National League West—Buy, Sell or Stand Pat?

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San Francisco Giants

The Giants have taken pitching and defense to the extreme with an outfield that can catch the ball with anyone, can run and has almost no power production. Predictably Melky Cabrera has slowed down from his early-season pace and the Giants’ middle infield can neither hit nor field all that well. They need a bat in the middle of the infield at either second or short. I don’t believe in rumors that pop up out of nowhere, but if the Phillies are willing to concede the season, want to free up money to keep Cole Hamels and will take Brandon Crawford in exchange for him, Jimmy Rollins is from the Bay Area.

Would the Diamondbacks trade Justin Upton or Stephen Drew to a divisional rival? It depends on whether they truly think they’re still contenders. From the way they’re acting, it doesn’t appear as if they do.

Jed Lowrie would’ve been a nice addition, but he’s hurt.

The Giants don’t need much bullpen help, but GM Brian Sabean might get some anyway with a Brandon League-type arm.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Does this make any sense? The Dodgers are said to be heavy buyers and the Brewers are considering selling but the Brewers are 3 games behind the Dodgers in the loss column. The Dodgers were 42-25 on June 17th and 5 games up in their division. Since then, they’ve gone 7-19 since and are 3 games back.

But Ned Colletti is a buyer and he’s been validated in his strategy in the past. He’s willing to give up young players to get a veteran to help him win now. It sounds as if new ownership has given him the nod to go for it.

They need a starting pitcher and have been pursuing Ryan Dempster and checking in on every other available name like Zack Greinke, Hamels and whoever else. They need arms for the bullpen too, specifically a lefty like Joe Thatcher or Jose Mijares. Offensively, a first baseman who can hit the ball out of the park would significantly upgrade the offense and if the Twins are willing to eat some of his remaining contract, I’d pursue Justin Morneau. If he gets traded, I think it will be to the Dodgers.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Are they selling? Are they buying? Are they changing on the fly? Most importantly, is Kevin Towers still a “genius” as he was ridiculously called last season when the Diamondbacks won a surprising NL West title with a lot of luck?

The Diamondbacks starting pitching is a problem. Ian Kennedy won 21 games last season and is now 7-8. The big difference? Luck. His BAbip was .274 in 2011 and this season it’s .330. Daniel Hudson is out for the year with Tommy John surgery; Joe Saunders just came off the disabled list; Trevor Bauer was sent to the minors. If they’re trading Upton and intend on contending this season, they have to get a legitimate starting pitcher in the deal, one who can help them now.

Upton is so out there in trade talks that I’d like to know why the D-Backs are so desperate to trade him. He’s signed and an MVP-talent. What’s the problem?

Stephen Drew is also available. Unless they get a shortstop in return, I hope D-Backs’ fans enjoy watching Willie Bloomquist do whatever it is Willie Bloomquist does.

I don’t know what’s going on over there. I don’t know what they’re doing or what their intentions are and wouldn’t be surprised to find out that they don’t know either.

San Diego Padres

Sell, sell, sell.

The new talk is that they might keep Carlos Quentin and try to sign him, which is ridiculous. Quentin’s getting traded and they’d better do it sooner rather than later before he gets hurt again.

Chase Headley’s name is bouncing around but he’s under team control and plays a position that is hard to fill at third base. If they trade him, they’ll want 2-3 legitimate prospects.

Their bullpen is where teams are sniffing around. Thatcher is a lefty specialist that few are aware of, but is nasty. Huston Street is a hot name, but I prefer Luke Gregerson—he’s cheaper and better.

Nothing is off the table in San Diego and they’re going to be very busy as a potential kingmaker at the deadline.

Colorado Rockies

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I actually picked this team to win the NL West.

It’s a disaster and they not only have to decide what they’re doing with their players, but whether GM Dan O’Dowd is going to keep his job. If they’re making a change in the front office, does it make any sense to let the outgoing GM make important deals of veteran players and leave a potential mess for the next guy?

They’re said to want a lot of relievers Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle, both are valuable and useful for contenders. Jason Giambi would help either an NL team as a pinch hitter or an AL team as an occasional DH. Marco Scutaro is versatile all over the infield and can still hit and get on base. O’Dowd has said he’d listen on Dexter Fowler, but ownership should nix that idea. They’re going to trade Jeremy Guthrie somewhere and probably not get anywhere close to what they surrendered to get him—Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom. That’s if they get anything at all.

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I Haven’t Seen Fiction This Ridiculous Since Moneyball

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This is the problem with the proliferation of the world wide web and the hunger for information. People start preferring webhits and attention over accuracy and we see stuff like this on MLBTradeRumors with a link to Bob Nightengale writing something utterly absurd in theory and practice.

The “rumor” has the Red Sox sending Carl Crawford to the Marlins for Hanley Ramirez and Heath Bell.

Yah.

If you read the piece you see what we usually see with a rumor that has no basis in fact. Three writers chime in on it with Ken Rosenthal saying the Red Sox are “determining” Crawford’s market; Nightengale formulating this loony deal; and Buster Olney shooting it down.

Of course it was published with all the “rumors” on MLBTR.

The Red Sox calling teams to gauge their interest in trading for Carl Crawford is similar to disgraced former Senator John Edwards calling the Obama administration to gauge their interest in him becoming Secretary of State in a potential second term. There’s no harm in asking but it’s not going to happen.

It’s unclear whether Nightengale had a dream about an actual marlin talking to a man wearing nothing but red socks in Crawford, Texas and took it a few steps further to create this farce, but at least that would make sense.

Let’s calculate this deal, shall we?

Crawford, before he got to Boston, was a wonderful player, but he’s coming off an atrocious first season with the Red Sox and has just returned from multiple issues with his wrist. A rebound for a great player who’s going to be 31 in three weeks is a reasonable expectation, but Crawford’s contract is even more difficult to swallow than the concept of this fantasy disguised as a trade. Beginning in 2013, Crawford is owed $102.5 million through 2017. Do you really believe the Marlins—new ballpark and increased spending parameters or not—are going to take that amount of money? And if you think sending Ramirez (owed $31.5 million in 2013-2014) and Bell ($18 million for 2013-2014) to the Red Sox will make the deal more tolerable, here’s the math: the Marlins will be taking on an extra $53 million.

Do you really think that’s going to happen? Really?

As for the Red Sox, why would they do this? Yes, they can use Ramirez and have long coveted him going back to the days when Theo Epstein had “resigned” in a power struggle and snit with his boss/father figure/mentor/nemesis Larry Lucchino and Ramirez was traded to the Marlins to get Josh Beckett against Epstein’s better judgment. He tried to get him back multiple times and the Red Sox could use a shortstop who’d mash the Green Monster, but what are they going to do with Bell? Add in that manager Bobby Valentine is already having trouble with several Red Sox veterans and you’re going to drop the pouty nuisance Bell and the lazy Ramirez into the toxic stew? All of this is before getting to the fact that over the first four months of the season, Bell has been about as bad as a big league pitcher can possibly be.

How can this be taken seriously?

Could the Marlins and Red Sox consider doing something drastic after the season if their 2012 results aren’t what was expected? Yes. If Crawford plays well for the rest of the season and is healthy, I’m quite sure both he and the Red Sox wouldn’t mind a parting of the ways. The Marlins are open to trading anyone and everyone if it makes sense and no one on the roster is safe. But this? Now? Ridiculous.

It’s one thing if a blogger or some idiot on Twitter comes up with a rumor, portrays himself as an insider, promotes it and garners attention as a result, but these are supposedly “credible” reporters with “contacts” inside baseball and they’re providing the masses with what amounts to a narcotic designed to give them a fix of “rumors” for the day. Whether or not it’s something that cannot and would not happen is irrelevant.

If you want fiction, read Philip Roth; if you want to be fed garbage, go to McDonalds; but please don’t enable this sludge. It’s a lie and you’re being played for fools.

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ESPN, Hamels and the Home Run Derby—Consume Your Empty Calories

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Anderson Cooper just came out of the closet—TheDailyBeast.com.

It’s no issue to me one way or the other.

If he worked for ESPN he probably would’ve done it as a part of the promotional carpetbombing for the All-Star Home Run Derby (brought to you by State Farm).

You’re being fed empty calories of the mind.

Only the people that started ESPN know if their initial intent over 30 years ago was to create a go-to place for sports information. They were visionaries in the explosion of cable TV at a time when wide swaths of the country and world didn’t have it and didn’t know what it was.

There’s a possibility that they were hoping to make a load of money with the endeavor and get out.

It’s doubtful that they were looking that far ahead, but it’s possible.

Of course that’s led to sports content based on public demand that has little-to-nothing to do with sports news.

The network has developed into a cash machine and a caricature of what a sports network that focuses on sports should be. It’s an embarrassing comedy skit. And it’s real.

Presumably it was inevitable when corporate fealty supersedes evenhanded information and analysis.

During last night’s Mets-Dodgers game the inundation of marketing for the insipid Home Run Derby was such that there was a mention of it at every possible opening. Anyone who simply wanted to watch the game was a captive audience and, like something out of A Clockwork Orange, there was no alternative but to watch.

I could almost see the copy placed in front of the broadcasters and hear the control room telling them to talk about the Home Run Derby. Repeatedly there were discussions of this ridiculous and boring display as if we’re supposed to invest ourselves in it from now until it takes place and then eagerly wait until next year to do it all over again.

The new twist is that we’re back in the schoolyard waiting to see who the cool kids select. Who will team captains Robinson Cano and Matt Kemp pick?

Who cares?

ESPN constantly referred to it; the people in the booth Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Terry Francona along with the sideline reporter Buster Olney relentlessly talked about and dissected it as if they really cared about it and weren’t doing what they were told by the network. There were polls for the fans and other interactive gimmicks to generate webhits, viewers, texting fees and other money-accumulating tactics.

Give MLB and ESPN credit for turning the days before the All-Star Game—days that were generally languid affairs—into a way to make a lot of money. Taking their cue from the NFL in terms of gouging fans with junk they don’t need, it’s the American way.

But don’t think for a second that ESPN is still a sports-centric entity. They want money and don’t care how they get it. In the ESPN era, the line between athletes and media is non-existent. Everything is about content designed to generate cash. That’s why you see stories about Tim Tebow and, if you’re paying attention, wonder why there’s a story about Tebow in the middle of the summer when there’s nothing happening with him or the Jets. That’s why there will be rampant discussion of Bryce Harper or Tiger Woods whether they’re doing something worth talking about.

And then there are the trending topics based on what people are searching for through their websearch engines.

Even though the Phillies are performing their due diligence and preparing for the possibility of putting Cole Hamels on the market, there will be endless stories of the “rumors” of Hamels’s potential destinations if and when he’s traded.

In reality, the Phillies are not going to trade Hamels until July 30-31st if they trade him at all. They’re going to wait until then to see where they are in the standings and how they’re playing. They’ll gauge the market, their chances for a playoff run and how Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay are coming back from injuries. The Phillies are just as likely to be buyers at the deadline looking for bullpen help, another starter and a bat as they are to trade Hamels.

The guess here is that if the Phillies are within single digits of a playoff spot, they’ll hold onto their players and be buyers. If they’re facing a double-digit deficit and their veteran players aren’t performing, they’ll sell.

The ambiguity gives the websites—ESPN, MLB Trade Rumors, MLB.com and the team websites—time to blast their webhits up and spur the conversation of what “might” happen. With the increased webhits go increased advertising dollars.

As for the argument that they’re giving the people what they want, if the population is inundated with coverage of an event, a segment of that population is going to purchase it or pay attention to it. Social media like Twitter and Facebook increase the demand regardless of accuracy. That’s why you’ll see as many as five different “rumors” from five different outlets all in one article or blog posting and it doesn’t matter how ridiculous some of them are or that they’re coming from nowhere with imagined “sources” as their catalyst.

It’s circular. It’s an infomercial that they hide with the shady, “It’s what the people are asking for.” But if they’re hypnotizing the viewers into asking for it by hammering them over the head, are they asking for it or are they being tricked?

It’s this type of thing that can drive a person mad.

The key is that the person is still paying attention.

Load up on the brain-sugar. It’s not adding anything of value, but so what? It will satiate your hunger. Never mind if it makes your head fat. You don’t care and, as a result, nor do those feeding you.

Eat up!

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Has Ruben Amaro Jr. Met Jim Thome?

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Ruben Amaro Jr. says some of the most ridiculous things in explaining his bizarre decisions.

The quote clipped from this posting on MLB Trade Rumors about the Phillies looking to trade Jim Thome follows:

The ideal situation right now, because he can’t really play defense in the National League, would be for Jim to play in the American League,” Amaro said. “He still has the ability to win a game for us and be productive off the bench. The problem is, the further away he gets from regular at-bats, the more difficult it becomes for him to do that.”

Has Amaro met Thome? Is he forgetting that he signed him last fall and could’ve uttered the above quote verbatim as an explanation of why he wasn’t going to sign him? The thought that Thome could play some first base was ridiculous and, as expected, he’s not happy as a pure pinch-hitter. He can still produce and there are teams—my money’s on the Blue Jays—that can use him.

The Phillies shouldn’t have signed him in the first place.

This might be characterized as the beginning of a potential Phillies’ sell-off. Chase Utley returned to action on Wednesday and the team promptly lost the next two games to the Pirates. But I don’t see any connection between the decision to shop Thome and a housecleaning. It’s more of a similar admission from Amaro that he made a mistake. While not as drastic as when he traded Cliff Lee for prospects and acquired Roy Halladay, then had to bolster the starting rotation the next summer by getting Roy Oswalt and re-signed Lee the next winter, it’s still a do-over.

Amaro’s lucky that the Ryan Madson deal he was said to have offered—link—didn’t go through. After Madson signed with the Reds and got hurt with Tommy John surgery, there would’ve been no fixing that with a “whoops, never mind” and the Phillies would be in even worse shape than they are now.

And where they are now isn’t particularly good either.

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Chase Headley Is More Valuable Than…

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Chase Headley is an affordable and versatile switch hitter. He can run, has some power and plays good defense whether it’s at third base or the outfield. He can probably play first base relatively well. He’s not a free agent until after the 2014 season so any team that has him will have him for the foreseeable future at a very reasonable price.

He’s a nice player. He’s a pretty good player.

But this posting on MLB Trade Rumors implies, based on Fangraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement (WAR), that he’s something more than a pretty good player. It says specifically that Headley is the 13th most valuable position player in baseball.

This exemplifies a problem with WAR. It gives information that may or may not be accurate, relevant or in the proper context.

Does value equal worth?

In other words, it may be accurate that Headley is that good in this framework, but is it true? Is it fair?

Based on fWAR, yes Headley was the 13th “most valuable” player in baseball. (He’s dropped since the posting.)

But salary aside, would you rather have Headley instead of some of the players currently behind him in the list? Headley instead of Carlos Beltran? Instead of Brett Lawrie? Mark Trumbo? Jose Bautista? Joe Mauer?

Headley might hit for more power if he was in a friendlier home park, but don’t expect him to suddenly morph from what he is—10-12 homers a year—into Asdrubal Cabrera and have a wondrous jump in power to 25 homers.

Looking at other Padres’ players who’ve gone on to play in fairer parks—Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Mike Cameron—their power numbers have been the same or worse.

When in PetCo Park, the pitchers are aware of how difficult it is to hit a home run; that Headley hits a lot of balls up the middle which make it harder for him to hit home runs. They’re more likely to feed him pitches they wouldn’t if he were playing in a smaller park.

The dimensions of the park are static; the pitching strategy is variable.

Not unlike the oft-repeated and woefully inaccurate lament that if X player wasn’t caught stealing prior to Y player’s home run they would’ve had 2 runs rather than 1, it’s not taking into account that the entire pitching sequence would’ve been different and might’ve yielded an entirely different result.

It’s indicative of a lack of in-the-trenches knowledge to take fWAR—or any stat for that matter—at face value. Similar to those who said they’d stay away from Yu Darvish or Aroldis Chapman because of prior failures with Japanese and Cuban free agents; or the concept that because a tall catcher like Mauer has never made it as a star player then he’s not going to be a star player; or the Moneyball farce that college pitchers are a better option than high school pitchers, it’s a false “proof” based on floating principles that remove experience and baseball sense from the decisionmaking process.

Stats are important but not the final word. If you take seriously the idea that Headley is the 13th most valuable position player in baseball and judge him on that, quite bluntly, you don’t know anything about baseball and need to learn before putting your opinion out there as final. And if you knowingly twist the facts, that makes it worse because instead of full disclosure—statistical and otherwise—in spite of the possibility of them watering down your argument, you’re spiritually altering them to “prove” a nonexistent point. That’s not honesty. It’s agenda-driven and self-interested at the expense of the truth.

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Courageous Anonymity

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This item from MLB Trade Rumors caught my eye:

A National League talent evaluator thinks the Mets should give some thought to trading R.A. Dickey while his value is skyhigh.  The Mets don’t have the money to make the deadline upgrades that they need, so they could instead continue with their three- or four-year plan by making the right-hander available.

An anonymous NL talent evaluator suggests that the Mets should think about trading one of the best stories in baseball; a pitcher who has overcome tremendous odds, injuries, a genetic deformity, sexual abuse as a child and bounced from team-to-team learning an almost-impossible pitch to master; wrote a book and has become a gate attraction everywhere he goes; and is on track to start the All-Star game.

Is that about right?

This is the problem with anonymity; with the suggestions of those who aren’t in a position of power to make any maneuvers; with those who are commenting about complex terms and teams they don’t work for with cut-and-dried simplicity.

Let’s just say the Mets follow this advice. What are they going to get for Dickey that would make it worth the public relations hit? Dickey is 37 and is signed for 2013 at a ridiculously cheap rate of $5 million. Knuckleballers last far longer than conventional pitchers and even if Dickey can’t keep up his current pace (and he can’t), there’s reason to believe that he could be an 180-215 inning pitcher until he’s 42-years-old. That’s five years away.

Are the Mets going to get a package that would replicate that? What would the fans think?

Dickey has become a symbol to Mets fans not because he’s come from the scrapheap to burgeoning star at a late age, but because he never gave up and kept pushing and pushing through endless adversity while refusing to surrender his dream and belief in himself to persevere and make it when few thought he would; when few were willing to give him a chance as anything other than a desperate afterthought or Triple A insurance.

Amid all the suffering endured by Mets’ fans, there’s hope that things are going to get better; that the team will win; that they’re on the right track.

That mirrors Dickey and his life.

Would any return on a Dickey trade be enough even if they get functional big league players ready to contribute in 2013-2015?

It’s very easy for someone to say that teams should do “this” or “that” when not in a position of power to make those decisions. But running a club isn’t about finding players and crafting a roster alone. It’s not a computer or a stat sheet or a game of fantasy baseball. A baseball team is a product. The customer must be kept happy. Mets’ fans have accepted that the team is in the midst of a rebuild and that rebuild is going far better than expected. Trading Dickey would unravel much of the goodwill they’ve accrued and alienate a segment of the fanbase—a fanbase that doesn’t need a nudge to spend their time and money elsewhere.

It reminds me of the caller to Mike Francesa’s show that said he would, in no uncertain terms, tell Jorge Posada that because the left-handed pitcher on the mound was worse against lefties than righties that the switch-hitting Posada was going to bat left-handed against him.

Ignoring that Posada is a borderline Hall of Famer and that this would be considered an insult for a manager, coach or teammate to make such a demand let alone some guy who’d never picked up a baseball and equated understanding out-of-context numbers with an expertise to do such a thing, but Posada’s irascible demeanor and quick trigger temper would make it dangerous to this would-be executive.

He’s going to “tell” Posada to do this?

He’d better be able to take a punch or wear a protective cup under his khakis.

I don’t know who this “evaluator” that thinks the Mets should consider trading Dickey is (if the person even exists), but my evaluation of your evaluation isn’t hidden by anonymity. Here it is: You don’t know anything and wouldn’t have the nerve to put into action that which you advocate if you were in a position to do so. It’s time for you to re-evaluate because your evaluations are ridiculous on and off the field.

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Mid-Season Trade Candidates—Francisco Liriano

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Name: Francisco Liriano

Tale of the tape: Left-handed pitcher; 28-years-old (29 in October); 6’2”; 215 lbs.

Contract status: $5.5 million in 2012; free agent after the season.

Would the Twins trade him?

Liriano is going to get traded. The Twins are terrible and need to replenish their farm system. Apart from a sprinkled in solid performance and 2010’s 14-10 showing with a 3.62 ERA and 201 strikeouts, he’s pitched inconsistently at best since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2008.

In 2012, he was demoted to the bullpen after a rotten start. He’s pitched better since becoming a starter again. His velocity has been in the 93-94 range but he’s lacking command with his fastball. It makes no sense for the Twins to keep him this season; if they’re truly interested in bringing him back, they can trade him and try to re-sign him this winter.

What would they want for him?

A couple of minor leaguers, preferably pitchers. The Twins can ask for high-end prospects and see if anyone bites.

Which teams would pursue him?

20 of the 30 big league clubs have a viable reason to go after Liriano because he can be used as a starter or a reliever.

The Yankees don’t need him as a starter now, but trading for Liriano and using him as a set-up man would give them another lefty reliever—one that has a down and in slider to handle righties.

The Red Sox would want him as a starter.

Expect the Twins to try and create a bidding war—complete with the leaks suggesting that both teams are “closing in” on a deal for Liriano—between the Yankees and Red Sox.

Name any contending team and they can all use Liriano.

What will they get for him?

Because he’s a free agent at the end of the season and is versatile, Liriano could make a huge difference to the team that gets him. With that in mind, the Twins might get a couple of pretty good prospects for him.

What will happen?

The Yankees have long coveted Liriano and I think that’s where he ends up. They’ll use him as a reliever and work on convincing him that he should sign for 2013 with an eye on being a starter.

Hiroki Kuroda is a free agent at the end of the season; Andy Pettitte is a question mark as to whether he’ll keep pitching. (I’d bet that he will.)

Who knows what’s going to happen with Michael Pineda? Even if he pitches in 2013, he’s going to be on a strict pitch count/innings limit.

It would benefit Liriano to pitch as a reliever down the stretch and in the playoffs in 2012 and remain with the Yankees on a 1-year, incentive-laden deal as a starter in 2013 to accumulate wins and pitch for a high-scoring contender.

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Mid-Season Trade Candidates—Kevin Youkilis

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Name: Kevin Youkilis
Tale of the tape: 1B/3B; 33-years-old; bats right; throws right; 6’1”; 220 lbs.
Contract status: $12 million in 2012; $13 million club option for 2013 with a $1 million buyout.

Would the Red Sox trade him?

Barring injury to Will Middlebrooks, Adrian Gonzalez or David Ortiz, they’re going to trade Youkilis somewhere.

What would they want for him?

Whatever they can get.

Perhaps they can move him for a player who’s not performing well with his current club but could be of use to the Red Sox like a Grant Balfour or Ryan Roberts.

Even if they pay the rest of his 2012 salary, they’re not going to get much of a prospect for him.

Which teams would pursue him?

The Orioles have been mentioned in certain circles, but I doubt the Red Sox are going to trade him in the division.

Casey Kotchman has been a disaster with the Indians and they could slot Youkilis in at first base. The AL Central is winnable for them and Youkilis might be a change-of-scenery player who goes on a tear (if he’s healthy) once he’s out of Boston.

The White Sox have been playing Brent Morel and Orlando Hudson at third base and neither one has hit or played particularly good defense.

It would be an admission that they were wr-wr-wr-wrong (think Fonzie from Happy Days), but the Tigers could get Youkilis and put Miguel Cabrera where he belongs—in the DH spot.

Gaby Sanchez has been atrocious for the Marlins but putting Youkilis in that hair-trigger clubhouse is a bad idea.

The Phillies might make one last desperation move on Youkilis to try and save the season before taking offers on Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino.

The Pirates are an intriguing option because they’re hovering around contention and could use a veteran with name recognition and send a signal that they’re serious about winning without giving up the farm.

The Cardinals could use insurance for their questionable status at first base as they wait (hope) for Lance Berkman to come back; David Freese has had frequent injuries in his career and Youkilis is insurance for that.

It would be an odd acquisition for the Cubs, but Theo Epstein knows Youkilis and they’re not giving up on 2013 in spite of the rebuild they’re planning. They can try and steal a Wild Card next season while simultaneously stocking the farm system by trading other veterans on their roster.

Both the Dodgers and Diamondbacks could use a corner infield bat.

The Athletics would be a weird landing spot but given the bizarre moves made by Billy Beane—clearing out the house of his starting rotation and closer and signing Yoenis Cespedes and Manny Ramirez—maybe he’d like to get his hands on the player he coveted back when Moneyball was believed to be reality. The Greek God of Walks was almost an A when Beane was taking the Red Sox job and Paul DePodesta was going to be the new A’s GM. Youkilis was the compensation for Beane being let out of his A’s contract. But Beane backed out on the Red Sox and Youkilis became a star in Boston.

The A’s need a first baseman and with their young pitching and needs at first and third base, they could trade for Youkilis and renegotiate his 2013 option to sign him for a couple of years. He might be rejuvenated as a fiery leader and dirt-caked, win at all costs type to show the young team how it’s done.

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Mid-Season Trade Candidates—Cole Hamels

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Name: Cole Hamels

Tale of the tape: 28-years-old; bats left; throws left; 6’3; 200 lbs.

Contract status: $9.5 million salary for 2012; free agent at the end of the season.

Would the Phillies trade him?

Earlier in the season, there was no chance they’d deal him. The talk of a mid-season selloff for the Phillies was suggested by websites and “insiders” in the interests of generating webhits. It stemmed from a paucity of other things to write about. Now that’s no longer the case.

The Phillies have played poorly and are still waiting for Ryan Howard and Chase Utley to return from injury with no concrete dates for their comebacks and no justifiable expectation of what they’ll provide or that the Phillies will be in contention when they do return.

Roy Halladay is on the disabled list and won’t be back until late July at the earliest.

In recent years the Phillies have been unabashed buyers at the deadline, but their injuries, age, demolished farm system and dwindling hopes to contend are making doubling and tripling down an exponential mistake and will speed their teamwide decline. Are they willing to keep Hamels and hope that he’ll stay as a free agent? Hamels has given no indication that he’ll provide a hometown discount and paying him $140-$160 million isn’t the soundest financial decision for the Phillies. Their payroll is bursting as it is and they have to draw the line somewhere. That somewhere is increasingly looking like it will be Hamels’s contract demands.

It’s unlikely that they trade him, but if they’re hopelessly behind in both the division and the Wild Card, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has to listen.

What would they want for him?

If they’re trading Hamels, they’ll have a hole in their rotation for 2013 and would need a young starter who could—at the very least—slot in behind Halladay, Cliff Lee and Vance Worley immediately. They also need a bat that can play third base, second base or centerfield.

Which teams would pursue and have the prospects to get him?

Forget the National League East. The Phillies aren’t trading him within the division no matter what they’re offered. They’d prefer to send him to the American League if they can help it, but would send him to a National League club if their season is lost.

The Yankees, Orioles, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays, Indians, Tigers, White Sox, Angels, Cardinals, Pirates, Giants and Dodgers could all do it.

Would Hamels sign with the team that trades for him and forego free agency?

At this point, it makes no sense. But if a team comes up with the money and blows the other clubs out of the water as a preemptive financial strike, why not? The Dodgers are a team to watch in this regard because they have a new ownership and will be looking to make a splash, win in 2012 and put a team together that their fans can buy tickets to see for years to come.

What will happen.

I don’t think the Phillies are going to give up on the season under most circumstances. If things really spiral out of control and they’re trailing in both the division and Wild Card by double digits, they have to deal him.

That’s hard to see happening, but it’s possible.

What teams that are interested in Hamels should do (and presumably are doing) is to call Amaro and let him know they want Hamels and he should start thinking—in an act of due diligence—about which prospects he wants in exchange.

A month-and-a-half ago, it was a fantasy to suggest that the Phillies would be deadline sellers. 45 days of uninspiring baseball, the still-awaited returns of Howard and Utley and Halladay’s trip to the disabled list may not have put Hamels on the table, but he’s a specialty item on the menu available for a hefty price and contingent on the environment.

The Phillies’ environment is growing dark.

That dark will put Hamels in play.

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Amaro Will Double Down

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In this MLBTradeRumors posting linking a Jim Salisbury piece on CSNPhilly.com, Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is quoted as implying that there’s a possibility that the Phillies could be sellers at the trading deadline rather than the big ticket buyers they’ve been over the past five years.

In that time, the Phillies acquired Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence. Amaro is in on anyone and everyone and is willing to gut the farm system to get them.

The 2012 Phillies are ravaged by injuries and playing terribly. Could Amaro really decide to make wholesale changes by dealing Shane Victorino and Cole Hamels?

Forget it.

If he did, he wouldn’t get a ton for either. In fact, somewhat surprisingly, he’d extract more for Victorino than he would for Hamels because Victorino would be an easier signing to keep. Hamels wants to get paid and an interested team would have to give up the prospects to make it worth the Phillies’ while, simultaneously aware of what it’s going to cost to sign Hamels as a free agent.

It’s far more likely that Amaro doubles down and tries to fix the club’s problems by trading for a bat and/or bullpen arm (Carlos Lee, Denard Span, Carlos Quentin if he ever plays, Brandon League); or signing someone (Oswalt) than for him to concede the season.

Amaro tried the “win now and build for the future” approach when he traded away Lee in the series of trades that brought Roy Halladay and several prospects back to the Phillies in December of 2009. It hasn’t worked out yet.

At mid-season 2010 with the club floundering at 48-46 and 7 games out of first place on July 21st, there was talk that pending free agent Jayson Werth would be traded with a deal sending him to the Rays supposedly in place.

Fate stepped in as Victorino got hurt and, with no other capable centerfielder on the roster, they had to keep Werth.

Under siege for having traded Lee, Amaro took the unusual step of essentially admitting his mistake and bolstered the starting rotation by trading for Oswalt.

From there, they went on a 49-19 tear to finish at 97-65 and win the NL East again. They lost in the NLCS to the Giants.

The Phillies are still selling out their games. With the extra Wild Card, their starting pitching and the eventual returns of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, Amaro won’t toss the season unless they’re 20 games under .500 as the trading deadline approaches.

That’s not going to happen.

There won’t be a sell-off. In fact, Amaro is probably willing to deal the Phillies’ remaining marketable prospects (Domonic Brown, Phillippe Aumont, Trevor May) to get help.

Considering the advanced age of their roster and the rapidly closing window to win with this current group, it makes no sense to build for the future. They’re heading for a long lull of rebuilding. There’s no reason to exacerbate it by giving up on 2012.

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