Twins likely to stay intact for second half
By Rick Kaplan Sports Xchange With baseball's non-waiver trade deadline coming at the end of the month, teams looking to beef up their rosters have a problem: Almost every team is still in contention for a playoff berth. "I think one of the issue...
By Rick Kaplan
With baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline coming at the end of the month, teams looking to beef up their rosters have a problem: Almost every team is still in contention for a playoff berth.
“I think one of the issues we’ve run into is with the wild-card races in both leagues really tight, there’s a limited number of sellers out there, and that’s affected our ability to move as quickly as we’d like to add starting pitching depth,” Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said.
In the American League, every team is within eight games of a wild-card berth. In other words, with one hot week, even the cellar-dwelling Oakland A’s could be in contention.
The National League includes a few more already-out-of-it clubs, with six teams at least 7 1/2 games behind the final playoff position.
The Sports Xchange asked its correspondents for all 30 teams whether the local club will be a buyer or a seller at the July 31 trade deadline.
American League Central
The Twins enter the break with the second-best record in the American League, trailing only the Royals. But they aren’t without holes. Barring a terrible start out of the break, expect the Twins to be cautious buyers as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. While the club’s rise has been one of baseball’s feel-good stories in 2015, this team’s real window of contention opens beginning in 2016 and beyond. While a late-inning bullpen arm is needed now, don’t expect the Twins to give up a top prospect to do it. If an upgrade behind the plate presented itself, Minnesota might also be interested.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
It all depends on senior management, who have been non-committal, especially with the White Sox near a contending position. RHP Jeff Samardzija (6-4) could be an attractive target for a real contender and the White Sox could acquire half a starting lineup by dealing away LHP Chris Sale, one of baseball’s best. Reliever David Robertson’s knack for saves - he has 19 - might also be an attractive option for someone or a handy help if the White Sox stay in a race.
The Indians will likely do neither. It seems most likely that they will stand pat. They don’t have the prospect depth nor the apparent inclination to offer a package of potential for what they need most: a proven, middle-of-the-order run producer. Their starting rotation has been rock solid, and it’s hard to see them giving up any of those pitchers. A minor roster tweak is always a possibility, but in all likelihood the team will be relatively quiet at the trade deadline, hoping the personnel already in place simply performs better.
Owner Mike Ilitch has been in a win-now mode for more than a decade. LHP David Price, LF Yoenis Cespedes, C Alex Avila and RHP Alfredo Simon are among Tigers who can become free agents at the end of the season but the first two will draw qualifying offers if Detroit feels it cannot re-sign them. Avila is the only one for whom a quality replacement exists (C James McCann). Expect Detroit to follow recent tradition and make an acquisition ahead of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, although a scarcity of premier minor league talent could lessen the impact of such an addition.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
The Royals are definitely looking to add a quality starter if the price is right. They have been linked to Johnny Cueto of the Reds, but several other clubs also are interested in him. With LF Alex Gordon out for an anticipated eight weeks, the Royals are in the market for an outfielder, preferably swinging left-handed. Ben Zobrist of the Athletics is a possibility. Don’t expect GM Dayton Moore to give up the farm for a splash acquisition. The Royals have enough to win the AL Central without adding a piece.
American League EAST
The Orioles will likely do what they’ve done the past few years under GM Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter, make a low-key move that won’t cost much - if they do much at all. Showalter has been coy about this, saying that “we’re going to try to fix everything from within. That’s our job and that’s our challenge and we can do it.” The Orioles won’t make a move that involves giving up a key player while still in the postseason race.
BOSTON RED SOX
If it’s possible, the Red Sox might do both. Given the team’s standing in the AL East, general manager Ben Cherington has said he isn’t in the market for rent-a-players, which takes the Sox out of the bidding for Cincinnati ace Johnny Cueto, a free agent after the season. Instead, the Sox likely will take a longer view, adding players who are under control beyond this year or subtracting ones with expiring contracts. And pitching will be their focus. “To add some arms to the group that we have, that would go a long way to stabilize things,” manager John Farrell said.
NEW YORK YANKEES
The Yankees have made at least one trade in the weeks leading up the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline in three straight seasons and there’s little reason to believe they won’t be somewhat aggressive buyers again if the price is to their liking. The price will likely be too high for Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto or Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels but the Yankees may swing a deal for a back-end starter like last year when Brandon McCarthy was acquired from Arizona about four weeks before the non-waiver trade deadline.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
The Rays don’t have a star to deal away like LHP David Price last year and are conservative enough not to make a huge deal at any expense to their future, but you could see Tampa Bay make a deal for a left-handed bat down the stretch. The healthy returns of DH John Jaso and Loney somewhat mitigate that need, but a trade for a veteran bat would help guard against any injuries in the second half.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
The muddle of mediocrity that is the American League East makes it tough not to be a buyer. The Blue Jays have hit well enough to be first and have pitched poorly enough to be last. Adding much-needed pitching before the July 31 deadline for deals without waivers should keep them in contention. “Clearly, the rotation’s the area that has the most need,” GM Alex Anthopoulos said. “Not that the bullpen can’t use some work, but I think that the bullpen is starting to settle in. ... If we can upgrade another position player spot, we would do it.” After disappointing their players and their fans last year by being deadline-deal duds, the Blue Jays cannot afford to do nothing again.
American League WEST
Ranking 29th in the majors with a payroll just north of $73 million, the Astros can afford to take on significant salary, one of the primary reasons why they have been deemed a possible landing spot for Phillies LHP Cole Hamels, who has three-plus years remaining on his seven-year, $159 million contract. However, as desperately as the Astros need starting pitching, pursuing arms like Athletics LHP Scott Kazmir and Reds RHP Johnny Cueto, both of whom are in the final years of their deals, would make more sense because it won’t require the same financial commitment or a significant prospect haul.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
The Angels seek left-handed hitting to complement CF Mike Trout and 1B Albert Pujols. The club nearly had a deal to send RHP Trevor Gott to the Phillies for OF Ben Revere, who would solve the Angels’ problems both in left field and in the leadoff spot, before withdrawing at the last minute. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the Angels also inquired about two Brewers, INF Adam Lind and OF Gerardo Parra, and two Athletics, OF Josh Reddick and switch-hitting INF Ben Zobrist. Last month, speculation focused on a possible trade sending LHP C.J. Wilson to the Dodgers for OF Andre Ethier, who has three years left on his contract after this season. Wilson, who will make $20 million in the final year of his contract next season, might be the Angels’ most marketable player.
Seriously? You have to ask? It is not a matter of when Billy Beane will start selling, but how much he will put up for auction. LHP Scott Kazmir, a frontline starter, figures to bring the most in return. His contact is reasonable ($16 million remaining on a deal that expires at the end of the 2016 season). And there’s really no reason to keep closer Tyler Clippard, whose $8.3 million deal runs out at the end of the year. Anyone need a left-handed specialist? Beane can offer up Eric O’Flaherty, who still has upward of $5 million remaining on a deal that takes him through next season.
The Mark Trumbo deal showed that GM Jack Zduriencik is willing to be proactive, and the Mariners could certainly use help - particularly in the fading bullpen. But the farm system doesn’t have many pieces left to trade. Seattle’s deepest pool of talent is in its rotation, but most of the young starters are untouchable. Perhaps LHP Roenis Elias, one of several lefty starters, could be a piece for the Mariners to dangle, but he’s been pretty valuable to an injury-plagued rotation. This was supposed to be the Mariners’ year, and it’s unlikely that they’ll give up on it anytime soon. But adding to the talent base is going to be hard to go at this point in Zduriencik’s tenure.
Like just about everyone in the American League, the Rangers have to be buyers, and their needs are glaring. They need a veteran in the bullpen, and they need a right-handed bat to break up a lineup that normally bats four left-handed hitters in its top six spots. “What I’ve told clubs on a short-term basis is I’d still like to help our bullpen a little bit and add the right complementary right-hand bat,” GM Jon Daniels said. The club also has attractive low-cost veterans in LHP Wandy Rodriguez and C Carlos Corporan who could draw interest in minor moves.
NATIONAL League WEST
The D-backs could go either way. If they inch up in the wild-card or NL West race, they could look at to add a starting pitcher, the only area that needs any accommodation. They have trading chips in two veteran bullpen arms, RHP Brad Ziegler and LHP Oliver Perez, whose contracts expire this season, although the team has a 2016 option on Ziegler. Lefties are a valuable, valuable commodity at the trade deadline - see Javier Lopez - that could provide a younger piece.
The Rockies figure to be sellers, but to what degree is the question. Trading SS Troy Tulowitzki or RF Carlos Gonzalez would be seismic events that could alter the course of the franchise. Tulowitzki, 30, is healthy and having a robust season that has maximized his value. While Colorado will listen, it is unlikely the organization would trade Tulowitzki, who has about $104 million remaining on a contract that runs through 2020 and includes a club option for 2021. So, too with Gonzalez, 29, who has about $45 million remaining on his contract that runs through 2017. His surgically repaired left knee is finally strong enough for Gonzalez to set up on it with his full weight and let his hands work in his swing. The Rockies will not be looking for short-term gain on any deal they do.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
The Dodgers’ new front office has been in “buy” mode since Andrew Friedman took over in November. That won’t change now. The Dodgers could be a significantly different team in September and October than they are now. From within, Cuban INF Hector Olivera should arrive in the second half, top shortstop prospect Corey Seager also could be promoted to the majors and RHP Brandon Beachy should stick in the rotation after returning from the disabled list Saturday. Beyond that, the Dodgers are certain to be players in the market for any and all starting pitchers available before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, starting with LHP Cole Hamels, RHP Johnny Cueto and LHP Scott Kazmir but not stopping there.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
The Padres will be selling, but it won’t be a fire sale. OF Justin Upton, OF Will Venable, RHP Ian Kennedy and RHP Joaquin Benoit all will be free agents at the end of this season and could be moved ... almost definitely for Upton since Wil Myers is better suited to be a corner outfielder when he returns. Also look for contending teams to make runs at RHP Craig Kimbrel and several San Diego starting pitchers. However, the Padres are on record saying they want to contend in 2016 rather than embark on any five-year rebuilding plan.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
It is quite possible the Giants, if healthy, could deem themselves fully armed for a run at a fourth title in six years. The most likely upgrades would come via a right-handed bat off the bench and another arm to mix into the bullpen equation. While Giants GM Bobby Evans will be a potential buyer at the trade deadline, he probably will be looking to spend only pocket change rather than have to pull out his checkbook.
NATIONAL League Central
In recent seasons the Cubs held annual summer fire sales to dump talented players to contenders. Last year, pitchers Jason Hammel (since returned) and Jeff Samardzija departed. Not this year. The Cubs might be a little thin on catching if Miguel Montero’s jammed thumb is worse than thought and they could be in the market for some additional bullpen help. The recent acquisition of LHP Clayton Richard from the Pirates fills out the starting rotation for now.
Sell. The Reds did a commendable job constructing a team that won two division titles and reached the postseason in three of six years. But that window has closed and it’s time rebuild around a core of decent young arms. Approaching the July trade deadline, Cincinnati is expected to shop coveted free-agent Johnny Cueto, closer Aroldis Chapman and possibly others in an effort to fill holes and restock the minor league system. Some scouts wonder if the Reds waited too long on both to get optimal value in return.
Sell. On the surface, there’s no doubt the Brewers are going to be sellers as the trade deadline approaches. But there’s a catch: most of Milwaukee’s veteran talent on expiring contracts is the very reason the Brewers are mired in the cellar. Kyle Lohse is having the worst year of his career. Aramis Ramirez has lost most of his power. Matt Garza still has $25 million coming over the next two years. Ryan Braun? Please. Milwaukee could get some interest on closer Francisco Rodriguez, outfielder Gerardo Parra or first baseman Adam Lind but don’t expect any of those players to bring back the type of cornerstone projects the Brewers need to jumpstart their farm system.
The Pirates will be buyers, though they feel their roster is strong enough to make a run at winning a championship without making major additions. They would like to bolster the bullpen and Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Daniel Hudson is said to be among their targets. They also have interest in trading for veteran Philadelphia Phillies OF Jeff Francoeur to help them against left-handed pitching. They would also be open to adding a starting pitcher if the price is right in terms of prospects.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
At 56-33, this team will be in buy mode. While a power bat is the top priority, the possibility of adding another starting pitcher also exists. The Cardinals would like to offer RHPs Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez occasional breaks so as not to push their innings totals up too dramatically from one year to the next. But if they have to choose between one or the other, adding a bat to help the offense must be priority No. 1. There has been speculation about dealing for Milwaukee 1B Adam Lind, who would provide some real pop, but a trade between division rivals seems pretty unlikely.
NATIONAL League EAST
The Braves are still just seven games behind first-place Washington, but they look like a sure sub-.500 team. President of baseball operations John Hart has brought in a load of young talent with all his wheeling and dealing, and it is now time to stop now. Jason Grilli’s injury eliminated a prime trading chip, but reliever Jim Johnson and infielders Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson have appeal. Of course, the team would love to dump infielder Chris Johnson, and Hart would likely even move center fielder Cameron Maybin in the right deal.
The Marlins haven’t said what they will do as they prepare for the July 31 trade deadline, but it is obvious that they should sell given how far they are out of the playoff race. The players who should most expect to be dealt are RHPs Mat Latos and Dan Haren, veterans who are on the last years of their contracts. Haren made no secret that he wants to play on the West Coast, where he would be closer to his family. He has pitched relatively well and could have some value to a contending team. Latos is a more curious case because he is only 27 but has badly underperformed and does not have the greatest reputation in terms of being a clubhouse leader. Beyond those two, it’s likely that the Marlins will try to trade 1B Michael Morse and former closer Steve Cishek.
NEW YORK METS
The Mets need to buy, but will they? Alderson insists the cash-poor Mets have the payroll flexibility to add a player, but he won’t be pulling off multiple trades. The one move, if he makes it, will likely be at shortstop, where longtime placeholder Ruben Tejada continues to underwhelm. Forget about Troy Tulowitzki, but a Jean Segura type could add some much-needed speed to a sloth-like lineup and lengthen the lineup.
It’s safe to say the For Sale sign is firmly planted outside Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies hope to shed salary and gain youth at the July 31 trade deadline. Philadelphia’s prized trade chip is ace starter Cole Hamels, who will attract major suitors as one of the game’s top lefties. He recently told CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury that he’s “open-minded” to all destinations and Mackanin said he believed a deal for Hamels was “probable.” All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon has been blunt about his desire to be traded. 1B Ryan Howard could lure American League teams in need of a DH, and the Phillies would have to swallow a significant amount of his salary, as the 35-year-old is due $25 million this season and next. And CF Ben Revere’s name has floated around in rumors.
With playoff success on their minds, expect the Nationals to be active players leading up to the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Washington could make a move to shore up their bullpen, with former closer Tyler Clippard’s name floated as a potential trade candidate, but the recovery of the team’s injured players could either make trades a moot point or an important issue. “We’re going to look at all aspects of our club and figure out what trades, if any, make sense to us,” Rizzo said.