Trade Candidate Rumors
The Brett Myers trade rumors have been circulating for a while, and there’s no reason to expect them to slow down between now and the July 31st trade deadline. Myers, a capable pitcher nearing free agency on a team not expected to contend, should draw some trade interest this summer.
Myers' name surfaced at the 2011 Winter Meetings and the right-hander still seemed to be available in January, when Jayson Stark reported that the Astros were willing to take on at least $7MM of his 2012 salary in a trade. Houston GM Jeff Luhnow said this month that he’s not presently shopping Myers, and while that’s entirely believable, the team's stance could very well change within the next 95 days.
Myers, 31, probably won’t be on the next contending Astros team. He’s earning $12MM in 2012 and has a club/vesting option valued at $10MM for 2013 ($3MM buyout). Like most players on the Astros’ roster, Myers is a product of the Ed Wade regime. I doubt Luhnow will have reservations about trading Myers when the time is right.
Unfortunately for the Astros, Myers earns a starting pitcher’s salary. Other trade candidates such as Huston Street ($7.5MM) and Grant Balfour ($4MM) will be more appealing to contenders since they earn considerably less than Myers. I expect the Astros will have to take on millions to move Myers.
For the Astros to convince a rival team to take on more than a couple million of Myers’ salary, he’ll have to continue pitching well. So far -- and it’s admittedly quite early -- Myers has pitched five innings with a 4K/1BB ratio and three saves. It’s worth noting that his fastball velocity has climbed by nearly 4 mph this year to 92.2 mph from 88.4 mph (source: FanGraphs). He's just 74 pitches into the season -- not even a full start’s worth -- but the uptick in velocity isn’t surprising given Myers’ new role.
Should the 7-12 Astros fall out of contention early, Luhnow might have the chance to start selling before other trade candidates become available. This could enable him to send more of Myers' salary to a team looking to acquire relief help before the trade market heats up in July. Still, it seems more likely that the Astros will postpone most serious trade talk until after they select first overall in the upcoming June draft. There's also a good chance Myers' salary would clear waivers, so he might be available in August.
Myers should draw interest from contenders, especially if his strong April portends a successful first half. But it seems likely that the Astros will have to take on millions to complete a deal. Depending on Myers' performance, the evolution of the trade market and Luhnow's willingness to absorb salary, the Astros could acquire anything from a marginal minor leaguer to a legitimate prospect for their closer.
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After going 79-83 and finishing 16 games behind the Tigers in the AL Central last season, the White Sox focused their offseason on acquiring younger, cost-controlled players through trades. Sergio Santos and Carlos Quentin were dealt away this winter, prompting GM Kenny Williams to use the word "rebuilding" in December. Assuming their 10-7 start to this season isn't a deterrent, another player who could be on the move this summer is Jake Peavy.
Peavy, 31 next month, has been one of the very best pitchers in all of baseball in the early going this season. He threw a complete game shutout against the Athletics two days ago, lowering his season ERA to 1.88 in four starts. Peavy has struck out 26 and walked just four in 28 2/3 innings, allowing just one home run. This level of performance isn't surprising when you're talking about a former Cy Young Award winner, but it is surprising given the last three seasons of Peavy's career.
Injuries have limited the right-hander to no more than 18 starts in each of the last three seasons, and in fact Peavy was on the disabled list with an ankle injury when the White Sox acquired him from the Padres at the 2009 trade deadline. Last season he was sidelined by rotator cuff tendinitis and then a groin strain, though the most significant injury was a detached lat muscle in 2010. The injury was very unique and required surgery, though he's obviously recovered well.
The White Sox owe Peavy $17MM this season and are likely to pay him a $4MM buyout rather than exercise his $22MM club option for 2013. A sub-2.00 ERA probably isn't sustainable, but if Peavy shows that he can remain effective over the next two months, Williams could be in possession of the best available starting pitcher on the trade market at the deadline. Starting pitching is always in demand, and Peavy's limited no-trade clause - he can block trades to eight teams this year - figures to be nothing more than a minor obstacle.
Peavy's recent injury history and the fact that his new team will be unable to collect free agent draft pick compensation after the season (thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement) could limit the asking price, but division races have a way of making the market unpredictable. The injury-prone Erik Bedard fetched a top ten prospect (Trayvon Robinson) and a secondary piece (Chih-Hsien Chiang) at last year's deadline, and that deal could serve as a comparison for a potential Peavy package. If Peavy continues to pitch well into June and July, Williams could decide to cash him in as a trade chip rather than risk another injury or the possibility of him leaving as a free agent after the season.
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The Athletics are playing respectably right now, but if the season unfolds as expected and the Rangers and Angels distance themselves from the A's and Mariners by midsummer, Billy Beane will be fielding many calls from rival GMs interested in acquiring his players. Kurt Suzuki, Coco Crisp and Bartolo Colon should prepare themselves for a summer in the rumor mill, but right-hander Grant Balfour may draw the most interest of all.
Some teams are already short on relief pitching and their need will only intensify by the time the July 31st trade deadline approaches. Balfour will be an appealing commodity since he’s affordable, effective and durable. Affordable, because he'll earn just $4MM in 2012 (his contract includes a $4.5MM club option for 2013 with a $350K buyout). Effective, as demonstrated by his 2.77 ERA, 9.7 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 since 2008. And durable, since he's made at least 50 appearances per season during that same span.
Teams inquired on Balfour this past offseason, and the 34-year-old native of Australia has done nothing to discourage their interest in the early going of the 2012 season (he has a 0.90 ERA in a league-leading nine appearances). Bullpen issues have already surfaced in places such as Boston, Tampa Bay and Anaheim. Even if those pitching staffs recover, other clubs will have interest in Balfour-like pitchers.
It’s unusual for teams to complete significant trades before the amateur draft takes place in June, but the A’s might part with Balfour relatively early if another team offers enough in return. ESPN.com’s Buster Olney called Balfour “the best reliever you could trade for today,” implying he’s available (Twitter link).
If the A’s listen to offers for Balfour now, expect them to demand a significant return -- perhaps a controllable player capable of making an impact at the Major League level plus supplementary pieces. If teams balk at the asking price, Beane can simply wait until July when he'll have the chance to obtain value from a team in serious need of relief help.
At first glance, the Padres' acquisition of closer Huston Street from the Rockies last offseason didn't make a whole lot of sense. After all, San Diego wasn't expected to contend in 2012, and Street didn't come cheaply -- at a 2012 salary of $7.5MM -- for a team that operates on a modest budget.
But new GM Josh Byrnes probably valued Street more as an asset in future trade talks than as someone who could contribute to a rebuilding team on the field, and considering the Friars merely gave up an underwhelming prospect to acquire the right-hander, it's a sound strategy.
Now, several projected contenders are already dealing with injuries at the back end of their respective bullpens, and it seems even more likely that trade suitors will be checking in with the Padres on Street.
The right-hander, 29 in August, has earned his keep as a high-strikeout control specialist with a knack for producing fly balls, a formula that has produced an excellent 2.91 career SIERA. Those skills should play especially well for Street in his new home ballpark in San Diego's Petco Park, where fly balls go to die. And if he's cruising along with stats that are inflated by his home digs in a couple months, it'll only serve to intensify interest among bullpen-needy contenders.
The catch here is Street's contract. He holds a $9MM player option for 2013, but that can be declined for a digestible $500K buyout -- for which the Rockies are on the hook. In other words, Street can be had as a half-season rental, or he can contribute down the stretch and then come back the following year at a pricey, but not off-the-charts, salary.
Will some team bite? It's hard to say that now, with a couple months' games to play out before trade talks really heat up, but if Byrnes can flip Street for even a decent prospect, he'll have turned a profit considering how little he paid for the closer.
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The Padres won 90 games in 2010, but they fell back into the NL West cellar in 2011. They changed GMs this offseason and traded ace Mat Latos to the Reds for a package of three young players and Edinson Volquez. New GM Josh Byrnes also bought low on Carlos Quentin and Huston Street, but a lot will have to go right for San Diego to return to contention this season.
ESPN.com and Baseball Prospectus agree that the Padres have the best farm system in baseball, and they're going to have a prospect-heavy Triple-A rotation led by three of their ten best minor leaguers: Casey Kelly, Robbie Erlin, and Joe Wieland. Kelly came over in the Adrian Gonzalez trade while both Erlin and Wieland came from the Rangers in the Mike Adams deal. With that kind of talent waiting in Triple-A, Byrnes figures to be able to shop a starter or two for more young players at midseason.
The 29-year-old Tim Stauffer (pictured) was San Diego's Opening Day starter last season. He finally made it through his first full season as a big league starter in 2011, eight years after being the fourth overall pick in the draft. He pitched to a 3.73 ERA in 185 2/3 innings spread across 31 starts, relying on ground balls (51.8%) and control (2.57 BB/9) rather than strikeouts (6.20 K/9). Stauffer did appear to hit a bit of wall in mid-August and finished the season on the shelf with arm stiffness, but he's healthy now and ready to go.
Dustin Moseley, 30, was enjoying a bit of a breakout year in 2011 before dislocating his left (non-throwing) shoulder swinging a bat in late-July, which ended his season. Before the injury he'd pitched to a 3.30 ERA in 20 starts (120 IP). Like Stauffer, he's a ground ball (49.5%) and control (2.70 BB/9) guy, not a strikeout guy (4.80 K/9). Also like Stauffer, Moseley is healthy now and will begin the season on time and in the rotation.
Stauffer and Moseley aren't the biggest of names, but they'll have plenty of trade value if they carry their 2011 performance over into 2012. The former will earn $3.2MM this year and the latter just $2.0125MM, plus both guys will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible players in 2013. With expensive hurlers like Joe Blanton ($8.5MM) and John Lannan ($5MM) highlighting the current pitching trade market, Stauffer and Moseley could look very attractive at their salaries come June and July.
The Padres have plenty of young pitching on the way, so they should be able to replace a starter if they make any trades this year. They can always count on Petco Park to help their pitchers perform a little better than they probably should as well. Both Stauffer and Moseley are unspectacular but effective when healthy, and we've seen similar pitchers like Jake Westbrook and Ted Lilly fetch nice returns at the deadline in recent years. The San Diego duo is both younger and cheaper, and new ten-team playoff system could mean more clubs will be in contention and looking for rotation help this summer.
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John Lannan and Chien-Ming Wang are currently battling for the Nationals' fifth starter job, a competition created by the team's Edwin Jackson signing last month. Since Wang was re-signed as a free agent in November, Lannan seems more likely to be traded this spring.
Lannan, a 27-year-old southpaw, posted a 3.70 ERA, 5.2 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 0.73 HR/9, and 54.1% groundball rate in 184 2/3 innings last year. Though his career ERA sits at an even 4.00, Lannan's recent SIERA figures suggest he's more of a 4.50-type pitcher. He's pitched 182 or more innings in each of the last four seasons, including a minor league stint in 2010. Lannan takes the ball every fifth day, and his groundball rate ranked sixth in the National League in 2011.
With a $5MM salary, Lannan provides a modest amount of surplus value. He's technically under team control through 2013, but if another typical season pushes him to the $7.5MM salary range for that season, he might be non-tendered this December. So, Lannan's trade value lies mostly with the 2012 season.
It's difficult to find a team with a big need for $5MM innings guy right now. The Brewers may have mild concerns over Shaun Marcum's shoulder, but Marco Estrada would be a suitable fill-in. A.J. Burnett's Pirates debut may be delayed until June due to a broken orbital bone beneath his eye, but would the team be inclined to spend an additional $5MM because of that half-season injury? The Giants' Ryan Vogelsong is dealing with back pain, but he'll miss less time than Burnett. The Angels have standard fifth starter uncertainty given Jerome Williams' hamstring injury, but not enough to necessitate an acquisition.
The Orioles' rotation has its share of aches and pains, but plenty of candidates as well. The Red Sox and Blue Jays could use some depth, but their current candidates are more interesting than Lannan, if less reliable. The Indians have four pitchers vying for their fifth starter job.
The Tigers seem a bit more open than most to adding a starting pitcher, though presumably not at the cost of $5MM and/or a useful young player. There's also a case for the Athletics to add someone like Lannan. Overall, though, it's clearly a buyer's market if the Nationals look to trade the lefty. Though GM Mike Rizzo has said he's always open-minded to any deal that positively impacts the club, I don't think it'll happen with Lannan this spring unless another club suffers a major loss in its rotation.
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Braves left-hander Mike Minor made it clear last week that he’d welcome a trade under certain circumstances. While he doesn’t have the power to demand a deal, his comments appear to have irked Braves decision makers. Should Atlanta decide to address other needs by parting with starting pitching depth, Minor could be traded.
At this point, Minor is competing for a rotation spot with prospects Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado, so trade talk is purely speculative. Plus, Minor has options remaining, so he can be sent to the minor leagues whether he likes it or not. Let’s look ahead to how he might be valued on the trade market and to which teams could have interest.
First, what kind of pitcher is Minor? He has a 4.74 ERA with 8.8 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and a 36.4% ground ball rate in 123 1/3 innings at the Major League level. The 24-year-old's peripheral stats (3.63 FIP, 3.63 SIERA, .359 opponents' BABIP) suggest his ERA is inflated by about a run and can be expected to drop given his skillset.
Teams covet controllable, MLB ready players and Minor fits that description perfectly. Minor, the Braves’ 2009 first round pick, has less than one year of MLB service time (138 days). His relative inexperience means he's not projected to hit free agency until after the 2017 season. He'll be making close to the MLB minimum through 2013, at which point he projects to qualify for arbitration as a super two player.
Minor’s arguably someone who could help a big league team win now by providing steady innings at the back of a rotation. Contenders such as the Red Sox, Tigers and Angels have competition in their rotations entering Spring Training and could have interest. Teams like the Blue Jays, Royals, Athletics, Astros and Pirates aren’t necessarily in win-now mode, but many would figure to have interest in a controllable left-hander who induces swings and misses.
Recent trades involving Michael Pineda, Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Mat Latos showed that controllable, young starting pitching is a commodity for which teams are willing to surrender multiple top prospects. Though Minor’s accomplishments don’t compare to those of the pitchers above, he has shown enough as a professional that the Braves could demand one top young player or prospect plus a supplementary piece in a possible trade. There’s no reason to believe GM Frank Wren intends to part with Minor, but if the left-hander does become available, expect him to draw significant interest.
The Phillies are looking for a left-handed bat for the stretch run and they’re surely not the only team interested in adding offense from the left side. Few hitters have been hotter since the All-Star break than Hideki Matsui, who has five homers and a .385/.439/.573 line in 132 second half plate appearances.
Matsui has cleared waivers, which means the A’s can now trade him to any team. He makes $4.25MM this year on a deal that expires after the season and only $960K or so remains on his salary, so interested teams wouldn’t have to make a major financial commitment.
One factor that could limit the Athletics’ interest in moving their DH is his projected Type B ranking. Assuming Matsui finishes the season as a Type B free agent, the A’s could offer arbitration and collect a supplemental first round pick in next year’s draft if the 37-year-old slugger declines the offer and signs elsewhere. The A’s front office might very well prefer an extra draft choice to an extra $960K.
But for the A’s to obtain such a pick, they’d have to be prepared to bring Matsui back in 2012. Despite his hot streak, Matsui has career lows in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage and his season line sits at .263/.336/.403, which is slightly worse than the average American League DH (.264/.342/.422).
Unless the A’s have assurances that Matsui will turn an offer of arbitration down (it wouldn’t hurt him to turn their offer down), they can’t be confident in their ability to end up with a draft pick rather than a positionless 38-year-old whose overall production is in decline. As a result, dealing Matsui might appeal to the small market A’s if they can secure $1MM in salary relief. The cash might help them more than Matsui’s hot bat and the possibility of a draft choice.
First baseman Carlos Pena hit just .196/.325/.407 in 2010, and the Scott Boras client signed a one-year, $10MM deal with the Cubs last December in hopes of rebuilding value. Maybe it's due to switching leagues, but Pena's power has rebounded and now he might be the only 30 home run bat on the trade market.
Pena, 33, is hitting .225/.339/.461 with 19 home runs in 340 plate appearances for the Cubs this year. After a rough April he's produced a more robust .244/.354/.543 line. If you're a contender looking for big-time power, Pena and Mark Reynolds are probably the best bets. Both come with big strikeout totals, however. Carlos Beltran, Ryan Ludwick, and Josh Willingham are other power hitters who might be available this month.
With a $10MM salary, Pena earns more than Reynolds, Ludwick, or Willingham. But the Cubs were short on payroll space when they signed Pena, and authored a fairly unique one-year deal that deferred half of his salary until January of 2012. That means an acquiring team would owe Pena around $1.6MM for the remainder of the season if they acquire him at the deadline, but then would have to tack another $5MM for him onto their 2012 payroll. For a club lacking flexibility this might be a benefit; others could be reluctant to pay Pena after he's already signed with another team.
In terms of draft pick compensation, Pena projects as a Type B free agent. This might be a minimal factor for the Cubs or any team, as Pena is not a lock to receive an arbitration offer. And he may not be keen on a handshake agreement to turn down arbitration; he was not one of the Rays who agreed to such an arrangement last year.
Of the 16 current contenders, few are in need of first base help, which should reduce the demand for Pena. The eight AL contenders generally don't need designated hitters, so that route probably would not help Cubs GM Jim Hendry.
The Pirates and Diamondbacks strike me as two teams that would benefit from renting the Pena. The D'Backs would might prefer to turn to Brandon Allen or Paul Goldschmidt at first, leaving the Pirates as the lone suitor if they wish to improve upon Lyle Overbay. The Bucs make for an interesting match, as typically it's been the Cubs swiping useful players from them. I also like the fit because the Pirates could avoid giving up any useful young players for Pena, instead offering to relieve the Cubs of most of the slugger's remaining $6.6MM.
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At 7.5 games back in the NL West, the Dodgers might start pondering trading a few impending free agents. In infielder Jamey Carroll, they've got someone who would be useful to many teams.
Carroll, 37, stepped in as the Dodgers' regular shortstop when Rafael Furcal broke his thumb in April. With Dee Gordon now in the mix at short, Carroll is contributing more at second base lately. He has also logged time at third base and the outfielder corners.
Carroll is a top of the order type, with a .357 career OBP and a .376 mark this year. He's earning $1.8MM plus incentives, so his contract won't be an issue for any team. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti hasn't been committed to acquiring draft picks through free agent compensation, but Carroll appears to have a shot at Type B status.
The Rays, Reds, Brewers, Pirates, and Giants are contenders who could use a hand a shortstop, though the Dodgers may not want to deal with a division rival. The Tigers and Cardinals could desire a second baseman, while the Indians, Tigers, White Sox, Mariners, and Rockies might like a third base addition. While the Dodgers probably won't extract a top 100 prospect for Carroll, there's potential for a half-dozen suitors or more. Assuming the infielder ascends to Type B status, the Dodgers should at least be able to acquire a prospect who is on par with a supplemental round draft pick.
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