This was supposed to be a disappointing trade season. Yet, there's been a flurry of trading activity already.
The always aggressive White Sox GM Ken Williams picked up hard-throwing reliever Tony Pena, who's just his type.
Mets GM Omar Minaya belied his stand-pat summer rep in a classic change-of-scenery swap of powerless outfielders, sending Ryan Church to the Braves for Jeff Francoeur. Atlanta was extremely frustrated by Francoeur's 1 ½-year struggle, but he brings more personality and a higher upside to Queens.
And Royals GM Dayton Moore acquired the Mariners' slumping shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, who was considered a defensive whiz until he balked at new manager Don Wakamatsu's work program, then became expendable when Ronny Cedeno started to outplay him.
The likelihood of a trade involving a major star remains uncertain. But at the very least, the possible sale of pitching superstar Roy Halladay should keep things interesting.
Here's a primer on the trade season ...
1. Halladay, Blue Jays starter. He may not get dealt, as Jays people are concerned about strong fan backlash in Toronto. But the guess here is that he still probably will. He's the close-to-consensus best pitcher in the game (though Johan Santana, Tim Lincecum and Zack Greinke have their fans, too).
1.Matt Holliday, A's OF. The plan to shop him and recover what they traded to get him has gone awry. Holliday hasn't homered in 32 games now, and has just eight overall. The draft choices might be looking good now. "Billy (Beane) loves those draft choices, anyway,'' one competing executive said. The Mets, Braves, Cardinals and Giants have been tied to Holliday. But with no homers in more than a month, it doesn't look promising.
2. Nick Johnson, Nationals 1B. Slick fielder has maybe lost a step but he's a solid hitter who's especially well-liked by Moneyball disciples. "He's a free agent,'' one exec said, complaining about the price tag for a rental. Hey, in some circles -- considering his injury history -- that would be considered a positive.
3. Doug Davis, Diamondbacks P. The Brewers have inquired. But the offers are such that Arizona is now considering an extension for Davis.
4. Freddy Sanchez, Pirates IF. Former batting title holder is on a team that loves to trade its vets. He could be next.
5. Erik Bedard, Mariners P. Tough to deal him while Seattle's contending. But the minute they fall, he should go. Very talented pitcher, though arm and personality questions may limit the take.
6. Kerry Wood, Indians CL. Like the rest of the Indians' staff, a major disappointment. Plus, the contract that guarantees a third year with 54 games finished this year or next is another minus.
7. Jarrod Washburn, Mariners P. Seattle's playing too well to consider a sale at the moment. But if it slips a bit, Washburn should be coveted by many. The Yankees and Dodgers could make sense, among others.
8. Cliff Lee, Indians P. Very solid pitcher is performing closer to his norm after incomprehensible 22-3 season of a year ago. Cleveland's reluctant to deal him since there's a reasonable $9-million, 2010 option. But teams will call.
9. Josh Willingham, Nationals OF. Hitting well while suffering through incomprehensible sorrow with the loss of his younger bother in a car accident.
10. Jonathan Sanchez, Giants P. The no-hit kid was being offered around before his gem. Very talented, but could be caught in a numbers game in San Fran.
11. Felipe Lopez, Diamondbacks 2B. Professional hitter having solid year for the D-backs. Could interest Brewers or Cubs.
12. Garrett Atkins, Rockies 3B. Slumping third baseman is starting to make a comeback. Report of Red Sox interest seemed curious, unless they don't believe Mike Lowell will be back. With Ian Stewart in fold, a natural to go.
13. Jose Guillen, Royals OF. Poison personality combined with $12-million salary makes him a tough fit anywhere.
14. Kevin Kouzmanoff, Padres 3B. "He's solid, not great, but solid,'' said one AL scout. With Jake Peavy hurt, and Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell apparently untouchable, it's fairly slim pickins' for the Pads.
15. Matt Capps, Pirates CL. On a market bereft of good relief, he might look awfully enticing to someone. Still a few years from free agency, so Pittsburgh could keep him.
16. Chad Qualls, Diamondbacks CL. Word is, they may hold him after trading Pena. But in this market, the offers may be too tempting to ignore.
17. Alex Rios, Blue Jays OF. Big-time talent with pretty big contract ($60 million remains). He can play, but not too many teams can consider that type of salary at the moment.
18. Aubrey Huff, Orioles 1B. He isn't producing like last year but he's still a professional hitter. "He's a DH,'' said one competing exec, who doesn't love him for first base.
19. Ivan Rodriguez, Astros C. Houston never likes to give up. But if they do, they'd be more apt to trade the alltime games caught leader then, say, Roy Oswalt or Lance Berkman.
20. Gil Meche, Royals P. Kansas City is one team that never seems anxious to sell. But its devastating injuries suggest this isn't their year.
21. Jhonny Peralta, Indians SS. Cleveland is a team that's willing to shake things up. Has slipped this year, though.
22. Bronson Arroyo, Reds P. The ERA can look a little ugly. But he's a winner. Forever on the trading block, it seems.
23. Javier Vazquez, Braves P. Solid pitcher seems like a possible candidate to be used as bait for more needed offense. Oft-traded player pitches innings, but isn't a great mid-year pickup considering his poor postseason history.
24. Melvin Mora, Orioles 3B. Professional player, but undesirable contract ($9 mil per).
25. Aaron Harang, Reds P. But unless the Reds fall farther out of it, it's hard to see them trading him.
26. Hank Blalock, Rangers DH. He could be viewed as way to save money ($6 million).
27. Brian Bannister, Royals P. K.C. people deny they are shopping him. But the further they fall, the more attractive a trade may become. Not a scouts' guy but he seems to win.
28. Jose Valverde, Astros CL. Talented and expensive ($9.5 mil), he seems like a candidate for trade. Except the 'Stros don't like to sell.
29. Victor Martinez, Indians C/1B. Terrific hitter and strong clubhouse presence is probably the last guy GM Mark Shapiro wants to deal. But Boston's watching, just in case.
30. Miguel Tejada, Astros SS. As has been stated many times, Houston likes to try to hang in there. So star pitcher Roy Oswalt almost surely stays, too.
31. Jermaine Dye, White Sox OF. Can't see him going anywhere, assuming the White Sox stay in the race. Only a candidate for trade if there's a sudden downturn.
32. Milton Bradley, Cubs OF. No reason anyone would want him, of course. But I'm just wondering aloud whether he and Lou Piniella can co-exist a whole season. One plus: he'll get through waivers, no problem.
1. Phillies. They have plenty of money, plenty of prospects and plenty of need. Even if they stick to their stated plan to keep pitching prospect Kyle Drabek, they still have pitchers Carlos Carrasco, Jason Knapp, J.A. Happ, catcher Lou Marson, shortstop Jason Donald and outfielders John Mayberry Jr., Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor.
2. Angels. Despite the loss to injury of Torii Hunter and Vladdy Guererro (he could be out awhile), pitching remains their focus. Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez are infield prospects, but with their pitching prospects Trevor Reckling and Jordan Walden years away, Jered Weaver could come into play.
3. Giants. Really looking for a hitter. But they'll consider it.
4. Rangers. They have perhaps baseball's best-stocked farm system, and hitting prospect Justin Smoak would be a lure. But ultimately, they probably don't have the money to add anyone significant.
5. Cardinals. They have declared their interest. If they do get Halladay, they'd have baseball's best pitching rotation, albeit an all-righthanded one.
6. Red Sox. They have at least a trio of high-end prospects (Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden, Lars Anderson). But there's considerable doubt as to whether the Jays would deal him in division.
7. Yankees. They could offer either Phil Hughes or even Joba Chamberlain and also have a big-time hitting prospect (Jesus Montero) and some others down below, to (pitcher Dellin Betances). But again, wrong division.
8. Brewers. They pulled off the big trade last year. But their system isn't quite what it was.
9. White Sox. Their GM is the most aggressive in the business. But it's hard to see how they do it without Gordon Beckham.
1. Clay Buchholz, Red Sox P. His stock has soared with a big year at Pawtucket. Will get his first start of the year for Boston Friday.
2. Neftali FelizandDerek Holland, Rangers, P. Feliz hit 100 mph according to Gameday at the Futures Game Sunday.
3. Gordon Beckham, White Sox, IF. They already love him in Chicago. Held out of Jake Peavy trade.
4. Kyle Drabek, Phillies, P. "Supremely talented,'' one GM said. Has a rep for being slightly mouthy, though.
5. Madison Bumgarner, Giants, P. If anyone can afford to part with a pitching prospect, it's San Francisco.
6. Brett Wallace, Cardinals, 3B. Natural hitter is beloved. Also said to field better than you'd think considering his squatty body.
7. Alcides Escobar, Brewers, SS. Sterling defender. Though, a Brewers person's comparison of Escobar to Alfredo Griffin gave me pause (Griffin was good, but no superstar) and made me wonder if he could be had in the right deal.
8. Jason Heyward, Braves, OF. Big bopper has great potential.
• Sunday's Futures Game here, which could also be called the Roy Halladay Trade Bait Game, included Wallace, Drabek, Bumgarner, Escobar and Yankees catcher Jesus Montero.
• Desmond Jennings (Tampa Bay, outfielder) looks about his fast as Carl Crawford.
• With Jay Bruce out with a fractured wrist, the Reds' need for an outfielder increases if they have any intention of trying to stay with the Cardinals, Brewers and Cubs.
• Funny to see Ozzie Smith managing the U.S. team and using nemesis Tony LaRussa's office (a person with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed that out).
• Pedro Martinez should have his decision soon. Of course, Pedro Time isn't always real time. Hey, Hall of Famers can be divas. Philly looks like the favorite, followed by Texas.
• Interesting article in the New York Daily News Sunday about the flaws in the Mets organization, and whether Omar Minaya could be in trouble. The Mets have had many debilitating injuries, but there are other issues, including a lack of replacements at the upper levels of the minors (both Triple-A Buffalo and Double-A Binghamton are "atrocious,'' one competing scout told me). While I've hear a smattering of rumblings about Minaya's security from scouts, there isn't any real sign of unrest from above Minaya, whose contract extension doesn't begin until 2010. Good thing he signed that extension, though.
• I saw Shelley Duncan (@shelldunc) has retired from tweeting (sounds like he was a little too honest and upset some folks), but I'm still at it. Follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/SI_JonHeyman