Big Moves in the Central Race


The Detroit Tigers began the month of July with a four game lead in the division.  They end the month having seen that lead dwindle to just 1.5 games.  The Tigers suffered their first losing month of the season, going just 10-14.  The Tigers managed to top the American League in team ERA during July, so the hitting has been the main culprit.

So what did the Tigers do at the deadline?  Why, they added a pitcher of course.  Don’t get me wrong, actually I’m a fan of the move.

Even by Jim Leyland’s view point, the league was going to figure out Luke French before long.  Leyland has mentioned on numerous occasions that he felt French was getting by simply because opponents hadn’t seen him before.  In addition, French was half of the rookie tandem with Rick Porcello, that was hamstrung by pitch counts, forcing Leyland to use his bullpen more frequently that when the other three starters pitched.

Jarrod Washburn will bring no such restrictions.  The former Mariner comes to Detroit with a 106-106 career record, but has been outstanding this season.  His 2.64 ERA ranks second in the league, just ahead of new teammate Edwin Jackson.  He has the lowest WHIP in the league and has allowed the fewest hits per nine innings of any AL starter.  There are those that will point to his benefiting from a fine Seattle defense, but the defense behind him in Detroit will be very good as well.

Washburn’s contract expires at the end of the season, but the move to deal French, along with minor league prospect Mauricio Robles, in exchange for even two months of Washburn’s services is a very solid, “win-now” trade.  Currently Washburn projects as a Type-B free agent after the season, so if the Tigers elect to offer arbitration and Washburn signs elsewhere, the Tigers will pick up a compensation draft choice.

The Tigers were able to add a very good veteran pitcher without touching any of the clubs top-tier prospects.  All the names that were tossed around in the days leading up to the deadline are still in the system.  No, Washburn is not Roy Halladay, and he’s not Cliff Lee, but French and Robles are not Porcello, Casey Crosby, Scott Sizemore, Wilkin Ramirez or Ryan Perry, either.

While the team failed to address the glaring offensive holes prior to the non-waiver deadline, there is still time for moves to be made.  Most baseball people expect a very busy month of August, as players pass through trade waivers and deals can be completed.  As more teams drop from contention, more hitters will become available, and demand for those hitter will drop.  So if you had your heart set on Adam Dunn, relax, Dunn was dealt in August last year, and his price went down as of 4:01 pm July 31.

The wild card in the Tigers push for the playoffs will undoubtedly be Carlos Guillen.  The former All-Star shortstop is still only able to DH and only able to hit from the left side thanks to a bad right shoulder.  If he can get back to playing the outfield soon, the Tigers can expand their search for a bat to include DH type hitters, not just corner outfielders.

The better Guillen feels, the more likely a deal for a player like Dunn becomes.  If Dunn has to play in the outfield, his value is diminished by his poor defensive skills.  If Guillen cannot return to the field, the team is left to look at hitters that can also play quality defense, which will be a much shorter list.

The Twins sit just two games behind the Tigers and they added shortstop Orlando Cabrera to solidify their team.  Cabrera had a great July, hitting .377 during the month.  The Twins, like the Tigers, seemed to have addressed the wrong problem, however.  The Minnesota pitching staff has been no where near as good as was expected, and they lost Kevin Slowey for the rest of the year.  Cabrera makes them better, but he won’t solve the pitching issues.

What he does do, perhaps more importantly, is quiet the complaints form Twins’ stars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.  Both players had been openly lobbying the front office to make a move this year, with Mauer even hinting that the lack of action would make it less likely he would want to stay in Minnesota once his contract runs out.

The White Sox also made a big splash at the deadline.  Just 1.5 games back of Detroit, the Sox traded almost every good young arm they had to San Diego in exchange for Jake Peavy.  The move sounds fantastic, until you consider two things; Peavy is owed $56 million through 2012, the White Sox are paying all of that, and he’s still hurt.

Last word on Peavy’s torn ankle tendon was that it was no better than 50/50 he would pitch at any point this year.  In the meantime, the Sox lose Clayton Richard, who had been slotted in as the fifth starter and had performed very well in that role as of late.

While adding Peavy may prove to be shrewd move in future years, today the White Sox don’t look like a better team.  Add in his salary, and the Sox will have to be creative in order to keep the aging core of that club together beyond this year.