Most trade deadlines come and go with few deals of significance. But this year. . . . Wow. Lots of intrigue, lots of action.
The Prey: Mets pitcher Bret Saberhagen.
The Winning Predator: The Colorado Rockies.
Why: Rockies owner Jerry McMorris agreed with the assessment of his baseball people that Colorado needed one more solid pitcher to hold off the Dodgers in the NL West. The Rockies ignored the medical report (small rotator cuff tear) and the big money concerns ($4.3 million) that scared off other teams.
"If you go back to spring training," McMorris said, "we said if we were in the hunt and the fans continued to support us like they had, we had room [in the budget] to make another move.
"We are [in the hunt]. They have [supported the club]. We did [make another move]."
The Return: The Mets got pitcher Juan Acevedo, who led the Eastern League with 17 wins last year, and 18-year-old Arnold Gooch, a pitching prospect. The Mets are already worried, however, that Acevedo may have an arm problem.
The Prey: Minnesota pitcher Kevin Tapani.
The Winning Predator: The Dodgers.
Why: The Dodgers didn't undertake their pursuit of Tapani until Monday afternoon, just hours before the trading deadline, and completed the deal 45 minutes before the deadline. This was done in response to the Rockies' deal for Saberhagen.
"I was just going to bed," said Dodgers first baseman Eric Karros, "when I caught [ESPN] SportsCenter and saw the Rockies got Saberhagen. I'm thinking, 'You've got to be kidding me.'. . . . I feel a whole lot better about it after hearing [about the Tapani trade]. . . . I'm not saying this is the complete answer, but it definitely helps."
The Return: Tapani, now part of the Dodgers' rotation, came with left-handed reliever Mark Guthrie in exchange for three minor-leaguers. Pitcher Jose Parra was considered the best of the three prospects, and he's expected to replace Tapani in the rotation. Prospect Ron Croomer may unseat Scott Leius as the Minnesota third baseman.
The Prey: Detroit left-hander David Wells.
The Winning Predator: The Cincinnati Reds.
Why: Reds GM Jim Bowden had been given a hard-and-fast budget by owner Marge Schott, noted for her penny-pinching. But Bowden found a way to get more money out of his boss.
"I didn't push," Bowden said, "I didn't plead, I didn't shove. I laid out the options to her. I said, 'It is not a smart business move, you'll lose money. But if you want to win, here's what you do. We make the trade. If you go strictly by business and don't want to lose more money, don't do a deal.' "
The Return: The Reds gave up C.J. Nitkowski, their top pick in the '94 draft, a mediocre Triple-A pitcher and a player to be named later. The Reds must pick up Wells' $3 million salary next year.
The Prey: San Diego pitcher Andy Benes.
The Winning Predator: The Seattle Mariners.
Why: Benes could be eligible for free agency after this season, depending on how service time from the strike is counted, and he had reached a dead end with the Padres. In his last start on July 29, he had been booed heavily.
On the morning of July 31, the San Diego coaching staff met and agreed that Willie Blair could replace Benes in the rotation, freeing the right-hander to be traded. Seattle wanted Benes to aid their run at a wild-card bid, which may be critical for the future of the franchise: On Sept. 19, county voters will decide whether the Mariners will get a new $270 million stadium. If not, the Mariners may move.
So Seattle GM Woody Woodward worked hard to pick up one more pitcher to make the club more attractive. "I'd be lying if I didn't admit the stadium issue played a role in our decision," said Woodward.
The Return: The Mariners may have overpaid for a pitcher who could be a free agent after this season, giving up left-handed reliever Ron Villone and outfielder Marc Newfield. Some scouts think the Padres got a steal in this deal.
The Prey: St. Louis pitcher Ken Hill.
The Winning Predator: The Cleveland Indians.
Why: St. Louis was out of the race, and Hill was a major expense ($4.375 million) and a major disappointment.
"I was not happy with his performance or with his attitude," said Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty. "We were obviously disappointed with him."
The Return: Three minor-leaguers, including third baseman David Bell, the acquisition of whom may allow the Cardinals to not tender Scott Cooper a contract this off-season.
Block that trade
Making deals and augmenting the roster for a pennant drive sounds great in theory. But Colorado Rockies general manager Bob Gebhard and Bowden, who aggressively traded in the last hours before the deadline, are giving every indication they're going to be just as aggressive in preventing trades after the deadline. Any player traded must first clear waivers, and Gebhard and Bowden intend to make claims on any deal that could hurt their chances to win their respective divisions.