With Matt Garza heading to Texas and Francisco Rodriguez wearing Orioles orange, the first hats have finally dropped on the 2013 MLB trade deadline.
While usually the biggest names coming off the market sets off a firestorm of moves, this year's story may wind up being about the lack of players available. Everyone gets rather fixated on the July 31 non-waiver deadline. It's a drop-dead date, thus creating the expectation that everyone will be doing their best MLB: The Show impersonation next Wednesday.
The reality is the most notable deals of this summer may already have been agreed upon.
"There are no players anymore," a team executive told ESPN's Jayson Stark. "I mean that. There's a real shortage of players."
There are many reasons for that, ranging from MLB's second wild-card spot all the way to teams simply not being as open to trading their proven major league talent. That leads to deals for players like Garza, a solid No. 2 or No. 3 starter but no one who will single-handedly carry you to a World Series. And while that's admittedly underwhelming, it's a fair trade-off considering the hellacious race to the finish we'll see in September.
Plus, it's not like there won't be any trades. MLB's hot stove created all of this deadline madness for a reason. There will still be moves between now and July 31, just not ones that involve hundreds of millions of dollars changing hands.
With that in mind, let's take a look around the league and check in on the latest news surrounding the open market.
Marlins Want "Equal Value" for Giancarlo Stanton?
The old saying goes that it's hard for the working man to feel bad for the professional athlete. They make all this money playing a game and yada, yada, yada. Well, Giancarlo Stanton may be in the midst of turning that old expectation on its head.
The Miami Marlins slugger watched on in horror this winter as his ownership traded away just about every remotely talented teammate on the roster. Jeffrey Loria is probably baseball's most reviled owner as a result, and most have begun to view the Marlins as MLB's 25-man tax write-off.
None of that has helped Stanton, who is by far Miami's best player and one of the more talented young sluggers in the game. Stanton has spent 2013—another pre-arbitration deal, mind you—hamstrung by the lack of talent around him. He's hitting .239 with 11 home runs and 29 RBI. His fielding has taken a dip from very good in 2012 down to below replacement-level this season. And though his BABIP of .293 is below his career average, there are no real indicators that he's gotten noticeably unlucky.
The fact is, pitchers aren't giving him anything worthwhile to hit, and it's affected his plate approach. There's nothing that Stanton can do about it at this point—other than hope Miami will take mercy on his soul and send him elsewhere.
Well, that's probably not happening either. Stanton can be had if the price is right, but the Marlins have reportedly made it clear that price goes beyond the realm of reasonable expectations. According to SNY.tv's Matthew Cerrone, the Marlins are looking to get "equal value" in return for Stanton, meaning a player already productive at the major league level and who has fewer years of service time than their slugger.
Cerrone goes on to say that Miami's starting point would be someone like New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey. Yes, National League All-Star Game starter Matt Harvey. In other words, the price is so high that Stanton will almost certainly be stuck in Miami going into this coming winter.
Hey, at least the weather's nice.
Hunter Pence Not on the Move?
Hunter Pence, meet July trade speculation. Again? Yes, sir, again.
A year ago at this time, Pence was put on the block by a major-market club (Philadelphia Phillies) that by way of injuries and underperformance tailspinned into the mid-tier of its division. Pence, a usable two-way player on a fair, arbitration-eligible contract, was one of the team's major chess pieces. So the Phillies acted, sending Pence to the San Francisco Giants for Nate Schierholtz (now a Cub) and two minor league prospects.
Pence's Giants, through very little offensive help from his end mind you, went on to win the World Series. There was much high-fiving and happiness to be had. San Francisco brought Pence back, avoiding the hard-swinging gavel of an arbitrator by locking up Pence for another season at $13.8 million.
A year later, Pence finds himself in a near-identical situation. He's a part of a major-market club that by way of injuries and underperformance tailspinned into the mid-tier of its division. The Giants aren't as far out as the Phillies were a year ago, but with the Dodgers finally ascending it seems unlikely San Francisco will get a chance to repeat this fall.
So, boom. Another trade coming down the pike, right? According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, not so much:
It will be interesting to see whether the Giants' stance changes over the next week. They are more of a disappointing team than one showing any major long-term cracks, which puts them in a better position than Philly a year ago. But Pence can test his value on the open market this offseason, though in March he said his preference was staying in the Bay Area.
Whether he'll get to stay with the Giants is another question entirely. Pence and Buster Posey have been the two bright spots on a struggling San Francisco offense this season, with the former having the very definition of a contract season. The 30-year-old right fielder is hitting a career-low .268 but has 14 home runs, 50 RBI and is on pace for his first career 20-20 season. If a team thinks Pence's sudden baserunning aggressiveness isn't a fluke (which it probably is), then he may price himself out this winter.
This is Pence's first chance at a long-term megabucks deal. The Giants may get weary of leaving him on the market and getting nothing in return come next week, a fact that leaves the door slightly ajar for a Pence deal.
Next 7 Days to Determine Michael Young's Future?
Speaking of the City of Brotherly Love, you might as well be pressing the replay button on last year's deadline with these Phillies. Things aren't as dire as they were 365 days ago—Philly was 14.5 games out on this date a year ago—but they're not headed anywhere resembling a positive direction.
Ryan Howard has a torn meniscus. Outfielder Ben Revere broke his foot. For a team that ranks 23rd in runs and 21st in on-base percentage and one that boasts a mediocre rotation behind Cliff Lee, losing Howard and Revere puts the team on life support.
While the dream of catching the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves remains somewhere in the back of everyone's mind, the reality is the Phillies will probably be sellers for the second straight July. They are 1-3 since the break, and have five more coming up against the St. Louis Cardinals and Detroit Tigers. Things aren't exactly looking swell in the comeback department.
What that means for general manager Ruben Amaro is parsing through the team's high-priced talent and figuring out which players are a part of the team's future. They could obviously get the most haul for Lee, an absolute ace who is worth every dime of his contract. But the more likely trade piece—the one that wouldn't rock the boat all that much—is Michael Young.
The Phillies have no natural short-term fit at third (they do have prospects), but Young is an expiring piece who won't get an ounce of qualifying offer consideration. Speaking with Jayson Stark of ESPN, a team executive noted that how Philly fares in Detroit and St. Louis will almost certainly decide Young's future.
"The next week will determine Michael Young's fate more than anyone else on their roster," the executive said.
Should Amaro want to acquire anything for Young, who has a no-trade clause, he'll have to do it now. He's had a solid season, hitting .283 with seven home runs and 31 RBI. But teams are more interested in Young because he's a right-handed bat on a market almost completely barren with offensive help. The reality is Young is a replacement-level player at this stage in his career, so any B-level prospect from a contender would be enough to get a deal done.
All stats via FanGraphs.
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