Rangers made first big move; who’s next?
List of trade-deadline talent is impressive
When Oakland outfielder Rajai Davis heard that the Texas Rangers had acquired Cliff Lee from Seattle last week, he reacted the same way as many others around baseball did.
“They’re trying to make a real run, huh?” Davis said. “They’re not playing around.”
The Rangers are in the middle of a messy ownership change that includes a rancorous bankruptcy proceeding, but that didn’t stop them from making the first major splash before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. Texas added Lee to a team that will carry a 4½-game lead in the AL West into the second half of the season, which begins tonight.
“They were already doing a pretty good job before I got here,’’ Lee said. “Big offense, good arms and they have leaders. I’ll do my part to help.’’
The Rangers, who are in Boston to open a four-game series, are looking for their first playoff appearance since 1999. Adding Lee to a formidable offense lets everyone know they’re serious. Lee was 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five postseason starts last year for the Phillies. But more important, he was 2-0 against the mighty New York Yankees in the World Series.
So who will be the next team to make a major move?
The Los Angeles Angels are looking to add a big bat to stay in contention with Texas, and the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox have similar designs.
“The probability of big guys moving at the deadline is always a risky proposition to try to handicap,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “Things can change from week to week.”
One thing we do know is that the winner of the National League pennant will have homefield advantage for the World Series, after the NL beat the American League 3-1 on Tuesday for its first victory in the All-Star game since 1996.
All three NL division leaders at the break — the San Diego Padres (last World Series appearance: 1998) in the West, the Cincinnati Reds (1990) in the Central and the Atlanta Braves (1999) in the East — must be considered surprises, at least to varying extents.
“I think we have the pitching to hold up down the stretch,” said Cincinnati slugger Joey Votto, arguably the first-half MVP of the NL. “We’re where we are because of our pitching.”
None of the six first-place teams hold leads of more than 41⁄
2 games, the first time that could be said since the dawn of the wild-card era. No fewer than 10 teams in the NL and eight teams in the AL are within five games of a postseason slot.
The list of available talent is impressive. It could include, in no particular order, Houston Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt; Cleveland pitchers Fausto Carmona, Jake Westbrook and Kerry Wood; Milwaukee all-stars Prince Fielder and Corey Hart; Washington sluggers Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham; Baltimore pitcher Jeremy Guthrie and infielder Ty Wigginton; and Chicago Cubs lefty Ted Lilly.
There is no shortage of contending teams looking for help. The Padres, Giants and Rays need an impact bat. The Yankees and Tigers need help in the seventh and eighth innings. The Phillies, Mets and Twins are in desperate need of starting pitching.
Help is on the way
Plenty of teams in the coming weeks are going to get the boost of an additional impact player without having to make a trade. Nowhere is that more true than in Boston, where the third-place Red Sox, overwhelmed by injuries, are due to return second baseman Dustin Pedroia, pitchers Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and Manny Delcarmen, catchers Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek, and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury within the next month.
Other teams expected to get critical pieces back before long are the Rockies (shortstop Troy Tulowitzki), Phillies (second baseman Chase Utley and third baseman Placido Polanco), Mets (center fielder Carlos Beltran), Dodgers (left fielder Manny Ramirez) and Reds (starting pitcher Edinson Volquez).
New Rangers pitcher Cliff Lee
Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto is among the league leaders in home runs and RBIs and has led the Reds into first place in the NL Central.