Monday, July 18, 2011

FullCountPitch - GMs, Man Your Phones!

It’s less than two weeks until the annual MLB trade deadline, the time when buyers and sellers manipulate their rosters to make a run at the playoffs in the current season or re-tool their teams for the future.

These next two weeks will determine whether the teams become buyers or sellers. There are so many teams still in play in the divisional and wild card races that the demand currently outweighs the supply. Teams currently on the bubble could fall off with a bad stretch or they could become more aggressive with a winning streak.

As for the players available, there aren’t a lot of sexy names out there and I would expect this season’s deadline trading to be a fairly boring one. Of course, one major deal could change all of that. Here’s a look at the teams that are buying/selling and some of the players that could be switching uniforms by the time August rolls around.

AL East

Buyers – Boston, New York

The Red Sox and Yankees would both like to add a starting pitcher as well as add depth to their bullpens. (as would every other contender in baseball.) There are no big names out there, unless you believe the Ubaldo Jimenez is on the market” rumors. The media should know by now that just because a team is scouting another team’s minor leaguers that doesn’t mean trade talks are going on. It’s just the nature of the business. A more likely scenario would have both teams discussing Huston Street or Rafael Betancourt with Colorado.

As for a starting pitcher a deal for someone like the Astros’ Brett Myers would make more sense. A’s GM Billy Beane will most certainly receive calls for one of his young pitchers, but Beane is not likely to deal Trevor Cahill or Gio Gonzalez at this point unless he gets a large haul in return.

Moderate Buyer – Tampa Bay

The Rays aren’t going to make a big splash at the deadline. They simply won’t deal any of their top prospects – Desmond Jennings, Jake McGee, etc., – especially since there aren’t many available players worth a top notch prospect. The Rays do need another bat though if they are to stay in the divisional and wild card races. Perhaps a Michael Cuddyer? The Rays reportedly covet St. Louis’ Colby Rasmus, who doesn’t see eye to eye with his manager, Tony LaRussa.

If things go south for the Rays in the next two weeks, they could also find themselves as sellers. With Johnny Damon’s semi-resurrection, the Rays could certainly get back something of value for him should they decide to deal him. There are constant rumors about outfielder B.J. Upton, but teams are leery about Upton’s lack of steady performance and, at times, hustle.

Seller – Baltimore, Toronto

The Orioles have pitching, not necessarily great pitching, but pitching nonetheless that could be moved. Unlike last season when the Orioles could find no takers for Kevin Millwood (possibly asking for too much), the Orioles should be able to move Jeremy Guthrie. The 32-yr old right hander has one of those strange oddities about his numbers over the last four seasons- thumbs up in the even number years, not so much in the odd numbered years. The Rangers are reportedly showing interest as they hope to add some depth to their rotation.

The Orioles also have inconsistent closer Kevin Gregg and the more dependable set up man Koji Uehara who could bring back some low level prospects. Lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez would basically have to be given away. Offensively, the Orioles might find a taker for 1st baseman Derrek Lee, but again they won’t get much in return since Lee has had only one month in which his OPS has eclipsed .700. Any chance of dealing Vlad Guerrero prior to the waiver deadline ended when Guerrero suffered a fracture in his right hand, courtesy of a pitch from Boston’s Kyle Weiland.

The Blue Jays are building for the future and have a number of good, talented players on the way, some of which have been up this season already (Kyle Drabek, Zach Stewart), or are about to be (Brett Lawrie). The Blue Jays will find takers for Jon Rauch and/or Frank Francisco. Both have bounced back and forth between set up and closer, with Rauch now in the 9th inning role.

With Lawrie due to arrive in early August, third baseman Edwin Encarnacion is expendable, but his .299 OBP suits him for a reserve role (his .412 SLG Pct could make him a useful pinch-hitter). Outfielder Corey Patterson, who turns 32 in August, could also serve in a reserve outfield role for a number of teams.

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