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July 31, 2006

Will's Mill

The Mill Closes -- 5:00 P.M.

by Will Carroll

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Monday, 5:00 P.M. ET

The Mill closes up with a flurry of deadline deals, but no "big" deals. Alfonso Soriano is still a National, Miguel Tejada is still an Oriole, Brad Lidge and Roy Oswalt are still Astros, and the Angels...well, they'll be praying, I guess.

The Nationals went quiet Monday afternoon, playing chicken with the deadline. Though I was told that there was a deal set to be announced that involved more than two teams, the deal didn't happen. It will be interesting to see if it fell apart due to Soriano refusing to sign long term with the acquirer. Some sources have indicated that the Players Association was suggesting that Soriano test the market.

The Angels final offers for both Tejada and Soriano were the same: Ervin Santana and Erick Aybar. Dallas McPherson was discussed but never formally offered. Both deals failed to happen. The Tejada deal was killed by his insistence on playing shortstop, something confirmed by a team official. The Angels feel like they tried on several deals, but came up as the second-best option in every case but Soriano.

How bad is it in Pittsburgh? Chris Duffy, who took a month off after getting sent down, was angry to be called up! He was expecting to be traded. "I don't like it there," he told Pirates officials. "I did all this hoping to get traded."

Thanks to all the readers and sources for this year's Will's Mill. Now, I turn it over to the analysts. Once a year full of rumors is enough; it's better to deal in facts.

Monday, 3:45 P.M. ET

Brad Lidge is off the market. So is Jason Schmidt. With 15 minutes to go until the deadline, teams are scrambling. All deals must be called in to MLB's office by 4 p.m., so if the groundwork isn't there, deals are unlikely to get done. There's no time for checking with scouts or even counteroffers. It's last, best, final offer time. Deal or no deal.

Oliver Perez may be headed back to San Diego. Scott Miller is reporting that the Mets are close on a deal for Scott Linebrink. Perez would be paired with Heath Bell. If consummated, this would be a major upgrade for the Mets pen.

Aaron Boone was expected to be the fallback option for the Padres. Now that they've acquired Todd Walker, Boone could be DFA'd by the Indians. Andy Marte's slow start--something he does at every level--could slow the move.

The Red Sox continue to look at Andruw Jones, according to one source. Sox sources are about as talkative as Pauly Shore at a MENSA meeting. The holdup is the inclusion of Jon Lester. There's some indication that the Devil Rays may be involved as a third team, bringing Julio Lugo into play. You can remember that there was a similar dance last year when Edgar Renteria was dealt for Andy Marte.

The Twins are in rapid-fire discussions with the Nationals regarding Alfonso Soriano. The offers center around pitching, with Matt Garza and Scott Baker the keys. The Twins offered Jason Kubel in the deal in lieu of Garza, but were rebuffed. I'm told that the Twins have informed Torii Hunter that he's being offered around; his option, if declined, would help "pay for" Soriano. Soriano has told all parties that he will not sign before testing free agency. Also, Livan Hernandez will stay with the Nats through the deadline.

The last minute deals begin. Duaner Sanchez was involved in a car accident and Omar Minaya quickly dealt for Roberto Hernandez and the enigmatic Oliver Perez in return for Craig Wilson. No, it's Craig Wilson Lite! Xavier Nady is the same type of player--good stick, no real position. The Pirates may only make this deal, which is a bit surprising, though Kip Wells is still in play.

The Rangers have acquired Matt Stairs for a minor leaguer. They're still working on a couple possibilities for a pitching acquisition.

Monday, 3:00 P.M. ET

A window was requested for a team to negotiate a long-term deal with Alfonso Soriano. The window was requested late yesterday, explaining some of the eerie quietness of the market. The team remains unknown, though my source indicates that this is not the only deal working. The Angels, Marlins, and at least one other team remain active in their pursuit of Soriano.

The Phillies appear to be done. Jon Lieber was expected to be next to go, but there's no indication that any of the teams inquiring about him are close. Lieber didn't audition well today, getting rocked by the Marlins. Pat Burrell has had "no interest" from other teams according to my Phillies source.

Several teams are going to Plan B, Plan C, and further (J?) for pitching. While Jason Schmidt is being offered around--Brian Sabean is looking for "only the right deal"--names like Mark Redman, Gil Meche, and Rodrigo Lopez have people trying to decide if they're an upgrade. There's even less on the relieving radar, though some teams are trying to be creative and see if there's a "lesser Jonathan Papelbon" available, a starter in the minors that could be converted to relief help.

One interesting note on Greg Maddux: Indications are that Maddux himself was involved in the discussions, with his agent, Scott Boras, doing more looking around than Jim Hendry. Both sides understood the parameters under which a deal could be done. The relationship between Boras and the Cubs is a good one--something that we should remember when free agency kicks in this offseason.

The final offers for Miguel Tejada were given by three teams and the Orioles have elected to keep their shortstop. Hopes that the last, best offers would increase, or that last minute offers would come in failed to materialize. Tejada's insistence that he would not move to third--confirmed by several teams through backchannels--really ended any chance of him moving. The Angels wouldn't up their offer without assurances that he would play 3B and not demand a trade after the season.

WEEI is reporting that the Red Sox turned down an offer to acquire Andruw Jones from the Braves. The cost would have been Craig Hansen, Jon Lester, and Coco Crisp. That's a high price to pay for a six point increase in Rate. I'd love to see what Nate Silver's new trade formula would say about this one. Sources on both sides say that the trade as reported is not accurate, though when pressed, I think that the deal was discussed, just not with those exact parameters. If Jones is indeed available for the right offer, the Braves will have plenty of contenders calling.

The Sox are also looking for cheap outfield help as a backup in case tests on Trot Nixon come up with a poor result. There are several names in play, including Craig Wilson, Geoff Jenkins, and Moises Alou. The question here will be price and fit. The Sox, even if Nixon is out for the year, could go with Gabe Kapler and Wily Mo Pena if the price is too high on an acquisition. Gordon Edes also has news of the Sox discussing Kip Wells. It's not exciting, but that's baseball.

The Reds are nothing if not active. After reeling in Rheal Cormier and Kyle Lohse, the team is still looking for more deals, most focused on pitching. A couple sources are saying that Eric Milton could be dealt for a "more compatible" pitcher with similar salary or that could be considered a rental. Let's assume that "more compatible" means "less gopher balls."

One complaint I've heard over and over again, more in the last 24 hours, is that some teams work slow. "You call, you e-mail, you text, you send a [expletive] telegram, and it takes them forever to get back to you," an executive said about a team that will remain anonymous. "Teams like to deal with people that at least seem like they know what they're doing. If I hear 'I'll have to call you back' I'm not waiting around for that call. I'm calling someone else." The Tigers and Indians are two teams that never get this complaint; Dave Dombrowski's photographic memory and the Indians' Diamond View system get a lot of credit around the league.

Monday, 10:30 AM ET

Roberto Hernandez for John Danks and Thomas Diamond. Okay. Hank Blalock and Carlos Lee for Brad Lidge. Sure. Lastings Milledge for Mark Redman. Umm.

These are just some of the offers that have gone back and forth. If you just read these, you'd think GMs have gone loopy and turned into 'that guy' in your fantasy league, the one that offers things so ludicrous that you tell the bartender to cut him off and whisper to the commissioner that you know a guy who could take over this team. Rumors are just that. If you think of them as soundbites or brief peeks into the inner workings of front offices, you'll be far better off than if you take them as gospel. I've been misdirected, confused, and flat out lied to over the last 48 hours, an occupational hazard you learn not to take personally. If you read my piece in this year's Rotowire magazine, you'll understand.

The Rangers continue to be very active. Michael Hindman at the Newberg Report did a great job of collecting the various rumors and scenarios. It's well worth checking out. The Rangers seem most focused on getting pitching and the "flip Oswalt" scenario makes some sense, if via a convoluted path. Jon Lieber is a decent Plan B, and the addition of Jason Schmidt into the market changes things up a little bit. I'd expect the price of the C-list pitchers to begin dropping as the west coasters wake up. Also, don't discount the influence of former Ranger exec Grady Fuson in San Diego's pursuit of a third baseman. He'd love to see Blalock in the Pads sand-colored unis.

The idea that Florida would acquire Alfonso Soriano makes sense, both at its most basic level, and in a more complex scenario. The more involved issue is the potential shadow of the new CBA, with teams worried that a de facto salary floor might be put in place. Teams that have bottomed out the payroll would rather not make Royal-style veteran mediocrity signings, and are looking to see if there are fits or long-term signings that would make the bottom line more favorable looking to the teams writing revenue sharing checks. There's also a lot of speculation that dealing a passel of young pitchers for Soriano would be just one side of the transaction. All three teams in the AL Central race made calls to Florida to check on the situation, as did the Angels.

The Dodgers remain buyers, discussing several deals and willing to get creative. One discussed deal for Miguel Tejada involved Rafael Furcal, but the discussions didn't get far, according to one team source. The Dodgers have resisted including prospects in most of their discussions. "They sound like the Braves," one team source told me. "Logan White knows his system so well that people are getting a little scared to deal with them. When's the last time you saw a Braves prospect pan out?" Furcal would be a dangerous return for the Orioles, because he could opt out of the last two years of his deal and hit the free agent market again.

Think the trade deadline isn't big? If all the man-hours that guys like Ken Rosenthal and Buster Olney put in aren't enough, ESPN Insider gave me a "site too busy" error at 10am. I've never seen that before.

The Padres appear to be laser-focused on getting a third baseman, with Mike Lowell, Hank Blalock, Aramis Ramirez, and even Joe Randa getting looked at for various packages. The Pirates appear ready to make some minor deals, though sources tell me that Jack Wilson all but demanded to be traded over the weekend.

----

Monday, 9 AM ET

The clock ticks towards the deadline, but the phone lines were quiet overnight. The biggest surprise around baseball is that Alfonso Soriano is still a National. Several people I spoke with expressed surprise that a deal with the Angels hadn't been made. Two teams--the Twins and Astros--dropped out of discussions for Soriano because they were unwilling to meet Jim Bowden's price. As with anything, they could revisit their interest, though time is running short. The Angels are out on Miguel Tejada, and appear willing to go to the deadline without a deal. Now, word comes from Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post that the Marlins have made a credible offer of three young, major league-ready pitchers.

Roy Oswalt? No one I spoke with could confirm that the Astros had dangled the ace in discussions about Tejada. Ken Rosenthal reports that the Astros pulled him back in fear that the Orioles would then flip Oswalt for Hank Blalock and two top Rangers prospects, John Danks and Joaquin Arias. That leaves Tejada without suitors, though his contract has a chance of making it through August waivers, which would make a waiver deal a possibility.

The NL West is suddenly active. Jayson Stark has the Giants taking offers on Jason Schmidt, while the Padres continue to look for a third baseman. The Rockies appear certain to move Ryan Shealy by the deadline. The Pirates and Royals are both in on him, in various permutations; the prospect would bring relievers in return. Dan O'Dowd is just dealing from strength, not making a bigger move to try and shock the division. The Dodgers now seem a more likely destination for Greg Maddux than the Padres. Jim Hendry is reportedly willing to eat salary to get a prospect back, and someone like Joel Guzman or Matt Kemp is the kind of upside with questions hitter that both sides could agree on.

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