A post-Deadline look at the division races
Ninety players, three Competitive Balance Lottery selections and quite a bit of cash changed hands this July in the lead-up to Tuesday's Trade Deadline, and some of those swaps will take years to sort out.For now, what we have are six division and four Wild Card races that were undoubtedly affected by the Deadline dealing, and so this seems as good a time as any to take stock of how things stand. AL EAST The contenders: The Yankees have the biggest lead of any division leader, but it's shrinking, and the Orioles (-5.5 games), Rays (-6.5), Red Sox (-7.5) and Blue Jays (-9) are all at least Wild Card contenders, for now. The deals: The Yankees addressed two injury absences -- Brett Gardner in left and Alex Rodriguez at third -- by getting Ichiro Suzuki and Casey McGehee. The O's added veteran slugger Jim Thome but were unable to augment their shaky rotation. The Rays didn't make a move, the Red Sox added lefty reliever Craig Breslow in order to push Franklin Morales to the rotation, and the Blue Jays bolstered their bullpen with Brad Lincoln and Steve Delabar. The outlook: Clearly, New York is well-positioned for a suitable playoff seed, but its October outlook has a lot riding on a healthy return by Andy Pettitte, especially after it didn't make a last-minute move on Ryan Dempster. Baltimore's staying power is in question, and Boston's rotation continues to underwhelm. With Evan Longoria returning, the Rays might yet have a run in them. This might be too crowded a field for the banged-up Blue Jays to make a push. NL EAST The contenders: The Nationals are in front, with the Braves (-2.5) close behind. The Mets, four games back of .500, have fallen out of contention. The deals: As Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said, "We made all our splashes this winter." And so the Deadline passed quietly in D.C. The Braves, on the other hand, added to both their rotation (Paul Maholm) and bench (Reed Johnson), in addition to signing Ben Sheets earlier in the month. The outlook: The Nationals are right to be pleased with what they have, because they have the best rotation in baseball, and Jayson Werth and Ian Desmond will be back soon. But they embraced a risk in not swinging a deal for an impact starter, given the pending Stephen Strasburg shutdown in September. Washington is content to rely on the depth provided by John Lannan and Chien-Ming Wang. Atlanta thought it had a deal worked out for Dempster, only to have him reject it. The Braves still were able to make shrewd moves to patch their holes, and that could make this one of the most interesting races in baseball. Both clubs scorched the earth in July. AL CENTRAL The contenders: The White Sox and Tigers (-2.5) are at the forefront, while the Indians (-6), who are 6-12 in the second half, are fading fast. The deals: The Sox and Tigers both got busy. Chicago added Kevin Youkilis, Francisco Liriano and Brett Myers for what can only be described as marginal costs. Detroit gave up a promising potential pitcher-catcher battery in Jacob Turner and Rob Brantly, but addressed both its needs -- starting depth and second base -- in one swap with the Marlins, reeling in Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. The Indians traded for utilityman Brent Lillibridge and opted not to sell off their veterans. The outlook: Adding to the rotation was necessary for a Sox team that can't reasonably predict how well Chris Sale and Jake Peavy will hold up down the stretch and won't get John Danks back this year, so they are better positioned to fend off a Tigers team that seemed to be hitting its stride, only to stumble the past week. Talent-wise, the Tigers are the top team in the division, but they continue to underwhelm offensively, and we can't rule out an August waiver claim to add yet another bat. Sanchez gives the Tigers a shot at making the kind of late-season run they made a year ago, but the Sox, who play the Tigers seven more times, will have a lot of say in that. NL CENTRAL The contenders: The red-hot Reds are trying to hold off a feisty Pirates (-3) team, with the defending World Series-champion Cardinals (-7) looming. The deals: Cincinnati bolstered an already robust bullpen by adding Jonathan Broxton from the Royals. Pittsburgh got aggressive in trading for Wandy Rodriguez, but it bought low on Travis Snyder and Gaby Sanchez, hoping a change of scenery benefits both. St. Louis added middle reliever Ed Mujica from the Marlins. The outlook: A 12-3 record without Joey Votto propelled the Reds toward the best record in the Majors, and Votto could be back in a week or two. They fortified what was already one of the best bullpens in baseball, but they still need help in the leadoff spot (.247 OBP). The Pirates have more staying power than a year ago, and Rodriguez was a necessary upgrade in the rotation. The Cards have been extremely inconsistent this season, but with Jaime Garcia coming back soon, nobody's ruling out another late-season run. AL WEST The contenders: The Rangers' once-lopsided lead has shrunk, thanks to the improvement of the Angels (-3.0) and the out-of-nowhere climb of the A's (-3.5). The deals: Texas made a desperation move for Dempster at the last minute Tuesday, a day after boosting its bench with catcher Geovany Soto. Los Angeles made the biggest splash in renting Zack Greinke for the stretch run. Oakland acquired catcher George Kottaras, but were unable to fill its need on the left side of the infield. The outlook: The two-time defending AL champs entered the season with more pitching depth than anybody, but now Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz are gone and Yu Darvish and Roy Oswalt are struggling. Dempster was a necessary addition, especially in light of the Angels' aggression. This could be an epic division battle. It's hard to know if the A's have the horses to stay in it, but nobody looks forward to facing their rotation. NL WEST The contenders: The Giants and Dodgers (-1) are neck-and-neck, with the D-backs (-3.5) close behind. The deals: Los Angeles added Hanley Ramirez, Brandon League and Shane Victorino without giving up a huge haul. San Francisco countered by boosting its lineup with Hunter Pence after landing Marco Scutaro. Arizona both bought (Chris Johnson) and sold (Ryan Roberts). The outlook: The Giants and Dodgers have two of the most successful rotations and two of the least productive offenses in the league. So their Deadline deals are going to be significant swing factors. If Ramirez ultimately benefits from a change of scenery and reclaims his 2010 self, the Dodgers are going to be a handful. If Pence makes a successful transition to the not-so-cozy confines of AT&T Park, then San Francisco has filled its long-time need for right-handed power. It would seem the D-backs needed an impact starter to hang in the division race, but, then again, the NL West usually tends to be full of surprises.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.