This is the time of year when the fans of each Major League club are scouring the newspapers and the internet to find the goods on deals their team might make. Some teams walk away from the newsstand disappointed and some walk away without anything in which to chew. But then there are the teams that make deals every single year. Sometimes, it seems, as if they make trades just to make trades.
The Mariners are active at this year's deadline, although they are not in the position to buy as much as they are to sell off pieces that could help other clubs get to the postseason. Whatever the level the M's are involved, it makes for a fun 24 hours until the deadline expires Saturday afternoon.
Here are the hottest rumors around MLB, laced with some deals that make sense, and sprinkled with a few that InsidethePark.com has learned about by speaking to scouts and team executives.
With trade candidates abound, the M's should look to add more youth to the organization but should not necessarily go prospect crazy. If GM Bill Bavasi can obtain a young Major League player in return, rather than add more minor league talent, he will probably lean in that direction. The Mariners objective for Trade Deadline 2004: Useful parts for 2005 and beyond.
The freshest rumor involves left-hander Ron Villone. With reports that teams such as Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, the New York Yankees and San Francisco being interested, the only question is what the M's will ask for in return for the versatile 34-year-old.
San Francisco has a few intriguing players that could interest the Mariners. Infielder Pedro Feliz is a player that Seattle is known to like, but the Giants aren't likely to part with the 29-year-old for a rental player, such as Villone. Reliever Felix Rodriguez and his 2005 salary of $3.15 million, is what GM Brian Sabean would prefer to send packing.
In the minors, San Francisco has mid-tier prospects such as outfielder Todd Linden, and pitchers Kevin Correa and Craig Whitaker that fit the value of Ron Villone. Just don't get any ideas of right-handers Matt Cain, or Merkin Valdez being part of a trade with the Giants.
Boston has a slew of ideal prospects that could make the Red Sox a trade match with the M's. Outfielder David Murphy and 3B Chad Spann fit right in that category. A package including either would add depth in the Mariners system at positions that the M's lack quality depth.
As far as getting a young major league player in return from Boston, nobody stands out on the red Sox 25-man roster that could fill a need the M's have for the future.
San Diego is trying to pry Steve Finley away from division rival Arizona, but could use a swing man like Villone to bridge the gap between starter and closer Trevor Hoffman Without any fit on the major league roster, San Diego would have to dip into their farm system to make a deal.
While GM Kevin Towers is looking to improve his club, the Padres interest in Villone is likely to be minimal. The teams biggest needs lie elsewhere and would limit the value returning to Seattle if a trade was made.
The most likely scenario being talked about has Villone going to the Philadelphia Phillies. With Bowa's crew in need of some consistency in the rotation, Villone could slide into their starting five and then move back into the bullpen once Vincente Padilla returns.
Asking for 2B Chase Utley would be a little too much to expect but a prospect such as outfielder Michael Bourn isn't out of the question. From the 25-man roster, only infielder Placido Polanco fits an area need for Seattle. Polanco could play 2B and 3B, making a player such as Jolbert Cabrera or Willie Bloomquist, expendable. Recent reports that Villone was deemed "unavailable" are simply speculation, due to the injury to Joel Pineiro and the struggles of the M's young pitching.
The Yankees could find Villone to be a decent backup plan to Randy Johnson, and offer a few of their endless mid-tier prospect pool to get him. Villone could serve many roles in New York, who are in need of an innings eater.
Left-hander Mike Myers is striking up some interest from teams in both leagues, and could be dealt as early as Friday. The Yankees are known to covet Myers and have the mid-tier prospects it would take to land such a player. Seattle shouldn't be too picky with a Myers trade, since the interest in him isn't going to land any club's top prospects in a Mariner uniform.
Other suitors for Myers are the San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, and St. Louis Cardinals. San Diego is also very interested in brining back pinch hitter Dave Hansen, who hit .244 for the Padres last season.
In the high-class meat market, Eddie Guardado has serious value. Enough value for the Mariner to demand a premium prospect or a quality major league player in return for the 33-year-old closer.
Suitors for "everyday Eddie" are endless. The Astros, Cubs, White Sox, Indians, Giants, and Mets, could all use the services of the Mariner stopper. The only problem is that Guardado has a no-trade clause and will likely veto any trade that lands him away from the west coast.
The second all-time saves leader in Minnesota Twins history resides in Stockton, California and signed with Seattle to be closer to his family. The only way Guardado waives his no-trade rights to a team not in California is if that team agrees to decline their portion of a mutual option in his contract for 2005 and beyond. This would grant him free agency and allow for Eddie to return to a team on the west coast.
In such a scenario the trade possibilities become nearly as endless as the sunshine in Alaska for the summer. The Cubs could offer one of their pitching prospects not named Guzman or Sisco, namely Bobby Brownlie, or even outfielder Felix Pie in a package for Guardado. Incumbent closer Joe Borowski went on the disabled-list in the second week of June and is due back anytime, but could serve as a premier set up man to Guardado come playoff time. In the postseason, a bullpen is never too deep and can be as crucial as anything for a team's drive to a World Championship.
The Cleveland Indians are known to be interested in Guardado but the thought of losing him to free agency or paying him $15 million for the next two seasons might scare off the Tribe.
The return package from Cleveland could include former top infield prospect Brandon Phillips. Phillips was traded to Cleveland in the Bartolo Colon deal two seasons ago but has never really got things going in the big leagues. He is currently hitting over .300 in Triple-A Buffalo and could either replace Bret Boone after 2005 or allow Jose Lopez to move to the hot corner where half of the M's brass thinks he should ultimately play.
Middle infield isn't a weakness for Seattle, so they'd surely like to add a power hitting first or third baseman or even a quality sure-fire center fielder with major league experience.
The recent slide of the Astros probably excludes them from being a player in any trades that bring on salary but in case they feel the need, they have the necessary talent to acquire Guardado.
The ideal trade centerpiece for Seattle would be major league-ready 2B Chris Burke, but the ‘Stros are planning on Burke taking over for Jeff Kent, after they decline the veteran slugger's option for 2005. Instead, the M's could target pitchers Tim Redding and Carlos Hernandez. Both have huge upsides and the M's could always use more pitching depth right?
Being unsure about what the White Sox have left to offer Seattle in attempts to acquire Guardado, I still think Sox GM Ken Williams could find a package that was attractive enough to the Mariners. Chicago still has outfielder Joe Borchard as well as some decent pitching in their farm system that they could offer in trade.
It is also possible that someone from the 25-man roster could be involved, such as left-hander Neal Cotts.
The most likely scenario for a trade involving Eddie Guardado seems to be the San Francisco Giants. The NL west is still up for grabs and the Giants are missing the dominant closer they have had in recent seasons, with Robb Nen out for the year after shoulder surgery ended his season before it started. Current Giants closer Matt Herges has 23 saves but sports a robust 5.44 ERA and has already blown seven saves.
San Francisco is also a place in which Guardado would accept a trade and furthermore, the Giants may see the investment in the lefty as a positive, considering Nen's pending free agency on top of his long term health risks.
While top prospect Matt Cain, a 20-year-old right-hander, is probably off limits, other solid prospects might fill the appetite Seattle has for major league ready talent. This is a deal where Sabean might be willing to part with Pedro Feliz, and the second best pitching prospect in their organization, right-hander Merkin Valdez. Valdez, 22, who was dominant in Advanced-A this season and is now in the rotation in Double-A Norwich, is thought to be a future frontline starting pitcher.
Right-hander Gil Meche may not have nearly the value around the league as some might believe. The rumored offer of Meche to Detroit for catcher/3B Brandon Inge where Detroit shot down the M's, seems to be just the start of things to come.
The Minnesota Twins are a perfect fit for Meche, though the recent rumors that he is headed to Minneapolis for 1B Doug Mientkiewicz, have been denied by both clubs. It would be wise for the M's to hang on to the 25-year-old in hopes that a fresh start in 2005 can revitalize the Louisiana native. If the move to call up Meche to make a start the day before the deadline is any indication-say your goodbye's to Gil as you watch him for the final time in a Mariner uniform.
With the desperation of the New York Yankees, the chance that Bret Boone will end up in the Bronx remains a possibility, although with each passing hour it seems more and more unlikely. But then again, George Steinbrenner does have a history of stealing "Boone's" from the Mariners at the last second doesn't he?
The 35-year-old second baseman has money attached to his bat, which eliminates many potential suitors before a phone call is even made. Boone's contract calls for him to be paid over $9 million in 2005 if he strolls to the plate 450 times or more this season. Through games of July 29, the Gold Glover had 398 plate appearances, leaving Boone just 52 plate appearances shy of automatically vesting the option.
The money involved scares off virtually every team financially south of the Yankees, but even the Bombers have their eye elsewhere. With the struggles of their entire starting rotation, save Javier Vazquez, GM Brian Cashman has written the word "pitching" at the top of his shopping list.
As far fetched as it may be, we should never rule out any trade possibility when the Yankees are involved.
Without Boone on the roster, the Mariners would likely look to options inside the organization before seeking a second baseman elsewhere. This is where the Brandon Phillips possibility would serve best. Boone to the Yankees? Ok. Guardado to Cleveland for Boone's long term replacement. Done.
If it were only that easy.
Deals for Jamie Moyer, Dan Wilson, and Edgar Martinez will not be entertained by Bavasi, but should anyone call about the availability of Scott Spiezio or Randy Winn, the answers should be "we'll take anything you have in your refrigerator for Spiezio and whatever is in your wallet for Winn."
Spiezio's value ends when teams see that he is guaranteed $6.45 million over the next two seasons. His play at third base, while not stellar, has certainly been adequate. His bat, on the other hand, has been as disappointing as the weather at Satan's crib would be to a lost penguin with a frozen malt to deliver. Any team trading for Spiezio is likely to require the Mariners to assist in paying as much as half of the remaining salary owed to the 31-year-old. Either that or insist that they send their own bad contract in return.
Winn's case is very different than Spiezio's. The 29-year-old outfielder has some value, especially considering his .344 average in the month of July. Winn would fit nicely in left field for a team such as the Florida Marlins, who are seeking an upgrade over Jeff Conine, or the Atlanta Braves, who moved Chipper Jones back to the hot corner.
Winn should be able to fetch a decent prospect, not unlike the caliber of players discussed for Ron Villone. Winn's value to the Mariners would be much higher than it is if projected outfield for 2005 wasn't so crowded. The Boston Red Sox may have a serious interest in Winn, in an effort to add outfield depth.
With Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez under contract, and Jeremy Reed biting at the heels of a major league debut, Winn is the likely odd man out. Should a team inquire seriously about Raul Ibanez, however, the M's would certainly have to listen carefully and make the right deal. In that scenario, Winn would be slated for left field to start next season.
The club should also be taking calls on right-hander Ryan Franklin. The 31-year-old is under contract for 2005 at a fairly reasonable rate of $2.4 million, and it is very possible that Franklin, Winn, or Spiezio could find themselves packaged in trade with each other or even a prospect.
The objective is to make room on the roster for both the young players to gain experience, and for any potential free agents the team may target this winter. Potential targets that could include Carlos Beltran, Adrian Beltre, J.D. Drew, or Richie Sexson.
Whatever the result is for Bavasi and the Seattle Mariners at this year's trade deadline, the most important thing to remember is that the M's are not sellers in the traditional sense of the word. They are simply pawning off antiques in return for fresh treasures and the cash to replace the ancient artifacts that once carried the franchise to it's highest of glory.
The re-birth of the Seattle Mariners is Saturday afternoon at 12-Noon Pacific time. Shall I bring a gift?
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