August 3, 2007

Learning to Spell Teixeira

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For baseball fans, the trading deadline, which is always held on July 31, is one of the best days of the year, along with the playoffs and opening day (with the worst day being the day where I inevitably find out that Tim McCarver still works for FOX). The deadline used to be at midnight, which I really liked when I was younger, as I imagined GMs working endlessly into the night, watching Nickelodeon, placing “Truth or Dare” and making trades. The new 4 p.m. deadline is relatively anti-climatic, but still fun to follow. Therefore, I thought I’d do a daily diary for the three days before 4 p.m. Tuesday, and chronicle all the moves.

Sunday, July 29
Well, here we are two days before the deadline. There have already been a few deals done, such as the White Sox trading Tadahito Iguchi to the Phillies for a minor leaguer and the Devil Rays trading Ty Wigginton to the Astros for Dan Wheeler in a deal involving two former Mets.
The Iguchi deal makes perfect sense for the Phillies. They just lost All-American boy Chase Utley to injury for four to six weeks, causing a gaping whole at second base. Second base is one of the hardest positions to fill offensively, and Utley is the best offensive second baseman in the league. While Iguchi obviously does not have Utley’s prowess, he is a better fit than anyone else Philadelphia could have obtained. Last year, Iguchi batted .281, with 18 home runs and 67 RBIs, which are solid numbers for any second baseman. Even though his numbers are down this year, Iguchi should benefit from playing at Citizens Bank Park, and from being protected in the order by Ryan Howard. My one question is, what will the fans of Iguchi be called? Utley has “Chase’s Chicks” and Ryan Howard has “Howard’s Homies.” So how about Iguchi? Unfortunately, all the ideas I have would make Jay from the Kevin Smith movies proud, and probably would not be accepted by a family-friendly stadium.
The Wigginton trade is a little more curious. By obtaining him, the Astros are obviously giving up on third baseman Morgan Ensberg, who two years ago was an all-star with 36 home runs and 101 RBIs, but has fallen faster than Guns N’ Roses circa 1993. Wigginton is a solid player and should provide more power in an order that already includes Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee. I do wonder though why the Devil Rays decided to take back Wheeler. He is a solid middle reliever, but right now, Tampa Bay needs prospects. I guess that GM Andrew Friedman thinks that the Devil Rays can contend next year, and therefore wants to shore up their bullpen. This seems a little dubious to me, but considering he is the GM of the worst franchise in baseball, it is O.K. to hope.
The other news coming out of today is the strong rumors that Texas first baseman Mark Teixiera will be traded very soon. Apparently Atlanta has a strong offer on the table, but the Rangers want to shop him around. Teixiera is the best player available, but given the bearish market this year, Texas should accept any prospects it can get from the Braves and trade him very soon.
Monday, July 30
What a crazy day. The world woke up to find out that legendary film director Ingmar Bergmann and former talk show host Tom Snyder had both died. Sadly, there was another death to come, as Bill Walsh, one of the best coaches in NFL history, also passed away. If that wasn’t enough, the Timberwolves made a blockbuster NBA trade, swapping superstar Kevin Garnett to the Celtics for half their team. Next year, Boston will have three great starters over the age of 30, young point guard Rajon Rondo and a few guys who could probably pass for extras from the movie Hoosiers. And as far as baseball goes, it was a huge day as well, with Teixiera traded to Atlanta and several other minor deals as well.
The Teixiera deal makes sense for both teams, at least as of now. The Braves are in the middle of a battle with the Mets and the Phillies for first place in the NL East. Teixiera solidifies the middle of their order, adding another bat to go with Andruw Jones, Chipper Jones, Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur. In addition, Teixiera is not a free agent until after the 2008 season, so Atlanta will have a long time to re-sign him.
Texas, on the other hand, receives a host of young players in the deal, centered around catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is going to be a star. The Rangers also received shortstop prospect Elvis Andrus and two other good young pitchers. It is a little disconcerting to see Texas trading Teixeira away, but it definitely got great value in return, including a number of players it can build around for the future. So this is one of those rare deals where everyone wins, including me, as I now can spell the word “Teixeira” in my sleep (although I’m a little confused as to why his name violates the “i before e except after c” rule not once, but twice).
There were also a few smaller deals as well today, including one that involves my favorite team, the New York Mets. With Jose Valentin down with an injury, the Mets traded two minor leaguers to the Twins for Luis Castillo, adding to their already high number of players over the age of 30. While I like Castillo and New York did not give up much for him, I just don’t think this move was necessary. In Valentin’s absence, Ruben Gotay has been great filling in, batting .350 with 19 RBIs. Mets GM Omar Minaya, though, seems to be scared to trust young players, which is why Gotay will probably now be sent down, and why young outfielder Lastings Milledge will lose playing time when Carlos Beltran returns from injury (when it really should be Shawn Green sitting down).
In the day’s other deal, the Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Kyle Lohse to the Phillies for a minor league prospect. Lohse has not been very good for Cincinnati, but Philadelphia is desperate for a pitcher after losing Freddy Garcia and Jon Lieber to injury, and Brett Myers to the bullpen (and injury). When the team’s second-best pitcher is Kyle Kendrick, you know there is a problem. The Phillies hope that they can get lucky and Lohse turns it around.
As the day ends, some names will surely be dealt tomorrow, including relievers Octavio Dotel of the Royals, Eric Gagne of the Rangers and outfielder Jermaine Dye of the White Sox. This is going to be a slow deadline, but tomorrow could provide for some entertainment, as fans like myself frantically check the rumors online to see who will be dealt.
Tuesday, July 31
Morale is low. James was just bitten by a snake and Martha has dysentery. We just forded a river and two of our oxen died. Oh wait, that’s my Oregon Trail Diary … back to the real diary.
Well, here we are at the trading deadline. I usually like following all the rumors as teams maneuver for last-minute moves, where a few surprises always in store. This day, though, was actually as boring as watching bass-fishing on ESPN.
The biggest move of the day was probably the Rangers’ trade of reliever and former Cy Young winner Eric Gagne to the Red Sox for two minor leaguers. In my opinion, this is a great trade for Boston. With Gagne, Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon, the Red Sox now have possibly the best bullpen in baseball. Plus, by adding Gagne’s great chin goatee, they also officially have the best facial hair in baseball. In addition, GM Theo Epstein did not have to give up any of Boston’s top prospects in order to secure the reliever he needed.
The Braves also picked up a reliever, acquiring Octavio Dotel from the Royals for Kyle Davies. Dotel was once one of the best closers in the game, and is still relatively solid. You have to admire Atlanta’s guts in trading away a lot of young players in order to make a run at the World Series this year.
The day’s other deals were relatively minor. The Yankees traded Scott Proctor to the Dodgers for Wilson Betemit. The Padres made three small deals that probably won’t have much of an impact. The Pirates made a weird move, trading for Matt Morris, a 33-year-old pitcher who is past his prime, which was the second-strangest moment of the week, with the first being the rabbit costume scene on this week’s Entourage. There were a few other small deals, but nothing really worth mentioning.
In fact, the day’s biggest surprise, in my opinion, is the fact that Jermaine Dye is still a member of the White Sox. Chicago is going nowhere fast, and traded off a few of its players, including Iguchi and Rob Mackowiak. Dye is 33 years old, and is only batting .235 this season. The White Sox should have traded him before he becomes less coveted than Lindsay Lohan. Apparently the Red Sox really wanted Dye, so I think that Chicago should have pulled the trigger. If Dye clears waivers, I think that he still might be traded before the waiver deadline. I also think the Brewers should have made a move. They did trade for reliever Scott Linebrink last week, but Milwaukee should have made a stronger move to acquire Gagne. The Brewers just dropped into second place in the NL Central and now could really use his great facial hair.