-heavy. For pitching, there's really only Erik Bedard; everyone else you can think of is either on a good team or not an impact pitcher. Then again, the A's are 51-44 and have dealt away 40 percent of their rotation in the last 10 days, so maybe they'll move a third. Read on.