Market a mixed bag as Trade Deadline nears
Plenty of talent, but asking prices, money complicate matters
The non-waiver Trade Deadline, 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, is getting ever closer. Judging by the recent activity -- or lack thereof -- the final days could be busy ones.
Last year, 66 players -- most notably Matt Holliday and Cliff Lee -- switched teams via trades in July, while 59 did so in 2008 and 60 were moved in '07. The number for this month stood at 24 entering Wednesday.
Said Braves general manager Frank Wren: "Everybody is kind of in a holding pattern and waiting until closer to the Deadline."
Considering most contending teams have prominent holes to fill, something has to give. Besides, the final days of the Trade Deadline have historically been the most notable.
"These days are like weeks at other times of the year," Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski said. "Things change daily at this time of the year. As you get closer to the 31st, different things all of a sudden come up."
In the American League, the Yankees would love to improve their bullpen and strengthen their bench (and they're always full of surprises), while the injury-ravaged Red Sox need help in the outfield and could also use more relievers. As for the Rays? They could be a big outfield bat away from separating themselves from Boston.
The Twins would like some help in the starting rotation. So would the Jake Peavy-less White Sox, who want a big bat, too. The Tigers need, well, everything, considering Brandon Inge, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Joel Zumaya are on the shelf. The Rangers, meanwhile, would love an upgrade at first base.
Over in the National League, the Braves want to solidify their bullpen, while the Phillies and Mets need all sorts of pitching. The Cardinals could use a boost in the starting rotation as well as an everyday middle infielder, and the Reds are scrounging for bullpen help. In the West, the Giants, Padres and Dodgers all need outfield bats, and the Rockies have been linked to a few infielders.
But there may not be much to choose from right now.
"There's really nothing on the high end to get," Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd said recently.
"[It's] a limited market for us," said White Sox GM Ken Williams, echoing the sentiments of many of his counterparts. "What we view as potential help is, really, there's only a small group of players."
With that in mind, here's a look at the four primary positions and who may be available, starting with the most fruitful.
The two biggest (seemingly) available bats lurk among the infielders, and they come in the form of lefty-hitting first basemen: Adam Dunn of the Nationals and Prince Fielder of the Brewers. Dunn can be a free agent after the season and Fielder is arbitration-eligible, but neither has really gotten anywhere in terms of extension talks with their respective teams. Each could greatly impact the middle of a lineup -- or even an entire division race.
But there's a chance both stay put.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo has stated that he needs to be blown away to move Dunn -- same with outfielder Josh Willingham and closer Matt Capps -- saying, "We don't make calls." Meanwhile, Brewers GM Doug Melvin has insisted his club doesn't have to trade Fielder, considering he has one year of arbitration remaining.
Regardless, the Tigers and White Sox -- to name two teams -- would love to have either of them.
There are others in this relatively rich first-base market, though, such as the Cubs' Derrek Lee, the Red Sox's Mike Lowell, the Astros' Lance Berkman, the Mariners' Russell Branyan and Casey Kotchman, the D-backs' Adam LaRoche and the Blue Jays' Lyle Overbay.
As for the rest of the infield, the Marlins' Jorge Cantu and the Orioles' Ty Wigginton have drawn the most attention, with the Rangers, Rockies and Giants seemingly among the most interested parties. Then there are guys like Kelly Johnson of the D-backs, Jhonny Peralta of the Indians, Brendan Ryan of the Cardinals, Jose Lopez of the Mariners, Brandon Wood of the Angels and Miguel Tejada of the O's who may also be on the block.
Need a catcher? The Blue Jays' John Buck, the D-backs' Chris Snyder and the Pirates' Ryan Doumit could be options.
The power-hitting right-handed bats of the corner guys dominate this category. Guys like Jayson Werth of the Phillies, Jose Guillen of the Royals, Corey Hart of the Brewers, Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays and Willingham.
This market may have lost a valuable piece in Cody Ross, though. The Marlins looked like they were shopping Ross -- who can play all three outfield positions and has hit 46 homers over the past two years -- but since Chris Coghlan tore a meniscus while celebrating a win on Sunday, Ross may stay put.
Not to worry, though. Werth, Willingham, Guillen, Hart and Bautista all pack a punch, though the attainability of those five varies.
Werth and Guillen are both upcoming free agents -- though Werth figures to yield significantly more in the open market -- and looked poised to be traded. But while the Royals would likely be satisfied with prospects in return, the contending Phillies reportedly seek a badly needed front-line starting pitcher for Werth's services, so it looks like the 31-year-old might just stay put.
Meanwhile, Willingham, Bautista and Hart all have a year of arbitration remaining, which means their respective GMs don't have to move them.
For those willing to substitute a bit of power for speed, Scott Podsednik of the Royals, Kosuke Fukudome of the Cubs, Willie Harris of the Nationals and B.J. Upton of the Rays -- though GM Andrew Friedman seemingly has no urgency to get rid of Upton -- could be acquired. A couple of others: Brad Hawpe of the Rockies and Austin Kearns of the Indians.
3. Relief pitchers
Relievers are never easy to acquire, and this season it's no different. In fact, the 2010 market has been described by many as a dried-up one in terms of potential bullpen help -- at least the reliable kind.
Sure, there are options out there. But how much are teams willing to give up to acquire that key late-inning piece?
Want a closer? The Marlins' Leo Nunez, the Blue Jays' Kevin Gregg and Capps are out there, but none of them would come cheap.
How about one of those hard-to-find lefty specialists? The Orioles' Will Ohman and the Blue Jays' Scott Downs could be attained, but the competition among teams to acquire them is fierce.
Kerry Wood of the Indians, Octavio Dotel of the Pirates and David Aardsma of the Mariners are easier-to-attain closer-types. And solid middle relievers like the Mariners' Brandon League, the D-backs' Aaron Heilman and the Royals' Kyle Farnsworth are also out there.
Want a few wild cards? How about Joba Chamberlain and Carlos Zambrano (both of whom can also start)?
4. Starting pitchers
Follow a team in need of starting-pitching help? Good luck.
Sorry, fans of the Phillies, Mets, Cardinals, Dodgers, Rockies, White Sox, Twins and Tigers -- there simply isn't much out there.
Cliff Lee is gone to the Rangers, Dan Haren has already been dealt to the Angels, and the biggest name remaining -- Roy Oswalt -- may not be traded at all.
Though Oswalt, armed with a full no-trade clause, recently insisted that "location doesn't matter" as long as he goes to a contender, any team who acquires him will have to take on the pro-rated $15 million left on his contract this year and a guaranteed $16 million for next season.
Plus, reports have indicated that Oswalt would require whichever team makes a deal for him to also pick up his $16 million option for 2012, though Oswalt has said money won't be an issue if the Astros find a deal he likes. On top of that, some teams -- like the Cardinals -- have reportedly balked at an asking price they've deemed too high.
The Phillies have been linked to Oswalt for a while and still look like the frontrunners. But it will be interesting to see if Astros GM Ed Wade -- as well as Oswalt himself -- lowers the demands as Saturday draws closer.
The next big name -- if you want to call him that -- is Ted Lilly of the Cubs, who can be a free agent at the end of the season and has a 3.69 ERA through 18 starts. All teams looking for starters have been linked to Lilly -- who has a partial no-trade clause -- but only one can get him.
Here are some other names: The Indians' Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona, the Astros' Brett Myers, the D-backs' Edwin Jackson and possibly the Rockies' Aaron Cook.
After that? Good luck.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.