Friday, August 31, 2012

Furcal Hurt, Who Will Play Short?

During yesterday's game, Rafeal Furcal looked to hurt his arm pretty bad throwing to first.  He will undergo an MRI on his elbow today, and its quite possible he tore his UCL. Furcal said he felt his elbow pop, and couldn't straighten it. Even if he didn't tear his UCL, the club thinks he could be out for four weeks in the best case scenario. Furcal had been relatively healthy this year, and this is a devastating injury to a team with little middle infield depth. His defense will be missed, and while he cooled off offensively, none of our internal options can hit like he does.

Right now, its likely that Daniel Descalso will get the majority of starts in Furcal's absence. Descalso plays good defense, but is a weak hitter. Danny D has came up with some clutch hits in the past, but often times he looks lost at the plate. At the very least, Descalso needs to keep playing good defense. He won't be expected to as good as Furcal, nor does he has Furcal's range. However, I think Descalso can fill in for Furcal with not much dropoff defensively.

With Tyler Greene traded to the Astros earlier this month, the only other internal options are Ryan Jackson and Triple A infielder Pete Kozma. Jackson leapfrogged former 1st round pick Kozma in the organization's depth chart. Both are better known for their glovework than their hitting. However, Kozma is a very weak hitter, even in the minor leagues. He will likely be called up in September, mainly for extra infield depth, not because of his play. Jackson hasn't got much of a chance to play in the big leagues yet, but will get his chance now. He was the better hitter of these two players in the minor leagues.

Another question is, who will be the everyday second baseman now that Descalso is likely to be the main shortstop? My guess would be Skip Schumaker. Skip's a much better hitter than Descalso, although he is a downgrade defensively. Jackson could play some second base as well. Matt Carpenter has played second base a handful of times this season. Carpenter has proven to be a good hitter, and a versatile player this year. I would give him some opportunities to play second. Matt did sprain his ankle in pregame warmups yesterday, but it's not serious.

There is a slight chance that the Cardinals could go outside the organization for help. However, today is the last day to acquire someone who would be eligible for postseason play. If the Cardinals traded for somebody tommorrow, that player would be ineligible for postseason play. Cesar Izturis and Jason Bartlett are available free agent shortstops, but I'm not sure if they would be an improvement over what we have. Bartlett was recently released by the Padres, and hasn't played since mid-May. Izturis has been released twice this season, by the Brewers and Nationals. He is a former Cardinal, and was their starter in 2008. Most likely, the Redbirds will go with what they have now. Next season, they need to find more middle infield depth, and someone who can caddy Furcal.

In some good news, Lance Berkman will be returning to the Cardinals tommorrow when rosters expand. Berkman has suffered an injury plagued year. He would be a good bat to have come of the bench for the stretch run, and hopefully the playoffs. This could be Berkman's final season, he has hinted at retirement several times this year.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Red Sox, Dodgers Blockbuster

One of the biggest blockbuster trades in major league history happened this weekend. The Red Sox traded Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for James Loney, Ivan DeJesus, Allen Webster, Rubby de la Rosa, and Jerry Sands. Less than two years ago, the Red Sox acquired both Gonzalez and Crawford in a matter of days. Now, after a late season collapse last year and a losing season this year, both players are gone. Both teams will feel the implications of this deal for a long time.

For the Dodgers, they are adding a big time bat in Adrian Gonzalez. He is an elite hitter and a huge improvement over weak hitting James Loney. After starting the season with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and a bunch of journeyman in their lineup, they now have a deep lineup. In the last month, they have added Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, and Gonzalez to their lineup. Kemp now has a lot more protection in the lineup than just Ethier. With Jerry Hairston out for the season, Dee Gordon out til September, and Juan Uribe playing horribly, Nick Punto helps add some depth in the infield.

Gonzalez hit a home run in his first Dodger at bat Saturday. He was never completely comfortable in Boston, and lives in Southern California. He should be more at home in Los Angeles. He was heating up in the second half after having a down first half. I think A Gone will be pretty good with the Dodgers. The Dodgers are on the hook for the rest of his contract, but Gonzalez is the safest bet to produce.

Josh Beckett had a good run with the Red Sox, but it was time for him to go. The beer and chicken controversy and last season's collapse never went away this year, and Boston's fans were tired of him. Beckett is a pitcher who is good every other year. This season, he had a ERA over 5, and was in need of a change of scenery. I'm not sure which Josh Beckett the Dodgers are getting, the dominant postseason ace, or the struggling pitcher with a bad back. Despite last season's controversy, Beckett did post a 2.89 ERA in 2011. It's possible he could rebound, and the Dodgers have him for two more years after this one.

The biggest risk of this deal is Carl Crawford. Crawford was a big time player for Tampa Bay, and a four time All Star. Last season was a disaster for Crawford, and he had career lows in batting average(.255) and on base percentage(.289). His power numbers were down, his steals were down, and his defense wasn't as good. He missed most of this season, coming back after the All Star break only to be sidelined again. He recently underwent Tommy John surgery and will be out until sometime next year. Position players aren't sidelined as long as pitchers are, but he's likely to miss time next season.

The Dodgers are now on the hook for well over $ 250 million in contracts for this trade. New ownership is not afraid to spend money, and is looking to bring a winner to LA. The Dodgers are certainly better now, but I'm not sure if it's good long term for them. There is no guarantee how well Crawford will play, and they are stuck with him for the next five years. Will he be able to return to his Tampa Bay form? Or is he in decline? How will Beckett respond to this trade? He left Boston with a tarnished image, but the Dodgers are looking for him to revive his career in LA. They took a similar chance on Hanley Ramirez, who had questions about his character as well. He's played well so far in LA, and ironically Ramirez was part of package Boston sent to the Marlins to acquire Beckett.

As for the Red Sox, they are a vastly different team than they were a year ago, or even a few days ago. They traded Kevin Youkilis earlier in the year, and many players had issues with new manager Bobby Valentine. Gonzalez and Beckett were rumored to be some of those players. Youkilis and former catcher Kelly Shoppach also had problems with Bobby V. It looks like the Sox will re-tool in the offseason and build around Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Will Middlebrooks. David Ortiz is a free agent after the season, but he is unlikely to get a long term deal. Most likely, the Sox will offer him a one year extension.

Boston did acquire two top pitching prospects from the Dodgers in Allen Webster and Rubby de la Rosa. These two pitchers are the centerpiece of the deal. The Red Sox are in need of pitching, especially without Beckett and Jon Lester has been ineffective this year. They also got infielder Ivan DeJesus and outfielder Jerry Sands in this deal. James Loney will fill in at first base for the rest of the season, but I can't imagine him being the long term solution for Boston. He showed a lot of promise in 2007 and 2008, but never developed into the hitter that the Dodgers thought. He never hit for much power, but his average has nosedived.

It might be a couple of years before Boston is contending again. They have plenty of money available now to spend this offseason, but may be reluctant to do so. The Gonzalez/Crawford acquisitions of two years ago did not work out well. They were supposed to be World Series favorites in 2011, but choked down the stretch. It cost manager Terry Francona and GM Theo Epstein their jobs. Boston had some clubhouse problems last year, and Valentine has not helped that out. I don't think Valentine is the right manager for the Red Sox, but their problems run deeper. This trade gives them a fresh slate, and they are looking for a new identity after last season's collapse.

For the Dodgers, they are in it to win now. They are currently behind the Giants in the West, but are only two games back. These additions will make them a better ballclub, but there is no guarantee of postseason success because of their additions. As we seen with the Red Sox, big spending doesn't always translate to winning.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Chipper's Last Run

Chipper Jones acknowledges the crowd's applause after a tribute on Sunday during a game against the Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla.

In just six weeks, Chipper Jones will play his last regular season game. The Braves currently have a 70-51 record and hold the first wild card spot. They have the fifth best record in baseball, and are cruising right now. Last year, they were too, until a late season collapse left them one game shy of the wild card. Like last year, they are in prime position to make the playoffs. While anything can happen, I look for the Braves to have a better September this year in Chipper's final season.

Even at age 40, Chipper is having another fine season. He's been more injury prone in recent years, but has a .313 average with 13 home runs and 54 RBIs. He also leads Braves hitters with a .916 OPS. When healthy, he's still the biggest threat in the Braves lineup. Brian McCann has had a down year, only batting .227, but still hits for power. Dan Uggla is hitting even lower at .210, although he does lead the National League in walks. Freddie Freeman has played well at first base, and didn't go through a sophomore slump like Jason Heyward did last year. Heyward has had a nice rebound season, and leads the club with 20 home runs. Heyward, Michael Bourn, and Martin Prado form one of the better outfields in the NL, and a really good defensive outfield as well. Bourn also leads the NL in stolen bases.

Pitching is what sunk the Braves last season, though. Derek Lowe pitched terrible down the stretch, and Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson were shelved late in the season. Lowe was traded after the season, and Jurrjens has been demoted to the minor leagues. Tim Hudson is still the rock of this rotation, and is 7 wins shy of his 200th career victory. Hanson, Mike Minor, and rookie Randall Delgado have been inconsistent this season. Brandon Beachy was having a terrific season, until he was shut down in June for Tommy John surgery.

However, this team has better reinforcements than last year. Ben Sheets has been a great pickup, he was signed earlier this season after attempting a comeback. Sheets sat out the 2011 season, but has pitched well for the Braves in 7 starts. Paul Maholm was acquired from the Cubs at the deadline. Kris Medlen has also moved into the rotation. The Braves are currently going with a six man rotation with Hudson, Hanson, Sheets, Maholm, Medlen, and Minor. Their bullpen is still really good with Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters, and closer Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel is on par with Aroldis Chapman as the NL's best closer.

Whatever does happen this year, Chipper has had a certain Hall of Fame career. He is one of the best third baseman to ever play this game. He ranks up there with Mike Schmidt, George Brett, Wade Boggs, Brooks Robinson, and Eddie Mathews. Alex Rodriguez is on that list as well, although he played half his career as a shortstop. Jones is also one of the best switch hitters to ever play this game, ranking with Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray.

Jones has won a World Series already, during his rookie year in 1995. I'm sure he would like to win another, and is on a contending club this year. I wouldn't consider them to be the favorites, but if you get in you have a chance. Chipper's Braves teams made the playoffs many other years after his rookie season, but was never able to reach those heights again. Despite having one of the best pitching staffs ever with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, they always fell short in the playoffs after that.

For his career, Jones has a .304 average, .402 OBP, and a .532 slugging pct. As of right now, he has 467 home runs, 1615 RBI's, and 150 steals. He has made the All Star game 8 times, won the 1999 MVP, and was the 2008 NL batting champion. Jones has also had 9 100 RBI seasons, and this season is the 11th time he has hit over .300. In the 1990 draft, Todd Van Poppel was the highest rated amateur player. He was a pitching phenom, and told clubs he wasn't going to sign because he was going to college. The Athletics ended up drafting him and signed him, but Van Poppel was a bust(5.58 career ERA). The Braves took a safe, signable pick in Jones, who was a Florida high school star. I would say it worked out pretty well for the Braves.

                                Chipper's first playoff run during his rookie year

Friday, August 17, 2012

Wainwright Turning it On

Adam Wainwright Adam Wainwright #50 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium on August 4, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri.

In my last blog I discussed how the Nationals are handling Stephen Strasburg in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Strasburg has been dominant from the start of the season, and has made the All Star team. He has an innings limit, but we'll see if that holds or not. Adam Wainwright is also in his first post-Tommy John surgery. He never had Strasburg's fastball, but has a killer curveball. It has taken awhile for him to get his command back this season. He started off slow this season and went through a brutal April. His ERA was nearly at 5 after the first of June.

I was wondering if Wainwright was going to be able to rediscover his dominating form of the past. His command was off, and he was uncharacteristically walking batters and allowing more hits than usual. Wainwright didn't have as much recovery time as Strasburg did, though. While Wainwright gets plenty of strikeouts, he was never a power pitcher like Strasburg. Wainwright did finish fourth in K's in 2009 and 2010, with over 200 each season. Currently, he has 151 strikeouts; and could reach that total againt this year.

Wainwright has cut over a run off his ERA since June 1st. It is currently at 3.87. It's still nowhere near were he was in his dominating 2009 and 2010 seasons. However, in Wainwright's last six starts he has recaptured his ace form. He is 4-1 with a 1.71 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP in 42.1 innings during this stretch. Waino beat the Dodgers, Brewers, Giants, and Diamondbacks in those four wins. He is also pitching deeper into games now.

Wainwright has stepped up at the right time. Before the All Star break, the Cardinals got news that Chris Carpenter was going to miss the season. They needed the old Wainwright, and he has returned lately. The Cardinals have put themselves back in the wild card race, and are only a half game back from the second spot. They occupied that spot on Wednesday, but lost it last night. Lance Lynn pitched really well in the first half, but has slowed down in the second half. Waino has picked up the slack. Kyle Lohse has had a career year, and Jake Westbrook has picked it up as well. With Jaime Garcia close to returning, Joe Kelly will move into the bullpen. Kelly did a good job filling in for Garcia, and should help a somewhat shaky bullpen. The Cardinals rotation looks to be in good shape for a playoff run this year.

Other News and Notes: Felix Hernandez became the third pitcher to pitch a perfect game this season, joining Phil Humber and Matt Cain. Before this season, there had only been 20 perfect games in baseball history. That dates back to the late 19th century, so its pretty crazy that three perfectos happened this year. King Felix is having a dominant season, but is toiling for the last place Mariners. It could be worse, he could play for the Astros.

They will be moving to the AL West next year, and the Astros make the Mariners look like a playoff team. The Astros are currently 39-80, and are 7-38 in their last 45 games. Houston lost 106 games last season, and are a good bet to lose that many or more this year. This is the worst stretch of losing in Astros history, and they might have a historically bad season this year.

Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games for PED's. Apparently he was using a synthetic testoterone. Cabrera didn't deny he did this, or try to cover up for it. He admitted he made a mistake, and wasn't arrogant about it like some other players who had been caught in the past. Cabrera is currently leading the National League in hits and runs scored, and is second in average. He looked like a fourth outfielder with the Yankees. Just two years ago, Melky hit an underwhelming .255 with no power with the Braves. The "Melkman" then went on to the Royals and had a career year. He was then traded to the Giants for Jonathon Sanchez in the offseason, and was having an even better year this year. I'm not sure if it was just the PEDs that made him a better player, but it's pretty obvious they played a big role.

                                     King Felix after his perfect game

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Strasburg and his Innings Limit

The Nationals are in serious contention for a playoff spot for the first time since, well since they've moved to DC. They currently hold the majors best record. The last time they have done that was in 1994 when the were the Montreal Expos. A strike cancelled that season, and probably led to the departure of the Expos to Washington. This is a franchise with little history of contention. They have only made the postseason once, and that was in the strike shortened 1981 season. So this year with the Nats in first place, they are planning on shutting down their best pitcher.

Stephen Strasburg was in the big leagues only a year after being drafted #1 overall. Unfortunately, he injured his elbow and had to undergo Tommy John surgery in 2010. The Nationals young phenom didn't come back until September of last year. This year, Nats GM Mike Rizzo placed Strasburg on a 160 innings limit. Right now, Strasburg is at 133.1 innings, only 26.2 away from his limit. He did a similar thing to Jordan Zimmerman last year, and wants to protect his young arms. The difference this year is the Nats are in contention.

Chances to make a World Series run don't happen every year. The Nats do have a young team that should have a window of opportunity to win for awhile. Still, you never know about that either. Strasburg is the best pitcher on this staff, but this is a deep staff. Gio Gonzalez, Zimmerman, Edwin Jackson, and Ross Detwiler is still a good playoff rotation. It's still quite possible for them to make a deep run in the playoffs without Strasburg. However, Strasburg is still the unquestioned ace of this staff. He has the best fastball, a knee buckling curve, and a guy that you would want starting Game 1 of the Division Series(or Game 7 of the World Series).

Nationals management has been unwavering in its decision to shut down Strasburg. The GM said it would be his decision, and not manager Davey Johnson's. Strasburg himself said that, "they would have to rip the ball of his hand." Missing out on a playoff run will be a bitter pill for a competitor like Strasburg to swallow. I can understand why Rizzo is being careful with Strasburg. He doesn't want to repeat the same mistakes the Cubs made with Mark Prior. Still, there is no guarantee that the innings limit will keep Strasburg from getting hurt.

Currently, the Braves and White Sox are using six man rotations. With John Lannan toiling in Triple A, I don't understand why the Nats don't do the same thing. Lannan is a capable big league starter that doesn't belong in the minor leagues. A few years ago he was the best starter the Nats had. Lannan has a career ERA of 3.99 in four plus seasons, which isn't bad for someone on the back end of the rotation. Strasburg would be able to get more days off between starts, and could pitch into September. If the Nats clinch early they could even skip Strasburg's starts in favor of Lannan or bullpen lefty Tony Gorzellany(who used to be a starter for the Pirates).

Even if that did happen, Strasburg would likely reach his innings limit before the end of the year. Right now, Strasburg is probably 5 starts away from it. It would be impossible for him to pitch in the postseason and stay under the 160 innings limit. The Nats have also said that they will not start Strasburg back up this year after they shut him down. There could be a lot of second guessing in Washington this October if the Nats don't finish well without Strasburg.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Kolten Wong, the Future at Second Base

Second base has been a revolving door for the Cardinals in recent seasons. In fact, they haven't had an All Star second baseman since Tommy Herr in 1985! Fernando Vina started from 2000 to 2003, but there has been many different second baseman come and go since then. Bo Hart, Tony Womack, Marlon Anderson, Hector Luna, Mark Grudzielanek, Aaron Miles, Ronnie Belliard, Adam Kennedy, Felipe Lopez, Skip Schumaker, Tyler Greene, Nick Punto, Ryan Theriot, Daniel Descalso, and a few others.

This season, Descalso and Greene split time early on with Schumaker on the DL to start the season. Management was hoping that Greene could finally put it together at the big league level after putting up good seasons in the minor leagues. Unfortunately, his speed and athleticism didn't translate to success in St. Louis. After a miserable game by him(and the team) on Wednesday, he was traded after making some remarks about the fans booing. Better players have been traded for such remarks, like Garry Templeton. Templeton flipped the fans off after being booed one game. Templeton had told Whitey Herzog that he didn't like playing day games after night games, and let his frustration be known. Even though he was an All Star, he was traded after the 1981 season for Ozzie Smith.

Descalso plays top notch defense and has a knack for key hits, but is a weak hitter overall. He is better suited as a utility infielder, since he can play any infield position well. Schumaker is a good average hitter, but weak defensively at second base. Outfield is Skip's natural position, but he is capable of playing second. Matt Carpenter has also played a bit of second base this year. The Cardinals brought up Triple A shortstop Ryan Jackson to fill Greene's spot after yesterday's game. Jackson has more upside than Pete Kozma, but isn't that good of a hitter either. In fact, Greene hit better in Triple A than either Jackson or Kozma. The Cardinals can probably make do with what they have for the rest of the year, but an upgrade would be nice.

Luckily, the Cardinals have a guy in Double A who will be ready to take over in the next year or so. Last season, the Cardinals spent their number 1 draft pick on University of Hawaii second baseman Kolten Wong. Wong plays good defense, hits for a good average, shows patience at the plate, has some pop in his bat, and steals bases. Currently, Wong is batting .285 with 17 doubles, 8 home runs, 45 RBIs, and 17 steals in 104 games in Springfield. After Oscar Taveras, Wong is the Cardinals second best position prospect. A lot of teams would like to have him, but the Cardinals would not consider trading Wong at the deadline.

Both Wong and Taveras made the Futures Game in Kansas City during the All Star break. The Cardinals have said publicly that they don't plan on rushing them to the majors. It's possible that Wong could be moved to Triple A this year, but the majors is unlikely. Wong will turn 22 in October, and I look for him to make a push to make the big club in spring training next year. I would expect the Cardinals to keep second base open for him, and not sign or trade for any bigtime second baseman in the offseason.

It's likely that Wong will be the Cardinals second baseman for quite some time once he reaches the big leagues.Wong isn't the biggest guy at 5-9, but he has worked on all aspects on his game. That shouldn't be a disadvantage considering many other second baseman are smaller, like Dustin Pedroia or Jose Altuve. I think Wong has a good chance to break the Cardinals All Star-less streak at second base someday. Hopefully, he will be in the big leagues sometime next year.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wild Card Races Tighten Up

2012 is the first season of the new wild card format. This year there will be two wild cards from each league who will meet in a one game playoff before the Division Series. It will be a similar setup to the wild card(or division) tiebreaker that has happened several times in the last 15 years. Think back to the Rockies/Padres tiebreaker a few years ago where Matt Holliday scored the game winning run. But, instead of being counted as a regular season game, it will be a postseason game.

Right now, the biggest division lead in baseball is 5.5 games by the Rangers. In the AL Central, the White Sox have a half game lead over the Tigers, in what should be a good race. The Yankees have the second biggest lead of a division leader, with a 4.5 game edge over Baltimore. In the National League, the Nationals have the biggest lead with 4 games. The Reds are 3.5 over the Pirates, and the Giants and Dodgers are in a dogfithgt in the NL West.

The wild card races are even closer. Like last year, the Braves are a wild card leader. They do not have a 10 game lead like last year, though. The Pirates have the second wild card, and are only a half game worse than the Braves. Also like last year, the Cardinals are behind the wild card leaders. However, they are in much better shape than last season. St. Louis is only 2.5 games back from Pittsburgh, and has a much easier path to the postseason than they did last year. The Dodgers are 4 games back from the second wild card, and probably have an easier path winning the NL West. The Diamondbacks have also re-entered the race.

In the American League, there are five teams within 2 games of the two wild card spots. The Tigers lead the pack, with the Orioles and Athletics tied for the second spot. It will be interesting to see what baseball would do if two teams tied for the last spot. Right behind them are the Angels and Rays. The Red Sox and Blue Jays are within 5 games of the second spot, and would be a hot streak away from challenging for it. It should be an interesting finish, and could have an unexpected team or two in the postseason.

I feel much more confident on the Cardinals chances to make the playoffs this year than at this point last year. Obviously, the Cardinals ended up winning the World Series last year after making a miracilous comeback. They were 10.5 games back of the Braves in late August last year. Being 2.5 games back with 52 games to go doesn't seem nearly as bad. Considering the Cardinals lead the National League in runs scored, and their bullpen has been pitching better, they should make a run. With an extra playoff spot available this year, I think the Cardinals will return to the postseason.

Current Wild Card Leaders

National League
Team          W-L    GB
Braves       63-47     -
Pirates       62-47     -
Cardinals   60-50    2.5
Dodgers    59-52    4
DBacks     56-54    6.5
Mets         53-57     9.5

American League
Team          W-L    GB
Tigers        60-50     -
Orioles      59-51     -(Tied)
Athletics    59-51     -(Tied)
Angels       59-52    0.5
Rays          57-52    1.5
Red Sox    55-56    4
Blue Jays   53-56    5

              Orioles and Athletics, Two Surprising Wild Card Contenders

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Trade Deadline

                                     Pence and Victorino Head West

There wasn't any huge trades made yesterday, but there were some impactful trades made on the deadline. The bigger names were already moved in the last week. I'm talking about Ichiro Suzuki, Hanley Ramirez, and Zack Greinke. Greinke joins an already good rotation headed by Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson. There were rumors of Cliff Lee being put on the market, but the Phillies decided to hold on to him. They did make some moves, however.

Shane Victorino has been with the Phillies since the 2005 season, and has been their starting center fielder since the 2008 season. He was part of their 2008 championship team, won 3 Gold Gloves, and made 2 All Star teams as a Phillie. He's having a down year compared to last season, but should still help the Dodgers out with his defense, speed, and gives them a good leadoff hitter. Ironically, Victorino was originally drafted by the Dodgers in 1999. He's a pending free agent at the end of the year, and the Dodgers had to give up 3 prospects to get him(including a player to be named later). Reliever Josh Lindblom provides some immediate help for the Phils. The Dodgers also acquired reliever Brandon League from the Mariners. League made the All Star team last season.

Victorino's teammate, Hunter Pence, will be playing on the other side of the rivalry with the Giants. Pence helps a mediocre offense, that is weak outside of Buster Posey, Melky Cabrera, and Pablo Sandoval. They also acquired infielder Marco Scutaro earlier last month.The Phillies acquired Pence from the Astros last year in a deadline deal for four prospects. Jonathon Singleton and Jarred Cosart were the best of the bunch the Phils gave up. In a surprising move, the Phils traded Pence a year later to the Giants. Pence still has a year left before hitting free agency, and was one of the younger players in the Phillies lineup. The Giants gave up outfielder Nate Schierholtz and two minor league prospects. The Phillies got a catcher for the future in Tommy Joseph. Carlos Ruiz is having the best season of his career, but is 33.

The Cubs made a couple of deals with the Rangers before the deadline. On Monday, Geovany Soto was traded to the Rangers for a minor league reliever. Soto hasn't been the same player since winning the NL Rookie of the Year in 2008. He's had subpar years three out of the last four years, and is currently batting under the Mendoza line. His defense is average to mediocre as well. I'm not sure how much this helps the Rangers, but maybe a change of scenery will help Soto.

On Tuesday, the Rangers traded for Soto's battery mate, Ryan Dempster. Dempster already vetoed a trade to the Braves, and the Cubs couldn't work out a trade to the Dodgers. The Rangers traded to A ball prospects to get Dempster. With Roy Oswalt struggling, and Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz out for the year, the Rangers needed pitching help. They also felt like they needed to make a move to counter the Angels, who picked up Zack Greinke last weekend. Dempster is no Greinke, but should help the Rangers out. It should rejuvenate both Dempster and Soto to get off the perennial loser Cubs, and have a chance to make a World Series. As for the Cubs, they are in rebuilding mode. Its a good baseball move to rid themselves of veterans for prospects.

The Pirates added starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez last week, and added first baseman Gaby Sanchez, outfielder Travis Snider, and veteran reliever Chad Qualls in the last couple of days. Sanchez made the All Star team last year, but has been terrible this year and was demoted to the minors. Still, the Pirates didn't give up much to get him. They also traded reliever Brad Lincoln to the Blue Jays for Snider. Snider is another guy who hasn't lived up to his potential. The Pirates are hoping that a change of scenery could help these guys. Also, corner infielder Casey McGehee was traded to the Yankees for Qualls.

Walt Jocketty pulled off a good move for the Reds yesterday. He traded for Royals closer Jonathon Broxton, trading two prospects to get him. Broxton joins an already impressive bullpen that includes Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall, Logan Ondrusek, and Jose Arredondo. The three headed beast of Chapman, Broxton, and Marshall is the best bullpen trio the Reds have had since the 1990 World Championship team Nasty Boys trio of Randy Myers, Rob Dibble, and Norm Charlton. Hopefully this year's version of the Reds aren't as successful.

The Cardinals didn't make a big trade at the deadline, but John Mozeliak traded for a reliever. The Cardinals acquired right hander Edwin Mujica from the Marlins for Triple A third baseman Zack Cox. He had already added lefty Brian Fuentes, who was signed after being released earlier this month. This year, Mujica has a 4.39 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. Mujica was pretty solid in 2010 and 2011, but has a 4.13 career ERA. Mujica is also signed through next season.

Cox was the Cardinals first round pick in 2010, so I expected the Cardinals to be able to get more out of him. I'm not going to freak out about this trade like I did the Colby Rasmus deal last year, though. Cox had struggled in Triple A earlier this year, batting only .254. Last year, Cox batted .309 in High A and Double A. But, Cox is also expendable because he can only play third base, and he's blocked by David Freese and Matt Carpenter at the big league level. Cox has also been compared to Brett Wallace, who hasn't had much success at the big league level yet. Still, I was thinking Cox could of been part of a package for a better player like Wallace was(Matt Holliday). Mujica has had some success in the past, and hopefully getting out of Ozzie Guillen's zoo will help him out.