Sorry that this is going up late today (though it’s not like you’ve been starved for other content). I’m in the midst of attempting to move from Chicago to southwestern Minnesota, so time is a bit short. Moving when you’ve got two young kids is like…well, it sucks. There’s no good simile for that one.
But the benefit of my tardiness is that — unless someone comes out with one of those deals that was agreed to just before the deadline but couldn’t be announced until later, which is awfully fishy but happens from time to time — we know which players got traded at this year’s non-waiver trade deadline and which didn’t. So this afternoon, I’ll deal with the guys who stayed put, and how their not being traded is like other things (which actually happened) not happening:
The Nationals not trading for Span is like Jefferson turning down the Louisiana Purchase.
A huge portion of the country now known as the United States of America became ours in 1803, when Thomas Jefferson negotiated a deal under which the country paid fifteen million dollars (the equivalent of $219 million US in 2010, according to Wikipedia) to the French in exchange for what was then known as the Louisiana Territory, but is now known as most of Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, and Louisiana, along with parts of Texas, New Mexico, Idaho, and Colorado. It was actually pretty controversial in the States at the time, but nobody ever complained of the value of it, and of course that territory was worth many, many times more than what was paid with it. If you’re Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon (whose motive seems at least partially to have been to screw the British by making USA a more powerful rival) comes to you with that offer, you’ve got to take it.
Well, according to the rumors flying around this weekend, the Twins were Napoleon and the Nationals were Jefferson, and Jefferson just walked away. Denard Span is an excellent player and one of the best centerfielders in baseball right now, and is signed to a ridiculously team-friendly contract, making far below his actual value all the way through 2015 (assuming the team picks up his 2015 option, which they’d be crazy not to). Drew Storen is a nice player to have and who will also be relatively cheap for many more years, but he’s a relief pitcher who won’t likely top 70 innings in any given season. It’s impossible for a one-inning-at-a-time reliever to be worth nearly as much as a quality starting outfielder like Span, yet the Twins were reportedly offering Span for Storen and two non-entities (Roger Bernadina and Steve Lombardozzi Jr.), and — again, according to the rumors — it was the Nationals who backed down. The Twins tried their best to shoot themselves in the foot at the Nationals’ expense, and the Nats wouldn’t take it. At least Napoleon can make the excuse that he was sticking it to the British; the Twins’ attempt was a swipe directly at themselves and their fans.
The Cubs standing pat is like Aron Ralston just wriggling his arm around a bit.
The Cubs are bad, and are going to get worse. If everything goes as well as it plausibly could, Starlin Castro is still pretty much the only Cub who is likely to still be around for the next competing Cubs team. Maybe Geovany Soto. But that’s it.
At this point, if you’re the Cubs, you sell off everything that isn’t pre-arb or too pricey to move. And there isn’t a ton of that, but there’s Carlos Pena, who’s 33 years old, has 20 homers and is a free agent in 2012, and is certainly a better option for a contender than Derrek Lee, who just went to the Pirates. And there’s Marlon Byrd and Ryan Dempster and Carlos Marmol. The team got off to a good start by managing to find a taker for Kosuke Fukudome for some reason, but then did nothing else. A tweet from Jon Heyman (a terrible Twitterer who I hate to pass around, but here you have it) suggested the Cubs are one big happy family and are loath to break up the club. I suspect that was tongue-in-cheek, as the Cubs have actually been kind of dysfunctional lately, but either way.
Breaking up the big happy family might have been painful, but I doubt it would be as painful as amputating your own arm with a dull knife, which is what Ralston (the real-life hero of the film 127 Hours) had to do. That sucked like hell, but it saved his life. The Cubs, meanwhile, by refusing to make a (comparatively incredibly mild) short-term sacrifice, have pretty much lost whatever small chance they had left of resuscitating any hope for their next several years.
The Rays not trading Upton is like Time Warner passing on the whole AOL merger idea.
Weird to say about the guy who was one of the most talked about and sought-after targets at this trade deadline, but I think Andrew Friedman might have dodged a bullet (though not appendicitis) by holding on to B.J. Upton for a few more months. The dude is hitting .226/.308/.398, with more strikeouts than games played. Outfielders who are not Carlos Beltran have been going for very little — Ryan Ludwick, who’s nowhere near the player Upton is but at least has superficially similar offensive numbers, went for the ever-in-demand “cash or a player to be named later.”
Upton isn’t 27 yet, has one incredibly cheap arbitration year remaining, and is actually already a pretty good player, even if he never reaches his awesome potential. He had a lot of suitors, but I expect that a lot of them were suitors because they saw his sub-.230 batting average and figure he’d come cheap; to the Rays’ credit, they apparently held their ground. If Upton plays out the rest of the season with the Rays, one of two things might happen: either he catches fire and ends the season with much better numbers, allowing them to trade him in the offseason for a much better package than they could have gotten today; or he continues to struggle, which might even allow the Rays to sign him to an affordable extension. At the very least, they can trade him then for not all that much less (if any less at all) than they’d be getting back for him now.
The merger between AOL and Time-Warner in 2001, coming as it did right before the dot-com bust, was one of the most disastrous corporate transactions in American history. I don’t think an Upton trade would be quite that awful, but the timing might be similarly unfortunate.