Until the Draft – and especially in the weeks that lead up to it – teams rarely focus the weight of their front office energy on trade talks. I’d imagine conversations still happen, but the bulk of the work takes place after the Draft has happened, and the muscle has an opportunity to shift focus.
It isn’t just a matter of attentional deficiency, of course – until mid-June, save for a handful of obvious exceptions, you really can’t have a great sense of what teams are going to be sufficiently “in” it to make acquisition deals, or sufficiently “out” of it to make sell deals. And, even the teams that are obvious sellers or buyers are reluctant to make a move until the market is fully developed – otherwise, you might overpay or under-acquire.
Don’t expect a flurry of movement in the next few weeks, but you can expect a flurry of rumors. Like these …
- Because we’ve entered the meat of the rumor season, it’s time to really start focusing on the market – which is to say, which teams will be selling, which teams buying, and which teams standing pat? The Cubs are extremely likely to be sellers, so you’d obviously prefer to see as few other sellers on the market as possible. Checking records will only get you so far, as there are teams with bad records – the Angels and Dodgers, most notably – that don’t figure to be sellers, based on the configurations of their rosters. For some teams that have been losing, it’s going to be interesting to see the direction they take. The Blue Jays obviously took a “go for it” tack in the offseason, picking up R.A. Dickey and the Marlins in trade, but the results so far have been disappointing. Would they cut bait and sell? Nick Cafardo reports that not even those in the front office know whether they’ll become sellers. With a number of tradable pieces, they’ll be a close one to watch.
- Separately, Cafardo says that Astros starter Bud Norris is very likely to be moved, and is pitching well this year (3.43 ERA over 76 innings). If I could do so without sounding defensive about the market for starting pitchers, I’d note that some of Norris’s peripherals this year are actually worse than in years past – his strikeout rate is way down, for example – and his xFIP is a healthy 4.51. He offers a team that acquires him two years of control beyond this year, but they are arbitration years that won’t necessarily come cheap (he makes $3 million this year, his first in arbitration).
- Speaking of other pitching options muddying the trade market: With the White Sox skidding (thanks in no small part to the Cubs) and in last place in the AL Central, the possibility that they become a seller is increasing. Their best trade piece is arguably Jake Peavy … or it was until he broke his rib. He was pitching well and was on a moveable contract, but now that he’s out for four to six weeks, it’s debatable whether he could net enough in return at the deadline to justify moving him. Even if he comes back on the lighter end of the injury spectrum, he’ll have just four weeks or so to re-establish himself as both healthy and effective.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro doesn’t offer too much clarity as to whether his struggling team will become sellers when late July rolls around, but he does tell CSN that he’s not interested in “blowing up” the roster. They might make a move or two for the future, but they won’t sell off the entire roster. As far as the Cubs are concerned, however, that “move or two” could be enough to disrupt the market – for example, if the Phillies make Cliff Lee widely available. The only good news on that front is that Lee can block trades to 20 teams, tying the Phillies’ hands slightly.
- MLBTR looks at Scott Feldman as a trade candidate, noting that his success this year is likely not sustainable at its currently level – but isn’t a load of hooey, either. As I’ve said before, Feldman’s value in trade (as a rental) is at its highest when paired with another piece – and MLBTR agrees – he, alone, could net a top ten prospect from an average system, together with another piece in the 10 to 15 range. That’s just about where I’d land in a projection, too. I can’t see Feldman, even if he keeps dominating, netting a top 100 prospect – but an organizational top 10? Maybe even one in the 100 to 150 range in baseball? Definitely possible, especially if the trade market remains thin.