Nobody's perfect: The early line on trade needs for the contenders

Publish date:

Here is a rundown of what some of the contenders might seek as we get closer to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline ...

White Sox: Their attempted trade for Jake Peavy made it clear that they're looking for an ace to swing the balance of power in a wide-open AL Central, which they've won two of the past four seasons. They recently scouted Roy Oswalt, but GM Ken Williams said publicly that they aren't in discussions regarding the Astros' ace. And one person familiar with their thinking explained that the White Sox weren't blown away by what they've seen from Oswalt recently. (That point may be moot since several reports suggest that Oswalt, who has a no-trade clause, wouldn't go to the South Side, anyway. While Oswalt's agent is in Chicago, the right-hander seems to prefer his hunting.) The guess is the Indians wouldn't trade the White Sox Cliff Lee, either, narrowing the field further.

Brewers: Their people are suggesting that they aren't sure which way they'll go -- hitter or pitcher. But their every day nucleus is excellent, plus rookie Matt Gamel brings another offensive option and they can cover second base from within with clutch hometowner Craig Counsell (.316) or Cubs import Casey McGehee. The rotation has been decent, but eventually they might need another big starter to pair with the impressive young Yovani Gallardo. They also have last year's winning mid-year gamble on CC Sabathia fairly fresh in their minds. They worked well with Cleveland last summer, so why not try for Lee?

Phillies: New GM Ruben Amaro was quoted in this space on Monday making clear that his intention is to play for a front-of-the-rotation starter, which would mean Peavy, Oswalt and perhaps Lee and Erik Bedard. Other possibilities could include Aaron Harang and Chris Young. Hard-throwing rookie Antonio Bastardo looked very good (94 mph) on Tuesday night, so they may not have to act immediately.

Dodgers: They thought they needed help in the rotation and bullpen this spring, but right now it looks like they don't need anything. Hiroki Kuroda just came back, and Manny Ramirez will return on July 3. Tough to top that. They've been very active at the deadline the past couple years, and if they do something this time it'll probably still be pitching-related. A veteran starter might be nice to place between Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw, someone like Harang, perhaps. Peavy would work great, of course, but there are those who believe the Padres want to do whatever's possible to avoid delivering him to their division rival. The Dodgers have the impression that they'd have to pay "insanely'' more than anyone else for Peavy, according to a person familiar with their dealings.

Red Sox: They are aggressively seeking hitting help, according to competitors, and the guess of other GMs is that they won't wait until the deadline to do something. There is no exact deadline on former superstar David Ortiz to start to hit, but every day that goes by appears to bring them a day closer to doing something. A .185 batting average just isn't cutting it. Hanley Ramirez would be Theo Epstein's ultimate (re-)acquisition, possibly followed by Adrian Gonzalez ... but now that we are out of the daydreaming part of our day, the best player they might have a realistic shot at might be Indians catcher Victor Martinez. Sabathia said he'd be surprised if the Indians would trade Martinez, a favorite of Indians people. But if they do, Boston has just the sort of young pitching package to make it work for Cleveland, including Clay Buchholz (possibly untouchable), Justin Masterson and Michael Bowden. Aubrey Huff and the Washington trio of Nick Johnson, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham are four more of many somewhat lesser possibilities in what looks like a fairly deep hitting market.

Mets: They'll look at starters and possibly relievers, too, especially if J.J. Putz doesn't begin to resemble himself (throwing 92 mph without control now). But right now they appear to be talking more about seeking outfield help, what with Angel Pagan, Jeremy Reed and Gary Sheffield getting a lot more time (and performing much better) than expected. Matt Holliday, who's off to a slow start with the A's, would make sense. But the Mets would not trade Fernando Martinez for him. First base is another possibility if Daniel Murphy doesn't pan out, though so far he looks good defensively at that position.

Braves: They have to be concerned about Jeff Francoeur's lack of production (he hit his first homer in a month on Tuesday night), not to mention comparably weak offensive numbers by most of their outfield, including Jordan Schafer (who's back in the minors) and Garret Anderson. A reacquisition of the versatile Mark DeRosa might help, but of course, Holliday would help more. (Note: The Braves acquired All-Star center fielder Nate McLouth from the Pirates for three minor leaguers on Wednesday)

Giants: They are dead last in home runs and runs, so it's obvious that they need offense. They have pitching depth, and two more good starters coming in Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson, so they are dangling young pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, and opposing GMs wonder whether they'd consider doing the same with star young starter Matt Cain. They could certainly improve their offense if they did that. But it looks like they might not be able to catch the Dodgers, anyway. So they could also do nothing.

Cubs: The Cubs expect Aramis Ramirez back in mid-July ("His absence is killing them,'' remarks one competing GM), but mainly they need a return to normalcy for most of their lineup. Their bullpen hasn't been great. But even without making a phone call to the Padres anytime recently they remain the favorites for Peavy, especially as long as there are no known other teams he'd approve that are 1) contenders, 2) rich enough, and 3) not the division-rival Dodgers.

Yankees: With New York apparently determined to keep Joba Chamberlain as a starter (his strong eight-inning outing in Cleveland on Monday only solidified their thinking), they could be looking for someone to pitch the eighth inning and even the seventh. Overall their bullpen ERA is a poor 5.02. As for the eighth inning, three doctors have looked at Brian Bruney and found no structural damage, but he still is unable to pitch. Their lineup looks very solid, and barring injury, so does their rotation.

Rangers: They have been scouring the bigs for viable relievers, as the rotation has been surprisingly good under new pitching coach Mike Maddux. Darren O'Day has been a big help via the Mets. But their 'pen ERA is still 4.90.

Angels: Overall their 'pen is a disaster, with a 6.62 ERA. And, no one has ever explained why they were willing to offer $300 million combined to Mark Teixeira ($160 million) and CC Sabathia ($140 million) but let their longtime record-breaking closer Francisco Rodriguez run to the Mets without a fight. Some others sensed some wear on K-Rod's arm, but the Angels are too classy to have said a thing to a soul. Still, it's strange, especially now that Scot Shields (5.31), Justin Speier (6.62) and Jose Arredondo (5.32) are struggling, and Brian Fuentes -- no surprise -- is proving to be no K-Rod.

• The Dodgers hold a one-year option on GM Ned Colletti, and if they don't pick it up, they'll extend him. What do you expect? They are currently the best team in baseball, and even Pierre is proving valuable. The bigger question is what they do with Pierre once Manny Ramirez returns.

• Some close to the situation believe Joe Torre saying he wasn't sure whether he'd return after 2010 is only the first salvo in negotiations. (I am one of those people.)

• Good to see common sense is winning out and Ramirez is falling behind in All-Star balloting. Torre pleased his old friend Bud Selig by speaking out against Manny's candidacy.

• Braves solid starter Javier Vazquez is supposedly available, but one competing exec said he doesn't see why Atlanta should trade a consistent starter.

• Erik Bedard might have trouble in Philly, according to one AL exec. That executive said Bedard doesn't like extra attention, which may be part of the reason why he struggled early last year when he was being portrayed as the savior in Seattle.

• Now that Randy St. Claire has been fired as Nationals pitching coach, I'm expecting a complete turnaround. Not! Manager Manny Acta would appear to be next in line to go.

• One of many problems with the Nats is that they have several American League players. Dunn is one. Willingham is probably another.

• Indians manager Eric Wedge is very likely to get the year, at least. It's hard to pin the Indians' problems on him, and GM Mark Shapiro has great respect for Wedge.

• Ervin Santana's performance is worrisome. He's throwing only 90-91 mph, but one scout said the real problem is his control.

• Cole Hamels still isn't in midseason form. He was throwing 90-91 and his changeup "wasn't as good as usual,'' according to one scout.

• It's understandable that Rick Ankiel needs time to return after crashing headfirst into the Busch Stadium wall last month. "It was like a car accident,'' a friend said.

• Mets people say they are sure Carlos Beltran doesn't have the swine flu since he has no fever. He did undergo tests after intestinal distress and had to stay back at the hotel on Tuesday night.

• The Mets' Triple-A lineup is finally catching up to them in Pittsburgh this week. "The Pirates are a scrappy team,'' one scout said.

• New Mets pickup Lance Broadway, a former first-rounder with a great New York name, is throwing only 86-88 mph. Judging by recent activity, White Sox GM Ken Williams seems willing to purge their system of the picks of the previous scouting director.

• Talented Cubs starter Rich Harden is expected back by the end of the Cubs' nine-game trip. But when it comes to recovery time, Harden occasionally disappoints.

• If Raul Ibanez is the best free-agent signing so far, Milton Bradley looks like the worst. Bradley left another game on Tuesday with a calf injury. Can't blame the umpires for that, can he? One thing folks don't realize: His Rangers teammates were tiring of him by the time he left.

• If Barry Zito was dragging down the Giants in his first two years in San Francisco, they're dragging him down now. Despite seven quality starts in his last eight outings, he's still only 1-6.

• Surprisingly there's only a little early scuttlebutt about former President Bush possibly retaking the reins with the Rangers. He is a neighbor of Tom Hicks, who has his team up for sale after some financial reverses. One possibility could be for Bush to join a Nolan Ryan-led group.

• Thanks to you (some of you, anyway), I've moved into the top 10 in the MLB category in Twitter followers but still trail two Yankees, Nick Swisher (the runaway leader), CC Sabathia (though I don't believe that's really him) and a few teams. To follow along on Twitter, go to SI_JonHeyman.