Complications Abound in the 2011 Trade Market

There is an East Coast bias in the standings this year, and it’s affecting the trade market. There are four teams in baseball with 50 or more wins, and they’re all from their respective East divisions. The Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, and Braves appear as dominant as their records indicate. Each either holds a division lead or a decent-sized edge in the Wild Card standings. That could complicate matters when it comes to meting out the buys and sellers later this month. If the Wild Card is unattainable, we could see fewer teams acting the part of contenders.

Another issue plays into the slow market this year: there are only 10 teams that are four or more games under .500, and only eight teams haven’t yet reached 40 wins. That doesn’t make all those close-to-.500 teams buyers, but it will certainly make them less reluctant to trade significant players.

The issue of dominance in the east affects at least a half dozen teams. The Rays beat the brunt of it, as has been the case for the third best team in the AL East for the past three-plus seasons. At 47-39 they have the third best record in the AL, but they’re currently out of a playoff spot. Since they’re within 3.5 games of the Wild Card they still stand a chance, but they have limited funds with which to add players, and both the Yankees and Red Sox are veritable powerhouses. They certainly aren’t sellers, at least of significant players (e.g., James Shields), nor are they active buyers. In another division they might scrape together a few dollars to help shore up a weakness, but with those two teams ahead of them it just doesn’t seem likely.

The other two divisions in the AL feature some close competition. Three teams are within 3.5 games of the Central lead, and given how much ground the White Sox have made up in the past month it’s easy to see them further closing the gap. In the West the Angels and Rangers are tied atop the division, with the Mariners just 2.5 games back. Perhaps in another environment we’d see more activity from these teams, but with the Wild Card not a realistic possibility, at least not as we approach the trade deadline, these teams might be reluctant to make a significant prospects-for-players deal. The future cost of those prospects might not be worth the trade-off, since there is only one playoff spot for each set of three teams.

The NL features a similar picture, minus the third dominant team in the East. There are four teams within four games of the NL Central crown, and two teams are going at it for the NL West title. Perhaps the Giants or the Diamondbacks will make a big move, since they’re two teams competing for two spots. In the Central, though, the picture is much less clear. While it would in one way behoove the Cardinals, Pirates, Brewers, and Reds to make a deal and perhaps establish dominance in the division, it is in another way a difficult move to justify. That’s four teams going for one playoff spot, making the odds longer for each team. Trading significant prospects for veterans and then missing out would be a major failure for the organization.

The preceding assessment is based not only an intuitive feel for the standings, but also of the current activity in the market. We haven’t seen any trades of even modest impact to this point, and there doesn’t appear to be anything imminent. Every time my MLB Trade Rumors RSS feed beeps I check it in earnest, yet find little more than low-level rumors. It appears that teams are playing it safe this year. This is not only related to the closeness of the division standings, but also of there being so few remarkably bad teams. There just doesn’t seem much to sell.

As we get closer to the deadline the outlook will certainly change. Perhaps at that point the Cubs, Dodgers, Marlins, Astros, A’s, Twins, and Orioles will be more willing to party ways with useful veterans. But browse their rosters for a moment. How many players would they be willing to trade at all, and how many would they benefit even modestly from trading? The Dodgers, for instance, aren’t trading Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier, and probably won’t get anything good at all for Casey Blake. Further, how many of their players are actually tradable? Take the Cubs, for instance. They have a few players they’d love to trade, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano, but they’ll find zero takers there. It seems these complications are more prevalent this year than in the past, and it could dampen the market.

The one caveat here is that the dampened market might embolden one team to make that big move in an attempt to get ahead of the pack. If the rest of the league is acting timidly, maybe the Reds or the Tigers dip into their prospect barrel and swing a big, unexpected deal while their opponents stand relatively pat. That’s what we all want to see; the more activity at the deadline the better. But chances are it will come from just one team that sees a specific opportunity. There’s just too much caution at this point to expect significant dealings.

In the next three weeks we’ll absolutely see players change hands, but it probably won’t be game-changing names. Maybe Kansas City deals Melky Cabrera or Jeff Francoeur, and maybe Oakland deals one of its many outfielders, but none of them is going to turn one of those divisional rivals into a powerhouse. They might not even be full-time starters in their new homes. There’s a chance for something big, an unexpected move from one of those teams in tightly contested races. But given what we’ve seen so far and the names we’ve heard as available, it doesn’t appear very likely. We could be in for a low-activity deadline.




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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


33 Responses to “Complications Abound in the 2011 Trade Market”

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  1. Eminor3rd says:

    Laaaaaame

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  2. Mr Punch says:

    All true – but at least one of the “dominant” teams, the Red Sox, are potential buyers if they can find a partner. At this moment three of their five projected starters are out, one permanently; one is ineffective; and the fifth has some history of second-half fades. Plus, of course, they badly need a RH bat.

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    • Anon21 says:

      This might be a good candidate for a deal between “powerhouses.” The Braves are ridiculously flush on starting pitching, but have an offense woeful even by this year’s standards. Might the Sox make Ellsbury available for the right package?

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      • John says:

        No. The Red Sox are not trading their best outfielder and one of the top leadoff hitters in the league.

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      • SoxFanForsyth says:

        No chance the Sox make their all star, cost controlled CF available. They don’t need a front line starter. They need a back end starter, one that won’t cost much.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        I don’t think Atlanta is trading anyone the BoSox would want. My guess is even though Atlanta is high on their prospects/youngins, it’s one of them that gets traded. Hanson, Jurrjens, Lowe, and Hudson all have value as being either proven, really really good this year, or playoff experience. Teheran and Minor are probably off limits too.

        So that leaves (maybe) beachy, JJ Hoover, Arodys Vizcaino, or Randall Delgado. My guess is it’d either be Hoover or Vizcaino that gets traded if anyone along with maybe a SS since they have like 4 in their system that are athletic and raw.

        None of that sounds like something Boston would want, plus most players Boston has that Atlanta would want are either too expensive for the Bravos or too cheap, good, and young for the BoSox to part with. Although as a Braves fan I think Ellsbury for Lowe would be awesome.

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  3. Chair says:

    The Dodgers should trade Ethier. They can wait until the offseason, and probably the 12 deadline. However it seems like it would be a mistake to sign him to a long term contract. Outfielders abound in LA, but they lack infielders. Trading Ethier who is one of the few Dodgers with trade value is the obvious solution.

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  4. Franco says:

    Hey, an upside for rooting for a mediocre team (Mets) is that this kind of article is a positive. Maybe we can get something useful for Capuano, KRod and Beltran.

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    • Jon says:

      Capuano might bring something back (maybe more likely from an NL team), but who else would they throw into the rotation at this point? Misch? Familia? Even if for only two months, management probably wants to hang on to their capable major league starters.

      It would be nice if someone takes K-Rod, though. Notwithstanding the Mets’ current record, maybe with Reyes joining Wright and Davis on the DL there will be an excuse for a sale.

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  5. Go To War Miss Agnes says:

    One would think/hope the Orioles will be sellers, and they have some decent assets in Hardy, Guthrie, Uehara, and perhaps Reynolds.

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  6. Brent says:

    I think 2 or 3 Astros are going to get traded. Pence, Bourne or Wandy, perhaps. There seems to be a really obvious Bourne to Atlanta trade that could improve the Braves a lot, if I had to bet on one trade, I think that would be it.

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  7. Jim Thome is still a pretty good slugger and remember what he did for the Twins in the second half last year. I think he can be a factor that someone like the Rays can pursue.

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  8. mike wants wins says:

    I’d love to see the Twins be sellers, but I don’t see it happening as long as they are “this close”. Thome, Kuble, Young (pls, someone), Cuddeyer (can’t see it happening), Slowey (when healthy a legit number 4, someone should want him), Capps (oops), Nathan should all be available. But I’m not sure what any of them are worth.

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  9. William says:

    Reyes?

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  10. Chris says:

    How do 2 AL East titles and an AL pennant make the Rays the third best team in the AL East the last 3 years. With a comment like that, it is hard to take this article seriously.

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    • chuckb says:

      You know, whether or not you agree with it, it’s still a reasonable comment to make. It’s ok to make reasonable comments that people will disagree with. That fosters good discussion. People shouldn’t have to check in with Chris first to see if he agrees with everything before they hit “post.”

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    • Anon21 says:

      That’s not what he said. He said that “the third best team in the AL East for the past three-plus seasons” has borne the brunt of the current divisional imbalance. That team was Boston last years, the Rays before that, and the Yankees in 2008. The point is that whoever that third-best team ends up being, they often end up with a record good enough to win one or both of the other two divisions, screwed by the current league structure.

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  11. chuckb says:

    Further complicating things is the Dodgers’ ownership situation. They could move Kuroda and Furcal and get something decent, if unspectacular, in return but that would require them eating some of their respective salaries (particularly in Furcal’s case). But will they be able to eat any salary given their limitations and the fact that they’ve basically been co-opted by MLB? If not, those 2 likely won’t be traded or, at the very least, will go for minimal return.

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    • momotigers says:

      Both Kuroda and Furcal could go to a team willing to eat the salary. As a Tigers fan, I’d love to have Kuroda and I think the team has payroll flexibility to add his 6M remaining. Many of the teams buying SP won’t balk at his salary (think NYY, BOS, LAA, TEX).

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  12. Antonio Bananas says:

    I would like to see a master list of sellers, what they’d be looking for, and what they’d sell along side a list of buyers, what they’d be looking for, and what they’d sell.

    I agree with a guy a ways up, Bourne to Atlanta sounds perfect. What does Atlanta have? Shitloads of pitching and pitching prospects. What do they need? A leadoff man who plays in the OF. The Stros? They want basically any prospect, they’re rebuilding and you can never have too many prospects. They have a great leadoff CF.

    Most other contenders are looking for pitching. Atlanta is the only team with a surplus, so I’m guessing they wait until teams get despirate.

    I can maybe see the Cardinals trading Shelby Miller to San Diego for Heath Bell or even for a SP. Yea he’s basically their whole system but having one great pitching prospect in a bad system is like putting really nice rims on a crappy car. Plus the Cards are “win now”. They can, if they really intend on resigning Pujols and Waino, keep winning.

    Gonna be fun to see what’ll happen if Colorado slips a bit more. Or if Pittsburgh has a 5 game winning streak.

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      cardinals also have an abundance of outfielders. I’m wondering if they could pair with Atlanta too. Rasmus for Lowe? Or maybe Rasmus for a pen arm (not named Kimbrel or Venters), Schafer/McLouth, and Hoover? I suggest McLouth because LaRussa seems to like vets and gets more out of them than kids. I can see LaRussa hating Schafer. Schafer’s halfway cocked hat in his profile picks is enough to piss him off I’d bet.

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      • hk says:

        I can’t see the Cards – even with LaRussa’s seeming dislike for Rasmus – selling him for an old, highly paid veteran like Lowe or a second tier reliever. If Rasmus gets traded, he seems more likely to go to one of the sellers. Maybe STL will trade Rasmus to HOU (for Wandy?), thereby enabling them to trade Bourne (possibly to ATL for young pitching per your original post) and/or Pence.

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      • JT Grace says:

        I’m a Braves fan but you are seriously underrating Colby Rasmus. First, he’s not available. 2nd, even if he were, that is horribly bad trade offer. He would take something along the lines of Minor, Vizcaino, Schafer and Lipka. Possibly that wouldn’t even be enough.

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      • chuckb says:

        @ hk — you think that the Cards won’t trade Rasmus for Lowe, an old, highly paid veteran, but would trade him to Houston for Wandy? Is Wandy not an old (32) highly paid ($10+ M per season) veteran?

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        Plus, HK, Lowe is more of a LaRussa type of player than Wandy. I think you’re severely underrating the amount of pull LaRussa has with that team. If you are a young and talented player, you are not welcome. Ask Brendan Ryan. Sure he’s not Rasmus, but he is a great fielder and better than whatever group of vets they are trotting out there now for Jeteran type of defense.

        I can see STL trading Rasmus and Rasmus exploding somewhere else. I truly believe that LaRussa has hindered Rasmus’ growth because he (LaRussa) is such a grumpy old man.

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    • JT Grace says:

      There is ZERO chance the Cardinals trade Shelby Miller for Health Bell (or any other relief pitcher). Do you think the Braves would trade Julio Teheran for him? Miller is just as untouchable as Teheran.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        I’m not underrating rasmus. I listen to STL and MO radio stations, fans and radio hosts hate Rasmus. So I assume it trickles out of STL somehow. I DO assume that the Cards FO is smarter than the average Missourian though.

        As for Miller, I think the Cards could steal a deal with him. A TON of pitcher fail. He’s not Strasburg, he’s not Teheran. He’s close. He’s very very good and has pitched well in AA (I live in Springfield where he pitches at the moment). However, only 1 pitcher is a gamble. Atlanta isn’t really gambling on Teheran. If his arm falls off, they have Hoover, Minor, Beachy, Delgado, Medlen, and Vizcaino. At least one of them, more than likely 2-3 will be effective big leaguers.

        I do think STL should trade one of their outfielders. They could probably get something decent for even the lesser ones.

        Like I said, make a list of contenders and sellers. List their “needs” and what they’d be able to trade. Then just match up the blocks.

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  13. I see the Red Sox making a move for Hunter Pence. they need production out of right field and Pence could certainly mash in the hitter friendly environment.

    It’d be something including Jed Lowrie, Ryan Kalish, and a pitcher of some sort like Kyle Weiland or Anthony Ranuado.

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