Heath Bell and the San Diego Padres are reportedly discussing a long-term extension. Bell has made it known that he wants to stay in San Diego for as long as possible. Still and all, fans around the big leagues keep sending in questions to their teams' beat writers asking what it would take to get Bell away from the Padres.
Everyone loves dreaming about the move or moves that will put their franchise over the top. That sort of mentality used to be restricted to the offseason, but the Hot Stove burns year-round in the modern world of rapid-fire player movement. Some crucial deals still happen at the trade deadline, but others occur in June or December or January.
Just as the time window has opened wide for trades throughout the year, more and more players have become available. For the right price, almost any player can go. Teams so favor young and cheap players these days that key veterans like Michael Young are constantly being rumored as trade targets. Which of those rumors are real? Which big names will move via trades over the next year, before Opening Day of 2012? Here are 50 guys on whom to keep a close eye.
Jeremy Guthrie is nothing special. In most starting rotations, he is a third option. He is essentially a poor man's Mark Buehrle. Unfortunately, pitching for a bad team the past four seasons has left him with unfair expectations and little offensive or defensive support.
At some point this season, though, a team will probably bite on Guthrie. He is a solid three-pitch pitcher with a fastball that touches the mid-90s and a slider-changeup arsenal to pitch to batters of both hands. His poor 2009 was an aberration: Expect something much more akin to the other three of the last four years, with an ERA around 4.00, great control but very few strikeouts and a slight ground-ball tendency. That skill set might play very well outside the AL East, so if a surprise contender is looking to fortify its rotation with a durable right-hander, Guthrie might just be the guy.
Here's another name from the under-appreciated pitcher category. Ely threw exactly 100 innings in 2010 for the Dodgers in two stints. He was called up in late April, had nine very good starts and five very bad ones, was demoted in July, came back in September and evened things out with four very bad starts. He will begin the season on the fringe of the rotation because of injuries, but once Jon Garland and/or Vicente Padilla get healthy, he becomes expendable.
His four-pitch array (mid-80s fastball, cutter, curve and a plus change) intimidates no one but his changeup makes him viable against both lefties and righties. Someone, somewhere might just nab Ely, 25, in a trade for whomever LA pursues in order to stay competitive around the trade deadline.
Small-market teams cannot make every move with the notion of winning right away at the forefront of their minds. Sometimes, you have to grab a guy just to fill the roster, allow your prospects time to develop and convince the fans you care. If the guy with whom you end up also has potential trade value, so much the better.
Such is the case for the San Diego Padres right now. They traded away Adrian Gonzalez this winter in a budget-conscious move, but did not want to be forced into immediately installing Anthony Rizzo (whom they acquired in the trade). Therefore, they signed Hawpe to a low-rent deal for 2011 with a mutual option for 2012.
Hawpe collapsed last season, batting .245/.338/.419 in only 103 games and notching just nine home runs. That brought his long tenure in Colorado to an end, and he finished the season in Tampa Bay.
Prior thereto, though, Hawpe was a consistently excellent hitter. From 2006 to 2009, he hit between .283 and .293 every year, had an OBP between .381 and .387 and a slugging average between .498 and .539. He averaged 25 home runs and over 90 RBI per season during that span.
He may or may not get back that stroke, though his numbers will not get back to those levels even if he does, due to the spacious PETCO Park. Either way, though, he is a patient and powerful hitter who many teams might want. I expect an offense-hungry contender to swoop in on Hawpe sometime in July or August and give San Diego a chance to leverage their low-risk winter signing into a marginal prospect or two.
Does anyone out there still believe in Alex Gordon? Well, apparently so, because a handful of teams have reached out to the Royals recently to inquire about the burnout ex-stud. In fairness, Gordon is only 27 and does have two years of modest success on his track record. He could fit with a number of teams as a platoon guy at third base or in the outfield, but for it to happen, Gordon has to make more contact, and GM Dayton Moore must lower his asking price. Sooner or later, though, the Royals are such a motivated seller of spare parts in a year when they cannot contend that Gordon is a good bet to head somewhere.
Whether or not they say so, the Phillies do want to move Blanton. The problem will be finding the right match for the big man, who profiles basically as a slightly older and slightly less durable Guthrie. He will likely land either in the Bronx or in St. Louis, two places where want of a solid starting pitcher is the only barrier to serious contention in 2011. By mid-May, expect the Phillies to have aggressively showcased Blanton and dealt him to the highest bidder. The bid will not be especially high.
Carmona is yet another back-end starting pitcher from whom you get a steady and predictable return: He will throw his sinker, slider and change relentlessly low in the zone, trying to get tons of ground balls and avoiding walks. He has been volatile so far but seems to finally be comfortable pitching as opposed to throwing. The market around the deadline always inflates the value of starting hurlers who are freely available, so Carmona should go and bring Cleveland something useful in return.
We need not stray from the banks of Lake Erie to find another good bit of trade bait. Orlando is not even the best Cabrera the Indians have in their middle infield, and it is tough to imagine the team holding onto him when he could have such value to a team in need of shortstop help at midseason. Cabrera still can field a bit and hit a bit, and his energy helped the 2009 Twins and 2010 Reds reach the playoffs. He will land somewhere by the deadline.
With center fielder types Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter currently ticketed for the corners, Bourjos figures to celebrate his 24th birthday with an Opening Day start for the Angels. He runs like the wind and has great instincts: Overall, he might be neck-and-neck with Franklin Gutierrez for the title of best defensive center fielder in baseball.
Of course, the main reason for that is that most guys do not need to be that good defensively. Most guys who reach the big leagues can hit, at least a little. Bourjos cannot hit. At the plate, he is just awful. He has value for his wheels and tremendous athleticism, but he will have to go to a non-contender from whom the Angels hope to pry a player of higher short-term utility.
Well, he doesn't strike out much. He does play catcher. He occasionally flashes power. That's the good news.
The bad news is that A.J. Pierzynski has serious reservations about drawing walks, or even taking pitches for that matter. He batted .270 last season but had just a .300 OBP and a .388 slugging average. Foolishly, the White Sox re-signed him anyway. He will be threatened and probably replaced by July by prospect Tyler Flowers.
That makes Pierzynski available to a bunch of other teams he cannot help. If Kenny Williams is really sly, he will swap Pierzynski to a fellow AL contender and watch that team struggle to overcome their new and crummy catcher.
Taylor Teagarden does not seem to have a home with the 2011 Texas Rangers. Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba have come in this winter to join Matt Treanor on the big-league roster. Teagarden, then, might be the first player on this list traded for another player already on the list: Alex Gordon of Kansas City.
Texas would love to have Gordon as insurance against a Nelson Cruz or David Murphy injury in the outfield, and his left-handed bat might fit nicely into a very right-handed bench. Meanwhile, the Royals have made clear that they want a young catcher who can mature alongside their stable of elite prospects, and Teagarden has a ceiling he has not yet reached.
The swing is long and the speed is fading for Rowand, but because he still plays solid defense, he held onto a job for most of 2010 with the Giants. Now that team has a lot of players who figure to get expensive in a hurry, and they need to show Rowand the door. He may be hard to move, but the Giants will gladly eat some money to get rid of some more while reeling in a moderately talented player. An injury or two could put a pair of Rowand's former teams—the White Sox and Phillies—in play.
Viciedo got a taste of the big leagues in 2010, and hit .308. Overall, between Triple-A and the parent club, he socked 25 home runs in just 469 plate appearances. The power is real.
Unfortunately, he took a fastball to his hand in Cactus League play last week, and now will miss the next month (and therefore, the Sox's Opening Day roster). Viciedo needs to learn some plate discipline or become a better defender to do anything more than DH at this level, and the Sox have three of those guys on their roster already. Thus, Viciedo's best value is as a trade chip. Chicago could try to shore up its weak defense or bullpen at midseason by swapping him to (say) Oakland.
The fundamental philosophy for Hanrahan is not so very different from that of Carlos Marmol or Craig Kimbrel: High-90s heat plus wicked slider equals well over a strikeout per inning. Once regarded as a good prospect, Hanrahan has been forgotten in Pittsburgh but had a really good (3.85 K/BB ratio, 1.21 WHIP) season for them last year. He deserves his spot at the back of the Pirates bullpen this year, but he will lure some frustrated Heath Bell suitor into a big enough offer to tear him free from Pittsburgh this season.
When a GM starts answering questions that no one was asking, you know something fishy is going on. Such is the case in Washington, where Mike Rizzo insists the team is not going to trade Desmond. It's easy to understand why they would be reticent to do so: Desmond had 10 homers and 17 steals as a rookie last year, and he has plenty of room to improve with his raw tools.
They would not part with him to land Zack Greinke, but the Nats might let go of Desmond to snag a better pitcher like Jered Weaver.
Fukudome had his best season in the United States in 2010, batting .263/.371/.439 with 13 homers in just 130 games. He seems to be getting more comfortable here all the time, so he could be very valuable for a year or two more before age begins to seriously erode his skills. For the moment, he is a patient hitter and solid athlete.
Unfortunately for Fukudome, but fortunately for the Cubs, the Japanese outfielder's contract expires at season's end and the Cubs are teeming with viable replacements for him. Tyler Colvin is the organization's pride and joy, mostly because his success as a rookie vindicated them for selecting him far sooner than the pundits thought he deserved. Brett Jackson, a faster and younger version of Fukudome, is the Cubs' top prospect and could be ready by midseason.
Therefore, the Cubs would love to trade Fukudome regardless of their standing in summer. They will have a market for him, especially if the Dodgers (currently preparing to platoon Marcus Thames with Jay Gibbons in left field) are competitive, and although his no-trade clause is a factor, Fukudome is as good as gone if GM Jim Hendry has any say in the matter.
Lee has grown so decrepit that he scarcely belongs on the field at all, unless it be inside the batter's box. Even then, he struggled mightily last season en route to a .246/.291/.417 batting line, and his 24 homers did little to convince anyone he deserves the $37 million he will make over the next two seasons.
Lee may yet have a last hurrah in his once-great bat, but it will be nigh impossible to move his contract. The best options are American League clubs in need of a DH, but in forecasting the season, the Rockies might be the most realistic fit. The Astros so badly need to get rid of him in order to clear some budget space and try out fringe prospects that the trade might happen anyway, though Houston will not get much back and will need to eat money.
The Braves are outrageously blessed by depth in the area of starting pitching. Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy surround Lowe, with Kris Medlen poised to return from Tommy John surgery in 2012 and Julio Teheran (the best pitching prospect in baseball) possibly as little as a few months from the show.
All that makes Lowe an expendable piece, and again, starting pitchers are hot commodities roundabout the trade deadline. Despite being owed $30 million through 2012, Lowe's heavy sinker still appeals and could fit beautifully with the pitching-hungry Cardinals.
Exasperated Reader: Is this guy going to name EVERY veteran Indians player as a trade candidate?
Durbin is the kind of arm that moves all the time. He can strike people out, keeps the ball on the ground fairly well and throws a strangely healthy four-pitch mix as a reliever. Someone, somewhere will want a veteran right-hander and Durbin is one guy who could go.
Arbitration hearings are awful for everyone involved. That's why teams and players work so hard to avoid them. If the arbitration process goes to its conclusion, good business sense demands that a team pick at the weaknesses of their player before an arbitrator. The player has to advocate for himself, and it can be uncomfortable to hear about what you are not good at and what your team dislikes most about you.
Pence and the Astros went to arbitration this winter, and improbably, Pence won. Still, the hearings themselves can often strain relationships between player and team. That said, it may be time for the Astros to explore trading Pence for what would surely be a very healthy package of prospects.
The Reds got inexplicably good production from the pairing of Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez behind the plate in 2010, and they have potentially prodigious Devin Mesoraco not so far from the big leagues himself. Three's company, too, when it comes to strong catchers within the organization, but Grandal makes it four and four is always a crowd. The Reds have weaknesses and should trade from their strength to make a run at something more serious in the playoffs in 2011.
For some reason, the Rangers insist on pushing Scheppers to become a starting pitcher by developing his changeup into a big-league pitch. If they would just let him roar in from the bullpen with a blazing fastball and a wicked curve, a la Neftali Feliz, he would be a very valuable pitcher. As it is, they may as well trade him to someone who will do that and help themselves in the short run, because they do have a real chance at returning to the World Series.
He throws hard, has a bulldog attitude and keeps the ball on the ground. Otherwise, Rodney just is not any good. He strikes out relatively few batters considering his walk rate, and he has posted four straight seasons of an ERA north of 4.24.
Still, he has saves on his side and he makes an okay set-up man. The Angels are good at inflating relievers' value and leveraging the same, so look for Rodney to be dealt to a team (like the Brewers, Cardinals or Marlins) who need a better bullpen to be realistically pennant contenders.
I don't advocate this line of thinking, but given the acquisition of Max Ramirez and the presence of slugging prospect Welington Castillo, the Cubs clearly are bracing for the possibility of a future without Soto. This guy is one of the best offensive catchers in baseball, but the team never has fully appreciated him.
Soto could make a huge difference in Colorado, and a meaningful one for the Dodgers. He will stick around at least into July, but if the Cubs are far from contention, they may entertain trading Soto for a good pair of prospects and installing Ramirez or Castillo instead.
The Astros are not any good, and unless they find a way to restock their farm system through trades and good drafting, they will not be any good for a long time. If the team is 15 games out by mid-July—and I bet they will be—Myers may be one of the most attractive available hurlers.
The Phillies briefly pondered adding Cameron but now seem comfortable with Ben Francisco (who is having a great spring) as the right-handed bat they needed in their outfield. Sooner or later, though, the market will warm up for a guy with Cameron's combination of strong defense in center field and the ability to mash left-handed pitching. The dark-horse Florida Marlins might take an interest. So, too, could the Milwaukee Brewers, Cameron's former club.
If he ever walks again, Aardsma will be a semi-valuable relief arm for whoever has a banged-up bullpen in need come July. His hip injury is the biggest but not the sole problem with Aardsma.
He closed for Seattle in 2009 and 2010, but he may well never win back that job in 2011 and does not likely deserve it. He's a decent set-up guy, though, with good heat and the potential to strike out more than a batter per inning. The Rays might take a liking.
Doumit can hit a little bit, though mostly as a left-handed hitter against right-handed pitchers. He probably cannot catch full-time, but he fits as a platoon or backup guy and left-handed batters from behind the plate have plenty of value. One injury to a guy like Jorge Posada or Brian McCann could make Doumit's $5 million salary look more than palatable to a contender, and the Pirates are a motivated seller.
Teams trolling for help up the middle at midseason are frequently forced to settle for very one-dimensional players. Ellis is the antidote. He fields seconds base not merely well, but exceptionally. At the plate, he draws walks, strikes out rarely and has a .740 career OPS despite playing solely in Oakland's roomy accommodations.
Ellis is too good a commodity not to be snapped up sometime around the deadline, especially now that his contract is on the verge of expiration. Billy Beane can get at least as much for Ellis as he could get from a supplementary round pick if Ellis leaves via free agency, so a trade seems inevitable.
Forced to choose between Arroyo and Aaron Harang this winter, the Reds elected to keep the more durable Arroyo. Arroyo pitches to contact and will give up homers, but he does not walk people and he finds ways to work into the eighth inning on a regular basis. If the Reds fall from contention, or even if they merely stay healthy (Homer Bailey, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Travis Wood make up a fine rotation), Arroyo could go at the deadline.
Savvy Alex Anthopoulos snapped up Dotel this winter for $2.75 million plus a 2012 club option. After the team secured Frank Francisco in trade for Mike Napoli, though, Anthopoulos seems very likely to move Dotel to any bullpen-hungry contender come July. He was dealt twice last season, so it's hardly an unfamiliar position Dotel is in right now.
The only closer with more potential market value than Heath Bell is Soria, a former Padres farmhand who does absolutely everything very well. His contract becomes a string of three club options after this season, so Soria has extra value. No reported clause guarantees those options if Soria is dealt.
One reason for concern might be that Soria has a limited no-trade clause. Strangely, though Soria has shown mettle under the pressure of the closer's role, the six teams to which he can reject being traded (the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Phillies, Cardinals and Tigers) are those for whom he would toil under the greatest amount of scrutiny. Still, this guy could fetch the elite catching prospect the Royals have let it be known they want to add to their superb farm system.
Upton will not be a deadline-type trade target. If he has a strong season, though, he might well be on the trading block this winter. Tampa Bay will pay him roughly $4.8 million in 2011, and though they have him under team control through 2012, they might well look to deal Upton this winter and get more in return than they would get by waiting it out and letting Upton go via free agency.
Beltran's once prodigious skills have eroded, but not so badly as to scare away potential suitors. He played only 64 games last season, but he drew 30 walks while striking out 39 times. He finished really strongly, batting .321/.365/.603 with five homers in September. The 40-steal speed is long gone, but Beltran remains a solid athlete and good hitter.
He may or may not ever play center on a regular basis again, but in either case, teams have already expressed interest in him and shedding even two or three months' worth of Beltran's $18.5 million salary for 2011 would be huge for the financially troubled Mets.
The Reds have a terrifically deep system at some key positions, especially catcher and pitcher. First base, though, is one position where organizational depth is of far less benefit. After locking up Joey Votto for the next three years, Cincinnati has blocked the road to the big leagues semi-permanently for Yonder Alonso.
Alonso, who will turn 24 in April, still has trade value despite not showing the power the team hoped he would flash during 2010. He hits for average and draws walks, and there is still power in his build and his swing as he matures. Cincinnati will be in contention this summer and could swap Alonso for help in their bullpen, outfield or middle infield. If Alonso learns to play left field, he settles in with the Reds and all bets are off, but early experiments with that switch have been ugly.
Buehrle seems like a risky buy for anyone between now and the expiration of his current deal after this season, but he does have elite control and the ability to keep the ball on the ground. The White Sox profile as contenders for the AL Central title this year, but one or two injuries could change that and then Buehrle becomes a highly valuable trade chip.
Any trade of Hill is contingent upon the Blue Jays deciding that Brett Lawrie, a blue-chip prospect whom they acquired this winter in return for Shaun Marcum, can stick at second base when he makes the major leagues. Lawrie's bat demands a place in the lineup, so with Hill getting more expensive each year, Anthopoulos could elect to unload his incumbent second baseman.
Whoever trades for Hill would get a second baseman with a solid glove and the potential to improve in a hurry. He batted .205 last season, but it was not for lack of contact, as he struck out less than a league-average hitter would. The problem was fly balls and bad luck, as Hill tried much too hard to match his 36-homer output of 2009 and found himself popping up rather than hitting line drives. He will figure it out in 2011 and should be a major trade target around the deadline, or over next winter.
Loney is an athlete. He rarely strikes out, runs well for a first baseman and has soft hands. I'm not sure why it hasn't been tried already, but someone should give Loney, 27 in May, a shot in the outfield.
In the meantime, the Dodgers will keep trying to trade Loney, and if they package him with Dee Brown and more, they might just get the more traditional slugging first baseman (a la Prince Fielder) for whom GM Ned Colletti has pined for some time. Loney is an able replacement for a star of that ilk, and he also has potential value if the market for first basemen dries up and an injury to (say) Ryan Howard puts a contender in a tight spot.
Zambrano's anger problems are well-documented, as are the ups and downs through which he has struggled since signing a five-year contract extension in 2007. Still, the big right-handed hurler is just 29 years old, has never posted an ERA north of 3.95 over a substantial part of a big-league season and has the ability to both miss bats and keep the ball on the ground.
A history that includes multiple fights with teammates and the damage tab of a bull in a sporting goods store will make Zambrano tough to move, as will his $36-million price tag over the final two years of his current deal. Still, he has to be a more appealing option than teammate Carlos Silva or crosstown counterpart Mark Buehrle for prospective contenders (read: the Yankees) in need of pitching help.
It sure seems like an immovable contract, but then, if the Blue Jays can get someone to take on Vernon Wells' albatross of a deal then the Giants might well be able to unload Zito. The "other" Big Z eclipsed 190 innings for the ninth time in the last 10 years in 2010, and his easy delivery nearly ensures durability.
He is settling into his age nicely: You know what you will get from Zito, an extreme fly-ball pitcher with middling control, average strikeout proclivity and an ERA just north of 4.00. That is not worth $58 million over the next three years, but it isn't worth nothing, either. The Giants would eat some of the money to get rid of the rest, so this deal might just happen, especially after the season if Zito pitches well in 2011.
Free agency is looming for Weaver after 2012, and the Angels continue to refuse to do much business with his agent, Scott Boras. The two sides went to arbitration this winter, which is rare enough, but really shocking in light of Weaver's supernal 2010. He continued to show good command while upping his strikeouts to elite levels, and suddenly, Weaver had a 3.01 ERA in over 220 innings.
Unless the team unexpectedly makes nice with Boras and his stud client soon, Weaver is only going to become more expensive and more risky as he nears free agency and enters his prime. After the season, look for the Angels to shop him at the Winter Meetings and try to build for 2013 around their strong farm system.
Greg Maddux comparisons seem ill-considered: Slowey is just 26 but pitches the way Maddux did at 36. Still, there can be no denying the similarities in approach. Slowey is aggressive as anyone in terms of pounding the strike zone, and his high fly-ball rates do no harm in new pitcher-friendly Target Field. His strikeout rate is better than you think and his walk rate is as good as you have heard it is, so the skills are there.
Slowey just needs to be a little less eager with the strikes and make hitters think a bit more up there. Toronto and the Yankees have been the most loudly whispered team names, but Slowey belongs somewhere more comfortable than the AL East. At any rate, the Twins' crowded rotation means someone has to get dealt.
Montero has terrific power and the hit tool to make it real even in the majors. He is not great behind the plate, though, and it may be another year or so before he can reasonably handle that spot. Without the tools of ignorance, he has no defensive position, which puts an awful lot of pressure on the bat, but Montero will have value and soon.
With the Yankees having signed Russell Martin, though, and having Francisco Cervelli as a serviceable backup AND having Jorge Posada at DH already, the team may decide its best chance to beat the favored Red Sox in the AL East this season is to trade Montero for badly needed pitching help.
Buyer beware: Theo Epstein never leaks trade interest unless he is acutely aware that the player he is trying to move is of much more utility to someone else than to him. Matsuzaka stumbled so badly to the finish line in 2010 that the Red Sox will almost surely wait a while before moving him to allow him to recapitulate his value. Nonetheless, the skills are there. He strikes guys out, has a wonderful array of pitches and would do much better in a ballpark more suited to fly-ball pitchers.
Despite all the negative publicity, Matsuzaka is a talented pitcher. Given more free reign, he may be able to keep himself healthy then the highly rigid Sox ever could with their throwing programs. Even given his occasional struggles, he is good enough to merit trade interest if he is healthy.
If and only if the Cubs fall from contention, they might look to deal Ramirez, who could be in the last year of his current contract. His power is still intimidating and he has a well-earned reputation as a clutch hitter, but the glove at third base is atrocious and he had an horrendous start to the 2010 season. Still, if by July chase Utley's knee is still cranky, look for the Phillies to call on the Cubs and consider sliding Placido Polanco back to second base.
Jake Peavy is living proof that one winter of failed efforts to trade an overpaid player will not dissuade Kevin Towers from trying again. of course, if Upton's lingering shoulder issues morph into anything resembling what happened to Peavy, the trade would be a bust for whoever acquired him. Even so, the skill set is immense and Upton has nothing but blue sky above him. Arizona cannot simply reel this juicy bait back; teams around the league will be calling Towers all season and into next winter about Upton.
Did you think the drama between Jon Daniels and Young was over? Think again. This is just being swept under the rug, and though the personal wounds will eventually heal, the professional conflicts between the two sides will only worsen this season. Young will get his reps, and for as long as Texas remains in position to battle for the postseason, he will remain in Texas. Before the ball drops and brings in 2012, though, Michael Young will have someone else's cap on at a news conference somewhere.
Look, you're going to hear the rumors. They are inevitable. The Padres are baseball haves-not, and therefore, they are expected (nigh obligated) to fork over their best players to the baseball haves just to avoid losing them outright. Jake Peavy blazed the trail; Adrian Gonzalez paved it.
But Heath Bell is a different animal. He has some sort of anti-establishment streak that says he should play for as long as possible for one team, and that the Padres—whom he says have treated him well—deserve his loyalty, in the form of a hometown discount. Bell will sign for less, in other words, to stay in Southern California. Who knows whether that sticks? Who knows whether San Diego, whose bullpen is perennially deeper than the Pacific, even wants to retain bell long-term? Not me. Still, this deal is not as likely as it looks on the surface.
If the Mets are in trouble as deep as everyone says, then they certainly cannot afford to sign Reyes as a free agent when his contract expires after the season. Even ravaged by injury, the Dominican shortstop plays solid defense and can ably lead off for most teams. That has a ton of value, and the Mets have very little leverage or leeway.
Given the reticence of most big-market teams to simply let free agents go for draft-pick compensation, it's tough to imagine the Mets will not look to deal Reyes if and when they find their permanent home in third or fourth place in this year's NL East. The silver lining: He will fetch a hefty price and the team's farm system needs the boost.
In the background of this photo stands Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, and although the image is too blurry to tell for sure, I'll just bet he's wearing a look of dissatisfaction.
Maybe Johan Santana, who lacked some of Liriano's faults—vulnerability to occasional roughings-up, intermittent lapses in control and health concerns—spoiled the Twins. I don't know. But I do know that the organization is making a mistake by shopping Liriano, the kind of asset that sells best when hidden in the back of the showroom. Given his injury history, the team's inexplicable lack of trust in him probably puts would-be suitors ill at ease. if he does get dealt, don't expect the Twins to get good market value on Liriano now.
What would it take for a team to take on the four years and $86 million left on Cabrera's contract beyond 2011? Well, at least three things:
- A clean bill of health, certifying that he is physically ready to play into his mid-thirties without wearing down.
- A full season of model citizenship. That goes well beyond sobriety, although of course sobriety is the most important part.
- Another MVP-caliber season at the plate for one of the best hitters of our era.
Even then, the risk might be too much for some, but with the Tigers' fiscal future looking far from rosy, the team will keep exploring avenues they first trod last fall. Cabrera will make the same amount after 2011 as Vernon wells will starting in 2011, so the contract itself is not a roadblock of any great size. Next winter, if a team badly wants an elite slugger but not the eight-year commitments to prince Fielder or Albert Pujols, this might be their best bet.