I recently had the pleasure of participating in a discussion of the AL East with bloggers from Bluebird Banter, DRaysBay, Over The Monster, and Pinstripe Alley. Below is part 1 of that discussion, focusing on the trade deadline. You probably won't learn anything new from what I had to say, but there is a lot of good stuff from the other guys. Special thanks to Sky Kalkman of Beyond The Boxscore for moderating.
Sky Kalkman (Moderator): Which teams, under which circumstances, will be buyers over the next three weeks? How about sellers? If there are any undecideds, what will be the tipping point?
R.J. Anderson (DRaysBay): I think the Rays could buy and sell. If someone comes along with an enticing offer for Carl Crawford or Scott Kazmir, I fully expect the Rays to listen. At the same time, seeing them acquire a cheap catcher wouldn't shock me either.
Daniel Hugo (Bluebird Banter): Historically, the Jays have been quiet in July in terms of deals - not buying or selling. This season could be somewhat different. Of course everyone has heard the Roy Halladay trade rumours but I have to say, I don't think it's particularly likely he gets dealt before next year's trade deadline, though you never know. Scott Rolen could be interesting to some teams, but the Jays would likely need to get back someone who could play third base next season. Lyle Overbay has slumped lately but he is still having a solid season and could be a useful piece. And if anyone needs a shortstop short-term, Marco Scutaro will be a free agent after this season and is having a very fine season on both sides of the ball. The Jays would be looking to get young position players back, particularly in the infield, as only Aaron Hill is signed after the 2010 season. They could also be looking for a young power hitter. The Jays would love to trade Vernon Wells, of course, but his deal makes that very difficult, even without the no-trade clause.
Stacey Long (Camden Chat): There is no question that the Orioles should be sellers this year. They aren't going anywhere in the standings and they have a number of free agents to-be who could provide value to contending teams. Danys Baez has seen a career revival this year after missing all of last season. He's a FA next year and I can't imagine the O's bringing him back unless he takes a considerable pay cut. Aubrey Huff, also an upcoming FA, has dropped off after a great 2008 but still provides left handed power and has proven himself much more adequate at 1B than could have been imagined. Some O's fans want Aubrey to be re-signed (or at least offered arbitration after the year) because the Orioles don't have an immediate solution to replace him in 2010. Plus Huff has really endeared himself to fans and has publicly stated that he wants to remain an Oriole. He has regrets about leaving the Devil Rays just before they crossed the line into contending, and he's scared to miss that boat with the O's as well. Other possible trade pieces for the Orioles include George Sherrill, Jim Johnson, and Luke Scott. I think the O's may make a few trades, but Andy MacPhail is nothing if not methodical. He won't trade just because it seems like he should and he won't give away anything if he doesn't get substantial value in return. It seems that he prefers to operate in the winter when there is more flexibility, and he's very, very deliberate. But his patience did bring us Luke Scott, Matt Albers, Troy Patton, Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, George Sherrill, and more, so for now I'll defer to his wisdom.
Randy Booth (Over The Monster): The Red Sox will be "buyers," if you even want to call them that. They're certainly not sellers as the team with the best team in the American League. Even though the Red Sox have been inconsistent, they may not necessarily need to trade for anything. They have a few guys like Jed Lowrie coming off the disabled list that will instantly shore up some holes (of course, that's if he stays healthy). So for another year under Theo Epstein, the Sox might not make a huge splash -- unlike last year, when that guy named Manny, I think, was traded.
Sky Kalkman (Moderator): What holes will teams be looking to fill? What are the biggest holes they *SHOULD* be looking to fill but don't seem to be concerned about? Which holes from the first half can be plugged internally, perhaps by improvement the same player?
R.J. Anderson (DRaysBay): Catcher, corner outfield, pitching. John Jaso might be able to help out at catcher, and the other two are just for depth in the system.
Daniel Hugo (Bluebird Banter): The Jays have had a huge hole at DH/LF for most of the year - Adam Lind has done a great job in one of those spots, but the other one has been occupied by the likes of Kevin Millar and David Dellucci. Now that Travis Snider is back from a back/shoulder injury, if he starts hitting well, he could be called up and fill the spot. The Jays' pitching depth is quite impressive, but they will be relying on young and inexperienced starters to fill 4/5 of the rotation so an arm that could add some stability there would also be good, though they might be content to let the rookies work through it. All of them have showed quite a bit of promise. Shortstop remains a huge concern long-term with Marco Scutaro set to become a free agent after the season and no one to replace him in the Jays' system. But a hole at SS is nothing new for the Jays.
Stacey Long (Camden Chat): I have to think that the Orioles FO is looking for solutions to 3B and 1B for the immediate future, with SS a slightly more distant concern. Defensively I've had no complaints with Mora but his offense is simply atrocious. He has an option for next year but I will be shocked if it is picked up. There's no internal solution to the 3B issue and Mora isn't getting any better, so I hope that MacPhail has an external solution in mind. As for 1B, the O's only real hitting prospect, Brandon Snyder, could fill that role next year maybe, but it's no sure thing. For the rest of '09, Aubrey Huff will be fine. He's a 2nd half hitter and I'm confident he'll pick up the pace after the AS break.
The O's pitching at the MLB level is certainly sub-par, but I don't know anyone who considers it a "hole." We're all waiting patiently for Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, and a number of other lesser prospects to come up to the bigs and save us. We could see Tillman as early as this year which excites me greatly.
Randy Booth (Over The Monster): One thing they certainly do need is a defensive shortstop. Julio Lugo and Nick Green just ain't cutting it, but Jed Lowrie, when he comes off the DL, might, so who knows at this point if a trade is necessary. And the Sox might say they need a big bat to help out Ortiz, because let's face it: can he keep this up for this rest of the season? I'm not so sure. The Sox also might be looking for a third baseman because Mike Lowell has had his issues lately, and I don't think the Sox really want to have Kevin Youkilis over at third all the time. Other than that, I don't think the Sox will be going after much. They certainly don't need any pitchers, but could trade one (Takashi Saito namely).
Travis Goldman (Pinstripe Alley): As always, the Yankees will be buyers, and would be even if they weren't three back in the division. Pitching is the biggest weakness, and Cashman should feel free to address both the bullpen and the rotation. Who knew Wang and Pettitte would be this bad? Joba's not going deep enough, and Brian Bruney has been oscillating between injured and ineffective.
Sky Kalkman (Moderator): Who are the most popular trade targets for those holes? Any targets flying under the radar? Any targets your team is especially intrigued in? Any popular names they're backing away from? Any rumors you'd like to start?
R.J. Anderson (DRaysBay): Gregg Zaun, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, worst case: someone like Miguel Olivo.
Stacey Long (Camden Chat): R.J., I'd love to see a trade with the Rays that nets the Rays Gregg Zaun, but something tells me it'd be a tough sell. Matt Wieters credits Zaun a lot with helping him in every aspect of being a ML catcher and if their mentor/mentee relationship is really that strong the O's might not want to break it up.
As for O's trade targets, I haven't heard anything specific. Everything centering around the Orioles, trade-wise, explores only the pieces the O's would give away, not what they'd get in return. Whoever it is, I'd imagine it would be mostly minor leaguers.
Randy Booth (Over The Monster): All the shortstop names have dropped off the table so far (Omar Vizquel anyone?), but other names have surfaced for 3B like Garret Atkins. Don't color me impressed. The other names that could fill a gap are the Nats' Nick Johnson and Adam Dunn -- if the price is right.
Travis Goldman (Pinstripe Alley): Huston Street has been discussed. Ken Rosenthal (take it for what it's worth) says the Yanks are one of the main players for Halladay. I'd like to throw Cliff Lee's name into the mix. He's obviously not on Halladay's level, but is younger and would require significantly less in terms of prospects.
Sky Kalkman (Moderator): Which prospects and young major leaguers are most likely to change hands? Any that teams have deemed off-limits?
R.J. Anderson (DRaysBay): Basically the top three in the system: Tim Beckham, Desmond Jennings, and Wade Davis. I'd probably throw Jeremy Hellickson in that group as well.
Daniel Hugo (Bluebird Banter): You won't see Travis Snider or left-handed starter Brett Cecil traded. Actually, I doubt that the Jays are going to be willing to trade much in the way of prospects this July.
Stacey Long (Camden Chat): The Orioles aren't currently in the business of trading prospects and young major leaguers. I'd imagine that once the pitching starts to take form, perhaps next year, MacPhail will start using his major league ready pieces to fill in the gaps. I haven't heard anything official about players being off limits, but it'll be a cold day in hell before Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, or Nick Markakis are traded.
Randy Booth (Over The Monster): While Clay Buchholz's name comes up a lot, he's been untouchable for a few years now and I don't think that will change now. Michael Bowden, however, who is a poor-man's Buchholz, is almost as good and could be up for grabs. Daniel Bard, the fireballing reliever who is impressing scouts every day, could also be traded because let's face it: he's just a reliever. I don't think any, however, will be traded.
Travis Goldman (Pinstripe Alley): The big four are Hughes, Joba, Austin Jackson and Jesus. For the Yanks to land Halladay, it would require at least two of them; however, Cashman has shown a reticence to deal 'home-grown' players, especially the upper tier ones, so I doubt they get Halladay. Two intriguing pitchers that could get dealt are Zach McAllister and Ivan Nova.
Sky Kalkman (Moderator): Without any trade-deadline moves, what has to happen for your team to win the division? How much more likely is your team to make the playoffs by plugging its holes or adding an impact player?
Randy Booth (Over The Monster): Two big keys: Jed Lowrie coming back to shortstop 100 percent healthy. If he can be healthy, he has shown in the past he can play some really good ball. The other key: Daisuke Matsuzaka. Dice-K has been absolutely horrid this season. But if he could come off the disabled list and pitch like he did last season, you can wrap up the AL Pennant and put it in a box on Yawkey Way.
Stacey Long (Camden Chat): 1) Aliens attack and destroy Boston, 2) The Mets and Yankees switch divisions, 3) The entire Rays team comes down with mono except for Dioner Navarro, and 4) the Blue Jays trade the Orioles Roy Halladay and Ricky Romero for Felix Pie.
Daniel Hugo (Bluebird Banter): It's hard to imagine the confluence of events that would have to take place for such a thing to occur, but one thing is certain: the Toronto sports media would still find plenty to complain about.
Travis Goldman (Pinstripe Alley): Both Wang and Joba have to return to 2008 form (in Wang's case, pre-injury). Adding a good reliever would make it easier to move Hughes back to the rotation if Wang/Joba don't return to form.
Sky Kalkman (Moderator): For the teams probably out of the running, what acquisitions and decisions based on the 2010 and future seasons would you consider a "win"?
Daniel Hugo (Bluebird Banter): Great question. I'd consider any acquisition of a young position player under team control for the next several years a big win. Particularly at shortstop or third base, where the Jays have little organizational depth in the high minors (and prospects in the low minors who aren't exactly lighting it up at the moment). The Jays have a lot of pitching depth, but not all that many young pitchers with top-of-the-rotation potential. With one-time future-ace Dustin McGowan's career now in doubt, adding a young, top-of-the-rotation potential pitcher to replace him would, of course, be a coup. If you could fill both of those needs by trading Roy Halladay, I think you have to at least consider it.
Randy Booth (Over The Monster): I'll skip this...
Daniel Hugo (Bluebird Banter): And people sometimes ask me why I don't like Red Sox fans!
Stacey Long (Camden Chat): For the past decade or so, August and September have been hard for Orioles fans to watch. The annual swoon comes at us fast and before you know it the O's are finishing the season 4-32 or something almost as ridiculous. I'd consider it a win for the O's to continue to play hard down the stretch and avoid the collapse. Hopefully the young guys on the team still have enough to prove that they won't let themselves pack it in. Another win would be continual improvement by Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold, Brad Bergesen, David Hernandez, and even Adam Jones. And of course anything done to find help for the Orioles corner infield positions in 2010 and beyond is a bonus.
Stay tuned for part 2 of the round table where we discuss where our teams stand in the second half of the season.