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Originally published Saturday, August 27, 2011 at 8:03 PM

Larry Stone

Determining the booms and busts of deadline deals

While big-name gambles haven't paid off for teams like Cleveland and San Francisco, others have found bigger impact with smaller moves.

Seattle Times baseball reporter

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After all the hue and cry at the trading deadline, it's always interesting to see how the deals actually end up impacting their teams.

The final story, of course, is yet to be written, with more than a month to be played. But so far, many teams have not gotten the expected bounce from their July moves.

Take the Cleveland Indians, who were 1 ½ games behind Detroit in the AL Central when they made their bold play for Colorado's one-time ace, Ubaldo Jimenez. At the cost of their top two pitching prospects, Alex White and Drew Pomeranz, the Indians added a pitcher who won 19 games last year but was struggling with decreased velocity and had a 6-9 record with a 4.46 earned-run average.

The Indians gambled — and still are — on a revival from Jimenez, whose contract they control through 2014. But in five starts, while 2-1, he has a 5.79 ERA. He has allowed 37 hits — including five homers — in 28 innings.

Cleveland has to be encouraged that Jimenez worked seven strong innings (one run, 10 strikeouts) in beating Kansas City on Friday. But in his previous two starts, both losses, he gave up a combined 18 hits and 13 runs in eight innings.

"During the course of the season pitchers go through ups and downs, and unfortunately Ubaldo has been in a down cycle since we acquired him, but before that he was pitching well," Cleveland GM Chris Antonetti told reporters before Friday's start.

The upshot is that the Indians, who also acquired outfielder Kosuke Fukudome in July, have played just .500 ball since the deadline.

The Tigers, meanwhile, got more bang for a lower-key deal, and have pulled out to a 6 ½-game lead over Cleveland. Doug Fister, acquired from the Mariners for four prospects, is 3-1 with a 3.45 ERA in five starts, and August pickup Delmon Young is hitting .315 with two homers and 10 runs batted in in 12 games.

Then there are the Giants, who thought they had jump-started their flagging offense by acquiring rent-a-player Carlos Beltran from the Mets on July 28. He cost San Francisco its top pitching prospect, Zack Wheeler, but with the Giants locked in a tight battle with Arizona, it seemed to be a good gamble.

Beltran, however, did a stint on the disabled list with a hand injury and has just one homer and four RBI in 16 games with the Giants. In his first 51 at-bats with San Francisco, Beltran grounded into six double plays — as many as Aaron Rowand in 328 at-bats.

The Giants, shortly after Beltran's acquisition, lost 16 of 23 to fall three games behind Arizona.

The Diamondbacks, however, had their own trade-deadline woes. They attempted to boost their rotation by picking up Jason Marquis from the Nationals. Marquis made three starts for Arizona, going 0-1 with a 9.53 ERA, before his season ended with a broken leg.

The Cardinals were active at the trade deadline, trading outfielder Colby Rasmus and bringing in, among others, pitcher Edwin Jackson and shortstop Rafael Furcal. But they have been buried in the NL Central by the Brewers, whose earlier move — bringing in Francisco Rodriguez on July 12 to set up closer John Axford — has worked beautifully.

"I don't have any regrets because at the time of the trading deadline, we were right in the thick of things," Cardinals GM John Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"We identified areas of need, and this was from the front office down to the coaching staff. We aggressively pursued some things. Some of the things have helped but, unfortunately, we've had deficiencies in other areas and (the help) hasn't been enough to counterbalance it."

The reality is that with the Brewers' surge, the Cardinals didn't stand much of a chance. Nor did the Pirates, who in the rare position of being in the hunt (4 ½ games out of first in the NL Central on July 31), picked up the $6.775 million owed Ryan Ludwick to acquire him from San Diego (for a player to be named), and gave up a Class A first baseman to get veteran Derrek Lee from the Orioles.

It was a nice thought, but Pittsburgh has since collapsed, and both Ludwick and Lee are on the disabled list, having made little noise.

In the heated AL East, the Yankees largely stood pat at the deadline, while the Red Sox swung a prospects deal to land Seattle's Erik Bedard, who is 0-2 with a 4.09 ERA in five starts. The Red Sox were two games ahead of the Yankees at the trade deadline, and heading into Saturday's play were still clinging to a one-game lead.

Atlanta is another team that went the low-key route and has thrived. The Braves decided not to give up top pitching prospects to get Beltran or Houston's Hunter Pence, settling instead on Astros outfielder Michael Bourn for a lesser package.

"We could have had Beltran if we'd have given them the player they wanted," GM Frank Wren told reporters. "We're not going to do that for a rental."

The Braves believe Bourn has given them needed speed and helped their defense, and they have him under team control for one more year. Since July 31, the Braves have gone 16-8 and stretched their wild-card lead from 3 ½ to 8 ½ games.

The Phillies are an example of a great team that made itself even better at the deadline. Pence, who cost Philadelphia four minor-league prospects, is hitting .330 through 24 games, with five homers, 15 RBI and a .944 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He's a godsend to a lineup that had been struggling to score.

So far, so good, which is the operative term for trade-deadline deals. The evaluation won't truly be complete until the acquired prospects emerge as gems or busts, which can take years.

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com

About Larry Stone

Larry Stone gives an inside look at the national baseball scene every Sunday. Look for his weekly power rankings during the season.
lstone@seattletimes.com

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