Last to go in recapping the month's trade activity is the all-around disappointing National League East, which was far and away the quietest of baseball's six divisions over the month of July …
- Acquired left-handed reliever Scott Downs from the Angels in exchange for right-handed reliever Cory Rasmus.
- Acquired minor league right-handers Angel Sanchez, Steve Ames, and Josh Wall from the Dodgers in exchange for right-handed starter Ricky Nolasco.
- Acquired minor league third baseman Alex McClure from the Royals in exchange for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez.
- Did not make a trade.
- Did not make a trade.
Seriously, that's it: four deals among five teams. Given the way things have shaken out in the division over the past two years, however, this result is somewhat less surprising than at first blush.
Firstly, the Braves and Nationals are both balanced teams that lack areas ripe for upgrades. To be sure, only one of those teams has performed to expectations, but the point stands. Atlanta had some space open in its bullpen after losing some key setup men earlier in the year, and it made a relatively simply move to shore up its relief corps. Starting pitching and reserve infielder were both areas where the Braves could have made a move, but the team certainly has adequate internal options in those spots and the division is pretty well in hand. Likewise, for the underperforming Nationals, there were no obvious holes to plug once the team added a veteran right-handed bench bat in Hairston. While there was some talk that the team could shop for a starter, the organization is hardly without options and would have been ill-advised to give up much of anything given its current playoff prospects. On the other side of the coin, the Nats are largely devoid of obvious sell options, particularly since the team figures to maintain the bulk of its roster makeup going into next season.
On the bottom of the division, meanwhile, the Marlins shipped out their last obvious trade piece when they sent Nolasco to the Dodgers. While relievers Steve Cishek and Mike Dunn both could have been deal, they are cheap and under team control for the next several seasons. Outfielder Justin Ruggiano and third baseman Placido Polanco both were plausible trade candidates, but neither would have brought much of anything in return. Of course, the elephant in the Marlins' shiny new ballpark is star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. While he would have been the undisputed prize of the deadline season, conflicting reports have emerged on whether or not the team ever really considered dealing him. Certainly, Miami can achieve plenty of value from their superstar should they decide to market him in the offseason, and it is not difficult to imagine that the team would prefer to keep him (along with those fans that have stuck with the club through some difficult recent times).
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the Marlins — who have already shed virtually all substantial present and future salary commitments — is the Phillies. Full of high-priced veterans of varying degress of attractiveness to other teams, the club did nothing at the deadline, much to the consternation of many interested observers. Philadelphia seems sunk for this season, and next year does not look much more promising. The team reportedly was unwilling to part with aging-but-productive franchise cornerstone Chase Utley and placed a high price on expensive ace Cliff Lee, both of whom likely would have brought back nice returns. (The team is apparently exploring an extension with Utley, though it should be noted that he would be a candidate for a qualifying offer that could return value.) GM Ruben Amaro Jr. also refused to budge on veterans Michael Young and Carlos Ruiz; while neither would have yielded much in prospect value, it would have been nice to shed their fairly sizable salaries. All in all, barring some action in the August trade market, it has been a confounding mid-season for the Phils.
It is tempting to view the inaction of the Mets in the same light as that of the Phillies. After all, the team is going nowhere this season. But only low-priced outfielder Marlon Byrd was a glaring trade candidate amongst the team's veterans, and with no salary to shed there was little reason to move him if nothing worthwhile was offered. Apparently, there was little interest in other possibilities like Daniel Murphy, John Buck, and Eric Young Jr., and there were good reasons to hang onto all three. (Murphy and Young both have several years of team control remaining and likely have more upside than whatever they might have returned, while Buck is handling the team's prized young pitchers.) Likewise, closer Bobby Parnell is relatively cheap, young, and under team control. Without knowing what (if anything) was offered for any of New York's assets, it is hard to judge the club too harshly for standing pat.