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Never too early: in-season trade possibilities

 

One of the most bizarre phenomenons in the world of sports fandom is the way people approach players whose careers have been marred by frequent injuries. It's sort of like a hyena mentality: they lie in wait so they can pick at the carcass after the kill has already gone down, laughing all the while. (I'm just going to assume I've completely mischaracterized how hyenas operate; please, zoologists out there, don't bother e-mailing me as I am already acknowledging my mistake in advance). What I mean to say, is that it seems like fans genuinely trash on guys who get injured as though its their fault or something, and seem to take an odd form of schadenfreude-laden joy in it. And I can't really get behind that; it's actually led me to root for some of these guys even more than I normally would. I'd love for some team way down the line somewhere to win a World Series with a rotation that includes Mark Prior, Rich Harden, and Ben Sheets. It will never happen, of course, but whatever.

I like J. D. Drew, also. He's a talented guy who does everything really well when he plays. I don't really care about his passive attitude, and while I think the contract is probably an overpay, it's not a horrific one, and the Red Sox can afford it. If he is healthy enough to play in 130 games or so, then fine. Great, in fact. But all this spring the news regarding Drew has surrounded his troublesome back. And the Red Sox' backup options in right field (Rocco Baldelli, Brad Wilkerson, Mark Kotsay, Jeff Bailey) all have issues of their own - health-related or otherwise. So this could be a trouble spot for the Red Sox in '09. And some are saying that the Red Sox were largely inactive during free agency (except for, you know, offering the largest contract this ownership group has ever offered to some guy who apparently snubbed them over, among other things, Twisted Sister, but whatever) in part because they plan to take advantage of teams feeling cash-strapped at the deadline. Oh, and our third baseman is still a bit of a question mark, assertions to the contrary aside. 

So, in part because I don't find the saga of Manny Ramirez or ongoing preparations for the World Baseball Classic all that worthy of comment, I figured why not take a look at some of these possibilities.

I do remember that as soon as Matt Holliday was traded to Oakland, there was talk of the Red Sox dealing for him. Allow me to enumerate the reasons I think this would be a terrible idea, none of which having to do with the completely false notion that he will turn into a league-average hitter outside of Coor's (seriously, that's dumb, stop saying that.) First off, the AL West is wide open as the Angels are likely to regress after playing over their heads in '08. In fact, were I a betting man, I might take the A's in that division; their pitching issues can be masked - as they have been in the past - by the sheer size of their ballpark. Second, if they do find themselves out of it in mid-summer, Billy Beane is going to have a steep asking price, because that's just how these things work. And thirdly, Holliday is a Scott Boras client in the last year of his deal, meaning that any team trading for him will have to accept that they're only getting a half-season rental. Beane might ask for something like Nick Hagadone, Josh Reddick, and Justin Masterson. Would you trade those three guys for a half-season rental of a guy who's likely to get fitted for pinstripes next December?

Let's stick with some more reasonable options, then, like a guy who's currently wearing a different pinstriped uniform, Jermaine Dye. I would think the White Sox are due to regress in '09 from last year's division-winning campaign (underestimate the Twins at your own peril). According to prevailing rumors at the time, Epstein attempted to acquire Dye in 2007, only to see the White Sox keep him, and sign him to an extension. And one thing we've all come to learn about Epstein is that when he gets a bee in his bonnet about a certain player, he certainly tries to exhaust every avenue in order to get him to come aboard. So I wouldn't be surprised if Theo took a shot at him again if Drew's injuries persist and Baldelli proves unreliable. That said, it's far from a slam-dunk, as Dye has limited no-trade protection according to the ever-awesome Cot's that enables him to block trades to "six teams in the northeast," one presumes including Boston. He may only agree to waive it if the Red Sox agree to buy out his option, or agree to pick up his option. Or he may conclude it's not worth his time. Who knows.

Magglio Ordoñez also could be a free agent after this year. The Tigers are already in need of paring payroll. Ordoñez, another Boras client, will probably want to be cut loose after this year and not have his options picked up, but that could play into the Red Sox favor in this case, as they don't want to be on the hook for the high cost of his two option years ($15 mil each).

Stop us if you've heard this one before: the Red Sox need something and the Texas Rangers have a surplus. In this case, I'm not talking about the catching situation (a rare occurrence for me), but rather outfielders. The Rangers have Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz locked in to two spots, and then David Murphy, Brandon Boggs, Frank Catalanotto, Andruw Jones, and Marlon Byrd for essentially two remaining spots. Personally, I like the idea of Marlon Byrd in a bench role for the Red Sox: he can play above-average defense at all three outfield positions, and, even if it was Arlington-inflated, he's showed some hitting prowess. And his asking price will be relatively low, at that.

There will be the usual slate of albatross contracts and impending free agents knocked around, of course - Rick AnkielEric Byrnes, Randy Winn, and assuredly several others I'm missing. Of course, outfielders aren't the only thing the Red Sox might be looking at. The infield corner situation could also be trouble this year, and a possible avenue for upgrading their offense mid-season. Again, everyone seems to think Lowell will rebound okay next year, and it's quite possible they're correct. But I suspect the Red Sox are still considering their contingency plans, as they do regarding all players not named "Varitek." They've already been linked in reports to Nick Johnson an oft-injured (all right!) first baseman currently relegated to bench duty in Washington while they get their mess of a roster, front office, and player-development system sorted out. The Rockies might even pay to get rid of Todd Helton at this point, and Garrett Atkins has seemed perpetually on their chopping block. The A's and Indians at some point could have positional gluts to resolve, though situations like that can't be counted on. A guy I like is Adrian Beltre, who, away from Safeco, at least, generally can replicate Lowell's production on both sides of the ball. If he's priced as a rental, he might be a good option if Lowell goes down for a prolonged period of time. 

I'll be monitoring these and other situations, like the hyena I am.

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