Where We At?
So have you checked the Major League standings recently? Leaving aside the American League West, which the Angels seem to have wrapped up, 11 teams are within two games of first place in their division, 12 teams are within three games and 13 teams are within four. It is going to be a remarkable stretch run here, folks, and I have a feeling we are in for a whirlwind couple of days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
Speaking of the deadline, it sure seems to be shaping up as a seller's market. Thirteen teams all have a realistic shot at the post-season and you cannot limit your analysis simply to assessing whether or not a need exists for a given team. If you are the Red Sox and you determine that Colorado is crazy for asking what they are for Brian Fuentes, in a normal market you could pass and hope for the best with what you have (a reasonable approach given that their 'pen was one of the best in baseball last year). But what if the Rays add Jason Bay? And the Yanks add Justin Duchscherer? If Boston were to stand pat, even though they would have the same formidable collection of talent, their chances of qualifying for October baseball would be diminished by Tampa and New York taking steps forward.
This isn't rocket science but it does serve to drive the price up for some seriously interesting commodities that figure to be available. If you think I am kidding on this "seller's market" thing, look no further than the Casey Blake deal the Los Angeles Dodgers struck with the Cleveland Indians. Jonathan Meloan has 335 strike outs in 263 Minor League innings. Carlos Santana is a catcher with a .279/.382/.456 career Minor League line and widely regarded as one of the very best catching prospects in baseball. Does that sound like the sort of booty a 35-year old outfielder with a career 106 OPS+ should fetch?
Anyway, stay tuned over the next few days. Some excellent players will be changing locales, while some teams without much of a prayer in 2008 have an excellent opportunity to set themselves up nicely for the future.