The trade deadline has come and gone, and, really, nothing much has changed.
Granted, plenty of players changed teams. Some teams improved, either for this season or for the future. Some are going to regret not doing anything.
But when all the paperwork had been submitted and all the players had said their goodbyes, the playoff landscape was essentially the same.
Oakland and Detroit remain the heavy favorites in the American League. The rest of the playoff contenders made upgrades Thursday or had in the previous days and weeks, but essentially are part of a large pool of teams that will be stuck together in the standings for the next two months.
They will still be looking up at the A’s and Tigers, who with the additions of left-handers Jon Lester and David Price, respectively, boast the best starting rotations and two of the most capable offenses in the game.
The rest of the season will be about fine-tuning for a potential head-to-head matchup to get to the World Series.
“We still have work to do,” Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “There’s still a lot of baseball left, and crazy things can happen.
“You can’t write anything in, whether it’s the prediction of a player or the prediction of a team. It’s impossible. There’s still work that we need to do. I’d say more so now just because of the shot in the arm from the trade.”
The A’s started Thursday with a stunning trade. They sent slugger Yoenis Cespedes — their cleanup hitter — to Boston for All-Star and impending free agent Lester. The trade also included Jonny Gomes, who will be part of a platoon that fills the Cespedes void.
The Tigers struck just before the 3 p.m. deadline, getting Price from Tampa Bay in a three-team trade that sent center fielder Austin Jackson, a Denton native, to Seattle as the Mariners try to muster up enough offense to remain relevant in the hunt for the second wild-card berth.
Detroit now has the past three Cy Young winners in its rotation. Price (2012) joins Max Scherzer (2013) and Justin Verlander (2011) along with Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello.
“For the sake of argument, we probably have one of the best rotations ever put together, and that’s exciting to be a part of,” Kinsler said.
The Tigers are probably still short a shortstop and a left-handed reliever, and they need Joakim Soria to perform better than he has in the first 10 days since the Rangers traded him for right-handers Corey Knebel and Jake Thompson.
But the Tigers players, who had to play Thursday afternoon, weren’t sweating the moves Oakland had made earlier in the day or wondering what their general manager, Dave Dombrowski, would do to counter.
The Tigers felt they had enough.
“We didn’t even talk about the trade deadline, even when we got Joakim,” Kinsler said. “This organization is trying to win a World Series and not just trying to get into the playoffs. Dave Dombrowki is doing everything he can to give the Tigers the best chance of winning the World Series. To get a pitcher like David Price is a big deal. That reassures the players about where the organization’s mindset is.”
The Tigers are the class of the AL Central, though they haven’t pulled away as many expected they would. They aren’t exactly being pushed by anyone, though, in a division that doesn’t have a pair of cupcakes like Houston and the Rangers filling their schedule.
The A’s have a few concerns the rest of the way, primarily the Los Angeles Angels. C.J. Wilson made his return from the disabled list Saturday, complete with angels playing harps and ninjas doing sweet things. More important, the Angels acquired Huston Street just after the All-Star break to clean up their lousy bullpen.
Oakland, though, needs Coco Crisp’s neck and Craig Gentry’s broken hand to heal quickly and properly, and Jason Hammel, who was acquired along with Jeff Samardzija just before the All-Star break, needs to fix whatever is ailing him after an 0-4 start with a 9.53 ERA.
But the A’s and Tigers don’t need to worry much about Seattle or Kansas City, or Baltimore or New York or Toronto. One of those five will be the second wild-card entry, a spot that might not be determined until the final weekend of the season.
Oakland and Detroit, meanwhile, will remain the class of the American League, just as they were before a wild deadline day that ultimately didn’t change the playoff landscape all that much.