- July 31st? No. August 31st? Maybe...
The trade deadline is approaching faster than the speed of Mike Francesa inhaling a Diet Coke while simultaneously contradicting himself and maintaining his trademark pomposity.
With that in mind, the rumors are flying everywhere. 99% of them are essentially meaningless junk thrown at the wall to give the lazy members of the mainstream media something to write about without having to do any actual work; of course some trades will be made----mostly by teams who've already fallen out of contention and have personnel/payroll issues. Those names are known: Cliff Lee; Roy Oswalt; Jake Westbrook; Ted Lilly; and Lance Berkman, among others; but what about teams that have some ancillary problems that need to be addressed----rampant injuries; pending free agents; bad behavior; a season going down the tubes?
Barring a total collapse, these teams won't dump the season in late July; but in late August? They'll be ready to deal and the names might be surprising, major difference makers in September and beyond as their current clubs try to salvage something before losing the players entirely.
Let's take a look at some of the names:
Jayson Werth, Philadelphia Phillies
With the number of injuries the Phillies have sustained, they have a choice: they can hold their fire and hope that the watered down National League will allow them to stay on the outskirts of playoff contention until they start getting their players back and make a run----very possible.
They won't do anything in July unless they have a disastrous month, but it must be remembered that the Phillies haven't made many friends around baseball over the past two years and if other clubs----even the cellar-dwellers----start smelling blood, it could get very ugly in Philadelphia as things come apart.
Jayson Werth's free agency has led to his name being bandied about in the media wondering whether he'll be traded and might even be available now. The Phillies aren't trading Werth now, in part because of Ruben Amaro's nightmarish decisions since the end of last season having resulted in their current predicament and that he won't want to make another stupid move to add to the list of reasons to criticize him; in part because it makes no sense to dump the season now----they could make a late-season run. But if they're 10 games out of first place by August 20th; 6 or so games behind several teams for the Wild Card, Werth will be available.
The teams that would be after Jayson Werth will be numerous. He'll have a hard time getting through waivers----in fact, he won't----but the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, White Sox, Angels and Padres would all be after Werth and he could be a major post-season factor.
Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay Rays
It's unlikely that the Rays will be out of contention in late August, but they've fallen behind the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East and have gone 17-22 since a 30-11 start.
That's a palatable lull----a hot start covers up a multitude of sins----but the B.J. Upton disciplinary issues exhibit a series of fissures in the Rays' clubhouse that could be glaring enough to affect them on the field. If you look at the lineup, Carlos Pena is hitting .196; Upton's been awful in his behavior and performance; Jason Bartlett's hitting .220----the Rays have more holes than people realize.
It could spiral fast and Carl Crawford is a free agent at the end of the season; the Rays have absolutely no chance of re-signing him. The same teams that love Werth would love Crawford as well. The Rays have shown the courage to make bold deals in the past and could get a lot for Crawford even as a rental. They'll have to decide if the draft picks they'd get for his departure are worth more than the trade offers, but Crawford could be in play in August depending on how things go.
Dan Uggla, Florida Marlins
He's making too much money to suit the Marlins and is going to make more as he exhausts his arbitration eligibility; he was discussed in trade talks over the winter before the Marlins were forced to spend more money on payroll by MLB (I'd still like the details of how that worked and why they agreed to the edict); and they're stumbling along playing mediocre baseball.
They kept Uggla in the winter, but they'll move him if they don't make a run into contention. Uggla is a basher who can play second base adequately despite his reputation as a bad fielder; he'd be an excellent DH for a team in need of a bat and played third base, first base and the outfield in the minors. Uggla's a free agent after 2012; he's no rental and is a fiery clubhouse leader who busts it every game and hits the ball out of the park. I also think he's one of the background guys who'd thrive in the playoffs.
I have a feeling Uggla's going to get traded.
Manny Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers
Manny has a full no-trade clause, but he'll get through waivers; the Dodgers are contending and should remain in contention, but a team teetering on making a legitimate run could use Manny's bat if he's healthy; plus he'd like a contract for next year (Manny's not retiring) and what better way to replenish his tarnished image than going elsewhere and helping a team win?
The Dodgers are dysfunctional, but Manny hasn't been one of Joe Torre's headaches; strangely, Manny's behaved himself for the most part with the Dodgers and, in an interesting bit of irony, while it was always his bat that let "Manny be Manny" and get away with everything inherent with that term of endearment/justification of misanthropy, Manny's bat and health are turning into the bigger problems.
The combination of a change-of-scenery to wake up his bat and Manny's expiring contract, plus a Dodgers fade could make him available by August 31st. A contending team could deal with Manny for a month----I think.
Brandon Webb, Arizona Diamondbacks
Webb is a free agent at the end of the year; has pitched in one game since 2008; and the Diamondbacks are in disarray. Webb will want to show he's healthy enough to warrant a guaranteed contract for next year; the Diamondbacks would love to get something for him. It would only take one or two starts (and not all that many innings) for a team to be willing to take a chance on Webb. It's win-win for all....if he can come back and pitch.
- The Mets dilemma:
While it would be sweet to add to the increasing derangement and bewilderment of the Phillies and their fans at what's befallen their team by seeing Cliff Lee in a Mets uniform, circumstances have to be taken into account. If renting Lee is going to cost the Mets a chunk of the farm system----a farm system that's proving to be far more productive than was thought during the off-season attacks levied at the front office----they have to seriously consider passing on the Stone Cold Killer.
Westbrook and Lilly aren't the top-of-the-rotation starters that the Mets want, but they'd eat innings and be serviceable enough to help. As for Oswalt, he's pitching very well and while he's making a lot of money ($18 million guaranteed after this season), that could be seen as an advantage if the Astros want to dump the salary, perhaps Oswalt can be had for little in terms of players and the competition won't be as fierce for his services as only a big market team can absorb the money; and is that $18 million out of line for an on-his-game Oswalt?
Getting Lee would be nice for the Mets, but the better choice right now might be Roy Oswalt.