Wednesday, July 31, 2013
An alternative to deadline deals
By Buster Olney
There is a consolation prize for those teams not at the top of their respective divisions: In August, they get to play crossing guard before every tradeable commodity reaches the No. 1 team -- holding the power to stop them from getting through.
This means that the John Hancock of all waiver claimers, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman -- a founding father of a new culture that developed around waiver claims in the late '90s, along with former New York Mets GM Steve Phillips -- will have a chance to block all three teams that sit above New York in the AL East standings.
The Cleveland Indians will have a chance to decide whether the Detroit Tigers get a shot at anybody.
The Cincinnati Reds can stop the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates from making moves.
For at least the next 31 days, being out of first place can be a position of power.
This is the way waivers work, generally: As teams place players on waivers this month -- and almost every player goes through, as a matter of process -- teams have an opportunity to place a claim on each player. If a player is claimed by multiple teams, then the clubs with the worst record gets the claim. The Houston Astros will get first shot at everybody, and as of today, the Pirates -- with the best record in the majors -- get the last shot.
In a competitive division like the AL East, there is at least some advantage in August for being lower in the standings. If the Rays or Red Sox suffered a major injury and wanted trade help, the Orioles, sitting in third place, would be the gatekeeper --- but only if the Yankees let anybody get through.
Before 1997, there was a gentlemen’s agreement in place between general managers to not place claims on other players, which effectively extended the trade deadline until the end of August. However, Phillips took over as GM of the Mets in the middle of the 1997 season, without the wide array of personal alliances that a lot of the other GMs had; he wasn’t really a part of the old boy network.
So in August of that year, he started claiming dozens of players, rankling some of his peers, and the next year, Cashman -- in his first season as GM of the Yankees -- followed suit, trying to prevent other AL contenders from improving. Now it’s mostly standard operating procedure for teams to block usable pieces in the waiver process. (Although it is frowned upon to claim players who obviously are not going to be dealt, such as Mike Trout).
So as August begins, Texas will be claiming players in front of Oakland. Arizona can block the Dodgers, although the two teams tend to two very different parts of the menu. And the Yankees, who are just 3.5 games out in the wild-card race, incredibly, get first shot at all players in front of the Rangers, Indians, Orioles, Red Sox, Tigers, Rays and Oakland.
And the Royals, now just five games out of the wild card (and searching for a second baseman), can claim ahead of the Yankees.
• The Jake Peavy deal makes sense for all three teams involved, with a transparent motive for each.
The Red Sox needed rotation help, and Peavy was the best starting pitcher on the market other than Cliff Lee, and Lee was just too expensive. Peavy demonstrated last year that his arm is relatively healthy, with his 219 innings and excellent command, and in the two recent outings he’s had since coming off the disabled list, he’s had tremendous movement on his fastball.
The Phillies, Yankees and Red Sox all have to ask the question whether a player fits their intense markets, and in the case of Peavy, he is a perfect fit. He wanted this deal to happen, he wanted to go to a place where every game is viewed as a life-or-death proposition, where the fans start to grumble when the count runs to 2-0.
The White Sox are retooling and, in the eyes of rival executives, dramatically slashing payroll, and Avisail Garcia is a thumper who can augment the offense.
The Tigers get coverage, of course, if Jhonny Peralta accepts a potential suspension, with Jose Iglesias now poised to step in at shortstop for the rest of this season and into the future. Even if Peralta wasn’t facing a possible suspension, Iglesias might be a better fit for the Tigers anyway, because their greatest liability is their defense, and Iglesias is, at the very least, a major upgrade with the glove.
Peralta’s fate seems locked in, writes Lynn Henning.
Peavy is an instant upgrade for the Red Sox, writes Michael Silverman. Ben Cherington was intent on adding a starter all along. The Red Sox will take a shot at Michael Young or stay in-house, writes John Tomase.
Peavy may have a reputation for getting hurt, but over the past season and a half, some teams have him ranked as one of the top 10 pitchers in the majors. In fact, since the start of the 2012 season, his 6.3 wins above replacement are more than any Red Sox starter.
Numbers crunchers might be given pause by Peavy's declining peripherals, as demonstrated by his FIP.
As for the Tigers' end of the deal, Iglesias has been known for his glove all along, but the shine has come off his hot bat from earlier this season: He was hitting .409 through June but is hitting .205 since.
White Sox GM Rick Hahn likes the depth that he’s getting.
• The teams that wake up today with the clearest need for help:
1. Texas Rangers
They had a nice comeback win on Tuesday, but their production has suffered of late and they may soon learn that their best power hitter, Nelson Cruz, will miss just about all of the remaining regular season. Rival officials say they have made a major effort to generate trade targets for their lineup, but quite simply, there is just not much available. “Worst position-player market I can remember,” said one GM.
The Rangers could be waving goodbye to Cruz, writes Evan Grant. There is this, too: Lance Berkman may soon walk away.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates
To repeat: They could use a right fielder who hits well. They are among the teams that have talked about Nate Schierholtz, and it’s worth remembering that Neal Huntington and Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer have done deadline work in the past, when Epstein/Hoyer were in Boston (remember the Manny Ramirez deal?).
The Pirates are actively pursuing deals, writes Bill Brink.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
They are hemorrhaging in the standings, quickly falling behind the Dodgers, and it will be a blow to the morale of their players if they don’t get help before the deadline.
But Arizona is constricted by its financial limitations, and while GM Kevin Towers worked very hard to get Peavy in a trade, he just couldn’t move the money he needed to move. Ian Kennedy would have been moved as a precursor to a Peavy deal, and if he’s not traded today, it would seem he would be a primary candidate for a deal in the offseason.
These are tough times for Kennedy.
• Oakland traded for Alberto Callaspo to play second base against left-handers.
Other trade stuff
1. Bud Norris is being discussed in trade talks. The Astros are on pace to finish 54-108, and by the time we reach the deadline, it could be that they will have traded Norris, their No. 1 starter, as well as closer Jose Veras. They will have a near-lock on the No. 1 pick in the draft for the third consecutive season.
2. The Indians added a reliever and optioned a reliever, Paul Hoynes writes.
3. The Royals are looking for a second baseman.
4. The Cardinals traded a reliever.
5. Alex Rios is waiting to see what happens.
6. The Twins did little to help their GM.
7. Davey Johnson expects the Nationals to stand pat.
8. The Phillies’ clubhouse is dealing with some deadline unrest.
9. Marlon Byrd knows he could be traded.
10. Brian Wilson signed with the Dodgers.
11. The Dodgers are throwing a lot of money at their problems.
12. Old friend Peter Gammons makes this point: Should some team make a conditional deal for Rafael Betancourt, as the Rays did for Jesse Crain? Betancourt is due back in mid-August, and could help a contender.
13. The Rockies should pick up a pitcher’s option, writes Troy Renck.
14. Barry Zito may have started his last game for the Giants.
15. The Angels are trying to improve their farm system.
16. The Padres will need to be inspired by offers to deal either Luke Gregerson or Joe Thatcher, because they don’t have to swap either, and if they move one or both, they would have to find a replacement(s).
Dings and dents
1. Yadier Molina is headed to the disabled list with a sprained knee.
• The Braves’ magic number is 46.
• Zack Wheeler flirted with a no-hitter.
• A Marlins player disputed Tino Martinez’s version of what happened.
• Chris Davis ended his homerless streak.
• The union has been told who is going to be suspended.
• Alex Rodriguez is becoming an army of one.
• Roger Clemens went to bat for Rodriguez.
• Ryan Braun’s status hurts the Brewers, writes Bob Wolfley.
• The young man who connected so strongly with Bryce Harper has passed away.
And today will be better than yesterday.