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MLB Trade Deadline Primer: VU Edition

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Which Dores might be on the move?

Tony Kemp, The Man of Steal, straight Supermaning that ho.
Tony Kemp, The Man of Steal, straight Supermaning that ho.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

The Players:

David Price

The Detroit Tigers, despite their talented roster, are somehow 48-51, 12.5 games back of the AL leading Kansas City Royals, and 4.5 games behind the Houston Astros for the Wild Card lead.  This has led many sports writers/analysts to assume All Star and former Cy Young pitcher David Price, who is in the final year of his contract and is about to get PAID, will be on the move.

However, despite their record of futility, the Tigers might not be sellers right now.

Why would they consider buying?  Well, the same reason there are an unconscionable amount of buyers right now: the 2nd wild card spot.  For the right to play in the play-in game, the Tigers just need to make up 2.5 games on the Minnesota Twins, 1.5 games on the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles, and one game on the Tampa Bay Rays.  Of course, they'll also have to hold off the White Sox (tied with them) and the Texas Rangers, who are a half game behind the Tigers, but are thick in the race to get Cole Hamels.

Case in point, the Toronto Blue Jays just traded for Troy Tulowitzki.

That's a lot of teams to hold off, but do any of them really scare you?  On paper, the Tigers should be quite capable of making a late season charge.  Further, they have an ancient billionaire owner, Mike Ilitch, who is trying his damnedest to win a title before he dies... and he just turned 86.

A rational GM might try to move David Price.  Mike Ilitch is likely going to force Dave Dombrowski into throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at him to get Price to re-sign with the team now.  Then, he'll hold a gun up to Dombrowski's head until he adds a few relievers and an impact bat this deadline.

Chances He's Traded: 15% (they'd need to fully go into the tank and/or have Mike Ilitch die before Friday... though neither is entirely impossible).

Sonny Gray

Before you fly off the handle, crying, "But he's an young All-Star pitcher in the Cy Young race!!!  And he's crazy affordable!!!" you have to consider one thing: Billy Beane is a hot girl in her 20s.  Time and time again, Beane has proven his finger is never far from the reset button, and he will straight dump any of his guys, no matter how great they are, because he holds onto the false idea that the next guy he gets will always be better.  Look at his recent trade deadline record.  Now, I'm not just talking about breaking up the trio of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito over 10 years ago due largely to financial reasons.  Beane will dump a young superstar/controllable uber-prospect for 10 cents on the dollar FOR ABSOLUTELY NO REASON.

And his A's are tied for last place in the AL with a 44-56 record.

Consider last year.  The A's were somewhat improbably contending, so Beane understandably decided to push all his chips in and go for a title run.  However, he did it in the most "You know, I'm just trying to focus on my growth as, like, a person, and find my bliss... I, like, can't know who 'we' are without finding who I am, you know?" way possible.

Beane was sitting on a good number of young, cost-controlled prospects and players that would allow him to make multiple runs at a title in the near future.  However, he "just didn't know if [he] loved them because he loved them, or because they were the only person[s] [he'd] ever loved, you know?"  First, he fell for a long-haired guy with an unpronounceable name - Jeff Samardzija.  This is the classic "post first serious boyfriend" mistake.  Rather than actually "take some time to find h[im]self," and work the phones with other GMs right down to the wire of the trade deadline, hot girl in her 20s Billy Beane jumped on the first available starter, giving up on wunderkind shortstop Addison Russell - in a trade that, one year later, is already being referred to as "one of the great trades in Chicago Cubs history" - former 1st round pick OF Billy McKinney, and serviceable pitcher Dan Straily for a drunken 4th of July three-way with free spirit Samardzija and "happy to be there friend" Jason Hammel that he all but assuredly regretted once he woke up with the hangover to end all hangovers in a pile of odd smelling blankets on the floor of a VW van.

Had Beane waited 3-4 weeks and made a move when he was more emotionally stable, he could have pried David Price - yes, David freaking Price - for less than that, or just made the somewhat logical deadline move he did make, and swap Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes for an actual ace in Jon Lester.

Further, in the '14 offseason, Beane pulled the "I'm just going to give up on all men for a while" move, and traded three of his best players for pretty much nothing, headlined by trying to erase the bad Samardzija memory by dealing him to the White Sox for 4 cents on the dollar.  The actual players acquired were Marcus Semien, Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley, and Rangel Ravelo, but I bet you had to double check that to see that I wasn't just making up baseball sounding names, because who in the holy hell are any of those guys?

In short, there is absolutely no reason for Beane to trade Sonny Gray, but can you honestly say he would never do it?  No.  No you cannot.  Not while he has yet to do the hot girl in her 20s nuclear option and move to India to study under some yogi for three months.  What would that mean in baseball trade deadline terms?  I don't have a damned clue, but I'm not ready to rule anything out.

Chances He's Traded: 35% (unless he quits his actual job, gets a series of misguided body piercings, and starts working as a promotional model giving out Tuaca shots or some nonsense, then she's gone full scorched earth and nothing she does will make sense to anyone until she turns 30 and moves to the suburbs with some guy named Gerald).

The Prospects

Tony Kemp

Let's start with three facts.

Fact 1: Tony Kemp is tearing up the minor leagues, batting .316/.395/.383 in AA and AAA, and is showing the potential to be a MLB regular and pump-priming OBP stud lead-off hitter sooner than anyone would have thought (even the Astros, who would have drafted him higher than the 5th round in '13 if they knew then what they know now).  Teams don't often give up on cost-controlled lead-off men with 40 SB potential.

Fact 2: The Astros have a real shot at making the postseason this year, and Kemp's trade value may never be higher.  They are currently one game back from the Angels in the AL West and 2 games in the lead for the Wild Card.

Fact 3: Kemp is blocked by Jose Altuve and outfielders George Springer (currently on the DL) and Preston Tucker.  All are young, talented, and not going anywhere.

Personally, I love Tony Kemp.  I think he's got quick hands and a great eye at the plate, is a plus threat on the base paths, and could be a Ben Zobrist type super-sub for the Astros, getting 400-500 AB per year while playing at least three defensive positions (4 if he can play CF, which I think he might be able to if he devotes a year plus in the minors to it).  However, moving him now is nothing like Billy Beane's myopic decision to swap Addison Russell for three months of Samardzija.  The Houston Astros, who last made the playoffs in 2005 when human steroid Roger Clemens pitched them to the World Series, have been orchestrating a tank and draft strategy for the better part of a decade.  In 2011-2013, the Astros lost 106, 107, and 111 games respectively, but this allowed them to draft first overall for three straight years.  From that, they got legit stud SS Carlos Correa, a botched negotiation with Brady Aiken that turned into Alex Bregman this year, and whatever Mark Appel is.  More than that, they got a ton of draft pool money, and are loaded with young, cost-controllable players.

Astros fans, who have been more accustomed to selling than buying over the last decade, think their pitching woes have been solved by a two month Scott Kazmir rental.  That's... unwise.  Though Kazmir has been one of the best pitchers in the bigs in July, he's also a walking disabled list.  Further, other than Dallas Keuchel - who, though gritty, is more of a #2 or #3 playoff starter - their rotation is lacking a playoff caliber starter.

As luck would have it, there are at least two of those on the market right now.  David Price on a two month rental or Cole Hamels with three years and an average salary of $22.5 million per year of control.  Without a doubt, that's a lot of money.  However, it will look downright affordable compared to the contracts Zach Greinke and David Price are primed to get this offseason.  Don't believe me?  Look at what Max Scherzer got from the Nationals.

The Astros should not be in the David Price market, however, unless they can convince him to sign an extension before commencing the trade.  Mortgaging the future for a two month rental is often the death knell of the up-and-coming team.  The Astros have been too patient in their roster construction to cash in all their chips right now.

Either Price (with negotiation window for a contract extension) or Hamels (relatively team friendly contract for 3 years) will cost a veritable ass-load of prospects, but Houston could pretty easily do it for this year's Future's Game lead-off man Tony Kemp, whatever Mark Appel is, Jonathan Singleton, and/or any crop of 3-4 talented youngsters they're growing down on the farm.  And further, they should absolutely do it.  They're a talented young team, but lack the top end pitching to really contend for a title, and, best of all, a lot of their trade-able assets down on the farm are currently blocked by major leaguers.  And with someone like Hamels, that window stays wide open for at least three years.

Though Hamels currently has Houston blocked as a trade partner, it's likely that was a remnant of when the Astros were as bad as the Phillies currently are, and could be done away with for the cost of a contract trade kicker.

According to Jerry Crasnick, I'm not wrong on this:

Chances He's Traded: 80%

Tyler Beede

According to those close with Giants GM Brian Sabean, Tyler Beede's name is the first on everyone's list when he starts talking potential trades.  It's early, but the Giants seem to have ironed out a lot of Beede's mechanical/control issues, and with the arm talent he's got, there's no secret as to why rival GMs want him.

Then why the hell would Sabean want to get rid of him?

In short, he doesn't, but he also knows he has an aging roster with three recent more than improbable World Series titles to their name, arguably the best manager in baseball, and, I repeat, DAVID FREAKING PRICE AND COLE FREAKING HAMELS ARE ON THE TRADING BLOCK.

Further, Los Gigantes are only a half game back from the West leading Dodgers, and are currently 2.5 games up on the Cubs for the 2nd Wild Card.  If they were considerably back in the pennant race, I don't think Sabean makes such a bold move, as cashing in all your chips for a one game Wild Card playoff is a Billy Beane move... and Brian Sabean is not a hot girl in her twenties.  Rather, he's the late 30s/early 40s suburban mother of two in a stable relationship who wants to do something nice for her husband.  They're right there with LA, and he owes that roster one last chance at a title run.

Sabean, and every other GM in baseball, knows the Dodgers and their Scrooge McDuck pile of money and prospects aren't going to sit tight this trade deadline, so adding a Price or Hamels not only strengthens his team, but significantly weakens his biggest rival.  He knows that with this move, he could doom the Dodgers to Wild Card purgatory.  If it takes unloading Beede to achieve that, he'll do it.

Still, MLB reporters don't think it will happen right now:

Chances He's Traded: 50%