Wednesday, June 26, 2013

National League Trade Thoughts

I posted yesterday on potential acquisitions that American League teams might make, and today's post will focus on the National League. I'll restate three caveats I made:
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.

NL EAST (team links go to the Baseball-Reference salary and contract status page)
Atlanta (89.6% chance of making the playoffs according to Baseball Prospectus)--if you look at their lineup and cover up the names you'd say "They need a second baseman and left fielder," but when you uncover the names to see they're Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton and are owed around $30 million and $70 million respectively, nothing is going to happen.  Uggla has been underwhelming since he signed with the Braves andwhile Upton has shown flashes of power in the past he's never hit for average. If the Nationals continue to tread water, making the playoffs won't be the issue for the Braves, but advancing will. Their starting pitching is solid and Craig Kimbrel is as good as any closer in the game--perhaps they'll try to pick up another starter, but I'm not even sure about that.

Nationals (20.7%)--they're not going anywhere this year unless Bryce Harper comes back and is productive. They might be active in preparation for next year, in which case they could use a second baseman and a catcher. As I mentioned yesterday, I don't really have any catchers in mind that would be a major improvement, but I wonder if Chase Utley is available from the Phillies. He's 34 and just back from the DL, but a free agent after this year. The more I think about it, I'll scratch him for the Nationals and send him 40 miles northeast to the Orioles.

Phillies (3.4%)--they're just loaded with players poised to move, and I wouldn't put it past them to chalk up this year to injuries and try to do it one more time next year, but they're right on the cusp of having taken their core as far as they can. Cliff Lee won't be cheap but is having a great year--I mentioned yesterday I can see him returning to Texas. Teams will ask about Kyle Kendrick but he's cheap and only 29. Carlos Ruiz could be of interest for teams needing catching, he's cheap and will be a free agent at the end of the year. 

NY Mets (.9%)--I find it amazing that the Mets have THREE players under contract for 2014, and one of them is Johan Santana (the other two are David Wright and Jonathon Niese). When you look at the lineup, you understand why very quickly. They have decent young pitching that isn't going anywhere and a closer in Bobby Parnell that may draw interest. They better have prospects down in the minors, because if they don't they're in for an extended period of mediocrity at BEST.

Miami (0%)--along with the Astros, the only two teams that Baseball Prospectus states have NO chance of making the postseason, but did you really need me to tell you that? There's a reason they're team shorthand is MIA. They're the anti-Astros in that they're old and bad, which is a horrendous combination that hinders the ability to make trades. Even Giancarlo Stanton's value is down from prior years due to nagging injuries, and their pitching wouldn't be competitive on a Double-A team. Football season is coming, Miami---wait, that won't help much. At least you have the Heat.

St. Louis (95.9%)--this is the future model of how to build a franchise. Take a look at their payroll and see how many players have "Amateur Draft" as the method of acquisition. Teams have given lip service to this for as long as the draft has been in existence, but the introduction of free agency provided a new way to acquire talent. There will continue to be a free agent market, but I strongly suspect that the signings of Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols and the like will be much rarer. The Cardinals don't have to do a thing, and I'd be surprised if they did anything other than add spare parts.

Pittsburgh (86.8%)--look at that, almost July and the Pirates with that high of a percentage to make the playoffs. They were above .500 at this point in both 2011 and 2012 and faded down the stretch, but they're a more veteran team now. Matt Garza would be an excellent addition for them, and they could use upgrades at third, short and right field. Until his recent rash of errors I might have suggested Alexei Ramirez but I'm not confident that's a great idea. Jose Reyes is too expensive, but they're going to need something better than Clint Barmes.

Cincinnati (86.0%)--when I was still writing my daily updates I stated frequently that I'm convinced that the two wild card teams will come from the NL Central and nothing has made me change my mind. Except at catcher they're pretty solid, and they're probably going to give Derrick Robinson more time in left. They might try to add pitching but  certainly don't have to.

Milwaukee (.7%)--when they lost Prince Fielder after 2011, who knew their team would collapse as quickly as it did? Their pitching is adequate at best and they're nothing special except for Ryan Braun. Teams will make offers for Kyle Lohse, and there very well could be a market for Aramis Ramirez (Pittsburgh maybe? He's pricey but only signed through 2014 with an option for 2015) and John Axford (not as much). I suggested yesterday that someone pick up Jim Henderson, and if there's value for him, I'd move him--he's a rookie closer who's 30

Chicago Cubs (.7%)--well, they took care of the Carlos Marmol issue yesterday, but it's been obvious for at least two years that he had no trade value. Matt Garza will be wearing a new uniform by August 1st at the latest, and he's been pitching well enough that he should generate a decent return. David DeJesus and Nate Schierholtz have value, but the sleeper could be Ryan Sweeney--he's cheap and having some success and could be a nice fourth outfielder for someone.

Arizona (53.4%)--this is the most intriguing division since four of the teams are within 3 games and the fifth has a different way of running a baseball team. The Diamondbacks need more starting pitching but I'm not sure how much they're willing to pay--Mark Buehrle might be a relatively affordable option for them. Heath Bell is probably adequate at closer and needs at second, third and center are probably higher priorities. David DeJesus could fit in well and perhaps Mark Ellis.

San Francisco (20.8%)--what do you do when you're one game below .500 but only three games out of the division lead? It's the question that the Giants, Rockies and Padres are going to have to answer, with the knowledge that they have the next month to make the final determination. Unless one of these four teams gets hot and creates some separation they'll all have to try to improve themselves. In the Giants case, their lineup on paper looks fine, but they're not executing. I can see them getting hot and moving ahead of the rest, but I could easily be giving more credit to a lineup that once was as opposed to what is. I've heard whispers that Tim Lincecum is being shopped, which doesn't surprise me that much, but if I start hearing that about Matt Cain, that'll be different. They also could use some outfield power that the Cubs could supply.

Colorado (17.6%)--they can go ahead and call it a season since Troy Tulowitzki is going to be gone for the next 4-6 weeks, and their pitching is mediocre top to bottom. Todd Helton is done and they could use a second baseman as well. Their outfield is as good as anyone's, but they're going to have to figure out how to win when half their games are played at Coors Field. They haven't done it in 20 years and probably never will unless they move to a domed stadium. Given that they had a game earlier this year when the temperature was 28 degrees, that might not be a bad idea.

San Diego (10.0%)--they need a catcher and a right fielder, as well as Chase Headley to come out of his season-long slump. I'll assume that the Padres have a tough schedule coming up since the Baseball Prospectus odds have the Dodgers with a better chance of making the playoffs. It's probably not the right time, but they should dangle Headley and see what he would bring in a trade, but he's 29. Their best pitcher is Jason Marquis, meaning they need an upgrade there as well. San Diego has the opposite problem of Colorado in that they play in such a pitcher's park that they need to focus on that aspect.

LA Dodgers (13.6%)--any other team I'd call this (along with Philadelphia) as the National League's one-stop shop for talent, but with the money they generate, they can afford to shrug off this season and wait for next year. There's a real possibility they have a lineup built for 2011 (i.e., Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez, maybe even Adrian Gonzalez). The only thing for sure is that Andre Ethier is definitely available but I'm not sure what value he'll bring in return. Same for Zack Greinke and Josh Beckett--teams may inquire, but probably won't offer much in return. Beckett may have more value since he's only signed through 2014 whereas Greinke is owed $125 million+ through 2018. Much as I think it would be interesting to offer Matt Kemp and see what he could garner, he's signed through 2019 at over $120 million. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if the Dodgers only change is at...manager.

Anyone can make predictions, and I don't claim to have greater insight or knowledge than anyone else, but I put it all in one place. I might revisit this come August and see how well I did.

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