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July 26, 2009
On the Beat
Striking Bargains and Striking Out
In two days, it will be all over. Either Roy Halladay will still be with the Blue Jays, the team he broke into the major leagues with in 1998. Or he will be traded to a contender with a chance of pitching in the postseason for the first time in his 12-year career. Friday is the deadline for trading players without subjecting them to waivers, but Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi has set his own deadline of Tuesday for dealing Halladay, as the ace's next scheduled start is Wednesday against the Mariners at Safeco Field.
"Roy has to agree to the deal. We have to agree to prospects. All of that is not going to happen within an hour," Ricciardi said of his reasons for imposing an earlier deadline. Ricciardi isn't very confident he will get a deal done by Tuesday, and already has a Plan B of retrenching and trying to trade Halladay in the offseason. "I don't think we'll get it done," Ricciardi said. "No one has stepped up."
However, someone with direct knowledge of the Blue Jays' conversations put the odds of a deal being better than 50-50, saying "this has gone too far down the road, and everyone is already expecting Roy to be gone, including Roy. I think it would awkward if Roy were still around after July 31."
The Phillies remain the favorites to land Halladay despite the Blue Jays being shot down when they asked for rookie left-hander J.A. Happ, Double-A right-hander Kyle Drabek, and High-A outfielder Dominic Brown, who represent three of the Phillies' top eight prospects in Kevin Goldstein's pre-season rankings of the organization's prospects.
Blue Jays assistant GM Tony LaCava, Ricciardi's most-trusted assistant, has spent the past two weeks scouting the Phillies' organization from top to bottom. That is a sure sign the Blue Jays believe the Phillies are the best match for a potential blockbuster. The Phillies also fit what Halladay is looking for in a new team, as they are a contender and train on Florida's Gulf Coast, which is where the Denver-area native makes his off-season residence.
The Phillies had scout Charlie Kerfeld watch Halladay's start against the Rays on Friday night at the Rogers Centre, and former GM Pat Gillick scouted his previous outing. The Phillies could likely land Halladay with a package built around three Triple-A players-right-hander Carlos Carrasco, shortstop Jason Donald, and outfielder Michael Taylor-along with two second-tier prospects. However, there has been speculation that the Phillies are backing off trading for Holliday since they have taken control of the National League East race by opening up a 6½-game lead on the Braves and Marlins.
However, without naming Halladay specifically, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he encourages GM Ruben Amaro Jr. to do everything possible to fortify the roster for a run at a second straight World Series title. "If you look, over the course of a season, talent plays out over 162 games," Manuel said. "If you ask a general manager or manager what kind of team he wants, the first thing he'll say is he wants a highly-talented team. I think we definitely control our own destiny and the team we put on the field is probably the best team in the division. Of all the talent we that we've got, we need to put some more pieces around it. Once we do that, that'll make it better. To get in (the postseason) is the big thing but getting in and having the pieces to win it is very important. I feel right now that we can go far but most of the time you want guarantees. If somebody says, 'What the heck, you've got a juggernaut, you can win.' Well, what wrong with having a juggernaut? That's what you work for."
Two other teams who could become serious contenders in the next 48 hours are the Red Sox and Yankees, as both could use another frontline starter while they compete against each other and the Rays for the American League East title. However, the Blue Jays might be hesitant to trade Halladay within the division, and both teams would have to start their offers with potential future aces, Joba Chamberlain in the Yankees' case, and Clay Buchholz with the Red Sox.
As for other aspiring suitors, the Dodgers reportedly balked when the Blue Jays asked for a package that started with center fielder Matt Kemp. The Cardinals dropped out of the bidding when they instead landed Athletics left fielder Matt Holliday in a trade on Friday. The Angels did not become serious players for Halladay until Saturday, and reportedly offered right-hander Jered Weaver and power prospect Brandon Wood. GM Tony Reagins sounds like a man who might stay in the hunt, commenting, "I wouldn't write off anything with respect to an acquisition. Sometimes things materialize when you don't expect them to. Sometimes when you're trying to make them materialize they just don't come to fruition."
If there is one surprise team lurking, it could be the Rays. They have the pieces in their bountiful farm system to land Halladay, and the geography he likes. "He's got some interesting things out there," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman's attempts to get some help for the stretch run. "You know him. He's always got good ideas and he's definitely willing to take the plunge if somebody else is. It's all good stuff, but like most years, nothing ever happens. So we'll just see."
What could complicate a Halladay trade is that the Indians has shown more of a willingness to trade left-hander Cliff Lee in recent days. There are some in the Indians' organization who believe it is time to undergo a major rebuilding, and Lee would help fetch key pieces for that effort.
The Mets now find themselves 10½ games off the Phillies' pace and in fourth place in the NL East. However, things are looking a lot worse for the Mets than just the likelihood of missing the postseason for a third straight year. They appear to be an organization ready to implode in a storm of recent recriminations, with manager Jerry Manuel making mocking references about the competency of the team's medical staff, and revelations of temper tantrums thrown by vice president for player development Tony Bernazard.
Bernazard went into a profanity-laced harangue against the Mets' manager of baseball operations recently after he found his seat behind home plate at Citi Field occupied by a scout from another team. The tirade was clearly visible and audible to many fans. Then there was the trip to see the Double-A Binghamton farm club in which Bernazard ripped off his shirt and challenged everyone on the team to a fight. Bernazard also made a derogatory remark to a player by referring to him by a slang term for a part of a woman's anatomy. Bernazard and closer Francisco Rodriguez got into a nasty verbal confrontation last weekend on the team bus in Atlanta following a loss to the Braves. Rodriguez reportedly was upset that Bernazard made negative comments about the Mets' relievers. Many around the Mets believe Bernazard undermined pitching coach Rick Peterson and manager Willie Randolph, eventually costing each man his job. Bernazard reportedly has the ear of Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, leading some to believe that he may be angling for GM Omar Minaya's job.
Minaya said the incidents involving Bernazard are under investigation. "I've talked to him and I'll continue to be talking to him," Minaya said. "After we investigate these things, I'll sit down with owners and say, 'Hey, look, how are we going to handle this?' You never like to have these reports out there but, when you have a big department, these things happen. What you need to do once they are out is that you kind of look at them."
One anonymous Mets veteran told the New York Post that Bernazard is having a cancerous effect on the team, adding, 'That guy is crazy. No one likes him.'"
The Royals are a dismal 20-47 since May 7, dropping their overall record to 38-58, worst in the American League. This is seemingly a franchise going backwards in GM Dayton Moore's fourth year on the job. However, Moore insists that is not the case. "Let's just trust the process," Moore told the Kansas City Star's Bob Dutton. "If other people don't want to trust the process, that's fine. If other people want to abandon the process, then abandon it. I'm not abandoning the process. I believe in the process."
The process includes not making a change in the manager's office, which is why Trey Hillman will get a chance to live out the third and final year of his contract in 2010 despite his 113-145 record. "We're all in this thing together," Moore said. "You can't keep changing managers and coaches. Continuity is very, very important. If you've got people who work hard and people who care and are smart, you stick with them. If you stick together through the tough times, we've got a chance to win here and do something special long-term. You just can't keep reshuffling."
The Orioles are finally going to rid themselves of untenable situation next February when they shift their spring training headquarters across Florida from Fort Lauderdale to Sarasota. The Orioles spent the last 12 years holding their major league spring training in Fort Lauderdale but their minor league camp in Sarasota. The cities are 170 miles apart. "You have no idea how enthusiastic the baseball side is," Orioles president Andy MacPhail said. "We've been working under a handicap. This is a great piece of the puzzle for us."
The Orioles will play their home exhibition games at Ed Smith Stadium, which opened in 1989. The stadium will undergo an almost complete makeover once the exhibition season ends next spring, one that will include raising the seating capacity from 7,500 to somewhere around 8,500-9,000. The minor league complex at Twin Lakes Park will also get a major facelift.
Sarasota was looking for a team. The Reds spent their final spring there this season as they prepare to share a complex with the Indians in Goodyear, Arizona, beginning next spring. The Orioles were just looking to get out of dilapidated Fort Lauderdale Stadium. "Anything would be an upgrade," Orioles designated hitter Aubrey Huff told the Baltimore Sun. "Don't get me wrong. I love Fort Lauderdale and it's an awesome place to be, but you walk into the clubhouse and you get that musty smell of asbestos. Then you walk outside and you get the jet fuel smell. The infield was terrible and the weight room was a tent. It was just bad."
NL Rumors and Rumblings: If Brad Lidge continues to stumble, it would not be a shock to see the Phillies turn to Pedro Martinez as their closer down the stretch, as he has performance bonuses written into his contract for both starting and reliever. Brett Myers could be another closer possibility, as he is making rapid progress recovering from hip surgery. The Braves would consider trading right-hander Javier Vasquez for offensive help prior to the August 31 deadline for setting post-season rosters if right-hander Tim Hudson makes a strong showing in his return from Tommy John surgery. The Cubs have spent $72 million on left-handed (Kosuke Fukudome) and switch-hitting (Milton Bradley) outfielders the past two winters, yet manager Lou Piniella is pining for a left-handed hitting outfielder as the trading deadline approaches. The Cubs also have interest in two Pirates left-handers, starter Zach Duke and reliever John Grabow. The Pirates, though, want two premium young players as a starting point in any negotiations involving Duke. Another possible Pirates lefty for the Cubs to target would be Tom Gorzelanny, who is in Triple-A Indianapolis' rotation. The Reds are willing to trade right-handers Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang. The Cardinals are trying to trade third baseman Troy Glaus, who has missed all season while recovering from shoulder surgery and is unable to throw beyond 90 feet. The Diamondbacks seem hesitant to trade left-hander Doug Davis despite interest from numerous clubs. ... The Snakes are so impressed by what they've seen of first-base prospect Brandon Allen, who was acquired from the White Sox in a trade for reliever Tony Pena earlier this month, that they are penciling him into their 2010 lineup. Speaking of 2010, the Giants' promotion of catcher Buster Posey from High-A San Jose to Triple-A Fresno is seen as a sign that he is their likely starter behind the plate on Opening Day next season. With the Brewers all but conceding they are unable to land an ace starter like Halladay or Lee, they have set their sights on Royals right-hander Brian Bannister. The Pirates are considering taking the $2.5 million they saved by trading first baseman Adam LaRoche to the Red Sox this past week and adding it to the two-year, $10 million contract extension they recently offered to second baseman Freddy Sanchez, and that he rejected.
AL Rumors and Rumblings: The Mariners haven't yet gone into 'sell' mode, but if they do then left-hander Jarrod Washburn figures to be their most desired player, along with first baseman Russell Branyan. The Red Sox tried to expand the trade with the Pirates in which they acquired LaRoche to also include shortstop Jack Wilson; they remain in pursuit of him and also Athletics shortstop Orlando Cabrera (who has drawn the interest of the Twins as well). Orioles left-handed closer George Sherrill is in demand, with the Angels, Dodgers, and Twins among the suitors. The Angels are also trying to land Athletics reliever Michael Wuertz, and are said to be offering infielder Sean Rodriguez.
Three series to watch this week, with probable pitching matchups (all times Eastern):
Dodgers at Cardinals, Monday-Thursday (July 27-30)