Sunday, June 7, 2009

Trade Talk in June

Let us begin with the big trade of the past week, Nate McLouth unleashed from baseball purgatory in Pittsburgh for a package of young Braves including Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez and Redstone's own Jeff Locke. The trade, which came the same day Tom Glavine was unceremoniously dumped by Atlanta, sent shockwaves up both ends of the East Coast.

McLouth had a terrific first half in 2008 but finished with a .276/.356/.497 line along with 26 HR and 23 SB. He was awarded a Gold Glove but probably didn't deserve it, and in February the Pirates signed him to a team-friendly extension buying out his arbitration years for $15.75 million along with a $10.65 million option for 2012 (how they came up with that number probably involved a dartboard). At 27, I think the Pirates gave up on McLouth a bit too soon for a return that leaves something to be desired.

This week, Pirates players like Freddy Sanchez and Adam LaRoche publicly voiced their displeasure with the deal, with Pittsburgh only three games under .500 and 6.5 games out in the NL Central. GM Neal Huntington issued an open letter to fans defending the trade, which is never a good sign. The Pirates have not finished higher than 4th this decade, with zero winning seasons since 1992 (call it The Curse of Francisco Cabrera and Sid Bream). They began last year with a great outfield of McClouth, Xavier Nady and Jason Bay, all of whom now play in different cities. It's amazing to me they have any fans left to fill their beautiful park.

Morton is an OK starter who's probably reached his ceiling as a Quad-A type. This is the second time Hernandez has been dealt before getting to the Majors. And as for Mr. Locke, to me he was the centerpiece of the trade for the Pirates. For the first time in his whole life, Jeff is facing adversity when it comes to getting guys out. His WHIP was an uncharacteristically high 1.60 through 45 2/3 IP with his old team in Myrtle Beach. He's still only given up one HR this year and should benefit from going to a better team in Lynchburg, Va.

I haven't talked to Jeff personally since the deal went down, but I'm sure it must all be a little surreal for him. It's easy to forget, as fans of the game, the emotional and personal impact of trades like this until someone you know is involved in one. He's spent the past three years with the Braves, and forged friendships with teammates and people in the organization. So now his name gets put all over ESPN and he's got to move from one town to another, and will be expected to be pretty good since the Pirates gave up an All-Star to get him.

I believe Jeff will be pitching in the Show someday. That it will probably happen closer to home, and probably sooner that it would have in Atlanta, is a good thing. We're all pulling for you, Lefty. Continue to make us proud.


It seems clear the Red Sox will be making a trade involving Brad Penny in the next couple weeks. John Smoltz is slated to return from the DL on June 16, with Penny's scheduled turn in the rotation coming the next day against Philadelphia. The best guess here is that Penny will be dealt in the days leading up to that. There have been many teams mentioned as potential suitors, and the Red Sox should be able to pick up a decent prospect as long as they're willing to pay a significant portion of Penny's remaining salary. Smoltz has been lighting it up in his rehab starts, and it's exciting to think he'll soon be wearing a Red Sox uniform.

Several members of the Cleveland Indians have to be wondering about their futures. They are a last-place club with plenty of valuable pieces, including Victor Martinez, Cliff Lee and Mark DeRosa amongst others. No doubt DeRosa gets dealt, the Mets could use some depth especially with Jose Reyes likely to miss the rest of June. It will be harder pry away Martinez or Lee, but we saw last year with CC Sabathia that GM Mark Shapiro will pull the trigger if he feels he's getting good value in return. This year appears to be a lost cause for the Tribe, so Shapiro should be listening on his hot commodities.

Out west, the Athletics and GM Billy Beane find themselves in a similar situation. Matt Holliday could be a huge prize of Beane makes him available at the deadline, and Buster Olney mentioned today that Beane's disussed Orlando Cabrera with the Red Sox. The Mariners also have to decide if they're buying or selling, with the rejuvenated Erik Bedard at the center of rumors. It appears the Rangers are for real after taking two of three in Boston this weekend, and if the Angels wake up there ought to be a good pennant race out there through the summer. The other two teams should sell, in my opinion.

Final note: I've added a badge to my Twitter page on the right-hand side, and you may have noticed I've been spending most of my time on that discussing stick and puck instead of bat and ball. There's only, at most, two games left in the NHL season, so hopefully I should be back to writing about baseball both here and there more frequently very soon.

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