With the Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline less than 24 hours away, here are some predictions about which AL East players and teams could be impacted by 4 p.m. on July 31.
The Orioles today already made the expected move of trading George Sherrill to the National League—the Dodgers, specifically—for prospects Josh Bell and Steve Johnson, but let's look at the other deadline action that could go down.
Roy Halladay: Toronto’s ace is the player that everyone is keeping an eye on as the trade deadline approaches. Halladay has said little about the possibility of being traded since a press conference during the All-Star break. Meanwhile, Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi has been quoted almost every day about the status of a potential Halladay trade.
To me, Ricciardi’s constant news briefings read like posturing. At first, Ricciardi was adamant that Halladay was going to be dealt before his July 29 start, if at all. Yet, as Halladay took the mound in his start against the Seattle Mariners, Ricciardi was likely still fielding calls from teams interested in acquiring his star pitcher.
It is rare in sports when successful trades are open for public consumption before they are consummated. As the names of prospects from various teams have been thrown around by media outlets, it makes me believe one of two things:
One, Roy Halladay is going nowhere, or, two, a team that hasn’t been part of the “rumors” to this point is waiting until the proverbial "11th hour" to swoop in with an offer that the Jays won't be able to refuse.
My gut tells me Roy Halladay will be a Toronto Blue Jay on August 1. However, I wouldn’t be completely stunned if he were traded, most likely out of the division. And, if I were a betting man, I’d say he’ll be wearing a Sox uniform if he's dealt. White Sox, not Red. Remember, you heard it here first.
Boston Red Sox: With the news that David Ortiz, the beloved designated hitter for the Red Sox, tested positive for steroids six years ago, Boston’s ravenous media has a story they could use to distract and derail the Olde Towne Team’s postseason chances for 2009.
Theo Epstein knows this. He also knows the Sox lineup hasn’t been very good for over a month now, and, short of finding Ortiz’s 2003 steroid source, they need an "injection" of young power before they fall out of the playoff picture.
According to published reports, the Sox GM refused to trade young starting pitcher Clay Buchholz in order to acquire Cleveland Indians C/1B Victor Martinez last week. Now, the tide has turned.
The Sox need to deal for V-Mart to deflect attention away from Ortiz, improve their lineup, and to begin transitioning Jason Varitek into a part-time role, as his two-year contract expires after the 2010 season.
If the Red Sox are going to make the playoffs and stem the likely overwhelming negative attention that could swell from the Ortiz revelation, the Sox will get Martinez from the Indians, parting with Buchholz to get it done.
Tampa Bay: The Rays, like the Red Sox, have been rumored to be interested in adding Indians C/1B Victor Martinez. The Rays were also connected to former Indians pitcher Cliff Lee and have been considered a “dark horse” candidate to land Roy Halladay from Toronto.
The problem with the Rays is that they would have to trade a high-salaried player away in order to acquire one to fill another hole. In other words, they would have to rob Peter to pay Paul.
Given the struggles of incumbent C Dioner Navarro this year, the Rays need to add a catcher. The only one seemingly available at the moment is Martinez.
I foresee the Rays waiting for the July 31 deadline to pass before making any moves for two reasons.
First, it will be easy for teams to make moves in August this year, as opposed to most years. With teams likely reluctant to claim players on waivers this year, many high-salaried players will hit waivers and go unclaimed in August.
As a result, it will be much easier to fill holes in August this year. It is possible that a player such as Houston’s Ivan Rodriguez could be made available sometime in August, and adding him would certainly be an upgrade for the Rays at catcher.
Also, with Tampa Bay currently four games behind Boston in the AL Wild Card standings, the Rays could wait to see if they cut that deficit by a few games before looking to add players. They could very easily sink further in the standings, making them “sellers” as opposed to “buyers.”
If that were to happen, the Rays could then trade some disappointing players (Scott Kazmir or Pat Burrell, perhaps) to shed some salary and ready themselves for another playoff run in 2010.
New York Yankees: Like Tampa Bay, I expect the Yankees to wait until after the July 31 deadline to make any moves.
The Yankees are currently tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in baseball. Their lineup is strong, the bullpen roles leading to closer Mariano Rivera are defined, and the starting rotation is hot.
While the Yankees do have needs (No. 4-5-type SPs and maybe a power bat for the bench), they are not immediate.
In the postseason, the Yankees need four strong starting pitchers. The way they’re going right now, it appears the Yankees already have those four pitchers in place. But should the Yankees ultimately decide to curb Joba Chamberlain’s innings (he’s already at 110), a veteran arm could go from a backburner idea to an immediate need. I don’t think that’ll happen in a 24-hour span, however.
As for the power bat off the bench, the Yankees have survived this deep into the season without one. They may have a right-handed slugging option in Triple-A Scranton, where the streaky Shelley Duncan could receive a callup to provide some punch.
Could a better option exist on the trade front? It’s possible. For instance, Washington Nationals OF/1B Josh Willingham would be a more versatile and more reliable option than Duncan. But is it worth giving up a prospect for Willingham when Duncan can provide a similar service and is already in-house?
Baltimore Orioles: With George Sherrill dealt to the Dodgers, the Orioles may deal another left-handed reliever: Mark Hendrickson.
Better known for his height (he's 6'9") than his effectiveness, Hendrickson's numbers as a relief pitcher this year (4-0, 2.94 ERA in 23 appearances, .236 opponents' batting average, 24 K, 8 BB in 33.2 IP) suggest he would be a good option for teams seeking lefty relief help.
The Colorado Rockies are rumored to be interested in Hendrickson, but likely wouldn't part with speedy 2B prospect Eric Young, Jr.
As for the prospects the Orioles received for Sherrill, Josh Bell is a third baseman with power potential. He's 22 years old. Steve Johnson is a right-handed pitcher who projects as a "back of the rotation" starter, or a middle reliever.
If the Orioles can turn Sherrill and Hendrickson into three solid prospects, they may wind up the biggest winners at the trading deadline in the division.