By Zach Finkelstein
At 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday afternoon, Major League Baseball’s non-waiver Trade Deadline passed with 19 teams within five games of postseason contention. For the first time ever, a record 10 clubs will earn an invite to MLB’s postseason dance. As a result, the rumor mill was churning at full speed up to the last possible second. When all the dust had settled, several franchises and millions of fans had new players for which to root.
Let’s take a look at the most notable deals that went down.
May 3: The Padres traded right-handed reliever Ernesto Frieri to the Angels for second baseman Alexi Amarista and Minor Leaguer Donn Roach. The first significant trade of the season went largely unnoticed at the time. Despite strong stats, Frieri was a relative unknown pitching in San Diego. Amarista, meanwhile, hit .154 in limited big league action in 2011. At the time of the trade, he was playing in the Minor Leagues.
After starting the season slowly, the Angels have played their way right into the playoff race. And while much of the improvement can be attributed to the prolific play of 20-year-old rookie Mike Trout and the in-season resurgence of first baseman Albert Pujols, credit is nonetheless due to Frieri, who entered Tuesday with a 1.19 ERA and 12 saves in 12 chances in 30 1/3 innings pitched for Anaheim.
Amarista hasn’t been as dominant, but he has nonetheless played a valuable role for the Padres, who are not in playoff contention. Playing all over the infield and outfield — but primarily second base — Amarista has triple-slashed .269/.306/.431 with 10 doubles, two triples, four homers, 21 RBIs and 23 runs scored in 57 games entering Monday.
June 25: The Red Sox traded third baseman Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox for center fielder Brent Lillibridge and righty Zach Stewart. In parting with Youkilis, the Red Sox traded not just their third baseman, but a beloved Boston mainstay and cultural icon. The move was made, however, because Boston had an up-and-coming star in third baseman Will Middlebrooks. Youkilis, who had struggled before the swap, was finally — and shockingly — an expendable player. Youkilis has played much better for AL Central-leading Chicago (.262/.374/.476, six homers, 22 RBIs in 103 at-bats) than he did with Boston (.233/.315/.377 with four homers, 14 RBIs in 146 at-bats).
July 1: The Phillies traded DH Jim Thome to the Orioles for Minor Leaguers Gabriel Lino and Kyle Simon. The O’s acquired Thome, the owner of 611 big league home runs, to help fill out a lineup that had been struggling to score runs. Although his days as a prolific power hitter are in the past, the 41-year-old veteran was not only an offensive upgrade, but a strong clubhouse presence for a team in the thick of a playoff race for the first time in quite a long time. Thome was placed on the disabled on list on Tuesday with a herniated disk in his neck.
July 4: The Astros traded OF Carlos Lee to the Marlins for Minor Leaguers Matt Dominguez and LHP Rob Rasmussen. Well, the Marlins made this trade in hopes of rejuvenating a faltering franchise that went a Major League-worst 8-18 in June following a big league-best 21-8 in May. Lee has not hit for average nor power, however, and Miami proceeded to go into “sell” mode. The Marlins actually tried to trade Lee before the Deadline. A deal for Lee to go to the Yankees had been in the works, but the aging outfielder rejected the deal during its development stages.
July 23: The Marlins traded right-handed starter Anibal Sanchez and second baseman Omar Infante to the Tigers for right-handed starter Jacob Turner and Minor Leaguers Rob Brantly and Brian Flynn. By making this trade, the contending Tigers acquired an above-average hurler in Sanchez, a veteran capable of throwing strikes and recording strikeouts.
In Infante, Detroit picked up a serviceable second baseman who automatically became an upgrade over the woeful offense that had been produced by the Tigers’ 2012 keystone men. The Marlins, who officially became sellers with this move, did not walk away empty- handed. One of baseball’s better pitching prospects entering the season, Turner struggled during his stints with Detroit in 2011 and 2012. Despite this fact, the 21-year-old still has plenty of time to turn his career around. Turner is currently in Triple-A, but don’t be surprised if he winds up somewhere in the middle of Miami’s starting staff by 2013.
July 23: The Mariners traded outfielder Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees for Minor Leaguers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. Most experts felt that the trade was bigger in name value than actual value. While few debate Ichiro’s Hall of Fame credentials — he may very well get in on the first ballot — the 38-year-old changed clubs having hit more to his current age (.261/.288/.353 in 2012 with Seattle) than past ability (lifetime .322 hitter, 10-time All-Star, AL Rookie of the Year and MVP).
The all-time great has yet to pick up his game since donning the pinstripes (.259/.286/.407, one homer in seven contests), but he doesn’t necessarily have to for the trade for work out for New York. Batting at the bottom of the Bombers’ order, Ichiro provides an older club with a veteran bat at the bottom of the lineup, sensational speed and outstanding ability as a defensive outfielder. The Yankees acquired Ichiro after outfielder Brett Gardner underwent season-ending surgery. Playing for a postseason-contending team for the first time in a while (the Yankees lead the AL East), Ichiro could find himself rejuvenated by meaningful baseball as the season wears on. That was the Yankees’ hope, at least.
July 25: The Astros traded left-hander Wandy Rodriguez to the Pirates for Minor Leaguers Colton Cain, CF Robbie Grossman and LHP Rudy Owens. The Pirates haven’t made the playoffs since 1992. Entering Tuesday, however, Pittsburgh owns one of the two NL Wild Card berths. In assuming the unfamiliar role of Trade Deadline shoppers, the Pirates picked up a solid southpaw arm that had posted a 3.79 ERA in 21 starts for Houston this season. Rodriguez is a good pitcher, but he is not the type of hurler who will improve Pittsburgh’s playoff prospects by any significant margin. On the other side of the trade, the MLB-worst Astros acquired three players who will bolster their farm system for now. Outfielder Robbie Grossman appears to be the best of the return, but time will tell. As for Rodriguez, he allowed three runs in six innings against the Astros in his first start for Pittsburgh on July 28.
July 25: The Marlins traded shortstop Hanley Ramirez and left-handed specialist Randy Choate to the Dodgers for right-handed starter Nathan Eovaldi and Minor Leaguer Scott McGough. In Ramirez, the Dodgers acquired one of baseball’s biggest enigmas. Having hit .342 with 24 homers, 106 RBIs and 27 stolen bases in 2009, and .300 as recently as 2010, Ramirez has dropped off a great deal over the past season and a half. The former NL batting champion, who is owed $31.5 million from 2013-14, was triple-slashing an underwhelming .246/.322/.428 with Miami this season before the trade. The 22-year-old Eovaldi will likely spend the remainder of 2012 on the Marlins starting staff. The victim of poor run support for much of the season with LA, the righty won his Miami debut on July 28 vs. the Padres.
July 27: The Brewers traded right-handed starting pitcher Zack Greinke to the Angels for Minor Leaguers Jean Segura, Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg. Although many would agree that the Angels acquired the top pitcher on the market in Greinke, there has been some debate over the cost. Good as he may be, Greinke is slated to be a free agent at season’s end, and the Angels would not be eligible for draft-pick compensation, per the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Meanwhile, Anaheim departs with three solid prospects. Now in possession of the sport’s superlative starting rotation, the Angels have greatly boosted their ability to get to and withstand the rigors of postseason play.
July 29: The Twins traded left-handed starter Francisco Liriano to the White Sox for Minor Leaguers Eduardo Escobar and Pedro Hernandez. Liriano did not fare well in his final start with the Twins, allowing seven runs in 2 2/3 frames to the White Sox. The rough outing was not bad enough to deter Chicago’s AL franchise from acquiring the southpaw, however. On Tuesday, Liriano will make his first start for Chicago against, who else, the Twins. The biggest question will be over which Liriano shows up. The left-hander was demoted to the bullpen early this season after struggling mightily before re-entering the rotation and turning things around. On the year, the southpaw is 3-10 with a 5.31 ERA despite an impressive 9.8 K/9 rate. In his past 11 starts, however, Liriano has posted a very respectable 3.68 ERA.
Counting down to the Deadline: Right before much of the country went to bed Monday night, the Dodgers pulled off a trade for hard-throwing righty reliever Brandon League. Many woke up to learn that Los Angeles’ NL franchise had traded another reliever – Josh Lindblom – for talented Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino.
The Giants, who are tied with LA atop the NL West, would not sit idle as this happened. In making a proactive move of their own, the Giants also called the Phillies and finalized a deal for powerful outfielder Hunter Pence. In the NL Central, the Reds reeled in Royals reliever Jonathan Broxton, a former stopper who will set up for Aroldis Chapman, Cincy’s flame-throwing closer.
The biggest move of the day came during the proverbial 11th hour, however, as the Texas Rangers bolstered their starting rotation with the acquisition of Cubs righty Ryan Dempster, whose 2.25 ERA ranks second in all of baseball. In a separate deal, Texas also picked up one of Dempster’s Chicago battery mates, Geovany Soto, who will provide depth to an extremely talented Texas roster.
In two minor moves over the last 24 hours entering the Deadline, the Pirates picked up two talented bats for their bench: Travis Snider from Toronto and Gaby Sanchez, a 2011 NL All-Star who has struggled with Miami this season. Both players, to varying degrees, have shown their upside and ability to play in the big leagues.
Zachary Finkelstein is a contributing writer to CBS Local Digital Media and a graduate of Northeastern University.
What was the biggest pre-deadline move? Make your case in the comments below…