As the second half of the MLB 2011 season has opened up, we are now just a little more than two weeks away from the July 31 Trade Deadline.
In baseball, there is technically another month for waiver trades until August 31, but the biggest players will be moved before July 31 date.
For teams in playoff races and for teams trying to get rid of some payroll before the offseason, the next two weeks are make-it-or-break-it.
GM's will be working the phones until the deadline passes, and here are some potential multi-player moves that involve some of the biggest names in the game with some of the teams in the most critical of division races. This is the time where front offices strike gold or, unfortunately for some, strike out.
Veteran All-Stars like Carlos Beltran (pictured here), Rafael Furcal, Vladimir Guerrero, Heath Bell and Carlos Lee could all be switching teams before the calendar changes to August, so let's find out about where these superstars could be landing.
The Red Sox have contacted the Mets about Carlos Beltran. According to the official who spoke to MLBTradeRumors.com, the Sox were merely "just doing [their] due diligence."
Beltran would certainly fill Boston's hole in right field.
Beltran, who played in his sixth All-Star game this week, is currently batting .285 with 13 home runs and 58 RBI. With J.D. Drew mired in a year-long regression (.229 on the year) and Darnell McDonald failing to be an offensive producer, a lot of pressure has fallen on young Josh Reddick to produce immediately. Reddick, only 24 years old, has been excellent in his limited time since his call up from Triple-A, checking in with a .393 average.
GM Theo Epstein has gone on the record saying he would make a move if necessary, but hoped an internal option, such as Reddick, Drew or McDonald, would solve the problem. With big-time outfielder Carl Crawford due back from injury in the next week, Reddick could take the job for good if Epstein does not want to make the move.
But if he does, the Red Sox have prospects to lure a big bat such as Beltran, including hard-throwing pitcher Stolmy Pimentel.
As for Jason Isringhausen, the veteran closer has had a recent resurgence in New York and has been dominant this season. His ERA is around 3.00, but his batting average against is a mere .208, among the best for NL relief pitchers. Isringhausen could solidify a Red Sox bullpen that has had its fair share of struggles this season with pitchers Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler.
But at the heart of the deal, Beltran would give the Red Sox a major boost and give the Nation some confidence going into another heated September race against the Yankees.
According to Yahoo Sports, the Milwaukee Brewers are looking to improve their bottom half of the lineup.
Current shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt is a defensive genius, but is currently only batting .237 with five home runs. Rafael Furcal, often injured over the last couple years, could provide another option with speed and some proven gap-to-gap power. Furcal batted .300 last season and has been tremendous when healthy throughout his career.
The Brewers, merely a half game behind the St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the NL Central, could definitely use both another proven bat and an experienced starting pitcher too. Hiroki Kuroda, the Dodgers' very reliable third starter behind young studs Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, could provide some needed relief for the Brewers' struggling starters.
Both Zach Greinke (5.45 ERA) and Chris Narveson (4.75 ERA) have been disappointing this season, especially Greinke’s 7.42 ERA away from Miller Park. Kuroda’s 3.06 ERA and 1.22 WHIP are amongst top pitchers in the league, and the Dodgers could use the salary relief.
The Brewers would not have to give up too much for both Furcal and Kuroda, as long as they offered to take on a fair amount of both salaries. If the Dodgers want prospects too, they should look at the Brewers' mid-level prospects like relief pitcher Tyler Thornburg or left-handed pitcher Dan Merklinger.
Both teams could benefit from such a move, and the Brewers could add some key components to building a division-winning team.
Ryan Ludwig and Heath Bell are two perennial All-Stars in the prime of their careers.
Bell, 34 years old, has been dynamite the last three seasons as the Padres' closer. After taking over from future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman, Bell has been to three straight All-Star games and has recorded 40-plus saves the past two seasons.
Perhaps the best reliever in the National League, the Padres are looking to receive some compensation for Bell, as he becomes a free agent at season’s end.
Picking up Bell would be a huge confidence-booster for the Indians and would give them potentially the best bullpen in baseball when paired with current All-Star closer Chris Perez, along with valuable relievers Rafael Perez and Joe Smith.
Also walking after the season is slugger Ryan Ludwick, whom the Padres acquired last season from the Cardinals in a late-season push.
Ludwick would be a major pickup for the Indians, who have been perhaps the biggest surprise in baseball this season. The Indians have a shaky outfield with slugger Shin-Soo Choo out until late August with a broken thumb, the fragile Grady Sizemore patrolling center field and Austin Kearns suffering through a season-long slump. Unproven Michael Brantley has been good in limited time, but the Indians could use another bat.
Ludwick is currently only batting .242 with 11 home runs, but plays in the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park. Ludwick would at the very least provide a threat to a lineup that only has Travis Hafner as a consistent big-bopper.
The Indians would have to take the rest of both Ludwick’s and Bell’s salary, plus give up top prospects in order to get the two highly-coveted players. Left-handed pitching prospect Drew Pomeranz or even third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, both top 50 prospects overall, would have to be considered.
With this move, however, the Indians could suddenly become the team to beat not only in the AL Central, but in the entire American League, even up against the powerful Yankees and Red Sox.
Oy! The Yankees!
All the other 29 teams groan as the Yankees become closer to finalizing another big mid-season pickup to bolster their squad for the playoff push, and there is no better duo of players than the slugging Carlos Lee and the phenomenal left-handed starter Wandy Rodriguez.
Lee, who holds a .268 average with seven home runs and 48 RBI, is a three-time All-Star with a ton of power.
Rodriguez, owner of a 3.52 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP, has been a consistent top-line starter for several years in Houston and is very reliable.
The New York Yankees are in need of dependability, with a back-end rotation that features fragile and inconsistent pitchers Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes. With Ivan Nova waiting in the wings, the Yankees have a little bit of depth, but no experienced depth. Rodriguez could come in and provide stability for a rotation that has very little potency after CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.
Not only will the Bronx Bombers have to take on both players' salaries, but they will probably have to part with one of their better prospects. Such highly-touted Yankee prospects like outfielder Slade Heathcott or Graham Stoneburner could definitely be discussed as trade bait, enticing the Astros to give up two of their best players.
The Yankees, currently 1.5 games behind the Red Sox, could certainly use some extra help to get over their arch nemesis to take the AL East.
The Diamondbacks are in the market for a closer and need to look no further than to the Baltimore Orioles for stud closer Kevin Gregg. They can also pick up veteran slugger Vladimir Guerrero to provide some added power to their lineup.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, the surprise team in the NL West division race, are 49-43 and only 3.5 games behind the San Francisco Giants.
The Orioles, trudging through another losing season in last place, can add some talented prospects by dealing their reliable closer and aging slugger.
Gregg has 15 saves and a 3.31 ERA so far this season, and at 33 years old is in the first of a two-year contract. Gregg is a very reliable option for the D’Backs, who have been extremely frustrated by the subpar performance of their bullpen.
Arizona closer J.J. Putz was performing well before going on the disabled list, but the rest of bullpen has been dreadful. Set-up man Aaron Heilman has a 6.55 ERA and the overall bullpen ERA is well over 4.00.
As for the need for Vlad, the D’Backs have a weakness in left field. They have two phenomenal outfielders in Chris Young and Justin Upton, but Gerardo Parra has underperformed this season with only five home runs and 23 RBI. Parra has a .286 batting average, but has not been the player with the power Arizona needs. Other options, like Xavier Nady and Brandon Allen, have not been permanent solutions, so Vlad could be a part-time player who could be a pinch-hitting specialist.
Similar to how the Dodgers picked up Jim Thome to be a pinch-hitter in 2009, Vlad could be primarily a late-inning pinch-hitter with a lot of power.
Prospects the O’s could ask for in return include excellent pitchers such as Josh Collmenter, J.R. Bradley or Robbie Rowland. All three pitchers are young and could help the O’s rebuild for a couple years in the future.
As for the D’Backs, they could make a run this season if they pick up a couple pieces to solidify their most vulnerable spots on the roster. The D’Backs are young and on the verge of becoming a great team; this move might just push them over the edge and into the playoffs.