A few days ago, I spoke with an executive who did not expect the trade market to offer attractive solutions to teams in need.
“More of the same (bad) contracts people don’t want, the Bronson Arroyos of the world, that group,” the exec said. “It will probably be pretty vanilla.” I’m not so sure.
The season is only about 20 percent complete, but a number of expected contenders are proving early disappointments.
Some players who seemed likely to be traded at the start of the season — Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, A’s right-hander Ben Sheets, etc. — actually might stay put.
But as this list of 10 potential trade candidates shows, things are getting intriguing:
Victor Martinez, Red Sox
Don’t put it past them.
One rival executive scoffs at the idea the Red Sox might quit on a season with a $160 million payroll. But what if the season leaves General Manager Theo Epstein little choice?
The Red Sox — 5-1/2 games behind the Rays, 5 behind the Yankees — still figure to play better. But if those respective deficits reach double digits by July, Martinez would be a logical piece to move.
He is a free agent at the end of the season, and Carlton Fisk stands a better chance of being the Sox’s catcher in 2011.
Cliff Lee, Mariners
The M’s sure look like sellers — they have hit fewer homers than Paul Konerko — but they’re trying to add a bat, knowing they’re only 5-1/2 games out.
The AL West is baseball’s answer to the “Hotel California” — you can check out any time you want, but you can never leave.
Then again, putting Lee back on the market would have great entertainment value, if only to see the Dodgers whiff on him one more time. Paul Konerko, White Sox
The Twins could force the issue by running away in the AL Central. The White Sox already are eight games back, barely showing a pulse.
Trade for Adrian Gonzalez? Please.
Barring a turnaround, the Sox should just dust off their white flag and dump their potential free agents: Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, Andruw Jones and J.J. Putz.
Ted Lilly, Cubs
Ah yes, the other terrific Chicago team.
New ownership is unlikely to bail on the game’s third highest payroll, particularly in the last year of Manager Lou Piniella’s contract. And the Cubs, rather than trade Lilly, almost certainly will want to re-sign him, as opposed to their other top prospective free agent, Derrek Lee.
OK, fine. At least the beer will be cold at Wrigley.
Dan Uggla, Marlins
You know it killed the Fish to keep Uggla and his $7.8 million salary. The devil — er, union — made them do it.
The Phillies might not be good enough to build a comfortable lead in the NL East. But the Marlins, in the middle of a big slide, might not be good enough to hang with the Nationals.
Jorge Cantu, like Uggla, is a potential free agent with a high salary ($6 million). With so many teams starved for offense, the Marlins could do well by trading both.
Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman, Astros
Now here’s a fun little question: How many games must the Astros be behind for owner Drayton McLane to concede?
The answer very well could be “infinity,” but Berkman already has broadcast his willingness to waive his no-trade clause, and Oswalt surely would approve a deal as well.
The Astros are the baseball equivalent of bankrupt. McLane might howl about not getting enough value for either inflated contract. But how about getting creative for a change?
Jose Guillen, Royals
Guillen is earning $12 million in the final year of his contract. The Royals are still, ahem, trying to win. But let’s just say they would entertain all offers. The team, after eating about $3.5 million with the release of Juan Cruz, presumably would be wiling to negotiate some type of financial exchange involving Guillen.
Say this for Guillen — when healthy, he can hit. He is sporting an impressive .849 OPS, albeit with 29 strikeouts in 123 at-bats and only eight walks.
Kerry Wood, Indians
He is back from a shoulder injury and threw back-to-back days over the weekend, passing his final test before returning to the closer’s role.
The remainder of Wood’s $10.5 million salary will be an obstacle to any deal, but the Indians surely would pay some of that down to get a legitimate prospect in return.
They might need to throw in an MRI machine.
Kevin Millwood, Orioles
The O’s, 7-7 since their 2-16 start, usually collapse in the second half instead of the first. That actually would be one reason to keep Millwood, who has a 3.26 ERA in seven starts. But there will be better reasons to move him.
The Orioles could lean on Jeremy Guthrie (five quality starts out of seven) and even rookie Brian Matusz as they mix in youngsters such as Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta.