Trading is a lot about contracts these days, which means top arms such as the Indians’ Kevin Millwood and the Marlins’ A.J. Burnett could be available as contenders look to beef up in the next several weeks.
Jason Schmidt, too, has a contract that fits a contender but not a team rebuilding, although teams like the Giants still have several weeks to define themselves vis-a-vis their postseason chances.
The Rockies have been trying to shed Preston Wilson all season, while Mark Kotsay, Mike Cameron, Randy Winn, Orlando Hudson and the Devil Rays entry of Aubrey Huff and Danys Baez have been scouted heavily as the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline approaches.
Millwood’s situation is symptomatic of the forces that drive many deals, especially regarding smaller-market teams.
Millwood is playing for $7 million this season and will be a free agent after the year. He signed for the short term because of an elbow injury in 2004.
It is safe to assume that agent Scott Boras would like to make up some of the revenue his client lost in last year’s free agent market, a scenario that could shape Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro’s thinking as July winds down.
Shapiro has said he has no plans to deal Millwood and his 3.08 ERA, but things could change if Cleveland falls out of the wild card race.
Burnett, a free agent after this season, has been rumored in deals with with the Yankees and the Orioles, and while the Marlins may deal, they also may play it the way they did with Carl Pavano last summer. They hung onto Pavano then received a draft pick after the first round this June when he opted for free agency.
As for others who may be on the trading block:
• The Giants’ Schmidt has a $10.5 million option for 2006 with a $3.5 million buyout. Yet the Giants are talking about adding another quality starter rather than dealing Schmidt, especially if they remain on the cusp of wild card contention.
• With No. 1 draftee Aaron Hill making a splash in his rookie season, the Blue Jays will entertain offers on second baseman Hudson, a Gold Glove-type defender who has scuffled at the plate. Hill and another No. 1 pick, Russ Adams, will be the Jays’ double-play combination of the future.
• The Cubs contacted the Rockies about Wilson, who is a free agent in 2006, but would be owed a prorated portion of his $12 million this year.
• The Marlins and Braves are after closer Baez, and Atlanta, the Rangers and Dodgers are among those who like hitter Huff.
• Washington asked Houston about Roger Clemens last week and was told he is not available.
• Likewise, A’s general manager Billy Beane has said Barry Zito is not on the market, although he has been silent about Kotsay, whose deal is up after this year.
• Bret Boone and Jamie Moyer are in the last year of their contracts, and Seattle might be willing to part with pieces of its past.
• The Royals hope that Jose Lima perks up enough the next few weeks that contenders may want to add him, aware of his strong showing with the Dodgers in the playoffs last year. With Brian Anderson about ready to return to the rotation, Lima’s time is running short.
• Gary Sheffield, upset when the Mets’ interest in him became public last week, may have had the best take on trade talk. "As long as the deadline comes and goes, I’ll be fine," Sheffield said.
CASE OF THE WILLIES
Willie Randolph, who spent 24 years in the Yankees’ organization as a player and a coach before taking the Mets’ managerial job this season, had no trouble making the move because he was never told how he fit into the Yankees’ longterm plans.
"Joe’s (Torre) run has been great," Randolph said, "and I always felt Joe was going to be there as long as he wanted to be there. The organization, (owner) George (Steinbrenner) and them, never gave me a feel if I was remotely next.’’
The Yankees did ask Randolph years ago to manage at Triple-A Columbus but he turned them down, considering it an insult.
"Here I was, in the process of making a half a million dollars with World Series checks, and they wanted to cut me (to) some unbelievable minor league salary," Randolph said. "I was like, ‘What am I? Stupid? A moron?’
"I said, ‘No, I think I’ll just keep teaching Derek Jeter and these guys how to play. I think I’ll do that a little while longer. I’m not sure if I can trust you guys are going to look out for me here.’ My mama didn’t raise no fool.’’
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was upset when he read those comments and confronted Randolph before one of the Subway Series games last week.
HIT ME HARD
Craig Biggio passed Don Baylor for the modern record of hit by pitches with No. 268 on Wednesday, Baylor was amused to hear the Hall of Fame had asked for the elbow pad worn by Biggio. Baylor played in the day when no one used body armor.
"Body parts don’t go to the Hall of Fame, and that’s all that ever got hit with me,’’ said Baylor, Seattle’s hitting coach this season. "I never missed a game because of it. I never missed an at-bat, and I had a rule with my trainers, ‘Don’t ever come out to check on me.’ I didn’t want the pitcher thinking he could hurt me.’’
• "I think that’s really clueless.’’ — St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, on ESPN TV’s scheduling of West Coast night games Sunday, the day players must fly to Detroit for All-Star festivities.
• "We’re just waiting for the day when he throws a change-up and he runs and catches it before it gets to home plate. He’s going to make history." — San Diego manager Bruce Bochy, on the turtle-like speed of Chris Hammond’s change-up.
• After the Kenny Rogers meltdown this week, Texas owner Tom Hicks cut off contract extension talks with Rogers and distanced himself from an earlier statement that he wanted Rogers to retire a Ranger.
• On Thursday, the White Sox will have led the AL Central Division for 94 straight days, equalling their firstplace time for all of 2002, 2003 and 2004.
• Through June, Red Sox relievers have allowed 43.5 percent of inherited runners to score, worse than the Diamondbacks (40.8 percent), the Royals (40.3) and the Rockies (39.6).
• Chad Cordero: Nationals reliever has converted 25 consecutive save opportunities.
• Andruw Jones: Braves center fielder had 13 homers the last 20 days of June, and hit another July 1.
• Bartolo Colon: Angels starter, 6-0 with a 2.14 ERA against Texas last season, is 3-0 with a 3.05 ERA against them this season.
• Sammy Sosa: Orioles right fielder had three hits in his last 42 at-bats and was dropped to sixth in the Baltimore batting order.
• Steve Kline: Orioles pitcher has been called for three balks this season, after making one in his first eight years.