Who Won’t Be Traded At The Deadline?

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Everyone’s coming up with their lists of players who are going to be available or traded at the upcoming MLB trading deadline. I’ve been doing it too and will continue up to the big day, but there are also names floating around that come from anonymous (possibly nonexistent) sources; have reasons to possibly be on the block but actually aren’t; or are pulled out of the air by rumormongers because they can’t think of anything else to write or talk about.

Here are some of the players that are implied to be available, but aren’t and won’t be traded.

Josh Willingham, Twins

The Twins are ready to deal but they’re not going to get rid of every big league player on the roster. They just signed Willingham this past winter, he’s paid reasonably and they wouldn’t get much for him if they did decide to trade him. The days of teams taking on big contracts and giving up significant prospects are over and the Twins aren’t going to pay any of Willingham’s salary.

He’s 33 and is signed through 2014 at $7 million per year. He’s either more valuable for the Twins to keep or to look to trade as the contract winds down.

The Twins aren’t going to have the stomach to rebuild the team completely in an expansion-franchise sense. Willingham can help them in the next two seasons and he’s a good influence on the younger players.

Justin Upton, Diamondbacks

I understand the thinking that the Diamondbacks might listen. Managing general partner Ken Kendrick called Upton out for his mediocre play and GM Kevin Towers listened to offers on Upton shortly after taking over. There’s a logic to doing something drastic when a team with high expectations is struggling, but Upton is only 24 (25 in August); is signed at a reasonable rate ($38.5 million from 2013-2015); and the Diamondbacks still have a good shot at the playoffs despite their poor start.

Upton has a no-trade clause to four teams: the Tigers, A’s, Indians and Royals.

Other teams will call and ask; as he should, Towers might listen to what the offers are; but Upton’s not getting moved.

Alex Gordon, Royals

He’s finally found a defensive home in left field; he’s signed through 2015; is hitting better after a bad luck-infused start; and the Royals aren’t doing the “we’re rebuilding” thing and dumping any and all veterans.

The Royals have something positive building in spite of their stimulus response critics. Gordon is a part of that.

Felix Hernandez, Mariners

They’re not trading him. Forget it.

It’s partially because the Mariners have a load of pitching on the roster and on the way up and need a veteran leader to front the rotation when they’re ready to move from terrible to mediocre to (someday) pretty good, but if they’re letting Ichiro Suzuki go after this season, they don’t want to alienate the fanbase entirely by dumping two fan favorites within months of one another.

Tim Lincecum, Giants

There’s a logic to the idea. He’s been bad this season, somewhat unlucky and his velocity is down. Lincecum is a free agent after the 2013 season and has shown no inclination to sign a long-term deal for one penny less than market value.

One thing that flashed through my head was Cole Hamels and one of the Phillies’ minor league arms (Phillippe Aumont, Trevor May) for Lincecum. The Giants would get an ace (pitching like an ace) for the rest of the season and a young pitcher; the Phillies would have Lincecum for this year and next.

But the Giants aren’t going to trade their most popular and marketable player regardless of how poor he’s going.

David Wright, Mets

Wright is having an MVP-quality season and is back to the player he was until the Mets moved into Citi Field and turned Wright into a nervous wreck who altered his swing and approach to account for the stadium’s dimensions. The Mets are hovering around contention and aren’t drawing well. Trading Wright would throw the white flag up on the season. That’s not going to happen.

He’s signed for 2013 at $16 million and the Mets are going to give him an extension comparable to Ryan Zimmerman’s with the Nationals. He’s going nowhere.

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Mid-Season Trade Candidates for 2012—Felix Hernandez

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Every year at around this time, I pick a few players who normally wouldn’t be available on the trade market and envision scenarios in which they’ll be dealt.

In the past two years, I’ve been right on two who were considered untouchable—Dan Haren and Ubaldo Jimenez.

Let’s spend Christmas with postings on players who fit this profile for mid-season 2012 and start with Mariners righty Felix Hernandez.

The Mariners are still getting calls on Hernandez and they’ll continue to get calls on Hernandez.

Until the Mariners are in a position where they need Hernandez to compete, teams will puruse him; at some point, the answer may change from “not available” to “I’ll listen” and they’ll let it be known he can be had.

How could it happen?

There are ways.

GM Jack Zduriencik could decide that his best asset will yield the biggest return and a team like the Yankees gets crazy and offer 4-5 players for him; or—and this is the most likely scenario—Hernandez grows frustrated with working so hard for a team with no chance of contending and seeing his prime years go to waste that he quietly asks to be moved.

That’s the key word: quiet.

If it’s out there that Hernandez is in play, the Mariners have to trade him; if it’s kept quiet, they can sift through the offers and make a decision based on what best fits their needs.

The Mariners are sort of on the right track and have been sabotaged by bad luck, tragedy and mistaken judgments both personal and professional. Dustin Ackley’s going to be a star; Michael Pineda is an impressive power arm; unless ownership forces Zduriencik to keep him, they’re going to be free from Ichiro Suzuki in the near future as the mercurial right fielder’s contract is up after 2012; and right now, they’re in the market to spend some money on Prince Fielder.

But the Angels and Rangers are tough competition and by June or July, the frustration could lead to the point of the pitcher saying enough’s enough.

And I think it’s going to happen. He’s signed through 2014 and he’s coveted. The Mariners can rebuild the team in one shot if they get the right package and judging from what the Padres were able to pry loose from the Reds for Mat Latos and what the A’s got from the Nationals for Gio Gonzalez, Hernandez could acquire a greater bounty of blue-chip players.

For a team that’s unlikely to contend for 2012 and probably 2013, what good will it do them to have Hernandez fronting the rotation in his contract year of 2014 when they might—might—be ready to make a playoff run?

It wouldn’t. Hernandez is never going to be more valuable to them than he will be in July of 2012 and if they’re hovering around .500 or worse and out of the race in an impossible division, it makes sense to move him for a group of players who will assist them in multiple areas when they are ready to win.

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The Joakim Soria Trade Rumors

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Various rumors have suggested that several teams including the Blue Jays and Red Sox have been pursuing Royals reliever Joakim Soria.

According to Jays Journal, the Blue Jays are actually interested in Greg Holland instead of Soria.

With the possibility of adding Yu Darvish and their recent trade for Sergio Santos, the Blue Jays surrendering top prospects from their farm system for Soria would make little sense when they’re also going to need a bat.

The Red Sox pursuit is more logical, but given the past demands of Royals GM Dayton Moore for Soria, it’s not clear what the Red Sox have left in their system to give the Royals to make it worthwhile.

Soria is a very good reliever with a fastball and wicked off-speed curve; he’s signed through 2014 with team-friendly club options at $6 million in 2012; $8 million in 2013; and $8.75 million in 2014. There are buyouts each year at $750,000.

He has a limited no-trade clause that can block deals to the Phillies, Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Rockies and Braves. Some have suggested that the teams on the list indicate a reluctance to pitch in high-pressure environments; it’s more likely that he didn’t want to sign a long-term deal that that fit into the Royals financial situation and then see that used as a lever to extract a sizable chunk of the minor league systems of the Yankees or Red Sox because of his relatively low salary.

In the past, Moore has implied that the cost for Soria would be steep—two young starting pitchers for example.

The Yankees could absolutely get Soria and pay Moore’s demands, but they’re not going to do it when a package slightly larger than what Moore’s asking for Soria could conceivably pry Felix Hernandez away from the Mariners. The Mariners have steadfastly resisted the Yankees aggressive pursuit of Hernandez, but with the AL West now the home to two powerhouses and the Mariners rebuild going slower than expected, they probably aren’t going to contend until 2014 at the earliest; once they realize they have no chance to win for the foreseeable future, are confronted with Hernandez’s increasing unhappiness and come to grips with the reality that Hernandez is diminishing in value like a new car as soon as it’s off the lot, they’ll be more agreeable to dealing him.

The Red Sox don’t have the organizational depth to get anyone of note anymore.

The Blue Jays do, but Soria would be something of a luxury item for them since they have a closer and other, more pressing needs.

The Royals demoted Soria from his closer’s role at mid-season and signed Jonathan Broxton earlier this winter, so they’re presumably willing to trade Soria; whether the demands have decreased or not and how desperate teams become will determine whether or not he does get moved.

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