Aces absent from pitchers' early trade market but closers could go
Now that the possibility of the great Felix Hernandez being traded has been all but expunged, thanks to Seattle's surprisingly nice start to the season, it's time to consider the pitchers with a real chance to go somewhere else via trade this summer. And without King Felix (or any other No. 1-type starter, for that matter) available, the list isn't exactly looking like the Philadelphia Phillies' rotation, or even anything even close.
While there's a very outside chance that if the disappointing Angels could go into a deeper funk and they might consider trading ace starter Jered Weaver in light of the fact that their chances to sign him long-term are less than spectacular, that scenario still seems highly unlikely. Word is, the Angels are thinking about a contract for Weaver along the lines of the ones given King Felix and Justin Verlander, meaning $80-plus million over five years. But Weaver is closer to free agency than those two pitchers were when they signed their deals and seems disinclined to go for a comparable contract, meaning there's a decent chance he'll leave as a free agent following the 2012 season. Still, there's little reason for the Angels to blow up the 2011 season now. So Weaver, plus fellow starters Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, are very likely to stay put.
Similarly, it's hard to imagine the White Sox, who like the Angels are off to a less-than-stellar start, becoming a full-fledged seller. However, in their case, with six bona fide starters, it's conceivable they could shop one of their starters, possibly free-agent-to-be Edwin Jackson or even John Danks, especially if they can bring back some offensive help. If so, that would boost one of the weakest starting pitching markets imaginable.
The Dodgers, Twins, A's and some other teams on the fringe of their races surely will hold onto all their key personnel at least a few more weeks. But they could become sellers, so they will be considered here. The same could be said for the Nationals and Mets, two more teams I'll consider here as possible sellers. Overall, the trade market looks a lot better for relievers than starters no matter which teams may decide to engage in selling season. Here's my list of pitchers who could hit the trade market:
• Jack McKeon was the logical choice for interim manager of Jeffrey Loria's Marlins but Ozzie Guillen is most likely the man in mind for 2012 --- if the White Sox would let him go. Last year, Chicago is said to have brought up the name Logan Morrison when the Marlins inquired about Guillen, but Guillen's stock within the Sox organization has dipped a bit with their surprisingly weak start. Sources indicate team owner Jerry Reinsdorf isn't necessarily thrilled by Guillen's public talk about his possibility of getting fired, either. His outspokenness isn't quite as amusing or endearing when his team isn't performing. However, with the Sox picking up Guillen's 2012 option early, outsiders say they believe he remains a long shot for the Marlins in 2012.
• It's no surprise that Jose Reyes doesn't want to take an offer from the Mets now and prefers to become a free agent, as superstars on the cusp of free agency almost never make a deal with their current team. Reyes probably also correctly sensed that the Mets wouldn't come close to what he could get on the free market (three competing execs said they believe he can match Carl Crawford's $142 million deal with Boston). "If he's a free agent, I'd rather have Reyes, and I would think most would take Reyes,'' one NL exec said.
• Dodgers owner Frank McCourt does not have the money to make the June 30 payroll, people familiar with the situation say. MLB's hope is that once it begins making the team payroll it can ease McCourt out. With commissioner Bud Selig rejecting McCourt's plan to take a $385 million loan as part of McCourt's proposed Fox deal, he appears to be low on options. MLB objected because $175 million of the $385 million was targeted for McCourt's pocket in what amounted to advance payments from two, three, four years and more into the future. McCourt's likely last hope would be a long-shot lawsuit, but he has only himself to blame after using the team as a personal piggy bank for years, as his divorce revealed. He is already in court with his wife and ex-lawyers, so folks are expecting him to take baseball to court (though he signed paperwork upon taking ownership that he wouldn't sue baseball, few expect him to abide by that). McCourt's unpopularity in Los Angeles hurts him in any court case there, too.
• The conventional wisdom is that No. 1 draft choice Gerrit Cole and No. 2 choice Danny Hultzen will get about $10 million apiece (Hultzen is known to be seeking $13 million plus school from the Mariners while Cole's asking price with the Pirates isn't known). Cole would be expected to beat Hultzen as the slightly higher pick, but some execs see multitalented Bubba Starling possibly beating them both after being picked fifth by his hometown Royals, considering he is seen as a huge football talent as well (he has a University of Nebraska scholarship to play quarterback). Righthanded pitcher Trevor Bauer, Cole's UCLA teammate who went third to the Diamondbacks, isn't expected to press for as much money as the top two picks and is seen as being more particular about having a say in his development. The D-backs' second pick, which was No. 7 overall, righthanded pitcher Archie Bradley is expected to beat the $5.25 million the Dodgers gave Zach Lee last year, as Bradley is a "bigger football prospect'' than Lee was. He is a University of Oklahoma recruit. He is seen as getting $6-to-7 million, with No. 4 pick Dylan Bundy, who went to the Orioles, receiving in that range, as well. Scouts say Bradley is a terrific young man but one scout said he thought Bundy might be even more successful because "he has a little edge to him.''
• Bob Melvin is already doing a terrific job managing the A's, who have won seven straight. He will surely become their permanent manager eventually, not just their interim.