Who's Buyin', Who's Sellin'?
I want to start off by revisiting this piece from earlier in the season when I solicited some individual performance predictions for the halfway mark.
Commenter Richard nailed Jeremy Guthrie, Justin Morneau, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson (among others).
I will be doing a comparison of early season leaders and year-end standouts to demonstrate that a baseball season is indeed a marathon and not a race at the regular season's end. I will also be pointing out some more of our prescient readers.
Today's order of business is a look towards the trade deadline.
I came up with my own very unscientific and rough guide to help me rank the teams that ought to be buying and selling between now and the July 31 Major League Baseball trade deadline. I tried to consider a way in which I could combine what a team's realistic chances of reaching the post-season were with their organizational depth and wherewithal to withstand a hit to the farm system.
If you are good and have a deep system, you buy. You have a shot to win and the strength from which to deal. If you have no chance to win and your farm system stinks, you sell. You need fresh young talent and you have no shot anyway. If you fall somewhere in between these two categories, you in all likelihood hold tight unless bowled over by an offer.
In order to come up with this system, I am leaning heavily on Baseball Prospectus. Specifically, I reference Clay Davenport's Postseason Odds Report and Kevin Goldstein's pre-season organizational farm system rankings. In combining each team's post-season odds ranking with their farm system one, I have come up with the following list. The lower the figure, the more sense it would seem to make for that team to be considering buying. The higher the figure, they should be considering all out firesale mode so as to try and stock up for the future. Without further ado...
Below I will profile some of the more interesting situations. Teams about which I do not have anything thoughtful to say, I will skip over.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Their two biggest problems right now are their two most famous players. Nomar Garciaparra and Juan Pierre are killing this team. Since internal solutions abound on the offensive side, there is no real need for them to go out and get another bat. Instead what they ought to be thinking about is adding a starting pitching arm. With Jason Schmidt's status in jeopardy and the fill-in combo of Mark Hendrickson and Hong-Chih Kuo proving catostrophic, it's time to look externally for help. Roy Oswalt, Jose Contreras or Dontrelle Willis are some of the names that could make some sense.
Los Angeles Angels
Like their Southern California brethren up the freeway in Los Angeles, the Angels could use another arm. Now that Halos' fans long, Orange County-wide Shea Hillenbrand nightmare is behind them, there really is not a glaring hole in the offense. But then, is Garret Anderson really the answer? I suppose an extra bat would be nice, but even nicer would be someone pitching better than Ervin Santana and Bartolo Colon have been. Jermaine Dye could be a solid addition to the offense, while Mike Maroth and Steve Trachsel could be under-the-radar boons for teams looking to be a bit thrifty around the deadline.
With a strong lineup and a lights out bullpen to turn to, it's hard for me to say of the Brewers should really be looking to pick up another arm or not. Ben Sheets's injury hurts, but Yovani Gallardo slides in. Unfortunately this does little to solve the problems that Jeff Suppan and Chris Capuano constitute. Both have been in free-fall mode for about two months now. Perhaps a look at one of the lower cost options I mentioned above might be worthwhile. I wonder what the Red Sox would want for Kason Gabbard, who has looked tremendous of late and figures to lose his rotation spot anyway once Curt Schilling returns.
Boston Red Sox
A difference making starting pitcher would do the trick, but there is no sense in courting a lower cost option because of the depth Boston possesses in Gabbard, David Pauley,Clay Buchholz, etc. Mark Buehrle would have been a nice option, but that is obviously off the table. Oswalt or Willis might make some sense. As for their offensive problems, they will have to fix themselves. There are no better options that offer better chances of improvement for the Red Sox than Julio Lugo and J.D. Drew turning things around. Coco Crisp should be better too, and if not, Jacoby Ellsbury provides some nice insurance. A bullpen arm like Eric Gagne or Brad Lidge could help, but Boston's bullpen is hardly a weakness. They have the organizational depth to deal but may be best served by letting their own players sort out their problems.
New York Mets
Like the Red Sox, the Mets are imperfect but it is difficult to identify the right deal. Their hitting is very good and should only get better with improvement from Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. Their starting pitching is excellent. With Aaron Heilman struggling at times, however, perhaps a bullpen arm would make sense. I look for Omar Minaya to targer a reliever in the next couple weeks.
New York Yankees
With Phil Hughes set to re-join the rotation, the Yanks will get the best deadline pickup of anybody. In addition, they might want to consider upgrading their 1B situation. They have neglected the position all year long and their offense has suffered for it. Should Mark Teixeira and Hughes be in pinstripes come August 1, the Bombers immediately become one the very most formidable clubs in baseball. Will it be enough to overcome the hole they find themselves in?
If the Tigers get an outfielder and a reliever, they could cruise to a World Series. Craig Monroe kills them, and so does their bullpen. The Phillies seem to be the most sensible partner. I wonder what a package of either Pat Burrell or Aaron Rowand along with Ryan Madson would take. Whatever it is, the Tigers have it in their system.
I don't think the Tribe needs to do a whole lot. Like Boston, the most likely solutions to their problems will come simply from improvement. Josh Barfield has to get better, and some combination of their corner outfield talent will emerge as formidable. Like so many other teams, if they want to tinker, they might send a modest offering to another club for a relief arm. Other than that, I think Cleveland looks good to go.
Arizona is in such good shape for the future that it would be a shame to see them mortgage any of it for an unlikely run at 2007 glory. The temptation has to be there for them given that they find themselves just 3.5 games out of a playoff spot. Still, their pythagorean record suggests they are playing well over their heads. If I am Josh Byrnes, I hold tight, take my chances with the guys I have (a number of whom very well may pick it up in the second half) and at worst, gear up for one hell of a ride in 2008 and beyond.
The Braves are two games out of the playoffs at the moment but with Jarod Saltalamacchia graduated to the Bigs, their farm system does not have a ton to offer. Further, they figure to be a better club in the second half with Salty taking time from Scott Thorman and improvement coming from Andruw Jones. If they were so inclined, they could make a bargain play for a starter but there is no need for the Braves to make a big splash.
For what it's worth, I think you can slot Seattle, the Cubs and San Diego in with Atlanta as well. Sure, all could use a Big League addition or two to help spring their stretch runs but these teams are no slam dunk to make the post-season, and none of their farm systems boast the requisite depth to even net a pennant race changer.
I think you are going to see the A's involved in the trading market in a big way. Mike Piazza is a bat that a number of teams would covet, Dan Johnson is expendable with the emerging Daric Barton waiting in the wings and Chad Gaudin is a screaming "sell high" candidate with the spiffy ERA and 8-4 win-loss record and the mediocre peripherals. What's more, the A's system for the first time in a while is lacking imminent impact players.
Steve Trachsel would help a lot of teams and for those prospect-laden clubs who find themselves one decent starter short of championship contention like the Dodgers, Angels and Brewers, Trachsel could net a lot in return. Even though he is signed to a less than favorable deal, Chad Bradford is a guy the O's would be wise to dangle.
San Francisco Giants
Add Matt Morris to the list of under-the-radar starters that could be a real difference maker down the stretch. Far be it from Brian Sabean to deal a cagey veteran like Morris for some youth but even Sabes might see that you have to strike while the iron is hot. Morris could help any number of clubs in need of another starting pitcher.
It might feel like they are still contending but they really are not. In Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, they have their core. They are so close to being a contending team, too, that a savvy deal this season could make all the difference for 2008 and beyond. Rowand, Burrell, Madson and Jamie Moyer could all fetch worthwhile talent. How Pat Gillick plays this trade deadline will be critical to Philadelphia's future success.
The Rangers also have a great opportunity to set their future squads up. Mark Teixeira and Eric Gagne are sure to net a lot in return, and Kevin Millwood could do the same if Texas is willing to eat some of his contract. Jon Daniels has had a rough start to his tenure in Arlington but he was awarded an extension through 2009. This deadline will go a long way in determining if he is there into the next decade.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are getting old and there is very little in their farm system to get excited about. Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter constitute a nice start, but from there they need to rebuild. Dangling Russ Springer, Mike Maroth and Jason Isringhausen might be some good first steps in restoring the Cardinals.
Chicago White Sox
Like the Rangers, the Pale Hose have some nice chips to try and set themselves up for more success in the coming years. Dye, Contreras, Jon Garland and Jose Contreras all will have appeal to teams looking to add a player to push them over the hump.
Brad Lidge. Roy Oswalt. Given their recent run of success, it would be hard to imagine the 'Stros without these two guys but who better to deal in order to yield the greatest return. Lidge should be a goner even with a modest offer on the table but another club would have to really wow me in order to part with Oswalt.
The worst team in baseball has the worst farm system in baseball. This makes things challenging, particularly as they get set to move into a new ballpark in 2008. Still, with Dmitri Young having an excellent year and Chad Cordero firing on all cylinders as usual, they have two chips to try and set themselves up. Young would make a nice addition as the Angels DH while teams far and wide should be lining up for Cordero. Let's see what Jim Bowden will do.
It would be great to here from readers on how they think their favorite teams should be approaching the deadline.