Sometimes, teams simply do not want to
tinker with clubhouse chemistry and neglect to make any trades at the
July 31 non-waiver deadline. Other times, general managers are so
desperate for a spark that they mortgage a chunk of the future in
hopes of capturing instant glory. Since there is no right or wrong
with these things, it’s hard to say what each club’s most effective
Even teams with strong cores or an
abundance of star power in place cannot predict how their
centerpieces will perform in October, prompting front offices to
attempt a drastic shake-up. I remember being on a tour of Petco Park
in San Diego back in the winter of 2008, and the tour guide was
narrating about a picture of the Padres group celebrating clinching
the 2005 National League West crown.
The guide told us that it was during
that delirious moment that ace Jake Peavy suffered a broken rib.
Peavy tried to pitch through the pain without making excuses, but
Peavy was lit up for eight runs in Game 1 of the Division Series, and the Padres were swept.
Turns out that eight years later, a
less-dominant Peavy would end up being the key acquisition for not
one, but two World Series championship teams – in consecutive years, no
The San Francisco Giants rolled the dice on Peavy to
bolster their rotation down the stretch last year, and they weren’t
disappointed. Peavy, who had gone 1-9 with a 4.72 with the Boston Red Sox, went
6-4 with a 2.17 ERA over 12 starts in helping the Giants clinch the
second wild card spot. Just a year earlier, the Red Sox saw Peavy go
4-1 over the season’s final two months.
Peavy, the 2007 National League Cy
Young Award winner, wasn’t the big name he used to be, but his
clubhouse presence and veteran leadership proved to be more valuable
than that of several bigger names that have been moved in recent
Last season, the Detroit Tigers hoped
that adding a third former Cy Young to their rotation would be the
magic potion to finally win the World Series. Instead, Price went just 4-4
with a 3.59 ERA and, despite a strong effort in the NLDS against the
Baltimore Orioles, Detroit was swept right out of the first round.
In 2012, the Giants and Los Angeles
Dodgers were battling it out in the National League West, and the
Dodgers drew first blood by landing Hanley Ramirez. The Giants
responded by acquiring Hunter Pence, which was actually seen as a
smaller move at the time. But you know how the rest of the story
goes, and the Giants ended up winning their second title in three
years while the Dodgers missed the playoffs for a third straight
Ironically, it was just a year earlier
when the Philadelphia Phillies made a splash by trading for Pence.
The move was supposed to balance out the offense on a team that had
one of the best starting rotations in recent memory. Although the
Phillies won 102 games, they were bounced in the first round by the
eventual-champion St. Louis Cardinals, and Pence went just 4-for-19
(.211) in the series despite a strong regular-season performance.
The Cardinals, who essentially took
the passing of the torch in National League superiority with that
series win, approached things a little differently at the 2011 deadline
and ended up looking brilliant. They parted ways with talented yet
enigmatic outfielder Colby Rasmus and stockpiled pitching depth, with
starters Edwin Jackson and relievers Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel all playing key roles in the team’s playoff run.
Those moves were similar to the
previous year’s Giants team, which won its first San Francisco
championship with the help of a few “castoffs,” including the
eventual 2010 NLCS MVP in Cody Ross. The acquisitions of Ross and
fellow outfielder Pat Burrell paled in comparison to the New York
Yankees’ trade for Lance Berkman and Kerry Wood, but San Francisco
ultimately had more to show for their haul.
Obviously, this is not an exact
science, but championship-caliber teams know that they are just that
at this point in the season. A team like the Cardinals or Pittsburgh
Pirates has plenty of depth and doesn’t need a bank-breaker like Cole
Hamels or Troy Tulowitzki, so a “smaller” move is much more
likely to aide their push for a World Series championship. That’s how
it’s played out in recent years, at least.