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Insider

Five under-the-radar July acquisitions that are paying off

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Getty Images, USA TODAY Sports

Plenty of in-season trades of big-name players have impacted pennant races this month, from the Blue Jays landing David Price to the Astros' addition of Scott Kazmir to the Royals' trade for Johnny Cueto; the Rangers' trade for Cole Hamels and the Mets' acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes, just to name a few. However, there have been many other players involved in trades whose names didn't carry quite as much hoopla, yet they've helped their contending teams nearly as much.

It's important to not let these slip through the cracks; they deserve the same attention as the blockbuster trades when evaluating general managers.

1. Pittsburgh Pirates

Lefty starter J.A. Happ and righty reliever Joakim Soria

Trade partners: Mariners and Tigers, respectively

The trades: Pirates traded Adrian Sampson to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Happ (July 31, 2015); traded JaCoby Jones to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Soria (July 31, 2015).

GM Neal Huntington made two shrewd trades at the deadline, successfully replacing injured starting pitcher A.J. Burnett and deepening one of the strongest bullpens in baseball.

Happ has admirably filled in for Burnett, posting a 3-1 record and 1.98 ERA in five starts since arriving from Seattle. Soria has locked down the team's setup role, appearing in 14 games with a 2.19 ERA, five holds and a save. These additions have helped keep the Pirates in the driver's seat for a wild-card spot and within striking distance of the first-place St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.


2. Texas Rangers

Acquisitions: Lefty reliever Jake Diekman and righty reliever Sam Dyson

Trade partners: Phillies and Marlins, respectively

The trades: Rangers traded Cody Ege and Tomas Telis to the Miami Marlins in exchange for Dyson (July 31, 2015); traded Jorge Alfaro, Alec Asher, Jake Thompson, Nick Williams, Jerad Eickhoff and Matt Harrison to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Cole Hamels, Diekman and cash (July 31, 2015).

Obviously Cole Hamels was the key player the Rangers acquired at the deadline, but Rangers president of baseball operations Jon Daniels' acquisition of these two relievers has had even more of an impact in the Rangers' climb back into contention, with Diekman and Dyson becoming hard-working and helpful additions to a Rangers bullpen that sorely needed help. Diekman, who possesses a 96-99 mph fastball, a hard slider and an occasional changeup, has already appeared in 15 games with Rangers, posting a 1.98 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.

Dyson, meanwhile, has also appeared in 15 games with the Rangers, and he has a 2.35 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, with just one walk in 15 1/3 innings. Dyson arrived to the Rangers with basically two pitches, a fastball and a slider. He threw two sliders in his first outing with the team, and one was hit for a go-ahead home run in extra innings (by Hunter Pence). The Rangers then told him to throw just his fastball, and all he has done is gets outs. How can Dyson get away with that? Because his fastball really is a nasty sinker; at 95-97 mph; he gets plenty of ground balls and strikeouts with it.


3. Toronto Blue Jays

Outfielder Ben Revere

Trade partner: Phillies

The trade: Blue Jays traded Jimmy Cordero and Alberto Tirado to the Phillies in exchange for Revere (July 31, 2015).

The Blue Jays had one of best trade deadlines in baseball history, highlighted by the acquisitions of pitching ace David Price and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. But don't underestimate the deal that brought Revere north of the border.

As Jays manager John Gibbons told me this week, Revere has provided a huge defensive improvement in left field, especially in terms of outfield range, and that has helped make the pitching staff better. Of course, Revere hasn't been too shabby with the bat, too; he has a .316/.371/.347 slash line, with 17 runs in 26 games with the team. He was even promoted to the leadoff spot over the weekend. This is a player who can help the team in many ways in September and into the postseason.


4. Minnesota Twins

Veteran right-handed reliever Kevin Jepsen

Trade partner: Rays

The trade: Twins traded Chih-Wei Hu and Alexis Tapia to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Jepsen (July 31, 2015).

The Twins and Rays were both in the wild-card hunt at the trade deadline, and the Rays decided to become moderate sellers and the Twins moderate buyers. Thus, the Jepsen trade made sense for both clubs. The 31-year-old Jepsen has been a difference-maker for the Twins, posting an impressive 1.32 ERA and 0.88 WHIP with four saves while filling in for injured closer Glen Perkins. It was a solid move by Twins GM Terry Ryan, and it has kept the Twins in the playoff hunt.


5. St. Louis Cardinals

Righty reliever Steve Cishek

Trade partner: Marlins

The trade: Cardinals traded Kyle Barraclough to the Marlins in exchange for Cishek (July 24, 2015).

Cardinals GM John Mozeliak always seems to make that one in-season move that has a greater impact than expected down the stretch, and this year it was the Cishek acquisition. Cishek started the season as the returning Marlins closer but got off to a terrible start. But he started pitching better in June, and Cardinals scouts advised Mozeliak that Cishek looked more like the pitcher who had saved 73 games over the previous two seasons than the guy who posted a 9.82 ERA in April and 5.25 ERA in May. The Cards jumped to acquire him, and he has not disappointed, posting a 0.75 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 14 outings for the Cardinals. More importantly, he has added depth to the bullpen, which helps the entire unit, including closer Trevor Rosenthal.