The Weekend Buzz while you were at the movies. Get Smart? Hey, that's exactly what general managers of contending teams are attempting to do as the buzz surrounding the July 31 trade deadline begins! And right now, the list of potentially available pitchers looks partly like this:
|The Padres will likely trade veteran Greg Maddux 'if the right team comes along.' (AP)|
As Shapiro assesses, others around the game see no easy decision.
"Cleveland's going to wait," says an executive of one club expected to be involved in the Sabathia talks. "They're in a tough predicament. I don't think they can win with all those guys out -- Fausto Carmona, Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez."
Says one long-time NL scout: "I don't think you can deal a guy like that. He's too important to that organization."
Which is exactly why, however, Shapiro is waiting as long as possible before deciding (he keeps hoping the club makes the decision for him by either playing themselves back into the AL Central race or out of it).
Still looking for a Johan Santana-like contract -- six years, $137.5 million from the Mets -- Sabathia cut off negotiations with the Indians in the spring. And though there are indications Cleveland is investigating a last-ditch effort to sign the lefty, over-shooting could set the Indians back significantly (see Zito, Barry in San Francisco).
If the Indians don't deal Sabathia, they retain the slim chance of re-signing him after the season. If they lose him to free agency then, they'll get two first-round compensation picks if they lose him.
Shapiro's dilemma is, if the odds of signing Sabathia are so low, can he do better than two first-round picks on the trade market in the next four weeks? Answer: Yes. Maybe not as well as he did when he unloaded Bartolo Colon to Montreal in 2002 and obtained outfielder Grady Sizemore, pitcher Cliff Lee and infielder Brandon Phillips in return, but there is demand.
Before ponying up, it will be incumbent on clubs to study Sabathia's October collapse last fall and weigh the risks as to a repeat. Last year's AL Cy Young winner sure didn't hurt his bargaining position in Saturday's 6-0 win over Cincinnati, in which he fanned 11 Reds in eight innings. He's now 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA over his past four starts (6-8, 3.78 ERA overall). And in 13 starts since April 22, Sabathia is 6-5 with a 1.96 ERA. He's fanned 104 hitters and walked only 18 in that time.
Those numbers give Cleveland the upper hand in negotiations, and sources familiar with the club's thinking say it is unlikely -- but not completely out of the question -- that the Indians would grant a 72-hour window to a potential suitor to negotiate a long-term deal with Sabathia.
The Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies all could become involved.
Best dark-horse candidate: The Rays, whose farm system pipeline is so fertile they could charge $5 a gallon and nobody would think twice.