Whatever happens on the field over the course of the baseball season, it's pretty much a given that the most exciting off-the-field happenings will take place as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.
July 31 marks the last time that teams can make trades without the complicated and cumbersome process of having their players clear waivers first, which means that – even with complications like no-trade clauses and contract extension talks in the mix – a flurry of deals will inevitably take place as teams either shore up their rosters for the pennant race or attempt to salvage something (anything!) from a disastrous season.
But even with trade rumors swirling for weeks beforehand, the actual deals that go down can come as a surprise. Everyone expected that the flailing Cubs – currently mired in fifth place in the NL Central – would deal NL ERA leader Ryan Dempster to a contender; and, as of this writing (Monday evening), a deal with the surging Braves for young right-hander Randall Delgado seemed imminent. Far less predictable was the Monday trade that sent the Mariners' aging "face of the franchise" Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees in exchange for two young pitching prospects. For many M's fans, the deal was an unexpected kick in the gut (or lower) in the midst of yet another awful season; for many Yanks fans, it was a pleasant surprise, albeit just another case of their team picking up an over-the-hill veteran for some possible post-season heroics.
While the Mariners and Cubs are clearly "sellers," and the Yankees and Braves clearly "buyers," the suspense of this year's trade deadline has been further compounded by the fact that several teams could go either way – especially with the addition of two more Wild Card spots muddying the post-season prognostications. The Mets, for example, went into the All-Star break looking like dark horse contenders in the NL East, and then promptly lost nine out of their first ten games after returning. The Indians, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Diamondbacks are all only hovering around .500, but they're all still within spitting distance of the Wild Card. Do they buy? Sell? Hold?
And what about the suddenly vital Oakland A's? They're currently making a legit run for the Wild Card – but will their cheapskate owner Lew Wolff let GM Billy Beane make the moves necessary to put them over the top? Or do they just go with what they've got and hope for the best?
So this week, we're asking our esteemed panel of rock & roll seamheads: If you were your favorite team's General Manager, what trades would you make?
Name: Steve Wynn
Band: The Baseball Project
Position: Vocals, Guitar
Memo to Brian Cashman: I think the Yankees are just fine as they are. They'll probably do make some flashy 11th hour move because they're the Yankees, and that's what they do in days before September. And you can never have too many role-playing, just-past-their-prime legends to give you a last month kick. Now, would I hate to see Cole Hamels join the squad? Well, it's hard to turn down any pitcher of that caliber. But the Yankees have put together the best record in baseball with their left fielder, closer and various starters on the DL, so I say it most certainly ain't broke — and, thus, no fix needed.
Name: Scott McCaughey
Band: The Baseball Project, the Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows
Position: Guitar, Vocals
Typically, the Giants would be looking to add a bat right now. I actually think their offense is coming together, and can do the job if they stay healthy. As Giants faux-GM, I'd try to add another quality arm to the bullpen, and by quality I'm not talking Chad Qualls. As for the rest of the league, there are so many teams hovering around .500, with a legit chance to make the playoffs, it's really hard to know who are going to be buyers and who will be sellers. Teams like Tampa Bay and Miami could go either way. I'd like to see the Pirates pick up a starter like Francisco Liriano to give them a real shot at taking that division — I mean, it's been so long, I'd just like to see Pittsburgh make the playoffs.
Name: Pete Yorn
Position: Vocals, Guitar
As a fan, the deals I'm closely following are the ones that the Yankees make. Even with all our injuries, our hitting remains red hot and no team has kept us below three runs for as long as I can remember. But we all know that pitching wins World Series. So if I were Cashman, I'd be trying to get Zack Greinke (even though he's tired) or Cole Hamels (Phillies are trying to make a six-year deal with him, so that's unlikely). Also, even though we seem to have bad luck when we get players directly from the Mariners, I think Seattle's "King Felix" Hernandez would be a good fit for the Bronx. They say he's untouchable, but why wouldn't Seattle "loan" him out to the Yankees for the rest of the season, and then bring him back with a ring?
Name: Scott Ian
Our assistant tour manager Anthony is the true Yankee expert on tour, so I'll defer to his superior knowledge of all things trade deadline on this one. To quote Anthony, "With the absence of Brett Gardner we need a lefty hitting outfielder, that's the really big need. I can see them going after Shane Victorino from the Phillies."
Name: Joshua Epstein
Band: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
Position: Vocals, Keyboards
If I were the Tigers' GM, I'd blackmail the Phillies' GM to give me Cole Hamels for Ryan Rayburn straight-up. Bud Selig won't stop it.
Name: Ken Casey
Band: Dropkick Murphys
Position: Bass guitar, Vocals
I'd deal Carl Crawford to Miami for Jose Reyes and Heath Bell, or straight up for Hanley Ramirez.
Name: Alice Cooper
Justin Verlander needs one more pitcher on his level. When the Diamondbacks won last time, they had Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson. You always need two aces to win the World Series. The Tigers have got a great hitting team. They need starters and a bullpen that can stop everybody.
Name: George Thorogood
Band: George Thorogood and the Destroyers
Position: Vocals, Guitar
I would trade anyone from the Mets' farm system for Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks, and If I was the GM I would pray.
Name: Tom Morello
Band: The Nightwatchman, Street Sweeper Social Club, Rage Against the Machine
Position: Guitar, Vocals
If I were the Cubs' GM, I would like to see much of our squad traded for the Dominican and Cuban national teams.
Name: Vinnie Paul
Band: Hellyeah, Pantera
My Texas Rangers are not immune to injury, and we have quite a few pitchers ailing now, so depth is of premium importance. The Rangers have been scouting the top starting pitchers rumored to be on the trad market, including Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels and Brewers right-hander Zack Greinke. The Cubs are also reportedly interested in trading right-handers Matt Garza. Any of these pitchers would be a great pick-up, and very useful as the Rangers work their way back to the World Series! Hell yeah!
Name: Handsome Dick Manitoba
I don't give a damn about any team except the New York Yankees. I love the game, but root with the emotional detachment of a scientist if my Yankees are not involved. With Brett Gardner done for the year, I would like to see the Yankees add another outfielder, a defensive specialist, with lots of speed to compensate for the loss of Brett. Maybe Shane Victorino from the Phils, if we don't have to give up a ton. Yesteryear, we seemed to pluck people we needed. Nowadays, people have loaded guns to heads of the Yankees front office folks, when they know we need a player. Of course, we could always use another pitcher; but all in all, with Joba and Pettitte coming back, and the Yanks being so far in first, there isn't much I would do. Just fill in the cracks.
Dan Epstein's book, Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging '70s, is now available in paperback.