Williams has always understood that trades made in May or June are more meaningful than deals made at the July 31 deadline. The buyer gets two extra months from the player, while the seller has a broader market. "If you wait until the end of July, half the teams that may have been interested may have dropped out of their races," says Washington GM Mike Rizzo.
With a bullpen that is 2-16 with an ERA approaching 7.00, Rizzo is trying to find relievers to take the pressure off his young starting rotation of Jordan Zimmermann, Craig Stammen, John Lannan, Shairon Martis and Ross Detwiler. There is a lesson to be learned from the remarkable bullpen performances of the Blue Jays and Brewers, whose 3.40 and 3.49 relief ERAs were in the top seven in the majors going into the weekend; they've got closers who throw strikes (Scott Downs, Trevor Hoffman), a gaggle of independent league and waiver-claim pickups, and good management.
The Nats have few chips to move. Nick Johnson and Austin Kearns should get action, although there has been little thus far. Boston wants to wait on David Ortiz and tabled a proposal of Johnson for Manny Delcarmen. But as Washington prepares for two of the first 10 picks in the June 9 draft -- Stephen Strasburg and likely another high-profile college arm -- other teams around the majors know that they are out in the market, trying to improve a team that in one stretch scored five or more runs in 10 consecutive games and lost nine of them. The only team in the last 50 years to have a losing record when scoring five or more runs was the 1962 Mets, and the Nats went into the weekend 8-16 in those games.
These early stages of the trade market make sense, but they can also lead to media psychedelic supermarkets. Indians GM Mark Shapiro says he spends "40 percent of my time denying false reports." No, he is not considering firing Eric Wedge; Shapiro takes the blame for the Indians' start. No, he has not put Victor Martinez or Cliff Lee on the market; he had one inquiry about Martinez in April and had no interest. Yes, with Jhonny Peralta's move to third base, he would deal Mark DeRosa for major league-ready pitching but otherwise will hold onto DeRosa into June.
If the Indians continue to struggle, and in the shadow of LeBron James their attendance fades because of the Ohio economy, they may change their stance come July. But, for now, they have to find a way to get Grady Sizemore going and steady the pitching from Fausto Carmona back to the end of the bullpen with Kerry Wood.
It made sense for the Cardinals to float Khalil Greene's name toward the Red Sox, whose shortstops lead the majors in errors and who won't get Jed Lowrie back until after the All-Star Break at the earliest. But Greene, who had been dropped behind Brendan Ryan and Tyler Greene by manager Tony La Russa, has anxiety problems, so that is that.
For those who were skeptical about Dontrelle Willis' going to the disabled list with similar problems in April, one team physician says: "This is not an uncommon problem for professional athletes. There were four or five cases of anxiety issues at the NFL combine."
It will make sense for the A's to try to move Matt Holliday in July if they continue to founder. Holliday was supposed to be this year's version of Mark Teixeira, the November free agent. But he struggled early, hitting but .239 in the Oakland Mausoleum.
That reminded some that in his Colorado days his Coors Field average was 77 points higher than on the road, his OPS 265 points higher. But this past winter, Holliday's work with Mark McGwire may have gotten him overly power-conscious. Holliday is a line-drive, alleys hitter, and when he regained that swing the first week of May, he mashed American League pitching -- batting .362 with a 1.057 OPS going into the weekend.
Billy Beane's dilemma if he tries to trade the 29-year-old Holliday in July is that the market may be limited for the free agent, who is represented by Scott Boras. Remember, when Teixeira had a year and two months left before free agency, Texas traded him for four core players -- Matt Harrison, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus and rising pitching star Neftali Feliz, a franchise-changing deal. When the Braves traded Teixeira two months before free agency, all they got was Casey Kotchman. And if the Padres have to wait for the Cubs, the Cardinals or -- and they don't even want to think about this -- the Dodgers until the deadline, their chances of getting anything close to Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard and two other pitchers are slim.
That's why it made sense. And why teams will become increasingly wary of putting no-trade clauses into contracts.