Baseball has the stage to itself for the next month or so as the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup with one of the most amazing comebacks (quite possibly THE MOST amazing) ever. As we near July, it's time to consider where baseball teams are and what moves are possible. I'll begin with several caveats:
1. Much as I love MLB Trade Rumors, I will NOT refer to them--this is all my speculation.
2. I know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about any team's farm system, so I have no clue if the Cubs are salivating over a 19-year-old flamethrower on some other team's High-A affiliate. I consider all prospects suspects until they've performed in the the majors.
3. This is the second year with the 5-team playoff format. I wrote a couple of months back about how this separates the chaff from the wheat in a much more dramatic fashion, and I'm wondering if this will change how teams view the trade deadline going forward. In other words, if it's much more cut-and-dried as to whom will make the playoffs, will teams be less inclined to make roster changes? It's too soon to tell, and the impetus to NOT have to play in the one-game Wild Card has to be there (at least until that's turned into a best of three series), but just keep this in the back of your mind.
AL EAST (All team links go to the Baseball-Reference team salary and contract status page)
Boston (78.2% chance of making the playoffs according to Baseball Prospectus as of 6/25/13)--they could use a shortstop, third baseman, possibly a left fielder and a closer. One of the infield positions is there in Jose Iglesias when they decide where to play him and Daniel Nava will probably start getting more outfield playing time, which leaves closer. As I was looking through these rosters, I noticed something regarding closers that I'm going to investigate further in a separate post sometime, but I wonder if they're looking at the Twins Glen Perkins? He's 30, the Twins won't need a closer anytime soon and he's very affordable. He's under contract through 2016, which may reduce the Twins interest in moving him.
Baltimore (30.9%)--any team that bats their DH in the #9 slot as often as the Orioles do either has interesting (and I would strongly argue MISTAKEN) batting order construction notions or could use some help. The Cubs have a perfect solution in Alfonso Soriano, and chances are the Cubs would pick up the lion's share of his salary. He'll be owed $18 million for 2014, and since the Cubs are aiming at 2015, they might not be willing to eat that money and just use him next year and then bid him adieu. The Orioles could also use help at second, for which Daniel Murphy or Mark Ellis might fill that need, with Ellis able to be jettisoned at season's end for $1 million.
NY Yankees (55.9%)--they're the last team to try to ride old expensive free agents, which has worked so far but they have holes to fill. I have no clue how willing ownership is to add to a $225 million+ payroll, but they have glaring needs at first unless Mark Teixeira comes back any time soon (and I'm clueless on that), DH, third and left. This could be another good fit for Alfonso Soriano, and depending on the prognosis for Teixeira, Adrian Gonzalez (owed over $100 million through 2018) or my personal favorite, Justin Morneau. He could be the ultimate rental as his contract is up after this year.
Tampa Bay (38.3%)--as of today they're four games out of the wild card, so I have no idea in what direction their management is looking. Even if they're willing to make moves, they're hamstrung by payroll and with needs at left and starting pitching. My only pitching thoughts would be to raid the LA Angels for C.J. Wilson (expensive) or Joe Blanton (bad). The more I think about it, I see them standing pat.
Toronto (10.1%)--will the real Toronto please stand up, the abysmal team that started 25-37 or the one that just had an 11-game winning streak snapped. I say the former, making R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera ripe for the plucking, with more available. I'd blow it up and get as many prospects as I could get. The glittering prize is Josh Johnson, a free agent after this year while the others have substantial contracts.
Detroit (95.3%)--absent some disastrous collapse, they're almost guaranteed to win their division, giving them the luxury to adjust their roster for playoff success. They could use a catcher but no one jumps out, and they have needs in the outfield, which is addressed easily enough. They need a closer, and one deal with the Cubs could solve two problems--they could acquire Nate Schierholtz, with their consideration being that they ALSO take Carlos Marmol. Other than deals like this being expressly prohibited, it seems like a trade made in heaven to me. In all seriousness, there's plenty of closers (Tom Wilhelmsen, Jim Henderson, Jose Veras, Kevin Gregg and more) that I won't bother checking contract status for, so that need should be able to be addressed.
Cleveland (27.2%)--wait 'til next year. Michael Bourn is signed through 2016, significantly dampening his trade value, but Mike Aviles might have value to anyone looking for infield help. I have no idea what Jason Giambi is doing on this roster, but Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir might have some value to teams.
Kansas City (4.1%)--I have no idea what they're thinking. They're out for this year but probably aren't looking to break off pieces of a team that appears poised for success. The one move I can see would be Jeff Francoeur, but he won't bring much in return. They'll probably stand pat and see what happens next year.
Minnesota (1.3%)--I've already relieved them of Glen Perkins and Justin Morneau, and I'm sure Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit are available but won't bring much in return. Kevin Correia is cheap and only signed through 2014, making him an attractive candidate.
Chicago White Sox (.5%)--where to start? They'd give Adam Dunn away, and perhaps Paul Konerko as well. Alex Rios could be of interest for those teams with outfield needs but is signed through 2014. What value Alexei Ramirez may have is being dribbled away with every league-leading error at short. The gems are Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain, but I'm not sure how much value middle relief will elicit--given the sorry state of the Sox farm system (look at the Charlotte or Birmingham rosters at your own risk), anything has to be an improvement.
Texas (84.8%)--they're fairly solid top to bottom, with their biggest need at left, making it another potential landing spot for Alfonso Soriano. They might want to add a veteran starter and would have much to choose from--anyone from Toronto, Matt Garza, Cliff Lee, possibly Kyle Lohse, and that's just scratching the surface.
Oakland (66.6%)--the Tampa Bay of the West, but with a much more realistic chance of making the playoffs. They have real needs at catcher and right, with Francoeur being a very real (and affordable) possibility in right. He's cheap (about $3-4 million pro-rated) and a free agent after this season, so someone will get him. I have no viable options at catcher, and they're going to need something both offensively and defensively.
Seattle (.8%)--there's no one on this roster that anyone realistically wants except for Wilhelmsen (who has been blowing saves) and perhaps Michael Saunders. There are cheap fixes (Raul Ibanez, Kendrys Morales and others), but I don't think they need to keep the phones handy.
LA Angels (5.9%)--as big an enigma as Toronto, and just as mysterious as to where they're headed. Their lineup on paper looks decent but it simply hasn't translated into on-field success. They'll end up being essentially the same team come August 1st primarily because no one will be interested in anything they have to offer except perhaps some starting pitching. If they can start out better than they did this year, they could be poised for success next year but Texas and Oakland don't show signs of backsliding.
Houston (0.0%)--I've often wondered what players on Double and Triple-A rosters of awful teams think--if they're not young prospects on the way up, this has to be a real sign that their baseball careers will be shorter than they think. In the Astros defense they're relatively young, so they don't have much to offer and what they do have (Erik Bedard and...well, I guess nobody else) no one wants. The one possibility is Brandon Barnes, a rookie, but a 27-year-old one. For a team going nowhere anytime soon, if they can get some prospects in return, I'd move him while he has value.
I'll cover the National League tomorrow--I'm very interested in your thought and comments on this.