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July 17, 2008

On the Beat

The Two-Week Watch

by John Perrotto

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Now that the All-Star Game is history and will go down as one of the more interesting Midsummer Classics in recent years, it's on to the non-waiver trading deadline as the game's next big event. Major league clubs have until 4 p.m. on July 31-just two weeks from today-to make trades without having to first secure waivers on players. While deals are often made after the deadline, they can be blocked by any club willing to claim a player.

With the deadline rapidly approaching, let's take a look at who are buyers, who are sellers, and who are still on the fence along with what teams are looking for and which players they might make available in trades:

The Buyers

  • Angels: They need some offensive punch, but like his predecessor Bill Stoneman, general manager Tony Reagins does not believe in trading young players or pitching, so any acquisitions figure to be minor ones.
  • Brewers: Acquiring left-hander CC Sabathia from the Indians last week pretty much ended their in-season shopping, but they still have interest in finding additional bullpen help.
  • Cardinals: Adding a quality left-handed reliever is their top priority, and the Rockies' Brian Fuentes is at the top of the list. Among the players they would be willing to trade are right-handed swingmen Anthony Reyes and Brad Thompson, and left fielder Chris Duncan.
  • Cubs: They're still looking to add some pieces, but their top priority was filled with the acquisition of right-hander Rich Harden from the Athletics last week. Fuentes and Padres shortstop Khalil Greene are possibilities, and the Cubs are making disappointing center-field prospect Felix Pie very much available.
  • Diamondbacks: They aren't looking to make big moves, but would like to add a left-handed hitter; Mariners left fielder Raul Ibanez is on their list.
  • Dodgers: They would like to add a shortstop, though they reportedly don't want to give up too much since there's still a chance Rafael Furcal could return from back surgery by early September.
  • Mets: They need a bat for their outfield in the worst way, and that's what they're focusing on. Ibanez is believed to currently be at the top of their list, as they don't seem have the necessary young talent it would take to acquire Rockies outfielder Matt Holliday.
  • Phillies: Though Brett Myers is expected to return from the minor leagues next week, they still want to add a top-flight starting pitcher, and are intrigued by Mariners left-hander Erik Bedard and Athletics right-hander Joe Blanton. The Phillies could also use some left-handed relief help, and they've asked about Fuentes and the Pirates' John Grabow and Damaso Marte.
  • Rays: While they aren't expected to make too many moves, they will consider adding some minor pieces if they're good fits, and Fuentes appears to be their top target.
  • Red Sox: They would like to add another arm in the bullpen and will keep checking on DH types in the event that David Ortiz has trouble coming back from his wrist injury. Among their targets are Fuentes and Indians right-handed reliever Rafael Betancourt, while Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira is also a possibility.
  • Tigers: They're looking to help both the rotation and bullpen, but could also acquire a young shortstop to replace Edgar Renteria next season. They have a number of young position players they're willing to give up, including first baseman Jeff Larish, middle infielder Michael Hollimon, and outfielders Matt Joyce and Clete Thomas.
  • Twins: A right-handed-hitting third baseman is at the top of their wish list, and the targets are the Mariners' Adrian Beltre and the Indians' Casey Blake.
  • White Sox: Already over budget, they will only look to make small additions either in the bullpen or on the bench.
  • Yankees: They would like to add a starting pitcher to the back end of the rotation, a right-handed hitter who can play first base, and a reliever. Among their targets are Fuentes, Mariners left-hander Jarrod Washburn, and Astros third baseman Ty Wigginton.

The Sellers

  • Astros: They won't deal any of their key players, but would consider offers for reserves like infielder Mark Loretta and outfielder Darin Erstad.
  • Blue Jays: Right-hander A.J. Burnett can opt out of his five-year contract after this season with two years remaining, and is being half-heartedly shopped around.
  • Indians: After having already traded their top commodity in Sabathia, they could still swing some minor deals involving Blake, right-hander Paul Byrd, infielder Jamey Carroll, and designated hitter David Dellucci.
  • Mariners: They are willing to move just about any veteran on the roster, a list headed by Bedard, Washburn, and Ibanez, and also including right-hander Miguel Batista and designated hitter Jose Vidro.
  • Orioles: Second baseman Brian Roberts is still available after being shopped in the offseason, but the price is also still very high. Designated hitter Aubrey Huff has another year left on his contract, but could be had for the right price. First baseman Kevin Millar, outfielder Jay Payton, and right-handed reliever Chad Bradford are also available in what would likely be smaller deals.
  • Padres: A pair of starting pitchers can be had in left-hander Randy Wolf and right-hander Greg Maddux, though Maddux would have to waive his no-trade clause. Third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff is also available.
  • Pirates: They're willing to trade Grabow and Marte, shortstop Jack Wilson, left fielder Jason Bay, and right fielder Xavier Nady, but they want a good price in the form of high-end young talent in return, as all five are under their control through next season. Utilityman Doug Mientkiewicz, the former Gold Glove first baseman who has turned himself into a four-corner reserve this season, could be had at a lesser price.
  • Reds: They're trying to find a taker for left fielder Adam Dunn, and would also be willing to deal outfielder Ryan Freel and pitching prospect Homer Bailey, who looks to be in need of a change of scenery.
  • Rockies: Fuentes is their top bargaining chip, but they would also listen to offers on Holliday and third baseman Garrett Atkins in potential blockbusters. Relievers Matt Herges and Luis Vizcaino, catcher Yorvit Torrealba, center fielder Willy Taveras, and outfielder Scott Podsednik are available in smaller deals.
  • Royals: Left-hander reliever Ron Mahay and outfielder David DeJesus could both be had, but at a fairly significant price. The Royals would be willing to settle for less in a deal for second baseman Mark Grudzielanek.

On the Fence

  • Athletics: While they insist that trading Harden was not an indication they have run up the white flag, they will likely market Blanton aggressively, as well as right-handed starter Justin Duchscherer and closer Huston Street if they fall much more off the Angels' pace.
  • Braves: The next few days will determine which way they go. If they're buyers, the top priority is a right-handed-hitting outfielder with a pair of prospects-shortstop Brent Lillibridge and outfielder Brandon Jones-being used as possible trade bait. If they are selling, first baseman Mark Teixeira will be the biggest name available.
  • Giants: Though still in contention, they'll look to move some older players such as infielder Rich Aurilia, second baseman Ray Durham, and shortstop Omar Vizquel. They'll also be willing to trade some of their top pitching prospects for a young hitter who can bat in the middle of the order. A pair of relievers, left-hander Jack Taschner and right-hander Tyler Walker, could also be dealt, along with right-handed starter Kevin Correia.
  • Marlins: Management has yet to determine if they believe this club can contend for the long haul. If they go for it, a catcher and a center fielder would be the top priorities, while they also have interest in a number of relievers including Fuentes, Mahay, Marte, the Reds' Jeremy Affeldt, and the Mariners' Arthur Rhodes from the left side, along with right-handed vets like Bradford or Mike Lincoln and David Weathers of the Reds. On the other hand, if the Marlins start selling off parts, closer Kevin Gregg, first baseman Mike Jacobs, and center fielder Cody Ross are likely to be available.
  • Nationals: They're willing to deal veterans like left-hander Odalis Perez, right-hander Tim Redding, catcher Paul Lo Duca, and second baseman Felipe Lopez, but also would consider dealing some of their top prospects to acquire young major league-ready talent.
  • Rangers: They may look to be both buyer and seller, trying to add at some spots while willing to deal such players as left-handed reliever Eddie Guardado, third baseman Hank Blalock, and utilityman Frank Catalanotto.

---

In the course of touching on a number of subjects, Commissioner Bud Selig all but admitted this past Tuesday that instant replay is coming to Major League Baseball during his annual All-Star Game meeting with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. It is unlikely that replay will be used during the regular season, though there had been speculation last month that it could be instituted as soon as August 1. However, there is still a strong possibility that replay will be available to help umpires in determining boundary calls on home runs during this year's postseason.

"Is there is a chance? The answer is yes, there's a chance, but we've got work to be done yet," Selig said. "We are looking at it intensely. If it occurs, it will be in a very limited form. And once we are convinced that the bugs are out, it will come quickly."

While Selig said that the increasing number of shattered maple bats is one of his biggest concerns, he shot down the idea of netting being added in major league stadiums to protect fans because it is not a "practical solution" and would obscure spectators' sight lines. "The people most vulnerable to shattered bats are on the field and in the dugouts," Selig said. "That's the problem we should address. I've been talking to a lot of people, players who played three generations ago, two generations ago, 10 years ago, and players of today. In terms of the older players, they all say the same thing, they've never seen anything like this. They have different theories, but everybody always seems to get back to the maple."

While the Major League Baseball Players Association could file a grievance as early as the end of this week on behalf of free agent outfielder Barry Bonds, charging the owners have colluded in not signing baseball's all-time leader in home runs, Selig said the charge would be baseless. "Every club is free to do what they want to do," Selig said. "No club has talked to me about it. Clubs have made individual decisions based, I think, on a myriad of factors."

---

Brewers manager Ned Yost will take home/road splits to a new level at the start of the season's second half. He plans to make right-handers Dave Bush and Seth McClung his co-fifth starters, with Bush starting home games at Miller Park, while McClung pitches on the road. When one of the co-fifth starters takes the mound, the other will be available to piggyback in long relief. "I've never seen anything like this," Yost said. "I'm just trying to give us our best chance to win. I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel."

Bush is 4-2 with a 2.49 ERA in nine home starts this season with 618 OPS allowed. On the road, he is 1-6 with a 6.95 ERA (nine games, eight start) with an 852 OPS allowed. McClung's splits aren't quite as divergent, as he's 1-1 with a 3.28 ERA (11 games, four starts) with a 686 OPS allowed in away games, as opposed to 4-4 with a 4.95 ERA (10 games, six starts) with a 762 OPS allowed in home games.

Yost admits he is uncomfortable with throwing both pitchers off their normal routine of starting every fifth day, "but sometimes you have to try something different to see if it works. We'll give it a shot."

---

While much has been made about this being the last year of Yankee Stadium, Braves third baseman Chipper Jones says he will be sad to see the other New York ballpark torn down at season's end, as he has always loved hitting at Shea Stadium, home of the Mets. Jones has lifetime slash stats of .310/.399/.561 at the stadium in the shadow of LaGuardia Airport in Queens, and has hit 19 home runs in 359 plate appearances. Among the homers was the first of his major league career, on May 9, 1995, off of Josias Manzanillo.

Jones loves the park so much that he named his now four-year-old son Shea, and asked Mets public relations director Jay Horwitz during this week's All-Star festivities to make sure he saves him a memento from Shea Stadium. "I was like, 'You've got to hook me up, whether it's a seat, whether it's a sign, something that I can put in Shea's room,'" Jones said. "I'm going to try to get him up here this summer and walk him around before they tear it down. The Mets and the Braves have had so many epic battles over the years. It's just been a special place. It's been a place where I've really enjoyed playing. It just made sense. I love the name."

The Braves play six more games at Shea Stadium during the regular season, a three-game series from Aug. 19-21 and another from Sept. 12-14. "I love the stage," Jones said. "I love the atmosphere of playing in New York. The fans make it awfully hard walking back to the dugout with your tail tucked between your legs, so it gives you a little extra motivation to make left-handed turns when you get to first base."

---

Rumors and Rumblings: The Diamondbacks, Mets, and Yankees are interested in signing first baseman Richie Sexson, who has cleared waivers after being designated for assignment by the Mariners last week. Free agent right-hander Freddy Garcia, who had shoulder surgery after pitching for the Phillies last season, is expected to work out for scouts within the next 10 days. Among the interested teams are the Red Sox, White Sox, Tigers, Astros, Royals, Mets, Yankees, Phillies, and Rangers. One drawback for some teams, though, is that Garcia prefers to sign a contract for 2008 only, and then become a free agent again at the end of the season. The Mets are considering promoting from within if they don't make a significant trade, by adding such prospects from Double-A Binghamton as left-hander Jon Niese, right-handers Eddie Kunz and Bobby Parnell, and outfielder Fernando Martinez. Look for New York to get another All-Star Game in five years, as the Mets' Citi Field, which opens next season, is likely to play host to the 2013 classic. The 2011 game is expected to be played at Chase Field in Phoenix, and the 2012 game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. The sites for the next two games have already been determined, with the 2009 All-Star Game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis and the 2010 game at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

---

Scouts' views on various major league players:

  • Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez: "It is amazing how the guy can keep his focus and remain so productive with all the controversy that continually swirls around him. I just think the clubhouse has to be a lonely place for him, though. He's not very well liked in that room with all the extra baggage he brings."
  • Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche: "Just like clockwork, he has started hitting again now that it's July, but how many years can you stick with a guy who punts the first three months of every season?"
  • Brewers left-hander CC Sabathia: "He showed last Sunday (in a complete-game win over the Reds) that he is going to be a perfect fit for that club. The guy is a horse, and he's going to dominate National League lineups. (Brewers GM) Doug Melvin is going to be very happy he made this trade, because CC is going to put them in the playoffs."
  • Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar: "He just doesn't have the great stuff that a guy with his pedigree of being a first overall draft pick should have. He's going to have to learn how to pitch and be a little crafty if he's going to be anything more than just an average big-league starter."
  • Phillies left-hander Jamie Moyer: "I am now convinced he is going to pitch forever. His fastball isn't getting any faster at 45 years old, but he still gets guys out. He is truly amazing, and I think he gets overlooked sometimes."
  • Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez: "If this kid was playing on a better team or in a bigger market, he would be appreciated a lot more. He's having a great year playing in a home park that is just death to power hitters. He can really hit."

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

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