The Yankees probably wouldn't be in the ALCS if they hadn't spent big on Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia. The Giants probably wouldn't be in the NLCS if they hadn't drafted Buster Posey and Tim Lincecum. But less celebrated moves also contributed to the success of the four teams in the LCS. Here's a closer look at four acquisitions that have shaped this year's pennant race:
- As I wrote in September, the Giants' decision to sign Pat Burrell to a minor league deal changed the NL West from that point on. Not only did the Giants get 18 home runs and a .266/.364/.509 line from the slugger, they kept him away from the Padres and kept their division rivals out of the playoffs. This is about as impactful as a minor league deal gets.
- When the Yankees signed Marcus Thames to a minor league deal, they probably weren't expecting him to hit .288/.350/.491, but that's exactly what he did. Brian Cashman deserves credit for adding Thames to Joe Girardi's bench.
- Wilson Valdez, who signed a minor league deal with the Phillies last fall, didn't hit like Burrell or Thames, but he played second when Chase Utley was injured and short when Jimmy Rollins got hurt. He didn't hit badly, either, posting a .258/.306/.360 line.
- None of the Rangers minor league deals (Alex Cora, Endy Chavez, Mark Prior and others) made a difference at the major league level this year, but a look back at GM Jon Daniels' first Rule 5 draft reveals a decision that's looking smart now: the Rangers plucked Alexi Ogando from the A's in the 2005 Rule 5 draft. The right-hander has yet to allow a run in two postseason appearances, after posting a 1.30 ERA in the regular season.