Jon Daniels chatted with reporters this week on the subject of this month’s conventional trade deadline. The bullet points, paraphrased:
The real story would have been if Daniels said anything different – even on the first point.
The Rangers are always prepared. If there are fireworks this month, nobody should be surprised. While Deron Williams has forced the Mavericks to turn to a July Plan B, there’s a great comfort level in knowing Daniels and his crew are probably looking over Plans A through G that were first put up on the whiteboard in November 2010.
You can view credible reports that Texas had a scout at Zack Greinke’s last start (at least) and that the Brewers had a scout at Martin Perez’s one Texas start (so far) and that they have also had a scout in Frisco recently (which you assume might be routine area coverage until you see the clarifying note that it was one of the club’s special assignment scouts) and draw your own conclusions.
Milwaukee is seven games out of the NL Central race and six back in the chase for the second NL Wild Card slot. They may not be sellers.
Texas “hopes not to be a big player on the trade market.”
But they’re both preparing.
As are the Phillies, who are two games further off the Wild Card pace than Milwaukee but who insist that the move of Jim Thome to Baltimore was not an indication of anything bigger than an opportunity for the veteran slugger to have a more meaningful role in what could be one last pennant race. And don’t assume the move of Chad Qualls meant anything, either.
Whether the Phillies have had a scouting presence at Rangers Ballpark or Dell Diamond or Dr Pepper Ballpark or BB&T Coastal Field or L.P. Frans Stadium or Avista Stadium or on the back fields in Surprise, we don’t know, but there are two reasons to believe they probably have:
1. Texas has reportedly scouted Cole Hamels recently.
2. This tweet from Jon Heyman (CBS Sports) yesterday: “One scout who recently scouted a Texas Rangers farm team: ‘They are stacked. They do a great job.’”
It doesn’t really matter whose team that scout works for, and it really doesn’t matter which Rangers affiliate he was sitting on.
If Philadelphia is considering trading Hamels (or Shane Victorino or Hunter Pence) – and Heyman has reported that the club has in fact started making calls to gauge interest in Hamels (an effort that ESPN’s Buster Olney suggests actually began in April) – it would be sort of silly for that club, as part of the preparation process, not to be scouting the Rangers.
The hungry, aggressive, prospect-laden Rangers.
Olney hears that Philadelphia seeks a “very, very steep . . . package of four to five prospects, some A-plus” in exchange for Hamels.
Sort of tricky, considering that unless they’re coming from the Dodgers, the trade partner may be looking at the truest of rentals, as losing Hamels to free agency this winter won’t result in any draft picks for a team trading for him now. (Olney adds, anecdotally, that “[u]nless Philly’s asking price for [Hamels] diminished dramatically, the Yankees have no intention of joining the bidding.”)
Set that aside for a moment – but not really – and consider the additional Olney note that the Phillies may center their demands on help at third base and the outfield.
Naturally, according to Fox Sports columnists Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi, that would likely lead to the Phillies asking Texas for Frisco third baseman Mike Olt, whom they suggest Texas “would be very reluctant to part with . . . in any trade.”
When I was spitballing the trade landscape in May, I speculated that Milwaukee could conceivably ask Texas for Perez, Cody Buckel, Victor Payano, and Hanser Alberto for Greinke.
And for Hamels?
You want him, and maybe you can bundle that Greinke package up and tack it onto the back of Mike Olt.
Then [Hamels] signs with the Dodgers in December.
At which point you no longer have Hamels or Olt or Perez or Buckel or Payano or Alberto.
And no draft picks.
For those reasons, I wasn’t suggesting I’d make those deals, or, in the Hamels case, the other idea that “no other team [could beat the package of] a pitcher with the track record and controllability of Matt Harrison with a couple prospects like Chad Bell and Rougned Odor.”
Since I wrote that, Harrison (who was 4-2, 4.41 at the time, with an opponents’ slash of .287/.326/.442 and six home runs allowed in 63.1 innings) has rattled off a run of six starts in which he’s gone 6-0, 1.29, held opponents to a .224/.276/.283 slash and, and allowed one homer in 42 innings.
So forget that idea. You bet the Phillies would make think about making that deal, or at least shop it around for a better one.
But Texas wouldn’t.
Morosi (who suggests this morning that the Angels, with a hurting Dan Haren and a lousy Ervin Santana, “will have to consider Hamels and Greinke”) points out that the “Rangers [are] smart to pursue [both] Hamels and Greinke,” as they “[c]an leverage one team vs. [the] other.” And maybe that’s what’s going on, as Peter Gammons [MLB.com] suggests when he tweets that a Rangers official confided: “We will not be in on Greinke.”
Two thoughts there:
1. No Rangers official would betray that sort of information. Smokescreen?
2. This is different from the Heath Bell/Mike Adams dance last summer (in which the case can be made that Texas found out what prospects San Diego wanted for Bell before shifting the talks to Adams), since it involves two teams rather than one, but leveraging is a huge factor every July, and Morosi’s point is one that serves as a useful filter as things play out this month.
There are several factors that militate against sellers getting what they might have gotten for impact players in past July’s, starting with the disappearing compensatory pick safety net. Another is that the teams who are eligible to recover draft picks for lost free agents – that is, teams who had those players for an entire season leading up to their free agency – can only secure those picks by tendering an offer of one year and something around $12 million or $13 million within five days after the World Series ends.
I just can’t see Texas parting with Olt in a deal for three months of work from Hamels. I go back and forth on whether Olt has played his way into the “virtually untouchable” category that Jurickson Profar occupies, but even on the days when I can see Olt being discussed, it’s only in talks for starting pitchers who are both (1) controllable past 2012 and (2) aces. At least in my mind.
I think Gammons agrees. After reader Jerod Couch tweeted a Hamels/Victorino trade idea yesterday (he suggested Olt, Justin Grimm, Buckel, and Odor), I responded: “You been reading the report I’m working on?”
Minutes later, Gammons replied: “If they wouldn’t put Olt in [a] deal for Gio Gonzalez, whom they’d control, would they for a 2½ month rental?”
There were reports over the winter that Oakland wanted Olt and Perez for Gonzalez – plus a note from Olney that if Texas hadn’t won Yu Darvish, the “smart money [was] on [the] Rangers to be the team to land” Gonzalez.
It stands to reason that the A’s were holding out for that possibility. They traded Gonzalez to Washington (for lefthander Tommy Milone, catcher Derek Norris, righthander Brad Peacock, and righthander A.J. Cole) four days after the Rangers were announced to have the high bid on Darvish.
But maybe, as Gammons suggests, Texas was never going to put Olt in a deal for Gonzalez.
Regardless, at this point, I agree with Gammons. If Olt can be had, it’s gotta be for a difference-maker who will be around to make a difference for more than just 2012.
I suspect teams, understanding the Rangers’ long-term picture, aren’t spending too much time trying to convince Texas that they won’t discuss Player X unless Profar is in the deal. But Olt (given Adrian Beltre’s presence and contract) is probably a different case, even with the Rangers giving him occasional time at first base and right field in Frisco. Different in the sense that he’ll be discussed at length this month, as clubs may hold out in talks hoping that the Rangers accede at the last minute, just as they did in 2010 with Justin Smoak.
But you understand the difference, thanks to the new CBA, between Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
Back to the $12-13 million tender issue.
The Padres may insist that they want to build around Carlos Quentin, but are they really going to be willing financially to outbid other clubs on a multi-year deal this winter – and before that, to tender a one-year, $12-13 million offer to him to ensure they get the picks if he does go elsewhere? If he’s an $8-10 million player annually (compare Josh Willingham and Jason Kubel), he just might take the one-year deal.
(Related question for another time: Would Texas risk offering one year at $12-13 million for Colby Lewis this winter? Mike Adams? Guessing yes on Mike Napoli, but the other two are thornier.)
Greinke and Hamels and Josh Hamilton will get those qualifying offers, and a few others will, too. But Quentin? Without the reality of their own draft pick compensation, maybe San Diego puts him out there this month.
And lots of relief pitchers will be available, too, for the same reason. Including Quentin’s teammate, Huston Street.
Imagine what the Padres could have gotten if they’d waited until this month to make Ernesto Frieri available.
(Which reminds me of the joke I tweeted a few days ago:
LAA kept Trout in AAA for three weeks.)
(Which also reminds me of something I’ve been wondering lately: How did New Jersey high school pitchers get Trout out 34 times his senior year?)
One other reality for the Brewers is that they’re not going to get for Greinke what they gave up to get him in December 2010. Aside from the draft pick issue, they’re selling two months of Greinke, whereas the Royals were offering up two reasonably priced years of the righthander when they got Milwaukee to part with Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi, Lorenzo Cain, and Jeremy Jeffress and to also take Yuniesky Betancourt off their hands in the process.
Jim Bowden (ESPN/XM) suggests that while the Rangers won’t move Profar and “will try everything in their power to exclude Martin Perez and Mike Olt from any deal,” if they do want Greinke, “with a deep major league club and farm system, the Rangers have enough to make the Milwaukee Brewers an offer they can’t refuse and allow them to place Greinke at the top of their rotation.”
Then again, there’s the note from Kevin Goldstein (Baseball Prospectus), who says he has “spoken to multiple teams who have expressed at least a bit of reticence on Greinke, fearing the [mental] adjustment [and comfort factor]. It’s not a non-factor.” Does that give more credence to the Gammons tweet? Or fit with it in the misdirection column?
Rosenthal thinks Greinke would welcome a deal to the Cardinals, who have lost Chris Carpenter for the season, and that he’d be open to signing long-term with them. But Texas?
Just for fun, here are the various trade darts I’ve thrown out there on Greinke over the years, generally not ideas that I’d suggest Texas would do or that Kansas City/Milwaukee would do or that I’d even want to do, but instead a guess as to what sorts of packages might have been talks-appropriate at the time:
June 20, 2008: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Eric Hurley, John Mayberry Jr., and Warner Madrigal for Greinke (who was then 6-4, 3.33 for the season, and 27-39, 4.40 for his career)
August 27, 2008: Saltalamacchia, Harrison or Hurley, Mayberry or Nelson Cruz, Joaquin Arias, and the Royals’ choice of a lower-level pitching prospect — Zach Phillips or Carlos Pimentel or Miguel De Los Santos or Geuris Grullon or Julio Santana or Matt Nevarez — for Greinke and reliever Ramon Ramirez
May 7, 2010: (1) Tommy Hunter or Perez; (2) Wilmer Font; (3-4) either Julio Borbon and Max Ramirez, or Cruz and Engel Beltre; (5) Leury Garcia; and (6) Brennan Garr to Kansas City for Greinke and reliever Juan Cruz
November 17, 2010: (1) Derek Holland; (2) Perez; and (3-4) either Profar and Craig Gentry, or Garcia and Engel Beltre, to Kansas City for Greinke and out-of-options backup outfielder Gregor Blanco
November 18, 2010: Holland, Perez, and either Profar or Beltre or Borbon to Kansas City for Greinke
June 22, 2012: Perez, Grimm, and Borbon to Milwaukee for Greinke
My gut still says that even though it’s going to be difficult for the Brewers to get what they want for Greinke, two things might make the price as high as it would have been under previous CBA’s – the added Wild Card slot allowing more teams to bow up as potential buyers, and the general late-July gut call by teams looking not only to put themselves over the top but also to make sure the competition doesn’t.
So what would I consider giving up for Greinke? For Hamels?
Hang on. Not yet.
A year ago, the Mets were in a position to dangle Carlos Beltran, and his situation is particularly instructive because his expiring contract included a Scott Boras provision barring an offer of arbitration – meaning whoever traded for him would be getting a pure rental with no chance of draft pick compensation on the back end.
Various reports suggested that the Mets had dispatched scout Bryan Lambe (a former Rangers scout) to Hickory, where Texas prospects like Profar, third baseman Christian Villanueva, outfielder Jake Skole, second baseman Odubel Herrera, catchers Tomas Telis and Kellin Deglan, and pitchers Buckel, Luke Jackson, Nick Tepesch, and Roman Mendez were playing, and also that New York pro scout Roy Smith was also on hand to watch Frisco’s Joe Wieland pitch.
More than one media outlet had the Texas at or near the front of the Beltran chase with days to go before the deadline, but ultimately the Mets shipped him to the Giants for pitching prospect Zack Wheeler. Heyman reported that Texas offered multiple prospects in a proposal that New York then “used to up the Giants’ bid.”
Gammons reported that Wieland was in the Rangers’ offer to the Mets. According to Andy McCullough (Newark Star-Ledger), the Rangers and Mets talked about Wieland, Buckel, Robbie Ross, and Odor in various combinations. Rosenthal said New York could have had either Wieland or Robbie Erlin – who would end up going to the Padres in the Adams deal three days after Beltran was moved – and that Texas refused to part with Perez.
There were reports suggesting that, in the days leading up to the deadline, San Francisco similarly refused to part with Wheeler, and that the Giants caved only when it became clear that Texas had offered a package that the Mets were prepared to go with.
Beltran was great (.323/.369/.551) in two months as a Giant.
But San Francisco missed the playoffs.
And got no draft pick compensation when Beltran parlayed his resurgent season into a lucrative two-year deal with the Cardinals.
Today, Wheeler is considered an elite prospect.
Do the Giants regret Wheeler-for-Beltran, when there’s no flag flying forever as a result?
That’s the question, basically, that teams have to think about this July and every future July under the current CBA. When the Rangers traded Smoak, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke, and Matt Lawson to Seattle for Lee, they not only got two years of control over Mark Lowe as a hedge but also the promise of two draft picks (which were used on Kevin Matthews and Zach Cone) if Lee didn’t stick around.
Not possible anymore.
When Rays GM Andrew Friedman tells Bowden that “teams are focusing more on players with at least two years [of] control . . . in terms of trades,” that’s a big reason why.
San Francisco had nothing to show for Wheeler once Beltran played his 44 regular season games and left.
That’s what faces teams considering deals for Hamels or Greinke or Victorino or Quentin.
Wheeler is a lot more valuable today than he was a year ago.
So is Profar. So is Olt. So is Ross. Who knows what Buckel’s value might be a year from now? Or Odor’s?
The fact that Olt, who saw time at first on occasion in Frisco’s first half, played outfield Saturday (for the first time since Little League) shouldn’t be viewed as a showcase move, nor should the fact that Odor, who had previously played nothing but second base as a pro, has appeared at shortstop four times in his last eight starts.
Lately, Profar’s cameos at second base have come roughly every other game. Garcia has shown up in center field twice in the last week and a half, his first outfield play in five pro seasons. Catcher Jorge Alfaro played first base Monday and again yesterday. Outfielder Ryan Strausborger has played second base three times in the last week and a half.
All of those (especially the Profar and Olt maneuvers) could be internally motivated.
Jon Daniels may be sending signals that he doesn’t plan to be an impact participant in this month’s trade market, but he and most of his counterparts around the league are always going to say either that or nothing at all. You can count on him saying publicly that he’s simply monitoring things, doing his due diligence, but you can also count on the fact that there are intense internal discussions going on at 1000 Ballpark Way this and every other July, weighing certain opportunities and examining ways to create others.
You can also count on a reckless barrage of trade idea spitballs in this space every July.
But before we get to that, what have we learned today?
OK, here we go.
No Carlos Gonzalez ideas, as Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd broke out of normal GM-speak mode when he said last week: “The Carlos Gonzalez thing is a joke – we’re not trading Carlos Gonzalez.”
But otherwise, let the spitballs fly.
Maybe we can talk about Matt Garza or Justin Morneau or Michael Cuddyer or Huston Street or Shane Victorino – or Hunter Pence – another time.
OK, three more for now.
Just what you needed this morning: more than 3,500 words breaking down things that arguably could happen . . . but never will.