Those who better produce

The top 10 players and executives facing increased scrutiny because of what happened -- or not -- at the trade deadline.

Originally Published: August 3, 2004
By Buster Olney | ESPN The Magazine

Dreifort
Dreifort

No. 10. Darren Dreifort of the Dodgers. Now that Guillermo Mota has been traded to Florida, the oft-injured Dreifort has been promoted into the crucial role of setup man for Eric Gagne -- and in his first chance Saturday, he blew a lead against the Padres.

No. 9. Kris Benson and Victor Zambrano of the Mets. With New York all but out of the playoff race, the late-season performances of the two pitchers will be important in justifying the Mets' decision to trade away a huge portion of their minor league talent.

No. 8. Jose Contreras. The Yankees traded him away because they believed he could not cope with high-anxiety games. Now Contreras goes to Chicago, where the White Sox are hoping his talent will save their waning season.

No. 7. Diamondbacks manager Al Pedrique. Now that Randy Johnson is staying with Arizona, either Pedrique or his successor will have to deal with the fallout from the team's decision to keep the Big Unit -- and satisfying a disgruntled future Hall of Famer could be all but impossible.

Josh Beckett
AP PhotoJosh Beckett may have turned the corner in his last start.

No. 6. Josh Beckett. In trading Brad Penny, the Marlins gambled that Beckett's blisters will heal and that he will lead a defense of the team's World Series championship. Otherwise, the Marlins' rotation might be too thin for Florida to make the playoffs.

No. 5. Orlando Cabrera. He replaces Nomar Garciaparra as the Red Sox shortstop, and if Boston doesn't make the playoffs, Red Sox Nation will remember Cabrera only as a failed footnote at the end of the Nomar era.

No. 4. Nomar Garciaparra: He goes to the Cubs bearing a reputation as a brittle baseball diva. If he plays well, October glory and big free-agent dollars await. If not, he may have cost himself millions with his ugly Red Sox exit.

No. 3. Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. He made the Garciaparra deal in an attempt to save Boston's season from its clubhouse chemistry quandary. Without a postseason appearance, however, he will go down in history as the GM who traded Nomar.

No. 2. Kevin Brown. Because the Yankees failed to pry Randy Johnson away from Arizona, they must now rely on some of their own aging starters to carry them in October. Brown, just off the disabled list, must gain arm strength quickly and become an ace again.

No. 1. Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta. He broke up the team's bullpen and chemistry despite the fact that L.A. had won 21 of 27 and inhabited first place in the NL West. If the Dodgers fail to make the playoffs, those decisions will be engraved into his résumé permanently.

Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His book, "The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty," will be released Aug. 17, and can be pre-ordered through HarperCollins.com.

Buster Olney | email

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine