The Los Angeles Angels may be in last place at the moment, but during a season where just about everyone's in a race (or thinks they are), the Angels are one of about 24 buyers. And despite their current place in the standings, five games behind the AL West-leading Athletics, the Angels could make the biggest purchase of any team this trade season: Alfonso Soriano.
There's just one problem. For Soriano, the Nationals requested a bona fide prospect plus John Lackey or Ervin Santana, exactly the sort of cost-efficient pitchers teams don't consider trading nowadays.
Well, actually two problems. The Angels are reluctant to dig into their superb stash of prospects -- Jered Weaver, Kendry Morales, Howie Kendrick, Brandon Wood, Joe Saunders, Jeff Mathis and Dallas McPherson -- for a three-month rental. They'd prefer to lock up Soriano if they can make a trade. But like just about everyone else, they view Soriano as an outfielder. But the question is: does Soriano?
This is going to be a big test for the Angels' practically pulse-less general manager, Bill Stoneman. (Isn't it great when the surname describes the man?) Historically, Stoneman has treated prospects like a father would a first born. Yet that's no excuse to be shut out of the Soriano derby considering the Angels have prospects to match almost any team (only Arizona arguably has a better farm system).
Nationals GM Jim Bowden has never been afraid to deal, so his talks with the perpetually reticent Stoneman would make for great reality TV. When Bowden was retained by Washington's new ownership group, he went from lame duck to baseball's key man in deadline trade talks. Beyond Soriano, Bowden has Livan Hernandez, Tony Armas Jr., Jose Guillen and maybe Nick Johnson to offer.
Soriano has kept his condo in northern New Jersey and would love to rejoin the Yankees, who are anxious for an outfielder to replace the struggling Melky Cabrera. However, one baseball official said there's "no match" with Washington because the Yankees are insisting on keeping right-hander Philip Hughes.
As the hard-throwing Hughes has become more untouchable, perhaps Lastings Milledge, the Mets' top position prospect, isn't quite as untouchable as he once was. Regarding whether Milledge could be traded, Mets GM Omar Minaya, the NL executive of the year so far, recently said, "Even Babe Ruth was traded.''
The A's requested both Milledge and pitcher Aaron Heilman for ace Barry Zito. But one person in the Mets ever-expanding front office -- incidentally, they've quietly hired longtime scouting guru Ramon Pena, formerly of the Tigers -- opined that while he might consider surrendering Milledge, they absolutely can't trade Heilman, who's played the good soldier by never complaining about his role as a reliever.
Heilman's stance, by the way, sharply contrasts with Pedro Feliciano, who forgot the first rule of middle relievers -- they should be seen and not heard -- when he publicly complained that manager Willie Randolph should have kept Darren Oliver in Monday's blowout loss.