Trade Deadline Shenanigans
Here it is, the end of July and that's the only means one thing: Trade Deadline. It's everyone's favorite time of year. This is where teams may make or break their chance at Postseason glory. With this year's crowd so close in both leagues, we are in a unique scenario. In the AL, all teams are within the top of their respective divisions by no less than 12 games, except for Houston and Texas (it's gotta be the air down there or something *cough* "Colorado" *cough*...). All teams except those two are also no less than ten games out of the final Wild Card spot as well. In regards to the National League, much of the Wild Card and division leaders are separated by no less than seven games.
So where do we get who buys and who sells? Who dumps what they have to try and win two or three years from now? Who gives up the potential next Miguel Cabrera or Bryce Harper to acquire a potential rental to win this year? Those questions, very difficult to answer this season. Why? Again, let's go back to the standings. It's wide open, almost everyone has a shot.
The most intrequing pieces that are in talks are Jon Lester and David Price. It's "Will they be moved?" and "What will it take?". In Price's situation, the Rays are in a tough spot. It's Price who has the upper hand, saying he would walk, as I'm sure he doesn't want to spend his career stuck in St. Petersburg. The Rays are trying to squeeze what they can out of a deal, and I don't blame them. However, at least he can stick around a little longer and this discussion could rekindle next season.
Lester on the other hand, eh...he's going somewhere. However, there is a greater chance to get less in return for Lester, who might be a rental and potentially return to Boston. He said Boston is where he wants to be, and for a player who has been there for so long and has won two championships with that club, moving at this stage in his career might be less likely. That is, if he doesn't go to Seattle. Seattle will be the spot where if he lands, he stays. Lester grew up around Seattle, and might consider making a move there to be perminant through the end of his career. Seattle has room to resign him, they can add him to Robinson Cano, and have that dynamic duo that might contend the Griffey/Johnson duo in the 90's and bring them back to winning ways. The only other Lester scenario in my opinion is Pittsburgh, and it would be a rental. If he goes anywhere other than Seattle, he will be back in Beantown in 2015. (UPDATE: Lester to Oakland with Johnny Gomes in exchange for Cespedes - Who saw this coming?)
Now that brings us to the Nationals, who are clinging to the division lead in the NL East. We have now seen injuries to Ryan Zimmerman, which may keep him out until September, and Jayson Werth. Those are two big bats in the lineup, and who knows what else might happen as the season dwindles down. In an effort to make sure that the Nationals can even ensure themselves a spot, they should to go out and make a deal. I'm not one for rocking the boat when things seem fine, but they aren't. The Nats have come this far through all of their injuries this season, they should p(l)ay to win.
It's obvious that even if Ryan Zimmerman were still in the lineup, his days at third base are (should be) over. He now stands to be a valuable left fielder or first baseman. There was a time that I probably would have laughed or cursed at myself for saying that, but it is what it is. Danny Espinosa, as much as I have also loved him, can't be an everyday player. He is a great late-inning defensive replacement, and can still put up decent at-bats, just not at a regular rate. I also think it's too early to consider Zach Walters someone who could be in the lineup everyday as well. Maybe in a year or two. Then we look at the big positive: Anthony Rendon. Thank you to the baseball gods (and Mike Rizzo) for giving this kid a chance to play, because he's done just that. He can be at second or third, which makes things interesting.
That opens up discussion for two possible deadline options: Adrian Beltre and Chase Utley. Both are veterans, both have appeared in the playoffs and World Series, and both know how to win. Both can still hit, both can be veteran leadership to go along with Werth and Desmond. It doesn't hurt to have someone who's been there before, someone who can help you grind through the NLDS without knowing where to go next. The last thing Nats fans need is a repeat of 2012, where they started to a huge lead but didn't know how to finish it.
Beltre, currently 35, is in the fourth year of a 5-year, $80 million dollar contract he signed with the Rangers. He also has a vesting option for 2016. Is this THAT much money to take on? $32 million over the next two years? Maybe. It starts to make more sense the more you dive into him. He has been said to fall off the table at any time and become less productive, but what was what they said over 5 years ago after a horrid 2009 season with the Seattle Mariners where he only hit 8 round trippers in over 100 games. Since then, he has only suffocated the doubt and has hit no less than 28 home runs in a season since. The Rangers have the worst record in baseball, which makes sense for them to trade someone, especially when they have their "3B of the future" in Joey Gallo coming shortly, they could use some other pieces to build around him. Yes, it has been reported that the Rangers balked at the Nationals for making an inquiry already (See Here via MLB.com), and yes since Beltre is technically under contract until 2016 when they expect Gallo to be ready, but the Rangers may not have a choice to make a move for a fan base that was one strike away from tasting a World Series championship two years ago. Also, Beltre is a client of Mike Rizzo's good ol' pal Scott Boras. May lead to potential discussions with the Rangers on the best interest for is client.
Lastly, we look at the possibility of Chase Utley. Also 35 years old and a Philadelphia folk hero, he helped lead the Phillies to that spectacular 2008 World Series victory, as well as an appearance the following year in 2009 against the Yankees. Since then, the Phillies have been on a steady decline, leading with the major disappointment that is currently Ryan Howard. He would be the one to move, but there is absolutely no way any team would take on his gigantic contract. The dynasty looks all but over in the City of Brotherly Love, as the age of the team might soon exceed the age of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Looking at what they might have in store, the most likely to be moved is Cole Hamels. He has still been incredibly solid over the years, and can be a key chip into any pennant race, which I think might energize him and make him pitch even better.
However Utley is intreguing, as his contract also has one year to go as he is signed through 2015. Also just like Beltre, has a vesting option for 2016. But unlike Beltre, that option includes 2017 and 2018. Each of those years are at $15 million per year. However, his 2015 salary is bound to end up at $10 million due to not appearing more than 15 days on the DL this season. So a $10 million dollar player at 36 years old who can still hit and field among the leagues best? Sounds like a pretty good deal to me. Also, in comes Danny Espinosa and Zach Walters. If you don't like Utley or he struggles, Espinosa and/or Walters can help keep Utley's at-bats under 500 for the season, not exercising the option and allowing him to become a free agent after 2015. Even if it may not be for power, Utley is having one of the best offensive seasons of his career, currently hitting a shade under .300, so why not take a chance?
All of this is up to Mike Rizzo now, and all we can do it watch and wait. Pieces are there for the Nats to move (Tyler Moore, Drew Storen, etc.), but it has to be for the right deal. My only thought for trade deadline brings me back to the deal the Montreal Expos made with the Indians in 2003. Anyone remember? Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips all to the Indians in exchange for Bartolo Colon on a rental? How did no one see that coming? Either way, it should be a fun few days ahead.