A mid-summer coin flip Q & A


As we recover from the old mid-summer coin flip, prepare for the final days of potential July trading, and with my mid-season reports up and ready for your review, I figured a quick question and answer segment might be in order. Please bear in mind, this is sort of a support piece. Some of these items I discussed when going on and on about the American League and the National League at the 80-game marks. Others will be dated about as soon as I post it… when some unexpected team makes some unexpected trade and blows apart my thoughts of how things will play out.

(And yes, these are fake questions I made up all on my own to fit some of the stuff I wanted to mention…)

Do you really think Roy Halladay won’t be traded just because you’re convinced Boston and New York won’t go after him?

Good question. Really good question.

See… I’m not buying the crap about Toronto not wanting to trade within the division. As it is for any of the other 27 teams in baseball, the market for Toronto’s talent is just better when Boston and New York are involved in the bidding. When… for whatever reason… the Red Sox and the Yankees care, it matters. And also, if either of those teams stepped up with prospects the Blue Jays liked, I don’t think they should be too concerned about pulling the trigger.


Well… look at it this way. Depending on the schedule, Toronto has approximately 27 games to play against Boston or New York in 2009 and 2010. Barring some amazing circumstance, that’s the amount of time before Halladay becomes a free agent. So let’s divide that out… over four-game and three-game sets… and say that means they meet eight different times against those clubs. How many starts is that for Halladay? Five? Seven? How many starts in Toronto? Three?

If the best offer for him… the best acceptable offer for him… comes from withint the division, there is just no reason the Blue Jays should turn it down because they may have to play against Halladay in Toronto three times and go through six or seven facing-him-again media frenzies.

But… funny enough… I don’t think Boston or New York plan to make the best offer to Toronto.

In this case… I don’t think those two clubs care. New York doesn’t have enough to trade, and frankly, has too many other problems… both talent based and financial… to solve before adding what could become another $100 million contract to their stable. Boston simply doesn’t want to part with as much as it will take for a luxury addition. They need offense, not pitching.

That’s my opinion. Said it before, and I’ll stick with it.

I do have a strange feeling some things could change that might make a trade possible in the next couple of weeks though.

St. Louis is an interesting possibility. The NL Central is up in the air, as is the wild card race, and they have enough pieces to like their chances of making the playoffs and then turn the opportunity into a World Series trip. Halladay and, if healthy, Carpenter leading the way would be a tremendous rotation in the National League fight. (Along the same lines… Philadelphia is a nice choice to get in this as well, and pairs him up wonderfully with Hamels. But it looks like no one wants to win the NL East, and Philly won’t need to trade to make the playoffs.)

Now obviously the major factor is will anyone offer Toronto a package worthy of pulling the trigger. Don’t know. The Blue Jays have to figure that one out on their own.

The biggest sticking point beyond that though is simple… it has to be a team that can win now. To get him, you are going to give up more than the value of the picks you would get back if/when he leaves in two years. So if Toronto is serious about not allowing teams a window to work out a contract extension, I think the Milwaukees of the league will end up interested… but nothing more than window shoppers. And that means it has to be a team that can justify a year and a half of his talent for everything they gave up… in essence, a team that could win it all because he joined the effort.

I say he doesn’t move, but if he does it will be like Sabathia last year… he’s not going to Boston or New York.

Will it be a busy trading deadline in July?

In general I tend to doubt it. There have actually been several minor deals this year already, and I would guess that will continue. But if by busy the actual idea is alot going on, some of it exciting, and a free-for-all finish… nah. I don’t see that at all. I think on August 1st we’ll once again be talking about how many big deals didn’t happen.


Simple… take a look at Matt Holiday. If Oakland called Colorado and asked to make the same deal in reverse right now, the Rockies would say no. Holiday was worth more five or six months ago. And on top of that, if Holiday leaves as a type a, the draft picks will likely be worth more to Oakland than the players offered in a trade.

And then… Holiday wants to hit the open market after the season. Very few teams are going to consider packaging up big name, young and inexpensive players to send away for an acquisition that won’t be around long.

Basically trades are all out of whack right now as a result.

Clubs like Toronto think they deserve 5 or 6 players in return for a 32-year old starter. And not just a numbers game, of offering more and more players in return… they will want high quality in the group. Halladay is great… no doubt about it… but just ask Houston how they did when they traded for Randy Johnson… or ask Milwaukee about trading for Sabathia. Neither made a trip to the championship round because of the deal. And if Halladay demands a trade after the year… or refuses to negotiate an extension because he wants to be a free agent after 2010… or whatever… it could be devastating to trade three young stars for just 40 starts.

People are talking about teams that can take on money… but honestly, there don’t seem to be a ton of players out there that will be bargains.

Let’s say you’re Boston. I’ll have more on this in a dedicated Red Sox column I’m working on… but you want offense. Well… where do you put it? There is no rule allowing a team to set a ten or eleven player batting order just because. So… are you trading for an outfielder? Good… let me know if you are sitting Bay, Ellsbury or Drew. Ok… how about Nick Johnson or Adam Dunn? Because these guys are the junk food of the trade market… empty calories, expensive to acquire, and no guarantees they will add production.

Seriously… if you need to bring offense to Boston because Jason Bay isn’t as hot as he was back in April or May… do you really think Nick Johnson is a given to produce after leaving Washington for Boston? Because if you do, I have a 10-year old used car I’d like to sell you. About 175,000 miles on it… but only one owner and it never left on a long drive beyond traveling the east coast. (Heck… we only drove it to church… and that was downhill with the engine off.)

Perhaps the biggest problem for a big deadline? Look at San Diego. Chris Young (who wasn’t really being talked about, but still) and Jake Peavy are hurt… and Adrian Gonzalez likely isn’t moving. I mean come on… doesn’t anyone else see that with Penny, Buchholz, Bowden and a list of others in the minors, Boston actually has the most pitching talent to trade? (I didn’t say best… Halladay is the best on the market… but the cost is insane.) There’s not much out there… and what is out there isn’t much better than Pedro Martinez or Paul Byrd. Pedro is signed… Byrd isn’t… but neither cost more than dollars.

Ok… so not much moving… what moves do you expect?

I think the Yankees need help in the bullpen. Alot of help. Phil Hughes has been solid, and Mariano is to be respected as Mariano. But there are some questions on this pitching staff, and if they even make the playoffs… by slugging their way in… they won’t be lasting long without some relievers better than what they have. So I expect the Yankees to look there.

The Mets will do… well… something. But it won’t help. They’ve packed their bags on this season according to what I’ve seen in July. Everyone gave them an excuse to flop, and they’ve bought in to it. My guess would have been an outfielder, but not a high cost one, perhaps something like Jeremy Hermedia from Florida. Then they went and traded one non-producing outfielder for another in Jeff Francoeur, so that may be the only outfield move. I will say this though… it wouldn’t stun me to see the Mets call the Blue Jays about Halladay, choke when they hear the cost, and then suddenly get into a discussion about Alex Rios. That wouldn’t stun me at all. The real question though is simple… will they have a fork sticking out of their backs as we hit the final week of deals. Because if they do, there will be no reason to look short term for pitching.

I expect the Cardinals to do something. What… I don’t know. Somehow though… Larry Walker comes to mind… names end up playing here, especially when the Cardinals are looking at the playoffs. The problem is, even if they get a top pitcher, I don’t think there are any certainties here.

The Indians will be fun to watch. With Detroit and Minnesota suddenly alive, breathing, and looking like they’ll be fine for the next season or two or three, Cleveland can’t just assume a rebound for next year. And yet, to trade anyone, they will want a player or more that can contribute next season. So if they think they could steal Clay Buchholz and a solid prospect or two from Boston for Victor Martinez (not just Buchholz for Martinez with a couple of no names that will never wear the big league uniform tossed in, but a legitimate prospect or two), they would be tempted to jump all over that. (I don’t expect Boston to offer that much, it’s just an example.) And I think they would love to move some other players if the return was right. Kerry Wood? Ask, pick up his salary and offer two decent prospects, and he’s yours.

In the American League you have Boston, New York and Tampa… all of them are loaded without doing much. They really need health, and New York and Tampa could use a bit of real tinkering while Boston would need to make a drastic move simply because of how well all of the pieces currently fit (remove one and alot starts to go into motion). So if you’re California, Texas (the Rangers aren’t making the playoffs, but we’ll humor them and mention the name), Detroit or Minnesota… what you’re doing is trying to figure out what you need in October to beat the teams out of the AL East. Because in my mind, it is going to be an all AL East showdown for the American League slot in the World Series, regardless of which two AL East teams make the playoffs. Texas needs Halladay… and there is no way Halladay gives up his no trade for Texas. (Although, he is a brilliant fit for Nolan Ryan’s “take this ball and don’t give it up until the game is over” mentality for his starters.) California probably needs a bat and a reliable starter, but they never get involved in overpaying during the July fun-and-games. And that leaves Detroit and Minnesota… and I don’t think they can add dollars.

Anything else in the AL will be posturing, with an eye more on the future than on this season. (Seriously… do you realize that Boston might only get involved in trade talks based on what it can do for them in 2010 and beyond? There is very, very little they can do to improve the club now that would be worth it short term. It would involve ripping it all apart and then bringing back together if they tried. Scary. So only a player like Adrian Gonzalez makes any sense.) beyond unloading Julio Lugo or such, it should be a bunch of very quiet teams unless they pull the trigger on something huge.

The National League is a bit more complex, for three reasons. First, so many teams can actually claim a shot at the playoffs. The wild card could come from any division, and, none of the divisions truly seems wrapped up with a ribbon just yet. A couple seem won already, but it’s not a done deal. Second, quick… tell me what National League club has pitching you don’t want to face in a best-of series? See? There really isn’t a Beckett – Lester, Sabathia – Burnett, or whatever tandem in the National League that quickly comes to mind. Cole Hamels? Great. Who else are you pitching in Philly? Lincecum and Cain? Ok… I’ll give you that one. But they’ll both have to throw shutouts every time they hit the mound, and you didn’t think of them quickly. So all of the National League clubs have a shot at the World Series if they can just make the playoffs, and a ton of them are all jumbled together right now. (Keep in mind, Boston, New York and Tampa are probably the three best teams in baseball, and just surviving the AL challenges could be more difficult than anything the NL sends to the World Series.) And three, no one in the National League has money.

Those elements add up to a situation where even small deals could make differences, and a ton of creativity to keep costs down.

If Halladay does get traded, I expect it to be to Philadelphia or St. Louis. The Phillies will definitely look at another a pitcher or two. Pedro isn’t the only answer. And though he isn’t exactly making nothing… Halladay is easily worth his current contract dollars. The real decision is what he’s worth if you don’t think you’ll sign him later.

Atlanta is never afraid of making risky moves, but I just wonder what moves are out there to make. As of right now, there isn’t a major piece to add that works for the Braves. I expected they will do something, but minor, and trading Francouer might be it. Put Milwaukee in this same category, with the same description.

A recap… Halladay to the National League is possible, the Yankees look for relief help, the Mets make a trade that will solve nothing for this year, and the Indians are the club to watch for offering up surprises like Cliff Lee or Martinez. After that… moves with players we’ve never really heard of or cared much about.

I just don’t see a club like Boston being held hostage for overpriced players. Those bargains everyone keeps talking about aren’t really much of anything.

Let’s get away from trades… the playoffs… who makes it?

In the American League Boston and California will win their divisions. I’d really like to see Minnesota and Tampa make it, but at best I’ll go 50-50 on those picks. In fact, since I don’t expect Minnesota to do something with a trade or two, I’ll say Detroit and New York make it.

And that becomes interesting… because in opening round play New York would clobber Detroit if they faced each other, and California would beat New York. Won’t matter though… because no one is beating Boston.

National League is a disaster to predict. I’ll say Philly, St. Louis and LA win their divisions, and just for giggles I’ll take San Francisco to win the wild card. So many average teams though, and everything seems so close. If a club can run off a couple of winning streaks, they could rocket from five games out of it to two or three in front.

St. Louis and LA meet for the big prize… a date to get swept by Boston.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com