I do not envy the situation that Brian Roberts is in, but I would like to be his real estate agent. Over the past two offseasons, Brian Roberts has been on the trading block.
And once again, there are rumors abound regarding the Orioles' second basemen being traded away.
The rumors are intense enough that his homepage even contains the quote, "Brian Roberts doesn't concern himself with trade rumors but works to make himself as durable as possible for whatever team he may play for. (AP)"
The thing that's different this time is that he's in the last year of his contract. He will have a say in where he plays in 2010.
But where will he play in 2009?
His jersey number doesn't lie, Brian Roberts is the Orioles' No. 1 player. The face of the Orioles franchise, he is both the best player and their best trade bait.
Drafted by the Orioles in 1999, he has played his entire career for the birds. He worked his way through the minors and has played his way into two All-Star games (2005 and 2007).
Roberts was in the top 10 in the AL in Runs, SBs, BBs, 2Bs, 3Bs, and OBP. His 181 hits was one shy of teammates Aubrey Huff and Nick Markakis and a tie for ninth in the AL. He's just one year removed from leading the AL in stolen bases (50) in 2007.
The Orioles and GM Andy MacPhail would love to keep a player of his caliber on the team. Thus why MacPhail has been hesitant to trade him and has reportedly offered him an extension at around $10M/year.
Unfortunately for the Orioles, those contract negotiations have come to an impasse. Roberts apparently wants to play for a contender and it will cost the Orioles more to keep him because of that. He doesn't want the distraction of an in-season negotiation either, so the O's will have to lock him up before the season starts.
MacPhail also wants the Orioles to become younger and more cost effective. Roberts, 31, still has good years ahead of him, but his cost may be hard to justify for a player of his age to a team that's not ready to compete. Especially when his skill set is based so heavily on his speed.
The Orioles know the odds of signing an extension with Roberts get worse with each passing day, so they're preparing to play in 2009 with or without him. Ryan Freel, Chris Gomez, and Jolbert Cabrera all have major-league experience at 2B, but none are long-term solutions.
The Orioles do not have any high-end prospects at 2B either. Their last quality high-end second base prospect was Mike Fontenot who they traded (along with 2B/utility Jerry Hairston Jr.) to the Cubs in 2005.
Apparently the Cubs are interested in acquiring yet another Orioles second basemen.
The Cubs (MacPhail's former employer) have been the most common partner for the Orioles in trade rumors regarding Brian.
Reportedly, the two teams agreed on the players to be swapped last offseason, but MacPhail got cold feet and backed out at the last minute.
Rumors first resurfaced this year when the Orioles were mentioned as a possible third team in a deal that would send Jake Peavy from the Padres to the Cubs. Even after those negotiations fell apart, the rumors persisted. They especially intensified once the Cubs traded Mark DeRosa to the Indians.
If the Cubs do not trade for Roberts, Mike Fontenot is likely to be their starting 2B. He's a very respectable offensive and defensive player who could be hitting in the top half of the order, few Cubs fans would have a problem with "Fonte-yes" starting.
But he doesn't have the upside, speed, or switch-hitting ability of Brian Roberts.
The trade rumors have often been as much about Felix Pie as they have been about Roberts. Pie's value to the Orioles may be greatly decreased now that they've acquired Ryan Freel and Lou Montanez played well at the end of last season. The O's have a crowded and young outfield.
Since the O's acquired Cesar Izturis, their desire for Ronny Cedeno has likely also decreased. Mike Fontenot is supposedly not on the trading block.
Unless Fontenot makes a return to the Orioles, I don't see the players lining up this year for a trade to take place. It may be more likely that Roberts plays on the South Side with the...
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Just after New Year's rumors surfaced that the Orioles and White Sox were negotiating a trade involving Brian Roberts and Sox starting pitcher Gavin Floyd.
Floyd, 25, a Severna Park, MD native attended Mount St. Joseph's High School. If those sound familiar, it's because they're the same town and high school as Mark Teixeira hails from. Floyd was actually selected one spot ahead of Teixeira in the 2004 draft.
Floyd was 17-8 with a 3.84 ERA and more than 200 innings pitched in 2008. That's exactly the type of pitcher the Orioles need to allow their bullpen and young pitchers to play their best.
Better yet for the Orioles, the White Sox are willing to trade him for Brian Roberts. The Sox prefer a heads up deal, but the Orioles want more.
A trade of Roberts would obviously leave a gaping hole in the Orioles infield, so they reportedly are also asking for White Sox 2B prospect Chris Getz.
Chicago has not been shy about their infatuation with Getz and their desire to get him more playing time. But when a player like Brian Roberts becomes available, it is easier to mitigate such desires.
Trading both you players may be too high a price for the White Sox though, especially while Orlando Hudson is still available as a free agent.
Hudson is a solid offensive player but he's a stud defensively, with three gold gloves. He's not as capable a player as Brian Roberts over-all, but he can be added without giving up players. This makes him a very attractive alternative for teams like the White Sox.
If the White Sox don't sign Hudson, the chances of this trade increases greatly.
NEW YORK YANKEES
Once the Yankees acquired Mark Teixeira, people began to speculate about future of Nick Swisher. Swisher could very well still play RF for the yanks, but with Tex at 1B he may have become expendable.
The Orioles were interested in Swisher to replace Kevin Millar as their first basemen before he was traded to the Yankees, and could be interested again.
The Yankees have been interested in Roberts, as well, at various points of his career, but have a respectable 2B with Robinson Cano. Cano is coming off a down year and he doesn't bring the same kind of speed or defensive prowess that Roberts has.
The Orioles would likely want more in return than just Nick Swisher, but the Yankees are not likely to give up both Swisher and Cano (who is one of their few young starters).
But the biggest barrier to the trade is the fact the two teams play in the same division.
While the Yankees may view the O's as a non-threat currently, it is still a large impasse. Especially given the rapid acceleration of the Rays last season.
If none of those trade candidates work out, and the Orioles are unable to re-sign Roberts, it's possible he could be traded somewhere else by the trade deadline.
A lot of other possible contenders for Hudson may become interested in Roberts after Hudson signs. Namely the Washington Nationals and Toronto Blue Jays.
The Jays face a similar barrier as the Yankees, being a division opponent of the Orioles. So a trade there is not very likely.
Any other team who suffers injuries to a second basemen during the season would also be interested.
My gut feeling is that the White Sox will sign Hudson and because of that, Roberts will start the season as an Oriole. If the Sox miss on Hudson, a trade for Roberts will be very likely.