Everyone has been watching the NL Central race unfold as we move into the last months of the season, a tight race has set itself in place that has three of the teams racing for a playoff seat. Now with acquired players from the deadlines, the teams are ready for the stretch, but who improved their chances the most?
The Brewers have acquired exactly what they were looking for heading into July in some infield help that can get on base regularly and a very strong back end to the bullpen. With Francisco Rodriguez backing up John Axford, the Brewers have a back end to the bull pen that can lock a game up after the 7th inning. Doug Melvin also made an easy and cheap acquisition bringing back infielder Felipe Lopez. We can’t expect Lopez to recreate his 2009 season with the Brewers where Lopez had a line of .320/.407/.448 but Lopez provides a solid switch hitting bat, that is patient enough to take walks and some solid defense in the field while the Brewers only ended up giving a small amount of money and losing no one in an already depleted farm system. The Brewers also were able to obtain Jerry Hairston Jr. Hairston’s bat is similar to Lopez, while there is not much power, some speed combined with a high OBP Hairston is a needed addition to a Brewer lineup that just needs some defense and people to get on base. The other great advantage to Hairston is he can play almost anywhere, and well. Clearly what the Brewers need if Betancourt’s bat ever cools off. The Brewers really could have added a left hander for the bullpen, but with little options available to meet all of their needs, Milwaukee did the best it could to fill the holes.
The Pirates on the other hand are trading for help for the first time in nearly 20 years. Pittsburgh were able to get Gold Glove infielder Derek Lee to replace Lyle Overbay at first base. Lee may not be the power hitting, .300 AVG machine he was in his prime, but he is having a great season. Already hitting 12 HR’s and 43 RBI’s he will provide some assistance to Andrew McCutchen and an obvious upgrade at first base. The Pirates also traded for outfielder Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick isn’t the upgrade he would have been four years ago, but does add a little bit offense. Both of these trades would have given the Pirates anew 4 and 5 hitter a few years ago but not only give the Bucs a slight upgrade as the continue playing above their means.
The last team to improve was the St. Louis Cardinals. St. Louis already had a strong rotation, but made it devastating with the addition of Edwin Jackson. Jackson was having a very strong season to this point in the AL and now should only get better in the NL especially with the tutelage of Dave Duncan. Jackson can be devastating but I don’t really understand this trade simply for the strength of the Cardinals pitching staff before this point and the loss of Colby Rasmus. Rasmus was a great bat and defender, and the Cardinals already suffered from an offense that can’t always support its pitching even with the combination of Pujols and Holladay. After that trade the Cards then went on to add Rafael Furcal. Furcal is injury prone, having the worst season of his career and rusting with age and lack of play. The Cardinals have always been dangerous but with the loss of offense I can’t really say the won, but mostly broke even. The one advantage brought in with Jackson were the additions of Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel. Both, strong performers out of the bullpen so far this year, to fill in a somewhat weak bullpen, but both may equal the addition of K-Rod in comparison to the Brewers.
By no bias of myself I have to say that Milwaukee has won the trade deadline compared to its competing teams. I actually didn’t feel that way until this moment, but as I write this article I realize that Milwaukee has actually made improvements to its team while St. Louis created a hole as it plugged another one without truly answering any needs and Pittsburgh surely could not have made it’s team extremely better by trading for slight upgrades to assist a team that’s already playing well above its capabilities. Milwaukee on the other hand, gave up no Major League talent to acquire their new players and answered the problems of a weak back end to the bull pen and somehow managed to get infield help, with a trade market that barely provided any upgrades. Lopez and Hairston should be able to fill in for Weeks for a period and Hairston should be able to back up Betancourt or even replace him should Betancourt play like he did before July again. The Brewers are the winners of the trade deadline in their division although it may not appear so if nothing else but for the big name acquisition by the Cardinals.