July 13, 2006


Trade Deadline

The MLB trade deadline creates interest unlike that of any other sport. I can't say I know why this is; maybe it's because trades are more a part of baseball history, maybe because teams are often trying to sell off good players by this point in the season, or maybe it's just because a lot of trades actually happen around this time. One thing is for sure - the MLB trade deadline is full of rumors and rumblings. I'm here to try to separate fact from fiction.

What we know will happen:

Aubrey Huff was already dealt from the D-Rays to the Astros (see yesterday's post). This deal gives the Astros some extra pop in their lineup, and gives some quality young players back to the Rays. Tampa has been trying to deal Huff for a couple years now, so they are probably relieved to finally have a deal done.

And that's pretty much all we know for sure. There are a lot of rumors out there, but nothing else is even close to a done deal at this point. But there are other deals that might happen...

What is likely to happen:

The Nationals are dealing: Alfonso Soriano, Jose Guillen, and Livan Hernandez are among the names that may be leaving our nation's capital. Soriano has been rumored to go somewhere on the West Coast, especially to the Angels or Dodgers. The Angels certainly have the parts to get him (see below), and the Dodgers have some young prospects, but we don't know if they will want to pull the trigger. Both Soriano and Guillen have been mentioned in talks with the Yankees, although I don't see Soriano going back to New York - those things just don't happen very often. Guillen would make some sense in New York to replace some of the production lost from Matsui and Sheffield; however, Guillen has a reputation of being volatile at times.

The Yankees are buying: Obviously the Yankees are always going to be looking to add players at the deadline, and this year they will be searching harder than ever now that they're not guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. The best fit for the Yankees would be a starting pitcher, but unfortunately there are very few decent pitchers avaliable. So Steinbrenner & Co. might have to settle for the next best thing - a corner outfielder. The aforementioned Guillen and the Phillies' Bobby Abreu have both been involved in talks with the Yankees. Abreu seems like a good fit for New York, as Abreu has a large contract that would likely keep him from going anywhere other than New York or Boston, and Abreu also has a no-trade clause that he can invoke if he wants. But we don't know what else the Phillies want back - Steinbrenner has been reluctant to deal away his prospects to get large-contract players over the past couple years. This year, though, that sort of deal might make sense.

The Tigers(!) are buying: The Tigers need a left-handed bat to improve their standing. Right now they have the best record in baseball, though they certainly are not assured of a playoff bid yet (see yesterday's post). There isn't a great fit out there for Detroit, however. One rumor says that they have been pursuing Soriano; they definitely have the young talent to make that deal. Another popular rumor has them trading young pitcher Joel Zumaya for the Braves' John Smoltz. I don't think that deal will happen, however, because neither team really wants to part with their respective pitcher. The Tigers like the young talent they have and think they can contend for many years, while the Braves aren't out of the race yet this year and also could put together a run next year. So this deal probably won't happen, although it would bring Smoltz back to Detroit, the team he originally was drafted by.

What may or may not happen:

The White Sox make a deal: The Sox mainly need some bullpen help, as they've had some trouble getting leads from their starters to Bobby Jenks. But they may also make a big splash. One big rumor had Giants all-star Jason Schmidt going to the Sox for center fielder Brian Anderson and top prospect Brian McCarthy. This deal has cooled off of late, and it probably won't happen - the Giants are still very much alive in the NL West - but it's still a possibility. Chicago GM Ken Williams has always been very aggressive in making deals at the deadline.

Greg Maddux leaves Chicago: The Cubs have had a very disappointing season this year, and they may look to deal Maddux somewhere. One popular rumor has him going to Milwaukee, where his brother Mike is the pitching coach. But I don't think Maddux will get dealt for a couple reasons - His stuff is not nearly as good as it once was (he's been terrible since his hot April start), and it may take a king's ransom to get him because of what he once was. Also, the Cubs don't seem as eager to get rid of Maddux as they do some of their other players.

The Pirates dump some talent: Both first baseman Sean Casey and outfielder Craig Wilson have been in trade talks recently. Wilson may go to the Cardinals (who also need an outfielder), or to the Angels. Casey would likely go to the Giants if he were to be traded.

The Angels make a deal: The Angels have been in talks with just about everybody, and they have the young talent to get just about anybody they want. However, they have been very reluctant in the past to move their prospects for a three-month rent-a-player like Soriano (who will be a free agent at the end of the season). The AL West is wide open, but their track record suggests that they won't make any blockbuster deals. If they do trade someone, they will likely pick up a smaller bat (i.e. the aforementioned Craig Wilson), or they will deal Adam Kennedy to make room for star prospect Howie Kendrick.

The Mets pick up some pitching: Obviously, the Mets would love to shore up the back end of their rotation. The problem is, there isn't really any pitching avaliable. Livan Hernandez has been awful lately (1-3, 8.10 ERA in his last six starts), but he still might be one of the best names out there. Tony Armas Jr. and "All-Star" Mark Redman are other names that the Mets might target.

Three names that you might think are avaliable, but they really aren't:

Dontrelle Willis: Willis has been rumored in talks (primarily with the Mets), but he won't be going anywhere. The Marlins won't trade him unless they're completely bowled over by a trade - in the Mets' case, it would take one or both of the Mets' two top prospects, Lastings Milledge and Mike Pelfrey, who are both considered untouchable. The Yankees would love to get Willis as well, but it's not happening. There is no reason for the Marlins to deal Willis - they are poised to make a title run in two or three years with their collection of young talent, and Willis would be entering his prime at that point. And the Fish don't need to dump salary - they right now have a league-low $16 million payroll.

Barry Zito: Zito was on the block earlier when it looked like Oakland might not be in playoff contention, but now that they are tied atop the division, it would be dumb to deal Zito. Oakland is probably the favorite to win that division now that they are becoming healthy again, and if they want to make a run at the title they definitely need Zito on their team.

Carlos Lee: Many teams (including the Yankees) would love to have Lee, but he's too big of a name for the Brewers to deal. Lee has a fairly large contract, and he's a very talented player, so the Brewers would want lots of talent in return along with the other team picking up Lee's contract. And I don't think anyone out there will be willing to do both of those, especially when there are plenty of other outfielders avaliable.

Update (4:00 pm): Reds and Nationals made a deal this afternoon, albeit a minor one. Basically, the Reds get Royce Clayton and some pitchers for Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez and Ryan Wagner. Clayton helps the Reds defensively, although Lopez is a pretty big loss offensively. The pitching that the Reds recieved should help their bullpen, which has been awful so far. This deal should also free up Ryan Freel to play every day for Cincy. On the Nats' side, they pick up some needed offense in Kearns and Lopez. Adding Kearns makes it even more likely that they will deal Guillen and/or Soriano. It also might be interesting to note that Brendan Harris will be going to the Reds as well; Harris went Colonie HS.

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