The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Who should be in, who should be out

The trade deadline is tomorrow (Saturday) night at midnight (Eastern time). While not much of consequence has happened lately (other than the Beltran trade in June, and the White Sox acquiring Freddy Garcia and Carl Everett in separate deals), there’s like to be a lot that happens between now and tomorrow night. Here’s how I think teams should be playing their cards going into the deadline:

Obvious Sellers
Diamondbacks – move Finley and Johnson and get something for them
Expos – Jose Vidro will soon rue the day he signed his extension (although I commend him for it). Hopefully everyone will get a chance to bid adieu to Orlando Cabrera before he leaves town
Pirates – same as above, just substitute Benson and Kendall for Finley and Johnson
Blue Jays – plenty to sell here, but the big prize (Delgado) doesn’t want to go anywhere (particularly if he’d be required to stand for “God Bless America”)
Seattle – well, they’d sell if anyone would take what they have, otherwise they’ll release everyone
Rockies – can anyone afford Larry Walker? Anyone? Anyone? How about Todd Helton? Anything of value is yours for the taking – you must take their salaries too.

Teams that probably realize they’re out of it, but don’t have much to sell
– lots to sell actually, but not much they’d want to give up
Reds – everyone on this team has a big “but” that keeps him from being traded
Tigers – great story, great improvement, but not going anywhere this year
Royals – would have been on the first list, but there’s not much to sell
Indians – It doesn’t make sense for them to give up much of anything, unless of course Vizquel is willing to go elsewhere and they could get something for him
Rays – all of the vets are gone already
Orioles – not much that’s desirable, but maybe they could trade the rights to using Cal Ripken in future promotional opportunities. That has to be good for a prospect or two.

Teams that are really done and don’t realize it and should trade
White Sox – corner players here… who needs a corner player (or DH)?
Marlins – it’s been a heck of a run, but it’s time to retool for 2005 or 2006
Mets – will they ever learn? There are lots of good prospects here. Don’t give them up just to get swept in the LDS
Astros – move Beltran, admit defeat, start the rebuilding now
Cubs – they finally went for it, but this year just isn’t the year

A solid move by one of these teams makes things interesting
Athletics – Beane is always good for something, and since the millennium started, the A’s play .700 ball after the deadline – that’s just sick
Rangers – I’m not sure how they’re still in it (and their poor performance against the A’s and Angels recently may really be the end of things), but they’re here
Angels – Moreno’s already invested a lot and the talent pool at high levels is fairly deep, so why not make the push now?
Dodgers/Padres/Giants – when the merry-go-round stops, whoever made the biggest move will win
Braves – supposedly they can’t add any payroll, but Scheurholz is shrewd. They’ll find a way – maybe not before the deadline, but through the waiver wire for sure.
Phillies – at least Larry Bowa is hoping they’re in this group, otherwise he might not survive the weekend. This team was built to win this year, so they’d better start doing that soon.
Red Sox – it likely isn’t for the division title, but the Sox are still pushing for a wild card. They’re in a tough spot with a lot of free agents to be, but they must continue to push for this year. If they’re able to acquire anything close to a third ace (or even what would be a solid #2 on another team), they’ll be a force to be reckoned with in October. Otherwise, they’ll wish they’d gotten something for Nomar before he leaves town

– there’s really nothing else for them to be, although they have little to buy with
Cardinals – a finishing touch or two could solidify plans for the post-season parade
Twins – I’m not a big fan of the Twinkies, but they’re going to be in the playoffs somehow or another. They’re the surprise for this group, but the White Sox proved this week that they’re not a force this year, which by default puts the Twins in the post-season.

By my count, there are twelve teams that should be buyers at this point. Given that there are thirty teams in the league and only eight playoff slots, that’s kind of a lot. Two of the spots are all but sewn up; the Yankees and Cardinals, barring something tragic and unforeseen are virtual locks to reach the post-season as champions of their division. The Twins are the third best lock, since the White Sox are done and everyone else in the Central is just pretending. That leaves nine teams to fight it out for five playoff spots.

There are three team races for division crowns in both Western divisions. The runner-up in the American League West will likely battle it out with the Red Sox for the Wild card. In the National League West, it looks like nearly a draw so far between the Dodgers, Padres, and Giants (assuming of course that the Dodgers come back to Earth – although maybe Paul DePodesta stole some of Billy Beane’s magic second half dust and took it with him to LA). As in the AL, the runner-up will likely battle it out till the end with the runner up in the East, where the Phillies (who are owned by the Marlins) and the Braves (who own the Marlins) will likely decide things in early October.

Hopefully we’ll be able to get a better handle on things by the end of the weekend. Although the way things feel this year, it seems like we’ll have more activity after the deadline than usual.


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