July arrives this week, and with it comes the start of baseball's trade season.
We asked a handful of scouts and executives (they shall remain nameless because that's the way they like it when assessing rivals) how they believed things would shake out leading to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
All said it could be a slow month for several reasons:
Entering Friday, 16 teams were within six games of the wild-card lead in their respective leagues. That kind of parity creates a lot of hope and reduces the number of teams willing to deal talent.
The economy could also contribute to a slow month. Many clubs can't add payroll. (The Phillies are one that can. Have times changed around here, or what?)
Ultimately, the trade front could be sluggish because nearly every contender is looking for pitching, and there isn't much out there.
Let's take a look at how the month could unfold for all 30 clubs.
Phillies. They want pitching. Starter or reliever? "Doesn't matter. They're looking for anything they can get," a rival scout said. The Phils will get one. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. spent so much time talking to teams last week that it looks as if he has a BlackBerry growing out of his ear. The Phils have been all over Boston's Brad Penny - "I've seen Penny three times, and every time the Phillies have had someone there," a scout said - but the Red Sox might hold on to him in the wake of Daisuke Matsuzaka's trip to the DL and John Smoltz's shaky outing Thursday. They've kept tabs on Jarrod Washburn and Jason Marquis, but will resurgent Colorado want to deal Marquis? The Phils have even scouted Chien-Ming Wang, in case the Yankees make him available. For months, the Phils have been looking for a righthanded bat for the bench. "Why not keep John Mayberry Jr. up?" a rival scout asked. "He might be as good as anything out there and he won't cost anything."
Mets. Despite a rash of injuries to cornerstone talent, they're right in it, thanks to the Phillies' generosity/ineptness. Trades for J.J. Putz and Johan Santana have thinned the farm system, and outfielder Fernando Martinez appears untouchable. That will make it difficult to trade for a first baseman such as Aubrey Huff or Nick Johnson. For now, GM Omar Minaya appears content to ride out the month and determine if Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, and Putz can come back and be difference- makers in the second half.
Marlins. Teams could have had infielders Dan Uggla and Jorge Cantu a few weeks ago. Now the Marlins are back in it, and they might have the pitching to stay.
Braves. They've already added Nate McLouth and don't have the payroll space to do much more.
Nationals. Come and get it. Johnson, Julian Tavares, Joe Beimel, Cristian Guzman, Adam Dunn, and Ronnie Belliard could all be had.
Cardinals. They have holes in the bullpen and lineup. Albert Pujols has carried the offense. He could use some support. Matt Holliday would be an excellent addition, but the cost would be steep. They filled a void at third base by picking up Mark DeRosa from Cleveland late last night.
Brewers. They've got enough offense to make the playoffs again. There's no CC Sabathia out there, but like last year, Milwaukee needs another starter.
Cubs. "They're the best team in the division, they just have to start playing like it," a scout said. They need a bat, and they'll get one as third baseman Aramis Ramirez, out since May 9 with a dislocated shoulder, is expected back in the next two weeks.
Reds. If they fall out of it, they could have four pitchers that could help teams: Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, David Weathers, and Arthur Rhodes.
Astros. Owner Drayton McLane isn't one to wave the white flag, and even if he was he'd be reluctant to trade personal favorite Roy Oswalt. If the Astros fall out, they could move Tejada and Carlos Lee (if some team has the stomach to take the $55 million he's owed from 2010 to 2012). Relievers Jose Valverde and LaTroy Hawkins and versatile Geoff Blum could all have value if the Astros sell. But that's a big if because this club doesn't like to give up.
Pirates. Headed toward a record 17th straight losing season, the Pirates are already sellers, having sent all-star outfielder McLouth to Atlanta. Word is the Pirates would deal starter Ian Snell and listen on starters Paul Maholm, Zach Duke, and closer Matt Capps. First baseman Adam LaRoche, second baseman Freddy Sanchez, and shortstop Jack Wilson are all in play.
Dodgers. They'd like to add a starter, but don't have much room in payroll. The best team in the league might be content to go as is – unless the Giants make a big move and tighten the race.
Giants. They have the pitching. They need a bat. The perfect one - Holliday - is right across the bay. If the price for Holliday is too high, LaRoche, Huff, or Dunn could be a fit. The Giants are dangling lefty Jonathan Sanchez, but his value has shrunk as his ERA has risen.
Rockies. Amazing what a 17-1 stretch will do for a club. The Rox looked like sellers, but are now in no hurry to move pieces like Marquis after getting back into the wild-card race under interim manager Jim Tracy. "They've got a GM [Dan O'Dowd] and an interim manager both fighting to keep their jobs," one executive said. "Unless they collapse, I'd say they'll buy."
Padres. An ankle injury has taken ace Jake Peavy out of play in July, but don't rule out an August waiver deal (to the Cubs?) if he makes it back. Righthander Chris Young is nicely priced at $6.25 million for 2010, but he's not due back from a shoulder injury until after the all-star break and his ERA climbs outside of San Diego's spacious park. Scott Hairston could help a team (Phillies?) looking for a righthanded bat.
Diamondbacks. They would have moved ace Brandon Webb, but he's out with a shoulder injury. Starters Doug Davis and Jon Garland could be had. Relievers Jon Rauch and Chad Qualls could be attractive.
Red Sox. Sox management believes its 2004 title began when it shored up its defense by trading shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and replacing him with Orlando Cabrera, who is now with Oakland and very much available. A deal for the Pirates' Wilson seems more likely.
Yankees. After their wintertime spending spree, it could be a quiet month for the Yanks. They might add a bullpen piece.
Blue Jays. Too early to tell if they'll buy or sell. Either way, Roy Halladay isn't going anywhere. The Jays need to continue to build around him and see where it takes them over the next year. Halladay is eligible for free agency after next season.
Rays. They're hoping that pitchers Scott Kazmir, Brian Shouse, and Chad Bradford make a difference coming back from the DL.
Orioles. First baseman Huff and reliever Danys Baez, both free agents at season's end, could be dealt. Some teams are looking to get lefty closer George Sherrill, but the O's are in no hurry to move him and will look for a big return. Righthanded hitting Ty Wigginton would intrigue teams like the Phillies, but he's owed $3.5 million next season and the O's might need him at a corner infield spot in 2010.
Tigers. The Tigers would love to deal slumping outfielder Magglio Ordonez and add a bat, but no one will take his money. Of more intrigue: Will they release Ordonez and risk a grievance before he gets enough plate appearances to guarantee his $18 million option for next season?
Twins. They look like buyers. "They'd love to get a veteran starter," one scout said. "They looked into Peavy."
White Sox. Buy or sell? If they buy, they need a starting pitcher and a centerfielder. If they sell, they could offer power (Paul Konerko, Jim Thome, and Jermaine Dye) and bullpen arms (Octavio Dotel, Matt Thornton). Some scouts have heard closer Bobby Jenks' name thrown around.
Royals. They could move pitchers Gil Meche or Brian Bannister. Lefthanded reliever Ron Mahay would interest some clubs. Royals scout Mike Arbuckle has been watching the Phillies' triple-A team.
Indians. They're headed toward sell mode, as confirmed by their sending DeRosa to the Cardinals last night. Kerry Wood could be had, but he's expensive at $10.5 million in 2010. There will be a lot of interest in inexpensive righthander Carl Pavano. It's unclear if Cy Young winner Cliff Lee will be available, but if teams ask, they'd better be ready to surrender lots of young talent. One executive speculated that the Indians could move first baseman Victor Martinez, a gifted hitter, for a big score.
Rangers. The surprise Rangers are looking to bolster their pitching, but unless club president Nolan Ryan overrules GM Jon Daniels, the team will be protective of prospects. Their top prospect, gas-throwing righthander Neftali Feliz, has moved to the bullpen at triple A and could soon help in the majors. Orlando Hernandez, who might be older than Jamie Moyer, is in the system, and free-agent Ben Sheets remains a possibility.
Angels. "They're the best team in the division by a ways," an AL scout said. "They're just waiting to get healthy. They probably don't need to make a deal. Once they get their bullets back, I think they'll run away with it."
Mariners. Many baseball people believe that the M's have overachieved and don't have the offense or depth to stay in the race. They need a bat to keep hope alive. If rebuilding is their goal, they have pitching chips, led by Washburn and Erik Bedard. Bedard's trade viability will be dictated by his health. He has been on the DL with a shoulder injury and could return next weekend. Mariners scouts have been monitoring the Phillies' minor-league system, so watch this club.
Athletics. They have the best available bat in Holliday. Will they trade him for prospects? Or will they keep him, offer him arbitration, and try to recoup draft picks when he becomes a free agent? "I think they'll hang on to him and get the picks," one executive said. "He could cost $16 million in arbitration, but he'll reject it. He doesn't want to be there."