Satisfied? Me, neither. A trade deadline that promised all kinds of chaos fizzled out Tuesday afternoon, as rumors of big deals for big stars and their big contracts failed to come to fruition. No offense to Ryan Dempster or Hunter Pence, but when you're evaluating the division-changing possibilities of a Cliff Lee trade, you want to see that trade actually happen.
Then again, it still could. The July 31 date doesn't shut down trades, it just adds a layer of complication. Now, players being traded must clear waivers to move -- and because of the contracts involved, a number of players will clear waivers. Which one are going to stay on the block throughout August, and possibly find a new home by the end of the month?
Having signed Cole Hamels to a $144 million extension a couple weeks ago, the Phillies have too much money tied up in the front of their rotation, and getting out from under Hunter Pence's 2013 salary doesn't change that. Lee is owed $75 million over the next three seasons and has a huge buyout ($12.5 million) of his $27.5 million 2016 salary, so general manager Ruben Amaro would love to find a new home for the older of his two star lefties.
With so many high-priced Phillies having no trade value, dealing Lee is one of the few ways Amaro can free payroll to address the team's holes at third base and in centerfield. He'll have to work hard; not only are there few teams willing to take on even a large portion of Lee's deal, but there will be pressure to get some kind of decent prospect return in the trade. Lee also retains a limited no-trade clause that means deals to all but eight teams must be approved by him -- and let's not forget that he made a big deal about wanting to be in Philadelphia when he signed there two offseasons ago.
It was all a bit much to work around to get a deal done by the non-waiver deadline, but with so many teams in the postseason hunt looking for starting pitching -- the Diamondbacks and Rangers were most closely connected to Lee leading up to July 31 -- Amaro will have options.
Third base is something of a trouble position in the majors right now, with even very good teams playing cold bats at the hot corner. With the Brewers likely headed for a down year, maybe two, Ramirez's backloaded contract -- $10 million in 2013, $16 million in 2014, nearly certain to clear waivers -- isn't very attractive to them, but continuing to improve their farm system is.
A willingness to eat some of the money owed Ramirez could enable Milwaukee to pick up better prospects in a deal, and owner Mark Attanasio has rarely allowed money to be a barrier to his team's performance. It's too much to hope that the Yankees will swoop in to take Ramirez as a short-term hedge against Alex Rodriguez's health, but the Diamondbacks and the A's both have holes at third base and a need to add some power, and both were rumored to be willing to add payroll as July came to a close.
The challenge will be getting Garza through waivers, which seems unlikely, so Jed Hoyer will be left to work out a deal with whatever team claims him. It could happen; as we saw at the deadline, the Cubs aren't kidding about their rebuilding effort, as they made three deals turning four major leaguers into five prospects. Garza isn't a free agent until the end of 2013, so the same urgency to trade isn't there, but that extra season of control makes him a more valuable property than Ryan Dempster was.
Put it all together, and a team looking to rebuild its farm system -- and already having added a ton of talent in less than a year -- could push to send Garza to a new home now rather than wait for the winter. One concern? The upper-arm strain that has kept Garza off the mound for 10 days; he'll have to show that he's healthy before he can be moved in a deal.
The next time your buddies are going on and on about how players only show up when they're playing for a contract, show them B.J. Upton's 2012 statistics. Upton, who can hit the market after this season, has once again failed to turn his enormous talent into production, batting .244/.305/.372 with deteriorating plate discipline (101/32 K/BB) and a lack of power (nine homers and a full-season low .372 SLG). Upton's poor season has made it less likely that he'll cash in on the free-agent market, which in turn opens up the possibility that he would accept a one-year, $12.5-million qualifying offer from the Rays...which may make the Rays queasy about tendering that offer to remain eligible for a compensatory draft pick.
With Tampa Bay part of a thinning scrum for the AL's two Wild Card slots, they may have to make a difficult call between pushing for the Coin Flip Game or punting a difficult player in a trying year for whatever they can get. Despite his flaws, Upton's talent and small amount of money left on his 2012 deal make him an unlikely candidate to get through waivers, so the Rays will be limited to working out a trade with one team, rather than many.
Hitting quickly on some of the other names who may be shopped this month:
He's a bulk-innings guy well below the level of Ryan Dempster, with a scary home-road split (2.63 ERA at Safeco, 4.67 on the road) and one year left of control.
The best chance the Cubs had to get out from under the last two years of Soriano's deal (he's owed $36 million in 2013 and '14) may have been to attach him to Dempster. With that option gone, perhaps they'll try to do the same with Garza. Even his best season since 2008 hasn't much altered Soriano's market value, so it will take a team desperate for righthanded power -- or a right-handed starter.
One of the few available players who might bat leadoff for a good team, Span has been highly coveted by other teams and priced accordingly by his own. Having given him an affordable contract that runs through 2014, the Twins just aren't motivated to trade Span, which is a shame, as he could be a huge player for the Nationals, Reds, Tigers, Red Sox and maybe others.