Last week I
sat down logged into for a nice in-person conversation a shared Google Doc and had a mid-season fireside monitor-side chat with our esteemed SB Nation colleagues from the NL East. The players:
Sky Kalkman (Moderator) from Beyond The Boxscore
Peter Baker (Phillies) from The Good Phight
Martin Gandy (Braves) from Talking Chop
Ed Chigliak (Nationals) from Federal Baseball
Craig Strain (Marlins) from Fish Stripes
Eric Simon (Mets) from Amazin' Avenue
The roundtable will be posted in two parts. The first part is about the trade deadline.
Sky Kalkman (Moderator): Which teams, under which circumstances, will be buyers over the next three weeks? How about sellers? If there are any undecideds, what will be the tipping point?
Ed Chigliak (Federal Baseball): Unless the Nationals' "Acting" GM was trying to force potential buyers' hands last week when he said there would be no fire sale in Washington, a lot of the potential deals that have been discussed involving players on the DC roster might fail to materialize. Mr. Rizzo said unequivocally that Adam Dunn would not be traded and wondered aloud why anyone would want to trade Josh Willingham, and with no real major league ready first base prospect in the system, I'm really hoping they don't trade Nick Johnson, because even a half season with Adam Dunn at first gives me nightmares, and right now it's Dunn, Josh Willingham or they call up Brad Eldred from Triple A Syracuse...
Eric Simon (Amazin' Avenue): Unless there is reasonable hope that a few of their injured stars will return soon, the Mets should be sellers at this season's trade deadline. That may be a tough thing to admit for a team with the highest payroll in the National League, but it's worth seeing what guys like Gary Sheffield, Pedro Feliciano and Francisco Rodriguez might bring back. I suppose if the Mets come back from the All-Star break and go on a nice winning streak that the priorities could change, but regardless of their proximity to first place I am never an proponent of trading a boatload of promising youngsters for a middling veteran who will add little real on-field value over the final two months of the season (see: DeRosa, Mark).
Peter Baker (The Good Phight): The Phillies are definitely buyers and have been linked with virtually every major trade target out there, which is a weird feeling for someone who has been a Phillies fan as long as I have. As I write this, Pedro Martinez is allegedly on his way to Philadelphia for a physical; while that's not "the answer" I think it's a creative solution for the back end of the rotation. I'd love to see them push big for Roy Halladay but fear how badly they'd have to gut the farm system in order to get him.
Craig Strain (FishStripes): Waiting and watching. The Marlins are four games out of first with a four game set against the Phillies immediately after the break. If when the smoke clears from that series and the Marlins are tied for first, they may be a buyer. However, if the Marlins are eight games out resulting from it, they will probably stand pat. If it turns out to be something in between, the Fish would be cautious but shopping.
Sky Kalkman (Moderator): What holes will teams be looking to fill? What are the biggest holes they *SHOULD* be looking to fill but don't seem to be concerned about? Which holes from the first half can be plugged internally, perhaps by improvement the same player?
Eric Simon (Amazin' Avenue): If the Mets wind up buying at the deadline, their needs will be dictated by the names on their disabled list. If Carlos Delgado is no closer to returning, then a potent bat at first base should be at the top of their wish list. Alex Cora's weaknesses (his hitting and fielding, e.g.) have been exposed by regular playing time, and the Mets could use someone a little better in the event that Jose Reyes isn't ready to return. Same story with Carlos Beltran. Jeremy Reed and Angel Pagan likely aren't going to be comforting answers to the question, "How do you replace the best all-around centerfielder in baseball?" The truth is they could use a guy like Ryan Church, who is better suited to a corner spot but won't embarrass himself defensively in center (and his bat plays better there anyway). Do you think the Braves would consider dealing him for someone like Jeff Francoeur? Nah, they're not stupid.
Ed Chigliak (Federal Baseball): If the Nationals are going to insist on keeping Austin Kearns on the roster, it would be nice if he stepped up as one of the players who could provide help from within the organization...that's looking less and less likely though as he's been reduced to a late-inning defensive replacement...an expensive one...the biggest change of all could come from within if they simply cut down on the errors. 82 first-half errors? And it's obscene how many of those errors directly led to losses. The Nationals have plenty of young starters in the system, but they're lacking in legitimate outfielders and major-league-ready bullpen arms. Any moves this season will be bringing back young relief pitching I'd suspect, and Mr. Rizzo likes sinker-ballers...
Martin Gandy (Talking Chop): The Braves are going to be buyers if they do anything, but they may stand pat. They don't have a lot left in the minors that they want to trade, and there doesn't seem to be anything on the market that really fits their needs -- a big middle of the order bat who is affordable. I can see the team getting another arm for the bullpen, as they have been overused quite a bit and could benefit from a fresh arm.
Peter Baker (The Good Phight): The Phillies need another starting pitcher, and ideally a right-handed bench bat. Every late game, high-leverage Eric Bruntlett at-bat gives me a sad.
Craig Strain (FishStripes): The Marlins front office is looking for a closer and/or some more bullpen help. What they should be doing is demoting Bonifacio and fixing the hole that he creates, both in the field and at the plate. Third base can be fixed internally by calling up Gaby Sanchez to replace Bonifacio.
Sky Kalkman (Moderator): Who are the most popular trade targets for those holes? Any targets flying under the radar? Any targets your team is especially intrigued in? Any popular names they're backing away from? Any rumors you'd like to start?
Ed Chigliak (Federal Baseball): I was already laying the groundwork for a Nick Johnson to San Francisco for Jonathan Sanchez rumor since Sanchez was struggling all season and a Johnson deal seems regrettably inevitable, then Sanchez had to go and ruin it with his no-hitter this week. I can't think of an instance of a pitcher with a no-hitter being traded in the same year he threw a no-no...unless you count DC starter (currently Triple A Syracuse starter) Shairon Martis, who threw a rule-shortened no-no in the '06 WBC and was traded to Washington that summer...
Eric Simon (Amazin' Avenue): Adam Dunn's name is always out there; that he has the flexibility to play both first base and left field -- albeit poorly in both cases -- makes him attractive in Delgado's absence. Victor Martinez would be a nice get, as he could help them at first for the remainder of this season and at catcher beyond 2009.
Sky Kalkman (Moderator): Which prospects and young major leaguers are most likely to change hands? Any that teams have deemed off-limits?
Martin Gandy (Talking Chop): The Braves have traded away an entire starting lineup of prospects over the past two years, and the result is most of their prospects are lower in the minors and probably not useful as trade chips. The two top guys, Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman, are so far off-limits it's not funny.
Ed Chigliak (Federal Baseball): The Nationals already moved a 24-year-old outfielder, Lastings Milledge, who has now quickly fallen out of favor with two organizations...I don't think the Nationals will be moving prospects, the system is just approaching being rebuilt. I'd expect if the Mets try to go for Nick Johnson they'll have to part with some of their young pitchers...Omar Minaya already traded for him once?
Peter Baker (The Good Phight): J.A. Happ has been mentioned in about half of the Roy Halladay trade scenarios, with Kyle Drabek the centerpiece in the other half. One of more of solid Triple-A prospects Carlos Carrasco, Lou Marson, and Jason Donald are likely to go in any trade. I can't really imagine any of the regulars being traded but for a major multi-team blockbuster of some kind.
Eric Simon (Amazin' Avenue): Fernando Martinez's name always comes up, but if the Mets didn't part with him for Johan Santana I can't see them doing so for anyone else. LHP Jon Niese is pitching really well in Triple-A and should really be with the Mets right now, but Mets management is inept so I can't say I'd be surprised to see him dealt for some well-traveled spare part.
Sky Kalkman (Moderator): Why he heck would the Braves be looking to trade Javier Vazquez? Sure, they need offense, but without him, they don't have a shot at the playoffs, do they?
Martin Gandy (Talking Chop): Should I take this one? I'll take this one... The Braves need a big bat, on the order of Teixeira or close. The Braves also have Tim Hudson coming back from injury, and that leaves them with a potential for 6 starters for next season (Vazquez, Hudson, Jurrjens, Lowe, Kawakami, and Hanson). The consensus is that Vazquez has done nothing but increase his trade value quite a bit since coming over for essentially one top-prospect (Tyler Flowers). There are so many teams that need a top starter that the Braves may have the opportunity to get better than excellent return for Vazquez, and with Hudson returning not lose that much in the rotation. This gets even more interesting if the other top two starters with the potential to get traded, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, are taken off the market. GM Frank Wren just might get an offer he can't refuse. My thought would be a top prospect, a major league bat, and another solid prospect.
Ed Chigliak (Federal Baseball): I wish the Expos/Nationals had never traded Vazquez, though I wouldn't have been able to watch Nick Johnson these last years...
Peter Baker (The Good Phight): I don't know why the Braves would trade Vazquez. You win games by preventing runs and/or scoring them. Vazquez has been terrific so far, he's obviously found some kind of comfortable niche, and I think it'd be dumb to disrupt that. It's easier to find good hitters than good pitchers.
Eric Simon (Amazin' Avenue): I'm with Martin here. Vazquez's value is very high right now and the if the Braves don't think they'll compete down the stretch this year it behooves them to test the market because they do expect to have Tim Hudson back next year. I can't see Frank Wren moving someone as productive as Vazquez unless he's blown away, however, so smart money is probably on him staying put.
Craig Strain (FishStripes): TBS doesn't show the Braves games anymore, so how the heck should I know.
Sky Kalkman (Moderator): Without any trade-deadline moves, what has to happen for your team to win the division? How much more likely is your team to make the playoffs by plugging its holes or adding an impact player?
Ed Chigliak (Federal Baseball): I'll be brief and get out of the way so the teams with actual playoff prospects can discuss this...There's no way DC wins the division or makes the playoffs. The Nationals may, however provide someone with the impact player they're looking for...
Peter Baker (The Good Phight): At this point, stay the course and hope they don't get injured, while simultaneously hoping that none of the Mets, Braves, or Marlins get hot. Any one of them could, but it's really the Phillies' race to lose at this point.
Eric Simon (Amazin' Avenue): All of their injured players need to come back and perform. It's as simple as that. I think 2009 is a lost cause for the Mets and they should probably start selling off whatever parts have value.
Craig Strain (FishStripes): If the Marlins stand pat, and fix a couple of problems internally, that is about as good of a chance as they have to make the playoffs. And oh, figure out how to beat the Braves.