You can understand Billy Beane's asking price for Barry Zito, reportedly trying to squeeze Lastings Milledge out of Omar Minaya and the Mets. Despite looming free agency, the lefthanded pitcher is the A's ace, the cog in a rotation that has helped Oakland to first in the AL West. Trading him amounts to as much as throwing in the towel.
Milledge would give the A's a possible future superstar at relatively cheap cash over the next five to six seasons, in an area that Oakland is severely lacking: offense. For the Mets, Zito would complete a solid playoff 1-2-3 rotation along with Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine. The Mets aren't exactly a young pitching staff, and Minaya has to understand this might be his best shot.
It costs both teams plenty, but at the end of the day it's probably a pretty good deal for all parties involved.
In fact, the very commonsensical nature of a trade like this only further illustrates how insane everybody else is.
The latest rumor down the pipe is that in their trade deadline search (4 p.m. Monday, set the rumor mill as a favorite on your ESPN mobile phone…all five of you) for more pitching the Red Sox were asked for either Craig Hansen or Jon Lester in exchange for Phillies pitcher Jon Lieber. We now pause for a moment so that you might be able to laugh heartily.
Whom do we blame for such irrational stupidity? Maybe it's Pat Gillick, trying to squeeze top dollar out of someone for a pitcher who, frankly isn't very good. Perhaps it's the over exuberance of some writer on deadline who needs to add a name to the rumor.
For the record, Lieber this season is 4-7 with a 5.52 ERA. Yesterday, he beat the Diamondbacks, allowing 11 hits and four runs over seven innings, a performance that, according to some, actually boosted his trade value.
It was his first win since May 13.
I repeat, May 13.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is how desperate everyone has become for pitching. Aside from Dontrelle Willis and Zito, Lieber and teammate Cory Lidle are apparently the most discussed commodities on the market right now, a development I find somewhat stunning, particularly since the Red Sox would be on the hook for the $7.5 million owed Lieber in 2007. You get to pay Lieber AND Matt Clement? Sweet.
Now Lieber has some history of coming up big. He was a 17-game winner last season in Philadelphia, and was a pivotal man in the Yankees rotation in 2004. But in between victories this year for the righthander, Lester has already won more games in his first month-plus in the major leagues. I understand GMs need to shoot for the moon, just in case, but if anyone on the Phillies' end proposed this deal, he or she should be docked pay for wasting everybody's time. We've only got days here people, let's not get stupid.
Hansen? Sure, we'll give you our first-round draft pick for a retread No. 6 starter. Click.
Zito, Willis, Carlos Lee, these are the guys who might be worth the top arms in your organization. Jon Lieber? How is Lieber any better than what the Red Sox have gotten out of Kyle Snyder, David Pauley, and/or Kason Gabbard? He'd certainly be better than Jason Johnson, but so would that blowup doll from the online poker commercial.
That's not to say help isn't needed. Tim Wakefield is still on the shelf for another few weeks and Lester has shown an inability to get out of the fifth, the same inning when Snyder turns into a pumpkin. David Wells makes his surprise return next week, but nobody knows what to realistically expect. Somewhere down the road Clement could return to the starting staff, a prospect that doesn't exactly scream "pennant fever."
But how much are you willing to mortgage for guys that aren't any better than what you have? Freddy Sanchez says hello, by the way.
It's probably too late, of course, but perhaps a solid course of action, had he not gotten hurt, would have been to stretch Keith Foulke out to start some games down the stretch. Foulke is scheduled to return as early as next week, and it's anyone's guess what he's going to be able to give you on a nightly basis. If anyone is in need of a dire re-invention, it's Foulke, and plugging him into a starting role might have been one way to explore that avenue. Too radical? Maybe. But there was also a point last year when people laughed off the suggestion of plugging in Curt Schilling as the closer if you remember.
I'll fully admit an AL bias when I wonder why more interest isn't being paid to Kansas City's Mark Redman, who is 7-1 since the start of June, the one loss coming in last week's 1-0 contest against the Red Sox at Fenway. A free agent at the end of the year, the Royals aren't going to re-sign him for sure, so it would be daft not to try and make a deal for him. It might be a tossup as to which guy, Redman or Lieber, is the better pitcher, but at least Redman is getting out American League hitters.
Neither is worth Lester or Hansen, but it's not like you needed anyone to tell you that. Lower level pitching prospects like Gabbard, Clay Buchholz or even David Pauley, sure. A guy like David Murphy, who might be stuck in an outfield logjam for the next few seasons? Absolutely.
The trading deadline is a strange time. It's a week in which Red Sox fans squawk over a Jake Peavy for Mike Lowell deal, the Nationals can ask the Angels for Howie Kendrick or Brandon Wood, plus one of John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver, in exchange for Alfonso Soriano, and someone can actually suggest that the Marlins make a play for Alex Rodriguez.
Weird. And we've got five more days of it. Prepare for more insanity.