Trade Rumors

That’s Not a July T-Storm, It’s the MLB Trade Winds Blowing!

Clee.jpgIt must be July; Cliff Lee is on the trade block.

by Drew Sarver

Major League Baseball is a week past the All-Star break, which means the MLB trade deadline is less than two weeks away. There’s already been a major trade between the Oakland A’s (Addison Russell) and the Chicago Cubs (Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel) that will have an impact on the AL West race.  Teams have until July 31 to decide whether to be sellers, buyers, or to stand pat at the deadline. It gives them less than two weeks to figure out if they are really as bad as they might be playing or as good as they think they are. Should a team within striking distance of a playoff spot go hard after a big-name player or pull the trigger on smaller deals? Or should they stand pat?

There’s precedence for just about every situation at the break. On July 31, 1997, the Chicago White Sox sat four games in back of the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central division. Despite their close proximity to first place in the standings, the White Sox went into “full sell” mode.  They dealt starting pitchers Wilson Alvarez and Danny Darwin, and closer Roberto Hernandez to the San Francisco Giants for a half-dozen prospects: Keith Foulke, Bobby Howry, Ken Vining, Mike Caruso, Brian Manning, and Lorenzo Barcelo.

All three players dealt by Chicago were free agents after the 1997 season, so GM Ron Schueler cut his losses. (Of the six players acquired by Chicago, only Foulke and Howry went on to have successful Major League careers . The Giants won the NL West, but were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual World Champion Florida Marlins. The following season, Alvarez and Hernandez went on to big money deals with Tampa Bay, while Darwin re-signed with San Francisco.)

It’s difficult to tell fact from fiction this time of year, which is why the words “rumor” and “reported” are thrown around like baseballs. More often than not, the player attached to the strongest rumors does not get dealt, or goes to the team that had no rumored association with the player. (Think Cliff Lee.)

So let’s take a look at some of the names being bandied about right now and those names that might be brought up once the deadline gets closer.

Jonny Gomes and Ben Zobrist: There are a lot of moves made at the deadline to shore up a position, or to get one or two more players that might put a team over the edge to make the playoffs and/or make a long run at the title. Gomes and Zobrist would fall into that category. Gomes had several big hits last year to help the Red Sox win their third World Series in the last 10 years. But, with Boston struggling this year, Gomes may be one of the guys to go. According to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the KC Royals have made Gomes a “potential trade target”. KC is in contention with a group of younger players and could use some experienced, ring-bearing veterans like Gomes.

Zobrist’s name has popped up in many rumors. Though the 33-year old’s bat hasn’t produced as much in the last two seasons, he’s just three years removed from back-to-back 20-home-run seasons. Zobrist, Gomes’ former teammate on the Rays, can also swipe a base when needed and defensively can play both middle infield positions, (second base is his best spot), and the outfield. With a $7.5MM team option for next season, Zobrist comes at a bargain price. That means better prospects will be demanded by the Rays in return.

Fishing for pitching is always a popular sport this time of year, and the biggest fish out there is a Ray. David Price, the 2012 AL Cy Young winner, won’t be a free agent until 2016, but the Rays may deal him before then to haul in a big catch. Price made $14MM this season and will surely top that in arbitration or a one-year deal next season. The 6’6″ left-hander entered Monday’s play leading the league in strikeouts and games started, and had pitched to a 3.06 ERA and a 1.041 WHIP.

Price has been especially hot of late, with six earned runs allowed in 48 innings (1.13 ERA). He’s pitched less than seven complete innings only once in his 13 starts and has thrown at least eight innings in nine of those starts. With the Rays playing better baseball of late – they’ve won five straight and 14 of 18 – Price may stick around Tampa until next season’s trade deadline.

With Samarzdiga, Hammel, and Brandon McCarthy already moved, San Diego’s Ian Kennedy has heard his name mentioned frequently. Recently, FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the Los Angeles Angels were very interested in Kennedy, but as of this writing, the teams have not been able to match up players for a deal.

Based on the way Kennedy pitched with the Yankees, you never would have thought he would be in demand. But scouts stood up and took notice when Kennedy finished 21-4, 2.88 with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011. He struggled the following two years and was dealt to San Diego at last year’s deadline. This season, Kennedy has turned things around and is back in demand. The USC product made $6.1MM in 2014 and is arbitration-eligible next year.

Scouts are showing up in droves for Philadelphia Phillies games, with the fightin’ Phils not having a whole lot of fight in them. Teams have made inquiries about starters Lee and Cole Hamels, and closer Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies would reportedly prefer to hold on to the 30-year old  Hamels (They need someone to build around) and deal Lee. (Is it just my imagination, or does it seem like every year Lee is either looking for a free agent deal or he’s the subject of trade rumors?)

The soon-to-be 36-year old Lee is owed the remainder of $25MM this season, another $25MM next year, and at the very least,  $12.5MM in 2016. (The $12.5MM is a buyout; Lee can earn $27.5MM in 2016 if he throws at least 200 innings in 2015.) By comparison, Hamels is owed $90MM from 2015-2018. Just what was GM Ruben Amaro Jr. thinking with these deals and contracts like Ryan Howard’s (min. $60MM owed for the next three years)? Perhaps the Dodgers could swap Matt Kemp’s huge contract for Lee’s?

Papelbon is owed $13MM next year and can get another $13MM in 2016 if he finishes 55 games next season, or 100 games over the current year and 2015 combined. After a shaky 2013 season, Papelbon has bounced back strongly this year. He’s saved 23 of 25 games and struck out 33 batters, while he has allowed nine walks, and has a 1.17 ERA. Opposing batters have only managed to put together a .429 OPS this season. With teams always looking for bullpen help and with so many closers having off years, the Phils could get some very good return for Papelbon.

Well, there you have it for now.  Stay tuned later in the week for another report as the calendar creeps closer to August.

 

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

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Miller, Brodeur Top The NHL Rumor Mill

Philadelphia Flyers v Buffalo Sabres

The face of the Buffalo Sabres could soon be elsewhere.

by Drew Sarver

The NHL regular season resumed a couple of days ago, just a little over a week away from the March 5th league trade deadline.  While plenty of rumors are flying around, over the past few deadlines, the rumors have not seen the earth-shattering deals fans wait for.

Once again there are big names being bandied about, chief among them the  Buffalo Sabres’ goaltender Ryan Miller. The 11-year veteran has spent his entire career in Buffalo, but with the Sabres at the bottom of the NHL standings and Miller’s status as a pending unrestricted free agent, the feeling is the time is right to move the 33-year old.

Miller is the team’s all-time leader in a number of categories, including games played and wins, and is second or third behind Dominik Hasek in most of the other categories pertaining to the franchise’s goaltending records. Though he hasn’t had the best season, Miller’s still capable of playing top-tier hockey with a good team in front of him. He also played heroically for Team USA when they received the silver medal at the 2010 Olympics. (Miller played one game in a backup role at this year’s games in Sochi.)

The Sabres have a short window to try to re-sign Miller or deal him and move on to Jhonas Enroth as the #1 goalie. There’s also a #2 goalie in New Jersey who has some decisions to make about his immediate future. Sure-fire first ballot future Hall of Fame member Martin Brodeur, like Miller, has played his entire career in one uniform.

The veteran of parts of 17 seasons with the Devils, Brodeur could be playing his final season in the NHL. The three-time Stanley Cup champion has contemplated taking one final run at Lord Stanley’s Cup, but with a team that would have a better chance than the Devils. Though the team made it to the finals two seasons ago, Thursday morning found them five points behind the eighth and final seed (Detroit) in the Eastern Conference. Matters are compounded by the four teams tied or ahead of the Devils that are fighting for the final spots as well.

Then there’s the added issue of Brodeur no longer being the #1 guy between the pipes for New Jersey. This past off-season, the team brought in Corey Schneider, who has outplayed Brodeur and taken over the top spot. So, does Brodeur stay in NJ and finish a marvelous career in the same uniform or does he ask the team to move him to a team that has a better shot to make a deep run in the post-season? It’s a move that could help the Devils’ future, depending on what they get in return, however, the hunch here is that Brodeur stays put. There’s no guarantee he could take over the main goaltending duties for any playoff contender unless a team’s current goalie were to suffer a serious injury. If a deal was to be made to a borderline playoff team, he might as well stay put.

The Devils’ chief rival also has some major decisions to make. The New York Rangers were playing well when the league shut down for the Olympics and entered Wednesday’s play as the fifth seed in the East. Though they don’t appear to be a team that is currently built to win the Cup, any time you have a top-of-the-class goalie like Henrik Lunqvist, you have a legitimate shot to pull off a playoff series upset. But GM Glen Sather faces two difficult decisions regarding his captain, Ryan Callahan, and one of his top young defensemen, Dan Girardi.

Both players will be unrestricted free agents after the season, and Callahan in particular is looking for a lengthy contract and a big increase in pay (reportedly 7 years, $42MM). TSN’s Darren Dreger reported Tuesday that, due to the wide gap in negotiations, there’s a 99% chance Callahan will be dealt by the deadline. Sather, reportedly, refuses to lose Callahan for nothing.1

A member of Team USA in Sochi, Callahan is not counted on for scoring, but he is the heart and soul of the team and contributes with big hits, strong defensive skills, and penalty-killing duty. His departure could make a big dent in the team’s psyche at a crucial part of the season. The chief rumor has him being swapped for 38-year old Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning. In fact, St. Louis has supposedly asked General Manager Steve Yzerman to be dealt to the Rangers. Yzerman has said he would not trade a player of St. Louis’ caliber (56 pts in 58 games thus far this season), for a rental. The former Stanley Cup champ has one year remaining on his contract with a $5.25MM cap hit.2

The acquisition of a player of St. Louis’ caliber would help the Rangers fill the void left when Matt Zuccarello broke his hand during the Olympics. Zuccarello is expected to miss 3-4 weeks.

Girardi is in a similar boat, though Dreger stated that there has been more back-and-forth in negotiations between Girardi’s representatives and the Rangers. However, if a deal isn’t made, Dreger says, “…there’s also a 99% chance that he (Girardi) gets traded.”1  The loss of Girardi could actually have a bigger impact on the ice than if the Rangers were to lose Callahan, due to the importance of a strong blue line.

Additional pending free agents that might be packing their bags include: Thomas Vanek (NYI), Jaromir Jagr (NJD), Milan Michalek (OTT), Henrik Tallinder and Matt Moulson (BUFF), and Mike Cammalleri (CAL).

1 – tsn.ca
2 – capgeek.com

Drew Sarver is the publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.