After the chaos of the early part of the season, the Red Sox appear to be in an interesting spot, and one of strength in that they’re a potential contender and could be both sellers and buyers by the trading deadline. That doesn’t happen very often.
By that time, you would think, they could have Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Ryan Kalish back, which would create an excess in the outfield.
That means Cody Ross, Daniel Nava, Ryan Sweeney, Scott Podsednik, and Marlon Byrd could be trade bait, not to mention Kevin Youkilis and perhaps Aaron Cook, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Mark Melancon, and Kelly Shoppach.
In the middle of the season, when teams are prepping themselves for the stretch run, people may be knocking on Boston’s door for help. And who knows what the Red Sox may need by then? They may even use some of their tradeable players to help replenish their farm system, which is something contenders usually can’t do.
If the Sox keep Youkilis, they could be looking at a lineup of Ellsbury (CF), Dustin Pedroia (2B), Adrian Gonzalez (RF), Youkilis (1B), David Ortiz (DH), Will Middlebrooks (3B), Crawford (LF), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C), and Mike Aviles (SS). Not bad.
The Nationals are in a somewhat similar position, in that they could sell off pitchers John Lannan and Chien-Ming Wang while still contending.
After Monday’s amateur draft, the focus for scouts will turn to finding that missing piece or two by the trading deadline.
The two teams most willing to move players will be the Astros and Cubs.
Despite the Astros’ surprising start (they were only seven games under .500 going into the weekend), management feels it has a plan to succeed long-term, and the way to do that is “stay the course,’’ as manager Brad Mills puts it.
That means they will listen to offers for their top trade candidates: closer Brett Myers, lefty starter Wandy Rodriguez, first baseman Carlos Lee, reliever Brandon Lyon, and shortstop Jed Lowrie.
“I think there’s a great belief in the plan we’ve laid out here, and we’re going to execute that plan,’’ said Mills. “There’s no indication that plan has changed. This is an organization that wants to be good for a long time.’’
The way to do it is to trade off veteran assets and increase the supply of younger talent. Easier said than done, however.
Super agent Scott Boras has reasoned all along - and he is correct - that with the dramatic rule changes that limit spending on draft picks, young players will now be considered gold.
It will be more difficult for teams to trade off controllable, cheaper prospects for higher-priced veterans, reasons Boras, because now it’s harder to acquire those prospects.
In Chicago, Theo Epstein has been able to trade Byrd to Boston and Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins and has been willing to eat a lot of salary in the process. But his hope entering the season was to deal off outfielder Alfonso Soriano, starter Ryan Dempster, and closer Carlos Marmol, which hasn’t happened.
He also has been open to deal Matt Garza, if he can get a few prospects back. And veteran lefty Paul Maholm is on the market.
Another team motivated to sell is the Twins. They are not drawing at their new ballpark, and the talent level in the farm system is low. They need to replenish.
Eventually, general manager Terry Ryan will relent and try to make the best possible deals for assets such as outfielder Josh Willingham (a much sought-after bat), starting pitchers Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano, closer Matt Capps, and infielder Jamey Carroll.
The A’s are always looking to sell. In play are starters Bartolo Colon and Brandon McCarthy, relievers Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes, outfielder Coco Crisp, catcher Kurt Suzuki, and others. They also wouldn’t be against dealing Josh Reddick (14 homers).
One team that could be on the fence is Milwaukee. You’re never out of contention in the Natonal League Central, and Brewers owner Mark Attanasio recently commented that he thinks his team will be a buyer, not a seller. As we witnessed with Prince Fielder, team president Doug Melvin isn’t afraid to have players go to free agency.
The Brewers have attractive pitching inventory in Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, both of whom can become free agents after the season. If Melvin becomes open to dealing them by late July, Greinke should have no shortage of suitors. But there is always the issue of whether Greinke, who once suffered from an anxiety disorder, would be able to flourish in a big market.
The Padres are potential sellers, given their terrible roster and an ownership situation in flux. Carlos Quentin seems to be the big chip - a righthanded power-hitting outfielder who can play right field. They’re hard to find.
The Rockies have been everywhere, scouting everyone, including the Red Sox. As Cook, a former Rockie, pointed out, that team has such incredible swings that it can never be ruled out.
“We were either really, really good or really, really bad,’’ said Cook. “It was the strangest thing, but I think it’s always ingrained in their heads there that they can make it back.’’
Which is why, as intriguing a reliever as Rafael Betancourt is, there’s no guarantee the Rockies are selling anyone off.
The Royals have interesting parts to sell. Teams are scouting right fielder Jeff Francoeur. Lefty Bruce Chen and closer Jonathan Broxton could be there for the taking. Alex Gordon could be had in the right deal.
Apropos of something
1. The 2001 Kane County (Ill.) Cougars, managed by Russ Morman, won the West Division of the Single A Midwest League with an 88-50 record.
Try this infield on for size: Adrian Gonzalez at first, Miguel Cabrera at shortstop, Josh Willingham at third. For the record, the second baseman was Josh Wilson.
Gonzalez, who was 19 at the time, hit .312 with 17 homers and 103 RBIs. Cabrera hit .268 with 7 homers and 66 RBIs, and Willingham hit .259 with 7 homers and 36 RBIs.
Gonzalez described Cabrera as “a great athlete. He had a gun for an arm. You could see him growing into his body, but you knew he was going to be a phenomenal talent.’’
Cabrera also committed 32 errors in 98 games at short. Gonzalez committed 14 at first base and Willingham 14 at third.
Gonzalez’s 103 RBIs were second in the league to Wily Mo Pena of the Dayton Dragons, who had 113 and a league-leading 26 homers.
Clinton Lumber Kings right fielder Jason Bay (.362) won the batting title over Quad Cities River Bandits first baseman Justin Morneau (.356).
2. Need to revisit this midweek happening. OK, if Seattle is playing Texas, which team has more potential to score eight runs in back-to-back innings? Duh. Texas, of course. But that’s not the way it happened.
According to Elias, Seattle became the seventh team in major league history with consecutive innings of at least eight runs and only the fourth since 1900. The other three: the Cubs against the Dodgers on May 5, 2001, the Indians against the Yankees on July 29, 1928, and Boston against Philadelphia on May 2, 1901.
In their game, the Cubs beat the Dodgers, 20-1 - the largest margin of defeat for the Dodgers since they moved to the West Coast in 1958.
The Indians were on their way to a 24-6 win. Johnny Hodapp and Luke Sewell each had five hits. The Yankees lineup included four future Hall of Famers: Earle Combs, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Tony Lazzeri.
The Boston-Philadelphia game was played on only the ninth day in the history of the American League and was only the sixth game for the Boston team (which was not yet know as the Red Sox). Boston, which won, 23-12, scored nine runs in the second inning and 10 runs in the third.
Apropos of nothing
1. Loved the gesture of the Red Sox honoring Dick Bresciani for his 40 years of service with the organization by having him throw out the first pitch before Wednesday night’s game. Bresciani was their longtime PR man and is now vice president/emeritus and team historian. He is one of the best and most loyal people the organization has ever had.
2. How about Jerry Trupiano as the Red Sox new PA announcer?
3. After watching the Tigers, I get the feeling president Dave Dombrowski is going to do something big to win that division.
4. Someone please give Jamie Moyer a chance to pitch again after he was designated for assignment by the Rockies. We need to see him pitch at 50.
5. Detroit Free Press writer John Lowe recalls Bobby Valentine saying on an ESPN telecast last season in Texas that the Red Sox would score 1,000 runs.
6. Standing by my column of a couple of weeks ago: David Ortiz deserves a two-year deal.
7. It says here that Joe Garagiola Jr., who built the Diamondbacks’ championship team, should be the man to run the Padres once they get a new owner. Garagiola is currently working in the Commissioner’s Office.
8. One problem with retractable roofs is letting in enough sunlight to grow the grass properly. Milwaukee has had that issue, and the Marlins are experiencing it now. The roof in Miami has to be closed by 11 a.m. for the stadium to be cooled enough for a night game, so not enough sunlight is getting through.
9. With Stan Kasten in position in Los Angeles, the list of those who could step in and run an organization includes: Andy MacPhail, Tony La Russa, Joe Torre, Dennis Gilbert, Jeremy Kapstein, and Garagiola.
Updates on nine
1. Jonathan Broxton, RHP, Royals - A decision the Royals made last week will likely enhance Broxton’s trade value. They have been cautious with him because of past elbow issues (he had surgery last Sept. 19 to remove bone spurs), but they’re throwing away the kid gloves. Broxton is no longer restricted to pitching no more than two days in a row. He was 12 for 14 in save opportunities entering Saturday, with a 1.74 ERA.
2. Carlos Lee, 1B, Astros - We mention him as trade bait, but to whom? With Matt Kemp missing a month, the Dodgers need power. One issue, however, is that Lee has always had West Coast teams on his no-trade list. Whether that’s changed and he now has the incentive to play for a contender, who knows? Lee has been extremely comfortable in Houston. At times, too comfortable.
3. Manny Ramirez, OF/DH, Athletics - His minor league time didn’t go so well, but if things don’t work out in baseball, he is very much into his new-found religious faith, according to David Ortiz. “He’s very much into the Bible and he spends a lot of his time reading, which is great,’’ said Ortiz. “Manny has been through a lot, but I think everybody deserves a second chance.’’
4. Robin Ventura, manager, White Sox - He has added a calmness to the clubhouse, replacing the anxiety that Ozzie Guillen sometimes caused. And the White Sox, one of the surprise teams in baseball, feel they can maintain that calmness all season. “They were the team that everyone was going to raid at the trading deadline,’’ said an American League general manager, “and now they may be the ones looking to add players because they feel they have a chance.’’ The White Sox are one of the teams looking at Kevin Youkilis.
5. Neftali Feliz, RHP, Rangers - The big debate in Texas will be what to do with him once he returns from the disabled list. Feliz, one of the best closers in baseball the last two years, was relocated to the starting rotation and sprained an elbow ligament. With Roy Oswalt now in the rotation, Feliz may return to the bullpen unless another starter gets hurt. Feliz considers himself a starter, and like Daniel Bard, he doesn’t like hearing that he may return to the bullpen. But such is life with a pitching-rich team.
6. Ernesto Frieri, RHP, Angels - Consider this the steal of the century so far for Angels GM Jerry Dipoto. Since he was acquired in a trade with the Padres May 3, Frieri has struck out 27 and not allowed a hit or run in 13 innings. Only 11 of the 50 batters he has faced even put the ball in play (27 Ks, 10 walks, 2 hit batsmen).
7. Mark Prior, RHP, Red Sox - The former Cubs phenom moved quickly through extended spring training in Fort Myers and joined Pawtucket Friday. Now a reliever who throws about 90 m.p.h., Prior has not pitched in the majors since 2006 despite attempting a few comebacks, including one with the Yankees last season. He was the second overall pick by the Cubs in the 2001 draft and finished third in National League Cy Young voting in 2003, going 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA. But his career was derailed by a series of shoulder injuries and other ailments. Prior pitched in 11 games at three levels in the Yankees system in 2011, going 0-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings. “All I can say is, he’s worked his butt off and persevered through a lot,’’ said Prior’s agent, John Boggs, “and hopefully he will be back on a major league field before too long.’’
8. Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins - The Twins will likely entertain offers at the trading deadline but won’t necessarily deal him. Now that he appears to be over his concussion, Morneau has begun to resemble his old self. He put together a pretty good month of May (.264, 5 HRs, 16 RBIs). One team to watch: the Blue Jays. By all accounts, they are trying to do something big to revamp their offense. Morneau is also Canadian, and the Jays have money stored up. Morneau, 31, earns $14 million this year and next. The Jays also would have the kind of prospects Minnesota desires.
9. Jair Jurrjens, RHP, Braves - An All-Star last season (13-6, 2.96), he went back to Triple A to work on his delivery. While he’s had a few ups and downs there - as indicated by his 3-3 record and 5.56 ERA - his minor league work is far better than the 0-2, 9.37 he had through his first four major league starts. Jurrjens, 26, has been scouted a lot. He can’t seem to crack the Braves rotation, and they may listen to trade offers for him.
From the Bill Chuck files: “Hard to believe that, entering June, Orioles DH Chris Davis (1-0) had more wins than Cliff Lee (0-2), Doug Fister (0-3), and Ryan Dempster (0-3) combined.’’ Also, “Through Wednesday, major league hitters were batting .250 with runners in scoring position, with the Red Sox the best at .300 and the Padres the worst at .190.’’ . . . Happy birthday to Steve Lyons (52), Julio Valdez (56), and Jim Dwyer (62).Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.