By this point last season, teams had completed 18 trades. Over the last three days before the deadline, they would strike 13 more deals, including 11 on July 31. For all of the concern about how the second wild card would hamper trades, the market proved plenty active.
So far this season, there have been 11 deals. Six relievers. A backup outfielder. An overpaid and over-the-hill outfielder. Two back-of-the-rotation starting pitchers. And Matt Garza, whose trade to the Texas Rangers is the only one that involved anyone resembling an impact player or top prospect. As buyers and sellers this year have parried to a stalemate, it has left plenty of executives questioning the wisdom of a July 31 non-waiver deadline when so many teams still consider themselves in too much limbo to buy or sell.
The popular suggestion is moving the deadline to Aug. 31, though as one American League executive noted, the return for 30 days of work may be too paltry for teams to even bother dealing players. Perhaps a happy medium, the executive suggested, is Aug. 15. Those extra two weeks allow the July 31 tweeners to justify their stance on the season without any fear of alienating a fan base by selling too early. Moreover, by changing the market, teams with the foresight to buy early could reap dividends – or, depending on how it goes, overpay. More than anything, it would restore the intrigue lacking this season.
Granted, some of that may be due to the lackluster names available. When ...
1. Jake Peavy is the marquee player – 32-year-old, 4.28-ERA-posting, just-got-off-the-DL, has-pitched-one-full-season-in-the-last-six-years Jake Peavy – that says plenty about how grim the market really is, what with maybe half a dozen true-blue sellers.
The Chicago White Sox are one of them, and for Peavy they’re asking more than the Cubs did for Garza. In part, that’s because he’s under contract for next season at $14.5 million, which is more than reasonable if he stays healthy. When Peavy has pitched this year, he has alternated between excellent and frustrating – and often in the same game. During his last start, he struck out seven over seven innings and gave up just four hits. But three of them were home runs, making 14 in 80 innings this season. Among pitchers with that many innings, only Joe Blanton, Dan Haren and Dylan Axelrod have worse home run rates.
While industry sentiment considers the Oakland Athletics favorites for Peavy, that may be by default. First-year general manager Rick Hahn is asking for every interested organization’s top prospect, from Oakland’s Addison Russell to Boston’s Xander Bogaerts, both of which are complete non-starters. Peavy simply is not enough of a sure thing for a team to risk that, and accordingly executives believe the asking price will drop enough in the next three days where Hahn will instead target a package of prospects to replenish a farm system considered among the game’s worst.
That brings in everyone from St. Louis to Atlanta to Baltimore, even if the Cardinals plan on holding tight and the Braves trust in Brandon Beachy to fill Tim Hudson’s rotation slot and the O’s may instead spend their prospect portfolio on a bat. What they all know is this: If Hahn has to go into the offseason and offer Peavy as an alternative to the monster price of David Price or the middling free agent class, he will. Peavy may have packed up his locker at U.S. Cellular Field on Sunday, but a deal is no fait accompli. It has to be the right fit, just as with ...
2. Joe Nathan and the Texas Rangers dangling him despite him putting together arguably the best season of a remarkable career. Since 2003, he has a 2.29 ERA, the second-most saves in baseball behind Mariano Rivera, an unthinkable .189 batting average against and the third most strikeouts among relievers behind Francisco Rodriguez and Brad Lidge.
Coming off a sweep by Cleveland and six games back of Oakland in the AL West, the Rangers are exploring any number of options to get better, and so a possible Nathan deal makes sense. At the same time, sources told Yahoo! Sports the Rangers are strongly considering standing pat with their current team and hoping the issues that have manifested themselves – mediocre fielding, mediocre offense and miserable baserunning – can work themselves out.
Texas’ calls so far – to Toronto asking about Jose Bautista, for example – haven’t gone anywhere, and when they saw what the market was for relief pitching, putting Nathan out there made sense. When the San Francisco Giants are asking for a major league-ready starting pitcher for Javier Lopez, a left-handed specialist free agent to be, that is a market that needs some more supply. Pittsburgh could seek a closer to spell the injured Jason Grilli. Boston wants relief depth. The Tigers and Rangers have spoken about Nathan. If Texas wants to get bold, it can. Not bold enough for ...
3. Michael Young to return. Even if the Rangers do need a bat, Young – .277/.342/.402 in a hitters’ park in Philadelphia – doesn’t fit, no matter how much it would warm the heart of children around Dallas.
That Young even qualifies as one of the best options on the market – he and Alex Rios may be the top right-handed choices, though San Francisco could deal Hunter Pence instead of trying to get a draft pick for him with a compensation tender – says plenty about it. It is grim, and almost certainly an Aug. 15 deadline would remind Seattle that it’s not catching Oakland or Texas – and that Michael Morse, Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez and others have legitimate value. Ditto Marlon Byrd with the Mets.
Stubbornness is simply a trait inherent in baseball, personified best perhaps by ...
4. Alex Rodriguez, who’s photobombing the trade-deadline version of 10 Degrees even though he’s arguably the least likely player in all of baseball to get traded, unless there is a team willing to absorb the disaster that is his career.
As much as Rodriguez doesn’t belong here, he is likely to be the focus of the baseball world sometime this week when the league is expected to throw down its suspensions related to the Biogenesis investigation. Whether A-Rod gets 100 games, 150 or more, it is bound to be a significant number, the sort that will prompt acronyms abound, from LOL to OMG to WTF.
The great intrigue beyond the length of suspension is just how much Major League Baseball takes public from Rodriguez’s case, and whether his alleged interfering with the investigation prompts a more severe punishment than any baseball has seen. Much as it would like to, the league won’t pursue a lifetime ban because it understands there is no chance the union or an arbitrator would uphold the idea of three separate violations of the collectively bargained drug agreement, the threshold for such a penalty. Something that would keep A-Rod out of the game until almost his 40th birthday? Could happen.
It’s going to be an unprecedented wave of discipline, and caught in the wake are ...
5. Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz, with their decisions heavy with playoff and offseason implications. Both are free agents come November. Both are a huge part of a team with current playoff aspirations. If MLB lays 50-game suspensions on both, they face a legitimately difficult choice.
It’s not as easy as selfless vs. selfish, though surely teammates will see it that way. The selfless: Appeal the suspension, play out the season, enter free agency with a 50-game ban hanging over your head and accept that the decision to allegedly take performance-enhancing drugs came with a difficult consequence that costs millions of dollars. The selfish: Take the 50 now, even if it leaves the ballclub in the lurch, hope teammates forgive you for it, return right before the playoffs and be eligible for October while maintaining full value in the offseason.
Neither player has indicated to his team a plan, which is especially troubling for the Tigers considering how thin they are already up the middle. It’s why ...
6. Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick’s emergence on the trade market is so intriguing. While the Los Angeles Angels aren’t actively seeking a deal for either, sources told Yahoo! Sports they’re willing to listen. And as the Angels spiral toward another massive disappointment, now 13 games back of the A’s and likely without Albert Pujols for the remainder of the season, their focus is on a starter to fill out a rotation that beyond Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Jason Vargas has been frighteningly bad.
Perhaps it’s a surprise that the Angels won’t consider restocking a farm system that has been depleted through a number of trades that turned out disastrous in hindsight. They’ve dealt Patrick Corbin, Jean Segura, Alex Torres and Tyler Skaggs in recent years, drafted poorly and have few trade chips of any consequence, forcing them to consider moving Aybar (signed through 2016) and Kendrick (through ’15). Their dearth of pitching, however, is stark, and made all the worse by ...
7. Ervin Santana turning in a season reminiscent of 2008, when he was among the best starters in the AL. The Kansas City Royals acquired him this offseason for 27-year-old career minor leaguer Brandon Sisk, who underwent Tommy John surgery before he could throw a single pitch for the Angels.
Santana’s days as a trade chip again seem to be dwindling. Following the Royals’ sixth consecutive win that brought them back to .500 Sunday, the team no longer is considering selling Santana or reliever Luke Hochevar for future pieces, sources said. Kansas City wants major league-quality players who can help for a playoff run, the sources said, with the focus on upgrading their second-base black hole. Kendrick would be a perfect fit, and the Royals do have Danny Duffy, one of the hardest-throwing left-handers in baseball, stashed away at Triple-A coming off Tommy John surgery.
Kansas City’s insistence on pushing ahead this season is indeed risky. The Royals are seven games back of Detroit and five behind Baltimore for the second wild card. Between their recent streak and their upcoming schedule – at Minnesota, at the New York Mets, Minnesota at home, Boston at home, at Miami, a five-game series at Detroit and then series against the struggling Chicago White Sox and Washington Nationals – the Royals sense enough opportunity to strike. Whether their perception dovetails with reality remains to be seen, similar to ...
8. Cliff Lee staying with the Philadelphia Phillies. If GM Ruben Amaro Jr. put Lee on the market, suitors would line up, even with the potential for paying more than $60 million over the next two seasons. If Peavy comes wrapped in red flags, Lee, with a 3.05 ERA and absurd 131-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio, is in one of those cool, monster-sized bows.
The Phillies’ eight-game losing streak has dropped them to 49-56, tied them in the loss column with the Mets and left them with the third-worst run differential in all of baseball. Even if it seemed as though that would be enough to compel Amaro to sell Lee and try to trade Chase Utley and do everything he could to ensure 2014 turned out a whole lot better than 2013 ... well, he’s still got 72 hours. And last year, around this time, he did deal Pence. In return, he received Nate Schierholtz (who’s been great ... for the Cubs), catching prospect Tommy Joseph (who’s been a mess, out for most of the season with concussion symptoms) and right-hander Seth Rosin (who has a 4.34 ERA in Double-A as a 24-year-old).
Let’s hope for the Phillies’ sake the ...
9. Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez signing goes a little better. The 26-year-old signed a six-year, $48 million deal this week with the Phillies – and it’s actually closer to a five-year contract, because best-case scenario Gonzalez won’t arrive to Philadelphia until the end of August, by which time his arm may be stretched out. There’s a chance he won’t pitch in a Phillies uniform until 2014.
At that point, the questions will focus more on Gonzalez’s health and upside. He was the No. 3 starter on his team in Cuba, La Habana, which had two major league-caliber pitchers in Yadier Pedroso and Yuliesky Gonzalez ahead of him. While Gonzalez’s stuff is better now than it was in Cuba, one executive wondered whether that was due to a nearly two-year layoff from pitching. Elbow issues plagued Gonzalez in the past, and his health scared teams from bidding premium dollars on him.
Not the Phillies or Red Sox, the two finalists. Boston was hoping to use Gonzalez down the stretch this season, believing him to be the mid-rotation sort who could shore up their rotation and help pitch them into the playoffs. Now he’s gone, and Santana is off the market, and as much as teams could use someone like Bud Norris from the Astros or Kyle Lohse from the Brewers ...
10. Jake Peavy is the belle of the ball. It’s why Hahn is holding firm. Over the next 72 hours, a team will get desperate. Maybe it’ll be for a reliever. Or a utilityman. If it’s a starting pitcher, and that desperation is ravenous enough, perhaps the White Sox’s rebuild will start with a bang.
This is Hahn’s first big trade. He does not want to screw it up. Hindsight being what it is, he waited too long on reliever Jesse Crain, whose market was huge until an injury that will keep him out past the deadline. Perhaps he’ll come back and Hahn will trade him to a contending team that claims him on waivers. That would at least salvage something.
The White Sox could be the busiest team, whether it’s Peavy or Alexei Ramirez or Paul Konerko or Gordon Beckham or, hell, anyone not named Chris Sale. It is an outfit fit to be blown up less than a year after it blew the division lead to Detroit in September. Fortunes can change quickly in baseball.
An injury. An opponent upgrading via trade. So many factors and variables could turn Peavy’s market from its current bear into a snarling bull. There may be only a handful of trades on July 31. There may be more than the 11 last season. The deadline, ultimately, is in the hands of the sellers. And soon enough, it’ll be their move.
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