With prize Lee gone, assessing the trade market for pitchers
The Texas Rangers acquired Cliff Lee from the Seattle Mariners last week
Dan Haren, Joakim Soria and Roy Oswalt are three possibilities
One GM says most of the players likely to be dealt are complementary pieces
With star left-hander Cliff Lee, the clear prize of this trading season, now off the board and a Texas Ranger, here are the best of the rest among the available, semi-available and perhaps available pitchers. Check back Monday for a list of position players who could be changing teams before the July 31 trade deadline.
There are still a few big-time hurlers who could go somewhere else, but for a variety of reasons may well stay put, including Dan Haren, Joakim Soria and Roy Oswalt. The pitchers more likely to be moved lack that kind of star power. "There are a lot of players available but they're mostly complementary pieces,'' is the way one NL GM summed things up.
Here they are, the ones who could still go someplace else:
1. Dan Haren, Diamondbacks, starting pitcher. One GM said he heard the asking price for Haren, who is reasonably salaried (he's due $12.75M next season) for a bona fide young ace and signed through 2012, is two starters plus bullpen help. Good luck identifying the team that can meet that price. Another GM said he concluded Haren isn't really available at all, but yet another GM insisted, "All their guys except (Justin) Upton and maybe (Ian) Kennedy are available." With Arizona wanting to revamp, there surely is some price for Haren -- though it's understandably high.
2. Joakim Soria, Royals, relief pitcher. It's a long shot that he'll go anywhere; the Royals are usually reluctant to trade off big pieces because they sometimes think they're still in contention even though no one else does. But if he becomes available -- and that's a big "if'' -- it'll be a feeding frenzy. Could help just about any team, starting with both New York teams, but not nearly ending there. A trade of Soria would "surprise,'' one competing GM said. "They do a very good job of believing they're in it every year,'' he added.
3. Roy Oswalt, Astros, SP. This, says one GM, is a "problematic'' trade. It appears no team, not even the Yankees or Red Sox, wants to spend the $25 million left on Oswalt's deal through next season. Plus, some GMs say they are under the impression Oswalt wants his $16 million option for 2012 picked up, which could be a deal killer for many, if not most, teams. And while the Astros have signaled they might be willing to contribute toward that amount, they'd want big-time prospects back to do so. Then there's the matter of Oswalt's no-trade clause. "I hear he only wants to go to a couple teams,'' one GM said. Oswalt demanded a trade but isn't making it easy.
4. Ricky Nolasco, Marlins, SP. Marlins executive Larry Beinfest said they will consider just about anything, and while Josh Johnson and Hanley Ramirez are assumed to be staying, they have other very good players who could help plenty of teams. The 27-year-old Nolasco, who is 9-6 with a 4.55 ERA, should have very good value.
5. Ted Lilly, Cubs, SP. A few GMs said they believe the Mets make the most sense. And they probably do, since Lilly has been a winner in the National League and seemed to enjoy his time in New York, where he pitched for the Yankees from 2000-02. His numbers and velocity aren't at their peak, but teams believe he's a bulldog and can help. And with $6 million remaining on his contract before he becomes a free agent at year's end, the Cubs might actually get a decent piece back for him. The Cubs aren't sellers yet, and some competing execs think that order would likely have to come from ownership. "Certainly, this is (Lou) Piniella's last year, and he can't be anxious to be a seller,'' one GM said. Even if they are, they're stuck with Alfonso Soriano ($136 million, eight-year deal runs through 2014), Carlos Zambrano ($91.5 million, five-year deal runs through 2012) and Kosuke Fukudome ($6 million to go this year and $13.5 million next year; "good luck moving that one,'' one competitor said.)
6. Fausto Carmona, Indians, SP. All-Star pitcher has had a nice turnaround, from 5-12 with a 6.32 ERA last year to 8-7 with a 3.64 ERA this year. "They like their rotation,'' said one GM who envisions Cleveland holding on to Carmona. Another noted that the club has three option years for 2012, '13 and '14 on Carmona, sand said, "They have to figure they'll be a factor within four years.'' Probably will stay.
7. Jake Westbrook, Indians, SP. Solid starter, who missed most of 2008 and all of 2009 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. In the words of one competing GM Westbrook "could be a year away from full strength."
8. Octavio Dotel, Pirates, RP. He's thrived in Pittsburgh's pen this year, and with Evan Meek there, he looks like an obvious trade chip. His original team, the Mets, could be a fit, as could several others.
9. Shaun Marcum, Blue Jays, SP. Another one in the speculative category, but opposing GMs are wondering. Though one said, "I don't think they'd move their young starters. That's what's gotten them where they are.''
10. Edwin Jackson, Diamondbacks, SP. The no-hit man isn't really an ace but he has a high salary (he's owed $8.35M next year) that will limit his value. But he's obviously pitching better lately.
11. Kevin Millwood, Orioles, SP. Solid veteran pitcher is being dragged down by Baltimore's awful season and is currently on the DL with a groin concern.
12. Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles, SP. Underachieving Orioles pitcher could appeal to someone.
13. Kevin Gregg, Blue Jays, RP. He's having a nice year closing for the Jays (20 for 23 in saves) and should be attractive, especially compared to the relief alternatives out there.
14. Jason Frasor, Blue Jays, RP. The set-up man could help a lot of teams if Toronto makes the decision to trade him.
15. Scott Downs, Blue Jays, RP. Toronto could be the star of this market, as a decent team that's clearly out of it.
16. Wandy Rodriguez, Astros, SP. He had a big 2009 but has struggled so far this year for the abysmal Astros, leading the league with 11 losses and posting a 4.97 ERA. No word on his availability yet except that Houston is said to consider almost anyone. Some team probably could see a turnaround coming.
17. Kerry Wood, Indians, RP. Big salary (what's left of a $10.5 million salary this year) and small production (1-4, 6.30 ERA, only eight saves) means the Indians would likely have to contribute toward the bottom line. Still, he does average almost one strikeout per inning and someone might see something.
18. Brandon Lyon, Astros, RP. Solid reliever is having a decent year (5-3, 3.66 ERA) but he has a steep contract ($15 million, three years) that runs through 2011, limiting his value.
19. David Aardsma, Mariners, RP. At 0-6 with a 5.40 ERA, he's fallen quite a bit from last year. Practically a giveaway now.
20. Chad Qualls, Diamondbacks, RP. He's having a poor year in Arizona but has a reputation for having a lot of guts and could work as a middle reliever for a contender.
21. Aaron Heilman, Diamondbacks, RP. The oft-traded reliever could have a touch of value.
22. Brian Bannister, Royals, SP. Weak season (7-7, 5.56 ERA)has decreased his value.
Cubs manager Lou Piniella is expected to retire when his contract expires at year's end, say people connected to the Cubs. For now, GM Jim Hendry, whose contract runs through 2012, does appear safe, as Cubs ownership said publicly.
The most likely candidate to replace Piniella could be Cubs icon Ryne Sandberg, who's been managing in the minors the past couple years. It's a tough job, though, so there could be some consideration to finding someone more experienced, such as Bobby Valentine, with Sandberg serving as bench coach.