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Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on July 06, 2009
While many writers have already awarded the AL east to the Red Sox, the Yankees and Rays don’t seem to have reached the same conclusion. As usual the Yankees and BoSox will shoot it out by spending money and trying to improve themselves at the deadline. The real question is what will the Rays and Blue Jays do. The Jays don’t really expect to steal the division, or even the Wild Card against this opposition, so probably won’t be poised to make any major deals.
Yankees: The Yankees despite their pitching woes simply have not gone away and armed with the deepest pockets in the game they’ll be shopping for both starting and relief help so that the second most prolific offense in the game doesn’t have to be what carries them the rest of the way. Money talks so don’t be surprised to see them get a big name pitcher (Jake Peavy, Cliff Lee, Erik Bedard or perhaps a Cubs starter) and even sign them to an extension before the month is out. They’ll certainly find relief help, probably a current closer (Matt Capps, Chad Qualls, or Heath Bell) to serve as a set up man to Mariano.
Rays: As I write this the Rays are a mere five games out of the East lead and four games back in the Wild Card. They are in an excellent position in regards to control of their players and are poised only to lose a couple of minor relievers to free agency at the end of the season. They do have a surfeit of starting pitchers and a potential ace toiling in the minors could allow them to deal, but they really don’t need more offense as they lead the Majors in run scored. A true closer would probably be the only real item on their wish list.
Orioles: Baltimore doesn’t have a prayer of contending and are rebuilding their team from the ground up. They have a fair bit of young talent, but could use a lot more. They’ll lose a few players to free agency at the end of the season, including relievers Danys Baez and Jamie Walker and first baseman Aubrey Huff. They’ll be shedding those players to add a bit more depth to the farm system. Also on the block are Ty Wigginton and possibly Luke Scott and Melvin Mora.
Blue Jays: Maybe the Jays should actually be put in the unpredictable category rather than as sure-fire sellers. That’s because it’s been a long time since the Jays were this close to striking distance in division which features the Yankees and Red Sox. J.P. Ricciardi has been trying to get this team to the promised land for a long time but he’s probably realistic enough to realize he’s not likely to turn this team into contenders with anything less than a major deal. He’s got plenty of players who’ll be free agents after next season who he could trade for youngsters.
The Central is another division which is up for grabs with three serious contenders the Tigers, Twins and White Sox battling for the title. It’s not likely that any of these teams will grab a Wild Card spot so they are fighting for a single spot. Expect this to be one of the more active divisions when it comes to trading.
Tigers: Finding themselves in first place at this point in the season must be a bit of a surprise to GM Dave Dombrowski. Neither the pitching nor hitting has been outstanding, but it’s been good enough in a wide open division. However, if the Tigers have more than divisional aspirations they will have to add something, possibly a bat to replace the struggling Magglio Ordonez as well as adding some pitching depth. The only real question is if they have anything to trade.
On The Fence:
Rangers: As much as GM Nolan Ryan must want to believe that his team can compete for the division at this point he’s facing some tough realities. The first is that the team has a big payroll and that owner John Hicks is in serious financial straights. The second is that some of his players near or towards the end of their contracts (Kevin Millwood, Hank Blalock) will find some buyers for the playoff run. If Ryan and the Rangers decide to sell, expect anyone and everyone close to free agency or who’ll make big arbitration dollars to be on the block.
Mariners: The Mariners are definite sellers as they continue with their rebuilding efforts. Almost every veteran, with the possible exception of Ichiro, is available. The highlights are probably Ken Griffey Jr., Erik Bedard and Jarrod Washburn. Aside from Bedard they’ll probably all go cheap.
A’s: There is little doubt that the A’s will unload veteran Matt Holliday, but they’d also love to move Jason Giambi, Orlando Cabrera, Bobby Crosby and Justin Duchscherer, all of whom will be free agents at the end of the year. The only question is what they can get in return.