There is nothing sexy about bolstering the bullpen or adding a key utility player. Betting lines are not impacted when a team adds a set-up man or left-handed platoon specialist. However, small moves make teams better.
In the playoffs, if your starter goes six innings and has the lead, and you have a closer making $10 million, you still need to get six outs to get to your high-priced back-of-the-bullpen arm. In a tie game during the late innings with your opponent’s top reliever on the hill, it is really nice to have a left handed bat available with some pop and great split stats against righties.
The MLB’s non-waiver trade deadline is Friday, and over the past week we’ve begun to see some of the “real blockbusters” the deadline is known for. But even seemingly small pickups at the deadline will still have an impact on those in contention. Remember, even if a team only got marginally better, their chances of winning individual games is improved, and that impacts your wagers.
Johnny Cueto & Ben Zobrist to Kansas City – When he is good, Cueto is among the best in baseball. His tremendous outing on Friday, eight innings of four hit shutout ball against Colorado, lowered his season ERA to 2.62. That figure sits squarely between a career best 2.25 ERA last year and 2.82 and 2.78 from the previous two seasons.
He’ll slot in near the top of the Royals rotation, benefit from one of the top defenses in baseball behind him, and move all of the other average Kansas City starters down one spot in the rotation, easing some pressure, and making the team look that much stronger.
Zobrist’s versatility is also a nice boost to the Royals, who are missing Alex Gordon in left field. Zobrist and his .268 average can slot in there until Gordon’s return at which point he can move to second base and send Omar Infante’s useless bat to the bench where it belongs.
Kansas City were already favorites in a bad American League and now with a boosted order and rotation: this team is all-in on this season.
Troy Tulowitzki to Toronto – It wasn’t the arm Jays fans were expecting to get, but it was the big trade Alex Anthopoulos has become known for. Tulowitzki not only brings a .300 average and 12 home runs to the best offense in baseball; but his .978 fielding percentage is an improvement over Jose Reyes. Tulowitzki’s presence at shortstop should help cut down on some of the mistakes that were costing the Jays runs.
While more offense may not necessarily mean more wins for a team that likes to score in bunches, it does mean the over on Jays games is likely to see a bump down the stretch.
Scott Kazmir to Houston – While he doesn’t throw as hard, or create the same sort of buzz Cueto does, Kazmir provides a similar sort of addition. The Astros needed a number two starter that eases the load on their other pitchers. Since resurrecting his career, Kazmir has posted a 4.04 ERA with the Indians in 2013, a 3.55 mark with the A’s last year, and a 2.38 ERA this season in Oakland.
He was terrific in his Astros debut working seven shutout innings on three hits against the Royals. While he was equally effective last year away from the Oakland Coliseum as at home, this year Kazmir had a 1.36 ERA in front of home fans in a pitcher friendly park, and a 3.18 mark everywhere else.
Aramis Ramirez to Pittsburgh – He began his career in the Steel City before being traded and becoming a star with the Cubs. Now 37-years-old, Ramirez is back with the Pirates, and they are a legitimate contender to win the World Series. Nobody is going to be blown away by his data in 2015; a .241 average and 11 homers. However, he is just one year removed from hitting .285, one point higher than his career average.
Ramirez has lost much of the power that made him so good, but Pittsburgh didn’t trade for the old third baseman. For a team that has experienced injuries, he is a capable big league bat, and an average WAR player. At this point, that is an improvement for the Bucs.
Steve Cishek to St. Louis – The big right-hander has a career ERA of 2.68. He got off to a tough start this year, but has been lights out in 14 appearances since the end of May. He won’t be asked to close in St. Louis, and will be a valuable sixth or seventh inning reliever. You can never have too many guys who get outs.
Juan Uribe & Kelly Johnson to New York – The Mets offense isn’t very good and these aren’t splashy acquisitions. However, one of the two should start most days, and both are capable. These are not the guys that win you games, but they allow you to stay competitive. They both are decent hitters that make the roster better overall.
Conor Gillaspie to Los Angeles – The Angels were without a Major League caliber third baseman with David Freese on the disabled list. Gillaspie is the definition of average. He is a space holder for a team in contention that does not want to give away games with minor leaguers manning the hot corner.
(Photo Credit: Chrisjnelson at the English language Wikipedia [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)