Who will buy and sell at deadline?
Clubs must decide soon what direction they will take
Oakland Athletics vice president and general manager Billy Beane has a theory. Beane believes it takes two months of the season to evaluate your club and another two months to fix any problems, and that leaves two months to make a run for the playoffs.
June is here, which means we've had one-third of the season to evaluate, and now the time has come for many clubs to begin making the changes they hope will sufficiently prepare them for a playoff run. But which teams will be buying and which will be selling between now and July 31, the deadline to make trades without clearing waivers?
In many cases, what happens during the next two months could determine the answer. For now, however, here's a look at where things stand as May slips away:
Angels: The first-place Angels have prospects to offer, room in the payroll and could use another power bat, ideally a third baseman. Finding the right power bat to slot behind Vladimir Guerrero in the lineup won't be easy, but the Angels have the resources to get it done if the right target becomes available. The Angels have recently scouted Colorado's Garrett Atkins, Baltimore's Melvin Mora and Houston's Morgan Ensberg.
Braves: Atlanta is still looking for a fifth starter after losing Mike Hampton for the year and releasing Mark Redman. The Braves also cut ties on infielder-outfielder Craig Wilson, but finding another starter to join John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, Chuck James and Kyle Davies remains the priority. A secondary target would be a utility-type player/pinch-hitter with power.
Brewers: GM Doug Melvin rarely makes midseason trades, but the Brewers have seldom been in first when July rolls around so this year he might make an exception. Besides, Melvin made a deal last July, aquiring Francisco Cordero, Kevin Mench, Julian Cordero and Laynce Nix from Texas for Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz on July 28, and that one worked out rather well.
The Brewers haven't been getting much production from third base, where Tony Graffanino and Craig Counsell were sharing the position while Corey Koskie remains on the disabled list with post concussion syndrome. Melvin addressed that situation by calling up top prospect Ryan Braun from Triple-A. Braun has only been up a week, so it's too early to say whether he will be the answer, but if he struggles, the Brewers could decide to look outside the organization for help at the hot corner.
A more likely midseason move for Milwaukee would be a trade for a reliever, preferably a lefty. The Brewers have a glut of outfielders, so one or more could be dangled as trade bait. A few teams have called about reliever Jose Capellan, currently at Triple-A, but nothing appears imminent on that front.
Cubs: They have a glut of outfielders and a need for pitching. Mark Prior is out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. The Wade Miller experiment is apparently over. Neal Cotts struggled in the bullpen and is back in the Minor Leagues. The Cubs have a lineup capable of catching fire, and the team is, of course, in the winnable NL Central. A few upgrades of the pitching staff might be all that's needed to put Chicago into the playoff picture.
Dodgers: The Dodgers are fighting the Padres for the lead in the NL West and like San Diego, are in need of a power bat. Should Toronto decide to shop third baseman Troy Glaus, the Dodgers would be a logical fit, but that hasn't happened, and Glaus has a no-trade clause.
Indians: The first-place Indians are on the lookout for bullpen help and are among the teams to have scouted Troy Percival. There isn't much available right now attractive to Cleveland, but that could change as July 31 approaches and more teams decide to become sellers.
Mets: Getting Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez back from the disabled list helps, and the surprising contributions from Jorge Sosa helped the the Mets through a rough spot. There's also the possibility that Pedro Martinez could be back from rotator cuff surgery in August or September. Even so, GM Omar Minaya is still looking for pitching, both starters and relievers.
The Mets seem content to go with Damion Easley at second base, at least until they see if Jose Valentin can come back strong from his knee surgery. They might decide to go after outside help at the position, and Washington's Ronnie Belliard, Houston's Chris Burke (currently at Triple-A) and Pittsburgh's Jose Castillo are potential targets.
Padres: The Padres have been getting calls about some of their relievers, especially Scott Linebrink, but don't count on GM Kevin Towers moving any of his Major League pitchers to get the bat San Diego is seeking. The Padres have arguably the best bullpen in the NL and Towers is reluctant to make changes to a pitching staff that is working.
Phillies: The Phillies were looking for bullpen help due to Tom Gordon's unavailability because of rotator cuff problems and Ryan Madson's stint on the DL. Now that search becomes even more intensified due to concerns about closer Brett Myers' shoulder. Philadelphia's inquiries regarding San Diego reliever Scott Linebrink were rebuffed, and the Phillies are also considering Percival.
Some potential free agents
Player, current team
|Bobby Abreu, Yankees|
|Moises Alou, Mets|
|Milton Bradley, Athletics|
|Mark Buehrle, White Sox|
|Paul Byrd, Indians|
|Eric Byrnes, Diamondbacks|
|Mike Cameron, Padres|
|Luis Castillo, Twins|
|Bartolo Colon, Angels|
|Francisco Cordero, Brewers|
|Adam Dunn, Reds|
|Jermaine Dye, White Sox|
|David Eckstein, Cardinals|
|Scott Eyre, Cubs|
|Freddy Garcia, Phillies|
|Luis Gonzalez, Dodgers|
|Shawn Green, Mets|
|Livan Hernandez, Diamondbacks|
|Trevor Hoffman, Padres|
|Torii Hunter, Twins|
|Jason Isringhausen, Cardinals|
|Geoff Jenkins, Brewers|
|Jason Jennings, Astros|
|Andruw Jones, Braves|
|Todd Jones, Tigers|
|Jason Kendall, Athletics|
|Jeff Kent, Dodgers|
|Mike Lamb, Astros|
|Jon Lieber, Phillies|
|Scott Linebrink, Padres|
|Paul Lo Duca, Mets|
|Mike Lowell, Red Sox|
|Joe Nathan, Twins|
|Odalis Perez, Royals|
|Jorge Posada, Yankees|
|Mariano Rivera, Yankees|
|*Alex Rodriguez, Yankees|
|Ivan Rodriguez, Tigers|
|Kenny Rogers, Tigers|
|Reggie Sanders, Royals|
|Curt Schilling, Red Sox|
|Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners|
|Mike Sweeney, Royals|
|Julian Tavarez, Red Sox|
|Omar Vizquel, Giants|
|Bob Wickman, Braves|
|Randy Wolf, Dodgers|
|Kerry Wood, Cubs|
|Carlos Zambrano, Cubs|
|* Can void current contract and become free agent after 2007 season|
Red Sox: In Boston's case, it's probably more window shopping than buying. The Red Sox are looking at what's available and have money and excess talent to trade (Wily Mo Pena) but what do they really need that will clearly make them better besides Manny Ramirez and Big Papi going on summer slugging streaks? Another reliever for the bullpen would be nice, but again, Boston's needs aren't critical and the Red Sox may be willing to look at options inside the organization to fill that one bullpen spot that could use an upgrade.
Tigers: The Tigers are hoping their second half upgrades will come from the return of Kenny Rogers, Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney from the disabled list. They're also one of the teams considering Percival. GM Dave Dombrowski will do whatever he can to strengthen the team provided the cost is not outrageous, but even if the Tigers wind up doing nothing more than getting everybody off the disabled list it would mean a stronger Tigers team for the second half.
White Sox: The White Sox are looking for relievers. GM Ken Williams is considering all options from within and outside the organization, but at the moment, the former route seems the most likely course.
Yankees: The Yankees have used 21 pitchers, including 11 starters, and even after adding Roger Clemens, the Yankees will still be seeking arms. Finding another available fit won't be easy. A likely move will be to add a mid-level reliever or two.
Devil Rays: In a seller's year, the Devil Rays have players other teams covet. The question is, will they be willing to consider offers for Carl Crawford or Delmon Young? Probably not. Center fielder Rocco Baldelli is a more likely target to move on, but Baldelli's health record is seen as a stumbling block for many teams.
Nationals: Like the Rays, the Nationals have a few players many teams like but are unlikely to be able to obtain for one reason or another. Closer Chad Cordero seems to be drawing the most attention from other teams and Ronnie Belliard is also a potential trading chip.
Orioles: Other teams are eyeing some of the players on the Orioles roster with expectations the team will make some of the veterans available, but that hasn't happened yet. The Giants are interested in third baseman Melvin Mora and multiple teams are looking at Chad Bradford.
Royals: The last-place Royals could move Reggie Sanders and Ross Gload, if and when both come off the disabled list and prove they are healthy enough to contribute to a contender. There's also the possibility that Mike Sweeney, a free agent after the season, could be pried away from Kansas City. Outfielder Emil Brown is drawing attention from outside the organization.
Reds: The Reds are in the basement in baseball's weakest division, but considering the state of the division race, they could decide to stand pat, unless the Reds do start entertaining offers for some of their more tradeable talent, like first baseman Scott Hatteberg or outfielder Adam Dunn. And we can probably expect the annual round of Ken Griffey Jr. trade rumors to start swirling.
Rockies: The Rockies sent pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim to Florida and could decide to move other players not in their long-term plans. Todd Helton's name will undoubtedly keep coming up, but Helton has a full no-trade clause and his contract is also difficult to move.
ON THE FENCE
Astros: The Astros hope the return of Jason Jennings from the disabled list this week and perhaps a late-season return from Brandon Backe, who is rehabbing from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery, will strengthen the pitching staff. The Astros would like to add another reliever, but will probably wind up promoting from within the organization to address that need.
Teams needing third-base help are eyeing the Astros, who have used Morgan Ensberg, Mike Lamb and Mark Loretta at the position. The Astros continue to get inquiries regarding Burke, who was sent to the Minor Leagues a few weeks ago, but have told teams they aren't interested in moving Burke.
Athletics: Rich Harden (shoulder tightness) is expected back from the disabled list within the next two weeks and the right-hander is coveted by a number of teams, but it is uncertain whether Beane would be willing to deal Harden, let alone agree on what it would take to part with the talented pitcher. But if Harden is made available, he would instantly become one of the top targets on the market.
Blue Jays: No team has been bit harder by the injury bug than Toronto, which has lost B.J. Ryan, Roy Halladay, Gustavo Chacin, Victor Zambrano, Gregg Zaun and Reed Johnson to the disabled list. All of those setbacks have been a stomach punch to a team many expected to contend coming out of Spring Training, and Boston's blazing start has further buried Toronto in the AL East race.
On the plus side, youngsters Jesse Litsch and Shawn Marcum have been impressive, so it might be a good time to move a few of the veteran pitchers other teams have been eyeing in what figures to be a pitching-thin market this summer. The time appears to be ripe for GM J.P. Ricciardi to deal Tomo Ohka and/or Josh Towers. Towers is making $2.9 million and Ohka's contract is worth $1.5 million.
An even bigger trading chip should Ricciardi decide to go that route would be Glaus, who would bring a hefty return in a market with several teams looking for hot corner help, like the Angels or Dodgers. Glaus would have to approve any trade. His contract calls for salaries of $10.75 million this season, $12.75 million next season and a player option at $11.25 million in 2009.
Cardinals: The Cardinals need offense and starting pitching, but it's too early to tell whether they'll be close enough to the division lead to pursue trades to address these needs. If the Cards do decide to start building for next year then several of their veterans might suddenly be on the market. Closer Jason Isringhausen, for example, will be a free agent after the season. Outfielder Juan Encarnacion is another veteran who could be dealt.
Diamondbacks: The D-backs could use another bat and would like to upgrade their bench, but aren't believed to be close on any moves.
Giants: The Giants would like another bat for either corner infield spot or the outfield, but there's uncertainty as to how they will proceed. GM Brian Sabean's status might have a bearing on how proactive the Giants are this summer as Sabean's contract expires at the end of the year. Does he go for it now or build for the future? Only Sabean knows. The Giants have scouted Mora and are also looking for bullpen help. The Giants aren't shopping any of their starting pitchers, but perhaps could be persuaded to part with Matt Morris or Noah Lowry. Barry Zito, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum aren't going anywhere.
Mariners: The Mariners are willing to deal right-hander Jeff Weaver, who is being paid $8.325 million this season, but are otherwise satisfied that the current cast is capable of challenging for the AL West title and/or the AL Wild Card.
Marlins: June could be an interesting month for the Fish, and how the team performs could determine whether trade winds blow through South Florida this summer. The Marlins would like to add a center fielder and have no plans to trade Dontrelle Willis, but don't completely rule out the possibility that the left-hander's status could change if the right offer comes along.
Pirates: The Pirates, currently in second place in the NL Central, have a glaring need for another power bat and have pitching to trade. At the moment, however, nothing involving the Pirates appears to be close.
Rangers: In one sense, the Rangers are buyers, because they have been actively seeking a third baseman to fill in for Hank Blalock, who is out until at least August after undergoing shoulder surgery. But the Rangers could also decide to start looking to the future, which could mean entertaining offers for some of their valuable assets like Mark Teixeira, who would bring plenty considering his talent, age (26) and the number of teams looking for a power hitter.
Twins: The Twins are still in the race in a very tough AL Central and are actually in better position in the standings than they were this time a year ago. And they have clear needs that if addressed could help them make another second-half charge.
On the other hand, they have center fielder Torii Hunter, who will become one of the top targets on the free agent market after the season. Hunter is making $12 million, is having a great year and would bring a lot in a trade. If the Twins believe they aren't going to be able to afford him next winter it makes sense to deal him now, especially if the playoffs seem like a long shot. Losing Jesse Crain to a rotator cuff injury might have made the decision easier.
This is a tough call, but whatever GM Terry Ryan decides to do usually turns out best for the organization. Remember, this is the guy who sent A.J. Pierzynski to San Francisco for Boof Bonser, Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano. Makes you wonder what he'd get for Hunter.
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. MLB.com reporters contributed to this report. This report was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.