Other than the Chicago White Sox, who got a jump on trade season with Tuesday's two deals, teams have 3 1/2 weeks to decide how to tinker.
The trade deadline is July 31, but there may not be a flurry of activity. It's conceivable the Diamondbacks will not make a July trade for the first time in their history. (Brief recap: Bernard Gilkey in 1998, Matt Mantei in 1999, Curt Schilling in 2000, Albie Lopez in 2001, Mike Fetters in 2002.)
Tight budgets and large contracts from a bygone era combine to slow down the deal-makers. The current climate dictates that a team looking to dump a highly paid player has to choose between (a.) getting top prospects in return while paying most of the traded player’s contract or (b.) cutting payroll but not getting much talent in the deal.
For some teams, the first decision is whether to buy or sell. Toronto will know its direction about July 23, after a 12-game stretch in which it plays home-and-home series with Boston and the New York Yankees.
Florida publicly declared it would not deal star third baseman Mike Lowell (bad news for fans of Los Angeles and the Chicago Cubs). But there are plenty of other arbitration-eligible players for the tight-wallet Marlins to move if their season goes south. One report mentioned discussions on sending second baseman Luis Castillo and right-hander Brad Penny to Cincinnati.
Oakland could use a reliever, a right-handed bench bat and a leadoff hitter. But the Athletics may also sit tight — although there will be pressure to add offense if Jermaine Dye cannot return to form.
Despite recent bullpen struggles, the Cubs are focused on adding a third baseman. But with Lowell off the market, the top target probably becomes San Diego's Mark Loretta.
The Yankees will do something, of course, which may include Texas closer Ugueth Urbina.
One interesting player is San Diego, which is saying — despite its pitiful season — it wants to acquire a big-name player or two prior to next year's opening of Petco Park.
“We'll be just as much of a buyer, possibly before the end of July, as we are a seller,” general manager Kevin Towers told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
In Los Angeles, the Dodgers have been ripped for not adding a bat. But it's hard to blame general manager Dan Evans; besides weighing the team down with some bad contracts, former GM Kevin Malone didn't leave him much in the system to use as bargaining chips.
If Texas pushed Juan Gonzalez — who vetoed a trade to Montreal — to accept a deal by limiting his playing time, Los Angeles is a possible destination.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, the White Sox front office sent a message to the clubhouse that expectations are high. And the message was received in Minnesota as well.
“Oh, my goodness, I'm going to have a heart attack,” Twins outfielder Torii Hunter said after learning the White Sox had acquired Carl Everett to go along with Roberto Alomar. “We need to step it up because those guys over there are stepping it up. Dawg, that's a wake-up call.”
PAINT IT BLACK
Seattle's Safeco Field is one of baseball's best pitchers’ parks, which has helped contribute to the Mariners’ recent success. But with the team's hitters concerned about poor visibility on summer evenings, there are changes coming.
Because Seattle is so far north, the sun is higher late in the day than in other places. So the Mariners are planning, by the All-Star break, to install a special material — similar to that used on the floor of airplanes — in the batters’ eye, painted a deep black.
“We can't recognize the fastball or the breaking ball quickly,” Ichiro Suzuki said.
Anaheim's October hero Francisco Rodriguez, who wasn't unhittable early this season, got back in form last month.
Rodriguez, who had five wins in the 2002 postseason, had a 1.15 ERA over 10 June appearances.
“I'm doing the same thing I did in the postseason — challenging the hitter, making first-pitch strikes and getting ahead in the count,” he said. “I'm trying to find the Francisco Rodriguez that I know.”
Manager Mike Scioscia said Rodriguez is “probably pitching better than we've seen him at any time, even last year in the postseason.”
Sounding much like he did last year with the D-Backs, lefty Brian Anderson told the Cleveland media he expects the Indians to trade him.
“Terry Mulholland, Dan Miceli and I were talking last week,” Anderson said. “and Terry said, ‘The way things are going around here, and what they're trying to accomplish, I wouldn't be surprised if all three of us get traded.’
“The next day they traded Miceli to the Yankees.”
The Indians say no teams have asked about Anderson.