Waiver Deadline Round-Up
Several teams made deals in the final hours of the trade deadline, giving some teams' rosters a boost in the final month of the season. Teams on the other end of those deals had the opportunity to cut costs and restock their rosters for the future. Today I'll be looking at those deals and reviewing the winners and losers.
D'Backs trade Jon Garland to Dodgers
The Dodgers get a solid starting pitcher in Garland, who has had a fine season - one that's about average for his career. With Arizona he posted a 4.29 ERA while putting up a 4.61 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) number. Garland had signed with Arizona for a salary of $6.25 million with a $10 million mutual option in 2010 ($2.5 million buyout if the club declines and $1 million buyout if Garland declines). According to late reports, the Diamondbacks will pick-up the rest of the Garland's salary as well as any buyout money for 2010. In terms of cash the Dodgers have nothing to lose and all Arizona gains from the deal is the player-to-be-named later.
From the Dodgers perspective, it would seem like a good deal. However, with an already strong rotation, Garland will drop into the 5th spot in the rotation, replacing knuckler Charlie Haeger. With Wolf, Billingsley, Kershaw, and Kuroda all more effective than Garland, it's hard to see where he would fit into the post-season roster, especially since the bullpen is equally as stocked. While Garland can help the club by taking the ball every 5th or 6th day (which is it, Joe Torre?), with the Dodgers already having a 99% probability of making the playoffs, this won't really change much.
In actuality, while the pickup of Garland surely won't hurt, it's tough to see how the move really helps the Dodgers a whole lot. The deal, in total, is a bit puzzling, with Arizona receiving little for a player who only marginally helps LA. Garland could have been a big help on a few other clubs such as Texas, Minnesota, or Colorado, where he could have helped the team make the playoffs and been a solid #3 or #4 contributor in the playoffs as well. Since he would have been more valuable in those locations, it would seem these teams would be able to give a little more in return for Garland, making both sides happier than the deal which actually occurred.
White Sox trade Jose Contreras to Rockies
The aforementioned Rockies also needed some pitching help, and got some from the White Sox, with 37-year old Jose Contreras packing his bags for Denver. By traditional metrics, Contreras has had a dismal year, posting a 5.27 ERA and a 5-13 record for Chicago. His tRA and FIP are pretty good however, at 4.37 and 4.12 respectively, indicating that perhaps he has been the victim of some bad luck, bad defense, or both.
For Colorado, it's worth taking a flyer on Contreras especially considering the state of their rotation. Still, Contreras is not the horse he used to be, getting roughed up and removed in the 5th or earlier in five of his last six starts and averaging just 5.4 IP/start on the year. Colorado, may also have been wooed by Contreras' reputation as a "big game pitcher" as the Rockies figure to have plenty of them down the stretch this year. It should be noted however, that many of Contreras' big games came in seasons in which he pitched terrifically during the regular season as well - something he is clearly not doing this year.
In return, Chicago will get Brandon Hynick, a 24-year old right-hander who has pitched pretty well in AAA this year, not a terrible return for a 37-year old pitcher having a bad year on team that is close to falling out of the pennant race.
White Sox trade Jim Thome to Dodgers
As if the Contreras deal wasn't enough, the Jim Thome trade officially waves the white flag for the White Sox, who still had a small, but possible chance to make the playoffs (BP has it a 5.5%). The loss of Thome, who had become a fan favorite in Chicago and is one of baseball's all-time good guys, will be a blow to the Sox and their fans both on and off the field. The mini-fire sale from the Sox is interesting, since only a month ago they were buyers in picking up the big contracts of both Jake Peavy and Alex Rios (neither of which has thus far paid dividends), but an 11-17 August has a way of changing things. The Sox get virtually nothing in return (a 26-year old Class-A player) except savings on an undisclosed amount of Thome's remaining salary. I don't like this move for the Sox - giving up a fan favorite and giving up on the season when you're still just six games out isn't the way to endear fans - especially when the return on such a move is quite small.
Nevertheless, the White Sox' loss is the Dodgers gain as they gain a bona fide masher in Thome, who at age 38 can still hit. GM Ned Colletti has already said Thome won't play first-base, but he'll be dangerous as the Dodgers top pinch-hitter and only left-handed power off the bench. That will come in handy during the playoffs. The trade will also pay off doubly if the Dodgers can reach the World Series where he will almost certainly be the starting DH. Thome is hitting just .249 but has a .372 OBP and 23 homers in just 417 AB's.
For my money, the Dodgers ought to test Thome at first base in any case. Thome had a career UZR per 150 games of -2.4, while James Loney, the Dodgers current first baseman, has a career UZR per 150 games of -2.2. While it's been awhile since Thome has played first regularly, it might be worthwhile to see if he can still perform there. Thome would be an improvement over Loney at the plate which may (or may not according to the Dodger's calculations) offset the defensive loss. Why not try out Thome at first during the relatively meaningless regular season and see how he does?
UPDATE: Here's why not. According to Ned Colletti: "In fact, the night before the deadline he called me. … He just said: 'I just want to be honest with you. I’d love to come. I want to help you guys any way I can. But playing first base is not something I’m going to be able to do — maybe in an emergency situation, perhaps.' "
Giants sign Brad Penny
The final big acquisition Monday night was the signing of Brad Penny by the Giants. The move should be a boost to San Francisco as Penny will step into the #5 spot which was vacated by the Randy Johnson injury. Penny is another guy who has had a poor season by usual standards (7-8, 5.61), but a less terrible FIP (4.49) and tRA (5.21). Penny is clearly not in his old form, but considering the Giants' other options (Ryan Sadowski, Joe Martinez), Penny is a good pick-up, especially considering the move cost them less than $100,000. With a 24% shot at the playoffs according to Baseball Prospectus, every game will be big. While Penny won't likely be much use once the playoffs begin, with luck he can help them get there. For Penny, the signing is an opportunity to revitalize what has been a lost past two years.
With the final moves made, and the postseason rosters set, the GM's and front offices can simply sit back and watch as the teams they have assembled push for the final few playoff spots. Time will only tell how these big four moves will work out.