Commentary

It's a tough spot for some contenders

Rangers, Tigers and other teams wait for Biogenesis verdict as deadline looms

Originally Published: July 30, 2013
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

Is it really possible that the trading deadline could come and go before baseball finally gets around to announcing its Biogenesis suspensions?

In a perfect world -- a world where all of baseball's forces operated in sync -- you wouldn't think so. But we don't live in that world, as you've no doubt noticed.

So with every day that goes by -- and no indication that any Biogenesis announcements are coming Tuesday -- that scenario grows a little more likely. And the frustration inside baseball's front offices over this delay is beginning to erupt like Mount Big Papi.

[+] EnlargeNelson Cruz
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonThe Rangers will have a major hole to fill if Nelson Cruz gets suspended in the Biogenesis case.

"This is one of the worst things I've ever seen in baseball," one longtime executive grumbled late Monday. "They've got all the evidence. They've had it forever. And they've held off on telling anybody what's going to happen. And now the trading deadline is here, and nobody knows anything. It's not fair. It's not fair to the clubs with those players [on the Biogenesis list]. And it's not fair to the clubs they're playing."

Are the Rangers going to have to play the rest of the season without Nelson Cruz, a fellow who is fifth in the American League in home runs?

Are the Tigers going to lose shortstop Jhonny Peralta, who is second among AL shortstops in slugging and OPS?

The A's seem confident that their best pitcher, Bartolo Colon (14-3, with the third-best ERA in the league), is not going to get suspended. But if they had known a week ago, wouldn't that have shaped their pursuit of Jake Peavy?

These are questions those clubs have a right to know the answers to. But inside the commissioner's office, the powers that be are telling those teams it just can't work that way.

Investigations take time, they say. Hammering out deals takes time. Lining up charges and appeals with more than a dozen players takes time. Just the Alex Rodriguez saga, monstrosity that it is unto itself, gobbles up huge hunks of time. And, of course, the commissioner's office keeps reminding those clubs that it has to get this right, no matter how long it takes.

It's difficult to argue with any of that. But it doesn't relieve the frustration this whole affair has brought about for the teams involved.

Let's take Texas, for instance. Teams that have spoken with the Rangers believe they have been convinced for weeks that they're going to lose Cruz, because they've been the most aggressive team in the entire sport in looking for some way, any way, to add an outfield bat.

"That's why they're so desperately trying to find a bat," said an executive of one team. "They have to know."

The rules say they're not supposed to be informed, incidentally. But luckily -- if luck is the right word -- the names on this Biogenesis list have been out there for so long that no one should be shocked by any suspension, no matter when it comes down.

But it's each player's decision whether to appeal and keep on playing or to cut a deal like Ryan Braun and get that suspension out of the way this season instead of letting it drag into next year. Remember that.

None of those decisions will have a bigger impact on any race than the decision that apparently will have to be made by Cruz, an irreplaceable force on a team that needs offense even when he's playing but also a future free agent who can't possibly want to go out into the market this winter with a suspension hanging over him.

Now theoretically, no team should know in advance what that player's decision will be on whether to appeal. Theoretically.

If you believe that's actually the case, though, I have a piece of oceanfront property in Nebraska to sell you.

"They have to have had that conversation," a high-ranking executive of one rival club said of Cruz and the Rangers. "If you're his GM, you have to go to him and say, 'What are your plans if you get suspended?' You're not doing your job if you don't have that conversation. And depending on the answer, I'm sure that conversation will lead to another one."

The Rangers are acting like a team that knows that answer. But even if they do, that doesn't relieve the stress this is adding to their pre-deadline bat-hunting frenzy.

[+] EnlargeJhonny Peralta
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioWhom will the Tigers turn to at shortstop if Jhonny Peralta is handed a suspension?

"I don't get the sense that they're panicked, because that front office never panics," said an executive of one club who has spoken with them. "But I think some of their people out in the field seem panicked that they're not going to find a bat. And I don't blame them."

You name the bat, the Rangers have asked about it, from the usual suspects (Alex Rios, Hunter Pence, Kendrys Morales) to names way outside the box (Jose Bautista, Matt Kemp, Carlos Quentin, Brian McCann). That tells you all you need to know.

The Tigers, on the other hand, haven't actively explored the shortstop market at all, according to a bunch of clubs that have spoken to them.

"They've shown no urgency [to find a replacement for Peralta] whatsoever," one executive said. "It's almost like they know something, or maybe they've talked to Peralta and they know he's going to appeal it."

At some point in the next few days, we expect all of this to get resolved and all of these suspensions to be announced. Maybe that will be Thursday or Friday, just after the deadline. Or -- how about this scenario -- maybe it will all come down Wednesday, hours before the deadline insanity hits its peak. Not impossible, we hear. So just imagine that.

"So far," one GM said, "it's been a really quiet deadline. There hasn't been much action. But if those suspensions come down right before [4 p.m. ET Wednesday], that could be unbelievable. Then you'll get some action."

More Rumblings

• Cliff Lee: We still wouldn't describe it as likely that the Phillies are going to trade their ace, but other teams believe they've never been more willing to do that than they are at the moment. If they get what they're looking for, said one executive who has been in touch with them on multiple players, "they're going to do it."

From all indications, the Red Sox are the primary team -- and possibly the only team -- the Phillies are actively talking to, because (A) they're a team Lee would go to (despite including them on his limited no-trade list), and (B) the Red Sox theoretically could afford to take on the $70 million left on his deal.

The Phillies are believed to have asked for a package headed by Xander Bogaerts and pitcher Brandon Workman, plus a big-league-ready outfielder, although many other names have been kicked around. But an executive of one team, who has felt out the Red Sox on their willingness to deal Bogaerts, offered this assessment of the odds of the Red Sox including their top prospect in any trade: "No chance."

"That's just unrealistic, to set that kind of price," the exec went on. "This guy [Lee] has so much money coming. I'd bet 27 teams wouldn't even claim him on waivers because they can't afford him. So the Red Sox have to be looking at the Phillies and thinking, 'What's your leverage?' It wouldn't surprise me if the Red Sox really want him. So would they give up one of their top prospects who's not Bogaerts? Maybe. But they're a team that's set up really well for the future. So they're not going to do anything out of desperation. Why would they?"

• Jake Peavy: Monday was a fascinating day on the Peavy front. Talks between the A's and White Sox appeared to blow up, with Oakland suggesting it was moving on and the White Sox saying they're ready to keep Peavy and build around him.

Discussions with the Red Sox seemed to move forward, then collapsed amid what one source told ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes were "mixed signals" from the White Sox. As Edes reported, as of Monday, the White Sox were still looking for a "Zack Greinke-like" package for Peavy. And Boston clearly is balking.

Despite all that posturing, does anyone really believe Peavy will still be with the White Sox by Wednesday evening? No one we've surveyed does.

"In the end, they pretty much have to get him traded before he starts again," one exec said. "So what you're seeing is other teams saying to themselves, 'The price is going to drop in the hour before his start, whenever that is.' I think everyone knows they're not going to get any team's No. 1 prospect for Jake Peavy. Once they come off that ask, you'll know they're getting serious."

Other teams (Arizona, St. Louis, Baltimore) appear to remain peripherally in this mix. But this looks increasingly like a Boston-versus-Oakland duel for Peavy, still the biggest difference-maker who's likely to get traded this week.

• Dodgers-Angels: The Dodgers and Angels haven't made a trade in 20 years (a Reggie Williams-for-Mike James swap in 1993). And that's the only deal those two teams have made since 1976. But sources indicate they had a mostly casual conversation about Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick this week. Kendrick -- who is signed through 2015 for a total of $18.85 million -- could interest the Dodgers as a second-base option for down the road. But there were no indications that any deal was in the works as of Tuesday morning.

• Angels: The Scott Downs trade Monday all but announced to the world that the Angels were selling, even though they're locked into players at a number of positions and have limited commodities to sell. Several teams report they're at least listening on Kendrick, shortstop Erick Aybar and third baseman Alberto Callaspo, asking for "high-quality" big-league-ready pitching back.

• Michael Young: A friend says Young met with Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. on Monday to discuss clubs Young would waive his no-trade clause to go to. The Rangers and Yankees are believed to be on that list. One club that spoke with the Phillies reports that the Young market has developed more slowly than it expected.

Editor's note: As of 3:05 p.m. ET, learned that Young would waive his no-trade clause only to go to Texas. He would consider other teams only if a trade to the Rangers doesn't work out.

Brewers

• Brewers: Officially, Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse remain "on the market," but clubs that have checked in say the Brewers no longer expect to trade either starter before the deadline and will float their names again in the winter.

• Cubs: After making most of their significant moves, the Cubs could still have one or two more deals in them in the next 24 hours. Most likely to get dealt: closer Kevin Gregg and outfielder Nate Schierholtz. Extremely unlikely to move: reliever James Russell. Just about zero chance: Jeff Samardzija.

• Pirates: With their search for offense fizzling, the Pirates could try to find a bullpen arm instead, in the wake of Jason Grilli's injury. Names such as Gregg and San Diego's Luke Gregerson could be potential fits.

Nationals

• Nationals: Officials of three teams that spoke with the Nationals report they're almost certain to stand pat, especially given their place in the standings (nine games out in the NL East).

• New names in play: Three pitchers who have suddenly been made available who hadn't been talked about much: Arizona's Ian Kennedy and J.J. Putz and Tampa Bay's Kyle Farnsworth. One exec says the Diamondbacks "really want to move Kennedy all of a sudden," apparently to clear money for another move.

• State of the deadline: Even though things have picked up lately, this remains maybe the least compelling group of available players to make up the cast of characters for any trade deadline in recent memory. As one NL exec put it: "We keep staring at the names on our board and saying, 'That's it?!'"

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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