MLB Trade Talks: Bullpen - Buyer's, Not Seller's Market
Aside from Francisco Rodriguez going to the Brewers, it has so far been a very tame and docile environment leading up to the trade deadline on July 31st.
We hear day-in and day-out about who's going where, who's active, who's a buyer. who's a seller, who's holding on to someone, and who needs to overwhelmed to trade a player. The biggest thing we have heard lately is that it's likely to be a quiet trade deadline, because teams are asking for too much in return. Well, I have a different opinion, especially when it comes to the relief pitching market.
If we are on the playground at recess and I see you pick-up a quarter and close your fist around it. Then you try to trade it for someone's chips or cookies (worth $1), by telling them "in my hand I have a Silver Dollar coin." It won't work. You can talk all you want, get the little parasite, nerdy kid/friend who follows you around to spread rumors that you have a Silver Dollar all you want, and negotiate all you want for that dollar worth of chips or cookies, in the end you have 25 cents. And when it's time, the moment of truth, right before the recess bell rings to make the trade and you show the other kid the quarter, all your getting is a stick of gum...maybe two.
Same thing goes for the trade deadline. The Mets can say all they want that Carlos Beltran is worth this and that, but in the end they will settle for what he really is worth. Fact remains that Beltran, a free agent at the end of the year, has a clause in his contract that does not allow a team to offer him arbitration at the end of the year. So whoever he is playing for come November, will NOT get two compensation draft picks if he signs elsewhere. So the Mets options are 1) hope you re-sign him (yeah right) or 2) trade him and get something in return, because if you don't, in the end they will get absolutely zero compensation for him. Go back to the recess playground, the Mets are saying they have a Silver Dollar, but in the end they really are only holding a quarter, and they know that before the end of the day they'll lose that quarter. So they are stating to the rest of baseball that they want a cookie, but by July 31st they'll get their stick of gum...and like it.
We are seeing a similar thing in regards to relief pitching. Currently, and this can be debatable, the selling teams in baseball are going to be: Blue Jays, Orioles, Royals, Athletics, Mariners, Mets, Nationals, Marlins, Cubs, Astros, Dodgers, Padres, and I'm going to say Rockies as well. Therefore 13 of the 30 teams are out, and should begin planning for 2012 and beyond. In regards to relief pitching, each of these teams have at least one target to offer, and some want "Heaven and Earth" in return for trading away their bullpen arms. For the time being, that's fine, it's smart business to "request" a whole lot in return, but their really is only a handful of the remaining teams looking to upgrade their bullpen. Of the 17 remaining, contending teams there really is only 12 of the teams actively looking to improve their bullpen. Again a debatable list, but my list includes Rangers, Angels, Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Tigers, White Sox, Twins, Phillies, Pirates, Cardinals, and Reds.
Current list of "available" relievers that have been mentioned more than once as a potential target of one of the 12 buyers: BAL - Koji Uehara and Jim Johnson, TOR - Jon Rauch, Frankie Francisco, and Jason Frasor, KC - Joakim Soria, OAK - Michael Wuertz, Grant Balfour, and Andrew Bailey, SEA - Brandon League, Chris Ray, Jamey Wright, Aaron Laffey, and Jeff Gray, NYM - Manny Acosta, Tim Byrdak, and DJ Carrasco, WAS - Tyler Clippard and Todd Coffey, FLA - Leo Nunez, Randy Choate, Burke Badenhop, and Edward Mujica, CHC - Rodrigo Lopez and Kerry Wood, HOU - Sergio Escalona, COL - Huston Street, Matt Lindstrom, and Rafael Betancourt, LAD - Matt Guerrier, and SD - Heath Bell, Mike Adams, Chad Qualls, and Luke Gregerson. There is an active list of 34 relief pitchers names who each could be traded before the 31st.
But look back at the list of the 12 teams looking for relief arms, most are looking for only one, maybe a couple are looking for two, so in total there could be a maximum of 15 relievers changing teams. 15 out of 34 possible! Get what I'm saying. The sellers and the media can say all they want about it being a seller's market, but it's not, it's truly a buyers market. Now I do agree that teams like the Padres with Bell and Adams, the Royals with Soria, Marlins with Nunez, A's with Bailey, and the Orioles with Johnson sit in a position where standing by and not trading could be the best option. However teams like the Rangers, who are looking for not just one, but likely two bullpen upgrades have their options. So when the Oakland A's tell the Rangers it'll cost you LHP Martin Perez, 1B/3B Chris Davis, and another top pitching prospect to get RHP Andrew Bailey, Texas quickly moves on. And this doesn't even mention the fact that of the 12 teams looking for relief pitching, in most cases it's a WANT, not a NEED. If you want to upgrade, but the "asking price" is too high, you walk away and stick with what you got.
Red Sox owner John Henry stated exactly that recently when he predicted it would be a quiet trade deadline for Boston. I get what he is saying, but we are still a week too early to make that prediction. It's quiet right now and will remain that way until a week from now, my prediction. But with the deadline quickly is approaching, most of these sellers WILL come down on their price. And if they don't, then nothing changes, except that when some of those named relievers sign elsewhere there will be no compensation. Example - The Padres are in a good spot with Bell, they can ask for two high quality prospects in return, but if no one gives it to them, then they keep Bell, attempt to re-sign him, and when they can't then they get two draft picks for him. But that's not the case for all those players, some will leave and the team will get zero compensation, and in my opinion one tier-three prospect is better than nothing.
This is just my take on the whole situation, in many other areas, outfielders, it is obviously a seller's market, but I wanted to concentrate on the bullpen market, because this is where Texas is going to be active. Already active in fact, and active doesn't necessarily mean we will add one or two bullpen arms. If some of these asking prices do not come down, then Jon Daniels and his team will stick with internal options to bolster the bullpen like Tommy Hunter, Scott Feldman, and even Tanner Scheppers or Martin Perez.
Now that I have setup you up for the bullpen market to in fact be a buyer's market and not a seller's market, then when you read over this actual, rumored updates you can take each with that grain of SALT that I always advise.
Buster Olney, ESPN - Rangers "are considered by rival executives as a favorite to land either" Bell or Adams..."it's not a good year to be trying to get strong value in a trade of relievers, because there are so many alternatives; a buyer's market." (THANK YOU!!!)
Ken Rosenthal, FOX Sports - Washington righthander Tyler Clippard joins Bell, Adams, and Bailey as Texas targets, but Clippard and Bailey would necessitate overwhelming offers. Texas has an advantage in talks with San Diego and Oakland, two "offensively challenged clubs," because of the availability of Chris Davis. Royals seek a big league starting pitcher and "another for 2013" in exchange for Soria.
Jon Paul Morosi, FOX Sports - "Source says Padres aren't close to trading a reliever yet...but that could change at any time. Padres scouts have spent a lot of time looking at Phillies and Rangers prospects - two Heath Bell suitors." Texas was among a large number of teams with scouts at Oakland's game in Detroit/ Also adds Seattle is taking calls on closer Brandon League.
Peter Gammons, MLB.com - Washington is willing to trade Clippard and is pursuing outfielders - and was one of several clubs who showed interest in Julio Borbon before he got hurt. (I'm willing to add that I believe had Borbon not gotten hurt, a deal would already have been completed.) The Cubs have no interest in trading righthanders Matt Garza or Ryan Dempster during the season. Hiroki Kuroda doesn't want to pitch on the East Coast. At least three AL clubs have NO interest in Astros lefthander Wandy Rodriguez, wary that his game would suffer with a shift to the AL. C.J. Wilson could fetch a $100MM contract this winter. (What it's worth...if it's that amount, guarantee it won't be with us.) It's doubtful that the Rangers would consider trading any of its top five prospects - but they'll still be able to trade for a key reliever or two this month.
Jim Bowden, ESPN/XM - "GM Jon Daniels traded for Cliff Lee at last year's trade deadline, and I expect him to make another splash this year. My gut says he's getting either Bell or Adams from the Padres." Relievers Bailey, Soria, and Huston Street would fit for Texas, and that Martin Perez and Jurickson Profar are not available. Adding that the Rangers, Res Sox, and Yankees "would love to have" Cubs left-handed reliever Sean Marshall.
Jon Heyman, SI - Padres GM Jed Hoyer, "We'd have to be blown away to trade Adams...Our strong preference is to hold Mike." Rangers and Indians are the latest teams to check in with the Dodgers on righthander Hiroki Kuroda.
Danny Knobler, CBSSports.com - Believe Texas and Cincinnati might have the best chance to convince the Rockies to part with Ubaldo Jimenez. Marlins would listen to offers for righthanders Javier Vazquez and Leo Nunez and lefthander Randy Choate but are "telling teams 'no way' on righthanders Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez."
John Perrotto, Baseball Prospectus - Identifies White Sox lefthander Mark Buerhle as a possible "surprise trade candidate," and notes that Tampa Bay has "quietly let it be known that righthander James Shields is available for the right price."
Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus - Believe Texas will be "aggressive in the pursuit of Heath Bell and the various Toronto relievers who could be available," and that "no team is better positioned to improve themselves than Texas," due to the club's "extreme position of strength" in its stock of "young arms with plus-plus command," such as righthander Joe Wieland and Robbie Ross (assuming that lefthander Robbie Erlin, like Perez is unavailable). Adds that shortstop Leury Garcia "could help complete a transaction."