There is no doubt a great number people think it’s way too early to be thinking about trades in MLB. However, considering the rash of injuries that have beset many clubs in the early going, it’s certainly not too early for them to think about acquisitions that can help them now rather than later.
As general managers across the league start to make inquiries, they’ll be contacting fellow GMs who already have players in mind that they’d like to deal at some point. Some of these players may not fit into future plans for their team, others may be under-performing and simply need a change of scenery, still others may have contracts that are not compatible with the team’s overall future financial goals.
Many of the players that are made available by GMs can fetch a nice return. Just last year the Houston Astros received four prospects from the Philadelphia Phillies in return for outfielder Hunter Pence. Two of those prospects were ranked in the top 100 by Baseball America at the time of the trade.
Oftentimes, GMs looking to unload players place a heavy price tag on their available player, one that seems to indicate that the general manager values the player much more than teams bidding for their services.
Here is a list of current players who have been mentioned in recent trade talks that may not be worth what their teams are seeking in return.
Solid middle relievers are always a hot commodity at the trade deadline, and Oakland A’s reliever Grant Balfour certainly is no exception.
It never seems to pass that each year, some team vastly overpays for their services, however. Case in point—Larry Andersen, dealt by the Houston Astros at the trade deadline in 1990 to the Boston Red Sox for a prospect that Houston valued much more highly than the Sox did—Jeff Bagwell.
We all know how well that trade turned out for Houston. GM Lou Gorman at the time valued Andersen’s short-term help in his bullpen for the stretch run more than Bagwell’s budding potential—potential that was realized and will likely see him in the Hall of Fame someday soon.
Balfour no doubt will be a highly sought-after bullpen presence for several contending teams, and at least one of them will vastly overpay for his services.
Ah, another middle reliever. But in the case of Colorado Rockies pitcher Esmil Rogers, any value placed on him on the open market would be too much.
FOX Sports baseball guru Ken Rosenthal tweeted on Thursday that the Rockies were drawing interest in Rogers.
Not sure why, considering his putrid 8.66 ERA in 15 appearances thus far. However, Rogers can throw heat, he just doesn’t know where the ball is going to end up (13 BB in 17.2 innings).
Because Rogers is out of options, he likely wouldn’t clear waivers, so the Rockies must figure they’ll try to get whatever value they can for him.
The Oakland A’s are sitting in second place in the AL West right now, five games behind the Texas Rangers. While they are hanging in right now after 38 games, many feel that the A’s will be sellers as the season progresses, and one of the players that could be made available at that point is starting pitcher Bartolo Colon.
But here’s the thing—Colon started out quickly last season for the New York Yankees, posting a 6-4 record and 3.20 ERA in the first half. His second half was a completely different story, as Colon’s ERA jumped to 4.96 in the second half and wasn’t nearly as effective.
Colon can absolutely provide depth at the back end of the starting rotation for a contending team, but at what cost? Considering last year’s numbers, is it worth sending Oakland a well-thought-of prospect?
Someone will. Hey, it’s baseball, someone always overpays.
Just about everyone on the planet expects the Houston Astros to shop their veterans at some point this season—the only question is when.
First baseman Carlos Lee is certainly one name who has already been mentioned, but it comes with a catch.
First, Lee would love to stay in Houston. About the only way that would happen is if Lee takes a substantial pay cut and serves as a designated hitter next year when the Astros make a move to the AL West.
Second, Lee has the ability to block trades to 14 teams, and his $18 million price tag is indeed hefty. Houston could pony up a substantial amount of money to accommodate a deal, but in doing so they would likely not receive comparable value in return.
Houston is definitely in a dicey situation with Lee because of that salary, and other teams know it. In their case, they might not get the value back in return.
Lee would be overvalued even without the bloated salary. His numbers have diminished year after year since 2007, and if current numbers stay steady throughout the year (.305, 3 HR, 18 RBI), his production once again won’t touch the previous year’s numbers.
Much like the Houston Astros, the Minnesota Twins could be conducting a fire sale of their own in the coming months.
One of the players likely to be included in that sale is closer Matt Capps. Picking up his eighth save of the season on Thursday in the Twins’ 4-3 win over the Detroit Tigers, Capps has seen success this year in using his split-fingered fastball, throwing it with much more confidence.
With the issues that many teams have already had with their closers (injury, poor performance), the Twins will likely reap the benefits by exposing Capps to other teams, and will also likely get value in return.
Prospects are always a dicey proposition in terms of predicting their future success, but the Twins will receive prospects that are highly regarded nonetheless.
But, is it worth the asking price? Capps is certainly succeeding now, and on a team with not much to cheer about, Capps has delivered more so than last year. But is it ever smart to give up promising prospects without a guarantee that the player you're receiving will even be with the team for the future?
I understand that baseball is all about the here and now for teams who have a sniff of the postseason, but does the cost outweigh the future?
In recent days, an interesting trade option has been bandied about the web concerning Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Joe Blanton.
The trade involves dealing Blanton straight up to the Boston Red Sox for third baseman Kevin Youkilis. In theory, the trade works out great for the Phillies, who are in serious need of offense with the absence of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.
Youkilis is rehabbing from a strained back and should be activated from the disabled list by early next week. Off to slow start in 2012 (.219/.292/.344 slash line), Youkilis could absolutely return to form and provide the Phillies with an offensive spark.
Blanton has gotten off to a great start (4-3, 2.96 ERA in seven starts) but has never pitched well against teams from the AL East. Against the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays, Blanton has a career record of 5-10 with a 5.59 ERA.
How is that better than back-end rotation starters currently in place for the Sox?
Pass, Boston, this is not equal value. Not even close.
In Ken Rosenthal’s latest Full Count video presentation for FOX Sports, he discussed the fact that the San Diego Padres could deal starters in the back end of their rotation to open up roster spots for some of their younger prospects.
Presumably that would include pitcher Edinson Volquez.
Volquez, acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in the deal for Mat Latos, has pitched well, with a 2-2 record and 2.79 ERA. However, the home/road splits clearly show how much Petco Park has aided Volquez—2.41 ERA/1.098 WHIP at home, 4.09 ERA/1.797 WHIP on the road.
Nonetheless, Volquez will no doubt get plenty of looks if in fact Padres GM Josh Byrnes makes him available. And no doubt that someone will be there to reward Byrnes handsomely for Volquez, regardless of his splits.
The aforementioned fire sale that the Houston Astros will likely undertake later this season for their veterans also will include starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez, who is no stranger to trade rumors.
The tricky part of the talks concerning Rodriguez is his contract. A number of teams have already contacted the Astros, and according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, at least one NL executive doesn’t think Rodriguez’s contract is worth the gamble.
"He's a No. 2 starter at times," the scout told Stark. "But for me, what you're really getting is a fourth starter on a good team who can throw a curveball. Unfortunately, if you look at his paycheck, he's getting paid like a No. 2. And that's a problem."
While Rodriguez’s contract isn’t consider immovable, it’s hard to imagine that the Astros can get anything close to equal value in return.
Rodriguez is off to a great start, with a 1.99 ERA and 0.994 WHIP through eight starts, so the interest will continue growing if he keeps up with the solid numbers.
If the Cleveland Indians continue to play solid baseball throughout the summer, they likely will be buyers rather than sellers. However, if they repeat their free-fall that defined their 2011 season, then veterans could be made available by GM Chris Antonetti. One of those veterans could be designated hitter Travis Hafner.
Hafner is in the final year of his contract paying him $13 million, with the Tribe holding a $13 million option for the 2013 season. One would have to think it unlikely that Cleveland would exercise that option at this point, so it would make sense to try to get whatever they can for Hafner at the trade deadline, if either the Tigers suddenly turn into the team everyone thought they would be or if the Indians repeat past behavior.
Hafner has failed to play in more than 118 games in any season since 2007, so durability will clearly be at issue, especially for teams needing a big bat off the bench or as a DH during the final two months of the season. In any event, Hafner is a rental player at best at this point, and teams should be very wary of overpaying for two months of insecurity and doubt.
With a current ERA over two runs higher than his career mark, Milwaukee Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez is nowhere near the scary lock-down closer persona that dominated in the mid-to-late 2000s.
Considering the Brewers’ injury woes and their current 16-21 record, it’s not inconceivable that K-Rod could be made available by GM Doug Melvin at the trade deadline.
Rodriguez would cost his new team approximately $2.75 million for the rest of the year, which is certainly not an outrageous number for any team contending for the postseason. However, as mentioned in our first slide with Grant Balfour, teams always overpay needlessly for relief help. Rodriguez is obviously a great talent, but will he provide the type of spark that he gave his Anaheim Angels in 2002 as a late-season rookie call-up?
Doubtful. But someone will pay anyway.
Someone always does.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.