MLB Trade Speculation: 10 Movable Players Who'd Fold Under Big City Pressure
For some players, the idea of playing in a big city like New York, Boston or Philadelphia is appealing. The connection with the a team's fanbase is something that certain players thrive on.
Derek Jeter, for instance, has lived under the scrutiny of playing for the New York Yankees for his entire career. He's endured slumps, streaks, peaks and valleys. But he never buckled under the pressure and he is still playing admirably today.
Playing in such a big market is not such a joyride for other players, however. Javier Vazquez has had two stints with the Bronx Bombers. His first was bad and his second was worse. He's performed well in other cities he's played in—Atlanta, Montreal, Chicago and Phoenix. But the pressure of playing in the Big Apple seemed to be too much for the right-hander.
With the trade season a couple months away, let's take a look at some players who could be dealt over the summer and who might prefer to stay away from the big cities.
B.J. Upton is a former first-round draft pick. He has over 150 stolen bases in his seven-plus seasons as a big leaguer. But he may not be the kind of player who could thrive in a big-time city like New York or Boston.
Upton has spent his entire career with the Tampa Bay Rays, a rather small-market club. The expectations to win only recently started to ascend, and there really isn't much of a fanbase to speak of.
He'll be arbitration eligible for the final time after the 2011 season, and rumors are swirling about a possible trade before the July 31 deadline. Currently, the Washington Nationals are the team being rumored to pursue a possible deal.
But the Yankees, Mets and Phillies could all be looking for outfielders in the coming months and could also target the 26-year-old center fielder. It remains to be seen, however, if Upton would be able to handle playing under a bright spotlight. One thing is for sure: He'd have to do away with any poor attitudes, which he has shown in the past.
Francisco Liriano's breakout 2006 campaign was an incredible season. He went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and struck out 144 batters in just 121 innings—a 10.7 K/9 ratio.
Since then, he's come back to earth. He underwent Tommy John surgery after that 2006 season and missed all of 2007. He's still shown some great stuff since the operation, but he hasn't been that 2006 left-hander.
Still, he will be arbitration eligible for the last time after this season, and there could be a lot of changes in the Twins' organization this offseason. We could very well see Liriano change addresses this summer.
During spring training, there were some talks of a possible Liriano trade to the New York Yankees. But would Liriano, who has pitched in the small market of Minnesota his entire career, be able to handle the pressure of being in the starting rotation for the Yankees?
There are some questions in San Diego. Quite possibly the biggest one of them (both in magnitude and physical size) is the status of closer Heath Bell.
Bell, 33, is due to become a free agent for the first time in his big-league career after the 2011 season, and it remains to be seen whether the Padres will be able to sign him or if they will have to deal him midseason (he is reportedly seeking a three-year contract).
If Bell is traded, he would likely go to a contender, perhaps a team like the White Sox or the Phillies. Despite his success as a lights-out closer in San Diego, closing games for a team expected to win is a much different ball game.
He spent parts of three seasons with the New York Mets before being traded to the Padres after the 2005 season. He's recorded 91 career saves coming into 2011, all coming in a Padres uniform.
The Cleveland Indians have made the playoffs once since Grady Sizemore entered the major leagues in 2004, and the last three seasons have been, well, disappointing. Sizemore has spent his entire big-league career with the Tribe.
As talented and gifted of an athlete as Sizemore is, he's never been the guy on a perennial winning ball club. He's been a big part of a team that never really expected to win much, particularly in recent years.
But unless the Indians are able to maintain their early success in 2011, he could be on the move later on this season, as he's due to become a free agent after the season for the first time.
There are a number of big-market clubs that could use the speed, power and defense that Sizemore possesses. It could be interesting to see if Sizemore and his 130 career home runs could remain a top-notch outfielder in a city like New York or Los Angeles.
Yes, Mike Pelfrey already plays in a big city, as he is the current "ace" for the New York Mets. But despite high potential coming up through the Mets organization, he hasn't exactly proven himself as an ace (he's been basically forced into that role with Johan Santana out until July).
Pelf, who came up in 2006, had a good 2008 campaign, winning 13 games. He regressed a little in 2009 before having his breakout season last year. But thus far in 2011, he's had some real troubles on the mound (other than a relatively easy start against the Diamondbacks on Friday night).
If the Mets continue to struggle in 2011, we could see some talent change hands before July 31, with Pelfrey a potential candidate. It may be best for him to be traded to a small-market team, as it seems he has been unable to pitch well under the spotlight that is New York.
Gio Gonzalez took the baseball world by surprise last year, when he won 15 games for the Oakland Athletics. It was a remarkable breakout season for the left-hander, and he's looked just as good so far in 2011.
The A's are knee deep in talented pitching, there's no question. But their offense is, well, lacking. They have the second-fewest home runs and the third-lowest runs per game in the league. So it may be prudent of Billy Beane and the A's to deal a young arm or two to add some thump to the lineup.
Gonzalez could be one of those arms to be dealt. There would be plenty of teams lining up if/when the A's make him available. But after spending his entire career in Oakland, would the 25-year-old be able to carry his recent success into a city like Los Angeles or Philadelphia without folding under the pressure?
Ryan Doumit was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second round of the 1999 draft. The 30-year-old out of Washington has quietly put together a decent career, primarily being the backstop for a bad Pirates team.
Doumit did generate some trade speculation during spring training, mainly due to the fact that he is eligible for free agency after this season. But so far, the Bucs have been unable to deal him. He may very well end up staying in the Steel City, where he has played his entire career.
If he is dealt, however, could he find himself playing on the big stage in some large city, like Boston (the Red Sox are known to have been seeking catching depth). If so, will he be able to flourish under the bright spotlight on a winning team?
Jeremy Guthrie was a Cleveland Indians first-round draft pick back in 2002. He has since moved on to Baltimore, where he has recently become the Orioles' ace starter.
But the O's, which play in arguably the toughest division in baseball, could be looking to move the right-hander before all is said and done. He can be come a free agent after next season, and for sure the Orioles would like to get something for him while they still can.
Chances are they wouldn't trade him to a division rival like the Yankees or Red Sox. But stranger things have happened. Plus, teams in other big cities like Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles could be looking for pitching help as well. Can Guthrie and his career 4.12 ERA last in a big-market city?
Joakim Soria has quietly put together a very nice career. Entering the 2011 season, he recorded 132 saves in four seasons with the Kansas City Royals. He's a two-time All-Star and has saved at least 40 games twice...with the Royals.
Even though the role of the closer comes with a ton of pressure inherently, Soria has yet to taste real pressure. He's been closing games for the Royals, which haven't had a winning season since 2003 and seem to be in a perpetual rebuilding phase.
But Soria is eligible for free agency after the 2012 season, and it remains to be seen if he is part of the Royals' future. If he isn't and they decide to move the right-hander, will he be able to carry his success to a team like the Dodgers, Phillies or White Sox (all of whom could be in the market for a late-inning reliever)?
Before Jason Marquis signed a two-year contract with the Washington Nationals prior to the 2010 season, the New York Mets were thought to have been a strong suitor for the right-hander. Marquis hails from Manhasset and attended high school in Staten Island.
Yet Marquis decided on the Nationals, and Mets fans might be fine with that decision. Marquis has shown flashes here and there of being a quality pitcher—he went 15-7 with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004—but has never really indicated he is capable of pitching under a microscope.
He spent two seasons in Chicago and recorded a composite 4.57 ERA and allowed 9.1 H/9. The Nationals could look to deal the 32-year-old, as he is due to become a free agent after the season. The Mets may be interested again, though they may want to think twice.