Pitchers' movement highlights Deadline
Contending teams sure up rotations by adding frontline starters
It's been a year dominated by starting pitchers, yes, but the old baseball adage says you can never have enough. And so it should come as no surprise that in this 2010 season, widely deemed "The Year of the Pitcher," the theme of the non-waiver Trade Deadline was "The Movement of the Ace."
The acquisition of CC Sabathia catapulted the Brewers during the stretch run in '08, while Cliff Lee took the Phillies to another level after joining them last July. This year, the three biggest trades before Saturday's 4 p.m. ET Deadline involved a trio of frontline starters who were moved in hopes they do the very same thing for their new clubs: Dan Haren, Roy Oswalt, and once again, Lee.
Quality starting pitchers are always coveted.
For proof, just read the words of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, whose team picked up right-hander Edwin Jackson: "Believe me, every time [general manager Ken Williams] opens his mouth like, 'What do you think we need?' I always say, 'Give me pitchers.'"
It's no different with the American League West's first-place Rangers.
By acquiring Lee -- in exchange for first baseman Justin Smoak and three Minor Leaguers -- from the Mariners on July 9, they added a former Cy Young Award winner who is in the prime of his career and has a reputation of dominating down the stretch.
"We haven't won anything yet," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said at the time, "but we feel like we're in position to put our best foot forward to be competitive in our division and in the American League."
The Angels had to do something.
Texas was already 4 1/2 games ahead of them before their big acquisition, so the Halos had to make a choice: Put all the chips in the middle of the table and try to win the AL West now, or look towards next year.
They seemingly did both 16 days later.
In getting Haren -- for Joe Saunders and company -- the Angels added a guy who went 45-27 with a 3.18 ERA in the past three years and unlike Lee -- a free agent at season's end -- is under club control through at least the '12 season.
"We really felt good about our starting five moving forward, but this is a huge opportunity for us to upgrade -- not only now, but the next couple years," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
"It gives us a deeper front of the rotation. That's what every championship-caliber team strives to do."
The Phillies are one of those.
They won the World Series in '08 behind a dominant Cole Hamels, and they made a return trip to the Fall Classic, before losing to the Yankees, thanks in large part to the July acquisition of Lee.
With the Braves maintaining a vice grip on the National League East lead, the Phillies hope Oswalt, who joins a rotation led by Roy Halladay, is their next starting-pitching boost.
Like Haren, Oswalt's record implies he's struggled this season. But also like Haren, he has a good postseason track record -- 4-0 with a 3.66 ERA in eight games (seven starts) -- and is in the books beyond the end of this year.
And then there's this: Among active pitchers with at least 30 decisions in that span, Oswalt owns the highest career winning percentage from Aug. 1 until the end of the season (.778).
"We're getting a big-game pitcher," Phillies closer and Oswalt's former Astros teammate Brad Lidge said. "He was at his best when we were playing our most important games. That's exciting to think about when we already have the stars that we do."
There were other notable starters switching teams.
The White Sox countered losing Jake Peavy for the rest of the season by acquiring Jackson from the D-backs, the Cardinals addressed injuries to Kyle Lohse and Brad Penny by dealing for Jake Westbrook of the Indians, and the Dodgers' search for depth in the starting rotation took them to Chicago to grab Ted Lilly.
After Oswalt was dealt, Lilly, who has a 3.69 ERA in 18 starts, was the most attractive starting pitcher on the market. Considering he's making $12 million in the final year of his contract, he came with less of a financial commitment.
The Dodgers got him along with infielder Ryan Theriot and gave up second baseman Blake DeWitt.
The Cardinals already have the two-headed monster of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright at the top of their rotation with surprising rookie Jaime Garcia right behind them. But the Nos. 4 and 5 spots are currently question marks, and so they felt they needed to add an arm like Westbrook, even if it meant getting rid of a bat like Ryan Ludwick.
Further proof that starting pitching is always the No. 1 priority for championship contenders.
"When you're contending," Williams said, "you want more certainty as to how you're going to be able to shape up in your rotation, which ultimately has an effect on your bullpen."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.