July 2005

That’s a wrap

Was it a little like looking under the tree and finding a polka-dot tie for you, too? Was it like getting your first car and it’s an AMC Pacer with no radio? As Charlie Brown once said along the Halloween route as he looked into his goodie bag, "I got a rock."

This July 31 trade deadline just didn’t meet up with expectations, did it? We kept waiting for a big shoe to drop, and even though names like Manny Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano were all over the phone lines, Internet pixels and newsprint, nothing huge happened.

A little Matt Lawton here, a bit of Randy Winn there. No A.J. Burnett, no Jason Schmidt, no Billy Wagner. No Adam Dunn, no Lastings Milledge, no Hayden Penn. A lot more no than yes, that’s for sure.

So, was it really that boring or are we just expecting too much? You know, it’s probably a lot closer to the latter than the former. That’s the ultimate reality check.

Why? Glad you asked.

First of all, fans are into it more than ever and we’re certainly all over this Trade Deadline stuff here at MLB.com. You know our friends at ESPN do it up, as do all the other media outlets who cover baseball. Could be wrong, but there probably wasn’t a Trade Deadline Reality Check blog on the Internet, say, 20 years ago. (Well, Al Gore had one, but that’s another story.) Point is, there isn’t a rumor that doesn’t get out anymore, it seems. And some are even true. The deals couldn’t possibly match up with the rumors in quantity or quality.

Another thing: Sometimes, the market just is what it is — and it wasn’t much this year. When Padres GM Kevin Towers is throwing chances to David Ross and Miguel Olivo and taking on Chan Ho Park in order to move Phil Nevin, that tells you something. When GM Brian Cashman predicts the Yankees won’t be doing much and that actually comes true, that tells you something. This just wasn’t a primo market. The biggest names, it turned out, weren’t available, at least not available enough to move now.

Another aspect that’s been talked about a lot is the fact that too many teams still think they’re in the race, so there’s a shortage of sellers. Hey, if having 20-some teams in the hunt into August means a lighter July trade season, that’s fine. By all means, let’s enjoy pennant races thick with contenders over the intrigue of trades. We’ll get plenty of that on the Hot Stove.

Know what? Just because nothing of earth-shattering import took place, that didn’t take much away from the TD experience. It was still fun to hear the names bouncing around, and now we already have a few hot names to watch this winter — Ramirez, Soriano, Burnett and Dunn among them.

And, make no mistake, a big name will move this August in a waiver trade, and we just might hear of a contender blocking another by putting in a waiver claim, which is always good gamesmanship stuff.

The best part of this Trade Deadline from here, though, was getting the response from folks coming back the TDRC and posting their own ideas and rumors they’d picked up in their towns. That’s the most fun — hearing rumors and putting a take on them — and that’s what this here Reality Check thang is about.

Enjoy the stretch run.

T-minus 1 hour

… and Alfonso Soriano’s in the lineup for the Rangers in Toronto, just led off the sixth. So unless he gets yanked in, oh, about the top of the ninth inning, he’s staying there. Sorry, Twins, Mets and Cubs, no Sori for you. But, much like with the Reds and Adam Dunn, if something doesn’t happen today (guess it still could…) the door’s definitely been swung wide open for suitors this winter.

Could it really be this slow? It just might. Wow. Last year, it all blew up at the very last second with the Nomar trade, but that moment may have passed with the crumbling (until November) of the Manny trade talks. As MLB.com’s Ian Browne tells us, Manny wants to stay now, so Manny will stay.

So far, there doesn’t seem to be that blockbuster out there, just too many complicating factors like money and too many people thinking — and they might be right — that they’re in the race.

Happy to be surprised in the next hour, but it’s still quiet.

Down to the day

Baseball’s July trading season has one more night’s sleep to go before we find out if it was good, bad or indifferent. Maybe there are all-night negotiations that will turn up the heat on this lukewarm summer. Or, maybe not.

Thus far, let’s call it indifferent with some good rumors and some bad ones, too. Put it this way: No team has altered the course of its history just yet.

But tomorrow’s another day, and crazy things can happen when you have a deadline staring you in the face.

After Saturday’s mini-flurry, a few thoughts:

  • With Randy Winn going to San Fran, that puts Matt Lawton at the head of the class of outfielders on the market. The Cardinals are at the top of the list of suitors, barring the unlikely event they figure out a way to pry Adam Dunn away from Cincy. Cubs are interested, too.
  • Manny Ramirez is almost certainly, really, we’re pretty darn sure this time staying in Boston, so you have to figure on the Mets making another big play for Alfonso Soriano. But they’ll have to get past the Twins to do it — they have pitching available in Joe Mays, Kyle Lohse and J.C. Romero that could help the Rangers. Still say the Rangers need to get a ton for him if they do move him, but more and more it seems like they’re trying to move him. They’re certainly not slamming down the phone.
  • The Mariners might not be done, or maybe it’s that they shouldn’t be done. Trading Eddie Guardado makes sense right now for a team that doesn’t need saves for the pennant chase this year. Red Sox, maybe?

Well, we’ll see what the big day brings. In the meantime, feel free to hit that comment link and share some ideas of your own.

Two OFs off market

Well, scratch Randy Winn off the Yankees’ and the Cardinals’ wish lists — he’s gone to the Giants. And the Sox did make a move Saturday night, too … with an outfielder … but it was acquiring Jose Cruz Jr., not shipping Manny Ramirez. Yet.

Guess you have to wonder why the Sox need another outfielder — not that Cruz could make up one iota of Manny’s loss. Dang, just can’t stop thinking about this Manny trade happening, even after killing it off a post or two ago. It just won’t die. It’s a beast of immense proportions.

The Mariners, we’re told, aren’t done tonight. That could mean Eddie Guardado or Ron Villone, though probably not Jamie Moyer, who we hear nixed a trade to the Astros with his 10-and-5 rights earlier Saturday.

It’s cranking up now …

Buc thoughts

Watching the Pirates take on the Braves on Saturday night, it was impossible not to wonder whether at least a couple of the guys in the starting lineup would be heading elsewhere by Sunday. They’ve been dealing with the rumors for a while now, as MLB.com’s Ed Eagle reports.

Mark Redman made the start Saturday, and if he makes another for the Pirates it’d be a surprise. The Marlins are the frontrunner, and that makes sense if Florida’s keeping  A.J.  Burnett and determined to make a run at a playoff spot. He certainly seems like he’s headed somewhere, if only for throwing every five days with his left hand.

The other Buc who seems destined to go is Matt Lawton. The Cardinals seem like a good fit, better than Randy Winn and more likely than Adam Dunn.  Jose Mesa and Daryle Ward also have seen their names churning through the rumor mill, but they appear to be staying put.

If GM Dave Littlefield doesn’t make one or two of those moves, you’d have to wonder why not.

Just some thoughts as the clock keeps a tickin’ away …

No Manny but no trade

He’s not in the lineup, but he’s not on his way to New York, either. Or anywhere else.

When Manny Ramirez was a late scratch Saturday, that certainly set the rumor mill spinning, as MLB.com’s Ian Browne reports from Fenway. A Sox official said in the wake of the intriguing lineup scratch that there is no deal in place for Ramirez, and the Boston Globe reported Saturday the trade possibility cooled off considerably because the Devil Rays have insisted on shortstop prospect Hanley Ramirez from the Sox.

Look, it’s clear the Sox, Mets and Devil Rays have done some serious work here, but there’s just too much work to be done on this one. The clock was ticking before this one even began. Hey, maybe this winter. (Hard to write this one off the way it’s gone, but there you go.)

This doesn’t figure to be the last Manny update we’ll have, but the next one’s probably that the deal’s really dead and not coming back to life — during the season at least.

Inside 24 …

… and Manny’s still there, Sori’s still there and Big Dunn’s still there.

We are hearing some buzz, however, about Randy Winn being out of the lineup in Seattle, setting off speculation that he might be on his way out of town. The Yankees have been the primary destination mentioned over the last week or two, but they might have cooled to the idea. The Cardinals aren’t out of the question. They’re looking for an outfielder, though they’d rather reel in an Adam Dunn-caliber player, which may actually mean Adam Dunn himself. The Red Sox also have been thrown in there, but who knows with them right now?

Then again, it could just be a day off for Winn. Ha, that’s what makes this weekend fun. Besides, Matt Lawton is more of a difference maker than Winn, and you can throw Lawton on that list of players who should be moving in the next 24 — er, 23 — hours. The M’s have plenty that might go besides Winn, including a trio of lefties, the classic trade-deadline fodder. You still have to think Ron Villone or even Eddie Guardado are lefties who could be had for the right price, and Jamie Moyer’s name hasn’t stopped floating.

Gonna hit this here blog hard the next 24 hours so come on back and add your comments often.

Action and reaction

Within 48 hours of the non-waiver deadline, the intensity went up a notch or seven Friday with the Phil Nevin-Chan Ho Park deal all but done and Eric Byrnes-Larry Bigbie done.

That leaves us with a few things that make you go hmmm about the three biggest names of the week that haven’t been dealt yet . . .

  • Manny Ramirez remains with the Red Sox. That’s likely a statement that stands next week, too. It’s just too hard to put together an equation that makes sense. This is a Hall of Fame player, whatever the other issues going on. This has to be an incredible deal. Mike Cameron and Aubrey Huff, the players the Sox were reported to be getting in the proposed three-way with NYM and TB, are two good players. Incredible deal? No. Or, not yet, at least.
  • Alfonso Soriano remains with the Rangers. Makes you wonder, now that Manny-to-Mets seems to has cooled, whether the Mets could intensify their efforts to get Soriano. And the Rangers do have another right-handed power bat with Nevin now. More likely, it’s still Richard Hidalgo who might move. Sidney Ponson’s thumb is OK, so maybe that Baltimore thing will come through, and Ponson and Nevin will be teammates instead of trade partners.
  • Adam Dunn remains with the Reds. He whacked two homers Friday at the place that doesn’t give up any, PETCO Park in San Diego. He’s going to make ton$ next year. Can’t the Reds trade him? And if they don’t want to, how do they expect to improve the pitching staff? That said, the pitching market certainly hasn’t sounded like it’s teeming. Anyway, you’d think Dunn’s a prime candidate to move, but it hasn’t happened. Maybe this winter. Maybe never.

Names more likely to move: Danys Baez, Mark Redman, Randy Winn and somebody bigger we haven’t even thought of yet. A.J. Burnett sounds like he’s staying, though.

It’s down to the final weekend. The comments continue to be the best part of this blog, so hit that link and add your $.02 to it.

Manny unhappy returns

This isn’t a reprise of the 2003-04 winter soap opera with Manny Ramirez as the jilted superstar — and A-Rod certainly won’t be involved this time.

But is it possible this is a summer rerun of the 2004 blockbuster that knocked Nomar Garciaparra off his Red Sox and sent him to another hallowed ground at Wrigley? Could we actually see another Sox star leave?

Doubtful. Just bizarre enough not to dismiss outright, but doubtful.

Manny might want out, but granting his wish is tougher than the Sox trading a marquee name of the franchise like they did with Nomar last year. Really, how does a first-place team in the middle of a pennant race and a lukewarm (at best) trade market make it worth its while? That’s a lot to ask, even of Theo Epstein. Who could pick up that contract? And if Ramirez really shuts down, that’s not exactly going to make it easy to get it done, either. The very idea has so many holes in it, but you can’t ignore it or think it’s out of the realm of possibility. Not with Manny. Not with the Sox.

Hey, if young Theo can get something done in 72 hours that actually makes sense and doesn’t send Boston on a detour from its road to October, go ahead and hand him Exec of the Year honors.

This bizarre twist fits right in with the market so far this July — sure sounds intriguing but not all that plausible. The deal that brought Shawn Chacon to the Yankees tells you a little bit about what this season’s like — the Yankees have wherewithal to shore up their again, limping rotation, and that’s what they come up with. No offense to Chacon, who might benefit from the change of scenery, but this isn’t the stuff of celebratory back-page pronouncements. This is a B movie compared to summer blockbusters.

One thing that does seem apparent: Even if there hasn’t been a ton of significant action, GMs have been burning up the phones. There are enough discussions going around in different directions that maybe the weekend will have a flurry of interesting activity after all.

If somebody like Manny, or Manny himself for that matter, changes addresses, that’d still be a surprise.

P.S. Loving the string of trade rumors and discussions building up in the comments. Keep on keepin’ on.

Red means stop

No team has more names that have been on the rumor mill than the Reds. So far, Joe Randa and now maybe some possibilities brewing with Rich Aurilia. No Adam Dunn, no Austin Kearns. GM Dan O’Brien says don’t hold your breath waiting for a big deal out of him, so that probably means not a lot of phone calls about Ken Griffey Jr., either — understandably.

That’s whole lot of nothing. But there’s a lot of that going around. There just might be more of it coming out of Cincinnati these days.

Hate to keep harping on the Reds, but they seem to be the center of attention this July but not exactly the center of activity.  Dunn couldn’t fit the fodder bill better, a 25-year-old slugger heading for a big salary bump next year. The Dodgers are widely reported to be after Dunn, and they should be — he’d be a great fit there, now and later. Throwing infielder Antonio Perez and pitcher Edwin Jackson at the Reds probably won’t do it, though. O’Brien has made it clear he’s not seeking a deal and would have to be overwhelmed. That’s not overwhelming. Oakland? Well, they at least might be able to send young pitching, but affording him? Houston’s not sounding like they’re going that hard after the hometown kid yet, either.

Sigh. More and more, seems like there are too many wanna-be buyers and the few sellers that there are all want to be overwhelmed. And that means without a flurry this weekend, the biggest moves may come in August, after the non-waiver deadline.

Hey, check out the previous comment threads for some good contributions of trade talk, or add your own — maybe you have some thoughts about what the Reds are or aren’t up to this week.