Yes, July 31st is still over a month away, but that has not stopped the rumors and name dropping to begin in Major League Baseball. As the trade deadline inches up, the annual “rent-a-player” flea market begins to showcase merchandise and set possible prices on players that can be had or may be available for the right price.
Who could forget last years’ huge deadline deal, that had the Phillies getting former Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee from the Indians for 4 players who have not amounted to a hill of beans, and Lee almost single-handedly pitching the Phils to a second straight World Series Championship? Of course Lee was since traded to Seattle, but don’t despair, he is back in the highlights again this deadline season, along with some other decent, but high priced pitchers, and some big bats. Yes it sounds exciting as always, only problem is that as always it is the same group of sellers like Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Houston, and Baltimore, catering to the usual group of buyers like Boston, both New York teams, Philadelphia, Detroit and Texas ( yes Texas, despite being financially strapped).
So who exactly are you dreaming about to add to your club and perhaps make a big splash? Who can be this year’s Lee, or Manny Ramirez? Well first of all you have to consider who your team can part with, and do they have the minor-league talent that some of these sellers would like. Then you have to think about how some of these monster contracts will fit into your team’s budget? Hmm, billionaires talking budget is like a homeless person thinking “limo rental”, pretty much a crazy form of financial spending that make people chuckle under their breaths. Oh yes, all of our home teams want to win, but at what cost? How do they know that the guy they get makes enough difference? In the case of the Phillies, they chose not to keep Lee, and thought that he would cost way too much, so instead added minor leaguers that are trapped in Single A. Or perhaps a guy like Manny, who really made the Dodgers go nuts with contract talks and possible free-agent pastures. It’s insane, but we all know teams will play the game, they always do.
So what I decided to do was check the baseball rumor mills, pin my ears to the TV, check some rosters for my own assumptions and also just started to think “baseball sense”and have gotten my own little list of potential movers and what is involved to get their services. Keep in mind they are in no real order, nor am I going to be insistent, it’s just a list, have fun with it.
For teams looking for some good, or acceptable starting pitching we have these guys:
Roy Oswalt, Houston: It must be another season, because Oswalt’s name is all over again in the trade rumors. A hard-working, very skilled right-hander, Oswalt would be an instant staff ace on just about any team he joined. This season he has a 3.16 ERA, and batters are hitting just .233 against him. For his career he has an excellent record of 141-78 with a 3.23 ERA, and has a strikeout to walk ratio of 4-1. His huge drawback? He will make $15 million this year, $16 million next year and has a club option for 2012, also worth $16 million, plus a very tough “no-trade”clause in his contract. With Houston being so bad right now, you know they are ready to deal, but just how little will they take? Ask the Rangers, Mets, and Phillies, it is heavily rumored that they are watching him closely. Player Grade: A
Ted Lilly, Chicago (N): Yes his fastball is not hitting 90, but he is still crafty. Lilly is having a good year with a 2.90 ERA, but just 2-5 due to the Cubs woes. As they continue to fall, he continues to gain interest. For his career he is 105-89 with a 4.19 ERA, good enough for the Cubs to owe him out $12 million this year. He will be a free agent in 2011. His 34 years of age makes some a little leery, some call him Jaime Moyer with a better fastball. With the Cubs owing out huge contracts he may go very cheap, just to save some kind of coin. Player Grade: B
Dan Haren, Arizona: The D-Backs were hoping to be more for sure, but they are not, so this guy moving with his $25.5 million, next 2 years owed contract makes sense. He throws hard, has great stuff, but at times is just totally erratic. His ERA has come down to 4.61, and still keeps a good 7-4 record this season. He is a masterful strikeout pitcher, and his career record of 86-66 with a 3.68 ERA shows he can be a stud in any rotation. At just 29 years old, he should have a lot left, but he also should have a lot of dollar signs coming too. He is a risk, but if he gets it straight he has big reward. Player Grade: B
Ben Sheets, Oakland: Every July, Oakland appears in here somewhere. Taking a flyer on Sheets could pay off into grabbing some young talent, but only if a team is desperate enough. We know the Sheets of the past, but the new one has become sloppy, walking 33 batters to 59 strikeouts. His ERA since May 8th however has been 3.60 after a poor start. For his career he’s a .500 pitcher with a 3.79 ERA. If he is anything at all near the Sheets of the past he can be a nice pick-up for a contender, as his deal is just $10 million for this year. He has Yankees written all over him. Player Grade: C+
Other possible movers: Fausto Carmona, Cleveland: He comes cheap at 3 million, and is locked in with club options, young at just 26, and has decent stuff. His 3.23 ERA this season is a big improvement, plus he can be used out of the pen. Jeremy Guthrie at 31 years old also looks appealing. Currently stuck in Baltimore, he has a contract of just $3 million dollars and must still go through arbitration for the next 3 seasons. His 3.83 is the best thing going on in Baltimore right now outside of Maryland Crab Soup.
Okay how about some bats. Let’s look at these possible players:
Lance Berkman, Houston: Much like Oswalt, a change of scene could loom large for the big bopper. Yes his numbers are poor this season (.237 average, 6HRs), but his career .297 average, 319 homers speak for themselves. Berkman can play first and also the outfield and could be a big time DH for an AL club. His $14.5 million contract at 34, with the decline in numbers is a tough sell however. Mets and Yankees fans as well as Red Sox fans, be on the look-out. Player Grade: B+
Derrek Lee, Chicago (N): Like I said with Lilly, they need to drop dollars fast. Lee had a nice run here, but it is time to let him change it up. At just .229 with 7 homers this year, Lee is looking like a guy who could be finished, however he is 34, and is a career .282 hitter with 300 career homers. Lee is a mainstay first baseman and can surely DH. If the Reds get hot he can be a suitor, as will be the Yankees, or Tigers. Player Grade: B
Paul Konerko, Chicago (A): Probably the best available bat in all these rumor mills. Konerko can bang (17 homers this season), can hit anywhere (.291 average), and had experience winning. He is a career .278 hitter with 343 home runs and close to 1100 RBI’s speaks for itself. He also plays a good first and of course could be a DH. At 34 years old and at $12 million his numbers are about right, he’s no steal, but also not a bad investment. Just about any team in the hunt would love to have his bat, and the White Sox can put high value on him, and possible get it. Red Sox? Tigers? Perhaps. Player Grade: A-
David DeJesus, Kansas City: Not a lot of good comes from KC, let’s face it. The Royals do however have some nice ball players, and DeJesus may be the best of the bunch. Making just $4.7 million at 30 years old his contract and age are very attractive. Speaking of attractive his .314 average with 5 homers and 30 RBI’s don’t look bad either. He plays all the outfield spots, has decent speed and a career .288 average. Given the chance to play in a better lineup with more talent, he would be sure to flourish. Not sure if KC makes the move, but if they do, teams should line up for him. Phillies, Mets, Tigers, Yankees and even a team like Washington can benefit here. Player Grade: A-
Ty Wigginton, Baltimore: Versatile and workman-like are words best suited for the underrated Wigginton. He can play second and first, some outfield and can DH. He is having a very solid season, hitting .277, with 13 homers and 36 RBI’s. At 32 years old and at $3.5 million his numbers are a great value. He can be a great bench guy as well as a starter for any team in contention. An NL team could sure use his bench bat, and utility. A career .271 hitter with 134 homers lets us know he can contribute. San Diego would be a great home for him,his numbers and his dollars if they stay in the hunt. Player Grade: B
Hanley Ramirez, Florida: A few weeks ago I heard the crazy rumor that Dan Uggla was being shopped. Not much has come of that since, and this one with Ramirez may be more of my rumor-esque speculation then truth, but there are some rumblings. He had a well publicized fall out with his manager and team a few weeks back after being benched for “dogging it”on the field. The anger is there you can bet on it. Florida has always been a franchise to skimp and not lay out huge dollars. Ramirez is pure gold. A career .313 hitter with pop (112 homers already), and amazing speed, he is a true 5 tool player. Florida is paying him $7 million a year, a number that any of the big markets would crush in a second, and he wants to win. At 26 years old he is a baby still with his skills. Hey, they traded Cabrera, they traded Willis, and have talked about Uggla. If your farm system is stacked, you consider this move. If I am a big league GM, I ring the Marlins phone, like you say hi to the pretty girl walking down the street, just in case! Player Grade: A+
Bullpen helpers. More names can arise, but here is a quick glimpse at some possible available pen pals:
Kerry Wood, Cleveland: Wow, how things change, When he came into the league he looked like the next Bob Gibson. Now he is a guy with decent heat, decent stuff and an arm to consider for a contender in the pen. His numbers this season are poor, but for his career he is 66-58 with a 3.72 ERA. At 33 years old he is not done, but he needs to find that animal instinct he once had. He can also close, gathering 58 career saves. A change of scene and a good pitching coach can make him a steal. Player Grade: B
Bobby Jenks, Chicago (A): Jenks has been the closer for the Sox for some time now, but the time to move may be now. He has 11 saves this year despite a 4.94 ERA, but for his career Jenks has 157 saves and a 3.34 ERA. He is not a big strikeout closer, but more of the crafty type, so he would be valuable in a National League bullpen as a set up guy, or a closer along the lines of a Trevor Hoffman. Lots of suitors if the price is right. He is a decent ticket at $7.5 million, but at 29 young enough to be considered. Player Grade: B
Kyle Farnsworth, Kansas City: Erratic, enigmatic, and downright confusing is what many would say about Farnsworth, but I will say this, hard throwing. He can still bring a good fastball and a nasty slider to the mound, and this year seems to be putting it together nicely with a 2.49 ERA. He also averages a strikeout per inning and is a good 7th or 8th inning arm for any contender. He can be wild at times, but the focus may be more present in winning situations. He is far from the guy that broke in with the Cubs, but that could be a very good thing. Player Grade: C+
Joakim Soria, Kansas City: Alert! Alert! Yes early this year the KC Royals were talking Soria in trade rumors. You take all risks and you grab him if you can. At the ripe young age of 26 he has already saved 104 games and has a career ERA of 2.20. Kind of odd that he has never won a career decision (0-9) but then again few great closers have big win-loss numbers. This season he has a 3.00 ERA and 15 saves for a last place Royals team, and you can bet that he is dying to move on. At just $3 million a year he is the very best value for talent available. If KC is this crazy, and the trade bait is there, any team in baseball, not just contenders should consider this move. A talent for years to come.
Player Grade: A+
Okay so after seeing some names I’m sure some of you are already thinking of who can be dealt, who you want and how good some will look in your uniforms. Hey let’s not forget some guys hiding out, like Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz. Also think about some players like Jayson Werth who the Phils could lose at year’s end and if they struggle could make available to build up a farm system depleted by past trades. Some dark horse names and big ticket players are sure to arise as we draw closer, but for now enjoy your appetizers, and get ready for a big July.
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