David Price

Everything you need to know about next week’s trade deadline

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July 31 is the major league baseball trade deadline. Well, a deadline for certain kinds of trades anyway. Because as far as deadlines go, it’s a pretty soft one.

What it is a deadline for is straight-up trades between two teams into which no other team has a say and no other procedures must be followed. Players can still be traded after July 31, but it gets a bit more complicated. Let’s break it down:

  • July 31 is the “non-waiver” trade deadline, meaning teams don’t have to put players’ named through the waiver process before a deal can be done. Anyone can be traded for any reason whatsoever.
  • August 31 is the waiver trade deadline. Until then, players can be traded, but they first must be placed on waivers, giving other teams the chance to simply claim him — contract and all — if they want him. If a team claims a waived player that player’s current team can either let him go for free (something they may want to do with an expensive player they don’t with to pay anymore), work out a trade with the claiming team or simply pull him back since August waivers are so-called “revocable waivers.”  If the player is unclaimed by every team (i.e. he “clears waivers) he can be traded to anyone, just like it was before July 31st.
  • Players can still be traded via waivers after August 31, actually. The only thing is, if that happens, they are only eligible to play in their new team’s regular season games. They cannot play in the playoffs for their new team.
  • Got all that? Good. Even if you don’t, just know that just because a big name isn’t traded before the deadline on July 31 doesn’t mean he won’t be traded.

Now, let’s look at a few of those big names who might be traded– just a few, as dozens and dozens are at least shopped every year — and the teams who might be the most active:

David Price: Clearly the best starting pitcher available. Or at least perceived to be available. When he was first rumored to go the Rays were 15 games out of first place. Since then they’ve gone on a tear and are now only four and half games back in the wild card hunt. It may be hard for Tampa Bay to pull the trigger, but moving Price now, when he would still have a year of team control attached to him after this, would bring them the biggest haul.

Cliff Lee: A much harder deal to make for two reasons: (1) he has been injured this year and his first start back of the disabled list the other day did not go well; and (2) he is owned $25 million next season and has a $12 million+ buyout for 2015. Given his price tag he’d certainly clear waivers in August, thereby allowing teams a chance to see if is still the Cliff Lee we have all come to know and love before making the commitment.

Ben Zobrist: A good hitter who can play almost anywhere on the diamond, almost any team in contention might want him. However, the same considerations that attach to David Price regarding the Rays being contention apply here. Also: he’s not going to become super expensive like Price will over the next year or two, so the Rays may just decide to keep him.

Joaquin Benoit: He has closed and set up before so any team looking for any kind of bullpen help would love to have him (and there are ALWAYS) tons of teams looking for bullpen help. His old team, the Tigers, seemed like a great candidate until they traded for Joakim Soria last night, but the Padres are apparently open for business so it would not be at all surprising to see him moved.

Chad Qualls: A much cheaper option that Benoit for teams needing closers but, actually, a guy who is performing even better. Of course he is performing over his historical norms right now whereas Benoit has done what he’s doing now in he past. Benoit also strikes out a lot more guys, and that’s pretty important, especially in the playoffs.

Jonathan Papelbon: And here’s a much more expensive closer option. Like, really expensive. If you have the money to blow, however, Papelbon has finally figured out how to be effective despite his reduced velocity posting his best season since he was in Boston. He could greatly bolster a bullpen, even if he doesn’t do so in a cost-effective fashion.

Jake Peavy: The Sox are in last place and while they may be reloading as opposed to rebuilding, they probably got the best work out of Peavy they’ll ever see last year. He’s not having a great year and has been shopped openly for over a month now.

Marlon Byrd: Offense is hard to come by these days and Byrd does have 19 homers on the season. Some team will probably overpay for him.

Jorge De La Rosa: A good start on Wednesday night reminds us that, for all of his struggles this year, De La Rosa has probably done a better job of pitching at altitude in Coors Field than anyone. Taking Rockies starters down to sea level with the hopes that they’ll greatly improve has always been a dicey affair, but the Rockies should probably take advantage of that impulse.

Bartolo Colon: The venerable Colon keeps on keeping on, continuing to be an efficient and effective starter into his 40s. The Mets have grown to love him, but they probably realize that he is not a part of their long term plans, even if they signed him to a two-year deal before the season.

Josh Willingham: A perpetual trade deadline candidate, he has probably stuck in Minnesota a bit too long. But if Chase Headley can be moved after several years of rumors that he would be, so too could Willingham. His average and homers are down, but he’s still getting on base at a good clip. He probably has a good half-season in him pending a change of scenery.

Carlos Quentin: Same story here. He’s having a down year and he has a full no-trade clause. He’d also have to be a DH. But some team may see what he did the past few years and think that getting him away from the vortex of awful that is the offense in San Diego could do him good. Of course, he’s been a notable contributor to that vortex.

There are several others who could go — especially a lot of relievers whose names many people don’t know — but these are most of the name-brand candidates.

Now, which teams are on the market? Well, the short answer is “almost everyone,” as the second wild card and greater overall parity in baseball have made far more teams buyers than sellers. But let’s categorize them.

THE OBVIOUS SELLERS: The Red Sox, Twins, Astros, Rangers, MetsPhillies, Diamondbacks, Rockies and Padres.

THE NON-OBVIOUS SELLERS: The Cubs have already done most of their selling dealing two starters to the A’s. The Rays are that special case we talked about. The White Sox and Marlins aren’t playoff bound, but nor do they have a ton of guys they’re likely to shop.

THE OBVIOUS BUYERS: Everyone else to some extent, but the teams with clear needs who are likely to make moves are as follows: the Blue Jays, Yankees and Orioles in the AL East (starting pitching is a need for all three); the Angels (they filled a bullpen void but could probably still use a starter); the Mariners (they could use a bat and have been linked to Marlon Byrd and they have also been mentioned prominently in David Price rumors); the Braves (they’re always looking for bullpen help and have had starters drop like flies); the Cardinals (a starter) the Brewers (a first baseman or, at least some bat); the Reds (a bat); the Dodgers (a bullpen arm, though they’ve been rumored to want yet another starter despite starting pitching being a strength); the Giants (bullpen; second base if the Dan Uggla Experiment doesn’t pan out).

THE NON-OBVIOUS BUYERS: The Tigers already made a move to fill their biggest need in acquiring Joakim Soria. So too the Athletics in bolstering their rotation in that trade with the Cubs, but they do have the best offense and best pitching in the game, so the needs are limited. They could still use a second baseman and maybe an arm. The Indians and the Royals both need help, but don’t have the ability to add much payroll. Same with the Pirates, who could use a starter but don’t have the financial flexibility. The Nationals are likely to stand pat, as they’re finally getting their health back. Even with Ryan Zimmerman’s hamstring injury, they have starters for every position. Maybe they look for a situational reliever.

So that’s where things stand today. Keep an eye on HardballTalk for whatever happens over the next week — and, as I noted above, the next month — as general managers start to wheel and deal.

Sports and politics share some of their worst excesses

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19:  Montana alternative delegate Susan Reneau shouts "guilty" as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post writes a column today — likely part of the Post’s overall Inauguration coverage — about how the world of sports and sports fandom is a refreshing change from the world of politics. It’s a place where “facts are still facts,” he says. Where  “debates, though sometimes loud, are surrounded by oceans of substantiated facts and often informed by respected experts who depend on rational analysis to make their points.” Contrasted with politics, of course, where objective fact has turned into opinion and vice-versa.

I get what he’s trying to say and I think he’s well-intentioned. But I also think he badly misreads both sports discourse and political discourse, each of which have borrowed the worst excesses from the other. And by this I do not mean the extent to which the substance of sports and politics overlap, which we have often argued about in this space. This is not a “stick to sports” point. I’m talking about the way in which sports fans interact with sports and political people interact with politics, even in a relative vacuum.

Politics has coopted sports discourse in the most toxic and wrongheaded of ways. The idea that “scoreboard!” is all that matters. The belief that winning is the only objective as opposed to a means to an end. Notions of rooting and tribalism, and that “our team” and “the opposing team” is the proper way to view the parties to the contest. All of those things — each of which make sense to varying degrees in a sports context — have been imported into politics and have served to degrade them.

Likewise, contrary to what Boswell says, sports fans and commentators have eagerly begun to traffic in political-style reality creation, distortion and spin. He takes an oblique swipe at the “hot takers” like Skip Bayless and talk radio shouters, but he’s deluded if he thinks that they do not have more influence over sports fans than do than “the respected experts who depend on rational analysis to make their points” which he describes. Bayless and his crowd are a direct aping of “Crossfire”-style political shows.

Likewise, the concept of fan loyalty is increasingly discussed and routinely encouraged by sports leagues and teams in terms that were once reserved for party politics. The notion that those who have succeeded have done so because they are worthy and all of those who are worthy have succeeded is likewise fully believed by both sports fans and political actors. The idea that validation of one sort — electoral or competitive — justifies overlooking the political or athletic actor’s real life transgressions likewise crosses political and athletic lines. How much do sports fans and citizens overlook crimes and misdemeanors if there is a sufficient redemption or comeback narrative to cloak them?

Yet Boswell believes there to be a fundamental gap between how sports and politics are practiced and consumed. To explain it, he says this:

One partial explanation for the gap between the way we talk about sports and the way we talk about some other subjects may be the distorting force field of ideology. When we have a deep attachment to unprovable beliefs, ideas and emotions get intertwined. The psychological cost of disentangling them can be profound.

Tell me that you have not witnessed that dynamic among people whose identities have become far too wound up in the sports teams for which they root. There is ideology among sports fans just as much as there is among political partisans, even if the stakes aren’t as high.

He also says this:

For example, Clemson and Alabama have split the past two college football titles. Yet both coaches, in both years, deferred respectfully to the results, didn’t seek scapegoats, didn’t claim the results were invalid and, by their example, encouraged their fans to take pride in the battle — won or lost — and analyze it with enthusiasm but without distortion.

As if sports fans haven’t spent years re-litigating the Tuck Rule, Don Denkinger or Maradona’s Hand of God. As if notions of good sportsmanship and proper perspective are satisfied by merely accepting results. As if cheating scandals, real, imagined or inflated beyond all perspective, have not caused people to question the very legitimacy of the players in question.

As I said at the outset, I get what Boswell is trying to get at. And I find it admirable that he’s looking to sports to find some grace in an increasingly graceless world. Moreover, none of this is to say that sports don’t provide some refuge from raging political storms. They do.

But the world of sports is every bit as susceptible to the reality-denying, magical thinking storms which have increasingly come to characterize politics. And those raging political storms are very much fueled by a type and mode of passion that was first cultivated in sports and repurposed for a larger stage.

I mean, are these things really all that different?

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Which current players are Cooperstown bound?

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With the election of Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez and with the Hall of Fame press conferences over, let’s wrap up Hall of Fame week with a look at today’s game and see if we can’t figure out who among current big leaguers are likely to get the call to Cooperstown one day.

The No-Brainers

I think it’s a 100% lock that, absent their being identified as international terrorist masterminds, the following guys are already in:

Albert Pujols — He’ll break 600 homers this season, is a three-time MVP, has a couple of World Series rings and will be above 3,000 hits before he’s done. He could’ve been hit by a bus five years ago and still would be a lock.

Ichiro Suzuki — Over 3,000 hits in this country, over 4,000 hits between here and Japan, with some added spice due to him breaking people of notion that only Japanese pitchers, and not hitters, could be effective in Major League Baseball. A first ballot guy, just like Pujols.

Miguel Cabrera — He has two MVPs, a Triple Crown and is approaching 500 homers and 3,000 hits already despite still being only 33 years-old. He may be beginning to descend from his career peak, but there is no reason at all to think that he doesn’t have several years of top performance left. He, like Pujols and Ichiro are already in.

Adrian Beltre — As recently as a couple of years ago I was convinced that voters would fail to appreciate his greatness, but something has changed recently in the way he is discussed by the baseball commentariat. His defense has been spectacular and has remained so even as he approaches 40 and, unlike what may have been the case a decade ago, it is widely appreciated. He’ll pass 3,000 hits this year.

Yadier Molina — I would’ve put him in the next lower category before Wednesday, but Ivan Rodriguez’s first ballot election shows that defense behind the plate carries more weight with the electorate than many considered it to. There’s also the fact that Molina has always been talked about as a Hall of Famer and has the respect of everyone he’s ever played with, often being cited as the heart and soul of the successful Cardinals teams of the past decade and change. Voters love that and that’ll do a lot to make up for the lack of typical Hall of Fame offensive numbers.

Justin Verlander — An MVP/Cy Young combo and a couple of other years when he could’ve easily won the Cy Young set Verlander apart, especially if his rebound 2016 presages a few more years of excellence. Assuming a normal decline, he’ll top 3,000 strikeouts will be between 225-250 wins one thinks. Wherever he ends up on those numbers, though, there is going to be — heck, there has to be — a rethinking of what a Hall of Fame starting pitcher looks like by the voters in the coming years. Guys like Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling are getting overlooked because they don’t have 300 wins and a boatload of complete games, with voters not yet grokking that the game has changed. By the time Verlander is on the ballot, I suspect that they will have fully grokked it and that his case will be easier than it has been for some others who came before. The guy to watch as this dynamic unfolds: Roy Halladay, who hits the ballot in two years.

 

Probably In, But People Will Argue

Carlos Beltran — His career stock has improved as he’s continued to an effective hitter late in his career, but I feel like he may not yet be fully appreciated by many due to the lack of hardware and rings and things. Overall, however, his numbers are comparable to several Hall of Famers. One thing a lot of people overlook in Hall of Fame careers is just how much playing for one team — which was once the norm due to the Reserve Clause — colors the narrative of a player’s case. Beltran is Billy Williams, right? Except without the entire career with the Cubs and the adoration of those fans to speak for him. As we’ve seen with Tim Raines, having someone stump for a guy is important. Which team’s fan base stumps for Beltran?

 

Probably NOT in, But People Will Stump For Them

Chase Utley — I feel like he’s just short, though that’s mostly due to him getting a late start in his career and not compiling some of the counting stats voters like to see. Was definitely the best second baseman around for a number of years and has the rate stats and defensive reputation. A good case can be made for him. But the same is true of Larry Walker, Alan Trammell and a number of other guys who haven’t gotten the Hall of Fame love.

Jimmy Rollins — Utley’s former teammate may have an opposite case: a lot of good counting stats based on being a regular at 21, but he has somewhat lackluster rate stats and secondary stats for a Hall of Famer.

Joe Mauer — If he had stuck at catcher he’d have a stronger case — and if he weren’t so unfairly denigrated by Twins fans and those who cover them his existing case would be more appreciated — but the odd arc of his career and setbacks due to concussions will likely make him fall short. There’s a very interesting statistical/historical case to be made for Mauer, but it’s not one that, barring an unexpected late career offensive renaissance, will get much of a hearing I suppose.

 

On the way, but need to pad their resumes

Clayton Kershaw — The only thing keeping him out of the “already in” group is the fact that he has only played for nine seasons and you have to have ten in order to be eligible. Yes, even after 10 his career will be super short, but what he has done in his nine seasons — three Cy Youngs and three other top-5 Cy Young finishes, four ERA crowns and three strikeout crowns, — has been pretty outstanding. I suppose that if he suddenly turned into a tomato can and spent a decade with ERAs in the 5s people would rethink him, but the smart money has him cruising in based on his first decade alone, padded with even merely good later years. And there’s no reason to think that his next couple of years will be merely good.

Robinson Cano — Only 12 seasons under his belt but already north of 2,200 hits and, barring serious injury, will likely finish his career at or near the top of most offensive categories for second basemen. He plays every dang day. Multiple All-Star selections and a lot of MVP votes. Barring a Dale Murphy-style falloff, I think he makes it.

Dustin Pedroia — Likely has it on peak performance already — the Rookie of the Year, the MVP, a couple of World Series rings for which he is given a large amount of credit — but he has only played 11 seasons, which is generally too short for Hall of Famers not named Koufax. Second baseman have historically fallen off younger than players at other positions, but if Pedroia, like Cano, avoids that and has a standard career decline, he’s Cooperstown bound.

Buster Posey — There are only eight years under Buster’s belt, but they’ve been great years. Someone besides Bruce Bochy will get credit for the Giants’ three World Series rings, and it’ll likely be Posey. That is, if his down 2016 season isn’t the beginning of an unexpectedly sharp falloff.

Mike Trout — The shortest tenure of anyone on this list, but the guy has already put together a Hall of Fame peak by the age of 25 and only needs to gain eligibility. If he falls off to merely very good starting now he’ll have already made it. WAR is a counting stat which accumulates over a career. By the time 2017 is over, he will likely have passed Hall of Famers Tony Lazzeri, Kirby Puckett, Orlando Cepeda, Larry Doby, Nellie Fox, Bobby Doerr, Mickey Cochrane and Tony Perez. In less than seven full seasons.

UPDATE: Joey Votto — I forgot him when I first published this. Which, I dunno, was maybe some weird unconscious impulse I had which channels what I think voters will do. We’ve come a long way in appreciating on-base ability and rate stats and eschewing RBIs and things when it comes to evaluating hitters, but I feel like, to some, Votto is an extreme case here. He shouldn’t be — he’s a career .313 hitter and has slugged to the tune of .536 — but the negative narrative that has been written by some in the media that Votto is too timid a hitter or that his taking walks somehow has hurt the Reds has had some annoying staying power. All of that said: he’s only got ten years in. If he continues doing what he’s doing, he’ll be a strong Hall candidate. If he has even one or two more years where he shuts the naysayers up and, say, finishes first or second in the MVP voting, he’ll be in. Alternatively: if the Reds ever trade him to a contender and people see how valuable his production is in a lineup with even a modicum of support, that narrative changes immediately.

Others

Ian Kinsler — Dustin Pedroia without the MVP and the rings? I suppose a lot of people would take issue with that, but they’re a lot more similar than you may suspect. Kinsler has a higher bWAR in the same number of seasons as Pedroia, even if he doesn’t have the same level of fame.

Max Scherzer — If he can keep up the peak he’s established over the past few seasons for a bit longer, or if he can show remarkable longevity, he could possibly make up for blooming a bit late.

Zach Greinke — Could go either way. We’ve likely already seen his best seasons — and his two best were, uncharacteristically for a Hall of Famer, several years apart — but if he has several more good ones, he’s in the conversation.

Felix Hernandez — I feel like 2017 will be key. Two years ago I’d have said he was well on his way, but two average seasons in a row at ages 29 and 30 could be the precursor to a less-than-Hall-of-Fame second act.

There are likewise several players who have begun careers which look a lot like guys who eventually made the Hall of Fame — Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Chris Sale, Jose Altuve, Manny Machado, etc. etc. — but for the most part they’re just too early in the game to project. Let’s hold off on them for a few years, shall we?

I feel pretty good about this list thus far, however. What say you?