Market open, few are trading

The Baltimore Sun

Barry Bonds, Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn might dominate headlines this week, but for the rest of the baseball world it's time to cram for the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. And so far it seems as if no one's even in study hall.

One major league general manager called trade talks "oddly quiet," while another said discussion is warming, but few teams are dangling difference-makers.

The biggest fish on the hook is Chicago White Sox outfielder Jermaine Dye. He's a free agent at season's end and a legitimate power threat despite a subpar first half. Others potentially available include Kansas City Royals closer Octavio Dotel, White Sox starter Jose Contreras, Washington Nationals first baseman Dmitri Young, San Francisco Giants starter Matt Morris and the Cincinnati Reds' outfield duo of Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr.

It'll take a hefty ransom to get Dunn, Griffey or Baltimore's Favorite Son Version 2.0, Texas Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira. That kind of blockbuster doesn't happen much anymore. So the pervasive feeling is that some deals will be made by month's end, but few eyebrow-raisers.

That's pretty much where the Orioles fit in. It's likely that one of three Orioles will be moved this month: first baseman Kevin Millar, starter Steve Trachsel or left fielder Jay Payton.

Other possibilities, such as center fielder Corey Patterson and designated hitter Jay Gibbons, aren't attracting tangible interest league-wide.

Millar (vesting option) and Trachsel (team option) are pending free agents while Payton is in the middle of a two-year, $9.5 million deal. All three have recent postseason experience, though Trachsel imploded for the New York Mets last October. Still, he's a hardworking veteran, and if he proves he's healthy, a contending team might come sniffing in exchange for a low-level minor leaguer.

Millar is playing well and everyone loves his ability to keep a clubhouse loose. But he, too, probably wouldn't fetch much more than an average prospect, so he's likely more valuable to the Orioles than to contenders. But if they can get a player with upside who is close to or already in the majors, they'd likely do it.

A hilarious match would be the New York Yankees, who need an upgrade at first base. Imagine what Boston Red Sox fans would do if Millar joined Johnny Damon in pinstripes. Or, for that matter, the look on Derek Jeter's face the first time Millar did half-naked (the wrong half) jumping jacks in the Yankees' staid clubhouse.

Payton, 34, is the most intriguing trade chip because he's penciled in as the club's center fielder next season if Patterson leaves via free agency and the Orioles don't fill the spot this winter. He can play all three outfield positions, is a solid hitter and has appeared in five postseason series, including with the Oakland Athletics in last year's American League Championship Series, where he batted .286 with one homer.

He would seem to be a perfect fit for the Mets, who one industry source said have shown interest in the right-handed hitter whom they drafted in the first round in 1994. He could be a fourth outfielder and provide insurance in case Shawn Green or Moises Alou is shut down with injuries.

Payton wouldn't bring in a top prospect -- such as Lastings Milledge -- but his value should be high enough to warrant a usable player in return.

Overall, though, the Orioles won't be a major force in this month's trade market. Here's a quick look at some who might:

Buyers

Red Sox: A rough stretch proved they could use more pitching, specifically a right-handed setup man. Dotel and Houston's Brad Lidge might fit. Their wish list also includes a starter, a backup catcher and a solid bat. They have some good prospects as well as outfielders Wily Mo Pena and, perhaps, Coco Crisp to dangle.

Yankees: They'll never concede a postseason spot in July, so they'll be active looking for bullpen help and a first baseman. One potential fit is Washington's Young, who was second in the National League in hitting entering yesterday. But GM Brian Cashman isn't selling the farm this year.

Indians and Tigers: The AL Central rivals desire the same thing -- bullpen help, especially in the late innings. The team that lands the most effective relievers will have a step up in the division.

Angels: One would think they'd be a buyer. A bat like Dye's would make them the AL favorites. But GM Bill Stoneman isn't one to give up prospects for quick fixes.

Mets: They want a quality starting pitcher, an outfield bat, a bullpen power arm and probably a second baseman. And GM Omar Minaya isn't shy. The best bet is Contreras, if the price is right.

Dodgers: They want another quality pitcher -- reliever or starter -- and have the prospects to get it done. The most likely player on the move is infielder Wilson Betemit.

Cubs: GM Jim Hendry could be dealing for his job, so the streaking Cubs will be active. Bullpen help and a good defensive outfielder with pop would be welcomed. If the Twins give up, Torii Hunter would be perfect.

Sellers

Nationals: GM Jim Bowden showed last year that he's willing to take draft-pick compensation if he can't get what he wants for a pending free agent in the trade market. So someone might have to overpay to acquire Young.

White Sox: Dye and Contreras are the picks to click, but second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, a potential free agent, also could be moved.

Royals: Dotel is as good as gone. Outfielders Reggie Sanders and Emil Brown would bring limited return.

Rangers: Teixeira is the prize, but it's more likely closer Eric Gagne and outfielders Sammy Sosa and Kenny Lofton will be dealt.

Reds: Dunn and Griffey would help any contender, but their trades would be complicated. An easier move is dealing veteran reliever David Weathers.

Giants: Morris will make $9.5 million next year, but someone -- maybe a big-money team in the AL or NL East -- will bite.

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