to mediocre numbers away from Coors Field.
Not long after Toronto's Roy Halladay finished dissecting the Red Sox on Sunday in a complete-game victory, Boston manager Terry Francona lamented jokingly, "They should have traded him the other day, and to a National League team."
Francona may yet get his wish, and even though the trade didn't occur in time to save his team on Sunday, any trade involving the man who started the All-Star Game for the American League just last week would come in plenty of time to save what has been a particularly dreary trade season thus far. To all those who follow the weeks leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline the way stock brokers track the Dow Jones, this has been a summer devoid of blue chips on the move. Should Halladay, a former Cy Young winner and by far the premier player on the trading block, be sent south of the border, he would be the first -- and perhaps only -- superstar to be dealt this year.
This is in stark contrast with last year's deadline, in which one $100 million man (Manny Ramirez) was dealt, and so were two others (CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira) who would join that limited fraternity at season's end.
There were two trades on Sunday, but both passed without much attention. Journeyman infielder Felipe Lopez was sent from the Diamondbacks to the Brewers for a pair of minor leaguers, and two last-place teams -- the Orioles and Padres -- made a trade that sent reliever Cla Meredith to Baltimore for utilityman Oscar Salazar. That is in keeping with the mild nature of the trade results to date, unless you consider Nate McLouth's relocation to Atlanta or the Jeff Francoeur-for-Ryan Church swap to be blockbusters. In fact, the most interesting trade so far this season is one that didn't happen -- the aborted Jake Peavy-to-the-White Sox trade that Peavy refused back in May.
There are a handful of players whose names have been mentioned that -- aside from Halladay -- may not measure up to the star power or impact of Sabathia, Teixeira and Ramirez a year ago, but would at least bring some life to the trade deadline, and perhaps have a noticeable effect on a densely-packed playoff chase (two-thirds of the game's 30 teams are within six games of a playoff spot through Sunday).
Here are the most buzz-worthy players:
Roy Halladay: Halladay's list of potential suitors is the longest in the game, and with good reason. No other player on the market offers the potential ability to tilt the balance of a pennant race the way he does, just as Sabathia's arrival cemented the Brewers' status as a force to be reckoned with in the National League a year ago. Perhaps the most interesting part of the Halladay rumors, though, is this: If Roy is traded at the deadline, he could actually demand a trade this offseason, even though he won't be a free agent until after the 2010 season. Any player who signed a multi-year contract before the end of the 2006 season (as Halladay did in March of 2006) and then is traded during that contract is free to demand a trade.
Matt Holliday: When he was dealt to Oakland last November by the Rockies, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Holliday would be sent packing by mid-summer. But since he's been mired in a season-long offensive slump (he's batting just .279 and has only one home run since early June), A's general manager Billy Beane may decide just to keep Holliday and use the draft picks he'd get if Holliday leaves as a free agent this winter. Plenty of clubs would love to have a bat like his, but only if he returns to the All-Star form he showed in Colorado, where he averaged .329 with 32 home runs and 113 RBIs in his last three years, especially if it's going to cost multiple top prospects to get him.
George Sherrill: He's not spectacular, but the 32-year-old Orioles closer is enjoying arguably the best season of his career, and certainly better than his All-Star campaign of 2008. Sherrill has 20 saves, a 2.35 ERA and a 1.096 WHIP, and he has been superb against left-handed batters, yielding just a .125/.200/.150 line. He's also affordable, making just $2.75 million this year and he's under team control through 2011, further enhancing his value in any deal.
Nick Johnson: There is absolutely no reason why the Nats should keep Johnson, who is headed for free agency at season's end. With a .307 average and .415 on-base percentage, Johnson remains an effective offensive player who can be a useful bat either in the everyday lineup or coming off the bench. His injury history has to be a concern, as does the fact that he turns 31 in September.
Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson: The Pirates offered both Sanchez and Wilson contract extensions last week, only to have them rebuffed firmly, which is likely to mean that the middle infielders are headed to the trade market, and possibly out of town. The pair has been a mainstay in the middle of the Pittsburgh infield for the past six years, and Sanchez is a .302 lifetime hitter and a former batting champ who made the All-Star team this year, while Wilson is a former All-Star whose glovework could make him attractive to a variety of teams. Both players have club options on their contracts through 2010.
Cliff Lee: Like Sabathia, he's a reigning AL Cy Young winner and a lefty sure to draw plenty of interest on the trade market. Unlike Sabathia, who shook off a slow start long before he was dealt early last July, Lee has yet to show the same ability and consistency the year after winning the Cy that were the hallmarks of his award-winning campaign a year ago. Lee is just 5-9 with a 3.31 ERA and his WHIP (1.11 to 1.36), hits per nine (8/.6 to 10.1) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.00 to 3.00) have all gotten worse. He has an affordable $8 million club option for next season.
Jarrod Washburn and Erik Bedard: At six games over .500 and just four games back in the AL West, the Mariners still have some time before deciding whether they are going to be buyers or sellers. If it's the latter, their pair of lefty starters will surely attract a high level of interest. Washburn, in the last year of a four-year contract, and Bedard both have ERAs under 3.00. Washburn has been superb over his last three starts, going 3-0 with a 0.79 ERA and a .165 batting average against that is sure to catch the eye of potential suitors. Bedard, though, just returned form a stint on the disabled list with inflammation in his pitching shoulder, which may temper the enthusiasm for him. He hasn't lasted through the sixth inning in any of his three starts since coming back while watching his ERA climb from 2.48 to 2.70.
Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo: The Reds have struggled to remain in contention in the NL Central (with a 44-47 record they are 5.5 games behind the Cardinals). If they fall any further, they may be forced to deal one or both of their veteran righty starters, Arroyo and Harang. Neither is spectacular, but both are solid pitchers (Harang's respectable 4.17 ERA offsets his 5-10 record while Arroyo has reached double-digit wins for the fifth time in six years). Perhaps as added incentive to teams who acquire them, both pitchers are signed through 2010 with a club option for 2011
Alex Rios: The two-time All-Star is still just 28 but he may have worn out his welcome in Toronto, both with an embarrassing interaction with a fan off the field and declining performance on it. Rios' batting average is down for the third year in a row, and his on-base and slugging percentages are down for the second straight year (he's now at .261/.317/.413). What's more, any club who gets him would have to take on a rather large contractual obligation, as Rios is in second season of a seven-year deal worth almost $70 million deal that includes annual payouts that will only get more expensive in the years to come. Perhaps the Blue Jays will deal another highly paid but struggling outfielder in Vernon Wells instead.
Garrett Atkins: Several teams have shown interest in Atkins, who has slumped badly this season, to the point that he is no longer in the everyday lineup in Colorado. After posting at least 99 RBIs each of the past three years, he has just 28 this year, and his batting average is down 60 points from where it was a year ago. Another potential roadblock could be the fact that Atkins is due about $3 million for the rest of this season.