Since trade talk changes at the press of a cell phone's send button and names get tossed about like lawn darts at a kegger, we'll allow others to guess what will happen between now and the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.
Instead, we offer five deals that should happen, with the criteria that they are mutually beneficial, and five that shouldn't because they just don't make enough sense.
With the supply of difference-making players so small, the demand is high. And yet it's the demands of Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, who holds the top target in Alfonso Soriano, not to mention the other GMs at least willing to unload stars, that is making a Ben Broussard-for-Shin-Soo Choo swap the biggest news of the day.
Come the deadline, Soriano will be dealt, at least if Bowden wants to justify the contract extension he got. And the team that could use him the most may come as a surprise.
1) Washington's Alfonso Soriano to the Minnesota Twins for Matt Garza, Scott Baker and Alexi Casilla: Right now, the Twins are the scariest team in baseball outside of their division cohorts, the Detroit Tigers, and adding Soriano to a lineup that already includes Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer could make their bats nearly as formidable as their pitching. While giving up Garza is a steep price – now at Triple-A, the former first-rounder is 13-4 with a 2.04 earned-run average at three minor-league stops this season – Minnesota still has Boof Bonser, Kevin Slowey and Anthony Swarzak in their system. Casilla is a speedy second baseman at Class A and should be ready in 2009 when Jose Vidro becomes a free agent.
2) Milwaukee Brewers' Carlos Lee to the Chicago White Sox for Josh Fields, Brian Anderson and Ray Liotta: Hey, trading Lee to the Milwaukee Brewers for Scott Podsednik helped the White Sox win a World Series. Getting him back could do the same. Even though he's improving, Anderson remains a liability at the plate, and by moving Podsednik to center field and putting Lee in left, the White Sox would shore up their lineup considerably and simply hope the pitching comes around. Fields, a top third-base prospect, is expendable only because with the season Joe Crede is having, the White Sox could have a difficult time letting him walk as a free agent after next year.
3) Baltimore Orioles' Miguel Tejada to the Los Angeles Angels for Brandon Wood and Joe Saunders: Let the Orioles say all they want about wanting major-league-ready players for Tejada. Odds are they wouldn't turn down Wood, perhaps the best power-hitting prospect in the minor leagues. Saunders, a 25-year-old left-handed starter, would immediately step into the Orioles' rotation and could be a top-of-the-rotation starter alongside Hayden Penn. Tejada, meanwhile, would shift to third base and do what the Angels need most – hit.
4) Tampa Bay Devil Rays' Julio Lugo and Elijah Dukes to the Houston Astros for Adam Everett, Fernando Nieve and Chris Sampson: While Lugo's name hasn't been attached to the Astros, this deal works on a few levels. The Astros could use a bat, and Lugo is among the best hitting shortstops in the game. With Roger Clemens' salary coming off the books, they could keep Lugo off the free-agent market, too. Dukes, meanwhile, needs a change of scenery, if not a few hundred anger-management sessions. The Devil Rays' defensive efficiency is second-worst in the big leagues, and with B.J. Upton's imminent promotion, it won't get any better. Everett is a perennial Gold Glove candidate, and the hard-throwing Nieve and groundball-inducing Sampson – a convert from shortstop – would both be rotation candidates.
5) Florida Marlins' Dontrelle Willis to the New York Mets for Lastings Milledge and Mike Pelfrey: At some point, Florida owner Jeffrey Loria needs to make a commitment to building a team and not just stockpiling baby faces until they hit arbitration. Not here. To pass up talents such as Milledge, a star-in-the-making outfielder, and Pelfrey, a fireballing right-hander, would be short-sighted. Which is exactly why the Mets should do this deal. Because for them, it isn't. A World Series appearance is there for the taking, and a rotation with Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine and Willis gets them a lot closer. Plus – and this is why they could include Pelfrey instead of, say, Aaron Heilman – Willis has two more years until he becomes a free agent. Granted, they could keep Pelfrey for the remainder of the season, as he's not eligible to be traded until January, a year after he signed his first contract, meaning he'd need to be included as a player to be named later.
Here are five deals that simply don't add up.
1) New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez to anyone: First the bad: A-Rod is not having a typical A-Rod season. His on-base-plus-slugging of .888 is almost 75 points below his career average. He's got a case of the yips at third base. Fans are turning on him and media is devouring him and George Steinbrenner is frustrated with him. Now the good: One season does not a career make, and to think Rodriguez's career down slope would begin at 31 years old (his birthday is July 27) doesn't make sense. Plus, at around the $15 million a year the Yankees pay of his salary, Rodriguez, for his production, is practically a bargain.
2) Oakland Athletics' Barry Zito to the Mets for Milledge and Pelfrey: If Mets GM Omar Minaya made this deal, it wouldn't be Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano. Yet to see Zito potentially leave as a free agent this offseason – Scott Boras is his agent, remember, so he'll explore the market no matter what – would mean the Mets gave up two potential cornerstones for one run at a World Series title. And though the A's are always building for the future, it would send an awful message if they sacrificed a present in which they're tied for first place in the American League West.
3) Philadelphia Phillies' Bobby Abreu to the Yankees for Philip Hughes and Jose Tabata: Even though the Yankees are in the wild-card lead, they can't bank on Gary Sheffield or Hideki Matsui and can't expect to win in October with Melky Cabrera and Aaron Guiel. Telling stat: The Yankees' OPS in July is .761 – worse than Kansas City's. Still, even though the Yankees can afford Abreu's $15 million salary next year and his $16 million option for 2007, the price of their top two prospects – the right-handed Hughes, who could be in the big leagues next season, and 17-year-old outfielder Tabata, who was an All-Star in Class A – is simply too high.
4) Atlanta Braves' Wilson Betemit to the San Diego Padres for Scott Linebrink – It's a trade that, on its surface, would seem to benefit both teams. Betemit, a third baseman, would round out a young infield with Khalil Greene, Josh Barfield and Adrian Gonzalez. And Linebrink would be an ace setup man for Atlanta Braves closer Bob Wickman. Thing is, each player seems to be more valuable to his current team than his would-be one. The Braves need Betemit's versatility, particularly with the injury-prone Marcus Giles and Chipper Jones in the lineup. And the Padres' bullpen is the asset that separates them from the rest of the National League West.
5) Arizona Diamondbacks' Luis Gonzalez to the Texas Rangers for prospects: Among players with at least 75 plate appearances in July, Gonzalez ranks fifth with a .400 batting average. He's got three home runs and 13 RBI, and for that he gets … a benching? Arizona rookie outfielder Carlos Quentin has smoked the ball since he was called up, and now the Rangers are calling the Diamondbacks and asking if the 38-year-old Gonzalez is available. The Rangers weren't rebuked – the possible dangling of their top pitching prospects, Edinson Volquez, John Danks, Thomas Diamond or Eric Hurley, might have perked Arizona's ears – and now must convince Gonzalez to waive his no-trade clause. Unless Arizona is getting a big-league-ready player, trading Gonzalez, the most popular Diamondback in the franchise's nine-year history, doesn't jibe, particularly in the midst of a pennant race.