Deadline takeaways: Cherington lays it out

July, 31, 2014
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BOSTON -- In the aftermath of Thursday's trade deadline that saw the Boston Red Sox ship five key players from their 2013 World Series championship roster to four different teams in four separate deals, general manager Ben Cherington met with the media to discuss the rationale behind the moves.

[+] EnlargeBen Cherington
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesBen Cherington said the Red Sox shifted gears to become sellers at the trade deadline after losing eight of their last nine games.
To recap, starter Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes were traded to the Oakland Athletics, starter John Lackey was shipped off to St. Louis, reliever Andrew Miller was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles and shortstop Stephen Drew was sent to the New York Yankees. In return, the Red Sox received the likes of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from Oakland, starter Joe Kelly and first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig from St. Louis, a left-handed pitching prospect named Eduardo Rodriguez from the Orioles and currently injured utility man Kelly Johnson from the Yankees.

Here are a few takeaways from what Cherington had to say about his team's busy day:

• The decision to sell at the deadline was the result of Boston's poor play in the last week and a half. As recently as July 21, Cherington said the team was looking to add players in preparation for making a run at a playoff spot. Instead, the Red Sox dropped eight of their nine games after that day and found themselves in the situation they were in on Thursday.

"I would say when we got towards the end of that week and going into that Tampa series last weekend in Tampa that is probably when our conversations shifted," Cherington said. "We started making more calls to see what opportunities there would be for our veteran guys."

"If we weren't in the position that we're in, which I take responsibility for, then these trades don't happen."

SportsNation

What grade do you give the Red Sox for their flurry of trades on deadline day (Going: Lester, Lackey, Gomes, Miller, Drew ... Coming: Cespedes, Craig, Johnson, Kelly, Rodriguez)?

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    25%
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    41%
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    19%
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    7%
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    8%

Discuss (Total votes: 15,617)

• According to Cherington, the team's focus regarding the players they acquired was to restock for 2015 and take another run at contending. In Cespedes, Kelly and Craig, the Red Sox now have three viable major leaguers who are under team control for at least next season. As for the offseason, Cherington said the focus will be to bolster the starting rotation.

"My expectation is that we would be active in the starting pitching market this winter with trades, free agency, whatever," Cherington said. "But we're going to learn a lot more about our young group."

Cherington added: "A lot of the guys that are now on this roster will more than likely be on the roster next April, so we've got to start building a team that can win."

Cherington said attractive prospect packages were offered for several of the players the team traded, but the team insisted upon getting major league-ready talent instead.

• Speaking of that young group, the rest of 2014 will not be a lost cause, as Cherington said the remaining games this season will be dedicated to seeing how they handle extended major league time.

Top prospect Anthony Ranaudo will make his major league debut Friday, while Allen Webster, Kelly, Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa all figure into the rotation puzzle as well. Rookie Xander Bogaerts will shift back to short and Will Middlebrooks will make his return off the disabled list Friday night to serve as the third baseman moving forward.

New acquisitions Cespedes and Craig will man the outfield corners, with such a plan marking the first time Cespedes will play right field in the majors. The two likely will surround rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. in center.

"We've got 54 games left," Cherington said. "These are now the most important 54 games of our season because we've got a lot to find out."

"We have new players that we want to make sure are comfortable and get acclimated to Boston and comfortable at the ballpark and everything that comes along with Boston. We've got young players who are still developing and need to continue to improve and develop; we need to focus on that."

• More roster moves are expected on Friday, as Cherington hinted that Shane Victorino will need time to nurse a back injury, and two bullpen arms will be needed to replace Miller and Felix Doubront (who was traded Wednesday to the Chicago Cubs).

In all, the Red Sox undoubtedly surrendered a large degree of talent at the deadline and will most likely endure some growing pains moving forward. However, Cherington said that he was satisfied with what the team accomplished at the end of the day, and plenty more will come before Opening Day 2015.

"As far as the return, time will tell," Cherington said. "We were happy with what we did. We think it fits with what we're trying to do, which was to focus on getting major league or near-major league proven talent."

Cherington added: "We're in better position than we were a week ago, but certainly not done. Hopefully we've done things to get a head start on the offseason."

Pedroia: 'It's a pretty tough business'

July, 31, 2014
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BOSTON -- When it appeared inevitable that the Red Sox would trade Jon Lester, teammate Dustin Pedroia said he hoped when he walked into the clubhouse on Friday, the club’s left-handed ace would be sitting at his locker.

He won’t be.

Lester, along with outfielder Jonny Gomes, was traded to the Oakland Athletics as part of a flurry of deadline moves by the Red Sox. Pitcher John Lackey was sent to the St. Louis Cardinals, Andrew Miller was shipped to the Baltimore Orioles, and shortstop Stephen Drew was traded to the New York Yankees.

So when Pedroia arrives Friday afternoon at Fenway Park in preparation of a three-game set with the Yankees this weekend, there will be some new faces in the clubhouse and some notable absences. Pedroia, who is now the lone homegrown talent remaining to win two World Series for the Red Sox, understands baseball is a business, but losing a quality teammate, pitcher and friend in Lester was a little tough to handle for the veteran second baseman.

[+] EnlargeDustin Pedroia; Jon Lester
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesDustin Pedroia said he understands baseball is a business, but it's still hard to see longtime teammate Jon Lester leave.
“It sucks. The last three years, two of the teams have had major changes,” Pedroia told ESPNBoston.com Thursday night. “It’s tough, man. You play with the guys and they’re your family. It’s a pretty tough business right now.”

While Pedroia and his wife, Kelli, arrived at Fenway to attend Clay Buchholz’s charity event at nearby Lucky Strike Lanes/Jillian’s, Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington was inside the ballpark holding a press conference to discuss the day’s dealings.

Since it’s now clear the team is focused on the 2015 season and beyond, the next two months will serve as a virtual tryout for younger players, especially the pitching staff, while Cherington and manager John Farrell get a head start on next season.

“I think we’re in better position than we were a week ago, but certainly not done,” Cherington said. “Obviously, now that the deadline has passed there’s likely a lot less activity as far as roster moves the rest of the way, other than I’m sure at some point some young players will come up. Hopefully we’ve done things to get a head start on the offseason, address some things, but I think, and I know John feels the same way, we’ve got 54 games left. These are now the most important 54 games of our season because we’ve got a lot to find out.

“We have new players that we want to make sure are comfortable and get acclimated to Boston and comfortable at the ballpark and everything that comes along with Boston. We’ve got young players who are still developing and need to continue to improve and develop, we need to focus on that. And we need to start building a team again so a lot of the guys that are now on this roster will more than likely be on the roster next April, so we’ve got to start building a team that can win. So I think the next 54 games are really important toward that. But of course, there’ll be more work to do this offseason too.”

But Pedroia does not want to focus on 2015. He wants to focus on the New York Yankees and the rest of the 2014 season. He hopes his teammates feel the same way.

“I’m showing up to win every day,” he said. “It doesn’t change the way the guys should think or play the game. My focus, and our team’s focus, should be show up to win. I don’t like looking ahead to other things.”

While Pedroia has been a mainstay at second base for the Red Sox, the left side of the infield has seen many changes. With Drew gone, Xander Bogaerts will return to shortstop and Will Middlebrooks will be activated from the disabled list and play third. If Middlebrooks and Bogaerts can produce the way the club has always believed they could, it could be the start of some consistency in the infield.

Pedroia always plays with emotion. This week, the business aspect of the game made him show a bit more off the field than he normally does.

“The more you play you understand the business side of the game, but it’s still hard,” Pedroia said. “You just don’t work together, you’re with each other more than you are with your family, so it’s a tough time.”

On Thursday, Red Sox security escorted Pedroia across the street to the charity event, and as he sat in a golf cart, he said, “I don’t know what else to say.”

Yankees prove productive at the deadline 

July, 31, 2014
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The Yankees were busy on Thursday, and managed to add a pair of small upgrades without doing any damage to their farm system.
[+] EnlargeStephen Drew, Daniel Descalso
AP Photo/Matt SlocumThe bat needs to come around, but Stephen Drew can pick it.

I argued all spring that the Yanks should sign Stephen Drew to play one year at third base, then slide him to shortstop after Derek Jeter ends his Hall of Fame career this fall. They declined to give up the draft pick required to sign him, but now

Sox have stockpiled impressive arms

July, 31, 2014
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As surprising as the twists and turns of this year’s trade deadline were for the Boston Red Sox, it certainly was no secret going in that the team had become a seller. As unique as the past week has been, seeing the club make six trades that sent seven players on the active major league roster and one minor leaguer to other organizations, the return may have been the most surprising: four major leaguers, three minor leaguers, a player to be named later and a draft pick.

The return was much heavier on major leaguers than the typical haul for a deadline-day seller, setting things up for the Red Sox to compete in 2015. But the other major takeaway from the return is the additions the front office made to the organization’s glut of young major-league and upper-minors pitching. In all, the Red Sox now boast no fewer than 10 players aged 26 and younger between Boston, Triple-A Pawtucket and Double-A Portland who project as potential major-league starting pitchers.

Before the deadline, right-handers Rubby De La Rosa, 25, and Brandon Workman, 25, had seen extensive time in the Red Sox rotation and performed well, posting ERAs of 3.45 and 4.45, respectively, in 21 appearances between them. Following the trade of Jake Peavy, Allen Webster, 24, made his return to the major-league rotation, earning the win on Sunday. All three likely will get the chance to pitch in the majors for the rest of the season with the departures of Peavy, Jon Lester and John Lackey.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Ranaudo
AP Photo/Steven SenneAnthony Ranaudo, who has pitched well of late while making some mechanical adjustments, makes his big-league debut Friday.
They will be joined soon by Joe Kelly, whom Red Sox fans may remember as the Cardinals’ starter in Game 3 of last year’s World Series. Kelly, 26, has missed significant time this season due to a hamstring injury, making just seven starts. He has struggled in three of four starts since returning from the disabled list, but as general manager Ben Cherington said at his Thursday press conference, Kelly is not a finished product despite being in his third year in the bigs.

Meanwhile, right-hander Anthony Ranaudo, 24, will make his major-league debut on Friday, taking Lackey’s spot in the rotation, at least for this turn. Last year’s Eastern League pitcher of the year has pitched well of late, making mechanical adjustments and slowly working a slider into his arsenal. Joining him in Pawtucket has been fellow right-hander Matt Barnes, 24, perhaps the only prospect in the group who has had his struggles this year, fighting control issues and posting a 4.81 ERA. However, with one of the best fastballs of the club’s starters, one can give Barnes a mulligan, particularly given the shoulder soreness in spring training that led to Barnes beginning the season on the disabled list.

The Pawtucket rotation already has seen one recent addition in left-hander Edwin Escobar from the Giants system. Escobar, 22, has struggled with home runs this season in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, but went six strong innings in his first PawSox start on Thursday afternoon. He was rated a top-100 prospect entering the season by both Baseball America and MLB.com, and is a player for whom a change of scenery could lead to improved results, even in Triple-A.

Another addition could be coming to Pawtucket in the very near future -- tall left-hander Henry Owens. The 21-year-old is the consensus top pitching prospect in the Red Sox system and probably could have been promoted a month or two ago, but there was no room in the Pawtucket rotation when it included the above players and knuckleballer Steven Wright, who also is enjoying great success this year. Owens already has set a Portland Sea Dogs record for wins in a season with 14 while posting a 2.60 ERA and striking out 126 hitters in 121 innings. Although he has things to work on before he is major league ready -- fastball command and refining his curveball into a more consistent third pitch chief among them -- he is clearly ready for his next challenge and could be promoted for his next start.

Despite the impending loss of its ace in Owens, the Double-A Portland rotation will remain strong, as it will be fronted by left-handers Brian Johnson, 23, and newly-acquired Eduardo Rodriguez, 21. Johnson has raised his stock perhaps as much as any prospect in the Boston farm system this year, earning a quick promotion from High A Salem in May and posting a 2.05 ERA in 16 Double-A starts. Johnson may not project to be a future ace, but has perhaps the highest ceiling of the pitchers listed here, as his four-pitch mix and advanced pitchability make it a near-certainty he will at least be a back-of-the-rotation arm as a worst-case scenario.

Rodriguez, acquired from Baltimore for Andrew Miller on Thursday, was not unlike Escobar in that he has struggled this year despite consensus top 100 prospect status entering the season. Ian Cundall profiled Rodriguez earlier today (LINK HERE), pointing out his strong pedigree despite struggling in his return trip to Double-A Bowie. If Rodriguez can rediscover his 2013 form, he could become a true steal in return for two months of Miller, who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

All told, the nature of player development will lead to divergent career paths for these 10 pitchers. Some will become major league starters, but others will head to the bullpen eventually if their development stalls. Certainly, some will be traded, and many have speculated that another goal of the Red Sox’ trades this week has been to stockpile assets for a bigger deal this offseason for the likes of Troy Tulowitzki or Giancarlo Stanton. And to be frank, the odds are against any of these players developing into the ace the Red Sox lost when they traded Lester, so expect a front-of-the-rotation starter to still be a top shopping list item for Cherington this winter.

But the exciting part is the plethora of potential outcomes given this stockpile; as stunning as Thursday’s events were, expect plenty of fireworks involving these names going forward.

Ranaudo debuts, Middlebrooks back Friday

July, 31, 2014
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BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington met with the media for roughly 40 minutes, answering questions about Thursday’s trades.

Here is a summation of how the deals immediately impact the composition of the team:

* Rookie right-hander Anthony Ranaudo will make his major-league debut Friday night, starting in John Lackey’s place against the New York Yankees.

* Xander Bogaerts will return to shortstop, where he opened the season and started 53 games before shifting to third base.

* Will Middlebrooks will be called up from Triple-A Pawtucket and play third base.

* Shane Victorino likely is headed to the disabled list with a recurrence of the hamstring issues that have plagued him all season.

* Power-hitting outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, acquired from Oakland, is expected at least for the time being to play in right field, a position that will be new to him in the big leagues but which he played in Cuba, Cherington said.

* Outfielder-first baseman Allen Craig, acquired from St. Louis, will play left field.

* Pitcher Joe Kelly, acquired from the Cardinals, will be slotted into the starting rotation.

* Brock Holt will continue to fill the super-utility role he has played much of the season.

* An additional reliever will be called up from Pawtucket, with a corresponding roster move still to be made.

* The Red Sox rotation, as presently constituted, includes Kelly, Clay Buchholz, Allen Webster, Brandon Workman and Rubby De La Rosa. It remains to be seen whether Ranaudo is here for more than one start.

* Cherington said he was not certain how many of the newcomers will be in uniform for Friday night's game against the Yankees.

White Sox stand pat as deadline passes

July, 31, 2014
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DETROIT – A Chicago White Sox team still in the midst of a roster rebuild was unable to take advantage of trade deadline player movement Thursday.

Gordon Beckham, Dayan Viciedo and John Danks were all trade possibilities, but no deals went down. The asking price on Alexei Ramirez was said to be too high for suitors, while Adam Dunn remains a possibility to be moved during the trade waivers period in August.

“If there was something there we would have done something,” manager Robin Ventura said. “We know people are making moves all over the place, but like (what was) said earlier, we probably expected to have these guys in here today and tomorrow, and that’s what we’ve got.”

At this point last year, the White Sox had already added Avisail Garcia, doing it July 30 when Jake Peavy was sent to the Boston Red Sox. In August of last year, the White Sox pulled off a move that sent Alex Rios to the Rangers. That deal not only freed up some cash, but also brought back Leury Garcia in return.

In the offseason, center fielder and leadoff man Adam Eaton was brought into the mix via trade and Jose Abreu was signed. The White Sox also traded closer Addison Reed for third baseman Matt Davidson, but that move has yet to yield a return since Davidson remains at Triple-A Charlotte.

The White Sox still have areas of the roster that could use bolstering. Their bullpen has gone through some difficult times and the back end of the rotation has proved to be vulnerable. Moving forward, the White Sox still need to decide if Viciedo is the answer in left field and if Tyler Flowers is their guy at catcher.

None of those needs were met Thursday, but it didn’t mean the White Sox would not see the awkward trade process first-hand. In the seventh inning, with Beckham at the plate, the Tigers pulled center fielder Austin Jackson out of the game because he had been traded to the Seattle Mariners.

Tigers starter Drew Smyly already had been told that he was headed to the Tampa Bay Rays, with former Cy Young Award winner David Price headed to Detroit.

“It was odd,” Ventura said. “At first I thought the pitcher might have been hurt, but we’ve seen that before when deals were going down. I don’t know how many minutes it was before (the deadline). But when you see that happen, I’m sure it’s weird for them. It’s odd in the middle of the game even for their team to have that happen. You can tell it affects some guys.”

An inning after the trade, the White Sox added two runs to help wrap up a 7-4 victory.

Beckham, who acknowledged that the past few weeks have been awkward, looked comfortable when he doubled in a run in the second inning. But, otherwise, the White Sox have insisted that nobody was feeling any trade-deadline pressures.

“Truthfully, it wasn’t even a topic of conversation in here between anybody,” Danks said. “There’s nothing anybody can do about it. It’s part of the game, and, yeah, I don’t think that had any effect on any of us, to be honest.”

Now comes August, when players who go through trade waivers can be moved. The restrictive nature of the process tends to reduce the anxiousness.

“The deadline doesn’t mean you can’t get (a trade) done,” said Dunn, who could end up being an August target of a team in need of left-handed power. “If you are worried about that, you aren’t worried about what you are supposed to be worried about. I mean, personally, I don’t ever think about it. I know a lot of times a lot of guys read stuff they probably shouldn’t read and start believing it.”

While Thursday brought the official end to this deadline, indications are that White Sox players knew there might not be a deal as far back as a week and a half ago. It could help to explain the 5-2 record on their just-concluded road trip to Minnesota and Detroit, as well as their eight victories in 13 games since the All-Star break.

“They were pretty good today as far as being able to not really pay attention to it,” Ventura said of his team that pounded out 16 hits. “I think even this road trip, two weeks ago it was probably in their head a little bit, and this road trip was good.”

Now comes a six-game homestand against Minnesota and Texas and maybe a chance for some guys to cancel that pending order for moving boxes.

“It ended on a good note,” Ventura said of the road trip. “Guys swung the bat today, even early on putting pressure on. And you’ve got a guy like Moises (Sierra) swinging like he did. Any time the bottom of your order is swinging like that you have a chance to score some runs. I wouldn’t say (Danks) was particularly sharp, but we battled through it.”

Red Sox ace Andrew Miller trade 

July, 31, 2014
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It's a small deal relative to the others we saw on Thursday, but the Red Sox acquiring lefty Eduardo Rodriguez from the Orioles for two months of left-handed reliever Andrew Miller was the best value move of the day -- a great return for Boston, and

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A's Cespedes T-shirt promo still on

July, 31, 2014
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The Oakland Athletics made one of the boldest moves ahead of Thursday's trade deadline, acquiring ace pitcher Jon Lester in a deal that included popular slugger Yoenis Cespedes.

Now they have to figure out what to do with 10,000 T-shirts.

The Athletics had planned a promotional giveaway for their home game against the Kansas City Royals on Saturday, when the first 10,000 fans would receive a Cespedes-themed T-shirt with the message "La Potencia" -- Spanish for "The Power" -- written across the front.

But Cespedes, the two-time reigning Home Run Derby champion, no longer is a member of the Athletics after being traded to the Boston Red Sox for Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes.

Hours after completing the blockbuster trade, the A's announced on their official Twitter account that they still planned on giving away the T-shirts before Saturday's game.

Oakland also announced an additional promotion for Aug. 7, when the team will give away Josh Donaldson T-shirts to the first 15,000 fans in attendance.


(Read full post)


Snapshot: Lester bids Henry farewell

July, 31, 2014
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On a whirlwind day of roster upheaval in Boston, Red Sox-turned-A's pitcher Jon Lester said goodbye to the only team he's known in his nine-year big league career.
Jon Lester, John HenryBarry Chin/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesJon Lester shares a moment with Red Sox owner John Henry as the ace lefty prepares to leave Fenway Park to join his new team, the Oakland Athletics.

Rodriguez projects as back-end starter

July, 31, 2014
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Eduardo Rodriguez, whom the Red Sox acquired from Baltimore for reliever Andrew Miller, signed out of Venezuela in January 2010 and moved quickly, for an international signing, through the Orioles system, reaching Double-A Bowie in 2013 as a 21-year-old. He was a consensus top-100 prospect entering 2014, being ranked in the 60s on preseason lists by Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com.

[+] EnlargeEduardo Rodriguez
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarEduardo Rodriguez, listed as the Orioles' No. 3 prospect, has had some struggles in his second year at Double A.
Repeating Double-A this year, Rodriguez has had his troubles, putting up a 4.79 ERA in 82 2/3 innings with 69 strikeouts and 21 walks. He also missed some time in April due to a knee sprain. Still, both Baseball America and MLB.com ranked him as the third-best Baltimore prospect in their recent midseason updates.

Listed at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Rodriguez has a filled-out frame with limited projection remaining in his body. He works from a three-quarters arm slot with a smooth, repeatable delivery. Rodriguez’s fastball typically works in the low-90s, but when he is loose and reaches back, he can touch 94-95 mph. The pitch has shown some life and is flat when elevated. Rodriguez has shown the ability to locate the offering to both sides of the plate, but he has inconsistent command and will need refinement to reach his potential.

Rodriguez complements his fastball with a slider and changeup. Neither profiles as a true plus-potential out-pitch, but both could be average to solid-average offerings, with the slider grading slightly better. Rodriguez throws his slider 82-85 mph with the pitch showing tilt and two-plane movement. His changeup works in the 83-85 mph range, but can be on the firm side. At its best, he throws the pitch with deceptive arm speed and arm-side fade, but it has a tendency to float when up in the zone.

With refined command and improved consistency with his secondary offerings, Rodriguez has the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter. More likely, however, he will end up as a very solid back-end starter. With this trade and the Jake Peavy trade, the Red Sox have assembled quite an impressive surplus of young arms in the majors and high minors. For left-handers, the Red Sox have Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Eduardo Rodriguez and Edwin Escobar, who I’d rank in that order, and for right-handers, Rubby De La Rosa, Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes. Rodriguez will probably slot in anywhere from 7-12 on our coming updated SoxProspects.com rankings.

ESPN's Keith Law gives the trade a big thumbs-up, saying Rodriguez is the best minor-league prospect who was dealt on deadline day. CLICK HERE for Law's take (Insider content).

Trade deadline winners and losers

July, 31, 2014
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All I can say is I hope we get a Tigers-A's postseason series. What a great deadline day, full of intrigue, interesting trades, trades to discuss and argue about, happy fans and dejected fans. The sight of Austin Jackson being pulled from center field in the middle of a game sums up the trade deadline: Anything can happen. We just had two of the best left-handers in the game traded in David Price and Jon Lester -- from two teams that were in the playoffs a year ago. Last year's World Series champ traded two starters from last year's rotation, on top of trading Jake Peavy last week.

Usually, I say the impact of the trade deadline is overhyped and overrated. Not this year.

OK, some winners and losers of this year's trade deadline ...

WINNERS

[+] EnlargeDavid Price
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsWith the acquisition of left-hander David Price, the Tigers now have three Cy Young winners in their starting rotation.
Detroit Tigers: With Price, the Tigers now have a rotation with three Cy Young winners, plus they were last year's American League Central champs. Heck, Justin Verlander is clearly the fifth-best starter on the Tigers at the moment. Yes, Detroit is on the hook for whatever Price will earn in arbitration for next year -- $19-20 million or so -- but I don't think Tigers owner Mike Ilitch cares too much about that. The Tigers get an ace starter for Austin Jackson (free agent after 2015), midrotation lefty Drew Smyly (3.77 ERA) and a minor league shortstop. I'll take that deal. Rajai Davis can slide over to center field, and while the outfield defense will be poor with Torii Hunter and J.D. Martinez in the outfield corners, you can run out a playoff rotation of Price, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and Verlander (or Rick Porcello). The Tigers will be in the playoffs for the fourth season in a row. This may be the year.

Oakland Athletics: I love the Lester trade like I loved Edgar Martinez driving the ball into the right-field corner or Ken Griffey Jr. turning on a 2-0 fastball. It's a beautiful thing Billy Beane pulled off. There is a huge premium to winning the division and avoiding what Joe Sheehan labels the Coin Flip Game, and Lester gives the A's a better chance of doing that, especially when factoring in Jason Hammel's struggles since coming over from the Cubs, and Jesse Chavez hitting a wall as he soars past his professional high in innings pitched. Can the A's replace Yoenis Cespedes' production? Not quite, but the offense doesn't take a huge hit with a Jonny Gomes-Sam Fuld platoon, the two other players the A's acquired Thursday:

Cespedes versus LHP, 2013-2014: .262/.347/.492
Gomes versus LHP, 2013-2014: .264/.370/.440

Cespedes versus RHP, 2013-2014: .241/.278/.436
Fuld versus RHP, 2014: .250/.343/.340

I cheated a little bit there, since Fuld was terrible in 2013. The A's lose power but pick up better on-base guys. It's actually a pretty even tradeoff, assuming Gomes and Fuld play at that level. The A's have other options, as well: Against right-handers, they could put Derek Norris behind the plate, DH John Jaso and play Stephen Vogt in the outfield instead of Fuld. The A's still have lineup flexibility to replace Cespedes, and they picked up one of the hottest starters in the game.

Plus, consider that under Beane, the A's have played 13 postseason games that would have won a playoff series -- and lost 12 of them. Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder started two of those games, but other starters included Gil Heredia, Cory Lidle, Ted Lilly, Jarrod Parker and Dan Straily. Now, depending on how the rotation lines up, it could be Lester, Sonny Gray, Jeff Samardzija or Scott Kazmir, all with ERAs below 3.00 on the season (Samardzija has a 3.19 ERA with the A's). Oakland's future is always going to be uncertain, so why not put all your chips on the table and hope you finally get the lucky card?

[+] EnlargeJon Lester4
Scott Rovak/USA TODAY SportsThe Jon Lester trade gives the Athletics a rotation that's built for October.
Boston Red Sox: Usually, trading a guy like Lester brings in prospects, but the Red Sox have plenty of prospects and young players, so why not bring in a proven commodity such as Cespedes to help in 2015? The John Lackey trade for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly is less certain, given Craig's poor season and Kelly's uncertainty as a starter. But Craig just turned 30 and hit above .300 in 2012 and 2013, so he's a good bounce-back candidate. Kelly isn't a big strikeout guy, but he does have a power two-seam fastball that induces a lot of ground balls. Maybe he ends up in the bullpen, but he'll get a chance to start. The other benefit: The Red Sox currently have the seventh-worst record in the majors, so they'll likely finish with one of the 10 worst records, which means they can sign a free agent this offseason (think Max Scherzer) and not lose their first-round pick.

St. Louis Cardinals: They picked up Lackey and Masterson without giving up prized outfielder Oscar Taveras or Carlos Martinez. Sure, David Price would have been a sexier pickup to line up behind Adam Wainwright in a potential playoff rotation, but Lackey/Masterson is a solid Plan B. Still, the Cardinals have had pretty good results all season from the rotation (fifth-best ERA in the majors), but they weren't sure what they were going to get from Kelly, Martinez or Shelby Miller moving forward. These deals didn't address the offense -- they're next to last in the NL in runs -- but with 10 games left against the Brewers, the division is still theirs for the taking.

Cleveland Indians: I like both trades. They dumped two impending free agents having poor seasons in Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera and got two players who should turn into major leaguers. James Ramsey and Zach Walters won't be stars, but they could be starters or useful bench players. Ramsey was a first-round pick in 2012, can play center field and is having a fine season in Double-A, although he's repeating the level. Walters, hitting .300/.358/.603 at Triple-A Syracuse, looks like a super utility kind of a guy as he's played all three infield positions and the outfield.

Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees: The Orioles and Blue Jays each have six games remaining against the Red Sox, while the Yankees have nine and now won't have to face Lester or Lackey in any of those games.

Seattle Mariners: They added Jackson and Chris Denorfia, much-needed right-handed bats, but Denorfia has been terrible this year, and Jackson is hardly an impact offensive player. It's not that the Franklin-for-Jackson deal is a bad trade, but it could backfire as Jackson has just one more year before free agency. On the other hand, less Endy Chavez is a good thing.

LOSERS

Tampa Bay Rays: They were only 5.5 out of the wild card. Yes, they had to jump over five teams to get into the second wild-card spot, but it was possible. I guess in the end, the Rays simply wouldn't be able to afford Price's contract next year and felt they had to trade him now. I'm just not sure Smyly and Nick Franklin are going to be long-term difference-makers. The perpetual recycling continues, but eventually the trades aren't going to all work out, and the Rays will have to start producing their own talent again.

Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates had the prospects to potentially work out a deal for Lester or Price, but Neal Huntington couldn't pull the trigger. It's a club that doesn't have any gaping holes, but the Pirates missed the opportunity to get an ace. They can still win the Central, but if they fall short ... well, I guess there's always 2015 or 2016 or whenever all the prospects mature.

Los Angeles Angels: They had already shored up the bullpen with Huston Street, Jason Grilli and Joe Thatcher, but now they have to try to catch the A's with a rotation that includes Hector Santiago, Matt Shoemaker and Tyler Skaggs. The Angels aren't worse than they were yesterday, but the A's are better, and the second-best team in the majors may be relegated to the wild-card game.

The rest of the AL Central: Scherzer is likely gone as a free agent, but now the Tigers will have Price in 2015.

San Francisco Giants: They needed a second baseman but didn't get one. The earlier trade for Peavy isn't as inspiring as the Cardinals getting Lackey. The Dodgers still look like the favorite in the NL West.

Philadelphia Phillies: And ... nothing. Enjoy 2015, Phillies fans!

Stephen Drew traded to Yankees

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
3:53
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The New York Yankees completed a rare trade with the rival Boston Red Sox, acquiring shortstop Stephen Drew from Boston in exchange for veteran infielder Kelly Johnson on Thursday. The Yankees also received $500,000 from the Red Sox.

It marked the first time the Yankees have made a trade with Boston since 1997, when they acquired catcher/first baseman Mike Stanley.

"It is a unique set of circumstances," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said of making a trade with the Red Sox. "One of our two teams has to be in the playoff mode, in my opinion, and the other has to be rebuilding to some degree."

The Yankees also completed another deal before the deadline, acquiring infielder Martin Prado from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for minor leaguer Pete O'Brien and either cash or a player to be named later. Prado is expected to play regularly in right field, making Ichiro Suzuki's future role with the team uncertain.

Drew was the fifth member of the Red Sox to be dealt ahead of Thursday's non-waiver trade deadline, joining pitchers Jon Lester


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Dealing Littrell helps glut of Class A arms

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
3:51
PM ET
Corey Littrell, who was sent to the Cardinals as part of the John Lackey trade, was a fifth-round pick in last year’s draft as a junior out of the University of Kentucky. He has climbed through the system quickly, skipping Low A Greenville to start 2014 in High A Salem. At the time of the trade, he was ranked 36th on the SoxProspects.com rankings of the top prospects in the system.

In his pro debut in 2013, he excelled against New York-Penn League bats, putting up a 1.74 ERA in 31 innings with 30 strikeouts and 10 walks. This year, against more age-appropriate competition, Littrell has put up a 3.60 ERA in 100 innings with 91 strikeouts and 38 walks.

Littrell is a polished arm, but his stuff is only average. Littrell has a solid, athletic pitcher’s frame at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, and throws from a high three-quarters arm slot with a controlled delivery. His fastball works in the 88-92 mph range and he has solid control of the offering. He complements that with three secondary pitches, an 80-83 mph circle changeup, a low-70s curveball and an 84-86 mph cutter. His changeup is his primary secondary offering, as he shows feel for the pitch and deceptive arm speed. He also has shown the ability to utilize his cutter, throwing it in on the hands of right-handed hitters.

Due to Littrell’s polish and four-pitch mix, he should be able to move relatively quickly. He likely profiles as a middle reliever, but depending on the pitching depth of the organization he’s in, he could be a swingman jumping between the back end of the rotation and a long relief role. From Boston’s perspective, the organization dealt Littrell from an area of depth: There are arguably too many starters in Class A between Greenville and Salem, the result of a pitching-heavy draft focus in 2012 and 2013.

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