1. Pirates acquire Travis Snider from Toronto for Brad Lincoln. This one doesn't get a whole ton of play in the media because it's not as sexy as a lot of the other trades that went down and if it does it's always mentioned as a "trade of two failed prospects, both of whom were drafted in the first round of the 2006 draft. That may be true, but that doesn't mean Pittsburgh didn't get a steal here. The Pirates have gotten nothing out of their left-fielders this year (mainly Alex Presley), with a combined .198 average, and Snider just so happens to play left field. The Pirates also have an excellent bullpen with a combined 2.81 ERA out of the pen this year, so although Lincoln has pitched well this year they aren't exactly going to notice his loss. Then there's their performance. Before settling in the pen this year Lincoln was tried as a starter twice, finishing 2010 with a 6.66 ERA (9 starts) and 2011 with a 4.72 (8 starts). He was always a starter in the minors, and outside of 13 double-A starts in 2009 (when he was already 24) and two AAA starts this year he's never posted an ERA below 4.00 at any level. Safe to say he's a middle reliever, and as I've discussed here a lot middle relievers pretty much grow on trees. Lincoln was worth little. Snider, on the other hand, with five plus .300 average seasons in seven in the minors with good plate discipline and good power. He also hit .300 his first year in the majors (.301 in 80 PAs) and hit 14 homers in 319 PAs in 2010, but he's battled a lot of injuries and been on the DL quite a bit. He's also 3 years younger than Lincoln. Basically the Pirates traded a player that plays a position they don't need who you pretty much already know his ceiling for a player at a position they need who has shown promise and if could stay healthy still has the potential to be an impact player. Great trade.
2. Cubs acquire Arodys Vizcaino (and Jaye Chapman) from Atlanta for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson. The Braves acquired Vizcaino in the trade where they shipped Javier Vazquez to the Yankees in 2009 when he was the #16 prospect in New York's system. Since then he's ranked #5, #5, and #2 while in the Braves' system, and is now headed to the Cubs (along with a top-25ish reliever guy). All they had to give up was a journeyman outfielder in Johnson and a back-of-the-rotation starter who, literally, anybody could have had for about $5 million this offseason in Maholm. The downside of this trade for Chicago is nobody gives a shit. Maholm is not going to develop into a Cy Young candidate, so no matter what happens the Cubs aren't hurt. The upside is Vizcaino, who has #2 type stuff. For a team that's been pretty smart about moves the Braves were awfully antsy this year, trying to give Randall Delgado (#3 prospect) to the Cubs first for Ryan Dempster before he blocked it and then following it up by trading prospect #2. Epstein has actually done a nice job dealing with the hellhole that is Chicago's roster, and at some point he's going to find a taker for Soriano. I have to admit, I have a feeling that nerd will get the best of that one as well.
3. Angels acquire Zack Greinke from Milwaukee for Jean Segura, Ariel Pena, and John Hellweg. The Angels certainly didn't underpay, giving up three prospects ranked in their top 15 but getting Greinke, and maybe more importantly not letting the Rangers or Yankees get him, will be a key to the Angels postseason success this year. This move sets up their rotation as Jered Weaver, Greinke, C.J. Wilson, and Dan Haren, and if Haren wasn't having a pretty tough year I'd say that's one of the best rotation I'd seen in a while. Certainly they have an edge when compared to the other contenders, with Haren their fourth starter compared to guys like Phil Hughes, Zach Britton, Clay Buchholz, Phil Humber, Doug Fister, Travis Blackley, Derek Holland, Jeremy Hellickson, and Brett Cecil - and they're better than almost every other team at the #2 and #3 spots, too. The Giants showed in 2010 that pitching can win championships, and their rotation of Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, and Jonathan Sanchez wasn't as good as what the Angels have now put together. In fact, I just talked myself into a small bet on them to win the world series at 6-1. Take advantage man, take advantage.
4. Yankees acquire Ichiro Suzuki from Seattle for D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. Mostly I like this one because the Yankees' risk is basically nil. Farquhar is nowhere near a top prospect list and has already been traded 3 times and waived twice in his four year career and has an upside of a 7th inning reliever, while Mitchell is a meh starter who is in his third year at AAA at age 25. For that low price they get a guy who, although he's been on the decline the last two years, did hit over .300 for 10 straight years, and a guy who agreed to hit low in the lineup, move positions, and sit against at least some lefties. Ichiro wanted out (there is a theory he's just been bored the last two years playing for such a shitty team), Seattle wanted him out so they wouldn't have to deal with the headache of resigning/not resigning him, and so the Yankees swoop in with almost no risk. Their production out of their left-fielders (Raul Ibanez/Andruw Jones) has been brutal, so if Ichiro plays as he has all year it's a small upgrade. But if the move to New York and a contender lights a fire under his ass and he plays like pre-2011 Ichiro? Look out. And all for the cost of two non-prospects.
5. Royals acquire J.C. Sulbaran and Donnie Joseph from Cincinnati for Jonathan Broxton. This is the exact kind of trade the Twins should have been making. Broxton was only signed to a one-year deal, the Royals clearly weren't going anywhere this year, and several teams had interest so the Royals leveraged that and got the most they could. They picked up Joseph, a top-25ish type prospect in the Reds system who has been a nearly unhittable closer in both AA and AAA this year, and Sulbaran, ranked 12th among Reds' prospects and a starter whose numbers are pedestrian but Baseball America said he had the best curveball in the entire Reds' system. Sulbaran gives them another young arm as they try to figure out the whole pitching situation as they make the alleged run towards a division title everyone is telling us to expect, and Joseph can probably start in the big leagues next season so they have some flexibility with Soria coming off injury and owed $8 million (team option). Good trade, and exactly the kind of thing the Twins could have/should have done.
I also think Jeremy Guthrie is a good pick-up for them. I mean he sucks, but you know he's going to give you 200 semi-ok innings and you need at least one guy like that if you're going to be a contender. Of course they have to resign him, find more talented pitchers to put around him, and then dudes have to hit to turn them into a contender, but like Leo Marvin said, "Babysteps."