Wild Rumor From Gotham Baseball

Gotham Baseball’s Mark Healey has heard a massive trade rumor from "multiple independent baseball sources."  Of course, it’s subject to change, isn’t close, and all the usual disclaimers.  Here’s the Cliff Notes version of it:

"Mets would send Heilman and Matsui (and $5 million) to Tampa Bay for Lugo. Then New York would send Lugo, Kris Benson, Brian Bannister and Victor Diaz to Baltimore for Tejada, and then send Tejada to the Red Sox for Manny Ramirez."

Let’s stop right there.  My opinion on each step of this possible deal:

Aaron Heilman for Julio Lugo sounds like fair value to me.  Gotham’s sources have the Mets eating $5MM of the $8MM owed to Kaz Matsui in 2006.  That part gels with the information I’ve heard from my Mets source that New York would have to pay at least half of Matsui’s salary to unload him. I’m not sure how the Devil Rays would structure their infield, with Jorge Cantu entrenched at second base and B.J. Upton ready to take over at short.  I had thought the D-Rays would hold out for more than this for Lugo – a good reliever plus someone else’s baggage.  I still feel that they’ll want more.

So then the Orioles are giving up their superstar shortstop, possibly one of the five best players in baseball, for Julio Lugo, Kris Benson, Brian Bannister, and Victor Diaz.  This is where the plausibility of the rumor breaks down for me.  The Orioles have given every indication that they need a star player back for Tejada – they’re not even sold on Mark Prior.  Lugo’s a good player for $5MM, but he hits free agency after that.  Benson is a fourth starter who figures to post an ERA around 4 over the next two seasons while being paid more than $15MM.  That doesn’t add much value for the O’s.  Bannister is a smart young pitcher with a good minor league track record, but Baseball America has said he’s "not overpowering" and "doesn’t have a high ceiling."  Diaz is still a valuable prospect, but could easily turn out to be a career reserve.

To sum it up, the Orioles are giving up Tejada to get a pretty good SS in his contract year, an overpaid fourth starter, a B-level pitching prospect, and a solid outfield prospect.  That’s quantity over quality, and I don’t see it happening.

To finish it off, the Mets ship Tejada to the Red Sox for Manny, effectively giving up nothing impressive for the superstar outfielder, considering the players sent to Baltimore.  Not entirely sold on that step, and I’d heard the Orioles did not want Tejada to play for a division rival.

UPDATE:  Just asked my Mets source whether the above scenario could happen.  He said there’s no way: "Orioles get screwed, the Red Sox get screwed, and the Mets have everything go their way." 

Healey’s article also mentions these comments from a baseball official:

"If Barry Zito doesn’t get dealt before opening day, the A’s are screwed.  No one is willing to pay Beane’s price after what the Braves paid for Hudson [Namely, Dan Meyer, Juan Cruz and Charles Thomas]."

I don’t agree with the baseball official, for what it’s worth.  The A’s hold all the cards with Zito.  They have absolutely no need to unload him, and will boast a deep rotation if they keep Zito until July.  I find it odd that the official cites the Hudson trade as hurting Beane’s ability to make major trades.  The Tim Hudson deal is one where the Braves can be labeled a clear winner.  The highly touted Meyer quickly got hurt and is a question mark, Cruz wasn’t deemed Major League ready by Oakland, and Charles Thomas has completely crapped out.  Perhaps the official meant to refer to the Mark Mulder trade.

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