Editor’s note: Jayson Stark will be writing a Daily Rumble each day leading up to the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.
So six days left until the trading deadline, and already the landscape has changed dramatically. So what’s next for this week’s prime movers and shakers? The Daily Rumble takes a look:
Well, there’s no question the Marlins are going to do a lot of listening — on Johnson and the rest of this underachieving roster — in the next six days. But here’s our guess on what team Josh Johnson will be pitching for a week from now:
The Miami Marlins.
An official of one club that spoke with the Marlins’ brass told the Daily Rumble on Wednesday that he would estimate the odds Johnson stays in Miami at “95 percent.”
This, that official said, is not Wayne Huizenga’s Marlins. And what’s transpiring now is not a fire sale. It’s a statement, mostly, that the Marlins of Hanley Ramirez and his friends had proven they couldn’t win and wouldn’t win. So they’re looking for a whole new recipe. But they’ll move Johnson only for a monster return.
An executive of another club reports the Marlins say they will trade Johnson only for a package centered around a young, star-caliber player who isn’t arbitration-eligible. So who’s that? Mike Trout? Stephen Strasburg? Chris Sale?
The list of clubs that are likely to make a run at this guy — or already have — includes the Red Sox, Angels, Rangers, White Sox, Blue Jays and Royals. But the message they’re hearing back from the Marlins is that Johnson is the toughest player on their roster to trade, with the possible exception of Giancarlo Stanton.
Which probably means, the way this week is trending, that he’ll get traded before lunch. Right?
Let’s start with this: The signing of Cole Hamels does not mean the Phillies are about to turn around and trade away Cliff Lee.
Oh, they’ve talked about it. They haven’t even discouraged other teams from checking in on it. But the Phillies’ most likely game plan, now that Hamels is still on the payroll, is to keep the one dominating element of their team together. And by that, we mean Hamels, Lee and some guy named Roy Halladay.
But even though the Phillies had ripped off seven wins in their last 10 games heading into their Wednesday afternoon date with Milwaukee, they’re still a good bet to trade away someone like Shane Victorino. And here’s the reason:
Sources within the industry say the Phillies were already over the $178 million luxury-tax threshold for this season before this week. So the Hamels contract, which will be calculated at $24 million per year for luxury-tax purposes (no matter how it’s backloaded), means the Phillies now have no choice but to unload money.
If they pick up Carlos Ruiz’s $5 million option and hang on to Hunter Pence, Hamels’ deal locks them into over $150 million in commitments to just 11 players next year. So they are looking at paying a 17.5 percent tax rate this year and 30 percent next year — unless they can dip beneath the threshold in one of those years.
“My guess is that they’ll look to move some guys this year so they’d only have to pay the lower rate next year,” said one industry source familiar with their payroll challenges, “because it may be impossible now for them to get under the threshold next year.”
So that means they’re still likely to shop Victorino, who has about $3.5 million in salary coming for this year, and Joe Blanton, who has slightly over $3 million left and appears to have stirred a little interest with five quality starts in his last seven starts.
Then there’s Pence. Other clubs say the Phillies continue to listen on Pence. But they’re unlikely to move him unless they get multiple young, big league-ready players back who can fill potential holes at third base, the outfield and the bullpen who would enable them to contend next year and beyond. And good luck on that.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Even after dealing for Ramirez, the Dodgers are far from through. They’re still in on a long list of starters, from Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and James Shields to Jason Vargas, Nolasco and a bunch of second-tier options, like Blanton and Kevin Millwood.
And while there have been a bunch of rumblings this week that the Dodgers could trade away pitching prospect Allen Webster in one of those deals, they’ve been telling other clubs that they’re more likely to call up Webster than move him — unless it’s for a pitcher they can control beyond this year.
In the meantime, you’ll still find them hanging out in the Bat Shop over the next week, too. GM Ned Colletti told reporters, after the trade for Ramirez, that “we’re still looking to improve the club. If we have a chance to get another offensive player, we’ll go for it.”
Other teams say the Dodgers have checked in mostly on guys who could fit in left field or at first base. So that leaves all sorts of possibilities, from Victorino to Justin Morneau.
Remember, the Dodgers were the only team that was willing to take on all of the $38 million or so that was left on Ramirez’s contract. And that was the clincher that enabled them to finish off that deal. So as all the accountants at Guggenheim would be happy to remind us, this is one team for which money is literally no object.
• With Hamels off the board, Matt Garza could have zoomed to the No. 1 spot on the Most Attractive Starters You Can Trade For charts. But concerns about his triceps strain are growing. Teams that have spoken with the Cubs say they haven’t been assured that Garza will make another start before the deadline. Which means he’d be more likely to get traded this winter than this month.
• While the Cubs were willing to trade Dempster in a one-for-one deal with Atlanta if they got a big league-ready arm like Randall Delgado, teams that have spoken with them say they’re looking for multiple prospects from clubs like the Dodgers who are offering players further away from the majors.
• Teams that have spoken with the Twins report they’ll listen on just about anybody. But the cost of their three most coveted bats goes something like this:
Justin Morneau — pricey.
Denard Span — more pricey.
Josh Willingham — so expensive, said one exec, “it made me laugh.”
Morneau appears to be the one big name in that group they’re most willing to move. But he has about $19 million left on his contract through next year, and the Twins aren’t particularly interested in eating any of it. His right/left splits (.306, with a .925 OPS against right-handers/.147, with a .411 OPS against left-handers) are worrisome. And the Twins are asking for young, “ready to go” starting pitching for him, or for pretty much any player they deal. For a guy who hasn’t been remotely the same player since his 2010 concussion, that seems like a price no team will be willing to pay.
• The one Twin almost guaranteed to get traded in the next week? Francisco Liriano. An executive of one team that has been in touch with the Twins estimates the chances they trade Liriano before the deadline at “nearly 100 percent,” but said that after Liriano’s ugly start Monday, the Twins are likely to wait until he pitches again this weekend in the hope he restores some of the value he kicked away in that start.
• The Brewers haven’t lit the “For Sale” lamp quite yet. But they sound almost resigned to their fate. “How far was St. Louis down last year?” asked manager Ron Roenicke. “We’re actually not as far back as they were. But the difference is, St. Louis added some pieces [at the deadline]. At this point, I can’t expect us to add pieces, as far out as we are right now.” Francisco Rodriguez has obliterated all his trade value. But Zack Greinke is all but gone. And “they’d give you Randy Wolf for nothing if you take the money,” said an official of one club that spoke with the Brewers.
• The Orioles continue to look for a pitcher they would consider to be a No. 3 starter or better on their club, with names like Garza and Vargas in their mix. But one exec who spoke with them said that they wouldn’t discuss Dylan Bundy or Manny Machado in any scenario — unless they “got two clones back.” And while the Orioles have had a bunch of hits on Jake Arrieta, they’ve told teams they’re not trading him unless it’s for a quality arm they can control beyond this year.
• Finally, the Rays will wait another few days before deciding whether to market James Shields and others. But executives of two clubs that spoke with them both believe “they’re turning the corner in that direction.” But it isn’t just Shields who is likely to get dealt. They’ve “got a big market for Wade Davis,” said one exec.
Stark: Surveying the deadline landscape
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