July is just around the corner, and in the baseball world, that only means one thing: the MLB trade deadline.
As the first half of a season enters the home stretch ahead of the All-Star game, teams and their GMs start plotting in earnest for some of the most important few weeks of the season.
While some teams will be looking to unload salary or pick up prospects for someone they think they will otherwise lose for free at the end of the season, others will be looking to acquire the pieces to push them over the top this postseason.
Those who are in a position to make a splash will be trying to strengthen their rotations, upgrade their bullpens, and add depth to their lineups. The big movers and shakers have cash, most have prospects, and all have a plan to get what they want.
With an eye on the movers and shakers in baseball, here are some tell-tale signs your club is a big splash buyer at the trade deadline.
One way to know you're a big-splash buyer is you have a nine-figure team payroll, but you're not afraid to court the biggest names on the market.
There are eight teams with a payroll over $100 million in 2010, from the cash-happy Yankees to the LA Angels. A bunch of big-market names are in this group, including the Red Sox, Cubs, and Mets.
The Mets are almost the subject of a new Cliff Lee rumor daily, the Angels might be considering Garrett Atkins, and the Yankees have been rumored to be interested in some much smaller names like Ty Wigginton, Willie Bloomquist, and Ryan Theriot.
Sometimes the bigger clubs don't need to bring in an ace to make the difference. It's a case of where less equals more, because some top clubs only need a small piece to put them over the top.
You're a perennial playoff contender, you're ripping the cover off the ball as a team, and you have no problem moving a top prospect for a short-term fix.
Okay, that description might not entirely fit the Red Sox, but most of it holds true, especially if they are considering trading Jose Iglesias. Iglesias is a young 20-year-old stud middle infielder who could become a legitimate Major League shortstop in the future.
Word is the Royals were preparing to launch a bid for him as the Red Sox were rumored to like David DeJesus.
If the Red Sox deal Iglesias, whom they signed to an $8 million deal in 2009, for a 31-year-old outfielder with below average power and speed, it's safe to say they are big splash buyers.
Remember a few months ago when the rumors about an Albert Pujols-Ryan Howard trade were circulating the baseball world? It's this kind of thing that gives teams reputations of being big buyers.
Of course, Howard signed a five-year $125 million deal to stay with the Phils, but it has to make you think. Pujols is making around $16 million this season and he'll become a free agent in the winter. Considering the money the Phillies have just paid out to their first baseman, can you imagine the coin Pujols is going to want in 2011?
While a move away from St. Louis isn't likely to happen, any team that even considers trading for him now better have deep, deep pockets, because something like six years and $140 million isn't too unrealistic.
If you're showing legitimate interest in another team's ace when he might not even be one of your top three starters, it means you have money to burn.
The Yankees, as an example, have reportedly shown interest in Dan Haren. Haren has been an All-Star for the last three years and there's no doubt he's the man in Arizona. I read somewhere that he may not be the team's top pitcher in a few years' time, and that's all well and good, but right now he is their stopper.
He leads the team with seven wins, and he's sporting an ERA that has hovered around 4.50. But the Yankees already have three starters in C.C. Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and Andy Pettitte who have combined for a 28-6 record and who each have an ERA a full run lower than Haren's.
While Pettitte's future is uncertain beyond 2010, it's not like Haren is a spring chicken. He, like Sabathia, will turn 30 later this year. A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez are 33 and 34, respectively, and Pettitte is 38.
If your team keeps spending, spending, spending, but still doesn't really achieve anything, there's a good chance they have the cash but very little else.
Simply put, you know you're a big spender when you can afford to drop the coin year after year despite not getting results. It's proof that money doesn't always equal success.
Teams like the Mets and Cubs come to mind simply because they have underachieved compared to their payroll. New York has been rumored to be interested in Cliff Lee, Ted Lilly, and Roy Oswalt, while the Cubbies could have the cash or pieces available should the Red Sox maintain their interest in Kosuke Fukudome or the Tigers with Ryan Theriot.
Whatever either club does, if they do bring in a big name at the trade deadline, there will be even more pressure on them to perform. It's not too likely one piece will instantly push either team over the top, but it wont stop these clubs from trying.
You're a big splash spender if you have a top 10 payroll and your owner keeps giving you cash even when you don't play meaningful baseball in October. It just means you're rich and useless.
The teams who make the biggest deals, either in free agency or at the trade deadline, don't need to worry about their rivals. This may sound counter-intuitive, but hear me out.
Even though it may seem that rivals such as the Yankees and Red Sox try to one-up each other, the fact remains they don't have to. Theo Esptein won't try to get a pitcher just to stop Brian Cashman from signing him, and if the Yanks add a bat in the outfield there's no reason for the Red Sox will automatically to try to upgrade themselves.
These teams add pieces they need because they can and because it will help their club. Rivalries are intense, but it's more about assembling the best team you can put together rather than matching another club move for move.
If you can afford a stud at the 2010 trade deadline even though you know your 2011 payroll will be massive, there's a good chance that you're one of the biggest buyers in the game.
For some teams, money really seems to be no object. If the Yankees re-sign Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, and Vazquez to even discounted contracts from this year, they are still going to be looking at around $45 million. That is before you count the obvious guaranteed deals to A-Rod ($32 million), Sabathia ($24 million), Teixeira ($23 million), and Burnett ($23 million).
"Money" is just another word in the hallways of Yankee Stadium, and they can sign whomever they want for whatever sum they want. People hate them for it, but they have worked themselves into this position over the years. The people who hate it are usually just jealous.
If you're sitting across a table from Boras, there's a good chance you're looking to make a big splash move.
While not everyone has the kind of deal that Matt Holliday or Stephen Strasburg has, it's not too often the Devil negotiates small contracts. Small market clubs will shudder at the thought at having to work out a deal with a Boras client, although the bigger problems come with free agents rather than mid-season deals.
Still, if you get to dance with the Devil, especially with a top client of the Scott Boras Corp., you know you've got the cash to make a splash.