During this time of the season, when players have to pass through waivers before they can be traded, people often look at players with big contracts and think someone may take a chance on that guy. Invariably, it doesn’t happen. The one exception this season may be Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee, who has $95 million remaining on his deal but may get a big-market, contending team to bite.
On Friday, he was claimed by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are the new Yankees. But the likelihood of the Phillies and Dodgers working out a deal seemed unlikely.
Many players are put through trade waivers in August leading up to the Aug. 31 deadline for postseason rosters. There are some claims put in, but most often the teams pull back the player or they try to work out a deal.
There are plenty of players who weren’t dealt at the nonwaiver deadline last Tuesday, either because they were on the disabled list, or they have 10-5 rights, or other reasons, but those players will be in play again. Some of these August acquisitions can be difference-makers. Look no further than Boston’s Cody Ross, who in 2010 was claimed by the Giants, who did it for the sole purpose of keeping him away from the Padres. Ross wound up being a postseason hero, leading the Giants to a championship.
Last season, there weren’t many impact deals made. The Tigers obtained Delmon Young from the Twins, and that may have been the biggest.
But the opportunity is there. If teams want to add some payroll, they have the chance to pick off some decent players.
Here’s a list of players who could be put on waivers:
1. Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs — He’s actually had a good year and could help someone. He’s got $42 million left on his contract and it appears highly unlikely a team would place a claim on him. So Soriano (who also has 10-5 rights) could get through waivers and then be traded, with the Cubs assuming some of the contract.
2. Vernon Wells, OF, Angels — Another bad contract (two years, $42 million remaining) and one that should clear waivers. The Angels are full in the outfield and have no use for Wells, who once again has underperformed. But for a team looking for a righthanded bat/outfielder, he could be the man.
3. Jayson Werth, OF, Nationals — He is the righthanded equivalent of Carl Crawford. Werth hasn’t come close to living up to his seven-year, $120 million deal, signed before last season. Yet, he’s a good outfielder, a righthanded bat who could help a contender.
4. Carl Crawford, LF, Red Sox — He might be facing Tommy John surgery, but while he’s active his speed and occasional power would certainly fit a lot of lineups.
5. Placido Polanco, 3B, Phillies — When he comes off the disabled list Polanco could be a sought-after player because of his experience.
6. Josh Beckett, RHP, Red Sox — The one issue the Sox will continue to have with Beckett is his 10-5 rights. Even if a team decides to claim him, Beckett gets the final say.
7. Carlos Lee, 1B, Marlins — Lee has hit only six homers between Houston and Miami. The Marlins did a lot to get him before the nonwaiver trade deadline, with Houston absorbing most of the money. Now the Marlins wouldn’t mind flipping him again. He should clear waivers.
8. Jed Lowrie, SS, Astros — The Astros (can you imagine what this team will be like in the American League next season?) are on a mission to sell. They couldn’t deal Lowrie at the trade deadline because he was on the DL, but once he returns from a sprained ankle, he could be headed elsewhere.
9. Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks — General manager Kevin Towers couldn’t make a deal in July, but as teams begin to make their August runs, Drew’s name may pop up again. When he’s placed on trade waivers, he will likely be claimed.
10. Kelly Shoppach, C, Red Sox — With Ryan Lavarnway having been called up, Shoppach becomes expendable. The Sox have held off because of Shoppach’s defense, but not sure there’s any reason to any longer. Surprising he hasn’t already been dealt considering the front office was adamant about bringing up Lavarnway.
11. Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins — The Dodgers or Giants could get aggressive and offer a pretty good bounty for Morneau. The Dodgers could still use some power at first base, where they have James Loney. The Giants could use an upgrade on Brandon Belt. Morneau has one year and $14 million remaining on his contract.
12. Matt Garza, RHP, Cubs — It appears more likely that he’s an offseason transaction, but the Cubs will likely put him on waivers, see who claims him, and what they can get back.
13. John Buck, C, Marlins — He hasn’t had the best of years, but is a solid backstop with some power. Buck could clear waivers.
14. David DeJesus, OF, Cubs — A very useful top-of-the-order hitter and good defender. DeJesus would likely get claimed, but Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will listen.
15. Randy Wolfe, LHP, Brewers — He’s a veteran guy who knows how to pitch and can handle pressure.
16. Francisco Rodriguez, RHP, Brewers – Experienced playoff reliever. Not what he used to be, but can still get big outs.
17. Michael Young, INF, Rangers — Hearing a lot of talk from scouts that Texas would make him available in a deal. Doubt anyone would put in a claim.
18. Kevin Millwood, RHP, Mariners — Like Joe Blanton, who went to the Dodgers in a waiver deal on Friday, Millwood is the type of dependable starter teams want in August. So why did the Red Sox let him go last summer?
19. Aaron Cook, RHP, Red Sox — If Cook could pitch well again, there would be a market for him. Another veteran who is capable of quality starts and keeping his team in games. The Red Sox almost had a deal done for him with the Rangers before he threw a stinker.
20. Ricky Nolasco, RHP, Marlins — Having a rough year, but if a team thinks it can turn him around, he may be worth a shot.
Apropos of something
The Red Sox are putting together a plan to advance Will Middlebrooks’s career next season. One of the problems in trying to do anything now is that Middlebrooks has been limited because of hamstring issues.
The Sox would like to be able to do some work with Middlebrooks this winter, improve his footwork, his efficiency on slow rollers to third, and his throwing. Middlebrooks has an excellent arm, but his footwork is poor.
Because the hamstring is limiting, Middlebrooks isn’t able to get down into a proper fielding stance where he’s low to the ground. He’s also not able to plant his feet on throws as he would like, so some of his throws are one-hoppers or slightly wide of the target. Middlebrooks has been fortunate to have Adrian Gonzalez, one of the best first basemen in baseball, save him from some errors.
But beyond the mechanical things, the Red Sox love what they see. Middlebrooks has tremendous power to the deepest parts of ballparks. One player he’s been likened to is Scott Rolen.
“There’s a lot to like,” said Red Sox third base coach Jerry Royster. “He has so much power. There’s no question he’s a run producer with a world of ability. He could be a real force and we have to make sure he continues to develop.”
The plan seems to be to let Middlebrooks's hamstring recover completely, then perhaps let him play some winter ball. The Sox really believe they have a special player.
Apropos of nothing
1. An interesting comparison of Ichiro Suzuki’s rookie of the year/MVP season in 2001 and Mike Trout’s season after 82 games. Ichiro: .345 BA ,129 H, 4 HRs, 39 RBIs, 73 R, 28 SBs, .373 OBP, .465 SLG. Trout: .348 BA, 116 H, 18 HRs, 55 RBIs, 81 R, 31 SBs, .410 OBP, .601 SLG.
2. Raise your hand if you thought the Mariners would be the hottest team in baseball for any stretch. The Mariners seemed to get a boost when they traded Ichiro to the Yankees, and that’s not surprising considering there was kind of a stale environment with him there. The pitcher I thought the Red Sox should get, lefthander Jason Vargas — was 5-0 in July and the AL Pitcher of the Month. Felix Hernandez and Blake Beavan were both 3-0. They were a combined 11-0 in 15 July starts.
3. Haverhill’s and Northeastern University’s Carlos Pena is embarrassed by the sub-.200 batting average he’s been sporting for the Rays most of the season. “It is so hard. It attacks your pride. It attacks your ego,” he said. “So it’s an incredible life lesson to grab that and put it aside and think about a greater picture, and think that I play for the Tampa Bay Rays and I do not play for Carlos Pena. You’ve got to set that ego aside and set that pride aside and say I only have one job to do and that’s to do everything in my power to help this ball club win. That’s a great life lesson. And that’s the attitude we all must maintain, that’s the attitude we all must embrace. Because the moment you start looking at your numbers and feeling down about the fact it doesn’t look sexy or pretty up on the board then, oh my goodness, you’re not being fair to your teammates.’’
4. The Rays hang in because they can pitch. Throwing a 1.23 ERA at their opponents on the West Coast was pretty impressive.
5. Has an organization ever put a manager in less of a position to succeed than the Red Sox did with Bobby Valentine?
6. By the way, the communication gaps that once existed between Red Sox pitching coach Bob McClure and catching guru Gary Tuck have been pretty much resolved. There’s a lot more interaction and that aspect at least is a non-issue.
7. According to a Red Sox source, Jacoby Ellsbury was upset that his name was included in trade rumors with the Rangers. The feeling is that Ellsbury likes playing for Valentine and is feeling more and more that he’d like to stay here.
8. You think the Angels, Rangers, A’s, and Mariners are licking their chops with the Astros coming to their division next season?
9. Through all the stuff that’s happened, remember this: Curt Schilling was an incredibly gifted pitcher.
Updates on nine
1. Kelly Shoppach, C, Red Sox — The Brewers had considerable interest at the deadline, but the Sox held on. Doug Melvin had designated George Kottaras for assignment and was looking for a catcher. The Sox’ front office seems to have a fascination with Shoppach that nobody understands.
2. Brad Mills, manager, Astros — How the Astros’ job comes up when speculating on possible managerial openings for next season is beyond me. Mills has had to deal with a plethora of defections on a team that wasn’t good enough to begin with. Organized and a good soldier through the purge, it would seem unfair. But it appears the Astros could be the one and only managerial opening for the coming season unless the Phillies cut ties with Charlie Manuel.
3. Terry Francona, ESPN analyst — Francona remains a big name for any managerial openings, but where could he land? The floundering Rockies could make a change. The aforementioned Mills could be gone, but would Francona want in on that situation and replace one of his best friends? He’s already managed Philadelphia, so it’s unlikely the Phillies would bring him back for a second tenure. And if the Red Sox fire Bobby Valentine, it’s another place Francona wouldn’t go, nor would Sox ownership want him back.
4. Rick Peterson, pitching coordinator, Orioles — Peterson remains a viable candidate to become a major league pitching coach next season. He’s run a very good program in the Orioles’ system. The Red Sox never considered him when choosing a pitching coach, which was a mistake. He’s made pitchers better.
5. Michael Bourn, OF, Braves — Bourn could be a free agent target of the Phillies this winter now that they’ve dealt Shane Victorino. Another likely target of the Phillies could be Jacoby Ellsbury, Denard Span of the Twins, or the Angels’ Peter Bourjos. They’re trying out John Mayberry Jr. for the remainder of the season, but the Phillies want a dynamic player.
6. Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers — There was some excitement in the air when the Rangers asked about Josh Beckett, Ellsbury, and Shoppach at the trade deadline. Maybe Hamilton to the Red Sox? Not quite. Hamilton’s name never came up. Hamilton continues to be interesting offseason fodder, however. The Dodgers and Yankees seem to stick out if the Rangers don’t re-sign him. If you’re the Red Sox, you need something to excite the masses.
7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Red Sox — There’s no doubt the Red Sox asked about interest in Saltalamacchia at the trade deadline. If Ryan Lavarnway shows he can handle the staff and hits well, the Sox will offer Saltalamacchia around again. While he’s made strides, there seems to be a ceiling on his hitting ability and defense.
8. Franklin Morales, LHP, Red Sox — Morales will create an interesting offseason decision for the Red Sox. The feeling is in order for Morales to be an effective starter over the long haul, he needs to improve his offspeed pitches. He had problems in his first go-round with the Rockies as a starter because he couldn’t command his offspeed stuff. He’s better at it now, but the stuff doesn’t match his electric fastball. “I think he’s young enough where I’d bring him to camp and really work on the offspeed stuff because he’s got the great fastball,” said one opposing GM.
9. Kevin Youkilis, 3B, White Sox — They like Youkilis but probably not enough to pick up a $13 million option on his contract. At least that’s the thinking now, according to one White Sox official. Youkilis entered Saturday hitting .246 with six homers and 22 RBIs since being acquired. Since the White Sox didn’t give up much and aren’t assuming much of his 2012 salary, they’re content with the rental.
From the Bill Chuck Files: “Both the Twins and the Padres have 17 different pitchers with at least one win.” Also, “Only one player in baseball history has had as many as the eight 100-plus RBI seasons and 20-plus stolen base seasons as Bobby Abreu and that is Barry Bonds.” And, “Jon Lester leads the majors with 18 games of three or more runs allowed this season. James Shields is next with 17.” . . . Happy birthdays to Carl Crawford (31), Eric Hinske (35), Bobby Kielty (36), John Wasdin (40), John Olerud (44), Reid Nichols (54), and Bernie Carbo (65).
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.