Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Angels’

To the Would-Be Victors Come the Would-Be Spoilers

The Seattle Mariners may have been on a bit of a tear of late, but they’re not exactly looking for a postseason shot that they’re just not going to get. However, read carefully: the Mariners have the single most tough schedule in the American League to come down the stretch of the stretch.

The New York Yankees and their minions love to say, no matter how the Yankees might be struggling lately, that the road to the Serious still goes through the south Bronx. But for the Los Angeles Angels, the Oakland Athletics, and the Texas Rangers, the road to the postseason is going through Seattle: 21 out of the Mariners’ coming final 24 games will be played against those clubs. The lone set with no postseason prospect involving the Mariners is a three-set against the Toronto Blue Jays.

And the Mariners won’t necessarily be pushovers, either. They might be dead last in the American League West (67-71, with only a vague hope of reaching .500 if at all) but since the All-Star break they’re tied for the second-best jacket in the circuit with 32-20, even if they did kind of fatten it at the expense of Kansas City, Cleveland, and Minnesota.

And it gets even more delicious when you factor in that it won’t only be the Blue Jays who have to deal with Felix Hernandez, who’s already thrown four shutouts in his last ten starts including his perfect game. Including the regular season’s final day, when—if he works on his regular rest—the Angels would have the pleasure of figuring him out, possibly with a wild card spot on the line for Mike Scioscia’s troops.

So who else really gets to play spoiler down this stretch? First, the American League:

Los Angeles Angels—One more slump, however, and the Angels go from possible wild-card sneak-ins to spoilers alone. They face the third-toughest AL schedule behind Seattle and Oakland. Six games to come against the Rangers, four against the A’s, and three each against the Central-fighting Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox. On the other hand, they also face six games with the Mariners . . . over their last nine games on the season. If the Angels are going to be fated as spoilers after all, their time is sooner than you or they might think.

Boston Red Sox—On scheduling paper the Red Sox have the fourth toughest AL schedule to come. Six games each against Tampa Bay, Baltimore, and the Empire Emeritus. That’s on paper only. In reality—don’t exactly bank on this year’s Red Sox becoming last year’s Orioles. Since The Big Deal they’ve gotten worse instead of better and it doesn’t look like anything can help them now. Which is another good reason to dump Bobby Valentine post-haste. He can’t even get them to muster up for playing for pride anymore.

Toronto Blue Jays—They have four against the Orioles, seven against the Yankees, and three versus Tampa Bay. Sorry, Yankee fans—the road to this postseason just might be going through Toronto or Boston, though right now Toronto looks like the heavier stretch to pave.

The National League’s prospective poisoners aren’t looking at quite the kind of roads the AL spoilers-in-waiting face. The league’s toughest schedule to come belongs to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are fighting for a postseason berth still. But the second-toughest belongs to the Miami Marlins—who look at this writing and probably for the rest of they way as though the only thing they could spoil would be their fans’ lunches or dinners. The road to the National League postseason isn’t going through southern Florida this time.

As for the rest of the league?

New York Mets—They’ve been looking a little better since busting out of their last free fall with an 8-3 record over their previous eleven games. They still face six games with the Atlanta Braves, three with the Washington Nationals, and a four-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are still clinging to postseason hopes and just might get a chance to have the Mets throw them over the stern. Unlike the Red Sox, the Mets are playing for pride now and have the right manager under whom to do it. Terry Collins is what the Red Sox only thought Bobby Valentine would be, the difference being Collins learned from the past and hasn’t been swatting flies with atomic bombs or betraying his players no matter how no-nonsense he is with them.

Milwaukee Brewers—They’re facing four with the Nats and three each against the Braves, the Pirates, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Cincinnati Reds.

San Diego Padres—Don’t laugh; the Friars just took two out of three from the Dodgers and have three more to play against them. That’s in addition to three games each with the Cardinals and six with the San Francisco Giants.

Further spoiler alert: At least a few of the aforesaid contenders (we’ve already mentioned the Angels in this context, alas) could be reduced to spoilers themselves by the time at least one of the current candidates gets to them.

Brandon McCarthy, Scored By a Liner

Especially for a pitcher, keeping your head in the game is not supposed to mean to the point where your head nearly gets taken off.

Oakland Athletics righthander Brandon McCarthy throws Los Angeles Angels hitter Erick Aybar a 91 mph cutter practically down the chute in the top of the fourth Wednesday night. Aybar hits it on the proverbial screws. The ball slams into the right side of McCarthy’s head like a bullet, knocking the righthander down on the mound.

Herb Score and Gil McDougald, call your offices?

Aybar’s liner was hit so hard and fast McCarthy had no chance to get his glove up to knock the ball down. The ball hit McCarthy above his right ear, seemingly, as he was in his follow-through. He was knocked around and bent over at the waist on immediate impact before crumpling to the mound, his back to the plate, falling over onto his haunches and finally into a sprawling heap.

Down and holding where the liner drilled him . . .

The entire population of the Oakland Coliseum, including those milling in the Angels’ dugout, cried in horror as McCarthy hit the deck and Aybar ran over first base following the putout. Believe it or not, there was a putout on the otherwise sickening play. The ball caromed off McCarthy’s head toward third base, where Josh Donaldson fielded it on the run and threw Aybar out.

Then, Donaldson ambled over to join the rest of his infield plus both the Oakland and Los Angeles trainers around McCarthy, who managed to sit up and run his hands through his hair, obviously trying to salve pain. Aybar lingered near and then forward of first base. He looked for all the world to see like a man who’d had a gun blast off in his hands completely by accident and seen a respected neighbour take the bullet.

“I didn’t see the ball until it was right on me. All I know is the ball got really big really fast.”—Herb Score.

Alberto Callaspo, the Angels’ on-deck hitter, squatted in the on-deck circle, leaning forward on his bat, shaking his head helplessly. Aybar returned to his dugout in due course and let his head fall into his hands in utter disbelief, promising himself to check on McCarthy as soon as possible.

He was fortunate that A’s fans these days are a civil bunch when it comes to accidents in honest play. When McDougald rifled his liner off Score’s eye in May 1957, the Yankee jack-of-all-trades was hammered with fan abuse enough. Never mind that McDougald had a gentlemanly reputation parallel to Score’s. (“It was,” New York Journal-American writer Til Ferdenzi wrote, “like Sir Lancelot felling Sir Lancelot.”)

The abuse didn’t stop the heartsick McDougald from calling the hospital constantly, even wresting from staffers the direct line to Score’s doctor, in order to keep track of the fallen righthander. More than that, Score’s mother got McDougald on the phone to reassure him about her son, and about himself.

“You feel really bad,” Aybar said to reporters, as translated from his native Spanish. ”[McCarthy]’s a good guy. You never want to hit anybody over the head, and he’s a good guy. Hopefully everything turns out all right and, God-willing, that he gets better soon.”

This wasn’t even close to the way the Angels wanted to finish what they’d started earlier in the week and sweep the high-enough-flying A’s. It certainly wasn’t the way the A’s wanted to go down, if they had to go down to the Angels. “You try not to let it linger,” Oakland catcher Derek Norris said after the game, “but it’s human nature for it to. Your heart goes out to your teammate. You battle with them throughout the course of the season, but we try our best to motivate us to win it for Mac.”

Applause as McCarthy leaves under his own power . . .

When McCarthy managed to get up at last and walk off the field under his own power—he’ll be held in hospital overnight and miss the A’s trip to Seattle—the standing ovation also included everyone in the Coliseum and everyone in the Angels’ dugout.

McCarthy went down for the count with the A’s still very much in the game, trailing a mere 3-1. In fact, the two sides played shutout baseball from the fourth through the eighth innings. The Angels stranded a pair of one-out baserunners in the sixth and stranded super rookie Mike Trout (a two-out walk, a stolen base) an inning later, while going on to wreck a one-out walk (to Kendrys Morales) with a double play. The A’s best threat the rest of the way was first and third with one out in the seventh, before Angels reliever Nick Maronde celebrated birthday number 23 by punching out Coco Crisp and Sean Smith for the side.

It wasn’t until the ninth that someone got really frisky. Eight someones, to be precise, all wearing Angels silks. Peter Bourjos opened with a walk and took second on Aybar’s followup base hit, before Norris’s miscue in front of the plate let Callaspo load the pads on a bunt. Pinch-hitter Macier Izturis wrung a bases-loaded walk and, after Trout (uncharacteristically) struck out, Torii Hunter turned the merry-go-round back on with a base hit. Albert Pujols’s strikeout wasn’t exactly in vain, with Izturis stealing home on the front end of a double steal (Hunter taking second), before Morales grounded out for the side and a 7-1 lead that would hold with only a two-out single and a strand from the A’s in the bottom.

Mussina had to convince himself everything wasn’t coming back at him . . .

But you can’t exactly fault the A’s if their hearts might have fallen out of it just a little bit.

Bang, bang! Or, as one fan tweeted, presumably from the ballpark itself, “like the ball hitting the bat twice.”

Just a year earlier, Colorado’s Juan Nicasio took one on a liner by Ian Desmond. Nicasio was caught in the neck, suffering a fracture that kept him down for the rest of 2011. In 1998, Mike Mussina, then with the Baltimore Orioles, took a comebacker the hard way and subsequently admitted it he struggled “getting over the fear that every ball I threw, every ball that someone made contact with, was not coming back at me.”

One of McCarthy’s own relievers Wednesday night knows the feeling only too well. Pat Neshek took one in a college game. Steve Shields, a journeyman reliever in the late 1980s and early 1990s, got it twice—once when he was in the Red Sox system, and once as a Seattle Mariner: in his second appearance of 1987, Hall of Famer Kirby Pucket lined one off his cheek, breaking it and causing him to miss a month. He didn’t exactly pitch well on his return.

Lou Brissie.

You don’t have to get it in the face to be taken down for any length of time—and even out. Now a popular Angels broadcaster, Mark Gubicza in 1996 was a veteran Kansas City righthander who took one off his left leg, suffering a fracture that caused him to miss the final half of his final Kansas City. Career essentially over, if you don’t count an aborted comeback bid with the Angels. Matt Clement’s career ended similarly: enjoying a career year with the 2005 Red Sox, he took a liner in the face from then-Tampa Bay outfielder Carl Crawford in July. He managed to make his next start, but the Crawford shot did to Clement what Mussina feared would happen to himself, and Clement was gone a year later.

Several generations earlier, Lou Brissie, the courageous Philadelphia Athletics lefthander, took a line shot off a leg from Ted Williams—on Opening Day, 1948. (Brissie had made his major league debut the previous September, in Yankee Stadium, on the day the Yankees honoured Babe Ruth.) What amplified the horror: the leg was the one Brissie begged military doctors to save, when they wanted to amputate, after it had been all but blown to bits in World War II battle. (Brissie needed 23 surgeries and a metal brace in order to even think about baseball, never mind impress A’s emperor Connie Mack with his courage.)

Brissie went down fast and Williams hustled over from first base to see if Brissie would be ok. “Dammit, Ted,” Brissie is said to have cracked, “why didn’t just pull the ball?”

It’s every pitcher’s worst nightmare. And not all of them handle it the way Lou Brissie and Herb Score did. “I talked to Gil and told him it was something that could happen to anyone,” Score would say in due course. “It’s just like a pitcher beaning a hitter. He didn’t mean it.” After missing the rest of the season recuperating, Score would lose his formidable arm—to faulty mechanics, by his own admission, after he tried coming back too soon from an elbow tear.

The medication that kept him pitching finally left him fearful of a line drive to the face . . .

Retiring at thirty, when he was still somewhere about ten dimensions beyond the top of his game, Sandy Koufax admitted he was prompted in considerable part by the medical regimen he underwent to keep pitching with his arthritic elbow. “[T]o walk around with a constant upset stomach because of the pills and to be high half the time during a ballgame because you’re taking painkillers, I don’t want to have to do that.”

He didn’t have to say it. Phil Collier, a San Diego Tribune reporter, who sat on the story of Koufax’s final season for a year until Koufax himself announced his retirement, said it for him. “He took codeine before he pitched,” Collier once said. “Because of the codeine, it affected his reaction time. He was afraid sooner or later someone was going to hit him in the head with a line drive.”

It was hard not to be grateful that Brandon McCarthy wasn’t on anything but his own power when he went down. That may be the only thing about which we can be grateful on McCarthy’s behalf right now. But it was hard not to remember Koufax’s halting admission to suffering every pitcher’s worst nightmare when looking at the number on McCarthy’s back.

Thirty-two.

The End for Abreu, Possibly . . .

Abreu—approaching the end of a solid career?

Someone had to go in order for the Los Angeles Dodgers to clear a spot for incoming Shane Victorino, and it looks as though veteran Bobby Abreu, Victorino’s former Philadelphia Phillies teammate, is the unlucky candidate. The Dodgers designated him for assignment Wednesday.

It isn’t that Abreu had become baggage by any means—in seventy games he had a .359 on-base percentage, though he wasn’t hitting quite to his one-time level—but the Dodgers for now just had little enough role for him now other than pinch-hitting duty, with an outfield of Victorino, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier. Clearly, according to ESPN, manager Don Mattingly wasn’t all that anxious to let Abreu go just yet.

Bobby kind of came at a time when we had some guys hurt, did a great job for us. He’s another guy in the clubhouse who’s been good with the young players, talking to them about hitting. To me, he’s an intelligent guy who understands the game and everything that’s going on with it. He’s just good for guys.

Once a Phillies mainstay who became a better than useful player with the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels, Abreu found himself released in late April when Mike Trout—making a solid Rookie of the Year and American League Most Valuable Player case (he leads the Show in WAR at this writing)—was promoted to stay.

The Dodgers picked him up with the Angels paying most of his $9 million 2012 salary. Mattingly hopes the Dodgers can hold onto Abreu in one way or another, pending his acceptance to Albuquerque (AAA) until the Show rosters can expand 1 September, ESPN says. The Dodgers have ten days to trade or release the veteran otherwise; if they find a deal to their reluctant liking, Abreu could still help a team as a designated hitter who can still hit reasonably enough (his outfield skills, which were never formidable, have all but eroded) as well as mentoring their younger hitters.

Abreu himself was realistic about his role with the Dodgers during July, even though his once-formidable power numbers were no longer possible at age 38.

I never change my approach. I’m just trying to work the count, get on base and start rallies. I’ve got good guys behind me that can knock home some runs, so I just need to get on base.

If this is approaching the end of Abreu’s line, though, he would leave the game with a formidable resume. Over seventeen major league seasons, he is, at this writing, number 23 on the all-time doubles list (he led the National League in 2002 with 50 doubles), and he’s number 51 all time in times on base. In parts of 17 seasons, Abreu has amassed 2,434 hits and drawn 1,451 walks. He actually ranks 51st in baseball history in overall times on base. Perhaps more impressive: His 565 doubles rank 23rd in the history of baseball. He’s driven in 100 or more runs in a season eight times.

In his heyday with the Phillies . . .

And, Abreu has more WAR than a small boatload of players including a few Hall of Famers—his 57 overall WAR through this writing are more than Hall of Famers Zack Wheat, Yogi Berra, Willie Stargell, Bill Dickey, Joe Medwick, Tony Perez, and Kirby Puckett, among others; among active players, he’s behind only (in ascending order) Adrian Beltre, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Carlos Beltran, Roy Halladay, Derek Jeter, Jim Thome, Chipper Jones, Albert Pujols, and Alex Rodriguez. He has 57.3 offensive WAR, which puts him in the top hundred all-time in that isolated category.

He was highly enough valued even as he approached the apparent end. What might be forgotten now is this: before the Yankees unloaded A.J. Burnett to the Pittsburgh Pirates last winter, they wanted to bring Abreu back (he’d been a useful Yankee from 2006-2008 and, among other things, stole the last known base in the old Yankee Stadium before it closed) and offered Burnett to the Angels for him.

The Angels were willing to do it. They respected Abreu while having no room for him as a regular anymore, after he’d played well enough for them over three seasons, making a parallel reputation for shepherding their younger hitters toward better plate patience. But Burnett scotched the deal, infuriating Abreu, who wanted to go to the Yankees if the Angels couldn’t play him every day (the Yankees sought DH help last winter and Abreu would have fit the plan well enough) when they had young comers ready to step up.

Burnett ended up with the Pirates, where he’s enjoying a renaissance of his own. (He’s got a respectable record on the season thus far and damn near no-hit the Cubs the other night.) Abreu ended up further fighting the reality that age was finally catching up to him in terms of regular play, demanding the Angels play him as an everyday DH or trade him. (The Angels also couldn’t swing a deal with the Indians for him.) Then, they released him to make room for Trout.

Abreu actually might have gotten back to the Yankees in another way. Strange as it may seem, considering how the Phillies unloaded him to the Yankees for a package of non-entities at the 2006 non-waiver deadline, the Phillies had ideas last winter about dealing for Abreu—it was thought they’d send Joe Blanton to the Angels for Abreu, then flip Abreu to the Yankees for Burnett. That deal didn’t pan out, either.

The Phillies did become a National League East powerhouse after the original Abreu trade. But Abreu’s image as a clubhouse cancer may actually have stemmed from his concern that, as good as they looked, those Phillies weren’t as close to contending as some thought. And the Phillies’ rise may have had less to do with moving Abreu than you might think.

You wonder if the Phillies would have bagged more than one World Series ring in the coming run if they’d kept him, especially since Abreu did help the Yankees win the American League East in 2006 and the American League wild card in 2007. (He also played well for them in those two division series, both of which the Yankees lost.) You wonder if the Phillies would have done better in their impressive run had they gotten better for Abreu, since his value was at its absolute peak at the time of that trade. Bleacher Report isn’t the only one who wonders if there weren’t better offers on the table for him (only one of the minor leaguers who went to the Phillies is still with the organisation), and whether the 2006 Phillies used the chemistry issue to beard a salary dump.

Abreu may have a solid future ahead of him as a hitting instructor, at least. He’s smart enough to become a manager, even. He’s been, basically, one of the game’s quiet stars, a solid hitter with an off-the-chart ability to work pitch counts (he often led his league in pitches seen) and reach base. (He has averaged 126 strikeouts per 162 games lifetime, but he’s also averaged 101 walks per 162.) As a matter of fact, according to the Bill James definitions, Abreu meets 54 of the Hall of Fame batting standards (the average Hall of Famer would meet 50) and scores 94 on the Hall of Fame batting monitor.

I bet you didn’t realise Abreu shook out through this writing as just about an average Hall of Famer. The kind who snuck up on you when you almost weren’t looking, even if his case, if he has one, would be made almost entirely by his bat and his ability to reach base. (At best, Abreu was a serviceable outfielder; at worst, he could be a bit of a klutz whom people thought, perhaps wrongly, was dogging it.) I don’t think he will become a Hall of Famer; I’d have to say his odds are long enough. (Among other liabilities: he’s only ever been an All-Star twice.) But never let anyone tell you this guy was anything less than a thoroughgoing professional who learned to use his skills as they were, not as he might have hoped they’d be.

Abreu’s been a  brainy hitter with quite a bit of power, brilliance on the basepaths (bet you didn’t realise his lifetime stolen base percentage as of today is .756) and quite a bit of run productivity. (He averaged 194 runs produced per 162 games lifetime, through this writing.) He learned his strengths, played with and to them, and did whatever he could do within them to help his teams win, even if his teams often didn’t realise what they would miss until after they let him go.

DID YOU KNOW . . . Bobby Abreu has been almost the same hitter on the road as he’s been at home. He has only twenty less lifetime home runs on the road; his road OBP and slugging percentages aren’t that far off his home figures; and, he’s been practically even up between the first and second halves of a season. He was as consistent as they came when his skills were at full strength.

His best months, lifetime: June and September/October, in both of which he’s a lifetime .400+ hitter. Situational hitting: .942 OPS with runners in scoring position; .855 with a man on third and two out;  .928 with two out and men in scoring position; 1.052 with two out and the bases loaded; .855 when the game was late and close; and, .882 when the game was tied or within a run either way.

In other words, Bobby Abreu was an excellent clutch hitter. Maybe not quite a Hall of Fame-caliber clutch hitter, but you never should have been anywhere close to a nervous breakdown if he was at the plate and the game was on the line or close enough to it.

The Dempster Backstory, and other heads and tales . . .

Turns out the Chicago Cubs got a pair of A-level minor leaguers, Christian Vilanueva (3B) and Kyle Hendricks (RHP), from the Texas Rangers for Ryan Dempster . . . decent prospects but not necessarily blue chips. For the most part, few no-questions-asked blue chip prospects moved in the non-waiver trade period, Jean Segura (SS) possibly having been the bluest of the chips when he went to Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke deal.

How and why did the Rangers—hungering for rotation help with Colby Lewis gone for the year (entering the final fortnight, his was the hole they needed to fill)—end up settling for Dempster when all was said and done? According to Fox’s Ken Rosenthal:

* Approaching the non-waiver trade deadline the Rangers’ real first love was Cole Hamels—but Hamels signed that $144 million, six-year extension with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Ryan Dempster—the Rangers landed him only too much in the nick of time . . .

* With Hamels out of reach, the Rangers’ next great love was Zack Greinke—but they were out-bid for him by the Los Angeles Angels, simply because the Rangers were unwilling to surrender any of their top three farm prospects (they offered their numbers six and fifteen; the Brewers said not quite) and less likely than the Angels (who sent the Brewers Segura as part of the trade package and have the farm depth to have been able to make the deal) to be able to sign Greinke long-term. Which made the Rangers only too normal under today’s collective bargaining agreement that puts serious reins on spending for prospects.

* With Greinke out of reach, the Rangers went talking about every other starting pitcher known to be available. Except that Miami’s Josh Johnson is an established health risk, Tampa Bay’s James Shields picked the wrong time to slump, their own one-time World Series carrier Cliff Lee was too damn expensive, and Boston’s Josh Beckett had just too many issues—from his own expensive salary to his own history of health and clubhouse issues. (Which means, Rosenthal says, the Red Sox may have missed their own best shot at moving Beckett, and the Rangers lost out on a possible blockbuster that might have included another element they hoped to get: seeking a lineup sparkplug, they’d coveted Shane Victorino, who went to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but would have taken Jacoby Ellsbury if the two sides could work a blockbuster that didn’t happen.)

* With Dempster, the Cubs themselves were over the proverbial barrel—the new rules would have given the Cubs draft pick compensation if Dempster left as a free agent after the Cubs made him a single-year, qualifying offer, which they might not have been willing to do for a pitcher Dempster’s age if it meant losing a first-round pick.

* Dempster himself helped the Rangers’ cause when he spurned a deal to the Atlanta Braves; the Dodgers—Dempster’s known first choice—didn’t want to part with their top prospects for him (they refused to budge on Allen Webster, not that you could blame them), and Dempster himself was in the Cub front offices watching the haggle with the Dodgers, perhaps enough to cause him to change his mind on his hoped-for choice. Then, if a deal couldn’t get done with the Dodgers, Dempster let it slip that he wouldn’t say no to the Yankees or the Rangers, and for likewise personal reasons: in New York, two Dempster allies (former Cub GM Jim Hendry, former pitching coach Larry Rothschild, who now has that job in the Bronx) are there, and in Arlington there’s another former Cub teammate he respects (future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux) working in the front office.

“Time will tell,” Rosenthal writes, “if Dempster made the right decision by rejecting the Braves and switching leagues just months before he enters the free-agent market — he not only is moving to the more hitter-friendly AL but also to hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark.”

And barely had Dempster agreed to the move—which happened practically as the period expired—when the Rangers got hit with a double-whammy: Neftali Feliz, their closer-turned-starter, who looked impressive enough in the new job until he went down with elbow trouble in May, now needs Tommy John surgery and will be lost until the middle of next summer at least; and, Roy Oswalt, whom they signed as a free agent in May, continued showing his age and has been transferred to the bullpen.

They could still end up with a Cliff Lee homecoming, though—there’s always a chance of making a deal on Lee once a) he clears the waiver wire; and, as just about every analyst figures, the Phillies get it into their thick skulls that they’re going to have to eat some money to move him. Which would embarrass the Phillies far less than the Red Sox have been embarrassed since they moved Kevin Youkilis: the erstwhile Greek God of Walks is enjoying a renaissance with the White Sox, while the Olde Towne Team ended up with a small-enough return for moving Youkilis, Scott Podsednik, and Matt Albers.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .

There were some deals that didn’t get made but might or should have:

* Chase Headley—San Diego did a lot of talking about moving their third base prize; lots of people wanted Carlos Quentin and Huston Street, too, but those two signed contract extensions while Headley, who stayed on the market until the non-waiver deadline, went nowhere. Leaving the Padres, according to Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan, to see if they can get a better package for him after the season.

* Michael Cuddyer—The former Minnesota mainstay now with the Rockies and struggling a bit, there was a GM or two who wanted him but the Rockies didn’t want to let him go, for whatever reasons.

* Chris Perez—Cleveland needs to continue rebuilding; Perez could have brought them a decent if not spectacular return from a team in dire need of relief fortification (the New York Mets or the Brewers, anyone?), but the Indians decided to hold him.

* Denard Span—The Twins wouldn’t mind moving him, and the Cincinnati Reds—who fortified what might be the best bullpen in baseball this year when they added Jonathan Broxton before the non-waiver deadline—could have plugged in their leadoff hole nicely with Span. And the Reds right now are baseball’s most solid team without Joey Votto; they’d have been downright filthy with Votto and Span in the ranks.

* Scott Hairston—Among pieces the slipping Mets might have moved, Hairston would have brought the best return. Maybe the Mets aren’t giving up on the season just yet, maybe they are, but if they’re not giving up on the season it’s to wonder why they didn’t offer up Hairston seeking badly-needed bullpen help, since the only thing making their bullpen look anything close to serviceable is the horror of a bullpen in Milwaukee. The Mets aren’t being run by dummies anymore, and you know damn well they won’t even think about moving the like of David Wright, R.A. Dickey, Ike Davis (who’s beginning to rehorse after a frightful beginning this season), Matt Harvey, or Bobby Parnell (they may still see him as their closer of the future, if he can get that explosive stuff of his under control), but holding Hairston when his trade value was at peak may have been a bigger mistake than it looked as the non-waiver deadline approached.

The Trade Winds, Approaching the Eleventh Hour, and other sorties . . .

The Ryan Dempster situation may be hovering in mid-air, but that didn’t stop the Chicago Cubs from dealing elsewhere Monday. They sent Geovanny Soto (C) to the Texas Rangers for a minor league pitcher; and, they sent Paul Maholm (LHP) and Reed Johnson (OF) to the Atlanta Braves for another pair of pitching prospects.

The early skinny has it that the Cubs moved two players they really no longer needed and landed a prime prospect, righthander Arodys Vizcaino, for their trading. Vizcaino was considered the Braves’ number two prospect, and with a 95+mph fastball until he went down for the season with Tommy John surgery. The Braves didn’t come out terribly in the deal; Maholm has been one of baseball’s most quietly successful pitchers this season, and Johnson brings a boatload of platoon outfield experience while having a solid season. These two should help the Braves’ postseason push.

The Rangers didn’t make out too badly, either. Soto may have been slipping since his 2008 Rookie of the Year campaign but he brings defensive depth to the Rangers’ catching corps. This allows them to think of Mike Napoli playing first base and even DHing and of the end of the line for Yorvit Torrealba, who’s expected to be designated for assignment. The pitcher the Cubs received in the Soto deal, Jacob Brigham, was a sixth-round 2006 draft who never appeared in the Rangers’ major league spring camp until 2012. Brigham is considered a) a hard thrower, and b) gravy for the Cubs if he ends up with the team productively.

Meanwhile, Matt Garza hasn’t gone anywhere yet but that doesn’t mean the Cubs aren’t still trying to move him, too. At last note, the Cincinnati Reds and the Toronto Blue Jays looked like potential matches for a Garza deal.

FURTHER TRADE WINDS . . .

* The Los Angeles Dodgers bumped up their bullpen for a postseason push, landing former All-Star Brandon League—who was one of six Seattle pitchers to collaborate on no-hitting the Dodgers in June—for minor league prospect Logan Bawcom (RHP) and Leon Landry (OF), both of whom could spell good things for the Mariners in the near future.

* The Mariners also sent righthanded relief pitcher Steve Delabar to the Blue Jays for outfielder Eric Thames.

* The Blue Jays landed another starboard-side reliever Monday, getting Brad Lincoln from the Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Travis Smith—the Pirates, for their part, had been looking for help at the plate and in the outfield as they continue pushing for their first postseason appearance since the first Clinton Administration.

MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE JUNGLE . . .

BOMBS AWAY—Bad enough the Los Angeles Angels flattening the Rangers 15-8 Monday. Worse: All hell breaking loose in the top of the sixth at the Rangers’ expense. Especially what Kendrys Morales did to the Rangers in the sixth inning to bust out of a slump and frame a nine-run inning. First, with the teams tied up at three, he hit one lefthanded with Albert Pujols aboard, nobody out, and Roy Oswalt on the mound. Then, after five straight singles, with Torii Hunter a punchout but Pujols given first on the house to re-load the bases at two out, Morales batted righthanded against Robbie Ross and hit a grand slam. It made Morales only the third player in Show history to go yard from both sides of the plate. (The others: Carlos Baerga, Cleveland, 1993; Mark Bellhorn, Chicago Cubs, 2002.)

He made it easy to forget that Mike Trout homered, drove in four, and scored thrice. Or, that Pujols doubled twice. Or, that Macier Izturis homered.

GOING LONG—Striking out 21 Oakland Athletics in fifteen innings wasn’t enough for the Tampa Bay Rays, when Jemile Weeks—all 0-for-7 of him on the night thus far—took advantage of a five-man infield alignment to sneak a sacrifice fly on which Brandon Inge beat a throw home for the 4-3 squeaker. The win extended the A’s major league walkoff win lead to twelve.

Now He’ll Be an Angel: Greinke Traded for Rookie SS, Two Prime Pitching Prospects

The market for starters has shrunk by one. Zack Greinke is going to the Los Angeles Angels for rookie shortstop Jean Siguera and a pair of minor league pitchers, Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg. And Zack the Knife, whose preferred destination was long thought to be the Atlanta Braves, isn’t exactly unhappy about the move:

It should be fun. They are a great team. After the first month of the season, they have been one of the best teams in baseball. There is a lot of talent there. A lot of great players. The pitching staff will be pretty incredible.

Neither is Angels general manager Jerry DiPoto, who’s seen dividends enough with the winter signings of pitcher C.J. Wilson and (after a very sluggish beginning) first baseman Albert Pujols.

It’s an exciting day. We hope that this move will be not just a short-term gain, but one that’s good for the organization. We’re excited to see what kind of a difference he can make.

Note DiPoto’s phrasing. If Greinke does help make a difference—the Angels are five behind the Rangers in the AL West, in good wild card position, but not necessarily known for liking to finish lower than first place if they can help it—“not just a short-term gain” could be code for the Angels gunning for this deal because they think they have a decent shot at signing Greinke long-term.

Greinke joins a rotation that features Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Wilson . . . and gives the Angels a quartet of All-Stars to wheel out every fifth day. His pending free agency, and the Brewers’ slide in the National League Central after losing Prince Fielder to free agency, made him expendable.

The Brewers, for their part, didn’t exactly get nothing in return. Segura was hitting .294 with seven bombs and 33 thefts at AA before his Tuesday callup to the Angels. Hellweg (all 6’9″ of him) had a 3.38 ERA in 21 AA starts; Pena, a 2.99 in 19 starts, not to mention being second in the Texas League with 111 punchouts. All three are top-ten prospects according to Baseball America, with Hellweg as the nugget ranking number four in the Angels’ system entering 2012.

Now He'll Be an Angel: Greinke Traded for Rookie SS, Two Prime Pitching Prospects

The market for starters has shrunk by one. Zack Greinke is going to the Los Angeles Angels for rookie shortstop Jean Siguera and a pair of minor league pitchers, Ariel Pena and Johnny Hellweg. And Zack the Knife, whose preferred destination was long thought to be the Atlanta Braves, isn’t exactly unhappy about the move:

It should be fun. They are a great team. After the first month of the season, they have been one of the best teams in baseball. There is a lot of talent there. A lot of great players. The pitching staff will be pretty incredible.

Neither is Angels general manager Jerry DiPoto, who’s seen dividends enough with the winter signings of pitcher C.J. Wilson and (after a very sluggish beginning) first baseman Albert Pujols.

It’s an exciting day. We hope that this move will be not just a short-term gain, but one that’s good for the organization. We’re excited to see what kind of a difference he can make.

Note DiPoto’s phrasing. If Greinke does help make a difference—the Angels are five behind the Rangers in the AL West, in good wild card position, but not necessarily known for liking to finish lower than first place if they can help it—“not just a short-term gain” could be code for the Angels gunning for this deal because they think they have a decent shot at signing Greinke long-term.

Greinke joins a rotation that features Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Wilson . . . and gives the Angels a quartet of All-Stars to wheel out every fifth day. His pending free agency, and the Brewers’ slide in the National League Central after losing Prince Fielder to free agency, made him expendable.

The Brewers, for their part, didn’t exactly get nothing in return. Segura was hitting .294 with seven bombs and 33 thefts at AA before his Tuesday callup to the Angels. Hellweg (all 6’9″ of him) had a 3.38 ERA in 21 AA starts; Pena, a 2.99 in 19 starts, not to mention being second in the Texas League with 111 punchouts. All three are top-ten prospects according to Baseball America, with Hellweg as the nugget ranking number four in the Angels’ system entering 2012.