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Saturday, July 31, 2004
Updated: August 2, 3:30 PM ET
Saturday Trade Scorecard

ESPN The Magzine's Buster Olney breaks down Saturday's deadline day deals. Click here for
analysis of Friday's major trades.

Each trade is graded according to its quality for that team:
= extremely high quality
= high quality
= average quality
= low quality

SS Orlando Cabrera
1B Doug Mientkiewicz
OF Dave Roberts (from L.A.)
SS Nomar Garciaparra
OF Matt Murtin
LHP Justin Jones
SS Alex Gonzalez
RHP Francis Beltran
INF Brendan Harris
Olney Buster Olney on the Red Sox:
Why they did it: The Red Sox got a window into Nomar's psyche on July 1, when he effectively declined to play against the Yankees in the third game of an important series in Yankee Stadium. At that point, it was clear that Garciaparra -- nearly replaced by Alex Rodriguez in the offseason, almost traded to the White Sox -- was not emotionally invested in the team as he once had been. Garciaparra was saturated with bitterness and there was virtually no chance the Red Sox would re-sign him. So it made sense that as the team moved forward into the last weeks of the summer, in a season when Boston was put together to win the World Series, that they turned the page now. Now the Red Sox will have Orlando Cabrera at short -- and he will come to Boston feeling liberated from the awful situation in Montreal -- and Doug Mientkiewicz at first, an extraordinary improvement in the team's defense.

The potential risk: Garciaparra could go to the Cubs and hit and have fun again, and it could be that in the cold autumn evenings, Boston GM Theo Epstein will turn on his television and have to watch Nomar playing late into October. Scouts think Cabrera and Mientkiewicz are nagged by injuries, and neither is going to score high on the slugging charts; Boston's offense could be weakened without Garciaparra.

The potential reward: The Red Sox need to be a pitching-and-defense kind of team, and Mientkiewicz and Cabrera -- and Roberts, for that matter -- should really help what has been a dreadful defense. That, in turn, helps the pitching; sinkerballer Derek Lowe is a better pitcher now than he was before the trades, because the groundballs he generated will be turned into outs.

The conclusion: Garciaparra's status has absolutely gnawed at him and the organization since last December, and it had to be addressed if this team was to have any hope of pulling together for a playoff drive. It took some guts for Boston to trade a Red Sox star -- it always seems to end badly for the Boston stars, doesn't it -- but this was a good trade for the team right now.
Olney Buster Olney on the Cubs:
Why they did it: The Cubs needed some kind of a shakeup in their lineup, particularly at shortstop, which had been filled by the likes of Rey Ordonez this year in the aftermath of Alex Gonzalez's injury. And the Cubs got one of the best-hitting shortstops in baseball in Garciaparra, who is batting .321 with five homers and 21 RBI. Assuming that Garciaparra makes a decent transition into a new league, that should take pressure off Sammy Sosa, et al.

The potential risk: Garciaparra is a creature of habit (witness all the machinations with his batting gloves on every pitch) and it's possible that all the change -- new team, new league, new opposing pitchers, all those day games -- will wig him out. And while he gets out of Boston, where he felt unwanted, a stint in Chicago might feel like a pit stop to him; he's eligible for free agency after this year. Garciaparra has played poor defense this season, but when most of the Cubs' power guys throw -- Zambrano, Prior, Wood, Clement -- that might not be much of a factor, because they get a lot of strikeouts. Greg Maddux, on the other hand, needs his shortstops to catch the ball.

The potential reward: Significant, all the way around. Without compromising their major-league roster, the Cubs have added a star who will shake up the chemistry of the lineup -- and that is needed.

Conclusion: Excellent trade. The Cubs are going for it now, when they're good enough to go for it, and you've got to respect that aggressiveness.

  • More: Complete story | Red Sox page | Cubs page
  • JULY 31
    RHP Esteban Loaiza
    RHP Jose Contreras
    Olney Buster Olney on the Yankees:
    Why they did it: Jose Contreras had demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the modern-day version of Hideki Irabu: Overpowering stuff and dominant against secondary teams (Irabu, after all, was a multiple winner of the AL pitcher of the month award), and useless in high-pressure games, most notably against the Boston Red Sox. Esteban Loaiza has been much less than he was in 2003, when he finished as the runner-up in the AL Cy Young Award balloting, but at least there's a chance he won't be unnerved by a big moment. The Yankees tried to make the best of a bad situation here.

    The potential risk: Loaiza was a journeyman before last season, and he's mostly pitched like a journeyman this year. After allowing only 17 homers and 196 hits in 226.1 innings and accumulating a 2.90 ERA, Loaiza has surrendered 156 hits and 23 homers in 140.2 innings this year. Ken Harrelson, the White Sox broadcaster, noted on Wednesday that Loaiza simply does not have the same kind of stuff he had last year, with his cut fastball and breaking pitches flattening out. It's very possible that Contreras, with his great ability, will thrive with the White Sox and make the Yankees look bad -- on paper.

    The potential reward: Loaiza gives the Yankees one more starter with a good track record to throw against the wall, and they must hope that in October, three or four from their stable of ailing or struggling starters will step up.

    The conclusion: The Yankees did not get the one player who absolutely would represent an upgrade, in Randy Johnson. Maybe Mike Mussina will get healthy enough to be effective, maybe Loaiza will get some movement on his cutter, maybe Kevin Brown will regain some velocity in the last two months, maybe Javier Vazquez can rebound from a poor July. Lots of maybes.

    More updates: Check back frequently for more analysis on Saturday's trades.
    Olney Buster Olney on the White Sox:
    Why they did it: The White Sox are in a freefall, Loaiza has pitched poorly, and this might be a rip-cord move for Chicago -- get something decent for Loaiza while they still could, and maybe jump-start their pitching staff with a talented arm.

    Potential risk: Somewhere within Loaiza, there is a pitcher with a cutter good enough to finish second in the AL Cy Young voting, and maybe he will appear again for the Yankees; maybe not. Contreras can throw 95 mph, his forkball is all but unhittable when he gets ahead in the count, he can be overpowering -- and he has a problem dealing with pressure. If he feels like he has to come to the White Sox to be The Man, and thinks he must thrive in each start, that could be a serious problem. Start counting the number of times he shakes off signs for fastballs and steps off the rubber.

    Potential reward: Contreras has great stuff, and on most days, he can be great. It will be interesting to watch his relationship with the Chicago catchers. In New York, the Yankees' Jorge Posada and John Flaherty intermittently tried to nurture him, and then lead him. Maybe somebody with the White Sox can convince him his stuff is actually very good.

    The conclusion: A wash. Loaiza probably isn't going to be good again, and Contreras, a great guy, probably will never have the deep-down conviction and confidence in what he is doing on the mound.

  • More: Complete story | Yankees page | White Sox page
  • JULY 31
    OF Steve Finley
    C Brent Mayne
    OF Henri Stanley (from Boston)
    C Koyie Hill
    OF Reggie Abercrombie
    LHP Bill Murphy
    Olney Buster Olney on the Dodgers:
    Why they did it: The Dodgers looked to upgrade their starting pitching, and added a strong and experienced veteran hitter in Steve Finley.

    The potential risk: L.A. effectively broke up what was the heart of the team -- the Dodgers' exceptional bullpen. Between closer Eric Gagne and setup men Guillermo Mota and Darren Dreifort, the Dodgers had a chance to go into the postseason with some Nasty Boys-type clones: that trio had amassed 181 strikeouts in 155 innings. Mota was a huge part of this team, and Lo Duca was the heart and soul of the club, a guy who always played hard. The Dodgers made that part of the trade thinking they could get Charles Johnson from Colorado, but Johnson vetoed a deal and now L.A. is left with a platoon of Brent Mayne and Dave Ross. Penny upgrades the rotation, and his postseason experience will help, but he is not a dominant pitcher. Choi hits homers and draws walks, but he had 78 whiffs in 281 at-bats this year, and he was hitting .238 with runners in scoring position; part of the reason the Marlins needed to make this trade was because rallies tended to die with Choi. In some ways, it's as if the Dodgers forgot they had accumulated one of the best records in the game, at 59-42 -- and 35-20 since May 28.

    The potential reward: The Dodgers have added power with Choi and Finley coming on board, and they have a good balance of left-handed and right-handed hitters. Penny is young and will be the centerpiece of the staff for the foreseeable future.

    Conclusion: Strange. If the Dodgers go into a postseason series, there's no doubt that L.A.'s pitching will be better on the day that Penny pitches. On the other three days, however, it will be worse, without Mota. Yes, Finley is an upgrade, but the loss of Lo Duca is a downgrade. And Choi has had the type of long swing that can get exploited by good pitchers. They have messed with success.

  • More: Complete story | Marlins page | Dodgers page