July 31, 2005
Is That All There Is?
I'm going to ask that you allow me my one self-check for the year. From June 16:
I keep getting into discussions about the trade market--I discussed the Rangers' needs both yesterday on ESPNews and today on the radio--and the conclusion I keep coming to is that there's not going to be enough talent on the market to make this a busy trade season. The teams that are out of the race are just plain bad, lacking the kind of marketable talent that can sway contending teams into making a big deal.After all the speculation and "Will's Mills" and "Rumor Centrals" and demands and needs and wants, the trade deadline passed with only a small number of deals, just two of which can be considered relevant. In the end, the parity throughout MLB, where just six teams can be said to have absolutely no chance at the postseason, created an imbalance between buyers and sellers that prevented significant trades from happening.
Those six out-of-it teams weren't even that involved. The Mariners dumped three players, Randy Winn, Miguel Olivo and Ron Villone, while the Pirates sent Matt Lawton to the Cubs in the biggest trade to come down on Sunday weekend. The other teams trading away players were contenders or marginal contenders the Tigers (Kyle Farnsworth), Padres (Geoff Blum) and Diamondbacks (Jose Cruz Jr.).
The inability of some of the worst teams in baseball to get into a market that favored sellers and and improve their organizations for 2006 in beyond is probably the biggest story other than the lack of moves. The Devil Rays and Chuck LaMar, in particular, should absolutely be ashamed of their performance. Keeping Aubrey Huff and Danys Baez and Julio Lugo does nothing for their outlook in the short or long terms, and they squandered an opportunity. Chuck LaMar will likely say they couldn't get enough--and as thoroughly as these things get covered, it is impossible to know exactly what names are being discussed in each negotiation--but at some point, you have to get something. Those three players' entire value to the team was in what they could bring to the 2007-09 editions of the Devil Rays, the ones with B.J. Upton and Delmon Young leading the way. August isn't going to save them; all three players are positive contributors with reasonable contracts who have virtually no chance to clear waivers.
It's time for the Rays as an organization to acknowledge LaMar's complete failure at his job over nearly a decade and move in a different direction.
The Reds again failed to do anything notable, no surprise for an organization that has had four outfielders for three spots for three years now and has refused to address the problem. They couldn't clear that logjam, or make minor deals for some of their veteran relievers. The Pirates dealt Lawton, but couldn't move Jose Mesa or Mark Redman. The Royals didn't find a taker for Mike Sweeney. Just six real sellers, more than a dozen motivated buyers, and yet LaMar, Dan O'Brien, Dave Littlefield, and Allard Baird combined for one deal in the last seven days before the deadline. The job security of these men, none of whom has assembled a .500 team or made dynamic moves in that direction, is mind-boggling.
The kudos for the day go to Jim Hendry and John Schuerholz. Hendry got the best OBP guy on the market by trading Jody Gerut to the Pirates for Lawton. Lawton's lefty .380 OBP is exactly what the Cubs' offense, loaded with power and outs, needed. How the Cubs align their outfield, which currently lacks a true center fielder, will be interesting, but keep in mind that they have a strikeout/groundball staff, and Wrigley is one of the smaller outfields in the game. If any team can give away some outfield defense, it's the Cubs.
Schuerholz, meanwhile, picked up Farnsworth to bolster a bullpen being held together by hopes and dreams. Farnsworth is a strikeout right-hander, something the Braves sorely lacked in the late innings. Having him gives Bobby Cox flexibility late in games, where he can choose to go for a whiff or a groundball with Danny Kolb.
That was it. The movement on Friday, with Chan Ho Park and Phil Nevin, among others, turned out to be the highlight of the weekend. There was no build to a crescendo, no last-minute flurry of big names changing teams. Just a small cadre of GMs unable to pull the trigger, and a lot of contenders hoping that the waiver wire is kind to them.