The State of the MLB: A Trading Deadline Mega-Review

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The State of the MLB: A Trading Deadline Mega-Review

The main thing that stands out about the 2009 trading deadline is the lack of financial flexibility for most clubs. Teams are nervous about taking on a large contract and ruining their future ability to make moves.

Keeping that in mind Roy Halladay has been the focal point of the 2009 trade deadline. He is locked into a contract through next season but after that he could be a big money free agent. Not quite CC Sabathia big, because Halladay will be going on 34-years old after the 2010 season, but he will still command a hefty payload.

That is perhaps keeping teams at an arms length because they are only guaranteed to have him for the next two stretch runs (I’ll come back to that in a bit). Organizations know have to balance whether or not the loss of future talent is worth risking for Halladay’s arm through next October.

We need to also keep in mind that October is not a guarantee. Jayson Stark from ESPN detailed five myths about the trading deadline and this was one of his points and I agree with him 100 percent.

The Doc, no matter how dominant he is, doesn’t ensure a team making the postseason. Sabathia and Manny Ramirez did it last year but we must not forget the other times where the big deal hasn’t quite paid off.

The Jays are asking, and rightfully so, for a lot in return. They mainly want Major League talent, along with top prospects, in exchange for the Doc. Toronto Blue Jays GM JP Ricciardi says that, "I think at this point, it's probably unlikely that we'll trade Doc."

Whether Ricciardi is just trying to bait potential suitors into bolstering their offers or actually feels that the trade is unlikely to occur, I still think that Halladay will be moved during this next week. He told the Jays that he will become a free agent after 2010 and to get maximum value they must move him now.

The problem they face is that once the deadline passes on Jul. 31 his value will decrease dramatically. At that point he could still be traded but he would have to clear waivers before any transaction occurred, and there are a handful of teams who would claim him if that situation unfolded.

Basically, a Halladay deal needs to be done within the next eight days or things are not going to be easy for the Jays. They will lose value in the deal if they hold on to him into the offseason.

He has a much higher value now because a team can get him for the pennant chase this year and next year before needing to re-sign him. If they Jays wait until the offseason, they lose this year’s pennant chase as leverage in a trade.

But we will get back to him later. First, here is my up-to-date list with the status of every team and their positioning in the trading market.

 

Buyers

Angels, Astros, Brewers, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Phillies, Red Sox, Tigers, Twins, Yankees

 

Sellers

Athletics, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Indians, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Pirates, Royals

 

Undecided

Braves, Cubs, Mariners, Marlins, Mets, Rangers, Rays, White Sox

 

Now that we know what direction teams are looking to go, let’s breakdown the overall rumor mill division-by-division to best understand the situations surrounding the fast-approaching trading deadline.

 

AL West

Coming off a 101-loss season, the Seattle Mariners have quietly hung around in the AL West and sit just 5.5 games behind the division leading Los Angeles Angels.

With the pitching staff the M’s have, Don Wakamatsu’s team could be a dangerous bunch down the stretch run but they are still unsure if they can hang around if they can add a bat to their pedestrian offense.

Look for them to find a shortstop or utility IF/OF that can make an immediate impact on the field. Jack Wilson and Freddy Sanchez have been rumored to be the focus of the Mariners, but both players have been struggling in the month of the July and I’m not so sure they provide the Mariners with the gap power they are in need of.

A better option would be Orlando Cabrera of the Oakland Athletics. Cabrera has been rumored to be on the market and the Mariners could plug him in everyday at shortstop right away. Ronny Cedeno cannot be relied upon if the Mariners are serious about the postseason.

The A’s and Mariner have worked together recently, as Jack Hannahan moved to the M’s just weeks ago.

But Hannahan clearly is not the solution they were looking for as he has seen his average fall below the Mendoza line to .191 with a pitiful .281 OBP. The next seven days will dictate whether the Mariners pursue another bat through a trade or decide to unload one of their talented pitchers to set the stage for next season.

Those resilient Los Angeles Angels have surged after the tragic beginning to their season with the loss of Nick Adenhart. Somehow the team has managed to piece together a makeshift pitching staff and take control of the AL West.

They are still lingering in the Halladay discussion because their team ERA ranks 27th (4.71) and they have some decent pieces to offer in exchange. Eric Aybar, Howie Kendrick, and Mike Napoli are all possible players that could be moved but the Halos will have to offer more talent to win the sweepstakes for the coveted pitcher.

That pitcher might be Cliff Lee. The Indians are playing atrocious baseball although he is seen as high-priced, if Arte Moreno can put the right deal on the table they could pickup the ’07 Cy Young winner as an important piece for the stretch run.

The Texas Rangers are only 2.5 games back of Boston for the Wild Card and they could use help anywhere to gain some ground. It would be in their best interest to get an arm like Lee, but they just don’t have the payroll to add that sort of talent. It could spell their demise as the summer months wear on.

They could dangle prospects Justin Smoak or Derek Holland in a potential deal for Cliff Lee but they really don’t want to depart with those pieces. Now that Vincente Padilla has the Swine Flu (no, seriously, he does), they might be more inclined to check out the market.

 

AL Central

The Cleveland Indians are now soliciting offers for catcher Victor Martinez and the switch-hitting signal caller is batting .289 with 14 home runs and 62 RBI. Martinez would be an extraordinary addition to the lineup but it doesn’t seem like the deal will be made between the teams.

Both the Red Sox and Rays have spoken with Cleveland about Martinez. It appears Clay Buchholz would have to be included in a deal for the Sox to get him.

The Minnesota Twins need to find a third-baseman after Joe Crede has under-performed and is facing an uncertain future with shoulder issues. He recently underwent an MRI and results are expected back soon.

They are supposedly checking out Cabrera in Oakland as a possible option. If Crede is healthy, despite his poor bat as of late, his defense is outstanding and a left side of he and Cabrera would be dominant.

The Chicago White Sox seem to be content with the roster they have to make a run at the central. They are tied for the lead with the Detroit Tigers and with Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon due back soon and Carlos Quentin has returned to aid their attempt at defending their division title.

The Tigers finally got back Carlos Guillen, who has been out since May 5 with a shoulder injury.

Expect the Central to be perhaps the most exciting race to the finish with the Tigers, White Sox, and Twins all bunched at the top.

 

AL East

The Tampa Bay Rays have been rumored to be in pursuit of Cliff Lee, but ESPN’s Buster Olney has reported that they are actively shopping Scott Kazmir. He speculates that moving Kazmir to the Angels could be one part of a larger three-way deal.

They are appearing more and more interested in make some deals as they draw closer to falling Red Sox in the Wild Card.

The Boston Red Sox finally ended a five-game skid and have already been active on the trade market. They acquired Adam LaRoche (1B) earlier this week and are still looking for another stick to insert in the order.

The Sox also traded their terrible infielder Julio Lugo for Chris Duncan of the St. Louis Cardinals. All I have to say about this move is that it was a complete waste of paperwork.

For once, the New York Yankees have been silent thus far in the unpredictable market. Hal Steinbrenner seems more interested in waiting until the offseason to offer exorbitant amounts of money to free agents because the Yanks can outbid any team in the league.

Their recent winning ways have pushed them in 2.5 games in front of the wavering BoSox and I would be inclined to think that if they make a move on someone it would be a player who hits the waiver wire after Jul. 31 passes.

They need to shore up the gaping hole that Chien-Ming Wang dug in their rotation and they could get a better bargain once the deadline passes.

 

NL West

The Los Angeles Dodgers could also use an arm. They will most likely be looking for a reliever although don’t count them out of the Halladay sweepstakes quite yet. They lack a high-level minors pitcher in exchange and have been outspoken to the fact that Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley are untouchable.

Assistant GM Logan White has been in Toronto for the past two series and ESPN’s Peter Gammons reports that the Dodgers also have an interest in reliever Jason Frasor.

George Sherrill, the lefty reliever for the Baltimore Orioles, has also drawn attention from Dodgers scouts at recent games. They also took a look at David Weathers, Arthur Rhodes, and Francisco Cordero when they were in town the past weekend with the Cincinnati Reds.

I wouldn’t suspect any of the Reds players to become Dodgers, but don’t be surprised if Sherrill moves across the country to help the Boys in Blue for the stretch run to keep distance from the second place Rockies.

Speaking of the Wild Card leading Colorado Rockies, they traded for relief pitcher Rafael Betancourt in exchange for minor leaguer Connor Graham. Having just pulled ahead of the slumping San Francisco Giants the Rockies are turning things into high gear in hopes of capturing a playoff berth.

Manny Corpas was the Rox setup man for a period of time but he will undergo elbow surgery on Friday. He has been on the DL since Jun. 20 and has struggled mightily this season (1-3, 5.88 ERA).

Speaking of the Giants, has anyone seen their bats lately? These guys score less than the 40-year old virgin. They rank 27th in the Majors in runs scored and the Bay Area fans would be severely let down if they don’t add an offensive piece to make a run at the postseason.

It would be a shame if the organization let a team with outstanding young pitchers Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain slip into mediocrity because they couldn’t find someone get on base or drive in runs. Maybe taking a chance on oft-injured Nick Johnson (.305/6/40) would be beneficial and give them a quality left-handed bat to rely on in the middle of the lineup.

While Travis Ishikawa is a defensive gem, his lack of production at the plate is really dragging the team down. He has picked up the slack lately and made some things happen but he is not a reliable player to count on in the clutch (.179 in late and close situations).

Pablo Sandoval can only do such much but he can’t carry this team on his back alone.

The San Diego Padres may be willing to part ways with closer Heath Bell, who has saved 24 of the Friars 38 wins.

With Holliday off the market, don’t forget about Adrian Gonzalez on the San Diego Padres, either. His average has slid to .248 but he still has 25 home runs and 54 RBI.

The low RBI total can be contributed that he plays for the worst offense in baseball and there are rarely runners on base for him. A team like the Mariners could really use his bat in the AL.

 

NL Central

The St. Louis Cardinals have traded for Matt Holliday, the right-handed slugger. They are desperately in need of some support for Albert Pujols and Holliday could provide at least some protection for the potential Triple Crown winner.

After being shipped from Colorado to Oakland in the offseason, Holliday’s offensive production has fallen off (.287/11/54) since ’07 (.340/36/137). I still think Holliday will be a positive gain for the Cards. He has turned it around and is hitting .344 in July and went 4-for5 on Monday with two home runs and six RBI.

Don’t let his powerful physique fool you—he has swiped 12 bases this season and possesses good instincts on the base paths. Holliday will be a free agent after the season so it will be interesting to see if the Cardinals hold onto him into next year.

Gonzalez didn’t have a home run in the month of July before going deep against the Florida Marlins on Jul. 20, and the power-hitting lefty hit just four in the month of June after his torrid start.

Despite hitting just .184 this month, if someone pulls the trigger and makes a move for Adrian I would expect him to be a positive contributor and find a rhythm wherever he may wind up.

And how about them Cubbies? The Chicago Cubs suddenly sit just 1.5 games behind St. Louis in the Central.

The Cardinals are dueling with the Phillies over the weekend and welcome Major League-leading Los Angeles to town on Monday while Chicago takes on the falling-off Cincinnati Reds and then the Houston Astros next week. By this time next week, we could be talking about a Cubs team that leads the division.

The Cubs are another team limited by their finances and that could hurt them in the sweepstakes for the Orioles Sherrill. They could use a good bat with some run production and there’s a pretty bad team hoarding one of those on the Eastern seaboard.

The Washington Nationals have Adam Dunn who is in hot pursuit of what would be the greatest accomplishment in baseball history: hitting more home runs than games your team wins (24 HR/28 wins).

The Astros will have to decide if they recent injury to Lance Berkman will prevent them from continuing their annual second-half surge before they go out and make a transaction.

The Milwaukee Brewers are treading water but they have Mat Gamel and Alcides Escobar to offer for an arm. They have to jump the Cards, Cubs, and Astros and after what happened with C.C. last season I think they need to pull the trigger for either Cliff Lee or Halladay if they can find a way to make it happen. If the Mariners decide to be sellers, they could also snag Erik Bedard in an 11th hour deal.

 

NL East

If Roy Halladay does get moved, expect him to be the newest member of the Philadelphia Phillies, as they can offer Kyle Drabek, a top of the line-pitching prospect that is projected to be a No. 1 starter in the near future. ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that Blue Jays scouts attended Drabek’s start in Double-A on Wednesday night.

The Phillies need to bolster their staff because once you get past Cole Hamels and JA Happ there really isn’t much to fear. Pedro Martinez just won’t cut it and the Phils are in need of a boost to make them confident about defending their World Series title.

The defending champs have won nine of the last 10 although the problem is that in return for Halladay, the Jays are reportedly asking for Drabek, Happ, and OF Dominic Brown. Happ is 7-1 with a 2.97 ERA this season.

The Phils have turned down that trade offer but I wouldn't expect them to just walk away; look for some negotiating to continue into the week and until the deadline hits. 

The Atlanta Braves are playing better as of late and have moved within 5.5 games of the Phils but they don’t appear to have the chips to trade for a much-needed hitter. 

The recent swap with the New York Mets where they got Ryan Church in exchange for Jeff Francouer was a head scratcher for anyone who expects them to stay in the hunt. I think Atlanta is looking for help on the offensive side but Turner Field is so big any hitter would dread playing home games there.

 

PJ Ross is a Featured Columnist for the Los Angeles Dodgers


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