SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 01: Adrian Gonzalez #23 of the San Diego Padres connects for a three run home run during the third inning against the San Francisco Giants October 1 2010 in San Francisco California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
We're back this morning with some Tuesday Trade Talk, a look at some of the potential and actual wheeling and dealings going on in the baseball word.
Who Might Pursue Adrian Gonzalez And Heath Bell?
As GM Jed Hoyer mentioned on a San Diego radio station last week, the team will be willing to listen to possible trade offers for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and closer Heath Bell despite San Diego's surprisingly strong 2010. At this point, Hoyer appears to be resigned to the fact that Gonzalez will hit the free agent market next winter, and Bell will likely depart as well with other closer candidates like Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson on the roster. FanGraphs' Dave Cameron already mentioned that he thinks that the Pads should deal Gonzalez now rather than in July, given the amount of uncertainty related to the slugger's possible final season in San Diego.
So today we're going to take a look at some of the team's that could partake in trade talks regarding San Diego's star players, as well as the kind of pieces that could they offer to Hoyer and company.
Potential Suitors for Gonzalez
The Chicago Cubs- It's not likely, but they could use a star first baseman and they have some talent to offer up. It would probably drive some Cubs fans nuts to see them lock up another veteran at an exorbitant price, which appears likely to happen in Gonzalez's case, but it would certainly bring a lot of interest to the team and possibly bump them back into contention. Money is likely going to be one of the issues here, but then again the Cubs are one of the few teams that can really spend big. San Diego would presumably show some interest in up-the-middle prospects like Brett Jackson, Hak-Ju Lee and Junior Lake, as well as some of the team's impressive young arms, such as Trey McNutt, Andrew Cashner, Chris Carpenter and Chris Archer.
The Baltimore Orioles- They made a big offer to Mark Teixeira a couple years ago, and could have similar interest in Gonzalez. Baltimore could definitely use a big bat at first base after seeing some ugly play there last season, but with a somewhat sagging farm system you have to wonder if they'd be willing to give up that much talent. It's hard to see them parting with most of the established guys on the MLB team, they're not likely to deal Manny Machado or Zach Britton, and that leaves the Padres with guys like Chris Tillman, Xavier Avery, L.J. Hoes and Ryan Berry.
The Boston Red Sox- This one is pretty obvious, as they've been speculated as arguably the best fit for Gonzalez the past couple years. Kevin Youkilis already mentioned that he's ready to move to third base if necessary, and adding Gonzalez would make that lineup truly scary. As it's been noted many a time, Hoyer and assistant GM Jason McLeod used to work for the Red Sox, and they're presumably quite familiar with Boston's farm system. The Padres aren't likely to have interest in Anthony Rizzo or Lars Anderson with Kyle Blanks already aboard, but Boston's farm system has exceptional depth and the Padres could really load up on pitching and high-upside players.
The Chicago White Sox- Kenny Williams loves a good splash, and Chicago might be looking for a new first baseman even if they re-sign Paul Konerko given his defensive struggles in 2010. The bigger question is whether the White Sox have the young talent to make a deal, after giving up many of their top young players to add Jake Peavy and Edwin Jackson over the past two years. Jared Mitchell, Brent Morel, Dayan Viciedo, Tyler Flowers and Trayce Thompson give them an interesting array of position players, but they're not particularly impressive and Chicago has practically zero pitching to offer unless they're willing to deal Chris Sale, which isn't likely.
The Seattle Mariners- They showed interest in Gonzalez in 2009, and clearly need to add some offensive firepower after having a historically bad 2010 campaign. The Mariners likely won't part with Dustin Ackley, Michael Pineda or Justin Smoak, but they have numerous other interesting pieces. Nick Franklin could be a possible centerpiece if Seattle's willing to deal the young shortstop, and guys like Michael Saunders, Kyle Seager, James Jones, Guillermo Pimentel, Johermyn Chavez, Alex Liddi and Dan Cortes could intrigue the Padres as well.
Overall, the possible suitors for Gonzalez don't seem overwhelming. Not many teams will be able to pay a premium to land the first baseman for only one season, and most teams won't be willing to meet Gonzalez's contract demands in the 2011-2012 offseason. Boston appears to be the best fit, which shouldn't be surprising given the amount of Gonzalez-to-Boston speculation over the years. They have both the prospects and the money to make a deal work, although it remains to be seen if there's mutual interest in terms of making a trade. There will presumably be some dark horses that emerge given that we're talking about a pretty valuable asset.
Potential Suitors for Bell
The Tampa Bay Rays- They're going to be searching the market for late-inning help with Rafael Soriano, Dan Wheeler, Chad Qualls, Grant Balfour and Joaquin Benoit hitting free agency, and we all know that they have young talent to play around with. Bell would presumably appeal to Tampa given that he's going to be cheaper than re-signing Soriano would be, but the Padres are going to be expecting a solid return even for one year of their closer. The Rays certainly have some young arms that would appeal to San Diego, and you have to wonder if they could use their starting rotation depth to shape a deal.
The Arizona Diamondbacks- The Diamondbacks are obviously going to be looking for bullpen help after the unit's ugly showing in 2010, and Bell is certainly a difference-maker. We don't know how the Kevin Towers factor will play into things yet, but the new Arizona GM is quite familiar with Bell from his tenure in San Diego. Arizona isn't loaded with young pitching, but they have numerous position player prospects that could interest the Padres- maybe a deal could be built around one of their top Single-A guys: Bobby Borchering, Matt Davidson, David Nick and Chris Owings.
The New York Yankees- The Yankees have always liked getting high-quality relievers to place in front of Mariano Rivera, and Bell would certainly give them a dominant late-inning corps. The Bronx Bombers have a bunch of prospects that could form a solid return from San Diego's perspective, although they may hesitate in this case given that Bell will likely pursue a closer's job following next season.
The Chicago White Sox- Chicago may want an "experienced" closer to replace Bobby Jenks, assuming that the Sox non-tender him. You have to wonder whether or not Chicago would be better off keeping their young talent and simply paying Jenks a bit more, considering that the 29-year-old pitched quite well last year despite a mid-4's ERA. But as I mentioned above, GM Kenny Williams loves to keep things interesting, and a Heath Bell-Matt Thornton-Sergio Santos trio at the back of the bullpen would be pretty nice.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim- Fernando Rodney is currently penciled in as the closer for a playoff contender. That's enough to make one believe that the Angels could be looking for a closer this winter, given that Rodney isn't exactly closer material (outside of 2009, he's only converted 59% of his save opportunities). Obviously the save totals aren't everything, but they appear to have been a motivator behind the two-year deal that Rodney got last winter, and the Angels probably recognize their mistake at this point. No need to compound the mistake by handing him the closer's role in 2011.
Like with Gonzalez, the fits aren't exactly perfect. The closer market is pretty saturated at this point, with cheaper options like Leo Nunez and David Aardsma presumably being available through trade. Soriano is the big free agency prize, but options like Octavio Dotel, Brian Fuentes, Frank Francisco, Kevin Gregg and Chad Qualls all have closing experience as well. The Padres are might be more likely to trade Bell than Gonzalez, but there aren't that many teams looking for closers so they may not get any overwhelmingly strong offers.