Holy Trade Day, Bartman
The Cubs gutted their roster. The Nationals officially quit trying to win. The Giants, Yankees and Dodgers benefit as a result.
So I was sitting at Oracle Park this week in San Francisco and looked out at the field as the Giants were on defense. A thought came to mind. Who the hell are these guys? The answer is: a terrific combination of pitching and timely hitting so far that has the Giants with the best record in baseball. Can it hold up? Probably not, but baseball is a funny game and this could be one of those miracle teams that has everyone peak in the same year. After the trade deadline in Major League Baseball July 30, the team also has Kris Bryant, a well-known slugger and solid third baseman for fans to focus on while they try to remember where Lamonte Wade Jr. came from and if he’s a righty or a lefty. Hats off to general manager Farhan Zaidi for putting a bunch of guys together who do what they’re supposed to do. Bryant gives them a big name and a big bat to provide the spark Evan Longoria was supposed to provide. The Giants also gave up a guy hitting .235 in Class A ball and Caleb Killian, who is having much better success at Double A ball as a starting pitcher (2.13 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 96 strikeouts in 84.2 innings).
Down the California coast in Los Angeles, Zaidi’s former team, the Dodgers, gave up some talent in pitcher Josiah Gray, Keibert Ruiz (a catcher with a .300 career minor league batting average), pitcher Gerardo Carrillo, and outfielder Donovan Casey (who could be the next Shohei Otani if his new team lets him pitch). In return, the Dodgers get starting pitcher and likely Hall-of-Famer Max Scherzer and speedy outfielder/infielder Trea Turner. The Dodgers didn’t need Scherzer exactly, but the exit of Trevor Bauer due to sexual assault allegations and yet another trip to the injured list by Clayton Kershaw made it nice to have a guy of Scherzer’s caliber. Scherzer has also been on the injured list with triceps and groin issues. If the Dodgers can give him a little time to get healthy, then he, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urias could lead the Dodgers back to the World Series. Right now, the Giants have the advantage in the bullpen, but their starters have been subject to injury. Turner gives the Dodgers someone they can bat anywhere in the lineup as L.A. waits for the return of Mookie Betts and hopes Corey Seager will be able to return at full strength.
L.A. gets to use Turner (.300 career hitter) in place of 2019 MVP Cody Bellinger, who has now taken to swinging with his eyes closed, or -if they’re open- looking into his own dugout. Bellinger’s complete breakdown in proper swing mechanics is unlike anything I can recall since Dale Murphy went from hitting .295 in 1987 to hitting .226 in 1988 for the Atlanta Braves. For his sake, the Dodgers should diagnose a case of subdural hematoma and get him into the minors for some intensive training.
The Nationals are rebuilding as are the Cubs who shipped off Bryant, Anthony Rizzo (to the New York Yankees) and Javier Baez to the New York Mets. Baez has a cartoonish 131 strikeouts in 91 games against only 15 walks. If his defense helps Jacob deGrom stop getting robbed every time out on the mound, it will be well worth the price of the breeze Baez creates during a game. Of course, if deGrom can’t overcome his “forearm tightness” then the move may not have been worth it.
Rizzo to New York makes sense. He’s a professional hitter with Gold Glove defense. He and Bryant seem to be recovering from horrific 2020 campaigns. The Cubbies could just never replace the magic they lost after winning the World Series. Former Cub outfielder Joc Pederson was in town for a minute and then gone to Atlanta and fellow outfielder Kyle Schwarber ended up in Boston. Reliever Craig Kimbrel takes his hanging arm thing to the White Sox. The Cubs get future star Nick Madrigal, who is out with a hanging hamstring injury.
In the short term, the winner seems to be the Dodgers just because of the talent acquired. If Scherzer keeps getting hurt, the Yankees look like the winners. In the long term, the results won’t be known for awhile. Washington gets a lot of maybes as do the Cubs. Tampa picked up Nelson Cruz and 2020 playoff hero Brett Phillips.
The Giants have shown an ability to win with a bunch of no-names and if Bryant goes on a tear, they gave up little to get him. At the end of the year, when you ask “Who are these guys?” they might just be the National League West champs.
The Giants defy gravity but so be it. “Talent will out” has been the motto, but the Giants somehow lead the majors without a legit HR threat. The Dodgers absurd 1-11 record in extras is not a moral indictment just one of pure misfortune. That is bound to turn and at least be .500 going forward. Should be a tight race I see LA “will out” by three games.