Wheelin' and Dealin'
By Dave Lind
There are three things that you cannot begin too soon:
TRADE #1 - John Smiley (CIN) to Colorado
Smiley will have to be healthy for this trade to happen, but the Reds need to unload his contract and the Rockies can always use another arm, especially one with playoff experience. Of the five starters currently in the Rockies rotation, none (ZERO, that is) has any playoff experience whatsoever. That will have to change if they hope to contend through September.
Cincinnati would doubtless ask for little in return, settling for a prospect or two in order to lighten their salary burden. Third baseman Pedro Castellano might be a nice fit as the Reds grow more and more weary of the annual disappointment that is Willie Greene.
TRADE #2 - Rickey Henderson (SD) to Houston
In a year in which the NL Central belongs to whomever is willing to bid on it, even a minor trade could be all it takes to swing the "balance o' power" in what has degenerated into the worst division in the majors. It is not an exaggeration to say that a .500 record could well prove sufficient to win the Central this year.
Never one to win games with his glove anyway, Henderson will at least occupy the vacancy in left field while allowing current leadoff man Craig Biggio to drop to the number two slot where he is more comfortable.
In return, the Padres could either ask for minor league prospects or help for their sometimes shaky bullpen, depending on how they feel about their chances to contend this season. At the very least, the Padres would be unloading a sizable contract and an even more sizable ego.
TRADE #3 - Mark McGwire (OAK) to St Louis
All right, so I'm not the first sportswriter to come up with the novel suggestion to reunite a player with his manager in a new city, but just bear with me for a minute.
Despite the A's contention that McGwire is not on the block, trading him, though painful, would be good baseball business. As their neighbors across the bay found out when they traded Matt Williams, short term pain can often produce long term payoffs.
Now, since McGwire is a 10-5 man (10 years in the majors, 5 with the same team), any trade will require his approval. This means any team acquiring him must meet the following criteria:
TRADE #4 - Pedro Martinez (MON) to Cleveland
Really, adding Pedro Martinez to any contending team in the league would make sense. There is not a rotation in baseball that would not be improved by this guy. He currently leads the NL in ERA and is second in wins with an 8-2 record (with both losses coming, interestingly enough, on consecutive starts to the same pitcher: Bobby Jones of the Mets. But that's another paragraph.).
Why would Montreal want to unload such a prize? For the same reason they bade farewell to Larry Walker, Moises Alou, Jeff Fassero, Delino Deshields, Dennis Martinez, etc., etc., ad nauseum. They do not have the money to keep him.
Cleveland, on the other hand, saved a bundle by not resigning Albert (The Finger) Belle and can both afford and use a pitcher of Martinez' stature. In fact, Martinez would instantly transform what is arguably the Indians' only weakness into an actual strength. He is THAT good.
What would the Indians part with to get him? Oh, how about anyone who is not currently in the Indians' starting lineup. Second Baseman Enrique Wilson and pitcher Bartolo Colon would certainly not be too high of a price to pay, assuming the Expos ask for that much, which they probably won't.
TRADE #5 - Barry Larkin (CIN) to Atlanta
I know, I know. It will never happen, but some trades just make so much sense you can't help but wonder why they haven't already happened.
Larkin is the best player on the team and possibly the best player to wear a Reds uniform in the past twenty years (no exaggeration). Unfortunately, like Martinez, he is currently toiling for a team that is going nowhere and looking to cut costs. His $5 million+ salary might be tough even for the Braves to swallow, but finances aside, what a perfect fit!
Imagine the following lineup of Kenny Lofton, Larkin, Chipper Jones, Fred McGriff, Ryan Klesko, Javy Lopez, etc. It would be expensive, for sure, but also as close to unbeatable as you will ever see. Moreover, the move to grass would do nothing but extend Larkin's career.
In return the Reds could crack open the Braves' minor league vault to help replenish their own long-neglected minor league system. Pitcher Brad Woodall, shortstop Tony Graffanino, and first baseman Ron Wright would all be a big boost the Reds' future plans.