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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

July 28, 2011 at 11:15 AM

Rockies’ haul for Ubaldo Jimenez if he’s traded could give indication of Felix’s value; Adam Kennedy a possible Brewers’ target

kennedygetty.jpg

(Photo by Getty Images)

Geoff has a good rundown on the trade deadline, including word that the Yankees and especially the Red Sox seem to be homing in on Erik Bedard.

Bedard’s start tomorrow at Safeco Field will be huge; any team needing pitching is likely to have a scout on hand to see how he does after missing a month with a knee injury. Remember, Bedard was considered the No. 1 available pitcher on the trade market before his injury. In his last 11 starts before going on the DL, Bedard had a 1.77 ERA in 71 1/3 innings, with a 68-to-15 strikeout to walks ratio and a .191 opponents average. If he holds up well tomorrow, the Mariners should find a thriving market of teams vying for his services, even with the injury and the question marks about Bedard’s durability. Ken Rosenthal of Fox reported today that the Mariners had two scouts watching the Red Sox’s Triple-A affiliate on Wednesday night and another watching their Double-A team. He quotes a source saying that the Red Sox are “all over” Bedard.

A new trade possibility could involve Adam Kennedy and the Brewers, who suddenly need help at second base after losing All-Star Rickie Weeks to a “severe” ankle injury last night. As Tom Haudricourt’s blog post in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel points out, Weeks could be out three to six weeks. The Brewers called up second baseman Eric Farris from Triple-A Nashville to replace Weeks on the roster, and are starting veteran Craig Counsell at second base today against the Cubs. But the Brewers are in a tight race with St. Louis and Pittsburgh in the NL Central and aren’t likely to go with a rookie at second. Counsell has had a solid career and owns a couple of World Series rings, but he’s 40 years old, is hitting .155, and is mired in an 0-for-38 slump heading into today’s game.

The Dodgers’ Jamey Carroll would be an obvious target, but other teams are interested in Carroll and he’s no lock. Clint Barmes (Astros) and Omar Infante (Marlins) are other possible targets. A veteran like Kennedy could be a good stop-gap for the Brewers. Jack Zduriencik’s history in Milwaukee and relationship with Brewers GM Doug Melvin could faciliate a deal. Kennedy has been a valuable player for Seattle, but he’s 35, a free agent after the season, and the team is going nowhere. He’s the kind of guy that last-place teams trade for prospects at the deadline.

(Note: Since I initially posted this, there’s word that the Brewers have picked up second baseman Felipe Lopez from the Rays for cash considerations. Lopez is hitting .216 in 32 games for the Rays. I’m not sure if this is Melvin’s final move on this front or not).

Update 1:25 p.m.: Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Lopez is going to Triple-A and that Melvin is “still considering all options.”

One other observation: I’m going to be watching closely to see if the Rockies trade Ubaldo Jimenez, and what they get for him if they do. It could shine a light on the value of Felix Hernandez if the Mariners should decide at some point to put him on the trade market — which I’m convinced is not happening at this year’s deadline, despite occassional rumblings that they’re willing to listen.

Jayson Stark of ESPN wrote yesterday of a team official telling him that he thinks a Jimenez deal is going to happen, with as many as eight teams possibly involved in the bidding (because if Jimenez is indeed on the market, then he immediately usurps Bedard as the No. 1 pitcher available. Yet Bedard would still have high value as the fallback option for the teams that don’t get Jimenez — provided he comes through tomorrow’s game in one piece).

I’m not suggesting Ubaldo Jimenez is Felix Hernandez. He’s not. But he was great last year (19-8, 2.88 ERA, 214 strikeouts, 164 hits allowed in 221 innings, third in the Cy Young balloting), and despite early struggles this season, has pitched pretty well for an extended stretch (a 3.03 ERA, 71 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings since June 1). LIke Felix, he’s young (27) and he’s cost-controlled beyond this season (he’ll earn $4.2 million in 2012, and $5.75 million in 2013 on a club option, which would be executed without hesitation if he’s performing to standards. Jimenez has an $8 million option for 2014, but it can be voided if he’s traded).

Felix is younger (still 25), better, has done it longer, and is also cost controlled beyond this year, albeit at a much higher cost ($18.5 million in 2012, $19.5 million in 2013, $20 million in 2014). Felix, as one of the elite pitchers in baseball, would fetch much more than Jimenez, but I still think it will be instructive to see, as a starting point, just what a young, good, relatively cheap frontline pitcher like Jimenez commands — and if the Rockies pull the trigger. Stark writes:

So the Neiman Marcus price tag they’ve attached to Jimenez hasn’t shown any signs of slipping.

That price is still, in the words of one club, “three or four really good young players.” And one of them has to be a high-end pitcher who can be plugged into the Rockies’ rotation by the middle of next season.

So for the Yankees, that would mean Ivan Nova — plus two or three jewels from their system. For the Reds, it would mean Homer Bailey or Travis Wood — plus the cream of that prospect pool (though one source adamantly denied reports that either Aroldis Chapman or catching stud Devin Mesoraco would be part of this package). For Detroit, it would mean the conversation would have to start with Max Scherzer or Rick Porcello (whom the Tigers have refused to discuss). And, well, you get the idea.

The Mariners’ demands, if they ever budge off their no-trade stance regarding Hernandez (and we began discussing this in earnest way back in December), would be even higher. We can debate all day the wisdom of entertaining Felix trade offers, but as long as the Mariners are ripping off 17-game losing streaks and heading toward another 95-plus loss season, the topic isn’t going to go away. Which is way I’ll be watching with great interest the Ubaldo trade developments this weekend.

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