July 2005

Sori, wrong number

First of all, thanks for all the rumors coming in via the comments link. Keep ’em coming.

Addressing one of them, Alfonso Soriano probably isn’t going to the Mets, or anywhere. The Rangers are said to be asking too much, and they should ask a ton for this guy. Soriano is an All-Star talent. Texas still has hope in at least the Wild Card race if their freefall doesn’t continue much longer, and dealing Soriano would be a white flag. The Rangers are more likely to pick up Sidney Ponson for Richard Hidalgo, which at least makes more sense than dealing away Soriano. The Twins also are said to be pursuing Soriano, but his earning potential in aribtration for 2006 ($10M?) doesn’t seem to add up there. They could look at him as a rental and non-tender him, but the Rangers would need more in return than what the Twins could give up in that case.

Things can change in a heartbeat, but the Rangers trading away the player they received for A-Rod at this point just doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. If they do, it had better be for pitching. But it’s looking unlikely on all trade fronts at this point.

Nixed. Now what?

To answer one of the comments from the plea for trade rumors … With Phil Nevin saying no, where do the Padres and Orioles go? Back to the drawing board — and fast.

The Orioles, you have to think, try and jump back in after  A.J. Burnett — or at least some pitching help, which they need more than Nevin’s bat anyway. There’s more competition for Burnett now (both Sox), and the Marlins don’t have to trade him. Whatever, get an arm. The O’s need a boost in this postseason race, and shedding Sidney Ponson for a bat isn’t going to cut it.

The Padres still need a starter as insurance against Adam Eaton’s finger injury, or depth in the best-case scenario that Eaton’s back for the stretch run. They also have Nevin happy to be home in San Diego but probably not that happy to be headed for a lot of time on the bench. (Note to self: Always go with your first instinct.) If Kevin Towers can move him, he will. And should. It’s just that the one team that has expressed interest was one of what now should be known as the Nevin Eight. But the Padres, first in the NL West and falling, are looking like a team still in need of some shaking up.

Now, back to begging for rumors. Hit that comment button with one or two, would ya?

Me: Blah, blah, blah … You: How about this one?

Guess it’s the nature of the blog beast, but this thing’s been way too one-sided.

It’s your turn, people.

Throw some rumors my way and let’s toss ’em through the Reality Check machine. Hit that comment link and let’s get some ideas rolling.

Actual published rumors are preferred over conconctions, of course — but that could be fun, too. At the very least, let’s put together a page of the best rumors out there, and don’t be afraid to do your own Reality Check on them. You’re allowed, you know.

These posts will be a lot more frequent this week as we head toward Sunday’s deadline. Look for another one later today.

P.S. One quick take: The longer this Phil Nevin decision goes, the more it seems like he’ll accept it. It’s all in his hands now. Phil, some unsolicited advice: Take the deal and get a fresh start.

Another shoe, please

While we’re waiting for shoes to drop, it’s worth wondering if any of these shoes fit in the first place. And, while we’re at it, it’s worth wondering: What’s it gonna take for the O’s to put something on?

First, there’s the A.J. Burnett deal that appears to have fallen through. If the O’s had him in their grasp, their bad for not finishing off the deal. It didn’t sound like taking on Mike Lowell was a deal-breaker — maybe it was. But the O’s certainly seemed to be on the verge of picking up the best pitcher available on the market, and now they’re on the back burner, with the White Sox making their play for the Marlins’ free agent-to-be. Maybe the O’s weren’t all that serious in the first place. But if not, why not? Even if he’s a rental, he’s a good one.

The other one twisting in the trade winds swirling around Baltimore is Phil Nevin, who has the right to deny a trade that would send him to the Orioles for Sidney Ponson. At this point, the shocker would be Nevin actually saying yes to the deal — he’s been in San Diego since ’99, and as he said Saturday, he’s earned the right to say no to this trade. Stranger things have happened, but Nevin’s a stubborn sort and Baltimore obviously was among eight teams he felt like blocking at one point. His agent, Barry Axelrod, has said in the past the list was constructed with teams in mind that might be able to afford picking him up, because Nevin has wanted to do whatever he can to stay in San Diego.

But this third time the Padres are trying to trade him should give him some pause. Sure, he’d be going to a much more hitter-friendly park than PETCO, but Nevin has more to consider than that. On the flip side, he should consider that a.) the organization clearly wants him to move on, and b.) that could make for an uncomfortable relationship going forward if he nixes this one like he did the Ken Griffey Jr. one a couple of years ago. If he does bounce the trade, the Padres will continue to try and move him, that much is clear. Finding a taker hasn’t been easy so far, though. Perhaps an August deal if this one falls through.

In the meantime, the Padres — in first place but plummeting — probably just go with Xavier Nady at first and have Nevin coming off the bench. That’s their leverage with Nevin at the moment, at least: You stay, you don’t play. Still, anyone banking on Nevin giving his OK to move to Baltimore is likely to be disappointed.

Which brings us back to the O’s. This is an opportunity here. If they fail to get something done this week, they’ll be regretting it. Last winter, it became pretty obvious it’s become a tough sell to get free agents to come to Baltimore, at least in part because the Red Sox and Yankees are in the same division. They need to get things done via trade, and this week’s huge for the stretch run as well as the future.

The Friar Shuffle

Joe Randa is headed to the Padres, and that may only be the beginning. With the NL West leaders stumbling and their division advantage shrinking, bringing in the veteran third baseman meant the demotion of a young third baseman and perhaps the pending departure of a veteran first baseman.

Reports first surfaced in the San Diego Union-Tribune on Saturday morning that Phil Nevin could be headed from San Diego to Baltimore for Sidney Ponson. OK, but don’t bank on Nevin waiving his limited no-trade provision, which includes the Orioles. Remember, he invoked his right before to nix a Ken Griffey Jr. swap. He might waive it this time, just don’t bank on it.

What this makes clear is that the Padres are motivated to move Nevin while they can — he’ll earn full 10-and-5 rights early next season, and they have other options at first in Xavier Nady and Ryan Klesko. Taking on Ponson is a heavy price to pay, though, and you’d think the Padres might have other takers for Nevin among the 21 teams not on Nevin’s no-trade list. Guess at the very least this puts Nevin on the market, no?

The Randa acquisition — even if he’s relatively cheap, especially for his production — does add about $1 million to the 2005 payroll. Padres owner John Moores has essentially said the club will have to move money to add money, so the Nevin rumors make some sense. Hmmm, and the difference in the contracts for Nevin and Ponson almost hit exactly what extra is picked up with Randa’s arrival. Hmmm.

Anyway, with this move that pushes Sean Burroughs to the Minors, the Padres don’t look like they’ll be standing pat while clinging to the division lead and the .500 mark at the same time. Looks like San Diego’s getting ready for some roster rumbling.

Red alert

Hard not to keep one eye on the Reds these days. Perhaps no other team has as much potential to trade a big hitter the next nine days.

With that backdrop, the Junior Conundrum reared its head the other day. Rumors began swirling that it might be Ken Griffey Jr. — not Adam Dunn, not Austin Kearns, not Wily Mo Pena — who gets dealt to a team looking for a big bat. And, to his credit, Junior said all the right things, keeping his focus on the present while understanding why moving him would make sense for the club.

If they could. But they can’t.

When HOF writer Hal McCoy says he spoke to scouts from 15 clubs, and none of them were there to scout Junior, that tells you something. Even the Yankees — desperate for a center fielder and seemingly the only team in baseball that could take on his monster contract — aren’t giving a sniff. Big money and too many injuries in recent years have conspired to make Junior appear stranded in his hometown. While he says he’d consider waiving his 10-and-5 right for the right club, getting all these stars to align seems like too much to ask.

Remember, though, the Reds did have a deal done to send Griffey to San Diego a couple of winters ago, but Phil Nevin’s no-trade clause nixed it. So it’s not as though the Reds wouldn’t have to consider it. Getting a partner, that’s the rub. Never say never, but … (It would be a doozy if they did.)

The Reds still have some stuff they can do, that’s for sure. They should be able to find a taker for Joe Randa (Padres? Twins?), and they could do themselves some good by picking up some young pitching for Dunn. He stands out as the most likely of the three to move simply because he’s the most marketable and he’ll be the most expensive to keep. Gotta say, the Dodgers and Dunn seem like a good match, though his hometown Astros could use him as well.

Meanwhile, we await the inevitable A.J. Burnett finale — O’s still seem like the best call, with or without Mike Lowell — and figure for the moment on the Yankees picking up Randy Winn to help out in CF.

A word on trading Ryan Howard

Don’t.

OK, here are a few more, hopefully with a little less of a glimpse of the obvious:

After watching Howard win Tuesday’s game for the Phillies with a 430-foot homer, it’s pretty easy to suggest Philly hang onto their top hitting prospect. Yes, the Phillies need a starter, but not at that price. Jim Thome’s in the way and on his way back in early August, but you need insurance against Thome’s health and bench strength if you want to contend this year. These are things the Phillies, who no doubt would move Thome’s contract now if they could, already appear to have decided. Howard’s off the market, from everything that’s being reported. (Seems like the first time in two years we’ve heard that.)

And maybe trading Billy Wagner isn’t such a bright idea at the moment, either. Things can change a lot in the next 11 days, but with the Phillies being five games out in the NL East and 3 1/2 games in the Wild Card, adding seems to make a lot more sense than subtracting at this point. As suggested by the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Jim Salisbury, maybe Cole Hamels could be the pitching solution and standing pat really might be the best option at this point for the Phillies.

That’s the kind of trading season this is shaping up to be. When it comes to big moves, there seem to be more reasons not to do things than to do them — nobody seems to want a rental, and nobody seems to want to give up prospects. So many teams are weighing their options still, and sellers keep on asking for the farm. Maybe the other shoe dropping on a Burnett deal will open things up — the little flurry last week didn’t exactly do it.

A.J. an O?

Two weeks ago it was Jason Schmidt. Now A.J. Burnett is the buzz name on the rumor mill, a power right-hander who could make the difference in a race. (But apparently not the NL East, unless the Marlins wind up making a run the next couple of weeks and hang onto him.)

Burnett’s name has been linked to several contenders, but the Orioles appear to have been most aggressive, with their greatest advantage being that they might also take on Mike Lowell’s hefty salary. The O’s could definitely use him, but so could the Red Sox — which is part of the reason why the Sox have come in with an offer that reportedly includes Bronson Arroyo. Also interested: the White Sox, Blue Jays and Yankees — and probably more than that.

A free agent after the season, Burnett is perfect fodder for July trade talks, and the Marlins are wise to shop him around as long as possible. Says here the O’s make the most sense at the moment, especially if they take on Lowell.

What’s left? Plenty

It’s on.

Thank you, Rockies, A’s and Nationals. You too, Sox. Finally, some trades.

The Rox and A’s did their two deals and the Nats and Sox did their part Wednesday, the only day without baseball all season long (ha, guess not). Now there’s a better sense of what’s coming down the pike here. These were all more than minor moves yet not blockbusters, and they give out a vibe that there could be some bigger moves to come. There are plenty of big names out there.

One thing that really stood out from all the moves was that big lefty Joe Kennedy went to Oakland and the A’s are saying he’ll start out in the bullpen. With 10 relief appearances and 115 starts on his resume, that’s enough to make one wonder what, if anything, the A’s might do before July 31. The knee-jerk reaction is now Barry Zito, at 27 also a big lefty but with more success and more money coming to him, is that much more vulnerable. The Padres would love to get him, but the A’s maintain they’re not looking to move him. Still, this gives one pause to at least think about it, doesn’t it? If they ever do it, it might be now, as long as they feel they can cover that spot in the rotation adequately and receive big pieces of the future who can also help for their suddenly rejuvenated present. Then again, they’ve enjoyed having two big lefties in the rotation before.

Anyway, it certainly seems like lefties are a big commodity in this season’s trade derby. Kennedy’s been dealt. Billy Wagner’s more a possibility with each Phillies loss. Seattle’s Eddie Guardado, Jamie Moyer and Ron Villone could be out there. The Pirates’ Mark Redman is very much out there. Al Leiter could be on his way out of Florida.

That’s just the lefties, folks. It’s getting hot in herre. (Did that just come off my fingers? What a dork.)

See? Told you Billy Beane would get something rolling, though it was Eric Byrnes not Mark Kotsay that was subtracted from the A’s outfield.

Seeing stars

Greetings from Detroit, home of the All-Star Game at Comerica Field and late-night Gyros in nearby Greektown. It’s been a busy few days already, and the stars haven’t even hit the field for the Midsummer Classic. While this isn’t a gathering place for baseball’s GMs to crank out the deals like Bobby Abreu cranks out homers, the rumor mill continues to churn during the "break." A little slower, to be sure, but it’ll get rolling again later this week as we head toward July 31.

Among the stars, a couple of lefties emerged in some reports as possible trade targets in the next few weeks — Kenny Rogers and Billy Wagner. The only other All-Star who really seems out there is Tampa Bay’s Danys Baez, but that figures with the Rays owning the worst record in baseball. Rogers or Wagner, however, would be blockbuster material.

With Rogers, a rift with management that began in the spring widened this summer and, he says, fueled his camera-bashing session. That makes an extension sound impossible, but the Rangers are still very much in the race, and Rogers is by far their best starter. They’d have to get a top starter back, and that’s a tough assignment. Seems to make more sense for the Rangers to hang onto him.

On the other hand, Wagner seems like much more of a possibility. He’s talking his way right out of Philly, and if the Phillies do decide to become sellers — and they’re very close — then Wagner’s definitely a guy contending teams would want. That’s one to watch.

OK, back to the stars. The trades will come soon enough.