Tight races could stifle trade market

July, 4, 2009
George Streinbrenner's birthday seems to be a good time for a reminder that Bud Selig's revenue sharing has flattened the baseball earth. Salary cap or no salary cap. In this century, eight different teams have won nine World Series, compared to seven different NFL teams winning 10 Super Bowls, five different NBA teams winning 10 championships.

Ask Hal Steinbrenner and John Henry how much they're funding the delicate balance of power. Ask Fred Wilpon, and he'll point out that on July 4 the Florida Marlins are buyers and believe they can win the NL East.

Pittsburgh is only 6.5 games back in the wild card race, but there is no way the Pirates will get that spot. Arizona, San Diego, Washington, Oakland, Cleveland, Kansas City and Baltimore are out of it. Toronto is five back in the wild card and on the bubble. Otherwise, the AL East's big three are within five games of one another; the charging White Sox have made the AL Central a wild race, with three teams separated by four games; Texas and L.A. are tied in the AL West; four teams are within two games in the NL East; five teams are within four games in the NL Central; and while the Dodgers are off on "Mannygan's Island" in the NL West, the Giants and Rockies are No. 1 and 2 for the wild card.

That's how it works with revenue sharing and without a salary cap. In the last 25 World Series, 18 different franchises have won; the Yanks have won four, and the others with multiple championships are the Twins, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Marlins.

What this means is probably there will be little phrenetic trading in these last four weeks before the deadline.

Unless there is an unforeseen economic downturn that forces ownership into dump mode, the Indians won't trade Cliff Lee, and probably won't move Victor Martinez. To trade Lee, they'd have to get two premium pitching prospects and one premium hitting prospect.The only club that could match that would be Boston, and Theo Epstein isn't giving up Clay Buchholz, Junichi Tazawa, Casey Kelly or Josh Reddick. If Boston is going to pay a high price for a hitter right now, they want someone young, especially with the possibility of replacing Jason Bay for the 2010 season. Kerry Wood might be a perfect fit for Tampa Bay, but the Rays can't take on his contract.

Kansas City will be looking to trade pitching and Mark Teahen, but Gil Meche has a no-trade clause in his contract, and Dayton Moore is pitching oriented. Billy Beane has explored options with Matt Holliday, but while something may well develop, Beane wants the equivalent of two No. 1 picks; the Mets wouldn't even discuss Fernando Martinez, so Holliday isn't going to Citi Field. Baltimore eventually will move bullpen pieces, but with Jake Arrietta, Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman close to the majors, the Orioles are on the precipice of being restored to their glory times.

Arizona is not going to move Dan Haren. With a solid core, 26 years old and under, the D-backs will explore the market with Jon Rauch, Chad Qualls, Felipe Lopez, Doug Davis and Jon Garland. San Diego, with $28 million worth of players on the disabled list and $18 million on the active roster, can't move Jake Peavy, probably can't move Brian Giles and will see what they can get for Scott Hairston and secondary arms like Kevin Correia, who interests the Rangers. Washington will trade Nick Johnson, Adam Dunn and virtually any and all position players except Ryan Zimmerman, as they try to morph the club's makeup and athleticism. The Pirates are trying to restock on the fly, which means Matt Capps, Freddy Sanchez, John Grabow and Adam LaRoche can be discussed.

It's hard for the Mariners to trade Erik Bedard or Jarrod Washburn as long as they're in the heat of the AL West race. Drayton McLane isn't going to allow the Astros to pull the plug, and with an August rotation consisting of Roy Oswalt, Felipe Paulino, Wandy Rodriguez and Bud Norris, they can sell hope. Toronto is on the bubble, and will be in sell mode in three weeks. The enigmatic Armando Rios would be an intriguing market item.

Contract dumping may make for fascinating trade discussions and may help some franchises get back to their financial ground zero, but it isn't necessarily good for the industry. What is good for the industry is that at the midpoint weekend of the season, 22 of the 30 teams have hope -- two of the three sub-.400 teams (Arizona and Cleveland) have extraordinary young players -- and the Marlins are buyers in their attempt to not only win the NL East but finish with their fifth winning record in the last seven seasons.



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