July 2006

The Friday Night Rumor Mill–July 7, 2006

Let’s call it the wild rumor of the week. I’m hesitant to give it any credence, but it’s certainly worth noting at the least—and possibly worth discussing at the most. According to an internet report, the Cubs and Yankees have talked about a blockbuster centered on Alex Rodriguez. In exchange for A-Rod, who just can’t seem to do enough to please the New York faithful, the Yankees would receive a package that includes unhappy third baseman Aramis Ramirez and left-handed hitting outfielder Jacque Jones. Now that might be just a Windy City starting point, but the Cubs would probably have to surrender Carlos Zambrano in order for the Yankees to even consider trading Rodriguez. And on a team where the pitching futures of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are exceedingly murky, that’s just not going to happen… On a more realistic front, the Yankees have begun to shop 2006 disappointment Shawn Chacon. If Chacon were merely struggling on the mound, the Yankees might be willing to exhibit more patience, but the right-hander’s continuing complaints about the way he’s been handled by Joe Torre have him on the road to a Ruben Sierra-like parting of the ways. The Yankees have already talked to the Mariners about a Chacon-for-Joel Pineiro deal, which makes some sense as a change-of-scenery transaction. In the meantime, some scouts wonder whether Chacon might benefit from moving back to the bullpen, where he can emphasize his two best pitches, his change-up and curveball…

As they continue to stumble since the Jason Grimsley revelations, the Diamondbacks remain in contention in the mediocre National League West. There’s some debate within the organization about whether to trade Shawn Green and promote top prospect Carlos Quentin to the right field locale at Chase Field; some feel that the team’s struggles mandate change, while others question the wisdom of counting on a younger player in a pennant race. Well, the point may be moot. Green may be nearly impossible to trade, though, since he has a limited no-trade clause that allows him to veto trades to anyone other than the Angels, Dodgers, and Padres. (Gee, do you think he likes southern California?) Two teams that have interest in Green, the Tigers and Yankees, are not on his preferred list. Given recent history, players with no-trade clauses don’t usually give in to such trades, even if their former teams provide them with financial incentives.

With the trading deadline approaching and the Phillies firmly entrenched as a non-contender, there is plenty of talk that GM Pat Gillick will begin to dismantle his team. As expected, the Phillies will use their outfield depth from which to trade, which means that either Pat Burrell or Bobby Abreu will be dealt by the 31st. The Phillies will also trade either Aaron Rowand (the White Sox remain interested) or David Dellucci in a continuing quest to get younger and improve the pitching. Speaking of pitchers, former ace Jon Lieber is also on the block, with the Yankees mentioned among his potential destinations.

Red In The Face

The dubious selection of Mark Redman to the American League All-Star team may have sounded the death knell for one of baseball’s most outdated rules. Ozzie Guillen’s decision to include Redman—with his 5.59 ERA and career record of 53-66—on the AL roster has become such an embarrassment that Major League Baseball may do away with the stipulation that each team has to be represented in the All-Star Game.

The choice of Redman has put the journeyman pitcher in the sheepish position of having to defend his inappropriate presence at the All-Star break, while also bringing into question the reasoning of Guillen. (The most rational conspiracy theory has Guillen picking Redman because he used to be a coach with the Marlins at the same time that the veteran left-hander was pitching for Florida. If that’s the case, Guillen’s criteria for the All-Star Game deserve further ridicule.) At the same time, Redman becomes a kind of laughingstock, held up in stark contrast to talented pitchers like Mike Mussina and rookie Francisco Liriano, two All-Star Game rejects who have posted far better numbers than the Royals’ southpaw.

MLB has used this rule for years, so that every team’s fans would have special incentive to watch their hometown players on the nationally televised All-Star Game. But are there really a significant number of Royals fans who will watch the game only because of the motivation to see Redman pitch? This much is certain: hardly anyone attending the game at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park will care whether Redman, a former member of the Pirates’ rotation, makes an appearance in the Midsummer Classic.

In a different time, the rule made far some sense. Prior to the expansion era, both the American and National leagues featured eight teams apiece. In most cases, a star player could legitimately be found from each of the teams, making it sensible for the major leagues to want each of the 16 clubs represented on a 28-man roster in the mid-season showcase. Now, with 14 teams in the American League and 16 in the National League, it becomes more difficult to find representative players from all 30 teams—including the worst teams—that can fit onto a 32-man All-Star roster. Furthermore, when a team has played as poorly as the Royals have in 2006, it may be that they simply have no individual player deserving of the honor. And that is certainly the case with the last-place Royals, the latest team to give the 1962 Mets a run for their ineptitude and a club that doesn’t have either an established veteran star or even a first-half flash-in-the-pan anywhere in sight.

That said, I do think an exception should be made for the team that is hosting the All-Star Game. If this year’s game were being played in Kansas City, fans of the Royals should have the opportunity to cheer for one of their own. Still, if that were the case, a far better argument could have been made for Royals center fielder David DeJesus, who has played very well despite missing considerable time with injury. At the very least, he would have been a far more sensible choice than Mark Redman, who probably wishes he could have three days off instead of having to answer questions about why he doesn’t belong at the All-Star Game. 

The “Monday” Night Rumor Mill

Due to the flooding that hit central New York at the end of June, the Friday Night Rumor Mill did not appear last week. Three nights later, we present a larger and more complete rundown of the latest trade rumors…

The Angels’ front office appears to have awakened from its season-long slumber. First, GM Bill Stoneman did the right thing by designating the perennially overrated Jeff Weaver for assignment, thereby making room on the roster for his far more deserving brother, Jered. (Jeff Weaver will probably end up returning to the Dodgers, at the price of a middling prospect or a warm body.) And now the Angels appear to be closing in on at least one major deal that will bring them the much-needed thumper they need to boost their offense and make a charge in a very lackluster American League West. Stoneman has engaged the Orioles in some serious talks regarding Miguel Tejada, whose attitude is almost certain to make him an ex-Oriole by the start of the 2007 season. As far as Baltimore’s front office is concerned, the last straw has been Tejada’s frequent lateness in arriving to the ballpark on gamedays, which prompted a meeting between Tejada and Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo. Meetings aside, the Orioles don’t seem to think that Tejada will change his attitude—including the chronic lateness and the repeated failures to run out ground balls and pop-ups. So what will the Angels offer for the disenchanted and disinterested Tejada? They will almost certainly have to surrender two young players from a group that includes Casey Kotchman, Dallas MacPherson, and Kendry Morales. (The Orioles don’t appear interested in second baseman Howie Kendrick, if only because Brian Roberts has made a wonderful return from the terrifying elbow injury he suffered last year.) The O’s would also like to dump veteran shortstop Orlando Cabrera in the Tejada swap, but are prepared to send the former playoff hero to another team to make room for Tejada. Or if worse comes to worst, the Angels can keep Cabrera at shortstop and slide Tejada over to third base…

If the Angels fail to pull off a Tejada blockbuster, they might aggressively pursue Washington’s Alfonso Soriano, who could replace the fading Garret Anderson in left field. If talks for Tejada and Soriano fail (and the price tag for both will be high), the Halos might settle for a lesser slugger, someone like Tampa Bay’s Aubrey Huff. Having already parted ways with Joey Gathright, the D-Rays are committed to unload the underachieving Huff before the July 31st deadline. Huff could fill a number of roles in Anaheim, including third base, first base, DH, the outfield, or a combination of all of the above… The Tigers also remain interested in Huff, who could be had for a package of Craig Monroe and a minor league prospect. Having lost the left field job to Marcus Thames—one of the season’s major breakthrough players—Monroe has no real role to fill in Detroit, other than designated outmaker. If acquired, Huff would spend most of his time as the Tigers’ DH, while spelling Thames from time to time in left field…The Angels have also talked trade in other areas, including a possible swap with the White Sox involving Chone Figgins. Dissatisfied with their center field options, the Sox have set their sights on Figgins as target No. 1. The switch-hitting speedster, who has split his time between the outfield and third base in Southern California, would become the White Sox’ everyday center fielder and No. 2 hitter behind Scott Podsednik, giving Chicago a throwback "Go Go" appearance (think Luis Aparicio and Jim Landis, who combined for 76 steals in 1959) and providing aggressive manager Ozzie Guillen with two of the AL’s best basestealers at the top of his lineup. Although Figgins has become one of Mike Scioscia’s most valuable players, Stoneman might be willing to deal him for a package that includes Brandon McCarthy and 2006 disappointment Brian Anderson.

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