Teams that are struggling to begin 2011 may find themselves forced to trade away some marquee players.
Nobody likes the term "fire sale." I know when I hear it, it makes me cringe. And certainly, no one likes to be part of a fire sale, because it typically means that a team is struggling and has pretty much abandoned any hope of success in the current season.
In 2010, there weren't any real fire sales to speak of. But that could definitely change in 2011. Teams that are in financial trouble or are heading into a rebuilding phase could unload lots of heavy contracts and All-Star-caliber players, as the Jul. 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. We could be seeing a number of teams "sell the house" so to speak.
Carlos Beltran could be wearing a new uniform by the July 31 trade deadline
The New York Mets are in a state of chaos right now. They stopped a seven-game losing streak with a win on Sunday in Atlanta. But the victory is only their second in their last dozen games. They were swept in a four-game series at home by the Colorado Rockies earlier this week, and things just have not gone right in Queens.
The blame for their woes early on can mostly be placed on the pitching staff, which has been atrocious. They have the highest WHIP, second-highest ERA, most walks per nine innings and third-most hits per nine in the league. Mike Pelfrey, who is currently the Mets' No. 1 starter, has been just about awful so far, with an ERA close to double digits.
It's only mid-April, but the Mets may already be looking towards 2012. If that is the case, a fire sale could be in the plan. The Mets have a lot of big contracts due to come off the books at the end of the 2011 season, with Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran being the highlights. Francisco Rodriguez also becomes a free agent, unless he finishes 55 games in 2011, which would guarantee him $17 million next year.
Then there is ace Johan Santana, who is currently recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. The left-hander is not expected to rejoin the rotation until sometime around the All-Star break.
The Mets could very well have themselves a yard sale of All-Stars at the Jul. 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Beltran, Reyes, Santana, Pelfrey and Rodriguez might all be up for grabs if the Mets' troubles continue in 2011, with Reyes being the most attractive of the bunch. There might not be a bigger fire sale this season than that of the New York Mets.
Andre Ethier, 29, could be part of a Dodger fire sale in 2011.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have every chance of winning their division in 2011, but ownership uncertainties may make this a little uneasy in Dodgertown.
So a fire sale of sorts could be coming down the 101 freeway. And it could start with young star Andre Ethier.
Ethier is eligible for arbitration for the last time after the 2011 season, and could be in store for a big raise (he signed a two-year deal with the Dodgers prior to last season, worth $15.25 million). If the Dodgers, who defeated the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday to move to 7-9 on the early season, perceive Ethier to be too pricey for them, they could look to move him before the non-waiver trade deadline.
The talented B.J. Upton was drafted with the second overall pick in 2002.
This past offseason was a trying one for the Tampa Bay Rays. Through trades and free agency, the team lost a number of its veterans and fan favorites. Rafael Soriano, Jason Bartlett, Grant Balfour and Matt Garza are all wearing new uniforms in 2011.
And with All-Star Evan Longoria sitting on the disabled list with an oblique injury, the 2011 season has been a tough one from the start for the Rays. After their loss on Sunday, they own a 6-9 record and the second-lowest batting average in the league. And let's not forget, they've had to deal with Manny Ramirez announcing his retirement last weekend with a second suspension looming due to reported steroid usage.
If things don't turn around soon for the Rays, and they get buried in a very competitive division, general manager Andy Friedman may have to start dealing some of the rest of his high-priced talent.
Outfielder B.J. Upton has been the talk of trades over the past several seasons, and he could be a potential trade candidate in a 2011 fire sale. He will be arbitration eligible for the last time after this season.
Michael Cuddyer is due to become a free agent at the end of 2011 season.
The Minnesota Twins have some of the best home-grown talent in the game. Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Denard Span are as dynamic a group as there is in baseball, and all of them came up through the Twins system.
With this formula, the Twins have been rather successful over recent years. They have made the playoffs six of the last nine seasons. Yet, they haven't been to the World Series since they won it back in 1991.
And early on in 2011, things have not gone so well for the Twins. They are in last place in the division. They just placed their franchise player, Joe Mauer, on the 15-day disabled list. And they recently lost their Japanese import, Tsuyoshi Nishioka for 4-6 weeks with a broken leg.
Kubel and Cuddyer are each due to become free agents at the end of the 2011 season. Span recently signed a five-year extension with the Twins, who could try to shed payroll by trading the young outfielder. Another promising outfielder, Delmon Young, is arbitration eligible for the final time after this season.
Then there is the pitching staff. Francisco Liriano was the focus of some trade rumors towards the end of spring training, and though he hasn't pitched well so far in 2011, he could become a trade chip if the Twins fall out of contention early. Kevin Slowey, who is now on the 15-day disabled list, was the subject of several trade rumors during spring training as well.
Should the Twins continue to struggle in 2011, don't be surprised to see them try to unload some players and bring up some of their young prospects waiting in the wings—the next generation of home-grown Twins talent.
Vladimir Guerrero's time in Baltimore could be short-lived.
Baltimore Orioles general manager Andy McPhail spent this past offseason beefing up his club's offense. He acquired third baseman Mark Reynolds and shortstop J.J. Hardy in trades from the Diamondbacks and Twins respectively.
The O's also have a young, talented pitching staff, anchored by ace Jeremy Guthrie, and a deep bullpen with Kevin Gregg, Mike Gonzalez and Koji Uehara at the back end.
Yet, the expectations in Baltimore are still very low, and the chances of them actually competing with the Yankees and Red Sox seem nearly nonexistent.
The Orioles are in second place in the American League East entering play on Friday, but, as Jayson Stark of ESPN.com mentions, "One AL exec says he expects the Orioles to be 'one of the most active teams' at the trading deadline...If their hot start doesn't last." Guerrero, Lee and Hardy are all possible trade chips.
Playing in one of the toughest divisions in all of baseball, the Orioles are probably only a season or two from seriously competing. Still, 2011 may not be their year, and there could be some on-field personnel changes coming this summer.
Ryan Ludwick has struggled at the plate since arriving from St. Louis
The San Diego Padres shocked just about everyone last year, finishing two games out of first place in the National League West. Their young pitching was tremendous, and timely hitting helped make them a real surprise team in 2010.
2011 may be a different story for the Padres. They traded away their biggest offensive threat, Adrian Gonzalez, during the offseason and, early on in 2011, the Padres have statistically the worst offense in the National League.
Granted, they play half of their games in the pitcher's haven of PetCo Park, but their pitching hasn't been good enough to offset their lack of offense. Right now they are in last place in the division.
It is still very early in the season, but if this trend continues, the Padres could look to move players like Heath Bell, Cameron Maybin and Ryan Ludwick (who has been dreadful at the plate since coming over from the Cardinals last season).