Baseball Trading Deadline Special: Among contending teams, the big winner is clearly the Atlanta Braves, having brought in Mark Teixiera and Octavio Dotel. While the Braves gave up a real talent in Jarrod Saltalamacchia, they got more than they gave. This will be especially true, if they can re-sign the Georgia native, Teixeira.
Of course, the Braves are focused on catching the Mets right now. The Mets added Luis Castillo to play second. Presumably, this trade makes the Mets a better team than they were. While Castillo's defense isn't what it once was, Castillo is still a better fielder than Ruben Gotay. On the other hand, Gotay was putting up great numbers at the plate, and Castillo will be hard pressed to match them. I guess the real explanation here is that the Mets just didn't have faith in Gotay, didn't believe he could keep up that level of production. So, they jumped at the chance to add a good veteran like Castillo. The key for the Mets, however, will not be the addition of Castillo, but the healthy return of Pedro Martinez. The Mets' starting pitching has been very inconsistent lately. Getting Martinez back into the game might be the difference in this race.
The team that was most improved with the recent trades, though, is likely to be the Texas Rangers. For once, this misbegotten franchise seems to have gotten it right. I think they fleeced the Red Sox' pockets in the Eric Gagne trade. As a Red Sox fan, I have to hope this doesn't turn out like the infamous Larry Anderson for Jeff Bagwell deal of yore. Kason Gabbard had the best debut of any Red Sox' rookie pitcher since Roger Clemens. The Red Sox don't really need Gagne. The trade makes some sense for the team in that it keeps Gagne out of the Yankees' hands. The Yankees coveted Gagne, and had greater need for him.
In the long run, having Gagne (assuming they re-sign him), may allow the Red Sox to move Jonathan Papelbon into the rotation, but I thought that wiser heads prevailed a few months ago, when that experiment was abandoned during spring training. I think the Red Sox would be a better team with Papelbon as the closer, and Gabbard in the rotation. Only time will tell if the Red Sox made the right move here, but I'm inclined to think they did not.
The Red Sox are turning into another version of the Yankees, and this is not a good thing. They seem to believe they can deal their best young prospects because there will always be another top veteran they can bring in, regardless of cost. Even the Yankees no longer believe that, as they have made a commitment to hold on to young Phil Hughes, no matter what offer they have to reject because it would include Hughes. The Red Sox have struggled to find a shortstop ever since they dealt Garciaparra, but they had the shortstop of the future in their own ranks, when they had Hanley Ramirez. This is not to dismiss what Josh Beckett can bring to the team, but I think that trade was misguided. They may have made another unnecessary, shortsighted deal today.
The local team? The Nationals made two interesting moves in re-signing Ronnie Belliard and Dmitri Young. Once again, Jim Bowden chose to stay pat, unmoved by any offers he might have received for Nationals' players. Keeping Belliard was a no-brainer, but keeping Young is an interesting move. It only increases speculation about Nick Johnson's future. It's always possible that Young could return to the outfield, but he'd have to drop 20-30 pounds to make that a realistic option. Will Young be willing or able to do that? For his own health (he has diabetes), he ought to, but it's an open question as to whether Young will be in shape to play the outfield next year. Even a more svelte Dmitri would be a defensive liability in the outfield, but if he hits as well next year, as he has done this year, it would be an acceptable liability. If the Nationals could add Andruw Jones in center field, during the off-season, having Young and Kearns as the corner outfielders wouldn't be such a bad thing, and that lineup might finally have the ability to score some runs.