Beltran, Colon: Should they stay or go?
A team-by-team look at who's ready to wheel and deal with the trade deadline less than a month away.
Gentleman, start your speed dials. The arrival of July means the start of the trading season. Only four weeks of shopping left -- not counting the post-July 31 waiver deals, that is.
On the subject of trade activity, many are unsure what to expect.
"On the one hand, you've got a lot of teams trying to dump salary and trim payroll,'' said one executive. "On the other hand, you've got an awful lot of teams in contention or on the fringes of contention, and that will make teams reluctant to deal until they know they're out of it.''
Expect -- as usual -- most of the activity to come in the final 48 hours.
"But,'' warns one GM, "one big deal earlier (in the month) could really jump-start things.''
A primer for the shopping season starting with the American League:
Looking for: The Angels are a veteran team, especially in the outfield, and could use some position players to re-stock.
The buzz: The defending champions are running out of time to get back into the race, and would happily move one of their expensive, veteran starters with an eye toward reloading for next year. Schoeneweis is much in demand, with inquiries from St. Louis, Toronto and Boston.
Need: The Orioles have improved their offensive game greatly since last year, but could still use an upgrade at a few positions. Still, like most losing teams looking to improve, they're looking for young pitching, too.
The buzz: There's evidence to suggest that the Orioles aren't interested in completely rebuilding. When the Red Sox inquired about Ponson, they were told the price would be Trot Nixon. Owner Peter Angelos doesn't want to give the impression that the O's are interested in a long-term overhaul; they want to get better right away.
Boston Red Sox -- Buyers
Looking for: Pitching, preferably of the starting variety. The Sox are ready to move Byung-Hyun Kim to the closer's spot, but could move him back into the rotation if a top closer became available.
Will give up: Infielder Freddy Sanchez remains pretty much untouchable, as does Double-A catcher Kelly Shoppach. They might part with Double-A third baseman Kevin Youkilis, and some pitchers at Double-A (Jorge De La Rosa, Anastacio Martinez).
The buzz: Theo Epstein doesn't want to strip the system bare, but he's caught in a conundrum: The Red Sox haven't made the playoffs since 1999, and they're in danger of losing the team nucleus (Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek, Derek Lowe, Trot Nixon) to free agency after 2004. It's win now -- or else. The budget isn't as unlimited as the Yankees, but there isn't an available salary that the Sox couldn't take.
Will give up: Got rid of just prospects (Royce Ring is a former first-round pick) for Alomar, whose contract will be eaten by the Mets. The White Sox are a curious mix of declining older players (Frank Thomas, Jose Valentin) and slowly developing younger players (Joe Crede, D'Angelo Jimenez). They aren't so talented that they couldn't use help almost everywhere.
The buzz: Just when it seemed like the White Sox were drifting out of contention, they've thrust themselves back into the wide-open AL Central race. The upcoming All-Star Game at U.S. Cellular Field also had something to do with getting Alomar. It also means they will put off the idea of trading Bartolo Colon for the time being.
Need: The Indians are busy developing some young arms as they rebuild, but could use some power prospects.
The buzz: The Indians have targeted 2005 as their timetable to contend, and the mediocre division in which they play makes that entirely feasible. Having moved some pricey veterans in recent years (Roberto Alomar, Bartolo Colon), the Indians don't have much in the way of available experienced talent and likely won't do much by the deadline.
Need: The Tigers have some decent young arms, but could use a boost for their offense -- almost anywhere.
The buzz: Higginson and Palmer are twin liabilities -- unproductive and overpriced. The Tigers would gladly move either for the most marginal of prospects.
Need: Starting pitching -- for the present and the future.
The buzz: Like the Blue Jays, the Royals are surprised to find themselves in the playoff race this late in the season, and that's caused some re-evaluating in the front office. It was widely assumed that GM Allard Baird would be forced to auction off Beltran (arbitration eligible) and Ibanez (free agency). But the plucky Royals have thrown off their own timetable, and now Baird is toying with keeping both for the rest of the season to give the Royals a chance at the division title.
Minnesota Twins -- Buyers
Looking for: The Twins could use a proven run producer to give them sock in the middle of the lineup.
Will give up: Blessed with a surplus of young outfielders, the Twins can deal from strength in that department. It's unlikely they would break up their equally deep bullpen, though free-agent-eligible LaTroy Hawkins, caught in a salary dispute, might be had.
The buzz: Owner Carl Pohlad approved the signing of Kenny Rogers in spring training when the Twins lost Eric Milton for the season, but may not allow the payroll to expand further. Then again, the Twins didn't expect to underachieve to the degree that they have, so GM Terry Ryan may be more aggressive than planned. Whatever they do, it won't be expensive.
Will give up: Lefty Brandon Claussen is the object of many teams' affection, but the Yankees will need to be bowled over to move him. Ditto with oft-injured Nick Johnson. The Yankees have begun listening on inquiries about Jeff Weaver, but his remaining $17 million makes him a tough sell.
The buzz: The Yankees overcame a rough June, but if they're to hold off the Red Sox in the East and compete with Oakland and Seattle in October, the bullpen could use improvement. Naturally, money will be no object for owner George Steinbrenner.
Oakland A's -- Buyers
Looking for: Another bat in the lineup, preferably in the outfield. Bullpen help.
Will give up: Despite a history of deadline deals, the A's still have some prospects that could be moved (outfielder Nick Swisher and right-handed pitcher Joe Blanton, both first-round picks from the 2002 draft), a tribute to their scouting and development. The A's stockpile college players for the expressed purpose of dealing some for immediate help each July. Miguel Tejada will walk this winter, but the A's would have to be overwhelmed to deal him.
The buzz: Billy Beane has been the master of July deals in recent years -- Jason Isringhausen, Jermaine Dye and Ray Durham are a few examples. This year, the A's need offense. They had their eye on renting Shannon Stewart, but he's unavailable as long as the Blue Jays hang around.
Will give up: The Mariners are thin in the prospect ranks, with the chronically injured Ryan Anderson again off the market.
The buzz: The Mariners may be the most-balanced team in the American League, but the back end of their bullpen is a concern. They're interested in Ugueth Urbina, and there's been some whispers that they might also be in on Mike Lowell. Cost will be a factor; ownership refused to green-light any additional salaries last summer, costing the M's a run at the wild card.
Need: You name it -- except for outfield help.
The buzz: The release of Greg Vaughn in spring training trimmed the biggest salary from the already-skimpy payroll. Now, only Grieve makes any significant money, and his recent confrontation with manager Lou Piniella will only hasten his departure.
Looking for: Pitching, pitching, and more pitching.
The buzz: Urbina is the most highly sought of the many veterans the Rangers are willing to move, but to date, GM John Hart hasn't been able to get a full bidding war underway. The Yankees, Mariners and Giants remain interested, to varying degrees. Park is nearly untradeable because of his salary, and Gonzalez recently demonstrated his reluctance to waive his no-trade clause. Carl Everett, who was traded Tuesday night, could be a valuable bat for the White Sox, but carries considerable and well-documented baggage.
Will give up: The Blue Jays have some prospects at the top of their system (outfielder Jayson Werth and catcher Kevin Cash), but not much in the way of pitching, which could be an issue.
The buzz: The Blue Jays are at least a year ahead of schedule in their rebuilding. When the season began, general manager J.P. Ricciardi thought he would be looking for someone to take Shannon Stewart and Carlos Delgado off his hands. Now, instead, the Jays are bona-fide wild-card contenders. Ownership will approve adding a salary, but first, the Jays have to remain in the race throughout July.
Sean McAdam of the Providence (R.I.) Journal covers baseball for ESPN.com.