By Andrew Perna
For the second week in a row, the Hanging Curve will not follow the traditional format because of the flood of trades before the Tuesday deadline.
Rangers Win Dempster Sweepstakes
With the Dodgers pulling out of the race late, the Rangers made a big splash when they acquired Ryan Dempster from the Cubs just minutes before the trade deadline. Immediately following news of the deal, a report claimed Texas would send a pair of minor leaguers (third baseman Christian Villanueva and right-hander Kyle Hendricks) to Chicago in the swap.
The Dodgers were his preferred destination, but the right-hander reportedly gave the Cubs the approval to seek an agreement with the Yankees and Rangers in the hours leading up to the deadline.
Dempster provides depth to a rotation that has dealt with injuries as of late. It was announced last week that Colby Lewis will miss the remainder of the season with an elbow injury. Roy Oswalt and Derek Holland have also struggled and spent time on the disabled list.
With Dempster in the fold, Oswalt will move to the bullpen.
The impetus to make a deal was greater in Texas than we all believed. Shortly after the clock expired on the deadline, they announced that Neftali Feliz will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the remainder of the season (and most likely 2013 as well). It is hard for a World Series contender to withstand the loss of two starters, but this trade undoubtedly makes the injuries easier to handle.
The addition of Dempster is a nice retort after the rival Angels acquired Zack Greinke from the Brewers just a few days ago. The 35-year-old will be a free agent this winter, but brings a 2.25 ERA and 1.04 WHIP to the American League.
Just as Greinke will for Los Angeles, Dempster will allow Texas to forget about their rotation issues in October when the staff is tightened up and there are more off-days.
Dempster comes with a fastball-slider combination that has allowed him to be successful as both a starter and reliever for the Cubs, with whom he has spent the last nine seasons. In three interleague starts against the AL this season, he was 2-1 with just four runs allowed in 21 innings of work (Red Sox, Twins, White Sox).
The Rangers want to win now, especially with the long-term future of Josh Hamilton in doubt, making this deal a no-brainer.
The Cubs wanted to move Dempster for a prospect, forgoing draft pick compensation next June. Villanueva entered the 2012 season as the 100th-best prospect in the game, according to Baseball America. The 21-year-old is hitting .285/.356/.421 for Class-A Myrtle Beach this season.
Grade for Texas: A, Grade for Cubs: B+
Phillies Send Victorino To Dodgers
It took longer than many expected, but Ruben Amaro Jr. finally waived the white flag on the season when he agreed to send Shane Victorino to the Dodgers in exchange for reliever Josh Lindblom and pitcher Ethan Martin.
Victorino will become a free agent after the season, but Los Angeles is looking to grab hold of the National League with other teams (such as the Washington Nationals) standing pat this month.
The Dodgers are tied for first place in the NL West and have added a top-of-the-order hitter to jumpstart their offense. They also acquired Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins last week. Suddenly, they have gone from Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to Kemp, Either, Ramirez and Victorino.
That quartet should combine to improve an offense that has been lackluster this season.
Victorino will likely hit first for the Dodgers, bringing a batting line of .261/.324/.401 over from the Phillies. He also brings speed to the bases and plays a good defensive outfield.
Philadelphia was not going to pay face value to re-sign Victorino after the season, so moving him for a pair of live arms was a smart move. Martin was a first-round pick of the Dodgers in 2008 and is still just 23 years old. Lindblom became expendable when L.A. added Brandon League (via Seattle) and will immediately be plugged into the bullpen.
When it is all said and done, Los Angeles may have paid too much for a moderate upgrade in the outfield. Victorino is expected to concede center to Kemp and man left field, where the Dodgers have hit .259/.329/.348 this season. Given his offensive downturn over the last year-plus, he only brings a little more power than the inexpensive options the Dodgers already had on the roster.
On the other hand, they are clearly going for it this season and Victorino has experience playing meaningful games deep into October. A few seasons ago, the Hawaiian became a villain when the Dodgers and Phillies met in the postseason. A few successful at-bats could change the opinion of many in Southern California rather quickly.
Grade for Dodgers: B-, Grade for Phillies: B+
Philadelphia Adds More Fuel To West
The exact order of the trades may never be known, but the Phillies certainly bolstered the NL West on Tuesday. Shortly after it was reported that Victorino was headed for Los Angeles, a report surfaced that Hunter Pence would be dealt to San Francisco.
Pence will make more than $13 million next season as he is more than just a rental for the Giants. That is why the cost for this Philadelphia outfielder was higher than that of the one the Dodgers added. The Phillies received outfielder Nate Schierholtz, Double-A catcher Tommy Joseph and Class-A pitcher Seth Rosin in the deal.
This is the second-straight summer in which the Giants have added an offensive outfielder for the playoff push. They acquired Carlos Beltran from the Mets last year and then allowed him to leave as a free agent.
AT&T Park does not favor hitters, which may not bode well for Pence, who is hitting .271/.336/.447 with 17 home runs and 59 RBI this season. He has not hit as well with the Phillies in 2012 as he did in the second half of last season or during his tenure with the Astros.
He seems to enjoy Philadelphia, embracing the community and enjoying more protection in the lineup, but when it comes down to it nothing has gone right for the Phillies this season. Perhaps a pennant race and new clubhouse will energize Pence over the next two-plus months.
The haul Philadelphia gave up to acquire Pence from Houston last year was larger than the one they received, but his value has declined and not even a market that favored sellers could offset that.
Amaro was able to add organizational depth while also opening up two spots in the outfield. Schierholtz will take some of that playing time, but Domonic Brown is the more important recipient.
Brown has not impressed at the Major League level, but can now play without the stress of being pulled from the lineup or sent down. As much as the minor league depth with help the Phillies going forward, another chance to see if Brown can become a starter under Charlie Manuel could end up making more of an impact on their future.
Grade for Giants: B, Grade for Phillies: B+
Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs