Line forms to the right
Keep hearing how this will be another slow trading season because so many teams are in contention, there won’t be enough sellers to fuel a hot market.
Please … Take an online course in Economics 101. Supply-and-demand and all that. Having 22 of the 30 teams in hot pursuit of October will jack the price of help, not eliminate it.
In other words, this is a great time to be GM of the Royals, or of the Pirates, or of the Nationals. (Hey, maybe the only time that is great.) But those guys will spend more time atop sports sections the next two weeks than their teams have spent atop the standings the last decade.
Know how you can swallow all those reports that full control of the Yankees is what convinced Brian Cashman to sign a new contract with them? Philip Hughes is still in their organization, that’s how.
In the old days, with his lineup disintegrating (Hidek Matsui, Gary Sheffield), it’s a slam-dunk cinch that George Steinbrenner would have ordered moves for some high-profile reinforcements.
But the first name Cashman kept hearing in exploratory trade talks was that of Hughes, the 6-foot-5 right-hander who just turned 20. Cashman places a heavier premium on prospects than the Steinbrenner Yankees have historically — just look at some of the fresh faces in this clubhouse — and held firm.
The Red Sox’s "true" trade deadline for reinforcing their rotation could come two weeks earlier than for others. Try July 15, Saturday: It’ll be Curt Schilling’s turn, but there is growing doubt whether the liner he took off the elbow in his last start will allow him to take the mound. So, right now, Theo Epstein is working on a different clock than his competition. … Schilling’s rebuff of a late invitation to replace Jose Contreras on the AL All-Star Team was a dead giveaway of his condition. Red-light Curt missing a chance to show up among hundreds of cameras and microphones? Call the doctor.
Choices for Boston — and, for that matter, anyone shopping for pitching — are ample. MLB teams have had eye-popping success injecting youth, even green youth, into rotations. Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver, Francisco Liriano, Josh Johnson, etc., etc. The trend will embolden GMs into moving some marquee veterans.
The market includes Jason Schmidt (Giants), Livan Hernandez (Nats), John Smoltz (Braves), Jon Lieber (Phillies), Greg Maddux (Cubs), Rodrigo Lopez (Orioles) — and Barry Zito of the A’s and Dontrelle Willis of the Marlins, two who stand out in this crowd because (a) they’re in their 20s and (b) they’re left-handed.
Billy Beane is agonizing over Zito. The conditions are perfect for the high future-payoff deals on which Oakland’s GM feasts. But how can he leverage his ace with the A’s in first place? He’d get a public hammering — more by fans than by the media, who understand his agenda.
And why is Willis on that list? Hasn’t everyone in Florida but Gov. Bush declared him "untouchable"? Hah! Baseball’s last true Untouchable was when Eliot Ness was playing Little League. Willis will move not because he is a luxury to the surprising Marlins, but because they’re up to the gills in pitching prospects.
Don’t expect either Pat Burrell or Bobby Abreu to be leaving Philadelphia — unless it’s in a Brinks truck along with bags of money. Burrell is set to make $13 million next season, Abreu close to $20 million — those are some big numbers, bigger than the ones in their home run and RBI columns.