The early movers had it right. Make a trade early (C.C. Sabathia, Rich Harden), and you get a top player for a longer period of time.
But a few contenders have stood pat, waiting for the right deal. With the non-waiver deadline now just three days away, here's a look at the players who should be traded, players who should be called up, teams that should make a move, and one player who shouldn't (and won't) go anywhere.
FIVE WHO SHOULD BE TRADED
Adam Dunn, Reds
If it seems like the Reds are out of contention every year, and that Dunn has been the subject of trade rumors every year, that's because both are true. Critics play up Dunn's perennially low batting average and high strikeout totals while completely ignoring the combination of power and patience that make him one of the game's most dangerous hitters. This season, Dunn leads the majors in walks (76) and is second in homers (29).
The Mets are playing Endy Chavez and Fernando Tatis every day, a situation that could cost them a division title. Ryan Church coming back at full strength is asking a lot, and that would still leave one big question mark in the outfield, making a Dunn move a perfect fit. The Diamondbacks would be another ideal suitor: Signing Eric Byrnes to a three-year, $30 million contract extension last summer and then trading Carlos Quentin to the White Sox for an iffy prospect has left them with Byrnes out for the year, Quentin vying for AL MVP honors, and a big hole in the lineup. The Reds' asking price for Dunn is said to be high, but both teams would do well to negotiate right down to the wire to get something Dunn.
Mark Teixeira, Braves
We keep hearing about potential obstacles to a Teixeira deal: He's a free agent at year's end, he won't sign a contract extension because he's a Scott Boras client, and most major league contenders don't need a first baseman. Those complaints show a lack of imagination, given the power bat and Gold Glove defense that Teixeira offers.
The Angels are carrying dodgy bats in left field and at DH, with Garret Anderson past his prime, Juan Rivera's track record of inconsistent performance, and Gary Matthews Jr., coincidence or not, a shadow of the hitter he was before PED accusations first started dogging him. (Anderson and Rivera are hitting better lately, but larger sample sizes should always trump a couple of weeks of good results.) The party line in Anaheim is that the team makes the playoffs almost every year and has done so by developing their own prospects into major league contributors. This ignores the fact that the Angels have been playoff washouts since 2002, outgunned every year by better offensive teams. Moving Casey Kotchman to DH, letting Anderson and Rivera split playing time, and installing Teixeira at first would be a big upgrade — one that may not cost much more than talented but erratic third base prospect Brandon Wood and would net two high compensatory draft picks when Teixeira bolts for free agency.
Jason Bay, Pirates
The Pirates are said to be holding out for a ton of talent in any Bay deal, more than they got from the Yankees for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. You have to figure this is a negotiating ploy, considering the Pirates are likely at least two or three years away from contending, making Bay unlikely to be part of the next winning team in Pittsburgh.
With the Yankees on fire and having made a big move, the Red Sox getting David Ortiz back and looking for their own upgrades, and the Rays clinging to a slim lead in the AL East, it's up to the Rays to flood the Bucs with trade offers until their price comes down far enough for a deal to be made. Tampa's seeking a righty-hitting outfielder with power — exactly Bay's profile. Trading a potential ace like former no. 1 pick David Price shouldn't be an option. But the Rays have enough other strong pitching prospects to make a run at Bay. Tampa has gone from an interesting collection of young talent to a real team, one that's a legitimate pennant contender. It's time to take the next step.
Justin Duchscherer, A's
As Dalton Del Don of RotoWire.com points out, Duchscherer's been the luckiest pitcher in baseball this season. Duchscherer has yielded the lowest batting average on balls in play in the game (thanks to luck and great defense behind him) and owns the highest strand rate of any starter in the game (thanks mostly to the bullpen bailing him out). The A's righty got shelled in his last start against Texas, and Billy Beane has to know that Duchscherer's value will never be higher than it is right now. The Colorado Rockies' recent win streak has them believing they can duplicate last year's magic. Time to strike while the iron is hot.
Huston Street A's
Yes, it's another A's pitcher. But if Beane's willing to trade Harden, Chad Gaudin, Joe Blanton, and Dan Haren in the past 12 months, what's a couple more arms? Dodgers GM Ned Colletti's whiffed on a number of moves, from the horrific Andruw Jones signing to giving up two quality prospects for Casey Blake, when the Dodgers have third base prospect Andy LaRoche twisting in the wind. With Colletti now said to be shopping LaRoche and seeking both relief and shortstop help, you have to think that Oakland has some kind of Huston Street/Bobby Crosby package in mind — especially if it'll land a top third base prospect like LaRoche.
TWO WHO SHOULD BE CALLED UP
Francisco Liriano, Twins
There are four possible reasons that could be preventing the Twins from calling up Liriano, even though he's pitching like vintage Dwight Gooden at Triple-A:
1) They're keeping him in the minors to limit his big league service time.
2) They're trying desperately to find a taker for Livan Hernandez so they can get something in return for him and not have to eat his contract.
3) They're being stubborn after Liriano's agent made legal threats over the Twins keeping his client in the minors.
4) They actually believe that Livan Hernandez is a better major league starter than Liriano.
Whether it's tightwad accounting, wishful thinking, intentional sabotage, or plain old incompetence, it has to stop. Liriano would provide a huge boost to a team that's in the thick of a playoff race.
David Price, Rays
Teams are asking too much for relievers like Brian Fuentes. So if you're the Rays, why not go with your own lights-out lefty? Price plus J.P. Howell would make for an excellent pair of lefty setup men. Price in the rotation, with Andy Sonnanstine or Edwin Jackson going to the bullpen, would also give Tampa a solid upgrade.
ONE WHO SHOULDN'T GO ANYWHERE
Manny Ramirez, Red Sox
Yes, he doesn't run out groundballs, he shoots his mouth off, and he is the league's biggest goofball. He's still a vital part of the Red Sox lineup and wouldn't fetch enough in return to be worth flipping him at the deadline. If Boston can trade Manny for two top prospects, then shuttle those prospects to the Braves for Teixeira and move Kevin Youkilis to left, that would be fine. Good luck with that.
Mr. Keri ([email protected]) is a writer for ESPN.com's Page 2.