It’s that time of year again when teams begin to ponder their needs for the dog days of August and the stretch run in September. And it’s a time many general managers go into panic mode. I don’t need to remind folks that the MLB trade deadline of July 31 is approaching, and as usual, media-types delight in spreading rumors and educated speculation.
I’m not privy to hot scoops or inside information other than chatter from my inner circle of Latino players, and what they hear from their representatives are often inquiries that never materialize. What’s a bit different this year, though, is that only a few teams have thrown in the white towel and can be considered as definite “sellers.” Predictably, that usually changes in the final days of the month. My niche, as I see it, is to report on possible transactions and logical moves that could involve Hispanic athletes. So, I’ll try to cover all the scenarios and even include a request of my own.
The Cincinnati Reds have the best pitching pieces to offer, including gringo Mike Leake. There’s no doubt that Johnny Cueto is on the move. He’s in the final year of his deal and can’t wait to pitch somewhere other than the Great American launching pad. The Kansas City Royals were already one of the front-runners to zero in on on the flashy Dominican, and the pressure will intensify now that Jason Vargas is set to undergo Tommy John surgery. The Los Angeles Dodgers have starting pitching worries too, plus the possibility that Zack Greinke will take his talents elsewhere next season. The Houston Astros fantasize about trading for Cueto as well, and have minor league chips who would please the Reds. But the Astros have a young, promising team, so why gut the farm for a two month rental? The other high profile pitcher in Cincinnati is Aroldis Chapman, the Cuban Missile. The Reds closer could end up with any of a half dozen teams, and still has one year of arbitration remaining before becoming a free agent. In my opinion, the Washington Nationals would be nuts not to pursue Chapman. The Chicago Cubs would also love to obtain the flame-throwing lefty, but I don’t see him going to a team in the same division.
The Colorado Rockies are a mess, and that means it’s probably time to move Carlos Gonzalez for some pitching help. The 29-year-old Venezuelan outfielder is finally healthy with decent power numbers and is signed through 2017, but there aren’t a lot of teams that can afford his salary of $16 million per season. One club that can, however, is the New York Mets, and the Queens contenders need some offensive muscle if they are going to keep pace with the Nats. Carlos Gomez and Gerardo Parra of the Milwaukee Brewers have also been linked to the Mets and might actually make more sense financially. Gomez is signed through 2016, makes considerably less than CarGo and is probably a better defender. Moving on to Plan C would be Parra, a Rawlings Gold Glove recipient who has slashed .316/.353/.512 for the Brewers, but will be a free agent in 2016. That said, the speedy native of Zulia, Venezuela, is only making $6.2 million and might want to permanently hang out in the Big Apple if treated fairly. Another favorable point is that unlike Gonzalez and Gomez, Parra’s agent isn’t Scott Boras.
Color Aramis Ramirez a very happy ex-Brewer after he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team he broke in with in 1998. Now in his 18th and final season, the 37-year-old warrior has a chance to get deep in the postseason and possibly go to the World Series. That would be a great story, and I commend Milwaukee’s front office for making it happen. Another Brewer who could be switching uniforms is Jean Segura, even though he is under team control until 2018. Once a monster prospect with an unlimited ceiling, the 25-year-old Dominican has been injury-prone, inconsistent and subject to mood swings. Still, Segura has turned up on the New York radar in addition to the San Diego Padres, since both teams are in desperate need of a regular shortstop. The Padres in particular would rather grab Orlando Arcia, Milwaukee’s top minor league gun and a ball of energy. Although there have been mild discussions, such a deal seems unlikely because the Padres don’t have anyone to “wow” the Brewers except for Hunter Renfroe, who hopes to be the San Diego left fielder once Justin Upton is gone.
Back to rental players, the scuffling Tigers hope to say adios to Yeonis Cespedes and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will try pretty damn hard to get him. Can you imagine a guy like Cespedes, 29, leaving a lineup that included Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez to one that features Mike Trout and Albert Pujols? The Texas Rangers were shocked that durable right-handed pitcher Yovani Gallardo, a 2016 free agent, wasn’t enthused about accepting a “hometown discount” to stay in Arlington. The Michoacan native who grew up near Ft. Worth has compiled a 2.91 ERA in 20 starts for the Rangers, and will likely finish out the season with the Dodgers or the San Francisco Giants. At least that’s what Gallardo would prefer. A Mexican playing in California for a contender is a beautiful thing.
Now, here’s my own wish, and please hear me out. As a loyal New York Yankees fan, I’ve been dismayed at the lack of production at second base since Robinson Cano said he was disrespected and moved to the Great Northwest (which hasn’t proved all that great). My amigo Martin Prado, a team leader and terrific clubhouse guy, has done his best to stay positive in the circus atmosphere that surrounds the Miami Marlins. But even Prado has grown weary of Jeffrey Loria’s drama, admitting that it’s a “bad situation” there. Wouldn’t it be ironic if Prado, who was traded to the Marlins by the Yankees last December, was suddenly on a plane back to The Bronx? I know the numbers are a bit down for Prado, 31, and he’s probably better suited to play third base. But he’s currently playing well at second base for the Marlins while Dee Gordon is on the mend. And the veteran infielder is hitting .274, almost 100 points higher than the disappointing Stephen Drew.
The time has come for Martin Prado to suit up in pinstripes again. He’s the glue that will help hold the Yankees together at crunch time. Are you listening Brian Cashman?