We’ll open up The Mill later this week, but the grind is already starting in the week-plus leading into the non-waiver trade deadline. Let’s keep that part of the equation in play, since many teams are already talking about which guys might clear waivers and be available in August. With a couple big trades (CC Sabathia, Rich Harden, and Joe Blanton) already made, and a couple other moves today, let’s see what’s working out there:
The Orioles haven’t been doing much talking about some of their players. Brian Roberts was thought to be headed out, but as the team has stayed over .500, Andy MacPhail seems more inclined to keep the team intact. As one AL insider told me, “.500 has some value in rebuilding fans. Not many teams can do what the Rays are doing.” The O’s have some relievers (Jamie Walker, Chad Bradford) that will clear waivers and be available on into August, but the team is not interested in dealing George Sherrill unless they’re given a crazy offer.
A lot of teams are looking at Casey Blake. The top suitors are the Mets with a clear need and prospects, while the Rays and Twins are two others that have taken a look. Blake plays multiple positions, shouldn’t cost top prospect talent to bring in, and will be a free agent at the end of the year. The Indians are said to be “laying back and listening on everyone,” as one FOT put it.
The Rangers were clear winners at last year’s deadline, and are already seeing a payoff from last year’s deals. They might try again, making smaller deals focused on 2009. They might again have a match with the Braves, dealing one of their extra outfield bats—Frank Catalanotto, Marlon Byrd, or even Milton Bradley—for Mike Gonzalez. There hasn’t been much interest in Hank Blalock, but he’s another name that could clear waivers.
The White Sox are hoping that Clayton Richard can fill in while Jose Contreras is out, but they’ll take a look at the market for starting pitching as well. No one thinks they’re going for an ace or even a big name, but would like to find someone who can be solid, a la Joe Blanton, at the third or fourth slot. The Sox are thick with back-end relievers, a valuable commodity in this market. The Sox have also been trying to figure out if they could swap Orlando Cabrera out, but they’d need a quality shortstop back, which doesn’t look likely.
A.J. Burnett is the biggest “name” pitcher out there still on the market, but there’s been nothing in the way of movement on moving him. The Jays haven’t been offered anything close to what they would be willing to take yet, and with fewer teams needing pitching and willing to take on the short- and long-term uncertainty of Burnett, he may end up finishing the season in Toronto. “He’ll be the last-second deal,” one NL exec guessed.
The Pirates seem to be this year’s pivot point, as they hold several pieces that other teams want. Focus has moved from Jason Bay to Xavier Nady based on the asking price, but Damaso Marte looks like he’ll be the first to go, with several teams looking to solidify the bullpen. The price was a bit high for Arizona, who got Jon Rauch pretty cheaply instead, but Boston, St. Louis, and the Dodgers are all still taking a look at Marte. The Bucs are focused on getting pitching back so that they don’t have to keep trotting John Van Benschoten out to the mound.
The Giants made one small deal, but could make a couple more. None of the big names are available, but if one of the teams looking for an outfield bat made the right offer, Randy Winn is available. He seems to be Plan B or C for most teams, but given the way the outfield market is going (or not), a lot of teams might have to go to backup plans even further down the list.
Once again, no one seems to know what the Dodgers are doing. Reports that they’re showcasing Andy LaRoche and discussing Matt Kemp in deals are balanced against discussions involving Jack Wilson on the low end and Mark Teixeira on the high end. A rumor has been making the rounds that the Dodgers would be willing to eat some of Andruw Jones’ deal and send him back as part of a package for Teixeira, but that got shot down by both sides.
The Marlins certainly have the payroll room to be buyers, but they seem more focused on the small fish. They’d like to get a closer, and Brian Fuentes is at the top of their list. The Rockies’ closer is available and seems likely to go before the deadline. Several other teams are in on this, but two sources have told me that the Marlins are very aggressively pursuing a deal.
Seattle seems to be in a holding pattern. The price on Adrian Beltre has been too high for his suitors and there’s been no progress on other discussions. Raul Ibanez is drawing interest but the offers have been much lower than the M’s are willing to take in return. Erik Bedard isn’t going to be traded before the deadline. Many insiders seem surprised that Lee Pelekoudas hasn’t been more active, with some taking this as a reflection that he’s not going to get that interim tag lifted, and may even have his hands tied.
I’m still stunned no one’s talking about Adam Dunn. I asked one FOT about how he’d fit on the Mets or D’backs, and his response was “I guess he’d help.”