Major league teams obsess throughout the month of July about the deadline for making trades without passing players through waivers, then some of them sacrifice their best young talent for the prospect of some instant postseason gratification.
There have been countless situations where that bargain paid off with a missing puzzle piece that helped a team get into the playoffs, but there are plenty of other instances where things didn’t work out so well.
The jury is still out on 2014, of course, but the early returns haven’t been so great for a couple teams that acquired front-line starting pitchers.
The Oakland Athletics, who already had one of the top pitching staffs in the game, made July trades for three starters – Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel and Jon Lester – and currently are in the midst of a 2-8 slump that has dropped them into second place. The A’s had the best record in baseball on July 31, but are 10-12 since.
The banged-up Detroit Tigers pried former Cy Young Award winner David Price away from the Tampa Bay Rays and also have slipped from the top of the standings, going 10-9 since the waiver deadline while the Kansas City Royals have gone on an amazing 15-4 run to overtake them. The Royals stood pat at the deadline, but did pick up veteran outfielder Josh Willingham from the Twins last week.
The St. Louis Cardinals also made a big push for starting pitching – acquiring John Lackey and Justin Masterson -- and got off to a 5-6 start, but they have bounced back to win seven of their last eight games.
So far, the two top American League contenders that put emphasis on improving their bullpens have gotten the best results.
The Orioles were rumored to be in play for a starting pitcher, but they chose to add a big piece to their bullpen with the acquisition of left-hander Andrew Miller. Since July 31, the O’s are 13-5 and have increased their AL East lead from 1 ½ games to 9 games.
The Angels went further, overhauling their bullpen with three acquisitions, most notably closer Huston Street. Since that July 19 deal, they are 17-12, though eight of those victories came in their last 10 and vaulted them past the A’s.
It’s still August, of course, so there’s a pretty good chance the Tigers and A’s figure things out down the stretch, but the only certainty right now is that there are no sure things in baseball.