Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Season surprises could spark major moves ahead of the trade deadline

There may be some nervousness on the part of many of the top MLB clubs because they’re not where they wanted or expected to be a third of the way into the season, so we looking forward to some major activity ahead of the trade deadline. Obviously Oswalt has made his feelings known that he wants to contribute to a contender and feels like his time in now, but there are some other big names that could be on the move as well:

Roy Oswalt, SP, Astros. Expect his desire to be traded to get stronger as Houston continues to get buried in the standings. Even with a large contract, Oswalt will cost a couple of front-line prospects because he is pitching so well. If a club comes calling for Carlos Lee, however, it could have him for his contract. Lee is due $18.5 million a year through 2012 and, according to a scout, "looks like he doesn't even care." (I will second that opinion. In an early season game at Busch Stadium, Lee strolled into the Astros' clubhouse about 10 minutes before stretching -- long after the rest of his teammates already had dressed).

Mike Lowell, IF, Red Sox. Boston doesn't need him; the Angels do. They cannot expect to win the AL West with Mike Napoli, Robb Quinlan and Michael Ryan trying to replace Kendry Morales at first base. And they can't expect the White Sox to move Paul Konerko or the Cubs to deal Derrek Lee unless those clubs still are struggling in late July.
Adam LaRoche, 1B, Diamondbacks. Who knows how long Arizona might wait to become a seller. As O'Dowd points out, "We were very similar (last year) to where the Diamondbacks are now." One difference: The Rockies didn't have what is shaping up as a historically bad bullpen (7.70 ERA).
Cliff Lee, SP, Mariners. Another weekend of consecutive walkoff losses like the past one in Anaheim, and the Mariners just might conclude what everyone else already has: This isn't their year. With Lee unlikely to stay in Seattle when he becomes a free agent in the fall, the Mariners can save some salary and return a decent prospect. For Seattle's sake, let's hope that prospect can hit.
Kevin Millwood, SP, Orioles. Baltimore is one team that doesn't need to wait. The Orioles are 22 games under .500 and 19 1/2 games out of first place, and their attendance already is an embarrassment. The sooner they move Millwood, the more of his $12 million salary they can save. He isn't in the class of Lee or Roy Oswalt but "he's a pretty solid pitcher who has pitched well" this season, says a scout.
Miguel Tejada, 3B, Orioles. Ty Wigginton has been the more productive Orioles hitter, but the team can better afford him because of his versatility and his salary ($3.5 million), compared to Tejada's ($6 million, plus a $150,000 trade bonus). Tejada isn't enjoying as strong a season at last year but he is "fine," says a scout.
A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox. He could be moved soon because he becomes a 10-and-5 man on June 14, which will give him veto power over any trade. However, the contender most in need of a catcher, Texas, remains in a state of semi-limbo because of its pending sale.
Jose Guillen, DH/OF, Royals. His average has dropped 54 points to .250 since April 30, but he has 12 homers. Kansas City might even help pay the remainder of his $12 million contract. Guillen, however, has started only two games in the field and needs to DH.
Kerry Wood, RP, Indians. In a market that appears thin in bullpen help, Wood is one hard-throwing veteran who has handled ninth innings. Of course, he is a health risk and makes huge bucks ($10.5 million this year, $11 million team option next year). But Cleveland could pay a big portion of that and still save millions. The Indians aren't going anywhere with him, anyway.
Ben Sheets, SP, A's. I pegged him as likely trade bait the moment the tight-fisted A's signed him for $10 million. Sheets hasn't missed a start after not pitching all last season and he has a 2.81 ERA over his past five outings. First-place Oakland needs offense and Sheets could fetch a bat.

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