- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
But in the next 56 days, Quentin could become the most sought-after hitter in the trade market. General managers have gone through rosters and have had early conversations with other teams, and they say that, generally, they don't expect a lot of front-line hitters to be available.
Quentin could be; he is capable of carrying a team for a month with his power, which can translate in any ballpark. Since being activated off the disabled list, he has been crushing the ball, generating four doubles and five homers in six games, with 12 hits in 23 at-bats for an OPS of 1.925. He had two homers Tuesday night as the Padres came back to beat the San Francisco Giants.
Last year, the best available hitter was Carlos Beltran, and in return for the veteran outfielder, the New York Mets got top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler from the Giants. If the Padres choose to trade Quentin, they will probably be in a similar position to take advantage of what would be a seller's market for the slugger.
The enthusiasm of other teams will be mitigated by Quentin's daunting injury history. But he would theoretically fit well in the lineups of a lot of contenders. Let's speculate (and at this point, that's all this is):
Cincinnati Reds: Left field has been a puzzle for GM Walt Jocketty -- the Reds' left fielders currently rank 23rd in OPS -- and the cleanup spot has been a tough fill for manager Dusty Baker. Quentin could solve both problems. Keep in mind that the Reds and Padres dealt in the offseason (the Mat Latos blockbuster), so San Diego's front office will have a strong idea of what it might want to target.
Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays adhere to their doctrine as tightly as any team in the majors, and as a practice, they do not usually trade prime assets for players on the cusp of free agency. But the Rays have the option of being aggressive and trying to bolster a thin offense -- and Tampa Bay has a championship-level rotation. The Rays need power, and Quentin could provide it.
Cleveland Indians: He would be a perfect fit in so many ways; Quentin is a right-handed hitter, which the Indians need desperately. But it would not be the Indians' way to give up prospects for a short-term fix.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Quentin would be an excellent addition, and Don Mattingly would have a 3-4-5 of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Quentin. But remember, the Padres and Dodgers would have to complete an intra-division deal to make this happen, and historically, the two teams don't usually work together.
Atlanta Braves: This is one to watch. The Braves don't have a lot of financial flexibility, but they have some good pitching prospects -- and they have a need, especially if Chipper Jones continues to have physical problems. A Braves' lineup without Chipper would have much better balance with Quentin:
CF: Michael Bourn
3B: Martin Prado
C: Brian McCann
1B: Freddie Freeman
2B: Dan Uggla
RF: Jason Heyward
Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays are like the Rays in how they adhere to their process and their system, and trading for a possible free agent is not something they would normally do. On the other hand, the AL East appears to be wide open, and Quentin would be a powerful addition.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Yep, they're in the race, just two games out of first, and of course they could use Quentin's bat. But the Pirates have typically been conservative trade-deadline dealers. A.J. Burnett helped them win Tuesday night, as Dejan Kovacevic writes.
Miami Marlins: They're all about win-now, in 2012, and after their red-hot May, why not? Quentin would add needed depth to the middle of the Marlins' order.
Quentin hit two homers Tuesday, but a teammate hit a walk-off, as Bill Center writes.
MLB draft notes
After the early part of the draft, some club officials will call rival officials and talk through the early selections. They do this to help assess their own team's picks, by measuring their draft board against those of other teams.
The first-round autopsy was particularly interesting in the aftermath of Monday's first round because of the perceived fall of Mark Appel down the draft board until Pittsburgh took him with the eighth pick.
Some interesting thoughts from many of the officials involved:
1. Executives from many teams thought that Appel was drafted where they had him projected. Many media projections had Appel going No. 1 overall to the Astros, but many teams actually rated Appel as the fourth- or fifth-best pitcher on their board. "You're splitting hairs with this group," said an AL official, ticking off the various strengths and weaknesses of the pitchers who went at the top of the draft. "Appel is a horse, a guy who will give you 200-plus innings. But we had other guys ahead of him."
Because Appel wasn't chosen first, as some analysts had projected, his slide and signability became the primary narrative of the early part of the draft. The speculation was that some teams passed on him because he is represented by agent Scott Boras. But there were teams that passed on him simply because they had other players rated more highly, and for that reason, they didn't even bother to engage with Appel's camp in any deal dialogue. They liked other players better.
2. Most rival executives polled informally believed that Pittsburgh made the right choice in tabbing Appel at No. 8, because there was perceived to be a notable drop-off in talent after the early group of selections. The difference in the perceived skills between Appel and the rest of the field, at the time that the Pirates made the choice, makes the risk acceptable in the eyes of other officials. "By the time it got to the Pirates' pick, he was by far the best player left," said an NL official. "It's a worthwhile gamble. If he signs, they have a good value selection for that spot. If he doesn't sign, then they get the No. 9 pick next year -- and who knows, maybe the draft will be better than this year's."
The wide expectation among rival officials is that the Pirates will not blow up their budget, go over the cap and forfeit future draft picks to sign Appel. "He's not [Stephen] Strasburg," said one NL official. "He's not Bryce Harper. They'll take a shot at him, and if he doesn't sign, they'll move on."
3. After taking Appel at No. 8, the Pirates made the choice to be especially aggressive with the rest of their top 10 picks. If Appel signs, then he'll use up a lot of their draft allotment. If he doesn't sign, the Pirates will have more money to sign other picks.
4. Lawyers have been combing through this new draft process for months, searching for loopholes in the new system; as reported here last week, at least one memo was sent from the commissioner's office warning against a practice that would violate the spirit of the new rules. If Boras has found something of a loophole, one executive said, "This will be when he uses it. Because it doesn't look like the kid [Appel] has a lot of choices."
Appel could reject the forthcoming offer from the Pirates and return to Stanford or sign with an independent league team. He would go right back into the same system -- and be evaluated by a lot of the same officials -- in the 2013 draft. Taking a path like that could significantly delay Appel's road to Major League Baseball, unless there is a yet-unrevealed loophole. "I don't think there is," said one agent, "because the commissioner's office has been all over this thing."
5. Signability is a phrase used a lot in the media, but some club officials believe it's inexact for the system. A more precise way to look at it, one GM said, is to think of the draft like a restaurant. While working within a budget, he asked, would you rather spend more money on the main course and have a little bit for the appetizer, or would you rather save a little money on the main course and have more for the drinks and the appetizer? The Astros are expected to save some slot room by signing their No. 1 overall pick to something in the range of $4.5 million to $5 million, and this would enable them to be more aggressive with their subsequent pick, high school pitcher Lance McCullers.
The signing of Appel could have an added price, writes Michael Sanserino.
The Astros hope to have their No. 1 pick signed soon.
• From Elias Sports Bureau: Ian Desmond drove in the tying runs for the Nationals in the eighth, 10th and 12th innings of their 7-6 win against the Mets. Desmond is the first player with three tying/go-ahead RBI-events in the eighth inning or later of a game since the Reds' Art Shamsky against the Pirates on Aug. 12, 1966.
And it was Bryce Harper who got the game-winner, as Adam Kilgore writes.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Daniel Bard was sent to the minors. You have to wonder how the constant speculation and discussion about his status -- fueled from within the organization -- factored into his balky performances. Bard tried talking the Red Sox out of the decision, as Scott Lauber writes.
Wrote here weeks ago about Bard's very difficult first year of professional baseball and how diligently he worked through some acute control issues then. It probably would've been a whole lot better for him if there were always a united organizational voice about the plans for him in 2012.
Dings and dents
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats and Info
1: career walk-off hits each for Bryce Harper and Logan Forsythe (both done Tuesday)
4: pitchers to strike out 10-plus hitters on Tuesday. Most in single day this season
25: consecutive saves by Orioles closer Jim Johnson before blowing the save opportunity Tuesday
92: strikes thrown by Cliff Lee in Phillies loss to Dodgers
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Andy Pettitte beat the Rays:
A) Pettitte struck out five hitters with his slider, the third time in his five starts this season he's done that. In 2010, he struck out five or more hitters with his slider four times in 21 starts.
B) Nine of 13 balls in play (69.2 percent) against Pettitte were hit on the ground, his highest groundball percentage in a start since 2008.
C) Pettitte got three strikeouts and eight swings-and-misses with his fastball. He had just two strikeouts and seven misses with the pitch in his first four starts combined.
2. Cliff Lee pitched well and lost; he remains winless.
From ESPN Stats and Info, how great Lee was Tuesday despite being charged with the loss:
A) Five of Lee's strikeouts were called, the third start this season in which he's had at least five called strikeouts. His three such starts are the most in the league this year.
B) Lee's fastball averaged 92.0 mph, his fastest this season.
C) Three of Lee's strikeouts were with his cutter, his most this season.
3. You can't stop the Pirates, you can only hope to contain them.
4. The Mets missed a chance to be first.
7. The Astros keep doing good things.
• Best wishes to Tommy Lasorda.
• There is sad news about a former Seattle GM.
• Hideki Matsui's No. 35 is a tribute.
• An Oakland youngster was impressive.
And today will be better than yesterday.
As the games pass by, it's becoming clear there won't be much offensive help available at the trade deadline. Buster Olney writes that this could make Carlos Quentin very attractive for many contenders. Here are some trade scenarios for Quentin.