Identifying the sellers is the easy part of this summer’s marketplace — Washington, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland and the Cubs have spent big money on bad records and appear to be ready to recoup at least a little before the July 31 nonwaiver trading deadline.
Where — and if — players from those teams will land is a lot more difficult, with new front-office decision makers around baseball like Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes. Detroit owner Mike Ilitch was never shy about adding to the Detroit Red Wings when they were in contention, and Dodgers GM Ned Colletti was brought up in the Brian Sabean culture of adding parts at the deadline.
Not to mention stealth movers Kenny Williams (White Sox) and John Scheurholz, who already addressed Atlanta’s biggest need by acquiring closer Bob Wickman.
Alfonso Soriano leads the list of players certain to be moved, since his contract expires at the end of the season and Nationals GM Jim Bowden wants to retool with younger, less expensive players after getting two, Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez, in his first-strike deal with Cincinnati last week.
But even quality run producers Soriano and the Phillies’ Bobby Abreu may not carry the clout they once did, as more and more clubs attempt to build from within, the best way to contain costs.
“I’m not inclined to trade away players who I believe can have a strong impact on this franchise in 2007, 2008 and 2009 for a player who isn’t going to make a significant difference for us over those last two months and isn’t going to be of value to us next year,’’ said Colletti, whose Dodgers were at Chase Field last week.
“So far, I can’t say there is one player out there that I feel is a significant upgrade versus the cost of whatever prospects would be going (in return).’’
Abreu has been linked to all the contenders needing an outfield bat and he may be available at top dollar, but the Phillies would much rather move Pat Burrell. Burrell is to make $13 million in 2007 and $14 million in 2008 (and has led the major leagues in called third strikes in 2005 and the first half of 2006, according to Elias Sports Bureau).
Mike Bell, Rheal Cormier, David Dellucci, Cory Lidle, Mike Lieberthal and Arthur Rhodes are in the final years of their contracts and thus available, although the Phillies would keep and start Dellucci if Abreu or Burrell go away.
It appears that even Philadelphia closer Tom Gordon, signed through 2008, could be pried away for the right pieces to add to Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Brett Myers and Cole Hamels moving forward.
Baltimore’s Miguel Tejada, with two years remaining in a $72 million deal, seems less likely to go than Javier Lopez, who wants a trade and is in the last year of his contract, and Rodrigo Lopez, who the Orioles say has received interest from nine teams. (Count the D-Backs out.)
The Orioles and Phillies have had discussions involving Abreu, Burrell and Javy Lopez, and some Orioles officials like Abreu so much they would not mind the salary hit — $15 million in 2007, $16 million option with a $2 million buyout in 2008 — to pair him with countryman and friend Melvin Mora.
But the Phillies would need more than Javy Lopez, and Abreu also has a full no-trade provision that he seems most likely to waive to go to New York, where he is coveted by George Steinbrenner.
The Cubs would move Juan Pierre, Phil Nevin, Scott Williamson, Todd Walker and Jacque Jones and might listen to offers for productive catcher Michael Barrett, while Williams’ White Sox still appear willing to trade Freddy Garcia or Javier Vazquez, perhaps for help in center field while opening up a spot in the rotation for Brandon McCarthy.
After losing two of three to Detroit last week, the White Sox could find themselves contending more with the Yankees and Boston for the AL wild-card.
The Tigers, with impetus from Ilitch, entered the Soriano market last week but the Nationals are asking for one of Detroit’s 100-mph right-handers, Justin Verlander or Joel Zumaya.
If that seems a steep price for a two-month rental, the Nationals also have asked Seattle for outfielder Adam Jones, the Angels for second baseman Howie Kendrick and the Yankees for right-hander Philip Hughes. Colletti’s Dodgers, who have a farm system almost as deep as the DBacks’, and the Angels also are in the mix.
Leave it to White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to put the Tigers’ dilemma in perspective.
“God bless them,’’ Guillen said of the Tigers. “If you make a trade to get your team better, that’s what you’re supposed to do. But to get Soriano, that means Zumaya or Verlander’s not going to be there.
“I’d rather see Soriano at the plate than see Zumaya or Verlander on the mound. How many at-bats is Soriano going to get? Four? Zumaya can get six people out.’’
“I remember Kirk Gibson knocking the (heck) out of me at second base. The next day, I threw right at his face. It wasn’t bad blood. That’s the way people should be playing. You talk about Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Don Baylor . . . that was a man’s game. This now, this is a bunch of little weasels’ game . . . Come on. Just play the game hard.”
— White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, waxing about the mellowing of major league baseball
One (dozen) for the team
St. Louis right-hander Jason Marquis gave up 12 runs on 14 hits in five innings against Atlanta on Tuesday, the second time in six starts he has been forced to stay in a one-sided game because of an overworked bullpen. He gave up 13 runs on 14 hits against the White Sox on June 21; his ERA has gone from 4.55 to 5.97 since. According to the Elias , Marquis is the first pitcher to give up 12 runs twice in one year since Chubby Dean of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1940.
Scoring in bunches
When Atlanta beat St. Louis 14-5 on Tuesday, it became the first team since the 1930 New York Yankees to score at least 10 runs in five consecutive games, and the first team in franchise history to do that since the 1897 Boston Beaneaters. Atlanta scored 65 runs in those five games after the break, sweeping San Diego before taking two of three from the Cardinals. Looking ahead Minnesota gets a chance to continue its forward momentum with three games each at the White Sox and Detroit.