If I were a GM

Just a couple things before I get the engines revved up.  First, I'm glad to be back, and in case you didn't know, it's hot in Houston in July. 

Second, the next 11 days will be all about the trade deadline, so I will do my best to rate the rumors, anticipate the trades and analyze the results.  Here we go:

Randy Johnson
As of this writing, Randy Johnson appears to be the lynch pin for a flood of trades that could happen this month.  I don't think it's going to happen though.  Of course, as soon as I write this, he'll be traded. 

1) I don't believe the Yankees have the prospects to trade for him,
2) I don't believe anyone who does have the decent prospects necessary is going to give them away so the Yankees can trade for him,
3) I believe the Red Sox are in the same situation as the Yankees,
4) I don't believe the Angels are eager to part with the prospects it would take because next year those guys will inexpensively replace expensive regulars in Anaheim,
5) I don't believe Johnson really wants to live in Texas, New York or Boston for the next two years.

The team that should trade for him is the Cubs.  It's probably a crazy idea, but:
1) they have the prospects to get him
2) getting a power lefty between Zambrano and Wood would make a devastating match-up in the playoffs
3) it would give them insurance for Prior in case his elbow situation is serious
4) it would finally give the Cubs a starter that Dusty Baker couldn't run into the ground or pitch until his arm falls off
5) they could trade free-agent-to-be Matt Clement for a premier shortstop to boost their offense. 
6) trading for Johnson would make them prohibitive favorites in the playoffs along with Wood, Prior and Zambrano in the rotation and would give them an incredibly good chance of winning the World Series, even if they face the Yankees.  It's not like Cub fans get to see their team in the World Series very often.  With Unit, they'd have a very good chance of winning it.  How much would that be worth to the city of Chicago?  The Cubs wouldn't have to scalp their own tickets - with a World Series appearance, they could simply triple their ticket prices and people would gladly pay it.

It won't happen because the Cubs have Orlando Cabrera targeted at short and the Expos would never take Clement's contract or trade for a guy they couldn't keep beyond this year.  But I thought it might stir the rumor goulash a little.

The Orioles
Speaking of rumors, I agree with Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun who thinks that Matt Riley will be headed to the NL soon, although I don't know that it will be to the Dodgers (his pick).  The O's have expressed an interest in the Mets' Karim Garcia and Riley might be used to get him.  I'm not sold on the pitching in the Mets farm system, and their pitching coach, Rick Petersen is a wiz at making his pitchers better, regardless of their issues.  Riley could transform into a very good starter and hanging out with fellow lefties like Al Leiter and Tom Glavine can only help.  Of course, as soon as I wrote this, the Mets traded Karim Garcia to the O's for... Mike DeJean.  Go figure.  Regardless, Riley would make a nice fit in Shea.  As for Garcia, does this mean the dominoes are about to start falling in Baltimore, with Garcia taking over in right field and Jerry Hairston headed out of town?

Given that Hairston has been on display at a number of positions this season in an effort to demonstrate his flexibility, it seems obvious that he is the guy they are aiming to trade... big mistake.  Yes, he's had some injury problems the last couple of years but the injuries have been more freakish than recurring in nature.  If he was always pulling his hamstrings or something like that it would be different, but that is not the case.  Hairston is superior defensively and seems to have a more consistent plan at the plate for getting on base than Brian Roberts.  Another reason why Roberts is the guy who should go is Mike Fontenot.  If he finishes hitting in AAA as well as he did last year in AA, then next year the O's will have another second base controversy on their hands.  By keeping Hairston, they have a little more roster flexibility.  The O's should keep him, trade Roberts, even if it means getting less back in the deal and move forward. 

The trade they should make is with Oakland for Mark Redman.  The A's don't need a third lefty for the playoffs, especially one whose post-season ERA is 6.88 and who didn't fool anyone in his 4 starts last year.  Trading Redman for Roberts gives the O's the veteran lefty starter who can eat up innings and save their bullpen at a reasonable price and it improves their infield defense.  It gives the A's a quality second baseman with above average ability and allows them to move Joe Blanton into the rotation.  My guess, though, is that Hairston ends up in Oakland within the next week.

The Twins
With Mientkiewicz on the DL, we should get to see exactly how good of an offense the Twins can field.  Morneau and Stewart will get regular at bats, which adds about 200 points collectively to the team's OPS total.  That may not be enough.  The Twins will still need to find better production from their middle infield and hope that Corey Koskie can shake his injuries and get hot. 

Cristian Guzman has hit well this month (.345 on base/.464 slugging) and Luis Rivas had an excellent June (.364 on base/.569 slugging).  Both players have shown this kind of production for a month or two before, but have been unable to sustain it.  Their minor league record doesn't indicate they're capable of this level, but both have been very young at every level they've played at, so there's really no statistical record as to what to expect.  Even though it seems like they've been around forever, Guzman is just 26; Rivas only 24, so it's virutally certain they will get better.  Further complicating the issue is that both players appear to get lackadaisical when not pushed for playing time, so the Twins may have to threaten to use Michael Cuddyer at second and Nick Punto at short just to keep them hungry.  Properly motivated, these two can give the Twins the offensive depth they need to win the division.  But can they stay motivated?

If not, the Twins are stuck in no-man's land: they can't trade away such young players for more productive ones because of payroll concerns, yet they have to find more offense to stay with the White Sox, who appear determined to empty their farm system in order to win the division this year. 

Mientkiewicz' injury also means that about the only bargaining chip the Twins have to upgrade any part of their team is Michael Restovich, which won't bring much in return.  They may be able to get Tony Armas from the Expos, who need an inexpensive solution at third base which Restovich could fill, but getting Kris Benson from the Pirates appears out of reach.

The Padres

If I were GM of the Padres, I don't think I'd trade for Steve Finley.  First of all, I'd give switch-hitting Freddie Guzman a shot in center.  Currently in AAA Portland, he has an on base percentage of .362, 30 steals in 32 attempts and covers vast amounts of ground.  The other reason I probably wouldn't trade for Finley is that it would cost the Padres either Humberto Quintero or George Kottaras, both excellent catching prospects.  If I still felt I had to make a trade, I'd go after a right-hander like Jacque Jones, who is younger and would help balance the power in the line-up.  Plus, he's more of a line-drive hitter, which plays well at Petco for guys who are content with boatloads of doubles and triples rather than home runs.

The Royals

Kansas City still wants to be involved as a seller at the trade dealdline, but what else do they have that anyone would want?  Brian Anderson?  Juan Gonzales?  Are there contenders that need a lefty to give up homers or an outfielder to spend time on the DL?  Not that I'm aware of.  About the only useful commodity the Royals have to offer is Matt Stairs.  As much as I like him, he's not the kind of player that often brings impact talent in return.  I think most contenders probably view him as bench depth rather than an everyday position player.  He doesn't hit lefties, so at best he's a platoon player with limited defense.  The Padres and Marlins are about the only contenders who haven't hit right-handers well and neither team has a position open for Stairs.  Unless Allard Baird's rumored price tag comes down significantly (one report has him asking for the Padres' Xavier Nady in return), Stairs seems unlikely to move.