Deadline assessments: Sizing up all clubs' activity
A year ago, Baltimore returned to the postseason for the first time in 15 years, getting knocked off by the New York Yankees in five games in the American League Division Series.
This year, the Orioles would like to end their 30-year absence from the World Series. .
No team made a bigger statement leading up to Wednesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline than the Orioles, who strengthened both their rotation -- acquiring right-handed starters Scott Feldman from the Cubs and Bud Norris from the Astros -- and bullpen via the acquisition of late-inning right-hander Francisco Rodriguez from Milwaukee.
A look at the activities of the 30 Major League teams in the last month:
MADE A STATEMENT
Dodgers: They made it clear a year ago they were going to be players, and they didn't back off that in July. First, Los Angeles landed a needed rotation arm in Ricky Nolasco from the Marlins. Then it took a couple of fliers to shore up the bullpen, hoping a changing of scenery can lead to a rebound for former Cubs closer Carlos Marmol, and that time has allowed Brian Wilson to recover from surgery. Wilson could be a key factor down the stretch, having handled closing duties for the World Series champion Giants in 2010.
Orioles: The O's have their sights set on a postseason spot. Baltimore may be 5 1/2 games back of Boston in the AL East and five behind Tampa Bay, but it is currently just a half-game behind Cleveland for the second Wild Card spot. Feldman came in early July to stabilize a rotation that had been auditioning top prospects without finding a definite fit, and Norris arrived in time to take the place of Jason Hammel, who was placed on the disabled list with a strained right flexor. Rodriguez provides an experienced late-inning arm with closing experience if Jim Johnson hits another funk. And while the Orioles gave up some top prospects, they didn't sacrifice anybody on their roster. Additionally, Norris is not free-agent eligible until after 2015.
Red Sox: The Sox also had interest in Norris, but they opted instead to be part of a three-team deal with Detroit and the Chicago White Sox that landed Jake Peavy, a necessity because of the uncertainty surrounding Clay Buchholz. Boston also shored up its bullpen by adding right-hander Brayan Villarreal from Detroit as part of the Peavy deal, and earlier acquiring lefty Matt Thornton from the White Sox. Those acquisitions helped offset the losses of closers Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey, along with setup man Andrew Miller, to season-ending injuries.
Rangers: Matt Garza gave the Rangers a proven starter they needed for the rotation, but there are questions if that is going to be enough in light of the possible suspension of outfielder Nelson Cruz for his part in the Biogenesis case, and the possibility Lance Berkman will spend the rest of the season on the disabled list. Texas has long coveted Twins outfielder Josh Willingham, who is on the disabled list until mid-August with a knee injury. He could be available in a waiver deal, and right now the Yankees are the only AL contender that has waiver priority on Texas.
Yankees: As usual, there were plenty of rumors swirling that included the Yankees, and it's not out of the question that they could still land infielder Michael Young from Philadelphia in August. The only move they wound up making in July was reacquiring Alfonso Soriano in a deal that actually could turn into a bigger boost for next year than this in light of the fact the Cubs are picking up all but $6.8 million of the $26.6 million remaining on Soriano's contract.
FILLING A HOLE
Athletics: The commitment to winning now was evident when the A's were willing to part with second baseman Grant Green -- their 2009 first-round pick who was hitting .323 at Triple-A -- to acquire infielder Alberto Callaspo from the Angels. Callaspo hasn't played second base regularly since '09, but it was his primary position in the Minor Leagues.
Braves: Lefty Scott Downs was exactly what the Braves needed to fill the bullpen void created by injuries to Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters. Atlanta had talks about starting-pitching help -- including Norris and Peavy -- but decided to give Brandon Beachy and Alex Wood a chance to pick up the slack created by injuries to Paul Maholm and Tim Hudson.
Indians: Cleveland had one glaring weakness -- left-handed reliever -- but didn't want to overpay to fill the void, finally settling on Marc Rzepczynski after declining to pay the asking price for Javier Lopez of San Francisco and Josh Outman of Colorado. After struggling in April, Rzepczynski was sent to Triple-A Memphis, returning a week ago after holding left-handed hitters to a .185 average in the nearly three months he spent in the Minors. The Indians have tried four lefties out of the 'pen, and they have a combined 6.47 ERA.
Nationals: An early addition of Scott Hairston from the Cubs to add bench depth wound up being the extent of the Nats' activity. A July stumble has sent them below .500, 11 games back of the National League East-leading Braves.
Tigers: Manager Jim Leyland has been trying to piece his bullpen together since Spring Training, and adding Houston closer Jose Veras (19 saves, 2.93 ERA) provides stability. Joaquin Benoit has settled into the closer role (8-for-8 in save chances since his June 9 move into the role), but Veras gives Leyland depth in that area down the stretch. Shortstop Jose Iglesias, who came from Boston in the three-team deal that saw the Tigers give up highly-regarded outfielder Avisail Garcia (who wound up with the White Sox), provides protection against the possible suspension of Jhonny Peralta, whose name has surfaced in the Biogenesis case.
TAKING A FLIER
D-backs: General manager Kevin Towers found the left-handed specialist he coveted in Joe Thatcher, along with relief prospect Matt Stites and a Competitive Balance Round B pick from the Padres. Towers did have to give up Ian Kennedy, but the right-handed starter has created concerns in Arizona with an ERA that has climbed from 2.88 in 2011 to 4.02 in '12 to 5.23 this year while his strikeout ratio declined.
Padres: Given the pitching-friendly environment of Petco Park, the Padres feel that it could be the remedy to what has been ailing Kennedy, who has seen his fly-ball ratio climb the last two years in Arizona.
Rays: Tampa Bay isn't going to outspend anybody in the AL East. And the Rays didn't have any pressing need to fill, but if they can find a bargain, they are always interested. And that's what they found with right-handed reliever Jesse Crain from the White Sox. Crain is on the disabled list, but the cost for the Rays will be tied to Crain's effectiveness down the stretch. And if he does bounce back from the shoulder issues, he can be a major addition. He did have a 0.74 ERA before being sidelined in late June.
Royals: After spending the last year bulking up the rotation, the Royals turned their attention to the outfield. Gorkys Hernandez came from Miami as a spare part, but the Royals are looking to Jason Maxwell, who has big-time power, to develop into a solid platoon with David Lough. They think enough of him that they parted with right-hander Kyle Smith, a legit middle-of-the-rotation prospect.
Cardinals: None of the three NL Central teams with postseason expectations made an impact move, but that could change in August for the Cardinals, who suddenly find themselves without catcher Yadier Molina (knee injury). They won't be able to replace his leadership, but they will have to watch the waiver wire closely in hopes of adding a veteran receiver. Their only July moves involved freeing up bullpen spots by sending Mitchell Boggs to Colorado for future considerations, and lefty Rzepczynski to Cleveland for rookie shortstop Juan Herrera, who is at the Rookie league level.
Pirates: The Bucs have ridden a strong effort from the pitching staff to the best record in the NL, but their offense is near the bottom of the pack. General manager Neal Huntington, however, refused to panic and overpay in a trade market in which Soriano was the only impact bat dealt.
Reds: General manager Walt Jocketty didn't panic. The Reds have a roster of talent, remain a legitimate factor in the postseason battles and still have the potential to play better than they have.
Angels: No concession speeches have been made, but the Angels gave up depth for prospects, sending infielder Callaspo to the A's for second baseman Green, a former first-round pick who's shown signs of being ready to make the jump to the big leagues, and veteran left-handed reliever Downs to Atlanta for right-hander Cory Rasmus. Green was hitting .323 at Triple-A Sacramento. Rasmus has a live arm that has allowed him to succeed at the Minors despite challenges with command.
Astros: With the trade of Norris to Baltimore, Erik Bedard ($1.15 million) is now the highest-paid player on a team faced with budgetary concerns. In return for Norris, the Astros should get quick help from outfielder L.J. Hoes, but the rest of the return from the trades are hopes for the future, including Smith, who came from Kansas City. Smith's pitchability has served him well at the lower levels in the Minor Leagues, and he will need to continue to refine it. He's not going to overpower hitters, but he has a three-pitch mix that so far has kept them off balance. Houston did give up an international signing slot in the Norris deal, but it received Baltimore's Competitive Balance Round A pick next June, which should be in the vicinity of the 33rd pick in the First-Year Player Draft.
Cubs: A full-fledged housecleaning is underway at Wrigley Field, where the Cubs traded two of their five starting pitchers -- Feldman and Garza -- and versatile bench player Hairston in moves that primarily added Minor League depth, including highly-regarded prospect Mike Olt from Texas in the Garza deal.
Marlins: The Marlins made their first major move of season with the July 6 deal that sent veteran starter Nolasco to the Dodgers for three right-handers, the most intriguing of which is right-hander Steve Ames. The Marlins also avoided nearly $6 million of salary for the rest of the season for Nolasco, a potential free agent.
White Sox: Reality hit the White Sox hard this season. A rebuilding process has been undertaken, and that was obvious in July when they gave up Thornton, Crain and Peavy for no established big league players. Outfielders Garcia, known among Tigers personnel as "Little Miggy," for his resemblance to Miguel Cabrera, and Brandon Jacobs, whom the Red Sox bought out of a football scholarship to Auburn, have impact potential but rough edges that need to be refined.
Blue Jays: The Jays made their moves in the offseason and declined to blow things up despite the disappointing season, banking on the hopes they will be rewarded for the commitments a year from now. They had plenty of suitors, but refused to part with the likes of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, who have team-friendly contracts and are under team control through 2016 thanks to options in the contracts of both players.
Brewers: The suspension of Ryan Braun and key injuries, including Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart, have put the Brewers in limbo. Instead of blowing up the roster, they still may have come up with a diamond in the rough, netting highly-regarded third baseman Nick Delmonico from Baltimore in the K-Rod deal.
Giants: San Francisco dangled potential free agents Lopez, Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence, but it didn't feel the Minor League players it was offered in return were an upgrade over what it already had in place. General manager Brian Sabean preferred to keep the team together and try to finish strong, rather than to unload players for the simple purpose of unloading players.
Mariners: Teams showed interest in Michael Morse, Oliver Perez, Kendrys Morales, Joe Saunders and Raul Ibanez, but nobody piqued the M's interest enough for a deal to be done, a possible indication that even if the postseason isn't on the horizon, the Seattle management feels it's important to finish strong. General manager Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge are both in the final year of their contracts.
Mets: There was no sign of desperation. The Mets only had one player they had reason to dangle, outfielder Marlon Byrd, and the market didn't develop. The Mets control most of the rest of their players past this season other than catcher John Buck, and he has become a key for the way he has handled the young pitching staff.
Phillies: There was a lot of talk about the Phillies, but no action. They wanted a major package to part with lefty Cliff Lee, and despite serious interest from several teams in Chase Utley, the indication is the Phillies would rather re-sign the second baseman than trade him. Young was willing to consider the Yankees or Rangers, but neither got past the talking stages, which left the Phillies with an inability to start restructuring an aging roster.
Rockies: A recent slide kept the Rockies from being able to convince themselves they should be a buyer, and the feeling they have a nucleus that with a couple of key additions could be a postseason factor next year kept them from turning into a seller. They did have inquiries about lefty Jorge De La Rosa, but with him under control for another year, they had a high asking price.
Twins: Minnesota did entertain conversations about first baseman Justin Morneau, and Texas showed interest, but the Twins weren't willing to discount Morneau despite his struggles and contract. Willingham's knee problems scared potential suitors.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.