Our new left fielder will be...
In spite of the surprising resurgence of the Cubs this season, I think we all agree that the team could do with a few upgrades here and there. They could use another outfielder, maybe another bat off the bench, and probably a relief pitcher or two. Lately, it's the outfielder that's warranted most of the speculation, as the Cubs are reportedly interested in Preston "Gah" Wilson, and Gary Sheffield. But, as I said over on my blog, I don't think Hendry will go for either. After all, Jim Hendry has historically been inclined to usually go for a big bat rather than a big name, and there very well may be younger, cheaper bats available that could provide the same offense. So, to prove my point, I'm going to take a look at the league and see what teams are out of it, and whether or not they have any players who might be available for trade.
In the American League, there are really only three teams that are truly out of it: the D-Rays, Royals, and A's. Seattle is on the border; they're about 7 games out of the wild card. (But if we can believe the Cubs might win the division, in spite of a 6.5 game deficit, then we have to accept that Seattle can battle back, too.)
Earlier this year, it was written that the D-Rays might be impossible to trade with. They are already the cheapest team in baseball. They don't have any players who are too expensive. And they have a manager who's already pissed because the team hasn't tried hard enough to Win Now. Unfortunately, no one there is playing well enough to win, ever. Take Aubrey Huff. The past two years, the guy has averaged more than 30 homers and 100 RBI in a season. This year, not so much. Maybe he's missing his human growth hormone injections?
Then again, he could just be having a slow start (like usual). His value could be down, so he could be available. I'd also still like to see the Cubs pursue Danys Baez, but he's also having a pretty crappy LaTroy-like year. Again, that just might mean he's available, if anyone would actually want his 9 saves and 6 blowns.
The Royals, another crappy team, have seemingly little to nothing to offer by way of a good bat. The only hitter that's at all interesting is Emil Brown, a 30-year-old right fielder making the league minimum who has 7 homers, 34 RBI, and is batting .285 with an OPS of .835. Hardly a viable choice, Brown is playing waaaay above his head and I wouldn't count on him to carry my groceries up a flight of stairs. (In 590 career at bats, Brown is batting .227 with an OPS of .669.)
The Royals also have little in the way of pitching. Their best reliever is Rule 5 draftee Andy Sisco, who has a 2.36 ERA in 34.1 innings pitched. (Oops, looks like the Cubs should've kept this one, although I bet he's just a lefty Farnsworth.) Their next best reliever is Mike Wood, who has a 3.79 ERA. He also looks a lot like Terry Adams, the poor bastard.
The A's are also hurting for some offense. Their best hitting outfielder so far is Bobby Kielty, a 28-year old who's never had more than 289 at bats in a season. So far this year, he's batting .289 with a .401 OBP. Again, I wouldn't count on him for an offensive upgrade, although he'd probably be better on the bench than Hollandsworth. They also have Eric Byrnes, who was a rumored interest the Cubs had at one point in the season. He's batting .258 with only 6 homeruns and 20 RBI thus far.
What the A's do have is good relief pitching, in names like Justin Duchscherer, a 27-year-old reliever with an ERA of 1.64 in 33 innings pitched, Huston Street, a 21-year-old with a 1.59 ERA (I suspect it's highly unrealistic that he's leaving Oakland anytime soon), and lefty target="new">Ricardo Rincon, a 35-year-old with a 3.12 ERA this year and 3.44 in his career.
These are, from my perspective, many of the few worthwhile players of terrible teams in the AL. The NL is a bit of a different story.
While many teams in the NL are still in it (especially in the East), there are a handful of teams that are playing for nothing but pride. These include the Astros, Reds, Giants, and Rockies.
The Astros don't have much that I think they'd part with, at least not offensively. Their outfield especially is probably offhands. Furthermore, because they're in the same division, and often times are competitive with each other, I doubt even more that Houston would deal anyone to Chicago.
Except maybe Roger Clemens, assuming they want to trade him at all. Because if they want to trade him at all, they'd probably want to trade him anywhere, although I suspect the Rocket has a no-trade clause anyway. I'm still betting he returns to the Yankees, although I'd love to see the Mercinary back in Boston.
Over in Cincy, the Reds have a large, painful contract attached to a large guy often in pain. But he's healthy this year, at least for now, and he'd probably be a better bat than Corey Patterson, should he stay healthy. Yes, I'm talking about Ken Griffey Jr. He's 35, has a huge contract, is on pace for 27 homers, 106 RBI, and is batting .272. Not a great choice, but hell, I'd trust him more than Corey, should he stay healthy. But I'd rather take Adam Dunn off their hands. Dunn is 25, a left handed left fielder, and he's on pace for 42 homers, 123 walks, and 172 strikeouts. The Reds don't have much by way of relief pitchers, except for Kent "Jackass" Mercker, who has an ERA of 2.86, so we'll just let that lie.
The Giants have few interesting hitters. Their best left fielder is old, juiced, and injured. And Moises Alou remains a defensive disaster, and I'm sure he still can't run the basepaths to boot. As far as their pitching goes, I get the feeling we've already looted them for the best available. Thanks San Fran. Enjoy LaBlow and his 15 ERA.
And finally, this brings us to the Rockies. We all know about Todd Helton. We know that he's a great hitter and may be willing to move to the outfield if necessary. We also know that Preson Wilson would be a huge risk and almost certainly would flop at Wrigley. Or maybe not, but I still don't like the idea. Then again, Helton's only batting .255, so who knows?
With all that in mind, what have we learned?
First, the analysts are right. It's slim pickings this year. I keep saying that Hendry will be more likely to go for a nameless talent, but I don't know if there's a nameless talent to go after! Instead, St. Jim very well might have to make a deal for an expensive, older, talented outfielder like Gary Sheffield. He'd have my full support and excitement if he does.
In the meantime, let's hope for a Dubois resurgence, and for continued good pitching. It'd get the Cubs through the tough times.