Good morning. Your Daily Bernie Bits for Wednesday, June 25:
1. The MLB trade market is still forming, but parity continues to be a factor in trying to determine buyers and sellers. As of Wednesday morning, 21 of the 30 MLB teams were either leading the division or looming within 6 games of a playoff spot. How many mediocre win-loss records are there? Consider: Colorado, which is 8-20 since May 25, is still within 6.5 games of a NL wild card spot.
It doesn't mean the Rockies have much of a chance of showing up in the October tournament, but that doesn't matter. As long as team management believes it has a shot, the Rockies will resist auctioning players. I'm just using the Rox as an example; the same buyer-or-seller uncertainty applies to a bunch of teams including the Mets, White Sox Rangers, Phillies, Twins, Marlins.
Recent surges from teams that had been struggling earlier -- the Royals, Indians and Phillies -- give other mediocre teams hope that they can do the same. So they're reluctant to sell off pieces and create the appearance that they're giving up. Which, by the way, is stupid. Fans and media are a lot smarter than these teams think; why would any fan base of a losing, middling team get ticked off if the GM receives legit prospects by raffling off a player or two who can become a free agent after the season or after 2015?
According to the standard conventional wisdom, more shoppers means more leverage for the teams that are holding coveted trade pieces and are willing to deal players. The sellers can -- at least right now -- afford to be patient and greedy, hoping that the price will only go up by July 31 among contenders that experience injuries, slumps, pressure, anxiety.
But I think it's a mistake to assume things will stay the same. At some point GMs of the lesser teams will have to wake up to the reality. For example, here are the current playoff odds (in percentage form) of several on-the-fence teams, courtesy of Baseball Prospectus:
White Sox 2.8%
Red Sox 8.7%
Perhaps a couple of teams on that list will make a run; it happens. But at some point most GMs will wise up and attempt to improve their rosters for the future.
Here's another point that needs to be made. It's counterintuitive, but think about it: with 21 of the 30 teams within six games of a playoff ticket, isn't there at good possibility that we'll see more -- and not fewer -- deals? I'm not saying that all (or most) will be so-called blockbuster deals. I'm just talking about GMs helping each other out with lesser deals that fill weaknesses and upgrade the roster in an incremental way.
Things like this: a team with a bullpen surplus trades a reliever for a platoon hitter that's expendable because his team is about to call up a prospect to do the same job ... a team that needs a LH bat for the bench finds a trade partner that needs a RH bat ... a team short of a lefty relief specialist finds a trade partner that has an abundance of lefthanded relievers. ... there could also be the kind of trades that involve clearing out the fading-prospect bin; one example would be the 2012 deal in which Cards GM John Mozeliak moved former first-round draft pick Zack Cox, a third baseman, to the Marlins for RH reliever Edward Mujica. You can always find a GM out there who thinks his organization can develop a prospect that fell out of favor with the team that drafted him.
With so many GMs looking to solidify their rosters, this could be the Summer of the Incremental Trade. I could be wrong but I think we'll see a lot of these deals.
Mozeliak is in a better position that many GMs who will enter the trade-deadline swap meet. He has a better supply of prospects than most clubs.
I'll be writing more about Mozeliak and the trade market later today here on the site, so please check back to check it out...
2. More trade talk: if the Rangers decide they're out of it, I wonder if the Cardinals would have interest in exploring a deal for veteran 3B Adrian Beltre? Not sure, but I'd have to think the Rangers would be inclined to save some money and get younger in the process. Beltre is 35, and his power numbers have been boosted by playing in a hitter-friendly ballpark in Arlington. Beltre is making $17 million this year (nearly half of that has been paid already), is due a guaranteed $18 million in 2015, and has a voidable option for 2016. Matt Carpenter's ability to play 2B or 3B gives Mozeliak some valuable flexibility as he ponders options.
The list of hitters that are supposedly available is ordinary _ depressing, even.
3. By the way: if the Cardinals are among the team eyeing Phils second baseman Chase Utley, he doesn't sound like he's thrilled about the idea of waiving his no-trade clause. Here's what Utley told MLB.com:
"I guess we'd have to see at that point, but I don't plan on going anywhere ... I'm not going to volunteer to go anywhere. Even if somewhere else was the perfect spot, this is what I know. You weigh that against the instant gratification of winning right now. You leave, and there's no guarantee you're going to win anyways. You pack up to leave for a different organization, a different city, and it feels temporary."
4. Thinking about the Blues' lack of scoring again -- I did my latest "Breakfast with Bernie" video on it -- I took another look at Patrik Berglund, the Blues' restricted free-agent forward. In his last 14 NHL postseason games, Berglund has one goal, one assist and is a minus 12. The Blues' unwavering fondness for Berglund is absolutely mystifying.
5. As is the case every four years, I have enjoyed watching the World Cup. The 2014 World Cup in Brazil has been wildly entertaining _ at least to soccer fans. Which is the point, yes? I really get tired of the soccer divide in the U.S. among fans and media. I really can't decide what's more annoying: (A) the snooty soccer people who believe that all other sports fans are beneath them in terms of intellect and sophistication; (B) the soccer preachers who feel they must convert non-believers; (C) the small-minded folks that inexplicably suffer intense feelings of insecurity when the World Cup creates buzz and at least temporarily boosts the sport's popularity here... prompting the dog-and-the-fire-hydrant response of lifting a leg on the event to make themselves feel better. These peeps can't stand to see others having a party where they don't quite fit in (because they don't want to) and that's when all of the anti-soccer stuff pops up, and it follows a tired and predictable pattern. Deadspin had a piece this week, showing how one Boston columnist writes basically the same soccer-bashing column every four years _ down using the exact phraseology in some instances.
As I've said a hundred times, so let's make it 101 times: if you like soccer, by all means enjoy, as I do ... but please try to refrain from evangelizing or striking a haughty pose. You're not superior to all other living creatures. On the other hand: If you don't like soccer, then don't watch it, because no one is holding a dagger to your neck, forcing you to view the games, talk about the games, or even acknowledge the games.
Soccer preachers and soccer haters: stay in your lanes, and leave the rest of us alone, OK?
Thanks for reading...