Los Angeles Dodgers: You can make a case that general manager Ned Colletti — his hands finally untied, and with ownership's financial backing — did what's necessary to overtake the Giants and win the National League West. But one thing already is certain — the Dodgers have raised the financial stakes in the division.
This is a team with only one active regular (Andre Ethier) who has enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title, so they added two much-needed bats in Shane Victorino and Hanley Ramirez — and didn't give up any of their top handful of prospects to get it done.
Victorino is a rental for now, but you have to think the Dodgers can re-sign their former farmhand this winter if they so desire. He will hit at the top of the lineup — currently a weak spot — and most likely move to left field, where he hasn't played since 2006. And don't be surprised if he starts running more as he reunites with first-base coach Davey Lopes.
Taking on Ramirez's money ($31.5 million in 2013-14) and often-sullen personality are risks, no doubt. But the early returns are good, and again, the Dodgers had to make a middle-of-the-order move to realistically do anything in October.
The minus was not getting a starting pitcher, the hangup being an unwillingness to give up either of their top two prospects — Zach Lee and Allen Webster — for two-plus months of Ryan Dempster.
But Ted Lilly and Rubby De La Rosa should be back soon, and Brandon League gives the bullpen a power-sinker right-hander — a different look from closer Kenley Jansen — who also is capable of closing out games.
Los Angeles Angels: Their big move came over the weekend with the win-now Zack Greinke acquisition. It shows the Angels are all-in, but if Greinke isn't re-signed this winter, they paid too much in SS Jean Segura and two highly regarded pitching prospects for a rental. Still, they didn't have to part with Peter Bourjos or Garrett Richards, both of whom can help down the stretch and in the near-future.
Can the Angels afford to keep Greinke out of free agency, on top of huge deals for Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver, etc.? They do have flexibility with the contract expirations of Torii Hunter, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, so we'll see. But that's for this winter. For now, the focus is on getting deep into October.
GM Jerry Dipoto didn't make another move for his bullpen, but that still can happen — and expect it to.
San Francisco Giants: They absolutely had to get another bat, and arguably got the best hitter on the market in Hunter Pence, who immediately becomes their home-run leader by a wide margin. So since last off-season, they have completely rebuilt their outfield with Pence, Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan.
The cost for Pence wasn't prohibitive, as Nate Schierholz was expendable, and catching prospect Tommy Joseph sat behind Buster Posey and Hector Sanchez.
Pence and Marco Scutaro may not be enough, as the current infield minus disabled Pablo Sandoval is barely-average at all four positions. And like the Angels, the Giants didn't add to their late-inning setup crew, but that still could happen.
Texas Rangers: They swooped in late on Dempster after other starting pitching efforts didn't pan out, and while this isn't like getting Cliff Lee a couple of Julys ago, Dempster does fill an immediate need with a quality option.
With struggling Roy Oswalt heading to the bullpen, and the losses to surgery of Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz, a rotation that appeared so deep suddenly isn't any more. They gave up two solid prospects, but none of their elite three — 3B Mike Olt, SS Jurickson Profar, LHP Martin Perez, so it's a price worth paying when you're trying to get to your third consecutive World Series.
Catcher Geovany Soto also could be an upgrade over Yorvit Torrealba, who was designated for assignment.
Atlanta Braves: When Dempster balked by exercising his 10/5 rights, the Braves readjusted and may have ended up with a better deal. OK, so it wasn't Greinke, but then again, he would have cost at least a couple of their highly regarded pitching prospects.
Paul Maholm doesn't overwhelm you with stuff, but he's been lights-out lately, and fills an immediate need with Tommy Hanson going on the disabled list. Reed Johnson mashes left-handed pitching and is a solid role player for a contender. And only Arodys Vizcaino, who will be coming off surgery, is gone from the core of top pitching prospects.
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates as buyers — you gotta like that. And unlike rental types Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick added last July, they went for players under control for a couple of years in Wandy Rodriguez, Gaby Sanchez and Travis Snider, the latter of whom still could develop into a left-handed power-hitter — a need in PNC Park.
There's no big 'wow' move here, just some needed parts. But the Pirates should be better as a result, and already had a strong clubhouse chemistry that didn't really need to be messed with much.
Chicago Cubs: Just getting rid of all that salary — starting last winter with Carlos Zambrano, and now Dempster, Maholm, Johnson and Soto — represents a step in the right direction. The talent return isn't overwhelming, but Arodys Vizcaino should bounce back from Tommy John surgery.
New York Yankees: It's all well and good that GM Brian Cashman is hanging onto prospects and cognizant of the salary-cap threshold. But if the Yankees fall short in October, the restraint won't seem so wise and quaint.
They did get Casey McGehee as a 1B/3B backup in the wake of Alex Rodriguez's injury.
St. Louis Cardinals: They didn't need much, especially on the offensive side of the ball, and didn't do much. But they did address their biggest need by getting Edward Mujica from the Marlins as another setup bridge piece to Jason Motte.
Houston Astros: There's no way to accurately evaluate at this point the boatload of prospects GM Jeff Luhnow has picked up in the firesale of Carlos Lee, Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, etc. But it appears that there are few if any future impact types in the haul — and mostly depth and role-player types.
But it's the first step in a long rebuilding process, and organizational depth can bring needed parts at the big-league level at a later date.
Cincinnati Reds: Assuming the price to pay for Denard Span was too steep, couldn't they have pulled the trigger on another left-handed bat? On many nights lately, Xavier Paul has been their lone left-handed bat on the bench, and that's not enough.
They already had the best bullpen ERA in the NL, so the Jonathan Broxton addition wasn't urgent. They also gave up two of their top 10 prospects in pitchers Donnie Joseph and JC Sulbaran — which seems like a lot to pay for Broxton. That said, it's hard to argue against adding more pitching.
Philadelphia Phillies: GM Ruben Amaro Jr. moved into sell mode a bit late — it should have been obvious a couple of weeks ago — and you wonder what the short-term outfield picture is after the departures of Pence and Victorino — on top of Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez in the last two off-seasons. Come on down, Domonic Brown?
That unclear outfield picture doesn't work if the short-term plan is to remain contenders by retooling around Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. But we'll give Amaro more time to put his Plan B in motion. The Phils did get a couple of potential power bullpen arms.
Tampa Bay Rays: They held onto all that pitching, rather than deal some of it for a rental bat — and it's hard to argue with that. But taking on some salary to help the offense sure could have benefitted a team possibly poised for another postseason appearance.
Arizona Diamondbacks: The two teams ahead of them in the NL West got better, while the D-backs ultimately did nothing more than swap out marginal third basemen — Chris Johnson replacing Ryan Roberts — and unload left-handed reliever Craig Breslow. Nothing got done on the starting pitcher front — and that more-smoke-than-fire mega-deal involving Justin Upton won't happen until the offseason — if at all.
Boston Red Sox: Left-handed setup man Craig Breslow is the big addition, and once again, the front office does Bobby Valentine no favors.
ATLANTA (AP) - Matt Harvey pitched six hitless innings, John Buck homered and the New York Mets held off another Atlanta comeback, beating the Braves 4-3 Tuesday in the first game of a doubleheader.
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