Saturday, July 26, 2008

Trades on the Horizon

  • The Yankees made a big trade yesterday, acquiring Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte from the Pirates in exchange for minor league outfielder Jose Tabata, and pitching prospects Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens, and Dan McCutchen.
    This isn't a season-maker for the Yankees, and I'm surprised that so many people are optimistic about this. Marte is a good lefty reliever (which the Yanks needed) and Nady is a good-hitting outfielder (which the Yanks also needed). But neither one is really that great. Nady is having a fantastic year so far, but he's never hit nearly this well in the past, and moving from the NL Central to the AL East should put a damper on his offense. Both men fill legitimate holes in the Yankee roster, but neither man is the impact player the Yankees could really use to make the postseason.
    The Yankees are also rumored to be pursuing Jarrod Washburn, for reasons that are beyond my understanding. Washburn has had a good run of starts recently, but on the year, he's got a 4.75 ERA with just 65 K in 110 IP. He's also nearing his 34th birthday, and he's been like this for a few years. He's a step up from Sidney Ponson, certainly, but that's setting the bar really low. Surely there's somebody better than Washburn out there for the Yanks.
    Some of the appeal may be in that the Yanks wouldn't have to give up much in prospects to get Washburn; if they just agree to pick up the rest of his contract, the Mariners will probably just settle for a B-level guy. But the difference between Washburn and Ponson is not significant enough to bother with, in my opinion, especially if it prevents the Yankees from getting a good pitcher before the deadline.
  • Word is that the Yankees have discussed Adam Dunn and Barry Bonds, but neither man is likely to don the pinstripes this year. Dunn's stock is absurdly low among GMs for some reason, and Bonds looks more and more like he might be the victim of collusion. He's cheap and productive and slots in perfectly for the Yanks. His defense isn't as bad as people think, and I think the negative media attention he'd attract has been overstated. Bonds and/or Dunn would be impact players for the Yankees, enough to seriously push them toward Boston and Tampa Bay. If they choose to pass on both men and settle for Xavier Nady, they will likely end up regretting it.
  • The Dodgers just acquired Casey Blake from the Indians for minor league catcher Carlos Santana and righty pitcher Jon Meloan. I think this is a bad move for L.A. Blake was overrated and was going to demand more than he was worth in return. Blake's greatest strength is his versatility and his ability to play all four corners while hitting decently. The Dodgers will likely use him at third, but their best option at third is Andy LaRoche, who's already on the team. And the only Dodger outfielder that Blake can safely out-perform is Juan Pierre, and that's not saying much. Again, the Dodger's baseball ops people, with extensive meddling from above and combative divisions within, has done a poor job, acquiring an overrated veteran and giving up two key young prospects. Jon Meloan has notched 335 strikeouts in 262.2 minor league innings. He's a big, scary right-handed reliever, and you can never have too many of those. Meloan was excellent every year in the minors before this one; his control has suffered, and his 60 walks allowed have swelled his ERA to 4.97 (albeit in a hitter's park). But giving up on Meloan now is fool-hardy. The Dodgers are looking at trading for guys like Huston Street, when they've got good relievers in their own system. Not only that, but if they were going to trade Meloan, they shouldn't have done it in the middle of a bad season and should have gotten more in return for it. The Dodgers also gave up Santana, who's considered to be a good prospect as well. Jayson Stark reports that this may be because the Indians sent along $2 million cash to pay Blake's contract. Are the Dodgers having cash flow problems, Stark wonders?
    A lot has been said in recent weeks about the terrible divisions in the Dodger front office that has kept them from making any unified decisions about what is best for the team.
  • The Indians made an odd move, trading for Cardinals pitcher Anthony Reyes for a minor league pitcher. The Indians must be thinking about next year, with the hope that they can harness his raw talent where the Cardinals could not. It's buying low, and it's not bad for a team that's going to need more starting pitching depth. It also gives them the chance to start evaluating and working with Reyes this year, when there's nothing at stake, rather than launching the experience in 2009 when they'll be hoping to contend.
  • Manny Ramirez has raised the hackles of the mainstream media again. My prediction? Manny's not going anywhere. Until after the season, when he'll be gone.
  • With the Yankees getting Nady, the Mets and Diamondbacks are now the two main contenders desperately in need of an impact bat. Jason Bay appears to be staying in Pittsburgh, but several other names have popped up in conversation. Randy Winn is one of the few Giants making big bucks, and he could fit in as a center/right fielder with some pop. A big question is money, as Winn is owed about $8 million next season. Raul Ibanez's name has come up recently as well. Ibanez makes some sense. He's not too expensive and wouldn't cost a great deal. But he's just an average-to-fair offensive left fielder, not at all the difference-maker that the Mets and especially the Diamondbacks could use. Again, I say: Barry Bonds is just sitting there.
  • A couple of teams are on the fence as to whether they should buy or sell. The team in the toughest position is probably Atlanta. The Braves have underperformed in relation to their talent this year and are capable of making a run. But there are three teams in front of them, and both the Phillies and Mets look to be fortifying themselves for a stretch run. The Braves could make a serious run by doing some buying, but they may be better served by shopping around Mark Teixeira just to see if they can get a good deal.
  • A.J. Burnett is still a possibility for teams that need a starter, but Burnett has an opt-out clause in his contract after this season. And considering his track record, there's no need to give up a lot to get him, given his inconsistency.
  • The Rumor Central claims that the Rockies are interested in Bronson Arroyo. I have no idea why.
  • The latest on Jorge Posada is that he's going to try and continue this season, but the damage to his throwing arm means he's done as a catcher, at least for this season. That helps solve one problem for New York (the 1B/DH dilemma), but it creates a gaping hole behind the plate. The Yankees are looking for catching, but that's always difficult, and you end up looking at guys like Paul Lo Duca and Rod Barajas.
  • The Astros may want to add more pitching via trade. Does Ed Wade realize that he's the new Dave Littlefield? Someone should break it to him. Maybe he can trade for Vicente Padilla, so he can acquire more players he remembers from his time in Philadelphia. And hey, you might as well call up Mike Schmidt and Jim Bunning to see how they feel.
  • Nationals GM Jim Bowden told reporters that he is going to non-tender injured closer Chad Cordero after the season. Jim, buddy -- you don't have to tell people these things! Wait until the time comes, and then make the decision. What the hell good does it do you to telegraph your decisions months in advance? I give up.
  • The Angels, despite the strong need for a power bat, are likely to stay put. That's what the Angels usually did under Bill Stoneman, and Tony Reagins isn't doing anything differently. Of course, you could argue that the Angels' attempts to stand pat and go with what they have hasn't gotten them very far. They've got a great development system, and if they could actually supplement it with some trades or even a couple more free agents, they might win another World Series. Instead, they're just lucky to be in the game's only 4-team division.
A couple more notes, unrelated to the trade deadline:
  • I saw these articles online recently and kept meaning to link to them here but kept forgetting. This is an excellent piece that says a whole lot of things that needed to be said. Especially in New York. And this one is an excellent look at the double standard applied to baseball and football in our society.
  • The MLB has recently released a collection of DVDs featuring "Vintage World Series Footage" of different franchises. It's a great idea, and I've got them all in my Netflix queue. The first one I got was the Detroit Tigers, and it was pretty good. There's a great wealth of things they could have included as special features, but incredibly, the DVD has no special features. All you get are recaps of the 1945, 1968, and 1984 World Series, which are admittedly quite fascinating.
    But I noticed something that really unsettled me. In the 1968 recap, narrator Curt Gowdy was introducing some of the key members of the Tigers team that year. When he introduced Willie Horton, he referred to him as the team's "strongboy." That struck me right off as racist. Have you ever heard the term "strongboy?" No. The term is "strongman." And I don't believe it's a coincidence that Curt Gowdy, a very well-spoken man, would choose to depart from the phrase everyone knows and make up one that's never existed before. Unless, of course, he was thinking of Horton's race. I don't mean it was necessarily derogatory; but if you generally refer to a black man as "boy," that's likely to come out in everyday conversation. The only other explanation is that Gowdy misspoke in a manner that makes no sense, making up a word that doesn't exist while coincidentally referring to a black man.
    You learn a lot about the times when you watch these old films, produced during the period. Not all of it is pleasant.

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