July 28, 2011

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Time to Make Your Move

By: Joe Williams

With the MLB trade deadline approaching, several teams are going to have big decisions to make. Some teams are looking for the one piece to the puzzle that will get them into the playoffs (like San Fransico’s pending acquisition of Carlos Beltran). Others will try to cut payroll. And for a few teams, the next couple days will determine whether they will be buyers or sellers. Teams who need to make a deadline deal:

Cleveland Indians

Just four years ago the Indians were a win away from the World Series. They never got that win and Indian fans haven’t had much to cheer about since. Until now. Cleveland has been at the top of the AL Central for most of the season but now trail Detroit. The Central is up for grabs and the Indians should be in contention all season if they can add a quality hitter to replace the injured Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore. Hunter Pence is a name in the rumor mill but he likely comes with too high an asking price for Cleveland. A guy they could make a deal for is Melky Cabrera. He is hitting .295 with 12 home runs and 57 RBI this year. He would strengthen the lineup but would having three Cabrera’s in Cleveland be too many?

Inside Progressive Field Mural

Chicago Cubs

At 42-60, the Cubs are the most overpaid team in baseball. The roster is full of veteran players with monster contracts. They need to unload some of those contracts to speed up the rebuilding process. Kosuke Fukudome, Carlos Pena, Alfonsio Soriano and Carlos Zambrano all need to go at some point. The sooner the better for Chicago but because of their contracts, the Cubs will probably have to give up some cash to make a deal. They would do well to unload one of these guys this week.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates are the biggest surprise in baseball. Normally, when the MLB trade deadline rolls around, the Pirates have assumed their position at the bottom of the NL Central. Not this time. The team that hasn’t had a winning record in 18 year is at the top of the standings but need to get some help if they are going to win the four team race in the Central. Pittsburgh could use another bat in the outfield and some relief help.

Los Angeles Angels

They have their work cut out for them if they hope to catch the Rangers in the AL West. The Angels always seem to be in talks for the big-name free agents but never make the big splash. Maybe they pull the trigger here and land Hunter Pence. They rank 24th in runs scored so adding Pence would be a big boost to the lineup. They are also rumored to be after Padres closer Heath Bell which would give them a tremendous bullpen.

July 27, 2011

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The Anatomy of the MLB Trade Deadline

By: Rick Jarrell

The MLB trade deadline is quickly approaching, arriving July 31. This time of year, the Hot Stove begins to heat up and players begin changing teams; either to fill a hole for the playoff run or to make a move toward the future. Each team has different interests in mind this time of year. Here are a few types of trades you’ll see.

The Final Piece

This is the most publicized of trades. MLB teams in the playoff hunt that need an extra boost, whether it’s to win the wild card, division, or the World Series, often seek a marquee player to help propel them. In exchange, the seller will either receive prospects, salary relief, or both, depending on the quality of the player.

You’re final piece contestants this year are the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves. They’re going after Carlos Beltran (likely to be traded), Hunter Pence (not likely to be traded), and Jose Reyes (not likely to be traded).

Inside Yankee Stadium Mural

The Depth Play

Some MLB teams are fortunate enough to have every player they need to win it all (note this is extremely rare – teams can always upgrade at a position, it’s more of a question of whether or not it’s worth it). The better MLB trade deadline deal, then, is to shore up a weaker area of the team. An additional reliever is always a hot commodity, as well as gritty veterans that can come off the bench, play multiple positions, and hold themselves defensively. These transactions go largely unnoticed, but often make a larger impact that you’d expect.

Many playoff teams utilize this method – it’s an easy way to upgrade at a usually low price. Look for cash conscious teams like the Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, and Pittsburgh Pirates to seek depth to push their overall player quality higher.

Futurists

On the opposite end of the final piece and depth play scenarios are the futurists – MLB teams that are well out of the playoff hunt, but have players who would be valuable to playoff contenders. Quality of players will vary, as superstars obviously will make an impact, but specialists and veterans often have more value to a contender than a team in the cellar. The value the player provides the playoff contender usually determines how much the selling team gets in return.

Look for the New York Mets, Colorado Rockies, Seattle Mariners, and Tampa Bay Rays to trade some of their better players at the end of their contracts in exchange for prospects. Tampa Bay is especially good at doing this every year, so look for BJ Upton to potentially be on the move to make way for talent on the farm system. Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies has also been rumored, and would bring back very good prospects in return.

Salary Dump

The salary dump is another trading strategy on the other of playoff contenders. For whatever reason – be it ownership requests to reduce expenses, player request for trades, etc – teams look at the MLB trade deadline to get rid of their higher priced players. It’s also common for the current team dumping player salary to pick up a portion of the remaining pay, reducing the amount saved but still worthwhile in the end.

Look for the Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, and really any team out of the playoff race to dump significant salary. Unless they plan on offering an extension, a high priced player is wasted on a team just going through the motions, waiting on next season.

Players to be Named Later

This league rule has always been strange to me. How can you complete a trade with someone when you don’t know what you’re getting in return? The answer to that is this – the teams will agree on a list of players to choose from by a specified date, sometimes based on criteria like performance. These trades often don’t work out for the team receiving PTBNL. If they were that good, they would be demanded up front, right? But recently, I’ve noticed a few promising young MLB players who fall into this category, such as Michael Brantley of the Cleveland Indians.