A Tale of Two Days

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, when Charles Dickens wrote that line in 1859 he probably had no inclination that he would be quoted in a baseball blog. Well that’s probably a given since I am not sure Charles Dickens even a baseball fan and he definitely had no clue what a blog was. Still, there was never a more apropos quote to describe this time of the baseball season. We are now less than two days away from the non-waiver trading deadline and around baseball teams are trying to determine whether they are buyers or sellers and evaluating their team’s assets to decide what they need in order to make a run for the 2008 post season. Some franchises view their chances as miniscule to make the play-offs and will be sellers trading away today’s players in exchange for building blocks for a future contender. Others will see themselves as being very close needed just 1 or 2 pieces to get themselves over the bubble and make an appearance in October.

That is what makes this week in particular so interesting. Teams are positioning themselves and their players to best showcase their talents and hopefully driving up the player’s value on the trade market. The fans are left in a somewhat precarious situation. On one hand they have stuck with these players since Spring Training and within 48 hours some of the players will no longer be with the team; replaced by either unknown commodities or worse the guy that just last week you were booing mercilessly.

It is also a time of year where everyone who follows a team views themselves as an undiscovered General Manager. We’ve all sat next to these guys who have an answer for every team’s woes. Most of these “fixes” include blockbuster trades of Cy Young caliber pitchers or Silver Slugger winners changing hands like baseball cards. They discount the overall impact to the team or the economic factors that would be necessary to complete the deal. In fact they usually ignore the reality that even though a team may be out of the play-off run this season that doesn’t mean they are giving up forever so trading away a foundational piece of the team is probably not going to happen. The complexity of these deals usually means that they do not come to fruition and teams stand pat.

The Arizona Diamondbacks find themselves in an interesting position. Although they are only one game above .500 after last night’s debacle they are still in first place. The Los Angeles Dodgers are one game back in the standings and seem to mirror the ineptitude that has plagued the National League Western Division teams this season. Considering the number of injuries that the Diamondbacks have suffered lately you could make a very strong case that they should do nothing and let the season ride out. Those players on the disabled list will heal and return to the line-up giving the snakes an impact player they hadn’t had for a while.

The offense has been a problem for the past couple of months as Arizona has struggled to score runs. Lately though the bats have come alive and looks to be returning to the form they had earlier in the season. For the most part pitching has been fairly solid at least from a rotation perspective. Webb and Haren have shown why they were the Arizona representatives to the all-star game. Doug Davis and Randy Johnson are both getting stronger and have shown an ability to pitch late into the game. Between Micah Owings and Yumiero Petit the Diamondbacks have an option for a fifth starter.

The back-end of the bullpen has struggled of late but with the addition of Jon Rauch that too looks to be fairly solid. So why then are we hearing consistent rumors that the Diamondbacks are the front runners in the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes? First, I don’t put a lot of credence in the sources of these rumors. Second, let’s look at this and see whether this even makes sense.

Since becoming General Manager, Josh Byrnes has shown a knack for trading for players that would give the Diamondbacks financial stability for multiple years. Teixeira is a free agent at the end of this season which means this would be a two-month rental. The Diamondbacks currently have on their roster 4 first basemen and another three more that have had time at first this season. So unless we are playing some fantasy league where you get bonus points for hits by a first baseman I am not sure why they would trade for yet another corner infielder.

Bob Melvin is already challenged to find playing time for Tony Clark, Chad Tracy, Jaime D’Antona and Chris Burke so adding another player to that mix won’t make his job any easier. The rumor mills have the Diamondbacks giving up Chad Tracy and Micah Owings and prospects for Teixeira. If I were a Braves fan I would be thrilled if this occurred. You get a marginal first baseman who is under contract for the next 2 years, you get a starter/reliever who has great numbers at Turner Field, plus two prospects. What about the Diamondbacks? They get a rental on a switch-hitting first baseman for 2 months. They get some financial relief by not paying Tracy after this season which may give them the money necessary to pay Orlando Hudson when he becomes a free agent. You lose Micah Owings as a pitcher (which after last night you have to wonder if that is a positive or a negative) but you also lose his bat that can be used late in the game as a pinch hitter.

You would get 2 compensatory picks in next year’s draft after Teixeira is signed by another team. They question is, will those 2 draft picks be as valuable as what you could get if you traded Owings and Tracy in the off-season? Personally I think the price is too high if that is what Atlanta is asking. Perhaps someone else is willing to pay that but I don’t believe the Diamondbacks should.

For the next two days we’ll hear some wild rumors as the trade deadline approaches. Some of these deals will make sense while others will not. It will be up to Josh Byrnes and his capable staff to decide which are which and what makes sense not just for 2008 but beyond. Hopefully at the end of Thursday we will be able to hearken back to A Tale of Two Cities and agree with the final line of that book, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.”

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