Continuing onto the National League, let’s take a look at some moves the contenders could reasonably entertain in the coming months to patch holes and solidify their team to assert themselves for the entire year.
Fixing the Contenders – AL
A note from the AL piece: I forgot to point out that Hiroki Kuroda has a full no trade clause that could muddy things up if the Dodgers were looking to trade him this summer. Thanks to Ray Guilfoyle from FakeTeams.com for letting me know that and also suggesting that Ryan Dempster could be an option for the Yankees. I agree with Ray that he would be a nice fit as well. Hell, maybe they will go for both. They have enough minor league pieces to acquire both without decimating their system.
San Francisco Giants (27-22)
Team Needs: C, SS, bats in general
Had I not had plans last night to see The Hangover 2 (which was very funny, not as good as 1, but no one should expect it to be), this section would have looked a whole lot different because star catcher Buster Posey was lost for the season during a 12-inning battle against the Florida Marlins. His leg was destroyed while blocking the plate against Scott Cousins and their anemic offense has now lost its best player. Posey wasn’t hitting like he did last year, but the bar to be the best Giants hitter hasn’t been terribly high in 2011. Posey had a .284/.368/.389(!) line with four home runs and 21 RBIs, not bad, but not quite the .305/.357/.505 with 18 home runs stud we saw a year ago, either.
This is a devastating blow to a team that desperately needed hitting before the injury. The Giants could dial up the Cincinnati Reds and inquire about some of the amazing depth at catcher that the NL Central reigning champs have both on their team and in their system. Or is that a fit? Because Posey is a franchise player who will be back next year, the Giants don’t need to go big and trade for Devin Mesoraco, the 23-year old prospect who is following up a breakout 2010 with a big 2011 at AAA.
The Reds are currently top five in the majors in catcher production between Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan. With Mesoraco waiting in the wings, they could afford to move one of them to address one of their needs at the same time. Hernandez (.327/.375/.558) is a 35-year old backstop in the last year of his contract while Hanigan (.253/.349/.347) is 30 and just starting a very team-friendly 3 year/$4-million dollar deal so I think the Reds would be more likely to deal Hernandez even though he is hitting better right now.
The Reds have the 2nd-worst team ERA from their starters (4.95) despite coming into the season with what seemed like a surplus of starters. For either catcher, the Reds aren’t going to draw one of San Francisco’s top four arms (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner). Ryan Vogelsong has been such a revelation and the 33-year old journeyman is pitching out of his mind with some pretty strong skills to back up his pint-sized ERA and WHIP (1.77/1.06). Given that Barry Zito would be too expensive to trade, whether for the Giants (who might be forced to pay a bulk of the cash) or the receiving team (who would have that albatross contract on their books), Vogelsong might be the one to move.
Of course they can’t give up two of their top five arms and there is another move that is being rumored that would fit much better in the short and long term meaning they need to either to go with Eli Whiteside (the current backup), search within their system, hit the scrap heap of the free agent pool (Bengie Molina anyone?) or make a smaller trade with someone.
TRADE: Prospect Ryan Verdugo to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Ryan Doumit – The Pirates farm system is getting better, but they need to keep stockpiling arms as their lineup is starting to come together and a lot of their pitching prospects are years away. Verdugo is a solid lefty who shifted back to the rotation after three years of relieving as a pro and he is having a strong season with 44 strikeouts in his 41 innings of work.
Doumit, meanwhile, has seemingly been on the block for several years now as his star has dimmed since a breakout 2008 season that portended big things on the way that never ended up coming to fruition. He’s an adequate bat that would be a significant upgrade over staying in house with Whiteside.
So this overwhelming devastation may heighten San Francisco’s focus on filling their shortstop void that they inexplicably thought was filled with the Miguel Tejada acquisition this offseason. Pablo Sandoval’s injury mercifully pulled Tejada from the most important defensive spot on the field, but it left Mike Fontenot there.
Overshadowed in today’s Posey news is that Fontenot is now on the disabled list, too, leaving them with Emmanuel Burris and rookie Brandon Crawford at the position. From awful to equally awful to the most awfulest everz at a very important position. Two key positions obliterated in one fateful night.
Focusing efforts on a certain star shortstop who is available, the Giants should make a blockbuster deal to fill this massive void now and in the future.
TRADE: Bumgarner, Crawford, Clayton Tanner and Darren Ford to the New York Mets for Jose Reyes – That feels like it should be enough, but it also feels like it could be too much. I’m just not 100% sure where Reyes’ value is at this point. The Mets’ farm is garbage right now so a big time major league arm and some solid pieces to stock the high minors for a piece like Reyes seems viable on their end, too.
Obviously to give up a huge arm like Bumgarner, a top 10 prospect from their org. and two other pieces, the Giants would have to gain some sort of assurance for themselves that Reyes isn’t just a rental. You don’t take that kind of hit to your rotation for a few months of an electric table-setter. It’s not like he can go on a Manny Ramirez run circa 2008.
If Reyes were just a rental then I think you lop off Bumgarner immediately and then perhaps that trio is enough. Or maybe they replace Crawford with Ehire Adrianza, who is also a shortstop prospect that checks out a bit higher and is just 22 years old.
If a move for Reyes can realistically be done without devastating their current 25 to the point where there is no net gain, then they really should entertain it. Crawford being instantly successful would be a huge upset considering he was a 24-year old in High-A who had reached AA in 2009 and 2010 yet performed terribly both times and has yet to hit AAA.
He was definitely raking (.322/.412/.593), but he was a 24-year old in the Cal League, so he should have been hitting well. The Giants are rolling the dice with him because they have limited options at this point.
- C – Trade Verdugo for Doumit
- SS – Trade Bumgarner, Crawford, Tanner & Ford for Reyes
Atlanta Braves (28-23)
Team Need: OF
When was the last time the Braves had three viable outfielders play a majority of their games in left, center and right? It has been quite some time, but it looks like 2003 when they had Chipper Jones in left, Andruw Jones in center and Gary Sheffield in right. All three posted .851 or better OPS marks while Chipper and Sheff were at .920 and 1.023, respectively. Since then, they have pieced things together at one and sometimes two of the spots and injuries have put them right back there again in 2011.
They needed outfield help before Jason Heyward went out, but then he and Nate McLouth hit the disabled list together leaving Martin Prado as the last man standing out there. Lucky for them they have a stupid amount of pitching both at the major league level and throughout their minor leagues which should allow them make a move with ease.
The problem is there is one major and a couple strong bats out there, but they are all corner outfielders. With Prado in left and Heyward out, but expected back and in right, centerfield is their biggest need and there just aren’t a ton of options out there. And I can’t see them trading with their hated rivals, the New York Mets, to get Carlos Beltran. Plus Beltran probably works best in a corner to conserve his health.
That really limits their options unless something opens up from now until July. As such, I could see them biding their time with fill-ins and then making a move for a guy who is also currently injured and scheduled to return in about a month, at the earliest.
TRADE: Prospect Erik Cordier to the Chicago Cubs for Marlon Byrd – Look, McLouth is terrible. His return doesn’t help the Braves at all. And there aren’t any significant outfield prospects on the way up for the Braves so getting Byrd not only helps this year but also in ’12 when he costs just $6.5 mil. He isn’t a middle of the lineup impact bat, but he can definitely help the top of their lineup by getting on base early 35% of the time.
Cordier barely registers for the Braves, not because he’s a poor prospect, but because they have such a disgusting depth of arms. Seven of their top 10 prospects this year are starting pitchers and a handful more within their top 25. Not to mention the fact that they have a deep rotation at the major league level, too.
If he could realistically play CF, the Braves could inquire about and possibly acquire Andre Ethier from the Dodgers, but I just don’t see that.
- OF – Trade Cordier for Byrd
Cincinnati Reds (26-25)
Team Needs: RP, SP
I discussed separately and in the AL portion of a move the Reds could do with the A’s to improve their bullpen while merely scratching the surface of their insanely deep stock of hitters in the minor leagues.
Their first two months of their 2011 season are a shining example of the adage: “you can never have too much starting pitching.” It’s impossible. It such a volatile position and so prone to injury that there really is no such thing as “too much”. They came into the season with Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Edinson Volquez and Travis Wood ready to go as well as Sam LeCure and Matt Maloney for depth.
Arroyo has flailed (5.28 ERA, 1.44 WHIP), Bailey started the season hurt and looked great in his first five starts before getting hurt again; his status is up in the air, Cueto also got a late start to the season, but has been great in his four starts (2.19 ERA, 1.14 WHIP), Leake has been terrible and likes to steal cheap shirts, Volquez has imploded to the point where he has been sent back to the minors and Wood’s ERA (5.11) looks a lot worse than his skills would normally suggest (3.63 FIP).
That leaves them with a reliable arm in Cueto, a second who should improve with Wood and four question marks. LeCure has been great as a swingman with four starts in his 12 appearances with great skills in both roles, but a significantly better ERA in the bullpen (0.68 vs. 4.79). Maloney has been nothing special in AAA.
As I mentioned, they have remarkable hitting depth and that would allow them to make a move for a legitimate starter. Of course, there aren’t a ton of legitimate starters set to be available, but I think the Dodgers would be a good trade partner with a putrid offense that needs help now and going forward.
TRADE: Prospects Chris Valaika and Neftali Soto to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Ted Lilly – Lilly also has a full no trade clause (why the hell do the Dodgers keep giving out full NTCs????) so a move would again be contingent upon the player, but I’m not sure why he wouldn’t want to go to a surefire contender like the Reds. The Dodgers need a lot on the diamond, but infield is the real issue.
James Loney isn’t a good first baseman. He simply doesn’t hit enough. A lot of people believe he will at some point because of what he showed as a 23-year old (.919 OPS, 15 HR in 96 games), but at 27 after three straight years of sub-.800 OPS (and a .573 so far this year), I think it’s time to stop thinking something great is on the way. Soto has some nice power potential that would fit really nicely at first base for the Dodgers with the added bonus that the Reds tried him out at catcher last year and it wasn’t a complete failure.
He would be an asset to the Dodgers at either position as both are barren for them (assuming they leave Jerry Sands in left). His plate patience could use some work and he needs to shorten his swing or he could get eaten up in the high minors and then the majors, but his power has been on full display early on in his first stint at AA (.680 SLG).
Meanwhile Valaika probably works best at second base, but could maybe stick at short or third base depending on need. Lucky for him, the Dodgers need all three positions. With 237 games at AAA where he has had mixed success (struggled initially, but solid this year and last), it is time to give him a real shot at the big leagues and see what the 25-year old is made of and whether or not he can stick at the majors as an everyday player.
The Reds could reasonably do this move and the one I’ve proposed with the A’s to get Andrew Bailey for Yonder Alonso without seriously damaging their minor league system. It would be a dent that’s for sure, but Alonso and Soto are blocked by Joey Votto and Valaika is blocked by Brandon Phillips at second and Scott Rolen now and likely Juan Francisco in the future at third so they are trading from surplus to improve their team and give them the best shot to win in 2011.
- RP – Trade Alonso for Bailey
- SP – Trade Soto, Valaika for Lilly
These are obviously just some ideas for the seven teams across both leagues who I see as contenders. Perhaps none of them come close to happening, but I think they are reasonable possibilities for how these teams could improve their team for 2011.
Among the NL contenders not listed, I didn’t see natural fits for the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers. Whether it’s a thin minor league system or not enough major league depth to trade from or the lack of legitimate opening to trade for, these four teams are contenders in my eyes, but as it stands in late May, I don’t see a major move for them right now.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these two pieces. When it comes to trades with prospects included, I am making my best educated guesses, so we could see a team trade for a major leaguer I predicted, but give something totally different in return. I look forward to seeing how things play out in June and July leading up to the trade deadline.