How contracts shift the trade market

When young players like Denard Span are under control at a good price, teams balk at trading them. Peter G. Aiken/US Presswire

Oh, sure, you can call the Minnesota Twins and ask about Denard Span, a good player who would help any good team. Span is hitting .288 with a .352 on-base percentage, solid numbers for a leadoff hitter.

But an underlying factor that makes it more difficult for the Twins to trade Span has nothing to do with OPS or defensive metrics: His contract is valuable.

At this time of year, some players, such as Alfonso Soriano, are available because of their contracts. In the case of Span, his deal makes him almost invaluable. "It's really hard to place a value on a contract like that," said one GM. "It makes it tough to trade a player [in that circumstance], because you almost have to get overpaid to walk away from that deal, or there's something else going on."

One of the best moves that Bill Smith made in his tenure as Minnesota's GM was to lock up Span to a long-term deal. Span is earning $3 million this year, and he will get $4.75 million next year and $6.5 million in 2014. The Twins hold a club option for 2015 at $9 million, with a $500,000 buyout.

That's relatively modest cost certainty for a young and productive player. For an organization that has about $150 million remaining in obligation to Joe Mauer, there is real value in that. At the time Span signed the contract as a very young player, it guaranteed him $16.5 million, making it a great deal for him. And now, as he progresses through the deal, the Twins get the payoff on their investment.

Consider the case of Yunel Escobar. He is a productive player, and the Toronto Blue Jays say that in spite of his reputation as being very difficult, he has been a good team guy for them.

His contract is arguably the most team-friendly deal in the majors: Escobar is making $5 million this year and will make $5 million next year, and the Jays hold club options of $5 million for 2014 and 2015.

Think about it: The Blue Jays have a talented middle-of-the-diamond player and know that his salary will remain at $5 million for the next 3&frac12; seasons. If Toronto is willing to move him, with that kind of contract, it could say a lot about how workable the staff finds him to be.

Liriano traded

The Twins got a couple of minor leaguers for Francisco Liriano. It wasn't a great haul, but Liriano is not a great pitcher, and there was no way Minnesota was going to offer Liriano a qualifying offer of $12.5 million in the fall. So at the very least, the Twins got some organizational depth in return for a pitcher who had no future with them.

The deal made sense for the Chicago White Sox, too, because they are in a dogfight to win the AL Central -- Saturday's win increased their lead to 2&frac12; games -- and they need rotation help, and they don't have the kind of farm system required to land a big name such as Zack Greinke or James Shields.

Liriano could come in and provide a nice jolt for the White Sox, writes Mark Gonzales.

From ESPN Stats and Information, more on Liriano:

Liriano and new teammate Chris Sale rank second and third in the league, respectively, in strikeouts on sliders this season. Liriano's 150 strikeouts on sliders in 2010 are the most by a pitcher in any season in the past four seasons, and his 296 strikeouts since the start of the 2010 season are the most in baseball. This season, CC Sabathia leads baseball with 79 strikeouts on sliders. Liriano has 78.

Liriano and Sale are the only two pitchers with 11 or more slider strikeouts in a game this season. The most slider strikeouts in a game this season:

July 13: Liriano, 12

May 28: Sale, 11

April 20: Sale, 10

May 10: Colby Lewis, 10

June 18: Sabathia, 10

Liriano was sent to the bullpen in early May and then returned to the rotation on May 30. His slider has really improved since his return.

Liriano's slider this season in his first six starts (and past 11 starts)

Opp BA: .364 (.134)

K/PA percentage: 33.3 (55.3)

Miss percentage: 35.7 (47.5)

Line drive percentage: 19.0 (9.8)


• There is interest in Shields, and if the Tampa Bay Rays are motivated to trade the right-hander, they can do so. One factor that will enter into the decision will be the condition of Evan Longoria, who is on a minor league rehabilitation assignment. If all goes well, Longoria could be back in the Tampa Bay lineup in a week as the team's designated hitter -- there is no timetable for him to return to playing third base -- and so the Rays could hold together their pitching, including Shields, to make a run at the playoffs during the last two months.

But some rival executives believe the Rays will trade Shields before Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET trade deadline. The Rays say they're only talking about possible deals, writes Mark Topkin.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has had a couple of good days in Anaheim; Matt Moore shut down the Angels on Saturday.

From ESPN Stats and Info, how Moore beat the Angels:

A. Moore matched a career high with six outs with his curveball. He would have had seven outs with it if not for an error.

B. Ten of the 17 balls in play against Moore (59 percent) were hit on the ground, the second-highest percentage in a start in his career.

C. For only the second start of his career, Moore did not allow a hit off his fastball. He also didn't allow a hit off his curveball; all four Angels hits against Moore came against his changeup.

• The center of the scouts' universe today is Miami, where Josh Johnson will take the mound.

Sources say the Miami Marlins are not especially motivated to move Johnson, and if they don't get the multiprospect package they seek, they'll just hang onto him. Johnson says he's not worried about the trade rumors, Clark Spencer writes.

Matt Garza won't pitch before the Tuesday deadline, which means that it'll take a leap of faith for a GM to make a deal for him without being able to tell his bosses when Garza would be able to take the mound again. So any team being aggressive in proposing deals for the right-hander would be acquiring him probably more for 2013 than for 2012. The Blue Jays might fit that description.

In the end, the Cubs might keep Garza and look to deal him in the winter.

The market has narrowed for the Cubs, writes Dave van Dyck.

Rafael Betancourt might be dealt, writes Troy Renck.

Last year, the trade market was saturated with relievers, but this year there has been relatively little talk about the bullpen guys. Besides Betancourt, the relievers who might draw the most interest are Jonathan Broxton of the Kansas City Royals and Grant Balfour of the Oakland Athletics. Oakland has a surplus of pitching from which to deal.

Yoenis Cespedes doesn't have the numbers to win the AL MVP, but he should get some top-10 votes if the Athletics somehow make the playoffs. He's been right in the middle of a lot of their big moments this year -- including Saturday's victory.

• Gordon Edes writes of fractures in the relationship between the Boston Red Sox and their manager. It was a typical bipolar day for Bobby Valentine's bipolar boys. You can tell Valentine is burning below the surface, writes Tyler Kepner.

I've read and heard this particular line many times this summer: Bobby Valentine is not getting a chance to be himself, to manage the way he wants.

What does that mean, exactly?

What would have to change to make that happen? A total makeover of a team with one of the highest payrolls in baseball, including the jettisoning of some of the best-paid players? The firing of coaches? The dismissal of some members of the medical staff? A complete restructuring of the chain of command?

Every day, there are 25 players and 27 outs to manage, hundreds of opportunities to make decisions and communicate thoughts and to manage.

Oh, sure, there are challenging circumstances in place, as there are for every manager. Don Mattingly stoically dealt with an ownership mess. Joe Girardi copes with the largest media following daily and has fostered one of the most cohesive clubhouses in the majors. Ron Washington works with Josh Hamilton daily, in his star's day-to-day struggles. Charlie Manuel isn't best friends with some of the folks he works for. Joe Maddon works within the modest roster means he is provided. Brad Mills' five highest-paid players have all been traded. Jim Leyland works for a demanding owner who wants to win a championship yesterday.

Buck Showalter took over as manager of a team that hadn't won in years and was part of a search committee to find his new boss -- and despite all of that, there has been progress.

Terry Francona dealt with a lot of the same parameters as Valentine: A team of temperamental veterans, a sometimes dysfunctional ownership, a progressive front office, an intrusive media. He lasted nine seasons, and the Red Sox won a couple of championships.

Managers manage, no matter what they have. No organization places its priorities on a tee for the manager.

Pedro Ciriaco helped the Red Sox win Saturday.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Marlins are likely to promote Jacob Turner to the big leagues sometime in early August.

2. Kris Medlen is replacing Jair Jurrjens in the Atlanta rotation.

3. Oakland is acquiring a catcher.

4. Casper Wells is getting some playing time in right field.

5. It looks like Alexi Ogando could replace Colby Lewis in the Texas rotation.

6. The Cleveland front office must make a decision.

First and foremost: Anything the Cleveland Indians do now will be designed to help them in 2013, as well as in 2012. It makes no sense now to devote resources at a time when the Indians are on the fringe of the playoff race and they're not playing well.

7. Ruben Amaro has a chance to start reloading for 2013, writes Bob Brookover.

8. Lew Ford has been called up.

Dings and dents

1. Mike Moustakas is getting an MRI for his knee.

2. Giancarlo Stanton is making progress.

3. Juan Nicasio's season is over, but he hopes to pitch this fall.

4. Bryce Harper is dealing with dizziness.

AL West notes

Kevin Millwood gave a hat tip to shortstop Brendan Ryan with the trade deadline looming.

C.J. Wilson finished out a rough July with a loss.

• The Texas Rangers keep losing and their hitters keep struggling. After the latest defeat, the Texas lineup got together to talk. Josh Hamilton got a day off.

AL Central notes

• Leyland made it clear that some of the Detroit hitters need to be a little better.

• The Royals have become a soul-crushing mess, writes Bob Dutton.

Justin Masterson had a really bad day.

AL East notes

• The chances of the Blue Jays making the playoffs are not good, but they've had a remarkable season to this point, playing through injuries; after their latest win, Toronto is over .500 again.

Mark Teixeira got the best of his nemesis, but a Curtis Granderson misplay cost the Yankees.

NL East notes

Nate Eovaldi impressed in his first outing for the Marlins.

Mike Minor was The Man for the Atlanta Braves.

Jordan Zimmermann threw great.

• The Phillies' charmless season may be unofficially dead, but Joe Blanton did throw well, writes Matt Gelb.

Ike Davis had a huge night for the New York Mets, but otherwise, there was no help.

NL Central notes

Wandy Rodriguez and the Pittsburgh Pirates found a way to win.

• The Cincinnati Reds are just about unstoppable, and on Saturday, Johnny Cueto was the beneficiary of the run support.

• The St. Louis Cardinals were taken down by a bunt.

• The Houston Astros have played music in their clubhouse after games only twice since June 27. That's 25 losses in their past 27 games, and a club-record 12 straight defeats.

Randy Wolf got hurt by the long ball.

NL West notes

• The San Francisco Giants were blown out.

Matt Kemp silenced the crowd in San Francisco.

From ESPN Stats and Info: In the first two games of the Dodgers' series with the Giants, only five of the 37 pitches Kemp has seen have been inside (13.5 percent). Only two of the inside pitches have been in the strike zone, and those are the only two inside pitches Kemp has swung at. Both of those were in Saturday's game; one resulted in his home run and the other in his first double of the game.

From the Elias Sports Bureau: Kemp went 4-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs Saturday afternoon in the Dodgers' win against the Giants. Kemp has 15 homers and is hitting .342 in 50 games this season. Only two other players in Dodgers history hit at least 15 homers with a batting average of .340 or better through his first 50 games of a season: Roy Campanella in 1955 (.342, 17 HR) and Manny Ramirez in 2008 (.398, 17 HR).

• The most dangerous team that started Saturday's play at .500 or below is the Arizona Diamondbacks, and they won again.

Ross Ohlendorf had a good start, but it wasn't enough.

By The Numbers

From ESPN Stats and Info

3: Pitchers in Braves history with consecutive 30-save seasons after Craig Kimbrel saved his 30th game of 2012 on Saturday; Mark Wohlers and John Smoltz are the other two.

4: Starts in his past five against the Red Sox in which Sabathia has allowed at least six earned runs.

19: Quality starts this season for Jordan Zimmermann, two more than any other pitcher in baseball.

1,274: Combined distance, in feet, of Ike Davis' three home runs Saturday, the highest combined distance in a three-homer game in the past two seasons.

Other stuff

• Jerry Dipoto has changed the Angels' culture, writes Jeff Miller. Greinke doesn't have a lot to say.

• Jeff Luhnow's plan is taking shape, writes Zachary Levine.

Quintin Berry is on a roll.

Mitchell Boggs has become a lock-down setup man.

• If the Dodgers win again today, GM Brian Sabean may have no choice but to make another move.

• The Milwaukee Brewers have a lot of rebuilding to do, writes Michael Hunt.

• Oakland might be better than the Giants right now, writes Carl Steward.

• Bob Elliott reflected on his magical weekend.

And today will be better than yesterday.