- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
- 0 Shares
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It might be true that the current list of unemployed free agents is longer than the list of Mike Tyson police incidents. But that doesn't mean the good old-fashioned baseball trade is in any danger of extinction whatsoever.
In fact, the names bouncing around the lobby of the Anaheim Marriott this weekend will sound more like the all-star team than the all-pariah team. So here are 10 players who, conceivably, could get traded before baseball's winter meetings conclude Monday:
1. Sammy Sosa
Granted, there are many reasons Sosa might not get traded. But here are two reasons he still could: 1) There are increasing indications that he would prefer a new start in exotic Flushing, N.Y., to a return for another tense season with Dusty Baker. And 2) the Cubs have made his exit the centerpiece of their remaining offseason agenda. They can't open a position -- or payroll room -- to make a charge at Carlos Beltran if Sosa is still doing his Wrigley hop. So as frustrated as the Cubs have been by the Mets' mixed signals on Sosa, expect those conversations to resume this weekend -- because no matter what you may have heard, says one baseball man, "that deal isn't dead."
2. Tim Hudson
A's GM Billy Beane has been telling people he's feeling "creative" lately. And you know what that means: A seven-team trade involving 28 players could be happening any minute now. But more likely, it means Beane has peered over the horizon and determined that, for the sake of his team's long-term financial maneuverability, the dreaded time has come to trade one of his Big Three starters. The most likely to depart is Hudson, just because he's closest to free agency and because he's likely to bring the best package. The A's want a second baseman and young pitching in return. So the Braves (Marcus Giles, Jose Capellan) and Orioles (Brian Roberts, Erik Bedard) look like logical matches. But the Cardinals and Indians also will know exactly where to find Beane's suite.
3. Alfonso Soriano
Why would the Rangers want to deal a 28-year-old second baseman who has averaged 31 homers, 34 steals, 99 runs scored and 73 extra-base hits a season? Well, one reason is: He and Jose Hernandez are the only players in the big leagues who have averaged 100 more strikeouts than walks over the past four years. Another is: They would like to move Michael Young back to second base after a season at shortstop. And the biggest is: They sure can't get any decent starting pitchers to sign in Texas as free agents -- so their best hope is to try to trade for one, using Soriano as the bait. There would be more interest (especially by the Mets and Yankees), if Soriano would consider shifting to the outfield (which he says he won't). And there aren't many teams looking for second basemen. But remember, the only second basemen in baseball more productive than Soriano since 2001 are Jeff Kent and Bret Boone.
4. Randy Johnson
The Unit would rank No. 1 on this list if the Yankees and Diamondbacks hadn't broken off diplomatic relations this month. Now, even though Johnson remains the biggest (also tallest) name on the market, there is just about no place else left that could satisfy Arizona's voluminous talent demands and could entice His Unitness to waive his no-trade clause. Since the Yankees pulled the plug, the Diamondbacks have tried to lure the Dodgers and Angels back into the picture (not successfully) and have talked three-way options with the Cardinals and White Sox. But what Arizona would really like to do, now that it has signed Troy Glaus, is bring back Steve Finley, convince Johnson it can be competitive and not just keep him, but sign him to an extension. Then again, if the Yankees strike out on Carl Pavano and Eric Milton, it wouldn't be a shock to see Johnson reappear on their drawing board, either.
5. Shawn Green
A week ago, Dodgers GM Paul DePodesta thought he had a mystery deal for Green within his grasp. But by the time he drove down the freeway to Anaheim this weekend, Green was still right where DePodesta left him -- in L.A.'s Priced to Sell bin. Green has one year and 16 million bucks left on his contract. His batting average and slugging percentage have dropped three straight seasons. And he had fewer extra-base hits this season (57) than Jack Wilson (64). So he's marketable mostly only as a swap-ee for some other member of the All Contract Dump team (say, Cliff Floyd, Preston Wilson, Geoff Jenkins, etc.).
6. Jason Marquis
Marquis was the youngest pitcher in the National League to cross both the 15-win and 200-inning barriers. But he had a rough finish, dropped to the back of the Cardinals' rotation in October and is now being dangled in a package for a potentially more dominating starting pitcher (such as Barry Zito or Tim Hudson). The Cardinals, according to an executive of one team that has talked with them, would prefer to move Marquis or Jeff Suppan over the younger, cheaper Danny Haren. But will that be enough? Given their shortage of tradeable prospects, you wouldn't think so. But GM Walt Jocketty seems to find a way every year.
7. Danny Kolb
The odds are, Kolb isn't going anywhere -- not after a breakout 39-save season at age 29. On the other hand, he also struck out fewer hitters (21) than any closer in history who saved at least 35 games. And his strikeout rate (3.3 per 9 IP) was the lowest by anybody with that many saves since Dan Quisenberry in 1984. Kolb is also arbitration-eligible and a Scott Boras client. So nothing's impossible. And the Cubs are interested. GM Doug Melvin hasn't said no when asked about him. But as one front-office man put it, "I don't know that he'll ever say yes, either."
8. Andruw Jones
You may not have noticed if you haven't paid close attention. But Jones has slid from the Michael Jordan of defensive center fielders to merely the Vince Carter of this crowd. He's still fun to watch. He can still crash the Web Gem reel. He can still turn doubles into F-8's. But Jones has slipped. He ran down 100 fewer balls this season than he did five years ago. The Braves haven't always been happy with his work habits. And just when you thought he was making progress offensively, he set a career high in strikeouts (147). But Jones' most critical number is 39 million -- the number of dollars left on his contract (over three years). He's about the only big-ticket item the Braves could move. So they have talked to the White Sox and Orioles. And if a deal gets huge enough, they might just pull the trigger.
9. Austin Kearns
There aren't many (if any) 24-year-old outfielders with Kearns' tools on the auction block. But the Reds have been listening on both Kearns and the ever-intriguing Wily Mo Pena. They'd rather move Junior Griffey, but that ain't happening. So they're curious about what a guy like Kearns might bring. Of course, they've asked every team they've talked to for the best young player on the market. So the odds are, a long phone bill is all they'll get out of all these conversations. But you never know.
10. Paul Konerko
After a series of bizarre, schizo seasons, Konerko finally put two halves together this summer -- and finished second in the league in homers (41). He also crashed the top 10 in RBI (117) and slugging (.535). So the White Sox tossed his name out there for Arizona's consideration in a run at Randy Johnson. And even though that deal's a goner, Konerko could still move in the kind of blockbuster GM Kenny Williams loves to pursue this time of year.
Doug Mientkiewicz, Kevin Millar, Ron Belliard, Nick Johnson, Mike Cameron, Jose Cruz Jr., Sean Burroughs, Erubiel Durazo, Shea Hillenbrand, A.J. Pierzynski, Scott Podsednik, Jay Gibbons, Julio Lugo, Juan Encarnacion, Toby Hall, Eric Munson, Alex Sanchez, Randy Winn, Scott Spiezio, Marlon Byrd, Jay Payton, Kevin Mench, Josh Phelps, Casey Blake, Dave Roberts.
Jarrod Washburn, Shawn Chacon, Jon Garland, Mike Maroth, Steve Trachsel, Jorge Julio, Danys Baez, Damaso Marte, Kyle Farnsworth, Arthur Rhodes, Tanyon Sturtze, Chris Reitsma, Jim Brower, Mike Koplove, Chris George, Kerry Ligtenberg, Jorge Sosa.
Only in a whopper
Javier Vazquez, Darin Erstad, Trot Nixon, Mike Sweeney, Kaz Matsui, Jacque Jones, Tom Gordon, Geoff Jenkins, Brian Schneider, Mark Kotsay, Octavio Dotel, Ted Lilly, Aubrey Huff, B.J. Ryan, Ray Durham.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
Sammy Sosa and Tim Hudson head the list of players who could get traded at the winter meetings.