It is the dream of fans the nation over that as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, their GM will find the magic formula to bring a big bat, power arm, or even the right bits and pieces to help their favorite team in their quest for the playoffs. If you’re a fan of a team in the A.L. East, your mood will depend on the expectations that you had for your favorite team, but unlike years past, there were no major moves made within the division.
A quick look at the standings reveals that every team in the division could count themselves as a potential playoff threat, with the Blue Jays being the longest shot as they currently sit 5 games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second wild card spot. It appears as if GM Alex Anthopoulos was content more to continue on the path the Jays are on, than make a huge deadline deal that could disrupt all the good work he has done. Given the Jays’ injury situation, it’s hard to blame him. If Brandon Morrow makes it back within the next few weeks as is hoped, then the Jays have that power arm that they need without having given anything up. Even if things don’t work out in 2012, the Jays are still positioned for a run in 2013.
The Tampa Bay Rays are everyone’s favorite little team that could. Despite the fact that Evan Longoria has been on the DL since April 30th, and the rest of their lineup wouldn’t give the Bad News Bears trouble most night, and that their suddenly porous defense now ranks 13th in fielding percentage (they were tied for best in MLB in 2011); the Rays find themselves in 3rd place in the A.L. East and just 2 1/2 games behind Oakland for the last playoff spot. At this point in 2011, the Rays were trailing the N.Y. Yankees by 9 games in the wild card standings and the Boston Red Sox by 10 games for the division lead. A 35-20 (.636) combined with an epic Boston collapse let the Rays in to the post-season. The rumors of them shipping James Shields out of town sound a lot more like wishful thinking on the part of other GMs, rather than anything that was ever close to becoming a reality. Once Longoria returns, it should settle the defense down and provide the necessary punch for a pitching staff that has been mostly brilliant this season.
The Baltimore Orioles are a bit of an enigma, considering their position in the standings. For the first time in 15 seasons, the Os have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs, as they sit just 1 and a half games back in the wild card race, and are even within shouting distance of the Yankees in the East at 5 1/2 games back. GM Dan Duquette had this to say in his defense for not making a deadline deal:
“The opportunities we looked at had a cost,” Duquette said by conference call Tuesday . “And I wasn’t convinced that they [were]a lot better than the people we had in the organization and, hence, we weren’t able to make some of the deals we had on the table. There will be some other opportunities in the month of August.”
When Duquette speaks logically like that, it’s hard to argue. Joe Blanton is the name that was most often rumored to be heading Baltimore’s way, but a deal couldn’t be worked out. For the sake of the Orioles, and their fans, I hope Duquette is right, and they are able to make things happen that will at least keep them in the playoff hunt throughout the rest of the season.
The N.Y. Yankees unsurprisingly landed the biggest name player in the division when they
stole traded for Ichiro, giving up Danny Farquhar (13.5 ERA in 2 big league innings) and D.J. Mitchell (3.86 ERA in 4 2/3 innings this season.) While Ichiro may be on the downside of his career, he is certainly still an upgrade for the Yankees (despite the Yankees’ 3-5 record since acquiring him), and he is a player that is not going to be bothered by the bright lights of NYC, as he has spent his entire career in a media circus. The Yankees are in the driver’s seat in terms of playoff position, despite their recent foibles and it would take a Red Sox-like collapse for them to miss out on the post-season this year. They didn’t need to make a move, but the one they did, they won.
Red Sox GM Ben Cherington has been badly beat in every deal he has made since he took over for Theo Epstein, so perhaps that is why he was a little gun-shy for his first trade deadline as the guy in charge. Or perhaps he feels that the Red Sox as currently constructed are good enough to make a run to get in to the post-season. With all the injuries and drama that has surrounded the club, they still remain only 3 1/2 games out of the playoffs. If Josh Beckett or Jon Lester can regain some of their mojo, the lineup is frightening enough that they should be able to make up ground in very short order, but consistency will be the key. Thanks to a rain-shortened game against the Tigers last night, the Sox have now won 4 straight games, and are 11-7 (.611) since the All-Star break. If they’re able to keep that pace up, Cherington’s inability to make a big trade at the deadline (or his correct decision to stand pat) looks genius. If not, expect Sox fans to tar and feather him come the off-season.
Who do you see winning the wild cards in the A.L.? Which GM should have made a move to improve his team’s chances?
Let me know: