Can you feel it? Yes, we are still two months away from the trading deadline, but the buzz is beginning to build. Everyday, it seems, there is a new rumor or idea being proposed as injuries begin to mount and team's weaknesses become more defined. All the focus in the coming weeks will be on which contenders are able to pull off the big move as they stride towards the playoffs.
But what I never understood about the trading deadline is why the sellers seemingly ALWAYS go for prospects. Yeah, I know, it always looks good to get something back, but at certain points, wouldn't it better to try and focus on moving terrible contracts? Obviously, there is no salary cap in the MLB, which makes "salary dump" trades far less likely, but I, for one, would love to see teams use their valuable trade chip to try and get rid of the absurd salary of a far lesser player.
-Mariners: If teams want to make a move for Erik Bedard or Russell Branyan, then the Mariners should insist that teams take on Kenji Johjima, who is owed $16 million over the next two seasons. I doubt any team would be willing to take on the entire salary, but attaching Johjima to Bedard might be the best opportunity for the Mariners to shed Johjima's extension and a majority of the money owed to him. Teams are that desperate for front line starting pitching.
-Rockies: If teams want to make a move for Brad Hawpe and/or Jason Marquis, then the Rockies should attempt to deal Todd Helton as well in the same deal. Both Marquis and Hawpe are valuable trade chips because of their contract status, but Todd Helton is still owed over $35 million over the next two years. The Rockies main goal during the deadline should be to find a trading partner to take on some of Helton's salary because that's the only way the Rockies will be able to compete in the near future.
-Diamondbacks: If teams make a push to acquire Doug Davis, then GM Josh Byrnes should try to include Eric Byrnes and the nearly $10 million owed to him as well. Once again, starting pitching is a hot, hot commodity in baseball right now and if teams are serious about upgrading their staff with Davis, then they will have to take on at least some of Byrnes's contract. Byrnes can still be an effective fourth OF, while the Diamondbacks would clear up a roster spot for a young guy or even a free agent.
Perhaps this whole idea is just a pipe dream and is not possible in theory. But who knows?
All three of the teams I mentioned above could gain some VALUABLE financial flexibility to go after proven commodities in the offseason that could enhance their ability to be contenders in 2010 and beyond. When it comes down to it, having payroll flexibility is extremely valuable and more of a guarantee than any prospect.
Sellers in the marketplace need to take advantage of the remaining leverage that they do have. Prospects and young players are all the rage, and rightfully so, but before teams simply go ahead and move their top talent for young guys and unknowns, they should try their damnedest to move the worst contracts they have.