By Larry Stone

The Seattle Times

The best pitcher traded at the deadline – Jake Peavy – probably won’t even be ready to pitch for at least another month, if at all.

One of the best position players traded – Scott Rolen – went to a Reds team that was 11 games under .500, 9½ games out of first place, and had lost nine out of 10.

The player that the baseball world has spent the past three breathless weeks ruminating, agonizing and salivating over — Roy Halladay — didn’t go anywhere.

No one can say that this year’s deadline melodrama wasn’t eventful. It was a seemingly nonstop whirlwind of trade activity – and that’s just the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates didn’t just clean house; they took a firehose to the place and blasted out all the contents.

The Mariners, who came away with shortstop Jack Wilson and pitcher Ian Snell, were just one of the teams to benefit from Pittsburgh’s largesse. Out the door since June, besides those two, have gone (hold your applause until the end) Nate McLouth, Eric Hinske, Nyjer Morgan, Sean Burnett, Adam LaRoche, Freddy Sanchez, John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny.

Pittsburgh management points to the fact that those 10 players (including seven that would have been free agents) netted 19 players, mostly minor-leaguers, that will be the foundation of a new contender. But for fans that have been hearing the same thing for what will soon be 17 straight losing seasons, it rings hollow.

What else happened this trade season? Both Hairston brothers, Scott and Jerry, got dealt. Only one LaRoche (Adam) was traded, but he was flipped twice, so maybe that counts the same. He went from Pittsburgh to Boston on July 22, and from Boston to Atlanta on July 31.

That’s the same Braves team that traded LaRoche to Pittsburgh for reliever Mike Gonzalez in January 2007. Call it the circle of life in MLB.

The Yankees, of all teams, were dictated by management not to add to their payroll (of course, their payroll was already $201 million), and wound up only with a Hairston of the Jerry variety.

The Twins got Orlando Cabrera, and hope he’ll do for them what he did for the Red Sox precisely five years earlier. Boston picked him up on July 31, 2004, to replace Nomar Garciaparra, and Cabrera played a major role in the team’s eventual World Series title.

It’s obligatory to list the “winners and losers” at times like this, even though that can depend entirely on a team’s objective: winning this year, or building for the future. And that can be a dicey proposition.

Obviously, Giants fans would be ecstatic if Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Garko lead them into the postseason, where they hope that the dynamite tandem of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, with possible help from Randy Johnson, can pitch them to the franchise’s first World Series title since 1954.

But if they fall short of that, the departure of a high-end prospect like pitcher Tim Alderson (to the Pirates) could haunt for years. It’s the eternal gamble of the trade deadline.

Remember also that last year, the flashiest deal paid huge dividends – CC Sabathia’s brilliance pulled the Brewers into the postseason for the first time since 1982.

But it was an under-the-radar trade, one that was scarcely even noticed at the time — Joe Blanton from Oakland to Philadelphia for three minor-leaguers — that may well have meant a World Series win for the Phillies. Blanton was 4-0 in 13 starts for a Phillies team that won its division by three games, then went 2-0 in the postseason, including a World Series victory.

With that in mind, here are five winners and five losers:

WINNERS

1, Philadelphia Phillies. They didn’t get Halladay, but they got Cliff Lee, who promptly threw a complete-game four-hitter in his Phillies debut. The Phils, who didn’t have to give up any blue-chippers coveted by the Jays, have greatly improved their chances of winning a second straight title.

2, Detroit Tigers. They desperately needed pitching help, and they landed Jarrod Washburn, who, after Halladay and Lee, was the best arm available. Yes, they gave up two young pitchers that should help the Mariners, but this is the kind of risk-reward move that contenders have to make.

3, Seattle Mariners. Jack Zduriencik threw the whole buyer-seller paradigm out the window with moves designed to help them now and later. They filled a huge void at shortstop with Wilson, gambled on the high upside of troubled Snell, got another starter (Luke French) for their current rotation, and a potential future stud in Mauricio Robles. For those who argue that trading Washburn was like giving up on the playoff race; face reality: They were essentially out of the playoff race already.

4, Florida Marlins. As usual, the Marlins are a stealth contender. Their shrewd general manager, Larry Beinfest, landed Nick Johnson, who will hit right in front of Hanley Ramirez, where his .408 on-base percentage will provide a major boost to the Florida offense. And the Nationals are paying almost all of Johnson’s salary, always important to the cost-conscious Marlins.

5, Chicago White Sox. GM Ken Williams was tenacious in his pursuit of Peavy, and landed a pitcher who, when healthy, was one of the top three in the National League. He’s out with an ankle injury, but the White Sox are confident he’ll be back for September – still time to help them in their pursuit of the Tigers. And the White Sox have Peavy under contract through 2012 (with an option, at a cool $22 million, for 2013). It’s a gamble, but one with grand-slam potential.

Honorable mention: St. Louis Cardinals.

LOSERS

1, Pittsburgh Pirates. Perhaps they made the greatest haul of young prospects in the history of baseball. Perhaps GM Neal Huntington truly has a coherent plan to lead the Pirates out of the wilderness. Nevertheless, they have yanked the heart and soul out of another disillusioned group of fans, who have been told to be patient for nearly two decades, with no tangible reward.

2, Cleveland Indians. Mark Shapiro is one of the best GMs around, and much of their dismantling was financially driven. He pulled off a successful reshaping of the Indians once before, and could well do it again. He got a lot of good, young talent, particularly from the Phillies and Red Sox. But for a team that just two years ago was one win away from the World Series, embarking on another complete teardown is a big, big comedown.

3, New York Yankees. It had to have killed the Yankees to watch the Red Sox land Victor Martinez and Casey Kotchman, and counter only with Jerry Hairston. But the Yankees might be so loaded, they don’t need much help.

4, Toronto Blue Jays. After all the hoopla over Halladay, they are now left with an exceedingly awkward situation. First, they have an ace that knows his team wanted to deal him. And two, they have decreased bargaining power when Halladay again, inevitably, goes on the market at the winter meetings.

5, Kansas City Royals. Two words: Yuniesky Betancourt. That they actively sought him as the answer to their shortstop needs makes one question the wisdom of their brain trust.

Honorable mention: The do-nothing contenders: Angels, Mets, Astros, Rangers, Brewers.


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