Weekly Hit Ground Ball: Seasons made by trades

The MLB regular season picks up momentum in July.

Teams pass the half-way mark in regular season games played, inching us closer to the crunch time in the season.  The All-Star break arrives to provide a momentary breather as we all get ready for the second half. The non-waiver trade deadline looms large at the end of the month.

Last year’s deadline carried an extra subplot as many pondered whether the increase in postseason spots, from eight to ten, would affect the trade market.

Theoretically more teams would be in with a shout of making it to the playoffs, but the consequences of that needed to be discovered.

Whilst more teams might be keen to complete a trade that could be a difference-maker, potentially there would be fewer teams with no realistic chance of playing in October and therefore willing to part with a key player.

The trade deadline in 2012 didn’t provide any conclusive answers, although the general impression was that the market was broadly the same as in previous years. Most teams were out there searching to find a player or two who could improve them and that will be the same this year.

What 2012 did show is that it isn’t necessarily the big names that will produce the best returns.

A good example of this can be found in two separate trades completed on 27 July last year: Zack Greinke moving to the Los Angeles Angels and Marco Scutaro moving to the San Francisco Giants

Greinke was the type of ace pitcher that every potential playoff team would love to add down the stretch. He did pitch well for the Angels in his 13 regular season starts (6-2 with a 3.53 ERA), but it wasn’t enough to get them into the playoffs, let alone help them to the World Series, and Greinke then signed with Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent over the offseason.

Even though they had acquired an excellent pitcher, the Angels didn’t get the overall benefit they hoped for. Furthermore, those two months from Greinke will look very expensive if Jean Segura, the young shortstop the Angels traded to the Milwaukee Brewers to sign Greinke, carries on the brilliant form he has shown so far this season and develops into one of the better infielders in the Majors in the years ahead.

The Giants’ signing of Marco Scutaro was the polar opposite of the Angels’ signing of Greinke.

Scutaro was a long way down the list of desirable trade targets. His career prior to 2012 could best be described as solid without coming close to being spectacular and his mediocre first half of last season playing home games in the hitter-friendly Coors Field ensured that his trade to the Giants was little more than a ‘by the way’ news item.

No one could have foreseen just how greatly such muted expectations would be exceeded.

The ‘Legend of Scutaro’ will forever be one of the memorable storylines from the 2012 season. His move to San Francisco suddenly turned him into a hitting machine. He put together a batting line of .362/.473/.859 during his 61 regular season games with the Giants and won the NLCS MVP award as he helped the team win their second World Series in three years.

As the trade rumours go into overdrive in the next few weeks, don’t be quick to overlook some of the so-called lesser deals. You never know when one team might just catch lightning in a bottle.

All-Star rosters

The 2013 All-Star rosters were announced on Saturday and there were not too many shocks, unless you were one of the Yankee fans on Twitter who didn’t think the fact that Derek Jeter has been out injured all season should count against his candidacy.

From an A’s fan perspective, having only one player on the AL roster isn’t a fair recognition of the team’s performances over the past twelve months, but there’s nothing to say the rosters have to be ‘fair’.

Individual fans vote for whoever they want to see in the game, players make their selections too based on their own preferences and the managers then have to juggle the requirements of making sure every team is represented and that the roster has enough flexibility so that no other manager has room to complain about the way their players were used during the game.

There is still one place on each roster that is up for grabs in the Final Vote. There won’t be much interest in either ‘race’ although that will be for completely different reasons in the two leagues.

On the American League side you have five relief pitchers who – team bias aside – will not generate any voting enthusiasm whatsoever.

On the National League side you have Yasiel Puig who, judging by the MLB.com promotional campaign, is sure to win in a landslide.

 

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