The deadline has past, rumors and speculations have waned, and we assume that the dozen or so remaining postseason contenders are resigned to winning or losing with what they already have. There are only two options for change. One I posted on earlier today. You can bring up a young stud like Justin Upton and hope that he has a couple of games like the one he had last night (3-4, 2B, 3B, HR). Or, you can attempt to sneak somebody through trade waivers, as Oakland did with Mike Piazza. Deals made after the waiver deadline rarely have significant impact. Although, last year guys like Phil Nevin, David Wells, Javy Lopez, Jeff Conine, and Matt Stairs all were involved in deals after July 31. As this group suggests, waiver deals are usually reserved for overpaid veterans who fill minor bench rolls, or act as the replacement for an injured regular. Teams that offer a player on waivers see three alternatives. They can get the player through waivers and negotiate a deal for him on the open market. Presumably, if the player is put on waivers, the GM thinks he has at least two or three bidders in mind. Or, if the player is claimed, the GM can then negotiate with that team or withdraw the player from waivers. A player who has been withdrawn cannot be offered up again by the same team.
When, for instance, your team loses a player like Alfonso Soriano after the trade deadline, it is easy to find yourself exploring waiver fantasies. As I said before, big names rarely pass through waivers, but there are occasions which inspire such fantasies. Like 2004, when the Cardinals claimed Larry Walker on August 6th from the Rockies. Walker gave the Cardinals one of the most lethal orders in recent memory hitting in front of Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Sanders, and Renteria. He hit 11 HR in the season's remaining 44 games and 6 in the playoffs before the Redbirds lost to the Red Sox in the World Series. He also stayed around for a relatively productive, though injury-shortened, season in 2005, when St. Louis again returned to the postseason.
I'm stringing together waiver fantasies on a daily basis as I see infernal teams like the Yankees and Braves gaining ground. Many of these would never happen due to issues like publicity and ticket sales, but I think each scenario, when considered closely, has potential benefits for both teams involved.
Barry Bonds - LF - San Francisco Giants
The media frenzy is over. ESPN has stopped covering the lowly last-place Giants on an everyday basis just because of Barry's quest (although the topic is still consuming the network 24 hours a day). Bonds will continue to draw people to the ballpark as he sets a new record each time he parks it, but even in San Francisco fans will settle into the recognition that now there team isn't playing for anything. And, perhaps more importantly, Bonds will face that recognition. Despite all his accomplishments, he still lacks that thing which ballplayers crave most: the Ring. Brian Sabean has said repeatedly, on national broadcasts, that this offseason he will push to make the team younger. He has a good rotation already, with several quality arms still on the horizon. But he needs young position players, and he needs the young position players he already has - guys like Fred Lewis, Kevin Frandsen, Rajaj Davis, and Todd Linden - to play everyday. The more Bruce Bochy learns about these guys in the next two months, the better chance he has of putting a contending team back on the field within the next two years. Doesn't it seem then, that it would be best for everybody involved if Barry did now what he will almost surely do at season's end. That is, join the American League. Bonds is earning $15.5 Million this season. Who would be willing to take on a third of that?
Detroit : Sheffield, who deserves more credit for what he has done on the field this season, is hurting and missing games. His patience and power have been essential to the productivity of Detroit's lineup, which is second in the MLB in scoring. He leads the team in Runs, HR, SB, and OBP, and is 3rd in RBI and SLG. Sheffield's game is almost identical to Bond's, except that he still has his speed. They have perhaps the two most intimidating swings in the game and they don't swing at anything they can't murder. Manager Jim Leyland would find himself with the most lethal platoon in the game's history. He would be able to rest both aging sluggers, giving himself a dangerous late-inning pinch-hitter, or, when he wanted them both in the lineup, they both can still play a moderately plausible left field, conveniently one of the few positions where the Tigers are struggling to get consistent production.
The Tigers are in the position to win now. As such, they should be going for it as best they possibly can. However, they also have one of the most productive farm systems in the majors. They would almost certainly be willing to part with a top-tier offensive prospect (they have several of them) if it might push them ahead of the Yankees, Indians, and Mariners down the stretch, and help them in the playoffs. The Giants need that kind of prospect (they have none).
New York : This is an obvious combination. The Yankees will not bark at the pricetag. They are looking for a DH. They have a famously short left-field porch. Bonds fits perfectly into their program: seeing a lot of pitches and driving them into the seats. He is close friends with A-Rod. The only problem is, he can't pitch.
On the other side of the coin, this is not as perfect a match. Most of the Yankees top prospects are pitchers, which New York is (and should be) reluctant to part with. And which, though everybody needs them, the Giants need less than most. However, San Francisco is in no position to be picky. They need prospects in bunches. The Yankees Alberto Gonzalez (SS), Juan Miranda (1B), or Bronson Sardinha (OF) might make good matches.
Anaheim : The Angels desperately need another thumper besides Vlad. Batting in front of Guerrero, Bonds would see more pitches (as he would with any of these teams) and Vlad would get more RBI opportunities. The Angels are rumored to be in the running for Piazza. This would be a step better. The presence of Garrett Anderson would allow Mike Sciossia some flexibility. In all honesty, the Angels could probably use both Piazza and Bonds in their lineup if they are going to be serious about holding off the Mariners and being a contender in October.
The Angels system is the single most replete with young talent in all of baseball. They don't have enough room in Anaheim for all the players that are major league ready: Aybar and Wood Kendrick and Izturis and Willits and Haynes. Because of the abundance, the Angels would probably part with an excellent player, like Kendry Morales, or some decent players, like Tommy Murphy and Nick Guernhalt, because their progress is blocked and they haven't been exceptional in brief MLB stints.
Omar Vizquel - SS - San Francisco Giants
Like Bonds, Vizquel has left a mark on Giants fans. If he does intend to retire after the season, it would perhaps be insensitive to let him go elsewhere. However, also like Bonds, Vizquel has never won a World Series. He hasn't been to one in a decade. Giving him one more shot at the postseason would be the best thing the Giants could do for him. Now, nobody is going to give up a top-tier prospect for a shortstop hitting .256. But, despite his age and mediocre numbers this season, Vizquel is still a wizard with the glove who doesn't go a week without a web gem nomination.
Boston : This is the only situation where the argument could be made on offensive grounds. Vizquel has a 25-point advantage in AVG and OBP to Julio Lugo, who has been downright awful with the Red Sox. Lugo has also be below average with the glove, while Vizquel is among the league leaders in every defensive category, including 1st in Errors (only 6), Fielding Percentage, and Zone Rating. Vizquel would mean a great deal to this pitching staff, which induces a fair amount of groundballs and allows too many baserunners via walk. Perhaps the Giants would be interested in Wily Mo Pena?
Detroit : With Neifi Perez' career likely ended by his most recent stimulant suspension (80 games), the Tigers need a back-up infielder and late-inning defensive replacement for Carlos Guillen. It would seem likely that in certain situations Leyland would opt for Guillen at 1B, rather than Sean Casey, and Vizquel at SS to benefit the groundball-inducing pitchers like Bonderman and Robertson. As I said earlier, the Tigers have a lot to offer as far as prospects, particularly in the outfield, where Cameron Maybin, Curtis Granderson, and Magglio Ordonez are likely to be slated for several years to come.
Dave Roberts - CF - San Francisco Giants
There's not a huge market for a 35-year-old speedster coming off an injury who has a career .268 AVG., but Roberts proved in his career's defining moment that speed off the bench is a necessity in a short series. He is 22 for 25 in stolen base attempts this season, despite his injury, including 15 for 17 since returning, and he is hitting .279 in that span. He is a solid defender who plays all three outfield positions and has been to the postseason each of the last three years. And, unlike Bonds and Vizquel, he has no symbolic or sentimental tie to San Francisco.
Chicago : With no true centerfielder, a manager who likes to run and juggle his outfield, and a leadoff hitter on the DL, Chicago seems a likely destination for Roberts. Chicago doesn't have a whole lot to offer, but San Francisco shouldn't demand much in return, since they need that space in center to test Rajaj Davis and Fred Lewis.