Five Trades That Will Have the Most Impact on the Major League Baseball Playoffs
Major League Baseball’s trade deadline has come and gone, which means it’s time to dust off the infield dirt and see which moves could have a significant effect on those teams eyeing deep October runs. Here’s a look at five of them:
RP KOJI UEHARA & RP MIKE ADAMS, TEXAS RANGERS
Perhaps no team read this year’s trade market better than the Rangers. Texas general manager Jon Daniels was focused on one thing leading up to July 31 — improve the pitching staff. With few rotation arms available at a reasonable cost, Daniels turned his attention to solidifying a bullpen that unraveled in the Rangers World Series’ loss to San Francisco last year.
After nabbing Baltimore’s Koji Uehara and the Padres’ Mike Adams, the Rangers armed themselves with two of the top relievers available and a pair that will compliment and preserve young closer Neftali Feliz. In what could form a potent 7th and 8th inning tandem, Uehara and Adams boast a combined 113 strikeouts and just 17 walks. Further, Uehara (0.69) and Adams (.073) have the lowest WHIP among all pitchers who have thrown at least 45 innings pitched, while Adams’ 1.13 ERA is the second best mark in MLB among all pitchers with at least 45 innings pitched. They both limit free passes and can pile on the strikeouts, highlighted by Uehara’s strikeout-to-walk ratio (8.00), which is the second best among all relievers, behind only the Giants’ Sergio Romo.
The moves promise to have an impact on the race for the American League West in a big way, especially given the fact the team chasing Texas — the Angels — chose to stand pat.
SP DOUG FISTER, DETROIT TIGERS
In one of the more unheralded trades of the deadline, the Detroit Tigers traded for Seattle Mariners starter Doug Fister. No pitcher has been let down by his team more than the 27-year-old righty and his 3-12 record bears the proof. Fister is one of only two AL pitchers who have double-digit losses, while sporting an ERA under 4.00. He’s also the only pitcher in the majors with double-digit losses and a WHIP under 1.20 (1.17). Despite a solid 3.33 ERA, Fister has been victim to the lowest run support in the majors at 3.02 runs-per-game, something that’s made him somewhat of an afterthought at the deadline.
But make no mistake, the Tiger’s addition of Fister could help keep Detroit afloat in one of baseball’s toss-up divisions. Already claiming the best 1-2 punch in the Central in Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, trading for Fister provides Detroit a trio of quality arms to give itself a chance in a playoff series.
OF CARLOS BELTRAN, SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
If there’s one team that likely punched its ticket to the postseason with a trade that shored up a glaring weakness, it’s the Giants. San Francisco finally got the middle-of-the-order bat it managed to do without during its title run but desperately needed this year after losing catcher Buster Posey for the season.
Carlos Beltran came at a cost — pitching prospect Zack Wheeler — but a sustainable one given the quality of arms the Giants already posses. Beltran, who’s enjoying a resurgence while staying injury-free, brings an all-star bat to the Bay that has the potential to affect the postseason in the same way it did in Houston in 2005.
The Giants were in dire need of offense and got one of the best bats available. Will it be enough to repeat as champs? It might not. But it’s almost a guarantee to get them into the playoffs and allow them the chance to defend their title.
OF HUNTER PENCE, PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
If Beltran wasn’t the top offensive player moved at the deadline, then it was Hunter Pence. And it says here that’s likely the case.
Philadelphia’s daunting threesome of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels has lived up to the hype, but these Phillies aren’t your 2008 offensive juggernaut anymore. Despite a lineup that features a pair of the game’s top hitters in Ryan Howard and a healthy Chase Utley, the Phils have watched their lineup grow older and slower with each passing season and one wondered if it they had it in them to hold off a charging Atlanta squad down the stretch in the National League East.
Well, after acquiring Hunter Pence from the Houston Astros, the Phillies lineup is without a doubt more balanced, potent, and complete. The 28-year-old outfielder is an energetic sparkplug who offers great defense and speed on the basepaths to go with an aggressive approach at the plate that instills fear in opposing pitchers.
The best part of this trade for the Phillies isn’t Pence’s bat or his team-friendly contract, it’s that they kept him away from the Braves. It could be the difference between a pennant and home-field advantage.
SP UBALDO JIMENEZ, CLEVELAND INDIANS
While Ubaldo Jimenez was the only player who shouldn’t have been traded this year — a talent too good to move is almost implicitly considered the top acquisition — his full impact may not be felt in the final two months of the season.
Forget the Indians coughed up some serious young talent to get him — and they did, in a pair of projectable high-ceiling arms — because any time you can move prospects for an established major leaguer with payroll-friendly years left on his deal, you have to do it. Not to mention, it’s the type of trade a fanbase dreams of when its club is in contention this late into the season.
But although the 27-year-old flamethrower was arguably the biggest talent to move by the deadline, the team that acquired him may be the furthest from contending of the five clubs listed. The trade theoretically should help the Indians hold off the Twins, but to say they are head and shoulders above the Tigers and White Sox would be simply untrue.
They still have holes in their lineup and starting rotations, and it may not be enough to get them into the playoffs. However, Jimenez makes them a better team today, tomorrow, and next year, and that’s why it was one of the steals of the deadline.