|Wednesday, December 11
Updated: December 14, 12:23 AM ET
Vlad on the block? Make your best offer
By Sean McAdam
Special to ESPN.com
On paper, it would seem to be a no-brainer: find a team willing to trade for, arguably, the game's best position player.
In reality, it's a nightmare. Dealing Vladimir Guerrero this weekend won't be easy.
"This,'' predicted one major league general manager, "has got the makings of being ugly.''
Major League Baseball's directive to Monteal Expos GM Omar Minaya to slash payroll will likely force Minaya to trade any number of his stars at the upcoming winter meetings in Nashville: Guerrero, pitchers Bartolo Colon and Javier Vazquez and infielder Jose Vidro.
But exactly how much must Minaya cut? And how best to arrive at that figure?
"There's no way anyone can decipher this,'' said the GM. "I don't care who you are. I think this whole Montreal thing is going to dominate the meetings, because no one's going to do anything until they get a chance to make their pitch. Everybody thinks they have a 1-in-29 chance of getting something done. So they're all going to take it.''
That's not literally true, of course. In any offseason, Guerrero's $11.5 million salary for 2003 would put him out of reach for the majority of franchises. Factor in baseball's game-wide belt-tightening and the outfielder's pending free agency after the '03 season, and the number of potential trade partners dwindles to no more than a handful.
"There's a whole different climate nowadays,'' warns another general manager. "It's tough to move guys. Most deals that have happened, it's money being exchanged. If you ask any club, 'Would you like to have Vlady?' of course the answer is going to be yes. But there are other things to consider. It's very different out there and that's just reality.''
"I'm not sure I see a great fit,'' says a third GM, "one where you can see a good fit for both sides. I don't see that alignment. No. 1, for a player of his caliber, you've got the cost in player personnel. Then you've got to figure out what it's going to cost you to extend him past next year. And if you're Omar, you don't if you're playing for one year, two years, five years ... That's why it's hard to find a match.''
Several executives surveyed hoped that Guerrero would somehow stay put and make himself eligible for free agency after next season.
"Then, I might have a shot at him,'' said still another GM. "But giving up players to get him, then signing him to a long-term deal? That's tough.''
Nobody asked, but here's a handful of trades that Minaya and the Expos might consider once the trade talk gets underway. Keep in mind that the Expos don't want to take established players back because of payroll concerns. By defintiion, they want young (read: inexpensive) talent in return.
The two teams have already had these discussions surrounding Colon, but as much as the right-hander would give the Yankees a front-line starter, it's Guerrero whom Yankees owner George Steinbrenner perhaps covets most.
Think of it: a five-tool outfielder, just entering his prime, who could be the focal point of the Yankees for the next five or six years. And luxury tax concerns or no, the Yanks are one of the very few teams which could afford to lock Guerrero up long-term.
2. New York Mets send pitcher Aaron Heilman, shortstop Jose Reyes and outfielder Jeromy Burnitz to the Expos, paying the latter's remaining salary.
Reyes and Heilman are two blue chip prospects who could be part of Montreal's seemingly perpetual rebuilding process. Burnitz would give the Expos some punch in the lineup to replace Guerrero.
The Mets, having had a disastrous season all around, need to turn around their image. What better way then to land a prize like Guerrero, and in turn, keep him away from the crosstown Yankees?
Burrell is still relatively affordable and gives the Expos a power-hitting outfielder with major league credentials. Myers could step into Montreal's already formidable rotation, and be especially valuable if Colon and or Vazquez has to be dealt off, too. Byrd is a multi-tool outfielder who could be a star.
The Phillies are in a spending mood, having already landed free agents Jim Thome and David Bell, while just missing out on Tom Glavine. They had, in fact, budgeted $35 million or so for Glavine. If they could direct some of that money, in addition to the anticipated revenue coming from the opening of their new ballpark in 2004, they could find room in the budget to retain Guerrero for the long-term.
Crede gives the Expos a third baseman for when they hopefully dump Fernando Tatis. Borchard is the long-term answer in the outfield. Stewart capped a great year at Double-A Birmingham with an outstanding performance in the Arizona Fall League.
Guerrero will cost White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf plenty, but his White Sox need to do something to get fans' attention, and remember, Reinsdorf has a history of occasionally splurging on big names like Frank Thomas and Albert Belle.
5. San Francisco Giants send the Expos pitchers Kurt Ainsworth and Jerome Williams and outfielder Todd Linden.
Ainsworth and Williams are can't miss front-of-the-rotation starters and Linden is a top outfield prospect.
The Giants might have some difficulty squeezing Guerrero and Barry Bonds into the same payroll for the next three seasons or so, given that they have significant debt service on Pac Bell Park. But remember, the Giants won't be keeping Jeff Kent around and a 1-2 combination of Bonds and Guerrero would be something to see.
So will these trade talks result in a deal getting made.
"Whoever gets this done,'' said one NL general manager, "will have to use some real creativity. It's going to be complicated and may even involve a third team. It's going to be fascinating."
Sean McAdam of the Providence Journal covers baseball for ESPN.com.