Analyzing the MLB trade deals

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 1, 2001

The Major League Baseball trading deadline came and went without any blockbuster trades occuring. But the trades that did take place on Tuesday and the days leading up to the deadline seem like they will be beneficial for the stretch run pennant races that teams are in.

As always, the Yankees pick up key players in the later parts of the season. Last year, the Bronx Bombers picked up Luis Sojo, who ended up with the World Series-winning hit. This year, it was Sterling Hitchcock, who is fresh off rehabilitation and has been throwing the ball well in his past few starts. Throw Hitchcock in with Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte, and the Yanks have a rotation that will only be second to the Seattle Mariners come October.

The Red Sox rescued Ugueth Urbina from Montreal, shoring up their bullpen. The Sox have somehow managed to succeed without the services of Carl Everett and Nomar Garciaparra – and with closer Derek Lowe self-destructing lately. Boston could now make a run at the Yankees, instead of a Wild Card.

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The Indians made a subtle move that might catapult them above the Twins for good. Milton Bradley was an enigma in Montreal, shuffling between the home club and AAA ball all season. with a permenant home on a winner, Bradley could flourish, not only this season, but for years to come.

Meanwhile, Minnesota seemed like it took a &uot;let’s-try-to-win-it-now&uot; attitude by moving Matt Lawton to the Mets for Rick Reed. The Twins pitching hasn’t been as effective as it was at the beginning of the year, so management must have felt it had to get Reed for veteran experience. But in giving up Lawton, the Twins lose their young leadoff guy who plays a great left field. It’s almost as if the Twins are saying, ‘Hey, we didn’t expect to be in the hunt. Let’s go for it because we probably won’t be back next year.&uot;

The Houston Astros jumped on Tuesday – acquiring Pedro Astacio from Colorado and Mike Williams from Pittsburgh – in an attempt to catch Central Division-leading Chicago. Astacio has shown glimpses of stardom, but not as of late. He’s 1-8 in his last 10 starts dating to June 3 with a 5.49 ERA. Playing in Coors Field hurt him, but every pitcher can say that. And he’s certainly not moving to a pitcher’s park at Enron Field. But the Astros needed to move on a starting pitcher that has had past success. Getting out of Colorado an onto a contender could motivate him.

Chicago may have made the best improvements to its club. But only for a division title. Getting three lefty bats – Fred McGriff, Michael Tucker and Delino DeShields – may help win the division pennant because the Central Division has few left-handed starters and 30 of Chicago’s 57 remaining games are against Central foes. But it can’t win the Cubs the World Series. The outfield is too weak. Rondell White is expected back in the next week or so and that will certainly help defensively and at the No. 2 spot in the batting order. But an outfield of DeShields/Tucker, White and Sammy Sosa won’t cut it.

San Francisco picked up the best pitcher in Pittsburgh’s Jason Schmidt. He’s given up only 13 runs in his last five starts and joins a solid staff of Russ Ortiz (12 wins), Kirk Rueter (10), Livian Hernandez (9) and Shawn Estes (8). The Giants also acquired John Vander Wal, a productive outfielder who can be used almost anywhere and get a hit a day for a team.

All this activity will make for an exciting end to the season.

Nick Weber is the sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 445-3632, or by e-mail at