Commentary

Trading a superstar isn't the easiest thing to do

Originally Published: November 29, 2007
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

It isn't often, here at International Rumblings Headquarters, that we launch our very own reality show. But we've done it this week, in a spectacular, one-week-only blitz of inspiration that we're calling:

TRIVIALITY

We don't ask many know-your-height trivia questions. But here's a fun one. Can you name the only National League MVP in history who was shorter than 5-foot-8 Jimmy Rollins? (Extra credit: Name the three AL MVPs who were shorter than Rollins.)

"So You Think You Can Be a GM. Huh?"

(Hey, it beats "My Big Fat Obnoxious GM Wannabe.")

Yes, in case you missed it, earlier this week, ESPN.com invited you loyal readers to play general manager and send in your most inspired trade proposals. And our advice to many of you, after perusing the 1,500 brainstorms that arrived, would be:

Hang onto your day jobs -- at least until Hank Steinbrenner announces he's accepting applications for the position of Special Fan Assistant to the Heavily Quoted Son of the Principal Owner.

But lucky for us, not all of your ideas were completely insane. So we assembled some of the most intriguing, most thoughtful and (because we're always interested in providing massive entertainment) most hilarious proposals we received.

Then we consulted with several great minds in the baseball business. And now we're going to let you know exactly how you did, in this very special one-and-done edition of "So You Think You Can Be a GM, Huh?"

Johan Santana

Santana

Starting Pitcher
Minnesota Twins

Profile

2007 Season Stats
GM W L BB K ERA
33 15 13 52 235 3.33

Johan Santana Dept.

Here they come, our four favorite suggestions from you amateur GMs to the Minnesota Twins on exactly where they should send their soon-to-be-former ace:

1. Twins-Yankees (from Vincent in St. George's, Grenada): Santana for Melky Cabrera, Ian Kennedy, Eric Duncan and Shelley Duncan.

2. Twins-Red Sox (from Mark in Romania): Santana for Coco Crisp, Jon Lester and Craig Hansen.

3. Twins-Blue Jays (from Chase in Long Island, N.Y.): Santana for Alex Rios and Dustin McGowan.

4. Twins-Mets (from Mike in Louisville, Ky.): Santana for Lastings Milledge, Mike Pelfrey and Philip Humber.

Let's do these in reverse order of feasibility. That Mets swap can't happen because none of those three is regarded as a sure-thing future star, and Humber is viewed by other clubs as just an interchangeable part. The Toronto deal has no shot because the Blue Jays couldn't afford to pay Santana and he wouldn't sign there anyway.

The Red Sox package has the right framework but the wrong pieces. Substitute Jacoby Ellsbury for Crisp, and the Twins would almost certainly think about it. But the Red Sox don't want to deal Ellsbury, period, and especially if the rest of the package has to include pieces like Lester.

And here's the problem with that Yankees idea: excellent quantity. But Shelley and Eric Duncan don't represent enough quality for the Twins. "You're not going to 'volume' them in this deal," says an official of one team that has spoken with the Twins. "They're not going to take five average players. They're going to get star-caliber guys back, or it's not going to happen."

Miguel Cabrera

Cabrera

Third Base
Florida Marlins

Profile

2007 Season Stats
GM HR RBI R OBP AVG
157 34 119 91 .401 .320

Miguel Cabrera Dept.

Your onslaught of Cabrera deals also caused our inbox to overflow its banks. (Alert FEMA.) Here are four highlights from that deluge:

1. Marlins-Angels (from Adam in Albany, N.Y.): Cabrera for Howie Kendrick, Ervin Santana and Reggie Willits.

2. Marlins-Dodgers (from Jeff S.): Cabrera for hot pitching prospect Clayton Kershaw and third baseman Andy LaRoche.

3. Marlins-Giants (from Red in Monterey, Calif.): Cabrera for Noah Lowry, Jonathan Sanchez and Fred Lewis.

4. Marlins-Indians (from John in Cleveland): Cabrera for Jeremy Sowers, Andy Marte and Ben Francisco.

Once again, we'll dissect the least likely ideas first. That Cleveland trade doesn't fly because the Marlins undoubtedly would ask for pitching mega-prospect Adam Miller instead of Sowers, and the other two names are too iffy. That L.A. proposal just isn't enough, even though the Marlins would want any deal with the Dodgers to start with Kershaw and go from there.

That proposed Giants trade is a good try. But Noah Lowry doesn't work as the centerpiece. If Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain were the first name on that list, you'd at least have the makings of a deal the Marlins probably would consider.

But the best proposal in this group is that Angels deal. We can't say for sure that this exact trade would be acceptable to both sides. The Marlins also appear to have been lobbying hard for the Angels to include a catcher (Jeff Mathis). But Kendrick, Willits and either Santana or prospect Nick Adenhart represent the framework for a trade that could very well happen at some point. One baseball man we talked to says the Marlins would make a 3-for-1 deal (as opposed to 4-for-1) "if it's the right three pieces."

Mets

Mets Pipe Dream Dept.

We're not sure why we got so many trade ideas from Mets fans. (Possibly because, if the season started tomorrow, their rotation would include Jason Vargas.) But whatever the reason, you folks seem to think they're going to trade for every starter in America except Tom Glavine. So here come three of your potential swaps that at least got our attention:

1. Mets-A's (from Andrew of New York City): Lastings Milledge and Philip Humber for Dan Haren.

2. Mets-Orioles (from Chris in Washington): Milledge, Mike Pelfrey and Ruben Gotay for Erik Bedard.

3. Mets-Astros (from Xavier in Jersey City, N.J.): Pelfrey or Humber, plus outfield stud Fernando Martinez, for Roy Oswalt.

Two words here: No chance.

We're not sure where these Oswalt trade rumors come from. He's not getting traded. We don't even really believe that Bedard will get traded, since the asking price is at least as heavy as the price on Santana, if not heavier, depending on whom you ask. So Milledge, Pelfrey and Gotay aren't even close to enough.

And from what we're hearing, the A's are nowhere near as infatuated with Milledge as they used to be. So although we expect lots of talk about a Haren-to-the-Mets trade, that conversation will start with Martinez and/or Carlos Gomez, not with Milledge. "Fernando Martinez," says one AL executive, "is the most interesting guy in their system, just because of his age [19]."

Human Trade Rumor Dept.

There are certain players out there who make Rumor Central possible, just by their very existence. Here are a few trade ideas our cyber-GMs tossed out there on three members of that all-Rumor Central team:

Miguel Tejada

Tejada

Shortstop
Baltimore Orioles

Profile

2007 Season Stats
GM HR RBI R OBP AVG
133 18 81 72 .357 .296
1. Orioles-Angels (from Josh in Baltimore): Miguel Tejada for Ervin Santana and Brandon Wood.

2. Cubs-Rays (from Corey in Fort Myers, Fla.): Felix Pie and Rich Hill for Carl Crawford.

3. Dodgers-Cardinals (from Jason in Los Angeles): Outfielder Delwyn Young and right-hander Greg Miller for Scott Rolen.

OK, let's take these in order. Orioles-Angels is the most feasible deal on that list. But this particular proposal looks more like a not-quite than a they-should-make-that-one-right-now. The Orioles probably would need at least one known quantity back for Tejada, and that wouldn't describe either Santana or Wood.

Next item: Before we hear one more Carl Crawford trade rumor this winter, everyone needs to understand something -- the Rays want more back for Crawford than the Marlins want for Cabrera. Which means they don't really want to trade him. And they definitely wouldn't do it for these two guys.

Final item: More and more, we believe Rolen will get traded. But it won't be for two question-mark prospects like this. And it probably won't be to the Dodgers, who seem wary of Rolen's health. So nice try. Wrong deal.

Comedy Central Dept.

If you folks are ever going to make it in the GM business, you'll have to learn how to relieve the tension by proposing trade ideas designed strictly to provide comic relief. Clearly, these three readers get that concept already:

1. Marlins-Twins (from Nick in Duluth, Minn.): Miguel Cabrera for Johan Santana.

Emil Brown

Brown

Left Field
Kansas City Royals

Profile

2007 Season Stats
GM HR RBI R OBP AVG
113 6 62 44 .300 .257
2. Yankees-Royals (from Billy in Olathe, Kan.): "The Yankees should trade A-Rod to the Royals for Emil Brown!!!!"

3. Marlins-Yankees (from Jamarcus in Miami): "I think the Marlins should trade Miguel Cabrera to the Yankees for $100 million dollars, giving them the money they finally need for a ballpark."

Now this is the kind of inventive GM-type thinking we need more of. Cabrera for Santana? "I'd make that one this afternoon if I were them," laughed one front-office man.

A-Rod for Emil Brown? Pure genius.

And the best of them all -- Cabrera for a stadium? "I don't think a player has ever been traded for a ballpark before," said one NL executive. "But there's a first for everything."

Jose Reyes

Reyes

Ready to rumble

• We keep hearing people speculate that for the Mets to get Johan Santana, they'll have to trade Jose Reyes. Well, if that's true, Santana is heading for some other destination, because teams that have inquired about Reyes' availability this winter, even in a monstrous deal, report that the Mets refuse to trade him, talk about him or even think about talking about him. So anyone who predicts he'll eventually be a Twin (or anything else) is "dreaming  big-time," says an executive of one team. Ditto David Wright, by the way.

• Clubs talking to the Red Sox about Coco Crisp report that the Sox have put all those discussions on hold until the Santana trade talks have played themselves out. So those clubs are now making alternative plans.

The Rangers, for instance, are believed to have kicked the tires on a group that includes Rocco Baldelli, Jim Edmonds and Juan Pierre. But the Braves, who had also been interested, are now so charged up about center-field prospect Jordan Schafer's chances of making it to the big leagues by midyear, they may try to get by for a couple of months with a lesser name -- a Dave Roberts type or recently acquired ex-Astros prospect Josh Anderson.

• Speaking of the center-field market, it's amazing how little you hear Andruw Jones' name these days. But two front-office men we spoke with said they've figured out the perfect dark-horse destination for him -- the Royals.

"Think about it," said one of them. "The GM [former Braves executive Dayton Moore] has ties to him. They have money to spend. They want to make a splash. And they desperately need a center fielder. The fit there is better than you'd think."

Francisco Liriano

Liriano

• With Matt Garza heading for Tampa Bay and Santana looking for a moving van, the health of Francisco Liriano is about to become the Twins' most significant pitching story. But GM Bill Smith reports that Liriano has done so well in his 13 months since Tommy John surgery, he has been told by the medical people he can get ready for spring training as if he'd never been hurt.

The big fear teams normally have with pitchers coming off Tommy John is that they feel so good so soon, they try to rush back and reinjure themselves. "So we told him [after the surgery], 'Don't even think about it. We're not activating you [in 2007] under any circumstances,' " Smith told Rumblings. "It's when you try to cheat the system that you have problems. It's a 12-month program, and when you try to do it in nine, that's when you have setbacks. He's had no setbacks. So let's just say we'll all be very excited to see him come to spring training."

• We started hearing rumblings this week that there was a team in on Santana that no one has mentioned. Once we began asking around, officials from two clubs we surveyed nominated Seattle. But don't bet your Space Needle souvenir collection on it. The Twins would almost certainly start the conversation by asking for Adam Jones and Brandon Morrow. And there is practically no scenario under which Seattle could give up Jones, now that Jose Guillen is gone.

The Mariners also would have trouble coming up with a third and/or fourth piece, since their most high-profile prospect, catcher Jeff Clement, wouldn't fit Minnesota's needs. And one more thing: Seattle probably wouldn't be a place Santana would be anxious to waive his no-trade clause to go to, either. So never mind.

• As best we can tell, those reports linking Jose Guillen to HGH and that Florida anti-aging clinic have had no tangible impact on his free-agent market value. In addition to the Royals, whose pursuit of Guillen has been well-chronicled, at least two other teams appear to have interest in him. (Our best guess: Padres and Mets, two clubs in the market for right-handed-hitting corner outfielders.)

All of those teams might wait to see if Guillen's name shows up in the Mitchell report. But they don't have to wait for any reports to know that Guillen had more RBIs (99) than any unsigned free agent, and that only Barry Bonds and Aaron Rowand beat him in OPS among players who got to the plate 400 times or more.

Vicente Padilla

Padilla

• Every team needs pitching, and only one of them can trade for Santana. So we'd bet somebody will take a shot this winter at dealing for Texas' Vicente Padilla, whom the Rangers have made extremely available. The good news: Over the last six seasons, Padilla has had as many years with at least 14 wins as Josh Beckett or Curt Schilling (three). The bad news: He's in a high-maintenance zone all his own.

"I once heard somebody say," quipped one baseball man, "that he doesn't just have baggage. He has luggage."

• As we reported last week, the unsigned free-agent starting pitcher who had the best strikeout rate and lowest opponent batting average this season is (who else?) Randy Wolf. We're hearing Wolf has six teams chasing him. But the Phillies amped up their pursuit this week by getting nearly every one of their top executives on the phone with him personally.

• It's always tough to know what to make of winter ball. But one pitcher in the Venezuelan league who has generated surprising buzz is 29-year-old reliever Travis Hughes, whom the Red Sox allowed to become a six-year free agent after a season as their Triple-A closer in Pawtucket. Hughes has kicked around the minor leagues for 10 years, without ever having any big league success. But he had a 1.91 ERA for Pawtucket, and opponents are hitting just .132 off him this winter.

One scout returning from Venezuela even described him as "overpowering at times." But an executive of another club wasn't sold. "He knows how to pitch, but he's got very average stuff across the board," the exec said. "To me, he's an 11th or 12th pitcher on a staff."

• Meanwhile, a hitter in Venezuela who has popped a few eyeballs is Jody Gerut, who is trying to prove he's over his knee issues. Well, here's a good way to prove that: bat .390, with a .488 on-base percentage. Which what Gerut is doing. "He's raking," said the same scout. "He should wind up in somebody's camp."

• And here's one more magical name from the past who is doing some twirling in Venezuela -- the long-lost Ariel Prieto (a man with one big league win over the last decade -- and that was seven years ago).

"He's claiming he's only 38 years old," said one baseball man who spent time in Venezuela. "But he looks like a 10-year veteran -- except I mean a 10-year veteran coach."

TRIVIA ANSWER

ESPN's own Joe Morgan, all 5-foot-7 of him, won the 1975 and '76 NL MVP awards. Your extra-credit answer: Yogi Berra (5-foot-7), Phil Rizzuto (5-foot-6) and Bobby Shantz (5-foot-6) all won AL MVP trophies.

Box score lines of the week

OK, these aren't really box score lines. But they're straight off the stat sheets in the Venezuelan Winter League:

Hideo Nomo (yep, he's back): 0-2, 8.22 ERA, 7 2/3 IP, 12 H, 9 R, 7 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HBP, 1 WP.

Mets farmhand Lino Urdaneta: 0-1, 11.25 ERA, 8 IP, 18 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 HBP.

Former Indians prospect Albert Vargas: 0-0, 16.62 ERA, 4 IP, 13 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2 WP.

One scout's review of Nomo's work: "Ugly. ... Awful. ... He's done."

Cabreras 'R' Us revisited

Well, we really did it this time.

In the last edition of Rumblings, in honor of the possibility of Miguel Cabrera and Orlando Cabrera playing on the left side of the same infield, we tossed a fun little question out there to you loyal readers:

We asked if you remembered other left sides of any infield occupied by guys with the same last name.

Our inbox may never be the same.

We got hundreds of replies -- and read over 200 of them. Here are your answers:

• To the more than 100 readers who told us about the 27 games in which Billy Ripken played third base while some other guy named Ripken played short, we say thanks.

• To the dozen readers who recalled that the 1902-04 A's featured the unrelated Monte and Lave Cross playing side-by-side, we say congratulations.

But to those of you who came up with four other left siders, we say: You folks amaze us constantly. Here are those duos:

• The relentlessly inventive Eric Lee submitted Felipe and Luis Lopez, of the 2005 Reds. They started exactly two games together.

• Then there were Jack Wilson and Enrique Wilson, who started precisely one game on the left side for the 2001 Pirates, according to that dogged Eric Lee. And loyal reader Daniel Green reminded us that those two occasionally played in the same infield as the thoroughly unrelated Craig Wilson.

• Loyal reader Jack Renna came up with one more brother act: Bill Gleason and Jack Gleason, for the 1882 St. Louis Browns.

• And who among us will ever forget that classic Tampa Bay game on April 14, 2002, when the Rays started Jason Smith at short and Bobby Smith at third? OK, everybody except loyal reader Steve Katso forgot it. But we're proud of him for unearthing it. And we thank all of you for participating.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His new book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," has been published by Triumph Books and is now available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com