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July 23, 2004

Prospectus Today

Four Sensible Trades

by Joe Sheehan

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With the trade deadline a bit more than a week away, speculation about who's going where and for whom is at its annual peak. It's a great time to be a baseball fan, what with more than half the teams in the game harboring at least some hope of reaching the postseason, and a mix of perennial contenders and low-profile upstarts chasing playoff spots.

Many of those teams have glaring holes that have to be repaired, and part of the fun of July is guessing how those holes will be filled. Here are four trades-not trade rumors, but actual trades, coming from between my ears-that make sense for contenders and rebuilders alike, and which could change the course of baseball's races.

  • Mets trade Justin Huber, Vance Wilson and Matt Peterson to the Pirates for Kip Wells and Jason Kendall. The Mets have a chance to start winning New York back; for all the Yankees' success, it's a town that would absolutely love to be able to go nuts for the Amazin's at the first opportunity. This deal gives that to them, making them the favorite in a division that is just begging to be taken.

    The Pirates have been shopping Kris Benson, not Wells, who has further to go before free agency and a higher ceiling than Benson does. That's why it takes two top prospects--but not David Wright or Scott Kazmir--to get him. Taking Kendall and his contract off the Pirates is a good use of the team's revenue position, and provides an OBP boost atop the lineup that would give the Mets a terrific top five. The deal seals Mike Piazza in at first base, which is its only downside, but better to move him there for Kendall than for Wilson and Jason Phillips.

    Huber is well-regarded; he's also a high-school catcher and an Australian, and neither category is known for producing lots of great major leaguers. Peterson is an arm. The Pirates save a lot of money in this deal, though, and I'd bet that Huber's solid performance and excellent scouting reports make the risk worthwhile for them.

  • Angels trade Casey Kotchman, Alberto Callaspo and Ervin Santana to the Diamondbacks for Randy Johnson. Johnson's resistance to being dealt anywhere but New York is a barrier, but I'm gambling that Arte Moreno can make this happen with a check. For example, turning the last year of Johnson's deal into a player option with a large buyout that would give Johnson the choice of staying in Orange County or leaving without costing him too much money in the move (factoring in a new contract with a different team for '05).

    The Halos are one of the few teams that can put together a quality package for Johnson, and they can do it without trading either of their top two prospects., Kotchman would fit right in with the Snakes' draft class of '03, guys like Carlos Quentin and Conor Jackson, who are tearing up Double-A. Callaspo has slipped behind Erick Aybar, but is still a scouty prospect who helps fill the Snakes' middle-infield deficit. This is a deal the D'backs would have to make, especially given the chance that they could get Johnson back over the winter.

  • Phillies trade Ryan Howard to the Mariners for Jamie Moyer. As with the Diamondback dealing Johnson, it's getting Moyer to waive his ten-and-five rights that presents the biggest barrier. Howard has no place to play in Philly, and as we pointed out in Tuesday's PTP, his record chasing in the Eastern League doesn't portend stardom so much as it gives him more perceived value than actual. It's a worthwhile gamble for the Ms, who haven't had enough power the past few years and have no reason to keep a 41-year-old starter around.

    The Phillies need to leverage Howard's big year, so if they can't get Moyer, they have to think about offering him to Pittsburgh for Kris Benson, to the Expos for Livan Hernandez, or to the Diamondbacks for Steve Finley.

  • Padres trade Justin Germano, Freddy Guzman and Brad Baker to the Astros for Carlos Beltran. The Astros are done, not just for '04, but for the next few seasons. This in an aging roster with too many past-prime, declining veterans to project continued success, and a two- or three-year run as an also-ran is just around the corner. This trade is at least a start at restocking one of the game's thinner systems, while addressing the team's lack of any true center field prospects.

    As I've written before, Beltran fits the Padres like a glove. Literally, as its his superb range in center that would be as important to them as his offense. With the NL West also begging to be taken, this trade would make the Pads the best of the three contenders, while keeping their opponents, both of whom could use Beltran, from adding a great player.

Next week is going to be a wild ride. Whether these deals get made or not, we're going to see the kind of active trade deadline that makes being a baseball fan a lot of fun. Be sure to check in here at BP straight through next Saturday for information and analysis as the deals go down.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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