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Tuesday, August 1, 2006
Limited trade opportunities in August

By Jerry Crasnick
ESPN.com

Baseball's non-waiver deadline has passed, and it's time for general managers Brian Cashman, Jon Daniels and Wayne Krivsky to put down their cell phones, enjoy a hot meal and reintroduce themselves to their families.

Pretty good theater, huh? Two weeks ago, ESPN Insider polled 15 baseball executives on how the deadline might play out on a 1-10 scale, and they predicted the activity would merit a "5." Now that Carlos Lee, Bobby Abreu, Greg Maddux, Julio Lugo, Austin Kearns and a passel of Indians, Royals and Pirates have changed teams, the impact might be more in the "7" range.

Does the deadline spell the end of significant activity? Recent history suggests it might. Last year, major league teams swung four deals in August -- with Jose Cruz Jr., Matt Lawton, Todd Hollandsworth and Deivi Cruz changing teams. That's two Cruzes and four marginal players, for those keeping score at home.

The one true August blockbuster in the past five years came in 2003, when San Diego acquired Brian Giles from Pittsburgh for Oliver Perez and Jason Bay. That was the exception to the rule.

"You can't go into August banking on picking up someone to plug a hole that existed before Aug. 1," White Sox assistant general manager Rick Hahn said. "You still scour the wires and talk to your scouts and other clubs. But it's not as if that extra month is going to give you the opportunity to make an upgrade. And even if you make an acquisition, there's a limited window where a guy can make an impact on your club."

Consummating a trade of any magnitude will be more challenging now, because players can't be dealt without clearing waivers first. Once a player passes through waivers, his current team is free to try and trade him to any of the other 29 clubs.

If the player is claimed, Team A can simply step aside and lose him to Team B. (Welcome to Kevin Towers' recurrent nightmare of 1998, when he claimed Randy Myers to block him from going to Atlanta and got stuck with a $13 million contract). If the two clubs decide they want to work out a trade, they have a 48-hour window to make it happen.

We could go on with more fascinating details about the waiver process, but that's probably not why you clicked this link. Here's a look at some players who still have a chance to move in the next few weeks:

Shawn Green, Arizona

Luis Gonzalez, the resident fan and clubhouse favorite in Phoenix, is staying put. He has a complete no-trade clause, the Diamondbacks are in the thick of the National League West race, and general manager Josh Byrnes knows he would be playing with public relations dynamite by shopping Gonzo.

Right Field
Arizona Diamondbacks

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
GM HR RBI R OBP AVG
99 10 46 53 .356 .294
Green is a long shot as well, but more because of his declining skills and his contract. He has 10 homers in 364 at-bats, and the old bat speed and pep are too often absent from his game. "He's what you'd call a low-energy player," said an American League executive.

Green is also signed for $9.5 million next year, a hefty amount given the Diamondbacks' youth movement and the surplus of outfield talent in the system. Arizona easily could go with an outfield of Carlos Quentin in right field, an Eric Byrnes-Jeff DaVanon platoon in center or left, and Chris Young or Scott Hairston at the other spot next season.

Green has a no-trade clause that allows Arizona to deal him to only three clubs -- the Padres, Giants and Angels -- without his consent. There are some procedural hoops to jump through, but he might be flexible if it's clear the Diamondbacks have no place for him. Bobby Abreu's no-trade clause covered 29 teams, and the Phillies still found a way to send him to the Yankees.

St. Louis was mentioned in Green speculation before the deadline, but the Cardinals lacked the interest and/or resources to make it happen. At least general manager Walt Jocketty knows what it takes to acquire a high-priced outfielder in August: Two years ago, he helped St. Louis' postseason push by acquiring Larry Walker in a trade with Colorado.

Washington's starters

All the planets are aligned for someone in the Livan Hernandez-Ramon Ortiz-Tony Armas Jr. axis to be leaving town in August. The Nationals already are looking ahead to 2007. They have a general manager, Jim Bowden, with a trading itch that needs to be scratched, and they'd love to shed some cash in the quest to keep Alfonso Soriano in Washington.

Ortiz might be the most marketable commodity of the group. He's making $2.5 million on a one-year deal, and he has the versatility to pitch in the bullpen or as a swing man if need be. Armas has good stuff, along with a checkered medical history and a penchant for running up big pitch counts and taxing a pen

For all the rumors about the Mets pursuing Hernandez, New York GM Omar Minaya was always more interested in a power arm than a guy who slings it up there at 85 mph. Hernandez also has knee problems and a $7 million salary next year, and the Nationals have given no indication they're willing to assume any of that money.

Jon Lieber, Philadelphia

The Rangers, looking for 2007 rotation insurance with Vicente Padilla and Adam Eaton on the verge of free agency, expressed interest in Lieber before acquiring Kip Wells from Pittsburgh. But they were only biting if the Phillies agreed to pick up a significant chunk of the $7.5 million on Lieber's contract next season.

Starting Pitcher
Philadelphia Phillies

Profile
2006 SEASON STATISTICS
GM W L BB K ERA
16 4 8 20 55 6.09
The reviews on Lieber have not been good. Some scouts and executives think he's out of shape, and his sinker suddenly has lost its bite and gotten frighteningly straight. Lieber missed all of June with a groin injury, and a National League front-office man wondered if he's healthy.

"His stuff isn't even close to what it was before," the executive said. "His arm action is bad. His location is bad. I wasn't impressed at all."

Mark Redman, Kansas City

Redman, like, Lieber, lost 15-2 in his final start before the deadline. So much for the audition concept.

New Royals general manager Dayton Moore moved Elmer Dessens, Tony Graffanino, Matt Stairs, Mike MacDougal, Denny Bautista and Jeremy Affeldt in his effort to reshape his club and look to the future. But Redman, the Royals' resident All-Star, is still around.

You get what you get with Redman -- a 6-foot-5, 245-pounder who relies on his changeup, nibbles at the corners and gives left-handed hitters trouble while getting torched by righties. Redman's rate of strikeouts per nine innings has declined from 7.13 to 3.86 over the past three seasons. That's not a positive trend.

Redman is a free agent in November, so at least he brings no contract baggage. The consensus is that Kansas City would be doing him a favor by getting him out of the American League and sending him to the NL, where his mediocre stuff would play better.

Ryan Klesko, San Diego

The Padres face two major obstacles in trying to move Klesko: He has missed the entire season with a shoulder injury, and he has a full no-trade clause.

Ryan Klesko
Klesko
If Klesko is able to return this month, he'll find Adrian Gonzalez entrenched at first base at Petco Park. Klesko recently told the San Diego Union-Tribune that he might be willing to waive his no-trade clause to facilitate a deal. A fresh start might allow him to better showcase his skills for the free-agent market this winter.

But Klesko also told the paper that he's not even sure he wants to play in 2007. He might be joining Vinny Castilla on the almost-retired list shortly.

Joe Borowski, Florida

The Marlins have no compelling reason to move Borowski. He's payroll-friendly at $327,000 plus $1 million in incentives, and he's a great late-inning security blanket for Florida's dynamic young rotation.

Joe Borowski
Borowski
Larry Beinfest and his group have done a phenomenal job of building a competitive club on a $14 million payroll. The last thing they want to do is throw the ninth inning into disarray in August and September and resurrect the first month of the season, when the Marlins blew a ton of leads.

Still, Borowski could be a nice fit for a contender looking for a solid setup man. He's a tough-minded veteran who wouldn't be fazed by the prospect of pitching in a race. That's why the Marlins won't move him unless they can get something of long-term value in return.

"We love Joe," said Dan Jennings, Florida's vice president of player personnel. "We don't look at him as just an older guy on a young club. He's very valuable to us and what we're doing. He keeps the pressure off the kids at the end of the game."

Excess Orioles

After all that Miguel Tejada speculation, we're left with the same old Orioles: Lots of talk, little action, and plenty of opportunity for the press to take digs at owner Peter Angelos for killing deals and fostering an atmosphere of inertia.

LaTroy Hawkins, one of baseball's best setup men three years ago, is averaging 3.97 strikeouts for every nine innings, and the league is batting .302 against him. "He seems fairly cooked," said an AL front-office man. And the Rangers preferred Wells to Baltimore's Rodrigo Lopez, which tells you all you need to know about his market value.

Kevin Millar
Millar
Jeff Conine
Conine
Jeff Conine and Kevin Millar are handy, veteran bats and character clubhouse guys who might fit for a team with an injury void. Conine helped the Marlins win the 2003 World Series after coming over from Baltimore in an August trade. But he and Millar have a combined 16 homers in 586 at-bats this season, so don't count on a major impact.

Hot corner leftovers

While Wilson Betemit, Todd Walker, David Bell and Shea Hillenbrand all changed teams in July, the Indians couldn't find any takers for Aaron Boone. He's now nailed to the bench as Andy Marte tries to make the transition to the big leagues.

Joe Randa, supplanted at third base by Freddy Sanchez, most likely will play out the string in Pittsburgh with Jeromy Burnitz. Sean Casey, now with Detroit, exhausted the Pirates' quota of get-out-of-jail-free cards.

Other names that might be coming to a transactions column near you: Javy Lopez, Ray King, Arthur Rhodes, Reggie Sanders, Glendon Rusch, Jason Johnson, Guillermo Mota, Damaso Marte, Corey Koskie, Jose Vidro, Matt Herges, Wes Helms, and Scott Schoeneweis, Justin Speier and Bengie Molina (if the Blue Jays continue to fade).

Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN Insider. His book "License To Deal" was published by Rodale. Click here to order a copy. Jerry can be reached via e-mail.