Former All-Stars Jake Westbrook, Ted Lilly, Ryan Ludwick and Kerry Wood were traded Saturday as pennant contenders played a game of beat-the-clock. Lance Berkman went to the World Series champion New York Yankees after rejecting the Chicago White Sox.
The swaps came as clubs scrambled before the 4 p.m. EDT deadline for making trades without waivers. It was a day full of deals between haves and have-nots — veterans for prospects, mostly.
The NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals were the prime players in a three-team trade, getting Westbrook from Cleveland and sending Ludwick to NL Central-leading San Diego.
"I'm excited to go to a club that's contending for a playoff spot and pitch in some meaningful ballgames," Westbrook said. "That's why you play the game, to get a chance to play in the playoffs and I look forward to doing that."
Westbrook was scratched before he was set to start at Toronto. Ludwick leaves a crowded outfield in St. Louis.
The Yankees plucked Wood from Cleveland, shortly after finishing off the deal to get Berkman from Houston. The Astros sent $4 million and Berkman, the Yankees' new designated hitter, for reliever Mark Melancon and minor league infielder Jimmy Paredes.
"You don't want to play games that don't have anything riding on them. This is a chance to get back into that mode of playing games that are meaningful and that there's an excitement about," Berkman said.
A five-time All-Star, the 34-year-old Berkman was hitting only .245 with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs.
"I didn't perform like I should have performed or like I have in the past," the switch-hitter said. "I felt like there was a decent chance that a change of scenery would do me some good. I'm at the point in my career where I needed to either retire or find something that would sort of light the fire again. ... So this is almost a litmus test for me to see how much more baseball I have left."
The AL Central-leading White Sox had a deal in place for Berkman, general manager Kenny Williams said. But because Berkman is a 10-and-5 player — 10 years in the majors, the last five with the same team — the slugger could turn it down. Instead, he chose the Yankees.
"What is the most frustrating part is we actually did get something done and unfortunately the player had other ideas and wanted to be somewhere else. But we did come to an agreement on a deal and you're at the mercy of contract sometimes," Williams said.
"He sent me a message and said it wasn't personal but he had already had conversations with Andy Pettitte and their best friend and that's kind of what was in his mind, his family's mind," Williams said.
Berkman said he didn't think he would get traded. If there was going to be a deal, he said the Yankees were his first choice.
"I probably would have accepted a trade to Texas. I would have probably thought about a trade to Tampa. I would have accepted a trade to St. Louis and I would probably have thought about a trade to San Diego," he said.
In other deals:
—NL East-leading Atlanta acquired outfielder Rick Ankiel, reliever Kyle Farnsworth and cash from Kansas City for pitchers Tim Collins and Jesse Chavez and outfielder Gregor Blanco.
—The Los Angeles Dodgers, seven games behind San Diego, got the left-handed Lilly, Theriot and about $2.5 million from the Chicago Cubs for infielder Blake DeWitt and minor league right-handers Kyle Smit and Brett Wallach. The Dodgers also boosted their bullpen by obtaining Dotel from Pittsburgh.
—AL West-leading Texas traded catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Boston for pitcher Roman Mendez, first baseman Chris McGuiness, a player to be named later and cash.
—Tampa Bay got Qualls from Arizona for a player to be named. The 31-year-old righty reliever was 1-4 with 12 saves and an 8.29 ERA.
—San Francisco sent pitcher Joe Martinez and outfielder John Bowker to Pittsburgh for left-handed reliever Javier Lopez.
—Arizona sent catcher Chris Snyder, minor league shortstop Pedro Ciriaco and cash to the Pirates for outfielder Church, former AL Rookie of the Year Bobby Crosby and right-hander D.J. Carrasco in a trade between last-place teams.
—Detroit traded outfielder Wilkin Ramirez to Atlanta for a player to be named or cash.
—Florida got lefty reliever Will Ohman from Baltimore for minor league righty Rick VandenHurk.
Texas also completed its trade for Cristian Guzman, getting the infielder and cash from Washington for right-handers Tanner Roark and Ryan Tatusko. The active Rangers made several deals in the days leading up the deadline, acquiring ace Cliff Lee and infielder Jorge Cantu.
"I think the team's finally set, and now we can concentrate on what we have to do — and that's win ballgames," Rangers star Josh Hamilton said.
Earlier this week, Houston traded ace Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia, Cleveland sent outfielder Austin Kearns to the Yankees, Kansas City moved outfielder Scott Podsednik to the Dodgers, Minnesota got All-Star reliever Matt Capps from Washington and San Diego got infielder Miguel Tejada from Baltimore.
Teams still can make trades for the rest of the season, but it gets more tricky. Players must first pass through waivers, meaning any club can get an opportunity to claim them before a deal is done.
Deals must be completed before Aug. 31 for a player to be eligible for the postseason with his new team.
Westbrook was set to start for the Indians, but aware a deal might be brewing. He left the clubhouse for a flight to St. Louis.
The 32-year-old righty was 6-7 with a 4.65 ERA for Cleveland. Ludwick, a 32-year-old outfielder, hit .281 with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs this season.
Cleveland sent cash to the Cardinals and Padres, and got minor league pitcher Corey Kluber from San Diego — the 24-year-old righty led the Texas League in strikeouts. St. Louis also acquired minor league lefty Nick Greenwood from San Diego.
"We've been looking for a quality starting pitcher to add to our rotation for some time," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said in a statement. "Westbrook is someone we've had our eyes on for a good period of time."