Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Trade Deadline Preview

Saturday, July 23, 2011


With one week left to go, I'm going to run through some of the many possibilities for the trade deadline, starting with closing situations that could change and then moving on to other trade candidates.

Trade deadline preview

How about we call this the ninth-inning shuffle…

Blue Jays - Octavio Dotel, Frank Francisco, Jason Frasor and Jon Rauch are all free agents-to-be (though all but Francisco have club options for 2012) and should be up for grabs. Francisco is the most likely of the group to go. The Jays have exiled him from the closer's role in favor of Rauch, and it's doubtful they'll have much interest in re-signing him as a free agent this winter. If the Jays do trade Rauch, then it's possible Dotel will take over in the closer's role. He's been the most effective righty in the team's pen lately.

Rays - The Rays will certainly go ahead and pick up Kyle Farnsworth's $3.3 million option for 2012 if he keeps pitching like this, but they'd have to listen if someone wants to give up a quality prospect for him now. Given Farnsworth's reputation, most will likely shy away. He flopped last year after getting picked up by the Braves before the trade deadline. In the unlikely event of a trade, the Rays will likely go to a closer-by-committee until either J.P. Howell or Jake McGee steps up. Joel Peralta could be the favorite for saves initially.

Orioles - Contenders are much likely to prefer setup man Koji Uehara to closer Kevin Gregg, so it's doubtful the Orioles will undergo a change in the ninth inning.

Twins - Joe Nathan is looking good, so the Twins probably won't spend to land a closer. They do have Matt Capps available in trade talks, and it's possible they'll bring in a setup man if the price is right.

Royals - Even though Joakim Soria has returned to 2010 form, there's been surprisingly little chatter about the possibility of a trade. Aaron Crow would likely take over if the Royals do make a move, but Soria figures to stay put until the winter.

Angels - There's been some talk about the Angels getting Heath Bell to supplant Jordan Walden, but that's less because of any failure on Walden's part and more of an idea to improve the relief corps as a whole. It probably won't come down anyway. As well as Rich Thompson, Bobby Cassevah and Hisanori Takahashi have pitched lately, the bullpen no longer looks like a priority for the Angels.

Mariners - Brandon League is under control for 2012 and the Mariners don't have anyone ready to replace him in the closer's role, so there's incentive to keep him. The team, though, is desperate for talent, and, besides, it doesn't look like there will be many leads to close out anytime soon. If League goes -- and my guess is that he will -- the Mariners will probably turn to a committee. Jamey Wright has faded of late and David Pauley still works best as a middle reliever, so Jeff Gray looks like a definite sleeper candidate for saves.

Athletics - As much as I like Andrew Bailey, I wouldn't dare to trade for him if I were a major league GM; the only reason the A's would give him up is if they were convinced he's going to continue to have big problems staying healthy. I expect Bailey to stay. Two from the group of Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes, Michael Wuertz and Craig Breslow figure to depart.

Phillies - The Phillies are a big threat to land League or one of San Diego's relievers, but my guess is that they leave Ryan Madson in the closer's role. Bell would likely close over Madson, but the Phillies might prefer Mike Adams anyway, and I don't think League would make a fuss over returning to setup chores.

Mets - It sounds like the Mets will respect Jason Isringhausen's wishes and hold on to him. If Izzy changes his mind and asks for a trade to St. Louis or another team, then Bobby Parnell would close for the Mets.

Marlins - Leo Nunez is very much available, and the Marlins have already indicated that Edward Mujica would close if Nunez is traded. I'm no Mujica fan but that makes a lot of sense: Mujica is too homer-prone to come into tight games with men on base, but when brought in with no one on, he'll pitch a scoreless inning most of the time.

Cardinals - The Cardinals are focusing on a rotation upgrade, so Fernando Salas is probably safe in the closer's role. He's 18-for-21 since taking over, and he has a 2.62 ERA after 48 innings.

Reds - It's doubtful that the Reds will turn into sellers and move Francisco Cordero, at least not this month. There wouldn't be a whole lot of demand anyway. Cordero's salary is high enough to potentially make him available in August if the Reds fall out of the NL Central race. If a deal happens, then Aroldis Chapman could get a chance to battle Nick Masset and Logan Ondrusek for save chances.

Diamondbacks - Arizona has been shopping for a setup man to join David Hernandez in forming a bridge to J.J. Putz. With Stephen Drew sidelined, the Diamondbacks could turn into sellers instead. Still, it's doubtful that they'd have time to work out a Putz trade given that he's spent the last three weeks on the DL with a sore elbow.

Rockies - The Rockies have a lot of money tied up in relievers, and the easiest way to correct that problem would be to trade Huston Street. He's owed $7.5 million next year, and there's a $9 million mutual option on his contract for 2013. Since there aren't many teams looking to drop that kind of coin on a closer, odds are that he'll stay. If he goes, then Matt Lindstrom would be the favorite for saves, with rookie Rex Brothers looking like an intriguing sleeper.

Padres - Last, but certainly not least. My guess a week ago was that Bell and Chad Qualls would go and that Adams would stay and close. I still think that's the most likely scenario. However, the Padres value draft picks highly and they're making potential suitors pay not only for two months of Bell but also for the two compensation picks the Padres would lose out on by trading him. As a result, it'd hardly be a shock if Bell stays and Adams goes. Adams is making just $2.5 million and is under control through next year, so he might well bring in a bigger haul anyway.

Trade candidates

Carlos Beltran (OF Mets) - That Beltran can't be offered arbitration and thus won't bring any draft picks in return has simplified this matter: the Mets have little incentive to keep him and can't drive up his price tag with talk of draft picks. Beltran is willing to waive his no-trade clause to stay in the NL, and he'll be sent packing to San Francisco, Philadelphia or Atlanta within the next few days. Chance of trade: 90 percent

Melky Cabrera (OF Royals) - The Royals need to open up a spot for Lorenzo Cain by moving either Cabrera or Jeff Francoeur. At .298/.334/.460 for the year, Cabrera has had the better season, and he's the one of the two under control for next year. That makes him more likely to stay, but there will probably be greater demand for him with several teams looking for someone who can help out in center field. Chance of trade: 40 percent

Jamey Carroll (INF Dodgers) - The Brewers appear to badly want Carroll as an alternative to Casey McGehee at third and Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop. He'd be able to help most every contender with his on-base skills, and the Pirates and Phillies especially should be looking to bring him in as a role player. Chance of trade: 80 percent

Coco Crisp (OF Athletics) - Crisp has helped his stock by hitting .286/.374/.393 over the last month, and he'll probably come cheaper than Cabrera in a trade, even though I'd argue that he's the better player. I think he'd be a nice upgrade over Nate McLouth and Jordan Schafer in Atlanta. Chance of trade: 50 percent

Jeff Francoeur (OF Royals) - He's not Boston bound, but Francoeur may make his way elsewhere this week. He's in the midst of a nice July after a couple of poor months in May and June, and he's hitting .309/.356/.617 with eight homers in 94 at-bats against lefties this season. The Royals really shouldn't hold out for much: while there is an option on his contract for 2012, he's not going to exercise his half of it if he thinks he can do better than $4 million on the open market. Chance of trade: 50 percent

Jason Giambi (1B Rockies) - All Giambi has done this year is hit .266/.364/.638 with 10 homers in 94 at-bats for the Rockies. He's open to a return to the AL, and the Rangers and Angels seem like obvious fits for him. The Rangers could plug him in as a DH against right-handers and give Michael Young more time at first base. The Angels probably wouldn't have quite as many at-bats for him, but he would be a big upgrade over Russell Branyan on the bench. Even a return to New York with the Yankees would make sense, as he'd seem to be an upgrade over Jorge Posada. Expect something to happen. Chance of trade: 60 percent

Aaron Harang (RHP Padres) - Harang has returned from a foot injury to allow three runs over 18 1/3 innings in his last three starts, and he's now 8-2 with a 3.29 ERA for the season. It's just speculation, but I think he'll be an Indian by the end of the week. Chance of trade: 75 percent

Omar Infante (2B/3B Marlins) - Infante has been a big disappointment as Florida's starting second baseman, but he was an All-Star last year and he could help plenty of NL contenders as a part-timer. A return to Atlanta would be the best scenario for him. Chance of trade: 40 percent

Ubaldo Jimenez (RHP Rockies) - The Rockies were just sending out a trial balloon, in my estimation. Considering that Jimenez's bargain $8 million option for 2014 disappears in the event of a trade, he's actually more valuable to the Rockies than he would be to any other team, and even as good as Jimenez is, the Yankees aren't giving up their top three prospects for him. Chance of trade: 10 percent

Hiroki Kuroda (RHP Dodgers) - Kuroda has no-trade protection and is believed to want to stay on the West Coast. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, none of the West Coast contenders are searching for a starter at the moment. The Tigers are very interested, and the Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers could all certainly find room for him. Chance of trade: 40 percent

Ryan Ludwick (OF Padres) - Ludwick's ugly July has left him with a poor .241/.307/.381 line for the season, but he's driven in 61 runs anyway and at least a couple of teams will figure that getting out of Petco Park will do wonders for him. Pittsburgh seems to be the likeliest destination. Chance of trade: 40 percent

Jason Marquis (RHP Nationals) - Both are trade candidates, but Marquis is the better bet than Livan Hernandez to be moved by the Nationals. He's 8-4 with a 3.92 ERA this season, and while AL teams aren't likely to be very interested in him, he can eat innings as a fourth starter for an NL contender. The Diamondbacks should go get him if the price is right. Chance of trade: 40 percent

Hunter Pence (OF Astros) - The Astros have put a superstar's price tag on Pence, but he's more of a quality regular than a true difference maker. Plus, he's not likely to be bargain in the salary department. The Astros never were able to lock him up to a long-term deal, so he stands to make $9 million-$10 million next year and then probably $12 million or more in his final year of arbitration in 2013. Since the Astros want so much in return, he's expected to stay. Chance of trade: 15 percent

Wandy Rodriguez (LHP Astros) - Rodriguez hasn't helped his trade value by giving up 14 runs in his last three starts, taking his ERA from 2.97 to 3.67. His contract is fine -- he's owed $23 million for 2012-13 with a $13 million option for 2014 -- but I'm not sure anyone is going to take on that much money and still give up the couple of top prospects the Astros will want in return. Chance of trade: 20 percent

Carlos Pena (1B Cubs) - Pena's bat could help the Pirates and maybe the Rangers and Indians, but there are no contenders out there really hunting for a first base upgrade. Maybe the Pirates would dump Lyle Overbay for him if they fail to land the outfielder they'd prefer. Chance of trade: 20 percent

Aramis Ramirez (3B Cubs) - All indications are that Ramirez won't waive his no-trade protection in advance of the July 31 deadline. His agent, though, said last week that he might be open to an August deal. Ramirez has been one of the NL's best players over the last couple of months and there are plenty of teams with needs at third base, so he'd be very popular if he were up for bids now. Chance of trade: 10 percent now, 25 percent in August

Mark Reynolds (3B Orioles) - Since Ramirez is unavailable, Reynolds is the best third baseman currently on the market. The 27-year-old took some time to adjust to the AL, but he's now hitting a very respectable .224/.343/.482 for the season. Kevin Youkilis, Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez are the only full-time third basemen with higher OPSs. The Orioles control him through 2013, so it'll take a couple of quality prospects to lure him away. Since the teams that need third basemen are mostly looking for stopgaps, rather than long-term solutions, I think he'll stay. Chance of trade: 15 percent

James Shields (RHP Rays) - Shields ranks fifth in the AL with both his 2.53 ERA and his 1.01 WHIP, and he's having the best season of any starting pitcher with a chance of getting moved. Still, it doesn't sound like the Rays have any real interest in trading him. If they did, they wouldn't have been so foolish as to rule out the Yankees as a bidder just because the teams are in the same division. Chance of trade: 5 percent

B.J. Upton (OF Rays) - The Rays just called up Desmond Jennings to help out in left field, but he can slide right over to center if Upton goes in a trade. The Nationals are probably his primary suitor, but the Phillies also appear to be in the mix now. I think he's a goner: his trade value could drop significantly over the winter since he'll only be under control for 2012 and he'll be due about $7 million in arbitration. Chance of trade: 60 percent

Josh Willingham (OF Athletics): The A's will probably trade at least two from the group of Willingham, Crisp, David DeJesus and Conor Jackson in order to clear at-bats for younger players. Kevin Kouzmanoff is another who should go. Willingham may be a consolation prize for one of the losers in the Beltran sweepstakes. He's limited to left field and he's an injury risk, but his bat could help the Braves, Pirates and Giants, among others. Chance of trade: 60 percent


Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of RotoWorld.com and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.
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