|Around the Rumor Mill|
Written by Justin Zeth (Contact & Archive) on July 29, 2009
I know, I know: Hardly anything important ever happens around the July 31 (non-waiver) trade deadline. The vast majority of the rumors we whet our insatiable gossiping appetites turn out to be bogus once the dust settles and the clock turns to August; most of the exciting one-paragraph stories ('The Yankees are rumored to be 'in very serious discussions' to acquire Charlie Brown to bolster their bullpen but are reluctant to let go of Kei Igawa*, sources say...') turn out to be just rumormongering** writers stringing us along toward a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that turned out to either not exist or be filled with charcoal briquettes (i.e., the Adam LaRoches of the world).
* Can you believe Kei Igawa is still in the Yankees' system?
** Apparently, 'rumormongering' is actually a word, at least according to my spell check.
But gosh golly, Martha... it's fun.
The truth is that it's very hard to trade baseball players for a number of good reasons that distinguish the occupation from trading baseball cards:
1. You know your own players, and your own prospects, a lot better than the other team does, and a lot better than you know the other team's guys. You're trading certainty for uncertainty. Unless the certainty you're letting go of is certain mediocrity, most folks aren't fond of that.
2. You've already invested a lot of resources in the player(s) you already have, whether it's a veteran star or the minor leaguers you're thinking of trading for a veteran star. You tend to feel -- rationally or no -- like you've invested all that time and money in a guy who now may go on to star for some other team, and you feel dirty about that.
3. This one's so important I will scream it at you in capital letters, okay? BASEBALL FRONT OFFICE MANAGERS, LIKE ALL OVER MANAGERS, ARE EXTREMELY RISK-AVERSE. Any trade involving uncertain futures of young baseball players is, to them, very risky. Trade a prospect and he turns into a Hall of Famer, and it will haunt you for the rest of your career and then be mentioned in the second paragraph of your obituary when you die. If you trade a veteran star for prospects and they all flame out (and most prospects flame out), same thing.
That's enough depressing reality for now. Let's talk about some rumors!
I already covered Roy Halladay for the most part in this blog post. Short version: Halladay's not going anywhere, because he's so extremely valuable (and that value is tangible even to the Blue Jays) that J.P. Ricciardi is correct to ask for the sun, moon and stars for him -- but all the other GMs are also correct to refuse to give it to him, because realistically, given that the playoffs are luck, it's nigh-unjustifiable to give up essentially all of your high-level young talent to acquire one player, especially a pitcher.
I'd say of the teams interested in him, the one that could most justifiably acquire him is the Tampa Rays. I say this because they have young talent to spare, and because (unlike the Red Sox) they have a definite hole in their starting rotation that could use filling, and because they're in a desperate and very uphill battle to beat out the Red Sox for the AL Wild Card. But even for the Rays, I wouldn't give the Blue Jays what they want for him.
The Indians are willing to move him if they get a really sweet offer, but they're not about to give him away at Adam LaRoche prices, or even Jason Bay prices. Reportedly, the Red Sox and Rays have both bandied about the notion of taking the truckload of young talent the Blue Jays want for Halladay, and instead shipping it to Cleveland for Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez, which won't happen now that Lee is heading to Philadelphia. I actually like that better than moving for Halladay, but it bears repeating again because I'm such a sourpuss -- it's very unlikely anyone's giving up that much young talent in any trade.
It's very unlikely Martinez will end up anywhere besides Boston or Tampa, and those are long shots.
The Great Pirates Fire Sale of 2009
Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? Freddy Sanchez, John Grabow, Matt Capps or maybe even Zach Duke could be had for the right price.
Freddy Sanchez' ever-fun-loving knee has come up sore again as of today (Tuesday), so that's pretty much the end of that; he isn't going anywhere, as his suitors (primarily the Twins and Giants) quickly fled the premises upon first hearing of said knee problems. At this point the Pirates would have to eat most of Sanchez' remaining contract -- which includes an option for next year that will likely vest and is not cheap -- if they wanted to get any prospects for him. Yes, I'm also laughing myself silly thinking about the notion of the Pirates taking on money. As if!
Of all the Pirates, John Grabow is the one guy I fully expect is going to get moved somewhere. He has no value, now or later, to the Pirates, who aren't on the fast track to anywhere besides another few top-5 draft picks. They might as well take whatever semi-interesting live arm any of ten teams is willing to toss them and give the Lynchburg Hillcats some much-needed rotation help. Capps could move, as well, but the Pirates seem to have an inflated notion as to his value; they look at him and see "CLOSER" instead of the much more accurate "FUNGIBLE RIGHTHANDED RELIEVER".
There have been rumors the Reds were talking about acquiring Rolen from the Blue Jays, most likely in a swap for The Struggling Edwin Encarnacion (I think that's his legal name now) and a C prospect or two. Seeing as how the Reds are seven games out of the wild card and trailing six teams, that trade would be so phenomenally stupid that I'll go out on a limb and say not even the Reds would do that. Rolen's name hasn't really been heard anywhere else, as no other contenders really have a gaping hole at third base right now, and given Rolen's, um, checkered medical history, giving up any property of real value for him is risky unto foolhardy. It's doubtful he moves unless the Blue Jays give him away, which there's no indication they're of a mind to do.
The Damned Yankees
The Yankees are looking for pitching help but frankly don't even have enough young talent in their employ to have picked up Cliff Lee, much less Roy Halladay. They've been connected recently to Bronson Arroyo, who stinks; he's walking 3.5 per nine and his K/9 almost qualifies him to pitch for the Pirates. And this is in the NL Central. I doubt Arroyo is any better than Sergio Mitre or Sidney Ponson. So I'm sure the Yankees made a phone call just to see if the Reds wanted to give Arroyo away in exchange for the Yankees picking up half his remaining putrid contract or so. Apparently, the Reds are not interested, which given my violent hatred of all things Yankees I personally find disappointing.
The Dodgers and the Phillies
The Dodgers and Phillies are connected to pretty much every big name in the market, particularly the pitchers. I cannot for the life of me see why either of these teams would want to give up a single prospect of value to improve the team now. Both teams are already mortal locks to make the playoffs, and that's all that really matters. Contrary to popular belief, what happens in the playoffs is luck. Even acquiring Roy Halladay improves your chances in the postseason by such an infinitesimal amount it's not worth giving up any value at all for. A big acquisition makes sense of you really need to make a big improvement to reach the playoffs, as with the 2008 Brewers. Selling your farm in the hopes of improving your chances of winning in the postseason is foolish.