The ever exciting Major League Baseball trade deadline of July 31st proved to be somewhat of a dud this time around. The more significant transactions occurred days before, and no real blockbuster deals were made.
Despite the disappointment for many fans, some teams did manage to improve their rosters -- one of those being the Los Angeles Dodgers.
|Photo by: Jon SooHoo|
Former National League batting champion, Hanley Ramirez, and two-time All-Star, Shane Victorino, were acquired to breathe life back into a struggling Los Angeles offense that ranks in the lower half of a majority of NL offensive categories.
For the last season and a half, Ramirez struggled with the Miami Marlins and his numbers began to diminish, but the move to So-Cal has since rejuvenated the 28-year-old Dominican. Perhaps a change in scenery was all he needed to return to form.
Likewise, Shane Victorino has seen a slight drop in his numbers over the last couple of years. Whether or not he steps his game up remains to be seen, as he went 0-for-4 in his debut in blue on Wednesday.
Being one of the biggest villains to Dodger fans over the years, the "Flyin' Hawaiian" has his work cut out for him, as he will surely need to gain the respect and love of the Dodger faithful with his play on the field. But Victorino does provide the Dodgers with a switch-hitting leadoff man, which they desperately needed since Dee Gordon was placed on the disabled list.
In spite of boasting the third-best bullpen ERA in the NL, the Dodgers further strengthened their collection of relievers with left-handed specialist, Randy Choate, and hard throwing righty, Brandon League.
Choate, who came over in the trade with Miami, was obtained to add another left arm to a bullpen that featured only one in Scott Elbert.
As a former closer for the Seattle Mariners, Brandon League brings experience, not to mention a fastball capable of reaching 100 MPH. League does not only rely on his heater though, as his arsenal of pitches, which Manager Don Mattingly described as "dirty" -- includes a slider and change-up as well.
While the bullpen should not present many problems for Los Angeles' playoff push, the starting rotation just might be the team's downfall. General Manager Ned Colletti spent days negotiating with other clubs, attempting to reel in a reliable starter to plug into his rotation, but failed to do so before the non-waiver trade deadline on Tuesday.
The main target was Ryan Dempster, who was ultimately traded to the Texas Rangers. Throughout the last couple of weeks, talks between the Dodgers and Cubs were heating up and it appeared that Dempster was on his way to L.A. -- but, a deal could not be made.
No one in the starting rotation has been consistent throughout the year besides the club's ace, Clayton Kershaw. Los Angeles better hope to snag another starter on waivers if they plan to make a strong run this season. A deep playoff run is not likely, given the rotation as is, but the NL West divisional crown is very possible.
Now what does all of this mean for the other contenders in the NL West?
The San Francisco Giants currently sit atop the division, just 1 game ahead of the rival Dodgers. In an attempt to match the Dodgers' offensive acquisitions, the Giants added infielder Marco Scutaro and outfielder Hunter Pence. San Francisco ranks 11th in the NL in runs scored, and has been plagued by injuries all year long.
While the offense might be somewhat of a weak spot, pitching is certainly the Giants' forte. Two-time Cy Young winner, Tim Lincecum, has been struggling a lot this season, but young guns Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner have been holding down the rotation without a problem.
If San Francisco hopes to win the division and return to the postseason once again, Lincecum will need to return to form and the offense needs to give their pitchers more run support.
The defending NL West champion Arizona Diamondbacks didn't seem to be much of a factor in the divisional race this season, as they got off to a slow start. However, they have turned things around, as they just completed a sweep of the Dodgers on Wednesday and are now only 2.5 games out of 1st place.
The D-Backs were able to trade for third baseman Chris Johnson, reliever Matt Albers, and outfielder Scott Podsednik. Granted, none of these players are big names, but Johnson has already paid dividends for the club since arriving in Arizona.
While experts suggest that the division will be won by Los Angeles or San Francisco this season, you can never count out the Diamondbacks. Last year they were predicted to be the worst team in the NL West, and wound up winning the division.
With the Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals, and Atlanta Braves all piling up wins, it seems a wild-card spot is unlikely for the NL West clubs this year. That means that the only shot at playing into October would be winning the division.
Still, there is a whole lot of baseball left to be played, and with two months remaining in the 2012 MLB season, the only thing for certain is -- it will definitely be an exciting race to the finish.