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Low trade grade for LA

Editor's Note -- ESPN baseball analyst Joe Morgan is slated for an ESPN.com chat Friday at 10:30 a.m ET.

More from Joe Morgan: Mental fatigue tough in dog days

Now that the dust has settled, let's evaluate the best and worst of the trade-deadline moves.

I was surprised at the moves made by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Their trades were the most questionable. I don't think the Dodgers are a better team today than they were before the deadline.

Heading into Saturday's deadline day, the first-place Dodgers were 12-4 since the All-Star break. They had good chemistry. I understand that they felt they were short on starting pitching, and I agree with that. But if you weren't adding Randy Johnson, you were just adding another arm, not a stopper.

That's what the acquisition of Brad Penny amounts to -- he's a solid starter but not an ace (Penny won his Dodgers debut Tuesday). If you're a Dodger fan, you wanted Johnson.

Many observers are questioning how the Dodgers' chemistry will be affected now that the team leader, catcher Paul Lo Duca, has been dealt away.

The key, though, is that GM Paul DePodesta inherited this team in February from former GM Dan Evans. This wasn't DePodesta's team. The only major trade he made before this was for Milton Bradley in April, and that fell in his lap because the Cleveland Indians were looking to unload him.

With these deadline deals, DePodesta has put his stamp on the Dodgers.

I spoke with some of the San Francisco Giants players after the trades, and they're happy with LA's moves. The Giants trail the Dodgers by 5½ games in the NL West.

DePodesta's deals are a calculated risk, because they disturb something that was going well. It may or may not work ... we'll have to wait and see.

Nomar Deal Good for Red Sox
GM Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox helped themselves at the trade deadline via the four-team deal that sent Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs.

Boston's defense has been poor this season, which is one of the reasons they're eight games behind the New York Yankees. Boston is ranked 25th among 30 MLB teams in fielding percentage.

Shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who came to the Red Sox from the Montreal Expos in the deal, is a Gold Glove winner. He and Pokey Reese, a two-time Gold Glove winner, form an excellent double-play tandem. With Johnny Damon in center field and Jason Varitek at catcher, Boston has a strong up-the-middle defense.

This isn't a knock on Nomar, but he isn't as good a shortstop as Cabrera, just as Cabrera isn't as good a hitter as Nomar. So Boston traded some offense for better defense, which they needed to do.

Chicago needed offense, but Nomar bats from the right side. The Cubs' lineup is full of right-handed batters: Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and now Nomar.

When the Cubs face a tough right-handed pitcher, the lack of a lefty in the lineup could catch up with them.
Corey Patterson is the only regular lefty bat in Chicago's lineup.

Yankees Deal Well
The New York Yankees dealt starter Jose Contreras to the Chicago White Sox for starter Esteban Loaiza. New York fans and media were questioning Contreras, and it's difficult for someone who doesn't have much major-league experience to adjust to that.

In contrast with the relatively inexperienced Contreras, Loaiza is a veteran, which is a big reason the Yankees wanted him. Loaiza had his best season last year (21-9, 2.90 ERA). Speaking of the Yankees' rotation, I still believe that Javier Vazquez will become their ace before the season is over. But he won't be a Randy Johnson.

In fact, among the teams that would make the playoffs right now, there isn't a genuine stopper. Except for the Cubs -- who are tied for the NL wild-card lead -- no team has an ace who would pitch Games 1, 4 and 7. That's why the Big Unit was such a hot commodity.

This will make the playoffs that much more interesting. The past few years have shown that anyone can win the World Series, but the lack of dominant pitching makes that even more true.

If the Cubs reach the playoffs, they would have the best pitching staff (led by Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and veteran Greg Maddux). But the Cubs' staff has struggled with health problems, so there's no guarantee.

The White Sox, meanwhile, wanted Contreras because of his potential. And who knows, sometimes when a starter goes to another environment under a different pitching coach in a new system, he gets a fresh start. Jason Schmidt is an example of this -- three years ago he was traded to the San Francisco Giants after several so-so seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and now he's arguably the best pitcher in the National League.

Give Me a Major-Leaguer
The main difference this year compared to recent trade-deadline years was that more trades involved major-league players for other major-leaguers (as opposed to minor-leaguers).

While there are exceptions -- like the Jeff Bagwell trade -- I believe a major-league player is always more valuable than a prospect. A major-leaguer is ready to help you now, but you never know what a prospect will do. That's why he's called a prospect.

An illustration that bolsters my case is Mark McGwire. The St. Louis Cardinals acquired McGwire for three minor-league prospects who never made an impact in the big leagues.

The exceptions arise especially in situations when a team acquires a player who is about to become a free agent for a prospect who has a career ahead of him (like Bagwell when the Red Sox traded him). But overall, in my opinion a proven major-leaguer is infinitely more valuable than an unproven prospect.

An analyst for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan won back-to-back MVP awards with the Reds in 1975 and '76 (the Reds won the World Series both years). He contributes a weekly column to ESPN.com.