With everyone but the Nationals still thinking of themselves as contenders, the trade market is developing slower than a Livan Hernandez fastball. Still, there are several franchises that could eventually hold tantalizing closeout sales this summer. Here are the most likely sellers, ranked in order of the impact their moves could have on the pennant race.
G.M. Mark Shapiro is an accomplished salesman. His 2002 trade of Bartolo Colon to the Expos for Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips is considered one of the best firesale deals ever, and last summer's trades of CC Sabathia and Casey Blake brought a nice haul, most notably A-list prospects Matt LaPorta and Carlos Santana. Shapiro has the parts to stage a superb sell-off again. Most likely to go are useful hitter Mark DeRosa ("the asking price is high," one AL exec says) and utilityman Jamey Carroll, but Shapiro also has decent chips in closer Kerry Wood, whose $10 million salary limits his value (the Yankees are one team that could absorb his contract), and starter Carl Pavano, whose high ERA (5.40 through Sunday) was inflated by one terrible performance. The two wild cards here are Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez. Lee has a reasonable $8 million option for 2010 and his value may never be higher, but for now Cleveland appears disinclined to deal him. Clubhouse leader Martinez is even less likely to be moved, but if a team such as Boston, which loves the 30-year-old hitting star, was willing to make a Colon-type deal, well....
Lefthanded pitchers Erik Bedard and Jarrod Washburn top a solid list of available players, assuming Bedard's stiff throwing shoulder loosens up. The roughly $7 million remaining on third baseman Adrian Beltre's salary is steep, but he's raised his average more than 30 points this month and is traditionally a second-half player (career .490 slugging percentage after the break). Red-hot (1.046 OPS), inexpensive ($1.4 million) first baseman Russell Branyan could bring back some significant value.
Their sudden turnaround has moved them into a limbo between buyer and seller, but aggressive G.M. Dan O'Dowd will consider anything. That explains why hot-hitting Brad Hawpe (.337/.410/.602 at week's end) could still be moved, though one person familiar with O'Dowd's thinking says the Rockies "would have to be blown away." Closer Huston Street has rediscovered his slider and could bring a couple of decent prospects. (The Angels and the Yankees are scouting him, and the Rangers could jump in soon.) Underrated starter Jason Marquis is drawing calls, as is versatile outfielder Ryan Spilborghs.
Despite a sluggish start, outfielder Matt Holliday would bring a significant package in return. "It'll be like last year," one AL G.M. predicts, "when the Braves got back a solid major leaguer [Casey Kotchman] and a prospect [pitcher Stephen Marek] for Mark Teixeira, or maybe three decent prospects." Despite an abundance of outfielders, the Cardinals could use some lineup protection for Albert Pujols, and the Mets and the Giants could also be in on the 29-year-old, three-time All-Star.
They're heating up and as one scout says, "they don't like to give up real quick." Ace Roy Oswalt's $14 million salary, no-trade clause and closeness to owner Drayton McLane's heart make him an unlikely candidate to be dealt. If the Astros do cool down, Miguel Tejada, hitting a surprising .344 at week's end, makes sense for the Cardinals or the Giants. Jose Valverde is also a possibility to be shopped.
They've been dangling first baseman Nick Johnson, who's been hitting, but his injury history, defensive slippage and status as a free agent at season's end limit his value. If they'll part with Adam Dunn, who should be in the AL anyway, they'd draw plenty of interest.
Jake Peavy is likely to stay, especially after his recent ankle injury. Brian Giles's rapid decline ensures that he will too. Unless the Padres surprise folks and dangle superstar Adrian Gonzalez or closer Heath Bell, there's little here.
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GREG NELSON (HOLLIDAY)
GOING, GOING... Holliday is a good bet to move, but Martinez (inset) would require a ransom.
JOHN GREISHOP/MLB PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES (MARTINEZ)
[See caption abvoe]