David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
A little more than three weeks ago, we listed players most likely to be dealt before Wednesday's 4 p.m. nonwaiver trade deadline. Of those original 18, four have swapped teams since, which leaves plenty of chips still on the table for the next 96 hours or so.
How frenzied will it be up to the final minutes? As Brian Cashman indicated Friday after the Yankees' trade for Alfonso Soriano, it depends on what you're looking for. In his quest for a power bat, it sounds like he settled for Soriano, a soon-to-be 38-year-old with another year left on his contract. But these can be desperate times for teams trying to stay afloat in the playoff hunt.
"The market is really thin on offense," Cashman said. "So if somebody comes to the marketplace with a bat, they're going to have a lot of people to talk to. Pitching seems to be out there a lot, but the bats aren't.
Leading up to Friday's deal with the Cubs, Cashman got the sense that teams are "willing to try to conclude things," which is why the Yankees finally jumped for Soriano. In handicapping the deadline sprint, entering action Saturday there were 14 teams either holding a playoff spot or within five games of one. So with nearly half of the clubs legitimately in the hunt, and a handful of others still dreaming, here's what we know so far and what to look for as we count down to Wednesday:
1RICKY NOLASCO, RHP, to Dodgers: Among the most obvious to be moved, with the Marlins anxious to shed the $5 million left on his contract, Nolasco was shipped to Los Angeles on July 6 for three pitching prospects: Josh Wall, Angel Sanchez and Steve Ames. In four starts since, he is 1-1 with a 3.13 ERA, and the first-place Dodgers are 13-3 since making the deal.
2 MATT GARZA, RHP, to Rangers: Another difference-maker, the everything-must-go Cubs sent him to Texas last Monday in a package that included one of the Rangers' top prospects in third baseman Mike Olt. Garza pitched 71/3 scoreless innings against the Yankees two days later.
3 FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ, RHP, to Orioles: K-Rod has trouble getting a job at the start of this season, but the sinking Brewers had no problem finding a taker as Baltimore acted quickly Tuesday to beat out a number of other suitors. The cost was Nick Delmonico, a minor-league infielder, and K-Rod served up a homer in his O's debut. They began 1-3 with Rodriguez in the fold.
4 ALFONSO SORIANO, OF, to Yankees: Soriano waved his no-trade to return to the Bronx, and with the Yankees' woeful production against lefthanded pitchers, they had to get something done. Not that he made an immediate impact Friday, going 0-for-5 with one RBI, the result of a bases-loaded groundout in the ninth inning of a 10-6 loss to the Rays.
NEXT TO GO?
1 MICHAEL YOUNG, 3B, Phillies: With the flexibility to play either corner infield slot, Young figured to be an ideal fit for the Yankees. Given the scarcity of bats available, the Phillies would be wise to test value with Young's .729 OPS in the past month. Nearly 10 games back in wild card, looks like time to deal, and with Young heading into free agency, it's unclear how much his limited no-trade clause will come into play.
2 MARLON BYRD, OF, Mets: Sandy Alderson chose to keep Scott Hairston last year for the second half, and now finds himself in a similar position with Byrd, one of the Mets' few sources of power. Don't expect a Wheeler-type deal here, but can Alderson identify a less obvious low-level chip with high upside to make a Byrd deal look good? If teams gets crazy for offense in coming days, stranger things have happened.
3 JAKE PEAVY, RHP, White Sox: With Nolasco and Garza off the board, Peavy is near the top of starters next in line to be dealt. The swooning White Sox be very active in the coming days, and Peavy -- despite suffering from a rib fracture earlier this month -- has struck out 10 in 13 innings since his return from the DL. He's also due another $14.5 million next season.
4 RAUL IBANEZ, OF/DH, Mariners: For clubs searching for an instant jolt, Ibanez has been better than caffeine, with 24 homers and an .853 OPS in 80 games before yesterday. The only fear is the likely regression or wear-and-tear injuries that could be awaiting a 41-year-old over the final two months after a stunning start. In nine games before yesterday, Ibanez was batting .176 (6-for-34) with 11 strikeouts and zero homers.
5 NATE SCHIERHOLTZ, OF, Cubs: After having dealt Soriano, Garza and Scott Hairston in the past three weeks, are the Cubs ready to cash in on the coveted Schierholtz, who is now their cleanup hitter? Why the heck not? His 13 homers and .870 OPS entering play last night make him one of the most attractive chips out there, and the price is right, with roughly a million left on his one-year deal.
6 ALEX RIOS, OF, White Sox: Rios is gaining momentum since the All-Star break, batting .313 (10-for-32) with two doubles, a home run and nine RBIs in a nine-game span. With the high demand for offense, Rios is an attractive option, but with $17 million still due to him through 2104 -- and a limited no-trade clause -- this could take some down-to-the-wire negotiating.
7 BUD NORRIS, RHP, Astros: With Tim Hudson fracturing his ankle this week, the Braves suddenly have been thrust into the starters' market, and could that push prices high enough to get the Astros to budge on moving Norris? With a 3.93 ERA in 21 starts -- that's in the AL, remember -- Norris is a valuable commodity who will be earning just $1 million the rest of this season and is under team control for two years.