The best team money can buy hasn't been to the World Series in nearly two years. As they do about this time each year, the New York Yankees spent the month of July acquiring the necessary talent to maintain the edge over their American League foes.
They might have done just enough to bring the World Series drought to an end.
When the July 31 trade deadline arrived, the Bronx Bombers proved to be one of a handful of teams which significantly improved their chances for this year's pennant race through shrewd last-minute dealings.
Here is a glance at this year's winners and losers, in terms of how their pre-deadline trades affected their postseason chances, along with the impact of those moves from a fantasy standpoint.
New York (AL) - After solidifying their bullpen with the acquisition of Armando Benitez and Jesse Orosco, the Yankees pulled off a pair of clever deals hours before the deadline, enabling them to essentially replace a struggling and aging third baseman (Robin Ventura) with one entering the prime of his career (Aaron Boone).Benitez was traded Wednesday to Seattle for Jeff Nelson. In the cleanup spot between Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui, Boone should thrive.
Chicago (NL) - The Cubs lost center fielder Corey Patterson for the year because of a knee injury but should remain competitive in the tight NL Central race after trading Jose Hernandez to Pittsburgh for Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramirez. Both Lofton and Ramirez should see increased production in the Cubs' lineup.
Boston (AL) - The Red Sox kept pace with the Yankees by improving their pitching staff with relievers Byung-Hyun Kim, Scott Williamson and Scott Sauerbeck, along with starter Jeff Suppan. As long as Kim remains the closer, Williamson's value plunges in a setup role. Suppan should rack up more wins with the move from Pittsburgh, but owners beware of the lifetime 5.03 ERA, most of which came in the AL.
Oakland (AL) - The A's got a red-hot outfielder in Jose Guillen (23 HR, 63 RBI, .337 before the trade) for three minor leaguers. It would be difficult for Guillen to be any more productive in Oakland than he was in Cincinnati, but look for him to maintain his strong value.
Chicago (AL) - Since trading for Roberto Alomar and Carl Everett, the White Sox have moved into contention. Alomar has struggled with his power numbers with the Mets and White Sox this year but should recover as the season winds down. Everett has maintained his value after coming from Texas.
Arizona (NL) - Former Yankee Raul Mondesi must produce like Shea Hillenbrand (8 HR, 27 RBI, .322 in 149 AB since coming from Boston) has for the Diamondbacks to contend for the NL wild card spot.
The big losers:
Cincinnati (NL) - The Reds threw in the towel by giving away Boone, Guillen and Williamson, and firing manager Bob Boone and general manager Jim Bowden. One of the few bright spots is pitching prospect Brandon Claussen, acquired from the Yankees.
Pittsburgh (NL) - Hernandez is not just compensation for Lofton and Ramirez. Cutting closer Mike Williams and Suppan loose rounded out the fire sale. Second baseman Freddy Sanchez (.341 in AAA), acquired from Boston, could contribute in September and beyond.
WHO'S HOT: 1B John Olerud, Seattle (8 HR, 62 RBI, .277) - Trading for Olerud (4 HR, 15 RBI last week) at the break usually pays off.
WHO'S NOT: OF Jeromy Burnitz, Dodgers (21 HR, 53 RBI, .260) - Burnitz (2-for-20, 0 HR, 1 RBI last week) is slipping into his typical late-summer swoon.
ROOKIE WATCH: SS Angel Berroa, Kansas City (15 HR, 53 RBI, .293, 8 SB) - When will this guy finally hit the radar screen? When he beats out Hideki Matsui and Rocco Baldelli for AL ROY.
Reach Lane Kramer at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106.