Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Five players who are now expendable
By Jim Bowden
When the Los Angeles Dodgers gave Andre Ethier a five-year, $85 million contract 13 months ago, it seemed like a decent enough idea at the time. Ethier had strung together a series of decent seasons punctuated by one career year, and it seemed like he would age gracefully enough to make the deal worthwhile.
But Ethier’s production has declined. Combined with the emergence of super-rookie Yasiel Puig, Ethier has become the odd man out, and his contract looks like an albatross.
As a result, the Dodgers are quietly hoping they can find a taker for Ethier, although realistically they’ll have to eat approximately $5 million per season to make any deal work. The Dodgers might have to wait to the offseason to make the Ethier deal, which will make for an awkward situation once Carl Crawford returns from the disabled list next week. Paying Ethier $18 million as a fourth outfielder is not what the Dodgers had in mind when they signed him. He has become expendable.
Likewise, several other teams are in similar situations and will soon be forced to trade expendable players in what might end up being "buyer" for "buyer"-type deals at this year’s trade deadline. Here are five situations where arrivals of top prospects could create expendable players:
Prospect: Oscar Taveras | Expendable: Jon Jay Jay has been solid in his first four years in the major leagues, hitting .289/.351/.398. His defense has improved considerably over the past couple of years, but he’s on borrowed time with Taveras nearly ready to take over in center field. It was just two years ago when Cardinals GM John Mozeliak traded young outfielder and former No. 1 pick Colby Rasmus to the Toronto Blue Jays in seven-player blockbuster that netted the Cardinals three pitchers who were key to their 2011 World Series run -- Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski and Edwin Jackson. Likewise, Jay could be part of a package that gives the Cardinals veteran bullpen help once again.
Taveras is considered one of the best middle-of-the-order prospects in baseball. Although he’s been dealing with a sprained ankle this year, his bat has continued to produce when he’s healthy and his average is above .300 for Triple-A Memphis. The Cardinals moved him to center field this season, and an outfield of Carlos Beltran, Taveras and Matt Holliday in left field will give them the best chance of winning the division.
Prospect: Travis d’Arnaud | Expendable: John Buck The Mets acquired Buck from the Blue Jays in December in a multiplayer package that included d’Arnaud for R.A. Dickey and others. Buck has done a solid job for the Mets, belting 13 home runs and calling a good game, but it’s only a matter of time before d’Arnaud takes over.
A fractured left foot has cost d'Arnaud much of the season, but he'll likely be in the majors as soon as he is healthy and has played some rehab games in Triple-A, which could be as soon as August. Bottom line: He is the future, and there are some contending teams that could use Buck.
Prospect: Nick Castellanos | Expendable: Andy Dirks, Avisail Garcia The Tigers moved top prospect Castellanos -- formerly a third baseman -- to left field during spring training since Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are firmly entrenched on the infield corners for years to come. Castellanos has done a good job adjusting to his new position, and his bat is about ready for the major leagues. The 21-year-old is hitting .296/.374/.482 with 27 doubles and 11 homers for Triple-A Toledo.
Garcia has more trade value than Dirks, but the Tigers view him as a long-term replacement for Torii Hunter when his contract expires after the 2014 season. However, if they can acquire the right closer at the trade deadline, they might include Garcia in a deal.
Prospects: Jose Iglesias, Xander Bogaerts | Expendable: Stephen Drew The Red Sox have been pleased with Drew, but he could be a trade piece at the deadline in a buyer-to-buyer deal with a team like the Cardinals or Dodgers, who are looking for offensive upgrades on the left side of the infield.
The Red Sox have Iglesias playing terrific third base, but it’s only a matter of time before he becomes the every-day shortstop. Both Bogaerts and third baseman Will Middlebrooks are at Triple-A, and one or both will probably be ready to be called up in August. If the Sox need another starting pitcher, they might be able to package Drew with a pitching prospect to land one.
Prospects: George Springer, Jonathan Singleton | Expendable: Chris Carter Carter has provided power in left field and at first base this season, belting 15 home runs for the last-place Astros. At 26, he provides the right-handed power that can be valuable at the bottom of the lineup of a contending team.
With outfield prospect Springer and first-base prospect Singleton just months away from making their Astros debuts, Carter does not fit in Houston’s long-term plan. He could be dealt along with one of their rotation starters like Bud Norris or Lucas Harrell at the trade deadline.