Ryan Dempster was supposed to be the first big name dealt away as the swirling waves of non-waiver Trade Deadline 2012 began to boil last week. Turns out the veteran right-handed "rental" property was just about the last to go.
Dempster's departure to Texas for third baseman Christian Villanueva and pitcher Kyle Hendricks and the host of other moves involving contenders, teams on the rise and roster rebuilders was just another example of the unpredictability, intrigue, and, well, flat-out fun of this time of year.
With the haze of rapid-fire transactions wafting away from the Major League horizon, we can now see clearly at what transpired right up until Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET cutoff. We can also predict what might lie ahead in possible waiver-wire deals in August, and, most important, on the fields of play leading up to October.
"I'm excited about going to a team that has a chance to win the World Series," Dempster said Tuesday. "And hopefully that will happen."
He's not the only one with those hopes. The Dodgers, for example, missed out on Dempster but connected on more deals than any other in efforts to improve their standing down the stretch.
They're in the hunt in the National League West, their best player, Matt Kemp, is finally healthy, they've got new, eager ownership, and they've got a creative general manager in Ned Colletti. That added up to a flurry of moves that began July 25, when they shook up the sport by landing infielder Hanley Ramirez from the Miami Marlins in a package that included reliever Randy Choate and cost Los Angeles right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and Minor League righty Scott McGough.
"When the new owners came in, they set forth their intentions right away -- we're not going to do anything reckless or crazy, but we're not letting money stand in the way of a good baseball deal," Colletti said after landing another big bat for his lineup. "They proved it [by getting Ramirez] ... It's liberating and freeing to be able to make a baseball trade."
Consider Colletti a lot more liberated and free after the last week. Late Monday night, he worked a deal that sent two prospects to Seattle for back-of-bullpen arm Brandon League, and on Tuesday, Colletti beat the Deadline and scooped up a dynamic all-around player in postseason-tested Shane Victorino, whom the Dodgers got from Philadelphia in exchange for reliever Josh Lindblom and Minor League pitcher Ethan Martin.
Not to be outdone, particularly by their fiercest rivals, the San Francisco Giants didn't stand still either.
They struck a few hours before the Deadline by landing outfielder Hunter Pence, another player dealt from the Phillies and only a year after he had been dealt to Philadelphia from Houston. The Giants gave up a lot for Pence, shipping out outfielder Nate Schierholtz plus Minor League catcher Tommy Joseph and right-handed prospect Seth Rosin, but Pence, who has 17 home runs and 59 RBIs this season, will add some punch to manager Bruce Bochy's lineup.
Bochy is hoping he will also get run production from infielder Marco Scutaro, whom the team plucked from Colorado in exchange for Minor League second baseman Charlie Culberson in a relatively active Trade Deadline week for San Francisco GM Brian Sabean.
The biggest name to change zip codes in the Trade Deadline flurry was right-hander Zack Greinke, not too far removed from his 2009 Cy Young Award season in Kansas City. The Angels were the ones who landed Greinke Friday, when they sent their best infield prospect, Jean Segura, to Greinke's Milwaukee Brewers along with Double-A right-handers John Hellweg and Ariel Pena.
Meanwhile, the team the Angels are chasing in the American League West, the Rangers, lost starters Colby Lewis and now Neftali Feliz to season-ending Tommy John surgery but are reloading. Dempster is the biggest example of that, but Texas also landed a batterymate for Dempster in the form of catcher Geovany Soto, whom the Rangers acquired on July 30, also from the Cubs, for Minor League pitcher Jake Brigham and a player to be named.
Late reports were flying all over the internet that the Yankees were suitors for Dempster, and even though New York GM Brian Cashman missed out on that veteran, he landed a few others in a Trade Deadline that seemed to be about strengthening target areas on an already-strong division leader.
The July 23 deal with Seattle for Mariners icon Ichiro Suzuki took care of the lack of speed that came into play when Brett Gardner went down with an injury, and the need for a right-handed bench bat was answered right before Tuesday's Deadline, when the Yankees flipped veteran reliever Chad Qualls to Pittsburgh for infielder Casey McGehee.
"Until you get what you want, which is a World Series trophy, you're never comfortable," Cashman said. ... "The only time that mentality stops is if you're the last team standing. Otherwise, you were never close enough."
The Pirates had already shown how close they are in a wide-open National League Central by landing lefty starter Wandy Rodriguez from Houston on July 24, parting with Minor Leaguers Robbie Grossman, Colton Cain and Rudy Owens in the process. And Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington wasn't finished then. He also made what could be a sneaky-good move for his team and Toronto when he traded right-hander Brad Lincoln to the Blue Jays for outfielder Travis Snider on Monday, the day before the Deadline, and he got another veteran bench bat in Gaby Sanchez, whom Pittsburgh took from Miami for Triple-A outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and righty reliever Kyle Kaminska.
Toronto wasn't done dealing, either. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos wheeled outfielder Eric Thames to the Mariners for reliever Steve Delabar on Monday.
But moving over to other contenders, let's not forget what the Detroit Tigers and Atlanta Braves did this time around.
Detroit made one of the boldest early moves of the Deadline period, trading pitching prospect Jacob Turner and Minor Leaguers Rob Brantly and Brian Flynn to Miami and landing veteran starter Anibal Sanchez and former All-Star infielder Omar Infante.
And on Monday, the Braves, who tried and failed to get Dempster, worked a deal with the Cubs for lefty Paul Maholm and right-handed-hitting outfielder Reed Johnson, giving up pitching prospects Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman.
"It was a perfect fit for us," general manager Frank Wren said. "We got two real key pieces for us that we were looking for."
Nothing else did materialize for the Braves, but things happened for other contenders.
Cincinnati on Tuesday beefed up an already-stout bullpen by getting Jonathan Broxton from the Royals in exchange for Minor League starter J.C. Sulbaran and reliever Donnie Joseph. And the Oakland A's made a quiet move on Saturday, trading reliever Fautino De Los Santos to the Brewers for catcher George Kottaras.
Houston continued to rebuild by shipping third baseman Chris Johnson to Arizona for Minor League outfielders Bobby Borchering and Marc Krauss, and since it wouldn't be a Trade Deadline without GM Ken Williams of the White Sox being involved, Williams landed lefty starter Francisco Liriano from the Twins for left-hander Pedro Hernandez and infielder Eduardo Escobar, and the Rays bolstered their bench situation by getting Ryan Roberts from the D-backs last week.
Not long after Tim Wakefield retired, the Red Sox made a move to get a knuckleballer to potentially replace him, landing Minor Leaguer Steven Wright in a Tuesday move that saw them move onetime first-base prospect Lars Anderson to Cleveland. Boston also acquired a big-league bullpen arm, landing lefty Craig Breslow from the D-backs for righty reliever Matt Albers and outfielder Scott Podsednik.
The St. Louis Cardinals got right-hander Edward Mujica from Miami in exchange for former first-round Draft pick Zack Cox.
Otherwise, it was quiet on the trade front, and surprisingly so for some clubs and players. The Orioles and Nationals didn't do anything at all, although the Orioles were rumored to be courting Phillies starter Joe Blanton.
Blanton stayed put, as did a host of other players who were the subject of countless speculatory reports, tweets and blog posts. Third baseman Chase Headley stayed in San Diego, Phillies starter Cliff Lee is still a Phillies starter, Matt Garza remained with the Cubs, outfielder Denard Span is still a Minnesota Twin, and starters Jason Vargas and Kevin Millwood will continue to pitch for the Mariners.
And now we'll wait for the next round of deals, which could start ... well, Wednesday.
August brings the chance for clubs to trade for any player on a 40-man roster who clears revocable Major League waivers. That means big names with big contracts such as Josh Beckett, Alfonso Soriano and Vernon Wells could be traded soon, joining other August-trade subjects from the past such as 2010 playoff hero Cody Ross, plus Adam Dunn (2008), Jamie Moyer (2006), Larry Walker (2004), Rickey Henderson (1997) and John Smoltz (1987).
In other words, the July 31 Trade Deadline smoke has blown away, but there could be a lot more fire to come.