This Week in the National League - July 19

With less than two weeks remaining until the 2006 trade deadline, which teams will be buyers and which ones will be sellers of talent that might provide the missing piece to enable contenders to go over the top?

We all know that trades can and will happen after the trade deadline. But that deadline makes it so much more fun and it eliminates us having to figure out all the goofy rules that go into a player passing through waivers. There are plenty of shoppers in the American League and even more in the National League considering the parity found this season. That means it's a seller's market. Teams that deal should make out well this season. So if your General Manager doesn't land something good for the high-priced veteran talent he deals this season, you definitely have a bone to pick with him. Most trade rumors involving National League players so far have focused on Alfonso Soriano and Bobby Abreu, but rest assured that they won't be the only big names to don new jerseys this season. And just because you might think a club is out of the hunt, don't be so sure that their GM or Manager agrees with you. The next couple weeks will be an anxious time as it always is, so sit back, grab your remote, and enjoy.

 

But first, let's catch you up on the latest and greatest from around the league, including some of the latest deals and trade rumors brewing…

 

East Division

 

New York Mets (56-37)

With two grand slams in two games Carlos Beltran is lighting up opposing pitchers and giving New York fans that big money output they've been looking for. In a beleaguered National League, the Mets are now the Las Vegas favorites to win the World Series. Steve Trachsel might not exactly be a pitcher you'd be afraid of in the playoffs, but he brings a lot of consistent MLB experience to a veteran pitching staff, and he's been on fire lately. Trachsel has rattled off seven wins in as many starts, and though that 4.57 ERA might not be intimidating, with that Mets offense it's been good enough.

 

Atlanta Braves (45-49)

With a seven game winning streak, Bobby Cox has this Braves team believing they can catch fire and win that wild card. Heck, they might even try to give the Mets a run for their money. The Braves offense has hit double digits in their last five wins, scoring 65 runs in that timeframe. Andruw Jones hit homers in three consecutive games and drove in three runs in each of those games, but then was skunked in two consecutive outings. He made up for that Tuesday night with a 5-for-5 evening against the Cardinals where he knocked two long balls and drove in a career-tying best six RBI. Starting pitching Chuck James is looking sharp in his new role as part of the rotation. He's won all four of his starts and is carrying a decent 3.72 ERA.

 

Philadelphia Phillies (42-49)

The Phillies are trying to stay competitive, but there's a shot they might become sellers before you know it. Bobby Abreu is one of the big names circulating around in trade rumors despite not having hit a home run since June 13. And though Jon Lieber is back in the starting rotation, he's 0-2 since his return and his 5.56 ERA is nothing to brag about. Brett Myers has been reactivated and won his first game back from his personal, off-the-field problems. He beat the Giants giving up just two runs in 7.0 innings of work. Unless the Phils can get some help in their starting rotation, they're going to keep fading in the playoff race.

 

Florida Marlins (41-51)

The Marlins have cooled off a bit. And it's got folks wondering if they're going to complete that fire sale and deal Miguel Cabrera or Dontrelle Willis. The general consensus is that a deal is unlikely for either player, but they'd sure make nice additions to any contending ball club. The two players anchor a very young Marlins team, but young stars like Mike Jacobs continue to impress. Jacobs had an 11-game hit streak before a pinch-hit flub snapped that Tuesday night.

 

Washington Nationals (40-55)

In a bit of a puzzling deal, the Nationals worked an eight-player trade with the Cincinnati Reds. The move brought outfielder Austin Kearns and shortstop Felipe Lopez to Washington, and will definitely bolster their lineup. Both players will have to deal with moving from a hitters-friendly park to a pitchers-friendly park. The deal also moved relief pitcher Ryan Wagner out of the Cincinnati bullpen to the Nationals bullpen.

 

 

Central Division

 

St. Louis Cardinals (52-41)

The Cardinals took three games from Houston before the All-Star Break and then followed it up by sweeping the Dodgers in a four-game series. After Albert Pujols walloped a walk-off homer in the fourteenth inning of the series opener Thursday night, Chris Carpenter went out Friday and showed he's still got the stuff that Cy Young Award winners are made of by tossing a complete game shutout where he surrendered just two hits and struck out seven. After taking the next two games and riding that seven-game high, the Cardinals got knocked to earth by the steamrolling Braves, who put up 29 runs in the first two games against the Cards. Jeff Weaver got his first start Monday for the Redbirds and lasted just 4.0 innings against the Atlanta barrage that included eight hits and six runs in those first four frames.

 

Cincinnati Reds (49-45)

With Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez due big paydays this upcoming off-season, the Reds parted with the big bats to shore up some cash. Chris Denorfia got the call-up and will take over for Kearns in the outfield and also leadoff for the Reds. He's a contact hitter with speed who can swipe his fair share of bases. In the deal with the Nationals the Reds also added Royce Clayton to fill Lopez's spot at short. Though Clayton's offensive numbers don't even compare to the departed Lopez, his glove is far superior and will give the Reds pitchers some much-needed support behind them.

 

Milwaukee Brewers (46-49)

The Brewers continue to hang around that .500 mark and remain in the thick of the hunt, but will their front office make some moves that could put them in realistic post-season contention. If not, the Brew Crew might decide to part with Carlos Lee, who stands to make a small fortune come this off-season. Lee has 26 home runs, 76 RBI, and a decent .294 batting average that any playoff bound team would welcome. Of note, Chris Capuano had his second rough outing in three starts. Cappy tossed that complete game shutout against the Cubs and followed it up with 3.2 inning disaster that included 10 hits and five runs in a loss against the D'Backs. If Capuano grows tired down the stretch, the Brewers will fade quickly.

 

Houston Astros (45-49)

The Astros haven't found that second half spark just yet. Their offense has been struggling, so they've made some moves to help shake things up. Hitting coach, Gary "the Nose" Gaetti was fired, and Sean Barry was promoted from the club's Double-A affiliate. Aubrey Huff was added to the Astros roster from the Devil Rays in exchange for a couple minor leaguers. Since Huff is primarily a third baseman, he'll fill in at the hot corner while Morgan Ensberg remains out with a shoulder contusion. Reports indicate that a recent MRI showed no structural damage, which is a good sign of Ensberg, but Huff's presence, could indicate that Ensberg will become trade bait. He's not the only one, though. With Chris Burke continuing to shine, Willy Taveras is expendable.

 

Chicago Cubs (36-56)

The Cubs have a lot of veteran talent with playoff experience they could deal. They're pretty much out of the hunt, but will General Manager Jim Hendry make those moves. Juan Pierre is obvious trade bait as is Phil Nevin and even Todd Walker. As if it's no big surprise, Mark Prior landed on the disabled list one more time with a strained muscle in his side. Big ol' Carlos Zambrano who was hit in his shoulder during what only could be explained as a Cubs-cursed incident during the All-Star Break, avoided the DL and pitched 6.0 strong innings of three-hit, two-run ball against the Mets for his sixth consecutive win and ninth of the season.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates (33-62)

The Pirates are, well, the Pirates. Freddy Sanchez is at least giving Bucco fans something to cheer for. The youngster has his eyes set on a batting title and his .363 batting average is just smoking the competition. And of note, shortstop Jack Wilson is swinging a hot stick. He's hit safely in his last five games, which has included a 10-for-22 stretch.

 

 

West Division

 

San Diego Padres (49-43)

The Padres are by no means the most formidable team in the National League, but they continue to stay afloat the NL West. Mike Piazza is one hit away from number 2,000, but the real hitting news out of San Diego has been rookie Josh Barfield. He had a phenomenal spring training and start to the season, which fizzled quickly, but this youngster is pouring it on now. He's hit safely in 20 of his last 23 games and has lifted his batting average to .304. But the surprise this year is that the Padres continue to be competitive despite Jake Peavy's woes. Peavy got shelled again by those steamrollin' Braves and dropped to 4-9 on the season with a 4.78 ERA. If Peavy can turn it around and the Padres grab a bat or two via the trade market, San Diego could become a dangerous team, but they need their staff ace to pitch like one.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers (47-47)

Jeff Kent landed on the DL with a strained oblique muscle and the Dodgers recalled Willy Aybar, who definitely had his share of solid hitting displays earlier in the season, to fill Kent's spot in the roster. Despite a sweep to the Cardinals, the Dodgers remain in the cluttered hunt for the NL West and will likely be one of the buyers as the trade deadline approaches, most likely in search of that ever-popular prized pitcher.

 

San Francisco Giants (47-47)

First there was the steroid controversy. Then came perjury allegations. Now the latest is tax evasion. It sure seems like someone is out to get Barry Bonds. One could argue that Mr. Bonds has somehow brought this all on himself. Regardless, it's not good for the Giants clubhouse. If they fade in the next couple weeks, don't be surprised to see staff ace Jason Schmidt go bye-bye as he's got a big payday coming this off-season.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks (46-47)

Shortstop Craig Counsell broke a rib and will reportedly miss three to six weeks. The injury opens the door for young Stephen Drew, little brother of the Los Angeles Dodgers' J.D. Drew. Though he might not have his brother's power at the plate, he already has dazzled us with his glove in the field. First Baseman Conor Jackson broke out of a bit of a power slump by rocketing two home runs on Saturday against the Brewers. That output brings his season total to eight. Unfortunately though, he had to leave the game prematurely Sunday after injuring his shoulder on a tag-out. No word on the results of any tests, but the injury isn't reported to be very serious.

 

Colorado Rockies (45-48)

The Rockies dropped to last in the NL West after losing eight in a row. They snapped the skid with a 3-1 victory at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. After an ugly streak like that there's just not much positive to report on. Josh Fogg is the lone pitcher on the staff right now with a winning record (7-5). Despite a no-decision in the club's 6-4 loss against the Reds Sunday, Fogg has won his last three decisions and hasn't pitched less than 7.0 innings in his three recent starts.

 

Got questions or comments? Sound off to pete@petekhazen.com.


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