By The Associated Press
Reed Johnson already had scored twice, his Cubs were romping and he was set to bat again at Wrigley Field.
Instead of heading to the plate, the outfielder was pulled for a pinch hitter and told to start packing — he was going to Atlanta.
Several contenders got a head start on the trade deadline by making deals Monday night. The Braves acquired Johnson and pitcher Paul Maholm from Chicago while the Los Angeles Dodgers obtained former All-Star reliever Brandon League from Seattle.
Cubs ace Ryan Dempster remained the big prize, and batterymate Geovany Soto seemed on his way to Texas. Clubs have until 4 p.m. EDT to complete trades without waivers.
“There will be a lot of calls. Whether we’re going to make other deals, we’ll see. But I know there will be a lot of phone calls,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “I don’t think tonight is going to be one with a lot of sleep.”
Toronto is among 17 teams in the majors that either leads a division or is within five games of a wild-card spot. The Blue Jays made a pair of trades for right-handed relievers, getting Brad Lincoln from Pittsburgh and Steve Delabar from Seattle.
The Blue Jays pulled outfielder Travis Snider in the sixth inning of a 4-1 loss at Seattle. Soon thereafter, they announced he was going to the contending Pirates.
“Definitely a shock,” Snider said. “With the trade deadline coming up, you never know if it’s going to be you.”
Toronto later acquired Delabar for outfielder Eric Thames.
The Dodgers, in a virtual tie with San Francisco for the NL West lead, got League for a pair of prospects, outfielder Leon Landry and right-handed pitcher Logan Bawcom.
“New league, new hitters, new teammates,” League said. “It’s definitely an exciting time. Now, it’s a new chapter in my life and go help the Dodgers try and win a ring.”
League was 0-5 with nine saves and a 3.63 ERA in 46 games this season. The 29-year-old righty was an All-Star last year when he had 37 saves for the Mariners.
The Dodgers are familiar with League — he got two outs against them in June when six Seattle pitchers combined for a no-hitter against Los Angeles. He had an inkling a deal might be in the works.
“You can’t ignore the rumors and the deadline’s the deadline. The past three years you’ve been hearing stuff whether it be during the trade deadline or even in the offseason,” he said.
Atlanta has won six in a row to climb within 3½ games of Washington in the NL East. The Braves nearly had a deal for Dempster in the last week, and instead got Maholm, Johnson and cash for two minor league pitchers — Arodys Vizcaino, a top prospect who had season-ending Tommy John surgery in April, and Jaye Chapman.
“It was one of those situations obviously where Atlanta was in the market for a starting pitcher,” Hoyer said, laughing. “It made the conversation a little bit easier.”
“There’s certainly no hard feeling from the front office on what happened” with the potential Dempster deal, Hoyer said.
The 29-year-old Maholm is 9-6 with a 3.74 ERA, including a 4-0 record and 1.23 ERA in July.
“We want to put ourselves in a good position to win the division, not just make the playoffs,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said.
“We were looking for a starter, a quality starter that could give us the kind of production we needed up and down the rotation,” he said.