Waiver trade candidates
Some highly paid, underperforming players could be on the move in August
Running through the list of August trade candidates is the equivalent of sweeping up the peanut shells and other debris after the circus has left town. That's especially true this year, when just about every major trade rumor of note was consummated in July.
Now that Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Roy Oswalt, Ted Lilly, Jake Westbrook, Lance Berkman, Ryan Ludwick, Matt Capps and so many other name players have been dealt, the August trade crop is looking rather sparse. But as more teams slip from contention (that could be you, Tigers, Angels, Dodgers, Mets, Marlins and Rockies) and contenders get a better handle on their needs, there could be a few more trades in store.
The process is more complicated now because players must pass through waivers before they can be dealt. Once they clear, they're free to be traded anywhere.
If a player is claimed, Team A can either pull him back and keep him or let him go to Team B, which assumes the claimed player's entire salary. That's what happened last year when the Chicago White Sox claimed Alex Rios from Toronto and assumed the $60 million-plus remaining on his contract.
There's also a third option: Team A and Team B have a 48-hour window in which to negotiate a trade.
Which names are we likely to see bandied about in August? This week's installment of Starting 9 looks at some prominent post-waiver-deadline trade candidates.
Manny Ramirez, Dodgers
Corey Hart just signed a three-year, $26.5 million contract extension with Milwaukee, and Washington general manager Mike Rizzo set the bar so high on Adam Dunn before the deadline that nobody was willing to meet the price. It's hard to see Rizzo turning around and suddenly moving Dunn now.
That leaves Ramirez as the most accomplished and obtainable slugger on the market -- although the term "slugger" doesn't resonate as it once did with him. Ramirez's .516 slugging percentage is low by his standards, and his ratio of one homer every 23.3 at-bats is the second worst of his career.
Ramirez is on the disabled list with a calf injury, and he's not expected to return for another week or so. The Dodgers still owe him about $7 million, and they couldn't find enough common ground with the White Sox to send him to Chicago before the deadline. Now that GM Ned Colletti has added $3.6 million to the payroll with the acquisitions of Ted Lilly, Scott Podsednik and Ryan Theriot, he probably isn't going to be able to move Manny without someone taking on the entire salary.
One person familiar with the Dodgers' situation said it's a "long shot" that Ramirez will be traded in August. But the Dodgers are nine games behind San Diego in the National League West and seven behind San Francisco in the wild-card race. Don't be surprised if someone makes another run at Manny once he comes off the DL.
Brian Fuentes, Angels
The Angels shaved a game off Texas' lead this past weekend, but they're still eight games behind the Rangers in the American League West. Unless Mike Scioscia's team can make a spirited push in the next two weeks, GM Tony Reagins will have to consider selling off some useful pieces later this month.
Fuentes isn't as good as his 48 saves last year suggested, but he could be a nice fit for a team that's looking to fortify the back end of its bullpen. Left-handed hitters are batting .129 (4-for-31) against him this season, and he could come in handy against Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Josh Hamilton or any number of National League lefties in September or October.
Fuentes is making $9 million and has a $9 million option for 2011 that vests if he finishes 55 games. He has finished only 27 games, so the option isn't going to come into play. Maybe he'll be this year's version of Billy Wagner, who was acquired by Boston in a surprise deal on Aug. 25 last year.
Johnny Damon, Tigers
"Knowing [GM] Dave Dombrowski's mindset, they would have to be pretty far back for something to happen," said an American League executive.
The way things have gone recently, the white flag could come sooner rather than later.
The Tigers are playing without Magglio Ordonez, Brandon Inge and Carlos Guillen. They're 13½ games out in the wild-card race and falling further behind the White Sox and Twins by the day. The outlook isn't promising.
Damon signed with Detroit in February after things failed to work out with the Yankees, and he has given the Tigers about what they expected. His power numbers have slipped with the move from Yankee Stadium to Comerica Park, but he has a .373 on-base percentage and a respectable .805 OPS. Even though Damon sat out the Tigers' weekend series against Boston with back spasms, he's been his typically durable self at age 36.
Damon is making $8 million this year, so the Tigers might have to assume a chunk of what remains. Right now, that's $2.8 million. But he has lots of postseason experience and would be a comfortable fit in any clubhouse. Even though his defense has regressed to the extent that he's a DH, he could help a playoff club.
"He's performed extremely well in postseason situations, and he's one of the toughest outs in the game when it comes to working counts and fouling off good pitches," said an American League assistant GM. "After the deadline, teams are still trying to fine-tune their bench and bullpen pieces. He could be a hell of a weapon coming off the bench in a playoff series."
Luke Scott, Ty Wigginton, Kevin Millwood and Corey Patterson, Orioles
Contrary to speculation, the Orioles have never had much interest in trading Jeremy Guthrie. His 4-11 record and 4.23 ERA aren't very impressive, but Guthrie has as many quality starts (13) as Jon Lester, Andy Pettitte and Ervin Santana, and he's the only Baltimore pitcher with a chance to throw six innings every time out. If MacPhail had traded Guthrie, the Baltimore relievers might have staged a sick-out in protest.
Scott is also a good bet to stay put. He leads the Orioles with 18 homers and a .556 slugging percentage, and gives the team some desperately needed left-handed power now that Nick Markakis (seven homers, .439 slugging percentage) has turned into a gap hitter. Tampa Bay expressed interest in Scott in July, but the Rays and O's couldn't find a way to make the prospects fit.
Everyone else is probably available. Wigginton, one of Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon's personal favorites, could be a nice addition to a contending club because of his versatility and power. He has only about $1.2 million still owed him this season, so he could get claimed on waivers.
Patterson has 18 stolen bases in 60 games this season. He has shown occasional pop with six homers and 14 doubles and is cheap and likely to clear waivers. If the Red Sox were able to carry Joey Gathright on their 2009 AL Division Series roster, there could be a fit for Patterson in October.
Millwood (2-11, 6.05 ERA) pitched reasonably well in April and May before his season turned into a disaster. It would be best for all concerned if the Orioles could flip him to a contender this month. But the light bulb had better go on in a hurry.
Aaron Cook, Rockies
The Rockies are a hard team to figure. They looked like toast after a recent 2-11 stretch, then turned around and won four straight at home. This is a club that won 14 of its last 15 games in 2007 and posted a 74-42 record under new manager Jim Tracy last year, so it's risky to ever pronounce them dead.
"We're a team of momentum," shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said at the All-Star break. "Once we get hot, we reel off streaks."
General manager Dan O'Dowd will have a better idea where things stand once the Rockies return from a seven-game trip to Pittsburgh and New York. If the Rockies fall any further behind the Padres and Giants in the NL West, O'Dowd might have to sit down and contemplate some selective selling.
Cook is probably available regardless of what happens. His performance has regressed the past two seasons, and the Rockies owe him $9.25 million next year. Jhoulys Chacin is ready to make the jump to the big leagues at age 22, so it makes sense for the Rockies to try to clear a spot for him.
Brad Hawpe and Jorge De La Rosa both came up in trade speculation before the deadline, but they're more back-burner speculation at this point. Hawpe has taken over as the Rockies' first baseman for Todd Helton, who is expected to come off the DL shortly. Hawpe is slugging a mere .449 with seven homers, and the Rockies have a $10 million option on him for 2011. They're unlikely to exercise it, but might be interested in bringing him back at a more reasonable price.
Trevor Hoffman and Jim Edmonds, Brewers
Need a veteran hitter who's been around the block and might be invigorated by the challenge of a pennant race? Edmonds, 40, has a .502 slugging percentage and 28 extra-base hits in 201 at-bats.
Looking for a veteran reliever who's savvy enough to get some big outs in a setup role? Hoffman lost the closer's job in Milwaukee to John Axford in May and sported an 11.65 ERA in early June. But he has felt better since receiving a cortisone shot in his right elbow at the All-Star break and has posted a 1.59 ERA over his past 16 appearances.
There are potential hurdles to moving both players. Edmonds has been bothered by an Achilles injury of late and recently dropped hints that he might retire at season's end. Hoffman has a no-trade clause that allows him to block deals to 25 of the 30 clubs. He has 596 career saves and might stand a better chance of getting more of them somewhere other than Milwaukee. But it's uncertain how receptive Hoffman would be to a trade to anyone other than a West Coast club.
Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin didn't shed much light on his plans for the two players Monday but said he has had conversations with Hoffman and with Edmonds -- presumably about where they fit and what the team might have in mind for them. An official from a club that recently inquired about Hoffman said the Brewers are going to try to accommodate the wishes of their veteran players before making any kind of move.
"I've always been one who's been fair to players if it's something they're interested in," Melvin said. "We've had some talks with them already, but I'd like to keep those talks to myself."
Ryan Doumit, Pirates
Doumit, who's on the disabled list with a concussion, was caught off guard when the Pirates acquired catcher Chris Snyder from Arizona before the trade deadline. He told team beat reporters that he was "shocked" by the news.
"I didn't know how to interpret it," Doumit told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "He's a starting-catcher-type guy. I'm a starting-catcher-type guy. I didn't know what to think of it. You know, obviously, I want to play. I want to play every day."
At the moment, the plans call for Doumit to share time with Lastings Milledge in right field and spell Snyder behind the plate. Doumit has a strong arm and calls an adequate game, but he generally is regarded as a below-average receiver and framer of pitches. He has thrown out only five of 61 attempted base stealers, but that's partly a reflection of the Pittsburgh staff's inability to hold runners.
The Pirates, who already have shed plenty of salary, say they feel no sense of urgency to move Doumit. Between his injury and a .258 batting average, Doumit's trade value is on the low side. That's not going to change until he comes off the disabled list and resumes playing -- and hitting.
Doumit is signed for $5.1 million for 2011, with club options for a total payout of $15.5 million in 2012 and 2013. That's not outrageous if he can hit .280 with 20 homers and 80 RBIs, but it's pricey if he's not a full-time player. The Pirates are a good bet to lose 100 games this season. Do they really want to commit almost $11 million to their catching tandem next season?
Chone Figgins, Mariners
Barring a dramatic change in the dynamic, the Figgins-Mariners union is starting to look like a lost cause. The Mariners signed Figgins to a four-year, $36 million deal this past winter, and now they have a disgruntled second baseman with a .622 OPS on their hands. Figgins recently landed in the middle of a dugout brawl, and he appears to be at serious odds with manager Don Wakamatsu.
General manager Jack Zduriencik recently talked to the Braves about Figgins, who ostensibly could have slid in as a replacement for Chipper Jones at third base in 2011. Nothing came of the discussions, but in light of Figgins' salary and poor performance, it'll be a stunner if he doesn't sail through waivers.
"He's unhappy there, and they're unhappy with him," a National League executive said of Figgins. "If a team claimed him on waivers, they'd be doing cartwheels." If he gets claimed, the Mariners could simply let Figgins go, then use the $28 million-plus they would save to upgrade somewhere else this winter.
Zduriencik might have to swallow hard to trade Figgins this quickly after making such a major commitment to him. But with Cliff Lee gone and Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda in the pipeline, the Mariners have some reason to be optimistic about the future.
"If they're going to move him, I think it'll have to be one of those bad-contract-for-bad-contract swaps," one AL executive said.
Kenshin Kawakami and Nate McLouth, Braves
The Braves would love to trade Kawakami, who'll make $6.7 million next year in the final season of a three-year, $23 million deal. But it's tough to drum up interest when he never pitches. Manager Bobby Cox has used him once since June 26, and Kawakami was pounded for five hits and three runs in one inning against Milwaukee.
Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently observed that Kawakami "is collecting cobwebs and starting to resemble Norman Bates' mother in the upstairs window." Her or former Braves reliever Boone Logan, who went 23 days between appearances last August and September.
For what it's worth, Kawakami isn't quite as bad as that 1-9 record would indicate. He has a 57-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and the Braves have averaged a feeble 2.78 runs per game in his nine losses.
As for McLouth, he's trying to find a semblance of a swing with Triple-A Gwinnett. He hit .168 for Atlanta and has a guaranteed $9.5 million still due him, so the Braves might be better off just holding on to him and letting him start fresh in 2011. Melky Cabrera and newly acquired Rick Ankiel are sharing time in center field, so McLouth won't be much of a factor down the stretch for the Braves.
Other names that could be in play: Adam LaRoche, Kelly Johnson and Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks; Jeff Francoeur and Rod Barajas, Mets; Mike Lowell, Jeremy Hermida and Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox; Aaron Harang, Reds; Joe Beimel and Randy Flores, Rockies; Lyle Overbay and Kevin Gregg, Blue Jays; Carlos Zambrano and Kosuke Fukudome, Cubs; Cesar Izturis, Mark Hendrickson and Mike Gonzalez, Orioles; Jose Guillen and Willie Bloomquist, Royals; Livan Hernandez and Miguel Batista, Nationals.