Monday, July 30, 2012
Analyzing potential trade-deadline deals
By David Schoenfield
The pressure is mounting. The rumors are swirling. Phones are ringing. Minor flaws are starting to look like gaping, gangrenous wounds. Prospects are starting to get viewed with beer goggles. Please the owner, please the fans, please your manager, do what's best for the organization -- for the present, for the future. Full speed ahead ... win now ... or else!
And whatever you do, make sure that prospect you trade away doesn't turn into John Smoltz or Jeff Bagwell. Or that the starting pitcher you acquire doesn't go 3-5 with a 4.37 ERA down the stretch.
You're a big league general manager, and it's less than 24 hours to the trade deadline. What do you do?
Cliff Lee and the Rangers You have to think Roy Oswalt's poor outing against the Angels on Monday night increases the likelihood the Rangers will pursue Lee or another starting pitcher (Buster Olney reported Monday night that the Rangers and Phillies are no longer discussing Lee). While I wrote earlier Monday that Lee doesn't guarantee anything, Oswalt just isn't a reliable option right now, and Neftali Feliz is a question mark after being scratched from his rehab start Sunday. So unless the Rangers decide to stretch out Alexi Ogando, acquiring a starter seems like a strong possibility.
AROUND THE SWEETSPOT NETWORK
Apparently we're doing the "Trade Cliff Lee" thing again. Because apparently people, including Ruben Amaro, if the scuttlebutt is to be believed, think that's a good idea. Because trading a No. 1 starter who's signed to a below-market deal at the nadir of his trade value is a no-brainer. Particularly when that value has been depressed by factors outside his control.
Baseball Time in Arlington
Cliff Lee was a fun rumor to dream on, as there is still tremendous love and appreciation for him within the Rangers' fan base, and Lee is still a very good pitcher with an elite pedigree who would have given the Rangers a measurable boost both down the stretch and in the post-season. But it was also something of a fool's dream, as the Phillies have apparently been insistent upon receiving quality prospects in any deal for Lee, and, per various reports, have been resistent to kicking in the substantial chunk of money that would be necessary to justify the inclusion of said good prospects.
View From the Bleachers
Coming into the 2003 season, the biggest hole in the Cubs organization was always third base. Each year we had to live through the conversations about all the players trying to play the hot corner since Ron Santo. Then Aramis Ramirez came along in an absolute steal of a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Suddenly the hole was filled as Ramirez would hit effectively and play adequate enough defense to cool the talk of Santo.
While Lee has struggled of late -- a 5.20 ERA over his past eight starts -- it's also probable he would become the No. 1 starter in the postseason for the Rangers. The other consideration is that the Angels' win cut the Rangers' lead down to four games. Obviously, winning the division and avoiding the one-game wild-card playoff is of vital importance, so for the Rangers there is added incentive to do everything possible to preserve that lead. The big issue for GM Jon Daniels, aside from not wanting to part with Mike Olt: Depending on how much of Lee's remaining salary (more than $100 million if his 2016 option vests) the Rangers would take on, how would that affect the team's budget and ability to re-sign Josh Hamilton? In the end, it makes sense that this deal just wasn't going to happen.
Deal I'd like to see: Of course, there's another option: The Rangers instead pursue Matt Garza, in spite of his current injury. Garza, while not being a guy who can headline a playoff rotation, would do a lot to help preserve the division lead. And isn't likely to cost the Rangers Olt.
Man, it ain't easy being a GM, is it?
Ryan Dempster to the Dodgers The Dodgers seem intent on making at least one more big move -- be it Dempster or maybe Shane Victorino from the Phillies. This Dempster saga has played out longer than the final episodes of "Lost." WILL IT EVER END?
As good as Dempster has been with the Cubs, he has the look of a pitcher who will disappoint if he's traded. That doesn't mean he can't be a nice addition, but his career indicates he's not a guy likely to continue putting up a 2.25 ERA. He's allowed seven runs, including three home runs, in 12 innings over his past two starts. Is that a blip? Or just the predictable regression?
Victorino isn't exactly having a stellar season, either, so it might be that Dempster is the biggest impact deal the Dodgers could swing.
Deal I'd like to see: How about Justin Morneau? Upgrading over Loney arguably could help even more than adding another starter. Morneau is hitting .263/.324/.458 (BA/OBP/SLG), but he's destroyed right-handers: .311/.385/.571 entering Monday. He's a legit cleanup hitter against righties, which could allow the Dodgers to go Andre Ethier-Matt Kemp-Morneau in the 2-3-4 spots against righties. Suddenly that looks a lot more like a playoff lineup.
Josh Beckett out of Beantown We keep trying to kill off the Red Sox, but they keep hanging in there. Hey, I thought this team had no heart? Anyway, after beating the Tigers 7-3 on Monday to claw back over .500, the Red Sox remain four games out of the wild-card lead. Clay Buchholz had another strong start and has been terrific going back to late May. So that leaves Beckett and Jon Lester needing to turn things around. Sure, if those two don't pitch better, the Red Sox aren't going to make up enough ground in the wild-card race, but can they pitch better?
Beckett's strikeout rate is down a bit and his fastball isn't as lethal as it once was, so I don't expect big improvement from him. Would he still be attractive to a team such as the Rangers? Considering Beckett is signed through 2014 at $15.75 million per year, probably. Gordon Edes reported Monday night that Beckett is not going anywhere.
Lester is another story; the arm appears fine, but he's been getting hammered by righties (.295/.352/.514), so maybe there's a mechanical adjustment or something that needs to be figured out. I still believe the Red Sox have a seven- or eight-game winning streak in them at some point. Which puts them right in the thick of the wild-card race. If they do anything, maybe they'll pick up a starting pitcher.
Deal I'd like to see: Cliff Lee to the Red Sox? Let's see it happen!
PHOTO OF THE DAY
You go right ahead and choose the high road, Darren O'Day will stick with the low road.