Rather than taking off for the All-Star break, the Blue Sox made a bunch of trades. I first traded my third round pick in next year's minor league draft (there are four rounds total) for the rights to Fausto Carmona. His owner was frustrated with him so I thought I would take a chance on him. If he comes back this year I may not have a spot for him so I may have wasted a draft pick, but if he comes back strong, I'll make room. This seemed like a low-risk move that may work out but if it doesn't, oh well.
Ervin Santana is also available (cheap) from the same owner, but I don't think I can afford to take a chance on him as I would have to carry him on the active roster right away.
My next trade was a big one, and one I may regret. I traded Alex Gordon, Jeff Clement, and Dioner Navarro for Victor Martinez. My catchers were Navarro and Mike Redmond, with neither helping me and Navarro hurting me. I picked up Brayan Pena for Redmond, figuring that Pena would be sent down when Buck was activated and I'd have a nice minor leaguer, but right now the Royals are going with 3 catchers, so Pena is still active for me. He's one guy I could dump, but I would like to have him for the future. Navarro has been killing me. He may have been the worst hitter in the league in the first half. He does have a history of improvement in the second half, but he would have to improve a lot to be useful down the stretch. I gave the other owner a choice of Pena or Navarro and he picked Navarro.
I also gave a choice of catching prospects, Clement or Jesus Montero, and he picked Clement. This is not a big loss. He's been mostly disappointing to me since I got him as part of the Kevin Youkilis trade (probably my second worst trade ever) and I couldn't keep both prospects next year anyway.
The big loss here is Gordon, and he's why I made the trade. I have Justin Morneau at 1B, Evan Longoria at 3B, and Russell Branyan (at .10) at CI. My DH was Delmon Young (more on him later) but I could have moved one of my outfielders and freed up the DH spot. But, I also have Mike Lowell coming off the D/L. So I have a spot for Lowell or Gordon, but not both. I offered the other owner a choice and he picked Gordon. This was a good pick for him. Both Lowell and Gordon will be $3 next year, but Gordon has much more potential to be great next year than the fading Lowell. But this might actually help me because Gordon won't be 100% when he returns and he's a slow starter. Lowell is also struggling with hip problems, but I like his chances to outperform Gordon in the second half, head-to-head. And that's really what these trades are about, me winning this year. Having said all that, I still wish he'd picked Lowell.
I would be remiss if I didn't berate myself more over how I got in this situation in the first place, which was trading Andrew Bailey and Travis Buck for Lowell and Jason Frasor. I did this like the day before Bailey became the closer and to keep Brandon McCarthy. Ouch. (Plus, I dropped Frasor right away, when he was just a decent set-up guy, which he's back to being now.) I can't tell you how much better off I'd be right now with Bailey, but of course I wouldn't have V-Mart because I wouldn't have Lowell and wouldn't have needed to trade Gordon. We'll see what happens.
The next trade was really good for me and my goal of winning this year. I traded Aaron Poreda, Delmon Young, and Coco Crisp for Alex Rios and A.J. Burnett. A.J. takes Poreda's spot and gives me a top starter for the second half for basically a middle reliever. I love Poreda and think he's going to be a great pitcher, maybe even this year, but A.J. should be a sure thing for the second half. Delmon Young was a throw-in because I would have had to drop somebody to add Rios and he was the worst guy I had in the outfield. Not that Young can't be a great player, but he won't be for the rest of this year. Crisp is out for the year, so he wouldn't help me at all.
From the other owner's prospective this isn't a bad deal, either. Neither of us would keep Rios or Burnett next year, so they don't have any value beyond this season. Young could still become a great player and, at $1 is a good risk. Poreda could develop into a great starting pitcher for the White Sox (no relation) maybe as soon as this year. He's started off great in the pen. And Crisp, if he returns healthy from shoulder surgery next year, is a very valuable $1 outfielder.
So here's where I am:
C Brayan Pena
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Ramon Santiago
MI Luis Valbuena
OF Grady Sizemore
OF Shin-Soo Choo
OF Melky Cabrera
OF Scott Hairston
OF Willie Bloomquist
DH Alex Rios
When Lowell gets back, I will put him at DH and move Bloomquist to SS or MI and drop either Valbuena (who's been terrible, but has some keeper value) or Santiago (who could be good if he got to play more). I'll have to figure that one out later.
P CC Sabathia
P Josh Beckett
P John Lackey
P A.J. Burnett
P Brian Fuentes
P Phil Hughes
P Michael Wuertz
P Justin Speier
P Alfredo Aceves
I have Slowey on the D/L, so when he comes back I'll put him in, probably for Speier. If I drop another pitcher it will probably depend on whether Aceves takes Wang's spot in the rotation or if they give it to Mitre. (Ideally it would go to Hughes, but other people, smarter than I am, have already written on that topic.)
So when Slowey returns, I will have 5 good starters, one closer, and three middle relief types (at least until Wang gets back).
I think I have finally assembled a great AL only team. The question is whether or not its too little too late. I'm currently in 6th place, 25 points out of first. (There are a total of 80 points, ten in each category.) I'm twenty points out of third. You need third to finish in the money, so that's my short-term goal. Catch third. I had really hoped to win this year with a strong commitment to some top guys that I can't keep next year, like Sizemore and Morneau, but injuries have hurt me some and my bit players haven't done enough. Hopefully, I've done enough now to crack the top three.
As far as minor leaguers for next year, I'm still good. We can keep four and I have Brian Matusz, Justin Smoak, and Jesus Montero, and still have several possibilities to choose from for my fourth guy.