Cubs top list of active dealers

Jul 10, 2007 7:51 AM

The first half of the 2007 baseball season featured surprising winners, such as the Brewers and Indians, a stunning managerial resignation in Seattle (Mike Hargrove), and some unexpected flops with the Cardinals, White Sox and Yankees.

Here’s a look at some teams that might be active at the trading deadline and primed to make a second half surge.

Cubs: The first week of June, the Cubs were a bit of a laugh at 22-31. After all, they were the biggest free agent spenders, bringing in Alfonso Soriano, manager Lou Piniella, along with pitchers Jason Marquis and Ted Lilly. Hopes were high, but they struggled badly out of the gate.

At the mid-point Chicago was 40-40, playing much better baseball. Piniella brought up kids from the minor leagues like Felix Pie and Angel Pagan to inject some speed into the order. The Cubs manager also continued shuffling what had been a disastrous bullpen. His moves paid off, as the Cubs went 18-9 to get to .500. The pen still needs arms, so don’t be surprised if the Cubbies shop outfielder Jacque Jones for some relief help.

Mariners: It isn’t often you find coaches leaving in the middle of a season with a winning record, but that’s the case in Seattle. Hargrove had enough and simply walked away. It was unusual in that the Mariners have been hot, winning 10 of 11 games. John McLaren, the bench coach under Hargrove, took over as the new skipper last week.

The good news for McLaren is that this team is playing well, hot on the heels of the first place Angels in the AL West and alive for a Wild Card spot. The offense is balanced and third in the AL in hitting. The pitching has gotten a huge boost from young Felix Hernandez along with a deep bullpen.

Sports bettors take note: No team has been better against southpaws, going 15-6.

Twins: It was expected to be a rebuilding year for the young Twins, who saw the retirement of starter Brad Radke and the loss of Francisco Liriano. The young ace lefty is recovering from surgery and won’t be able to pitch until 2008. When you looked at the starting rotation in April (Ramon Ortiz, Sidney Ponson) it didn’t figure this team had much of a chance in 2007.

Yet, the payroll strapped Twins continue to impress and overachieve. Ace Johan Santana has lights-out stuff. Carlos Silva and Boof Bonser have thrown well, along with young Scott Baker. The offense is productive despite several injuries and Minnesota is second in the AL in steals.

D-Backs: How is Arizona doing it? Fifth-worst in the NL in runs scored, third-worst in batting average. Ah, pitching, of course. Veteran Randy Johnson was not brought in to be the savior, which is a good thing. He’s battled injuries, missed several starts and has been basically a 5-to-6 inning starter. Yet, he’s been very effective in limited action.

Brandon Webb is an ace, while Micah Owings and a deep bullpen anchor a staff that is fifth in the NL in pitching. With all that pitching, notice that the D-Backs started 25-13 under the total on the road.

Angels: Here’s a team that’s not going away. Third in the AL in pitching, a great bullpen, first in the American League in hitting and steals. Throw in aggressive manager Mike Scioscia plus a loaded farm system, and the Angels have plenty of pieces in place for a strong second half.

Vladimir Guerrero and newcomer Gary Matthews Jr. can slug the ball, while four players (Matthews, Chone Figgins, Reggie Willits and Orlando Cabrera) have more than nine steals apiece. The rotation has four talented horses in veterans John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar along with kids Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana.

A’s: The AL West has been very competitive in 2007, but Oakland has a recent history of second half surges. They need to upgrade an offense that is third-worst in the AL in runs. Yet, if pitching is the key to second half surges, the A’s are loaded.

Oakland is ranked No. 1 in the AL, led by ace Dan Haren, Chad Gaudin and Joe Blanton. While most teams will be shopping for pitching before the trade deadline, the A’s will be looking for bats and have arms to deal. That’s a nice plus.