T1. Pittsburgh Pirates (1st WC): The Pirates needed an established bat more than any other team on this list, but instead traded for Wandy Rodriguez , Travis Snider, and Gaby Sanchez. Snider was once a legitimate hitting prospect and has power, but has struggled in his past few seasons in Toronto. Sanchez was a solid hitter in 2010 and 2011 for the Marlins, but has been dreadful this season, hitting .202 before being demoted to the minors on July 4th. Pittsburgh needed a proven commodity to protect MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen in a barren lineup — neither Snider nor Sanchez is the answer. Rodriguez will add depth and experience to a strong starting rotation.
T1. Atlanta Braves (2nd WC): Atlanta whiffed on Ryan Dempster, and settled for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson instead. Maholm is one of the hottest pitchers in baseball at the moment, but history suggests that he may come back to earth soon. Johnson is a versatile fourth outfielder that will give the Braves flexibility with their outfield rotation, especially if leftfielder Martin Prado is asked to spell Chipper Jones at third. If Maholm stays hot, this is a crafty deal for Atlanta, but consider that a large “if”.
T3. San Francisco Giants (3 GB): Despite acquiring Marco Scutaro last week, the Giants clearly needed another bat to help their struggling offense, which doubled as the obvious weakness of a playoff-caliber team that already has stellar starting pitching and a solid bullpen. Enter Hunter Pence, who is a massive offensive upgrade over Gregor Blanco and Nate Schierholtz, and who should give Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey some much-needed protection in the middle of the lineup. The Giants succeeded where the Pirates failed in this case.
T3. Los Angeles Dodgers (3 GB): After trading for Hanley Ramirez last week, the Dodgers acquired Shane Victorino and Brandon League just before Tuesday’s deadline. Los Angeles is clearly all-in for this season and while prospects were surrendered, these moves certainly help the Dodgers in the short term — Ramirez replaces Juan Uribe at third, Victorino takes over for Tony Gwynn and Juan Rivera in left, and League solidifies a bullpen that previously had little firepower outside of closer Kenley Jansen.
5. St. Louis Cardinals (4 GB): The Cardinals waited until the last minute to add bullpen help in the form of Marlins reliever Edward Mujica. Before Sunday’s blown save, Mujica hadn’t allowed a run in eight straight appearances. The Cards gave up 2010 first round pick Zack Cox in the deal, but held onto prized prospects Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, and Oscar Taveras. The Cardinals did well to fill a need while not overpaying– Cox was a high draft choice, but he has also struggled this season in AAA. In effect, the Cardinals added Brian Fuentes and Mujica to stabilize the bullpen while surrendering only a single minor leaguer that wasn’t even a top-3 prospect in its farm system.