No, it's not trading season yet. I just threw that in there to try to get a few more page views.
People are always gossiping about trades, however, and when I reached out to several contacts last week for my turnaround teams poll, I received some interesting thoughts. Here was my favorite, from an official of a "static" club:
"Milwaukee has really good starting pitching and a potent lineup. They have nothing at all in the minors because they mortgaged everything for this year, but this year is pretty good -- and could be even better if they find a way to improve their bullpen. Consider them a sleeper for any major reliever, with the caveat being that they have nothing in their system as opposed to not being willing to take on salary."
Much has been made of the Brewers' emptying of their prospect base to acquire Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke, and how that will impact them come July. But owner Mark Attanasio would spend money to acquire, say, Francisco Rodriguez that other teams wouldn't. And that gives Milwaukee some juice for the trade talks, because sometimes non-contending teams prioritize clearing payroll over stocking their farm system.
Some contenders are stocked with prospects, some with cash, some with both and some with neither. If you have one, you can mitigate the absence of the other. Two obvious examples:
Prospects, no cash: The Mariners liked Texas' youngsters so much last July that Seattle paid a nice portion of Cliff Lee's salary in the trade that made Lee a Ranger.
Cash, no prospects: Back in 2006, the Yankees sensed that the Phillies wanted to unload Bobby Abreu's contract, so Brian Cashman waited until Philaldelphia GM Pat Gillick relented on his demand for quality players and accepted Abreu in what was essentially a contract dump.
Let's take a look at the obvious contenders and their likely currency of choice. Their best avenue to complete a trade. We'll include teams that are .500 or better:
AL East: . Yankees - both, as they didn't give up much of either last winter. Boston - both, as the Sawx gave away both dough and youngsters over the winter and are therefore slightly compromised in both areas. Tampa Bay - prospects, as the Rays' attendance is still awful.
AL Central: Cleveland - prospects, as the Indians' farm system is highly regarded. Detroit - cash, as the Tigers' farm system is thin.
AL West: Texas - both, as the Rangers still have a deep sytem while boasting of deeper pockets than last year. Angels - cash, as they don't have many prospects. Seattle - cash. The Mariners want to hold onto their best prospects.
NL East: Philadelphia - both, in that like Boston, the Phillies have dispersed plenty of both the past few years. Florida - prospects. Maybe the Marlins will spend bucks next year, in their new ballpark. Maybe. Atlanta - prospects, as the Braves can boast of a rich farm system.
NL Central: St. Louis - cash, as the Cardinals' farm system is weak. MIlwaukee - cash, as initially discussed. Cincinnati - prospects, thanks to a strong farm system.
NL West: Arizona - cash, as I can't see the Diamondbacks trading too many prospects with their being ahead of schedule. San Francisco - cash, as the Giants have grown increasingly protective of their own talent.
Now, what about potential sellers? Which want the payroll relief, and which want the kids? Thanks to parity, I think there are few obvious sellers at this juncture. Just looking at teams that are 10 games under .500 or worse...
AL Central: Minnesota - prospects. The Twins are in good shape financially.
NL Central: Houston - prospects. The Astros desperately need to build a stronger talent base.
Of course, by setting the bar so low on the sell side, I eliminated more potential sellers. I did this for obvious reasons: It's still too darn early to determine which of the other clubs will sell. Shoot, with a modest winning streak, the Mets will be over .500.
To be clear, however, I think the Mets will wind up as sellers. And when they do? I think David Einhorn's money will make it easier for Sandy Alderson to get the most in return for his chips.
This shouldn't be a huge issue for Jose Reyes; with an $11 million salary, the Mets should be able to both shed his remaining commitment and get a good package in return. With K-Rod and Carlos Beltran, however, the Mets clearly will benefit by paying some of the freight.
--Today is Day 2 of the autographed Doug Glanville book contest, and I'll check in later today from Citi Field for Pirates-Mets.