Deal or no Deal: Potential Trade Thoughts from the NL Central

With the MLB trade deadline quickly approaching I asked each of our site leads to give me their thoughts on what the team they cover should do. Should they buy, sell, or stand pat?  Who should they target or look to move?  As always, our writers were free to answer in whatever fashion they felt appropriate.

The responses that follow (after the jump) are from our Lead Writers in the NL Central.

Chicago Cubs: Cubbies Crib Lead Writer Jordan Campbell

The Chicago Cubs have to be sellers this year at the trade deadline. With the Cubs having the third largest payroll in baseball, they should not be 9 games under .500 and 10 games out of first place. With the exception of Carlos Marmol, Starlin Castro, Andrew Cashner, and Tyler Colvin everyone else should be considered movable.

The one player that the Chicago Cubs must find a way to move is Alfonso Soriano. While, Soriano may be a vocal leader in the Cubs clubhouse, he is not worth the $18MM that he is making on an annual basis. The Cubs obviously would have to be extremely creative to find a way to move him, but no matter the creativity involved they will certainly have to eat majority of his contract. Another reason why the Chicago Cubs should move Soriano, is because it would open up a spot for Brett Jackson, who is on the fast track to the major leagues.

It is also beneficial to the Cubs that Aramis Ramirez, and Derrek Lee are both starting to hit like they are capable of. Down the stretch teams usually like to have veteran hitters like Lee and Ramirez on their squad to help push themselves into the playoffs.

The player most likely player to be moved before the deadline is starting pitcher Ted Lilly. Since the trade of Cliff Lee, Lilly has quite possibly become the most coveted pitcher on the market. The Cubs could package Ryan Theriot with Ted Lilly and send them both to the Detroit Tigers. I don’t really have an expectation on what the Cubs should get for them as long as they either get a quality prospect or a major league ready player.

It is going to be interesting to see what the Cubs do at the deadline. I, for one, always love this time as year along with the winter meetings because it is just fun to cover as a writer. With Tom Ricketts in his first year as Cubs owner, this will go a long way in determining how he runs the Cubs and what their future is going to look like.

Cincinnati Reds: Blog Red Machine Lead Writer Tim Grimes

The Reds first and foremost need some relief pitching and need it bad. They recently signed journeyman and 41 year old Russ Springer and also added Jason Isringhausen, who hasn’t pitched for over a year, to a minor league contract. Their relief corps has been shaky and downright scary. Other than All-Star Arthur Rhodes, no one has been consistent. There has been a constant shuffling of pitchers coming from Triple A and even Double A. General Manager Walt Jocketty is desperate for help and our minors our loaded with talent but obviously there isn’t a trade out there for him. This is the reason he is calling these guys back out of retirement.

But, I have a slightly different take on the Reds’ needs. The position I see is a must get is centerfield. I like Drew Stubbs‘ defense and his pop and speed but we need a leadoff hitter or someone at the top of the lineup. The Royals were dangling David DeJesus out there and he would have been a perfect fit for our team, but recently tore a ligament in his thumb and was lost for the season.  Had he stayed healthy the benefits of adding him to the roster would have been many but he is injured and off the trade market.

There is also a question mark out there for the Reds right now. It is third base. Scott Rolen has a bum hamstring with no real diagnosis and just returned to the lineup tonight.  Insurance is needed as Rolen is always a threat to land on the disabled list. Miguel Cairo is his back-up and has been productive in limited duty but he can’t be a middle of the lineup hitter. Cairo’s defense is also lacking compared to Rolen’s. There are a few candidates out there that could be available for the right price. I would like to see us go after Miguel Tejada. He can play shortstop and third base. This veteran would give us insurance at both positions and a guy that has won. He was an MVP in 2002. He is definitely not a clean-up hitter but more productive than Cairo. He can be a rent-a-player for the rest of the season.

I feel like the other teams may hold hostage for our top prospects so, that is why we are bringing in the older veterans. But, the Reds have a chance to be in the postseason and it has been too long. The Reds need to make a move or multiple moves to win and to win now. There isn’t a player that is untouchable. And, Jocketty has to do what it takes to fulfill this season’s destiny.

Houston Astros: Climbing Tal’s Hill

We are currently without a lead so I got someone to pinch hit and provide some Astros trade deadline thoughts.  That someone is … well … me.

I’m not a certified expert on the ‘Stros, but it seems pretty clear that the major league team needs to be blown up and rebuilt from scratch.  The primary trade chips are clear but all have their warts.

Lance Berkman should be dealt, but he is 34, is slowing down, and has become increasingly injury prone.  On the plus side of things Berkman is signed through 2010 with a 2011 club option.  He could be a few month rental or a year plus investment depending on the needs of the team that acquires him.  His option is for $15 million so he’d have to catch fire, and probably discover the fountain of youth, to make that price attractive.  Then again his resume speaks for itself, he still gets on-base, he still has some thump in his bat, and he is a solid defensive 1B (2.9 UZR/150).  Last season he was worth 3.3 WAR, this year he’s been worth 1.5 WAR, and it isn’t all that long ago that he was routinely above the 6.0 WAR mark each and every season.  Big Puma isn’t done, not by a long shot but his full no-trade clause would be a sticking point.

Just like Berkman, Carlos Lee is 34 and has been struggling most of this season.  Unlike Lance however, Carlos has become a bit of a liability in LF and now seems better suited for a DH role with an AL team.  His 2010 OPS+ of 75 is only the second time in his 12 year career that his OPS+ has been below 100.  This first time was his rookie year in 1999 when it was a solid 94.  His drop-off this season comes at a bad time for the Astros to move him based on his contract.  He is signed through 2012 and will earn $18.5 million in both 2011 and 2012.  Even if Houston could find someone willing to take on the remainder of his $18.5 million salary this season, the $37 million beyond that is too big of an albatross to move.  On top of the money Carlos has a full no-trade clause that will expire at the end of this season.

Speaking of guys with full no-trade clauses, we come to Roy Oswalt.  Unlike Carlos and Lance, Roy is having a fine season with his SO/9 up to 8.4, a level he hasn’t seen since 2002.  He has a 3.42 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 1.11 WHIP, and ERA+ of 120 to go along with that strikeout rate.  Based on his 2010 performance alone he is certainly an attractive commodity.  Throw in the entirety of his 10 year career and the fact that he is signed through 2011 with a reasonable club option of $16 million for 2012 and it stuns me that his name hasn’t been more front and center in the trade rumors.  The no-trade clause is a big sticking point and it gets further muddled because Oswalt is trying to dictate where he lands and ensure his option gets picked up if he is traded.  He’s trying to have his cake and eat it too and that isn’t going to fly.  If Roy doesn’t expand the list of teams he would accept a trade to, Houston may be “stuck” with their ace.  The good news for the Astros is that Oswalt could be a part of the rebuilding mode if they can get it done quickly.  Unfortunately with the worst minor league system in all of baseball, it doesn’t look like that will happen.

There are other players the Astros could look to move that would provide the team with some solid return, but all of them could also factor into the team’s future.  They include Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Hunter Pence, and Michael Bourn among others.  Of those, Brett Myers should be the player the team is the most willing to move since he doesn’t have a no-trade clause.  On the other side of things his $8 million mutual option for 2011 is cheap for the level of performance Myers is capable of contributing to a team. With that in mind, if he is open to staying in Houston for next season and possibly beyond, it might make more sense to try and retain him than trade him.

The conclusion here?  The Astros are in a bad place with the deadline approaching.  The players they need to move to unload their contracts (Oswalt, Berkman, and Lee) all have full no-trade clauses in their deals and two of the three of them are having down seasons which depresses their value even further.  Brett Myers could be dealt and bring back a decent return, but he could also be a part of the team’s future plans.

Whatever the team does, the focus needs to be on 2012 and beyond.

Milwaukee Brewers: Reviewing the Brew Lead Writer Dave McGrath

As the trade deadline approaches, I think it’s pretty clear that the Brew Crew just doesn’t have the pitching — starting or in relief — to be any kind of a real threat to make the postseason. So its obvious they should be trying to sell for the future.

While there are any number of players they could potentially move for some minors depth or mid-level prospects, including Trevor Hoffman or Corey Hart, the Brewers should be solely focused on moving their first baseman, Prince Fielder, while his value is highest in trade. Sure, Fielder isn’t having his best season, but I’m sure teams around MLB know his value, and recognize 1.5 years is better than .5 years of return.

As discussed previously on Reviewing the Brew, Prince just isn’t as irreplaceable as Milwaukee would like to believe — I even went so far as to say that Mat Gamel could take over for most of Fielder’s value immediately. While Fielder seems a decent bet to reach 5.0 WAR and up this season, in two of his first five years he didn’t even manage three, mostly because his shoddy defense can sabotage his work with the bat. Plus, it’s hard to believe that either Fielder will sign with Milwaukee longterm, or that doing so would be entirely beneficial for the Crew, given his, uh, physique.

The Brewers should take the highest offer they get for their first baseman, unless they believe it entirely feasible they will receive a higher offer in the offseason.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Rum Bunter Lead Writer Tom Smith

The Pittsburgh Pirates have strength in the bullpen. The biggest debate in Pittsburgh, well beside how to off owner Bob Nutting, is do the Bucs keep a strength or use it to supplement their numerous weaknesses? Not that you even care, but here you go anyway…. If it’s our team, here’s what we are thinking:

Octavio Dotel should be dealt. Joel Hanrahan will be a lights out closer.

The Bucs should also be willing to deal D.J. Carrasco and as much as every Pirates fan would hate to see him go, wink wink. Despite the recent concussion, Ryan Doumit should be moved as well.

But will that be enough entice a contender? Sure it would. Each would put a team over the hump. Dotel will continue to shut down opponents, just like we witnessed against the Cubs.

A package of all three would be a big get for a contender. We found one that fits just right. The question remains, how will it help the big league club for the Pirates?

The return will be vital. It actually could slow the trade considerably, which would hurt. Since we are running the ship, we want you to know that we would get a deal together just as soon as possible. The trouble? I just saw the email. Doumit was sent to the DL. So, since that idea is shot, the Pirates are going to have to work harder to move Doumit.

Dotel has done very well this year in the highest leverage situations. Remember the coverage we gave you from Wrigley Field? Dotel’s swing and a miss stuff is still at his fingertips. Dotel would certainly help a contender. Carrasco too. He has pitched so much, and very effectively as well for the Bucs. He has been very entertaining off the field as well on local talk shows. But we feel, he surely will face some injury to his rubber arm in the near future.

With a sure thing veteran in Dotel and a proven slinky arm in DJ that has just tore through innings like a Kardashian through athletic black men, the Bucs have two nice chips. A package deal would be huge. Heal quickly Doumit. Nevertheless, Dotel is going to be moved anyway.

Zach Duke is definitely available. But what contender is going to buy a hittable left hander like that right now? Maybe Duke gets thrown in the mix somewhere?

The Pirates needs are numerous. But let’s pick three that stick out. Starting pitching. A consistent shortstop. A catcher.

So who needs what the Pirates have? Maybe the Mets. We spoke to several Mets fans who discuss their concerns with the pitching being able to hold up. Each of their catchers are going to be headed to free agency. DJ would help when the pitching falters, Doumit has a club-friendly few years remaining on his deal and Dotel helps in the back end of games like a hammer.

Neal Huntington, Pirates GM this is the Mets. Mets. Neal. Make it happen.

St. Louis Cardinals: Redbird Rants Lead Writer Ryne Gery

The Cardinals are finally starting to look like the team that was predicted to steamroll the competition in the NL Central. Since the All-Star break, the Cardinals are 6-0 against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies — the teams that battled it out in the NLCS the past two Octobers. The Dodgers and Phillies haven’t been the same teams, but it’s impressive nonetheless. Even more impressive is how the Cardinals are playing. Without Ryan Ludwick, the offense has been firing on all cylinders. Albert Pujols is leading the way, even Randy Winn is chipping in with some power, and the young guys Jon Jay and Allen Craig are hitting like machines. With everything going so swimmingly, the Cards should just stand pat and sail into October with the group they have, right?

As much as first-place St. Louis would like to believe this team has gotten over the hump and found the chemistry to match its talent, the Cardinals need some help. Before the All-Star break, the Cards trailed the Reds in the standings by a game and dropped four of six to the Rockies and Astros. This team has been up-and-down all year and now is not the time to be content. The Reds are a good baseball team and they aren’t going away. Cincinnati’s offense is tops in the league and their pitching staff is loaded.

The Cardinals staff is not loaded; it’s top heavy. Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, and Jaime Garcia arguably form the best trio of hurlers in baseball. Three can win in October. But you need five to get you there especially when the division race is this tight. So, who are the other two? Brad Penny and Kyle Lohse are on the disabled list and could struggle when they return. Jeff Suppan is not the answer.

With Dan Haren recently traded to the Angels, the Cardinals should continue the raid in the desert by rescuing Stephen Drew, who is there for the taking, from Arizona.  Drew is a talented young shortstop who would be a huge upgrade for the Cards biggest hole in the field. Brendan Ryan isn’t getting the job done. Period. He can’t hit and his defense has been shaky. It’s a complete 360 from last year, but St. Louis can’t afford to stick by him. Drew is a solid bat with a career line of 0.269/.328/.439 and a great glove. He has only made four errors in 83 games. That’s Gold Glove-worthy. At 27, Drew’s best years are ahead of him and he could flourish with a move to the great baseball town of St. Louis. He has shown the potential to hit 0.300 with 20 home runs and he is a great shortstop.

If the Cards can acquire Drew and locate some back of the rotation help along the way, they will move to the front of the line in the National League.

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Tags: Adam Wainwright Albert Pujols Alfonso Soriano Allen Craig Andrew Cashner Aramis Ramirez Arthur Rhodes Bob Nutting Brad Penny Brendan Ryan Brett Myers Carlos Lee Carlos Marmol Chicago Cubs Chris Carpenter Corey Hart D.J. Carrasco Dan Haren David DeJesus Derrek Lee Drew Stubbs Hunter Pence Jaime Garcia Jason Isringhausen Jeff Suppan Joel Hanrahan Jon Jay Kyle Lohse Lance Berkman Mat Gamel Michael Bourn Miguel Cairo Miguel Tejada Neal Huntington Octavio Dotel Prince Fielder Randy Winn Roy Oswalt Russ Springer Ryan Doumit Ryan Ludwick Ryan Theriot Scott Rolen Starlin Castro Stephen Drew Ted Lilly Tom Ricketts Trevor Hoffman Tyler Colvin Walt Jocketty Wandy Rodriguez Zach Duke

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