You know you want it.
There is no trade deadline like the baseball trade deadline. Most people don't know when the NFL trading deadline is (Week Six still?) and the NBA has some fun moves at the deadline, but are often gross reminders that the NBA values getting rid of contracts just as much as they value talent. Boo. Boring. Why the hell should I care if you shed the contract of a player you should have never signed for that much money?
"Oh, hey, remember when I signed Adonal Foyle for $500 million? LOL! Well someone wants his expiring contract :-p"
But baseball has something that other sports don't really have: Prospects.
Baseball prospects bring hope, promise, and excitement to franchises that have very little in the way of hope. Even if your team stinks in July, you can get up and pay attention for a short while as they potentially make a trade to grab an exciting player or three and actually change the way you view the future. Something that's not as easy to do in other sports when you're 25 games below .500. (Note: Only the Browns can get 25 games under .500 in the NFL.)
As a Mariners fan, I've seen the highs and I've seen the lows. Though mostly now the high's are distant memories, like Vietnam flashbacks in the middle of the night. Waking up in a cold sweat, remembering that we did win over 90 games a few times. The Seattle fans haven't had a 90 win season in a very long time, but the hope brought at the deadline in recent years has kept us perked up way past virtual elimination from playoff contention. Most prominent of those trades came when dealing away Cliff Lee for Justin Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, and Matt Lawson.
Hey, we dealt for promise not for promises.
It's the same for every team that finds themselves in a bad position in the standings but has one last chip to play. One last glimmer of hope. An impending free agent, a star that doesn't fit with the re-building plan, a puzzle piece that a contender is willing to pay top dollar for. September, October... that's for the other guys.
July 31st? That's for the losers.
Join me as I survey the losers and look at who could have the most fun at firesale time at the end of the month. There's plenty of losers that have plenty to give in return for a little hope. After the jump you'll see why I think Justin Upton is a smokescreen for a different kind of trade, why a team in the AL East could make a big-time sell, and why the Rangers really will listen to deals involving Jurickson Profar.
Carlos Lee (May Block Trade To 14 Teams)
Carlos Zambrano (Maybe? Waived No-Trade Clause In Move To Miami)
A month ago all the articles about Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria were in regards to "I still like our chances" and that the season was far from over. More recently, it's turned to "FIRESALE! FIRESALE! ANYONE CAN BE HAD!"
Rumors swirl around Giancarlo Stanton, Heath Bell, Hanley Ramirez, or anyone else you may be interested in. The truth is that the Marlins are talent-rich, but the results have not been there in the slightest. Jose Reyes has an OPS+ of 91, Hanley Ramirez is at 103, Logan Morrison is at an even 100, Gaby Sanchez was way down at 49, John Buck is at 68, Omar Infante at 101, and Emilio Bonifacio at 82, but he had 22 stolen bases and caught only once in 44 games.
More recently, Justin Ruggiano has been killing it (.368/.440/.705) and Stanton continues to get better, though he hit the DL.
That's a lot of names that clubs would like to get their hands on, but the size of some of those contracts plus the down-year aspect and the fact that the Marlins are reeking of desperation could lower the return. For example: Ramirez and Bell for Carl Crawford? This is still the same guy coming off of an injury, coming off of a career-bad year in the first year of a $142 million contract, right?
I understand the balance of the deal, but there was a time that Ramirez could have been described as untouchable as Mike Trout is now. If you're going to be making deals, why not get prospects and not bad contracts? Even if Crawford continues to hit well, will he ever hit well enough to justify $142 million?
That's just the hitting...
It's amazing that a club could have this much raw talent but also be two games under .500. The Marlins have long been known to recycle current stars for future stars when the current stars become too expensive, but it's not even about money anymore for Miami. That doesn't mean that they shouldn't be dealing for a wealth of new prospects, which they probably have the ability to do.
#1 - Stanton could bring in a bounty if you actually dealt him. But that would probably be the worst thing they could do. You don't find 22-year-old hitters with that much raw power very often, he's under club control for a long time, and it would be tough to envision a team giving up the bounty it would take to get him. However, if a club like Texas came along and started throwing around names like Jurickson Profar and Martin Perez, you'd have to listen.
#2 - Hanley Ramirez is not worth his contract anymore. He's owed $31.5 million over the next two seasons (in the middle of making $15 million this year) and has hit .246/.330/.408 with 33 SB and 14 CS over his last 181 games. There are teams willing to eat that salary, or you could find a bad contract swap (but what's the benefit of that?) but you have to find the need first.
Boston has already been mentioned as a landing spot and even though Hanley's contract is bad and Bell's contract is unattractive, Crawford's contract is terrible. You're going to swap $58 million in owed money for over $100 million in owed money?
I don't think so. That's a terrible deal for the Marlins unless the Red Sox are throwing in Xander Boegarts or something and I doubt that they are.
What about the Cardinals? They've got a good history of trading for stars (Matt Holliday, Mark McGwire, Scott Rolen) and though they don't necessarily have an opening, they could probably make some room for a player like Hanley. They're 4.5 games back (I'm writing this on Wednesday) and how good would it feel for them to make the playoffs in the first year after Tony LaRussa and Albert Pujols left? Shelby Miller seemed untouchable a few months ago, and he seems touchable now.
#3 - Josh Johnson has been understandably rusty this year, but he's got two more years of club control with a reasonable amount of money for a guy that's an ace at times. Andy Pettitte has been a revelation and the Yankees have surprisingly survived the loss of Michael Pineda before the season started, but do they want to play it even safer? They don't have the trade chips that they once had, but is there a package that they could put together (Gary Sanchez) to do it?
How about the White Sox, who have a solid 1-2 in the rotation, but could use help in the 3-4-5.
The problem is that there isn't a dearth of good pitching this year, and the contenders are looking for more guys that can adequately hit the ball. With fewer teams looking for starting pitching, and plenty of bad teams that have pitchers to give, the return is going down. This is much different than the situation two years ago when Lee was traded to the Rangers.
Same goes for the rest of the Marlins rotation.
Cliff Lee (Limited no-trade protection)
Roy Halladay (Most favored nation no-trade protection)
Ryan Howard (Most favored nation)
Chase Utley (Can block trade to nine teams)
Shane Victorino (Limited)
You'll so rarely find a team with this big of a payroll, with this many stars, with such high expectations, find itself facing a potential firesale. The Phillies have been big time Yankees-of-the-NL contenders for several years and big paying big bucks like the world was ending in 2012. Well, this dynasty may be ending in 2012. Who knew that the Mayans were Phillies fans?
However, there is one major reason why you won't see Philly do a firesale: They're still leading the league in attendance. Even without Howard and Utley, this was the biggest draw in the majors. Philadelphia is far out of first place, reasonably far out of the Wild Card spots, but not out of it. Remember how the Cardinals had no chance at making the playoffs last year? Still, there are plenty of options here for the Phillies to make deals, improve their future, remain in reasonable contention, and not trade away a bunch of their big name draws.
Jimmy Rollins rumors swirled earlier this week in regards to the Dodgers, just a few months into his new three-year, $33 million contract. But Rollins is hitting as good as you should expect him to hit and he's been the second-most valuable hitter on this team, after Carlos Ruiz. His deal is very reasonable for a 4-WAR shortstop and that will make him very interesting to buying ballclubs, but at what price? And at what price can Philly management expect to deal away their 13-year franchise player and not upset the fans?
Also in rumors recently, and also not part of the problem, is Hunter Pence. He's under contact through next season, under 30, and has solid power. Which also like Rollins, is what makes him attractive to other clubs to the point where Philadelphia could deal him for a real piece of the future. Are they willing to risk losing Pence after next season if they feel that they can't afford another huge contract or would they really deal him away now for prospects with six years of club control?
Philadelphia could easily deal away players like Ty Wigginton, Placido Polanco, Juan Pierre, and John Mayberry and pick up relief pitchers or a young Willie Bloomquist, but to get a blue chipper, they'd have to give up something of value. But are they going to lose them anyway? What about players like Shane Victorino?
Victorino is having a down year, which would make it interesting if the Phillies are going to trade him now, when they seemingly could have gotten a lot more for him if they had dealt him over the winter. But how likely is it that they re-sign him when the season is over anyway?
Oh and of course there are the pitchers.
Cole Hamels is making $15 million this season in arbitration, think about what he's going to make in free agency. Hamels could command money unlike most starting pitchers have ever seen and the Phillies have already committed over $45 million per season to Halladay and Lee alone. If they sign Hamels for what his market value is going to be, that means that they would probably commit around $70 million per season on only three pitchers.
The first-place Nationals had a total payroll of about $68 million just last season.
Your options are to trade Hamels for a top prospect. Trade Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay for a lesser prospect because they are older, expensive, and have some trade protection and then use the saved money to attempt to re-sign Hamels. Or to just go ahead and pay them all because you lead the majors in attendance.
And then there's the forgotten man in this entire equation, Joe Blanton. He's not as exciting as the other three, but Blanton is leading the league in lowest walks per nine innings this year and is also an impending free agent. He won't bring in the haul that the other three would, but Blanton could bring back a nice piece and you wouldn't lose any butts in the seats.
The Phillies could be right back in contention next season (or by slight chance, this season) but their farm system is weak. A little bit of dealing could make it much better before you know it.
Randy Wolf (Limited)
Corey Hart (Block to 15 clubs)
Ryan Braun (Full)
Yovani Gallardo (Full)
It was not too long ago that the "Brew Crew" (as I like to call them) sold the farm for Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke in order to make a run at it. It worked, basically, as they made the NLCS last year, their deepest run since 1982, but it's not working this year. Wouldn't you know it, Greinke and Marcum are impending free agents and the Brewers are seven games out of first and chasing the Wild Card. What to do?
You spent so much to get those guys in order to make a two-year run at it and are you so far out that you give up now and get what you can? Re-sign the lot and keep going for it? You already bumped up payroll by $15 million this season and it hasn't worked.
Meanwhile, a pitcher like Greinke is still one of the few true "aces" in the majors and could re-coup what you lost when you let go of Brett Lawrie for Marcum, maybe. However, as I said before, the market for starting pitching is huge right now. Would a club give up a lot for Greinke, when they could give up a lot less for Blanton? They'll have to see if an injury pops up and makes clubs a little more desperate. Given the right market, Greinke could bring back a top 15 prospect and then some.
The Brewers need to find some more long-term solutions in the lineup and they've got the opportunity to do so right now. Michael Fiers has been good enough to assume that you can deal Marcum and not lose too much of a beat, and Gallardo isn't going anywhere.
There's not a whole lot of trade chips after those top two, so if they're going to make a splash, it's going to come from the top of the rotation.
The Rangers are reportedly looking at Hamels and Greinke, with Zack as a fallback option if Hamels doesn't work out. Texas has the prospects to pull a lot off and Profar could be considered "blocked" by the Rangers infield right now, but that's an awfully high price to pay for a rental. They also paid the price of Smoak (A top 10-15 prospect at the time) for a Cliff Lee rental. Anything they can do to assist on a third straight trip to the World Series seems possible right now.
All it takes is one Justin Upton.
The biggest name thrown around this year and the one you'll hear the most of leading up to the deadline, is Upton. He was the prodigal son, the future of the game, the seventeen-tool player, and now that the Diamondbacks have had a rough season and he's been hitting with "fluffy power" all season long, the opportunity for a bounty has presented itself. The Diamondbacks could stick with Upton, their franchise player, and continue to make a go of it for this season and future seasons. They're not a bad team.
Upton, Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Hill, Miguel Montero, Gerardo Parra, Chris Young, and Jason Kubel all make up a good core of hitters. Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders make up a decent rotation to themselves, but Arizona also has Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin, and Archie Bradley waiting in the wings. One has to wonder if Upton is really the guy that the Diamondbacks will really end up trading.
It rarely makes any sense to deal your best current major league starter, but would it not be better to deal Kennedy from a position of strength, rather than deal Upton from a position of weakness? Right now your future at third base doesn't look very promising and the Rangers, who need a starter, have a guy named Mike Olt in the minors.
Olt is probably ready for a major league trial, but the Rangers have this guy named Adrian Beltre blocking him. The real player that the Rangers could be targeting, if they fall short on Hamels or Greinke, could be Ian Kennedy. There's no way that this deal does not make sense.
"What?!?!" you say? Why the Blue Jays? Toronto is five games back of the first Wild Card spot and has an opportunity to make the playoffs for the first time since 1993, when they won their second straight World Series. It would be stupid to sell, right? Not as I see it.
First of all, there's an American League market deficiency. There are only three teams (Royals, Twins, Mariners) that are out of the race to the playoffs right now after the A's recent run of success. That means that a lot of teams in the league will be standing pat or buying in the league over the next two weeks. This gives a team like Toronto an advantage as a seller, and gives Alex Anthopoulos the opportunity to sell anything he has at a higher price than normal. What does he have?
J.P. Arencibia is a 26-year-old catcher with terrible plate discipline, but the ability to hit 20-30 home runs. Could that interest... the Nationals? Arencibia is also blocking a better young player, Travis d'Arnaud.
Adam Lind doesn't look like a major league starting first baseman anymore, but he has been hot lately: .381/.435/.667 over his last twelve games. Teams are always looking for a hot bat off the bench, though AA probably couldn't get much for Lind. Same with Yunel Escobar, who could be a nice sub on a team in September and October. Also same with Rajai Davis.
What are the Blue Jays looking for?
Well, Toronto has a lot of starting pitching prospects, but none of them are quite of that high-caliber level AND ALSO (I know I'm going to get crap for saying "Not of that high-caliber level" but listen to the rest of the sentence) AND ALSO close to the major leagues. They've got pitchers like Daniel Norris and Noah Syndergaard, but they have almost nothing above high-A and those two guys in particular aren't even there yet. The Blue Jays have a bunch of interesting or good or great pitching prospects, but nothing that's really close to contributing at the major league level and with the right move, Toronto could be competing for real by next season, but they need pitching.
There is no way that the Blue Jays can compete for real with Henderson Alvarez second on your team in innings pitched. Toronto lacks pitchers that are going to help by next season, so how are they going to get that?
#1 - The Jose Bautista big splash.
Bautista is one of the greatest finds in baseball history for Toronto and also grossly underpaid. After a slow start, he's hitting a monster .279/.383/.637 with 22 HR over his last 58 games. He's on a very team friendly deal of $14 million annually through 2015 and a $14 million club option for 2016. It's crazy to think that Toronto would deal such an awesome asset, but what kind of a return could they get?
The Pirates are the first team that springs to mind, a team looking to at least solidify there first winning season since 1842. The pitcher that the Blue Jays would want is Gerrit Cole, since he's on the cusp, but he'd have to be named as a PTBNL since he signed last August. The pitcher that they could have now is Jameson Taillon, but he doesn't fit the profile of the "ready-now" pitching that I described earlier. However, if they combined him with someone like Starling Marte, it could be a start.
However, none of this feels right.
How about the Dodgers, a team that could have the best outfield in baseball if they slotted Bautista in there with Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. The Dodgers have like 35 pitching prospects, but none of them quite fit the bill. Zach Lee is now in AA, but he's struggling in a short sample. I can't see him making a major league rotation until 2014.
The Tigers are currently trying to figure out their corner spot by putting prospect Nick Castellanos in right field in the minors, but they could also try to deal Castellanos and pitcher Jacob Turner for Bautista. Right?
Nah, this was all for fun because there's no way that the Blue Jays would deal a player of Bautista's caliber. He's the reason they can compete in the NL East. However...
The Blue Jays made a great move to acquire Rasmus and it's paying off this season with him hitting 17 HR and playing good centerfield defense, but Gose could probably come up and not play too bad, with the possibility that he's the better long-term solution than Colby.
Drew Stubbs is struggling in Cincinnati this season. Would the Reds entertain offers on Daniel Corcino? I think it's something that Toronto should be, and would be, looking into. Anthopoulos is one of the best GMs in baseball and I hardly expect him to rest on his laurels because Toronto isn't ready to compete in the NL East this season but they could definitely be there by next season while they pass teams by that decided to "go for it" in 2012, something that would be a mistake for a team like Baltimore.
A lot of fascinating possibilities around the deadline this year and I'm excited to see what goes down and see if maybe one of my hunches is right. What are you hunching?