The Pau Gasol Trade Machine Edition

The Lakers are struggling. If I had a dollar for every time I said or heard that then the local McDonald’s Dollar menu would be non-existent, or I’d save the boatload of money (thinks about it…) yep, definitely saving the money.

The blame game is one that has taken Los Angeles by storm in the same magnitude Lob City did. So, the blame game turned into musical chairs, and Mike Brown was left standing.

But now Mike D’Antoni is in town, and Steve Nash will be back at some point. In other Lakers firings, the team canned their entire training staff and has brought in Phoenix’s in exchange for whichever first-round pick the Lakers still hold the rights to in this Millennium. (2058, I think?)

(Ok, you got me.  I may have fibbed a little bit there.)

The point is that the Lakers are looking to change things up, and a synonym for “changing things up” is “trading.” This happens to be one of my favorite things to write about, the least favorite being draft picks, just for future reference.

With that, let’s go to the trade machine: Continue reading

What’s Left of Josh Beckett: The Bountiful Haul That the Marlins Have Thanks to Their Former Ace

Not everything went exactly as planned for Miami. They pumped up their ridiculously low payroll to accommodate the contracts and talents of shortstop Jose Reyes, closer Heath Bell, starting pitchers Carlos Zambrano and Mark Buehrle and outspoken skipper Ozzie Guillen. They also moved into a flashy new stadium, compared to their previous venue and otherwise.  So, that, coupled with the previous All-Star stalwarts such as Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson, and you seem to have the recipe for a sneaky-division-contender/ wild-card-contender.

But as stated, things didn’t necessarily go as planned. So, when the trading deadline rolled around and with the Marlin’s collective brass neck’s hurting from looking up at other teams in the standings, they decided to make some moves.

Continue reading

Can the Pittsburgh Pirates Keep It Up?

The Pittsburgh Pirates are 11 games over .500. When was the last time you were able to say that?

Not only are they a game ahead of the Reds for first in the NL Central, but they had more All-Star representatives than perennial contenders Boston and Milwaukee.

The Pirates’ pitching has been their strength. They have given up the second fewest runs in the entire National League and hold hitters to the third lowest batting average in the same league. So we know their pitching staff has been fantastic. AJ Burnett and Erik Bedard have meshed in well with a good group of starters as well as an excellent bullpen.

Like I said, we know their pitching is good and is going to be there, but what about the offense?

I mean, no offense, but… Sorry, had to throw that in there.

The point is that the Pirates need more help at the plate. Pittsburgh isn’t getting a ton of help coming back from injury. Alex Presley is the only notable position player on the DL. So help is probably going to have to come from outside the organization.

That being said, the current offense isn’t too bad, that’s saying if you add a piece or two. The Bucos probably need corner outfield help as well as help at first base. The team, though, isn’t short of good bats. Neil Walker, Clint Barmes, Rod Barajas and Garret Jones aren’t bad hitters. It’s just that they don’t belong in the middle of the order. Put those guys in the top two spots, or perhaps the six through eight spots, in the order and you’ll be fine. It’s finding bats for the middle of the order to pair with Andrew McCutchen that’s the dilemma.

Justin Upton. Just going to throw that out there.  Go ahead, be taken aback by it. It’s surprising to me too that the Diamondbacks, on the heels of a playoff season, would consider moving the 24 year-old slugger. Yep, they really would consider moving a player that has nearly 100 career home runs, steals, driven in north of 300 runs and has won Silver Slugger and a Fielding Bible honors by the age of 24. Crazy, I know. But supposedly, the Snakes want to contend next year and are willing to move Upton for Major-League-ready prospects. The Pirates could dangle prized pitching prospects Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon or even perhaps AAA outfielder Sterling Marte, who has shown good potential.

Now, all three aren’t going to Pittsburgh in any deal unless maybe Arizona sells the rights to its entire farm system in the move, but one of the pitchers and some lower tear prospects as well as a controllable player like the recently demoted Jose Tabata could interest Arizona. I know it’s a lot, but Arizona might jump at a proposed deal of say Cole, Tabata and a lower-level prospect for Upton and maybe one of Arizona’s many starting pitchers.

But I don’t think Justin Upton solves it all for the Pirates. They need another bat. A PTBNL type bat to pair with Upton and McCutchen. By “PTBNL” type bat, I mean someone like a Delmon Young or a Ryan Ludwick. Somebody on a shorter contract who, if they play to their potential, can give you 20 homeruns and 80 runs batted in over the course of an entire season.

The Pirates need someone like that if they get Upton to add length to their lineup. As stated, the bats that the Pirates already have, like Neil Walker and Garret Jones, are better suited hitting towards the bottom of the order, not carrying the lineup in the thick of things.

So drink it all in baseball fans, the Pirates are winning, but they might need some offensive help to keep it up.

Game of Dominoes: NBA Free Agency

Let’s cut the flabber and get right to it. Steve Nash is heading to the Lakers in one of the more shocking moves of the offseason. The 38-year-old was shipped to LA in a sign-and-trade for two future first rounders and two future second rounders. The initial reaction isn’t a huge one. With Nash joining a proven playoff team, the picks figure to be at the end of their respective rounds. The thing is, though, that this was probably the best thing Phoenix was going to get. It surely beats letting him walk for nothing, and trumps out whatever sign-and-trade options Toronto, Dallas or New York would have offered.

It’s also somewhat genius for LA. Financial fodder aside, the Lakers got a top-tier player for relatively nothing. Los Angeles has a tendency to move their late first rounders for useful players in years past, so moving them for Nash isn’t surprising. Not to mention Steve Nash is much more than a useful player. No, the Lake Show didn’t get to unload Metta World Peace’s contract in the move, or any contract for that matter, but the Suns probably wouldn’t take it, or want it.

On the flip side of this, Phoenix seems to be throwing their new-found cap space at young, offensively-talented players. They have supposedly signed former Sun and Nash understudy, Goran Dragic, to a four-year deal and have also agreed to terms with former number two overall pick Michael Beasley on a multi-year pact. The third potential attacking prong is that of Eric Gordon. The Suns have signed him to a large offer sheet, and New Orleans could be hesitant to match given the fact that they are rebuilding and don’t want to tie down too much of their future money to one player, even one of Gordon’s talent. The Suns seem to be in less disarray than people would think after losing their face-of-the-franchise. A core of Dragic, Beasley, Kendall Marshall, Markieff Morris and potentially Gordon is pretty desirable, especially for a team that wants to score in drones like Phoenix does.

With Nash now out of the picture, Dallas has lost on one of their point guard options, scratch that, one of their options period. Lamar Odom is gone and the return is simply a trade exception. That we knew was probably coming, but what’s more is that the Mavs find themselves having gone down swinging on Nash, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and Derron Williams. Yikes. What Mark Cuban and friends do next is beyond me.

Speaking of Williams, he’s staying a Net. One reason for that is the acquisition of one Joe Johnson. Johnson will join Williams along with recently signed Gerald Wallace in Brooklyn at the expense of Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar, DeShawn Stevenson (likely a sign-and-trade) as well as forwards Jordan Williams, Johan Petro and a draft pick. This move looks terrible for Atlanta when news trickles in that Jordan Farmar is likely being bought out. That likely leaves the Hawks with some three pointers by Morrow and some defensive stops from Stevenson. Not exactly what you envision when you trade a six-time All Star. But here is why it’s so wonderfully brilliant. All the contracts the Hawks received in return only run through next season. That’s right, all expiring contracts. Even more surprising is the fact that Danny Ferry also shed Marvin Williams oddly long contract by way of Utah, dealing another former number two overall pick to the Jazz for Devin Harris. Who, in sticking to theme, also has an expiring contract after this season.  So add that all up and the Hawks have thrown themselves into the much finagled running for Dwight Howard and All-Star Point Guard X, who might or might not end up being Chris Paul.

In other New York news, Jeremy Lin might be done playing for the Knicks. It’s reported that Jason Kidd has verbally, or whatever the official term is, reached an agreement with the Knicks. Because of the new CBA among other things, the Knicks do technically have the ability to match any offer that is made to Lin, but it could be costly as reports suggest that Houston is discussing an offer sheet in the neighborhood of 30 million dollars. Talk about “overnight” success.

Houston meanwhile is putting a lot of their eggs in that “Lin” basket. The team moved Kyle Lowry to Toronto for a first-round pick that takes a lawyer to decipher when Houston could actually get the pick. That and Goran Dragic’s aforementioned presumable departure leaves the point wide open for Kevin McHale’s club. It would be a bit funny if Lin stays in New York and the Rockets go after and sign Aaron Brooks. Brooks was traded to Phoenix for Dragic, and should he sign with Houston… well you get the point.

With no transition at all here, no really, none at all, the Clippers are getting better. In terms of success, the newer Los Angeles team strengthened a solid backcourt to the point of using the word ridiculous. Randy Foye and Nick Young are likely out the door, but in their place return the now-healthy Mr. Big Shot as well as Jamal Crawford. They join Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe in a backcourt that now has four starting caliber guards. This move also merits the acquisition of Lamar Odom at the cost of Mo Williams. If you’re playing along at home, that’s a starting five of Chris Paul, Billups or Crawford at the two, Odom at the three (if not off the bench), Blake Griffin at power forward and DeAndre Jordan down low. Yikes.

In a slight towards the Oklahoma Raiders, what a crap deal to trade away Eric Bledsoe’s draft rights for a future first round pick, they could have definitely used him in the playoffs. Actually, good for Bledsoe: the Raiders don’t get a good player and Bledsoe doesn’t have to play for a terrible owner. Win-win.

In guards-who-can-score-at-all-times news, Jason Terry is going to Boston. Or he has “supposedly” agreed to a contract with the Celtics. Terry will get the full mid-level exception for three years and upwards of 15 million dollars. Jason Kidd supposedly signed with the Knicks because they had better pieces, and you can see why. Dirk’s supporting cast has shrunk to Shawn Marion and Vince Carter. Yikes.

And throughout all this, the name “Dwight Howard” seems to be flying under the radar. FOR ONCE. The constant-topical center has supposedly (if I only had a million dollars for every time I said that, I’d be a multi-millionaire! Grins cheesily and gives Borat-esque thumbs up) asked to be moved to New Jersey Brooklyn. Good luck Dwight. After Joe Johnson and his contract (which, by the way, is so big that he had to check it on the flight up to Brooklyn) were acquired, and along with the long-term buildup of Gerald Wallace’s shiny new deal, there isn’t a whole lot of cap room left for you. The Nets do have Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks, who all together almost add up to Howard’s salary. However, I’m not so sure that the Magic should make that move.

 Let the financial finagling continue.

He Did What!?! A Look at the Genius of Billy Beane and Friends

Here are a couple names for you:  Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney, Fauntino De Los Santos, Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone, Derek Norris, AJ Cole, Josh Reddick, Miles Head and Raul Alcantara.

Now I’ll give you one other name, Nick Swisher.

With the addition of Andrew Bailey in a trade with Sweeney to Boston to get the last three, all of those players are the byproduct of one Nick Swisher. Now you’ve validated the title of this piece yourself. Most likely because that’s what just flashed through your head. (Minus the “Billy Beane and Friends” part obviously.)

The first trade has Mr. Beane moving Swisher, who didn’t have an amazing year, to Chicago for Sweeney, Gonzalez and De Los Santos. Swish wasn’t coming off a bad year, nor was there any statistical reasoning for Swisher being dealt. It was just tabbed as a “rebuilding effort”.

Sweeney contributed right away as a fourth outfielder/platoon type in Oakland. He provided fourth outfielder/platoon-guy production in most categories except batting average, posting BAs of at least .286 in three of his last four years in the Bay.

The wait with Gonzalez was a little longer. He struggled in a ten-game stint in ’08. He followed it up with a pedestrian 2009 in which he only won 6 games in 20 appearances. Also his ERA was a worse-than-a-pedestrian 5.75. Then we saw the transformation, or rather the revelation. Gio Gonzalez posted 31 wins in 2010-2011. His ERA in both years was under 3.25. That and an All-Star nod last season vaulted Gio into being one of the premier pitchers in the game.

With Oakland going nowhere fast, Beane took advantage of Gonzalez’s high-for-awhile stock and moved him to the Washington Nationals for near-Majors-ready-potential-frontline arms Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone and AJ Cole. They also received do-it-all-power-hitting catcher Derek Norris. It should be noted that all of them, with the exception of Milone, (with the big league club as we speak) are seated in the club’s top-seven prospects as well as top 100 in baseball overall, according to Jonathan Mayo.

If you’ll remember, Beane acquired Gonzalez and Sweeny along with De La Santos for Swisher. Which brings us to back to Sweeney. He was dealt, along with bullpen arm Andrew Bailey, to Beantown for Josh Reddick and two more minor leaguers, listed way above. Not only is Reddick a younger alternative to Sweeney, he leads the rebuilding A’s in a Shaq-sized handful of categories. I should point out that we haven’t heard the last of the minor league prospects either. Odds are they’ll contribute to the parent club at some point.

De Los Santos is still kicking around as well. The bullpen arm is currently with the A’s AAA squad in Sacramento. Just like the minor league prospects, you haven’t heard the last of him either.

Bottom line, here is the baffling thing. Over the course of five plus years, Billy Beane, albeit unintentionally, has turned one outfielder into three potential frontline starters, a potential All-Star catcher, a useful bullpen arm, a 25 year-old outfielder who currently leads the team in almost every offensive statistical category you can shake a stick at (pun completely intended), another potential starter as well as a possible third baseman.

Yes, he did that.

The Real Deal or Not So Real: Early Season Contenders and Pretenders

It’s early in the season. Perhaps too early to make assumptions and what not, but here goes anyway.

Every season some teams get off to fast starts, and somewhat slower ones. A fast start could propel you to a successful year (‘06 Tigers) or send you on your way to a horrendous one (‘08 Tigers).

The following teams are off to scathing starts and could very well be contenders…or pretenders:

Candidate Numero Uno- The Texas Rangers

The Rangers are a very deep squad. They feature a rotation that has possibly five front-line starters, when their stuff permits. They also feature two more pitchers who would make most clubs rotations in their bullpen: Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman.

To continue with the pitching, Texas’ ‘pen could be hit or miss (pun completely intended). Joe Nathan could be one of the better signings of the offseason, or one of the worst. If he doesn’t work out, the bullpen could go into a tailspin without a defined closer.

(Side note, the Rangers are 10-2 and Nathan has both losses.)

If you live under a lake or something, you’ll be surprised to know that the Rangers’ pitching rotation isn’t even their “strength”. That “strength” would be the offense. Yes, Texas’ offense is very good. Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre and Mr. Eye Brows himself Nelson Cruz are all guys who could hit .300 with at least 20 bombs. To be fair, David Murphy, Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland aren’t terrible either.

So if you haven’t reached the conclusion, the Rangers are CONTENDERS.

 

Candidate Numero Dos- The Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers have Matt Kemp and Andre Etheir going for them. That’s almost it. Clayton Kershaw is the Cy Young winner, and rightfully so. But after that there isn’t a ton to be excited about.  Dee Gordon and James Loney are nice pieces. Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly are very good rotation options. There are some young, talented arms in the bullpen, but I’m running out of huge positives here.

Yes, the Dodgers are off to a hot start, but they beat up Pittsburgh and San Diego. There, go ahead, let that sink in a little. They crushed teams that they should be crushing, so to speak, which is what you’re supposed to do anyways.

The Dodgers might have shown their true colors against Milwaukee, who might not even get second in the NL Central. The Dodgers lost the first two games and, as I write this during the third game, it doesn’t look amazing.

Overall this might just be a fluke, or the Dodgers simply beat teams they should. Until they can start beating the big boys I’m labeling them PRETENDERS.

 

The Third Candidate is the Montreal Expos Washington Nationals

I write that because the Nationals haven’t been good in DC. Period. But that could change here soon. Right now as it is the Nationals look very good on paper. They have really good youth and talent at most positions in the field. They seem to have a strong bullpen with the likes of Henry Rodriguez, Brad Lidge and All-Star Tyler Clippard holding down the fort until Drew Storen comes back. Stephen Strasburg leads a rotation that includes, get this, Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson and Jordan Zimmerman. Granted Jackson is in town on a one-year deal, but regardless that’s an exciting first four.

Their offense is led by Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth and a seething Adam LaRoche. That middle of the order is pretty good even without the currently injured Michael Morse and the long-awaited-and-still-waiting-for Bryce Harper.

Sounds pretty scary.

After all this I still think the Nationals are a year away. They will no doubt be playing meaningful games late, and it wouldn’t totally surprise me to see them sneak in. But with Strasburg’s innings cap and Harper’s late arrival… Next year they definitely will be a force. This year, second or third in the division is more likely.  Verdict: PRETENDERS (for now).

 

Saving the Best for Last- The Detroit Tigers

The Tigers are legit. The only possible questions of concern for Detroit entering the season were their infield defense and the back end of the rotation. Those questions aren’t really of concern much anymore. Miguel Cabrera has been turning in pretty good glove work at the hot corner and Prince Fielder isn’t a terrible fielder to begin with (again, pun completely intended). Jhonny Peralta should have won a Gold Glove last year and Brandon Inge is one of the better defensive players in the game wherever you put him.

The back end of the rotation has been quality as well. And when I say quality, I mean to use it as the worst transition known to mankind to get to the fact that Adam Wilk and Drew Smyly have posted quality starts. They have helped fill the short-term void of Doug Fister’s rotation spot as well as the fifth spot in the order.

The only glaring question now is the back end of the bullpen. Jose Valverde has been shaky this season, but really, anything is shaky compared to his perfect campaign of 2011. He’ll get it together. Other than that the rest of the team is loaded. And with Austin Jackson finally raking at the top of the order, the Tigers will propel themselves to a deep October run. Verdict- (If you haven’t guessed yet) CONTENDERS.

What If?

Would you rather have Chone Figgins and Adrian Beltre for the last five years or have A-Rod for that span?

How about Jason Varetik over Guillermo Quiroz, Jeff Clement and Rene Rivera?

Or Derek Lowe over Jeff Weaver and Cha Seung Baek?

Maybe even Adam Jones over Franklin Gutierrez?

Ok, maybe take back a couple of those. Varetik was blocked by Dan Wilson, and Jones over a healthy Gutierrez is a small upgrade if that.

But Lowe over those two and the countless other starters the M’s have rolled out? A-Rod over Figgins and Beltre? Granted Beltre was decent on the Mariners, but A-Rod is one of the better third baseman in the league.

Think about all the talent lost. That’s the underlying theme here. A-Rod is gone. So is Raul Ibanez, Rafael Soriano and Michael Pineda. And that’s just the Yankees to start.

Pineda can be kind of in another category from the standpoint that the M’s got Jesus Montero back, but then there are the questionable deals that at the time look OK and then look bad-to-downright-terrible down the road.

We’re talking the Asdrubal Cabrera for Eduardo Perez swap and Shin-Soo Choo for Ben Broussard. Then there’s the revered Michael Morse for Ryan Langerhans deal.

To be clear, none of the three guys Seattle got back are with the team. Perez is the hitting coach in Miami, Broussard is a musician and Langerhans is in Anaheim.

So think about Cabrera instead of Brendan Ryan (not saying Ryan is bad, but Cabrera is an upgrade offensively), Morse at first and Choo in left? That’s maybe a 10 game improvement. Who knows? Maybe Montero stays in New York and you get to keep Pineda. You’re talking about an actual decent offensive team. Maybe the Montero thing goes down, that’s a lot of offensive firepower from a Mariners standpoint.

Then there is the travesty that is Erik Bedard. George Sherrill and Adam Jones headlined a package to Baltimore. Both have made All-Star teams as members of the Orioles. Bedard made this many with Seattle. (Cue hand signaling a big 0).

Jones would probably be the best outfielder in Seattle at this point (barring an Ichiro rejuvenation). Sherrill is actually back in Seattle’s bullpen though.

Bedard was moved to Boston for some prospects that probably won’t add up to Jones, Sherrill and the gang.

So here is the thing. And again, this is all hypothetical, what if Bedard stays an Oriole? Or what if those Indians trades don’t happen? Maybe Morse stays. Maybe even A-Rod stays.  Maybe the other guys aren’t traded. If all that happens then maybe they get some combination of Ichiro, Montero, Ackley, Jones, Cabrera, A-Rod, Choo, Morse and Varitek. That’s just the hitting.

Cliff Lee, Doug Fister, Freddy Garcia, Joel Pinero and Pineda are a possible rotation that might make the playoffs with a decent offense. And they are all former M’s. JJ Putz, Derek Lowe and Rafael Soriano are a possibly playoff-worthy back end of a bullpen.

The M’s got decent returns for Lee and Fister. Ditto Putz.

But Lowe and Soriano were the Morse-for-Langerhans equivalents of the pitchers here. Soriano went to Atlanta for Horacio Ramirez. Lowe went to Boston with Jason Varitek FOR HEATHCLIFF SLOCUMB.

It’s mind-boggling to see these trades. Obviously no one can see the future and see the end results. But Boston maybe doesn’t win as much without The Captain and Lowe.

So maybe these trades don’t happen and the M’s are not one of the answers to the trivia question-

“Which Major League Baseball Franchises have never been to the World Series?” (Alex Trebek voice).

So maybe the Mariners win a title at some point and we aren’t complaining about losing our only championship team in Seattle. (Ha, take that Stern! Even in an MLB piece I’m still after you.)

Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and the Lakers all Wrapped Up Into One (and the defending champs, ho hum, note the sarcasm)

Disclaimer: This is all just a proposition. Just a made-up idea, it probably won’t happen. Don’t get too worked up Suns and Magic fans.

The proposed deal- (emphasize proposed)

Orlando Magic Acquire- PF/C Pau Gasol, C Andrew Bynum and G Darius Morris

Phoenix Suns Acquire- G Rodrigue Beaubois, PF/C Daniel Orton and SG Dominique Jones

Dallas Mavericks Acquire PG Steve Nash

Los Angeles Lakers Acquire C Dwight Howard, F Hedo Turkoglu and PG Jason Kidd

(Phoenix and Orlando also get everyone’s favorite trade fodder: draft picks)

Why it makes some sense- We’ll start at the top for this one (or by the list shown above).  Orlando gets two quality big guys (probably better than quality, more like All-Star, but we’re moving on) to replace another All-Star, Dwight Howard, who is leaving anyways at the end of the season. Just to be clear, this isn’t an even swap. Gasol and Bynum are good, but it takes a lot to replace Howard with one or even two players. Morris has been losing minutes in LA and the Magic could use some youth. Orlando also gets the aforementioned, terribly exciting to write about, draft picks! (Note the heavy, heavy, heavy sarcasm.)

Phoenix is the next team listed, so naturally we will talk about them. That’s not a ridiculous idea right? Back to Phoenix. The Suns return isn’t going to jump out at you. This is Beaubois, Jones and Daniel Orton. The latter being a young big with upside, a guy who Orlando sat on the bench for all of last season. Maybe they were looking for an Aaron Rodgers effect with Orton and Howard. Who knows? But Orton’s contract option was declined (if I’m not up to date in contract-speak, then insert correct term here). He’s going to be a free agent after the season. Phoenix could find some upside in him. After all Steve Nash did turn Marcin Gortat into a legitimate center. (That’s completely contradicting since I have Nash leaving Arizona, but it sounds good.)  Beaubois and Jones give the Suns some infusion of youth in a backcourt that includes Sebastian Telfair, Ronnie Price and Michael Redd. By the way, I toiled away at this on ESPN’s trade machine and Phoenix saves somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 or 10 million. And don’t-forget-about-the-picks.

Dallas gets an upgrade at the point, plain and simple. If Nash doesn’t work out, they can let him walk like they might let Kidd walk. Dallas might lose some picks in this situation, but to get Nash, I think they’ll take that risk.

Here is the one problem with this. If Dallas is intent on pursing Howard in free agency, or even in another trade this doesn’t make a lot of sense. But if the Magic and Lakers agree on a deal, Dallas could still gain from it. And to be honest, the Lakers probably have better trade pieces (cough, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, cough) than the Mavericks do (cough,  Sean Williams and whatever Shawn Marion used to dye his hair, cough).

The Lake Show finally gets Dwight Howard. They also absorb Turkoglu’s contract as well as picking up Kidd to run the offense. This isn’t Howard and some throw ins. Turkoglu will help the Lakers’ instability on the wing next to Kobe. They also get a potential HOF point guard to distribute the ball. A good trade all around for the Lakers even though they didn’t get to unload Luke Walton or the player-formerly-known-as-Ron-Artest’s-contracts.

More trades for teams who aren’t making the playoffs.

Charlotte Bobcats- The Bobcats are bad. The team needs some kind of size. Byron Mullens has been nice, but they need more size, whether they’re contending or not (read not). The rest of their frontline consists of Tyrus Thomas, Mullens, DJ White, Boris Diaw and the rookie-name-sensation Bismack Biyombo. Mullens is 7 feet tall, Thomas is 6-10. But outside of that the rest of the guys are 6-9 and shorter. We also should mention that Michael Jordan’s team has DeSanga Diop. Problem is that the Bobcats don’t have a ton of assets. Someone might want Corey Maggette’s contract. Boris Diaw could be a nice rental. I’m assuming they would like to get out of Matt Carroll, Diop and Maggette’s contracts. DJ White could be another cheapish rental. Unless they want to unload DJ Augustin because they’re fully committed to Kemba (it’s plausible) there aren’t a whole lot of assets here.

Potential Deals-

F Boris Diaw to Miami for Whoever. Miami could certainly use another big, whether that be a more finesse option like Diaw remains to be seen. Miami could have troubling dealing for anyone, let alone the former Sun, because the only non-Big-3 players who didn’t sign this offseason (making them trade-able only after two months or March 1st) are Norris Cole, Dexter Pittman, Joel Anthony, Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem. Haslem and Anthony aren’t being dealt for other bigs. Neither is Cole or Miller. Pittman’s salary isn’t going to match up.

F Corey Maggettee and PF DJ White to Boston for C Jermaine O’Neal, PF Chris Wilcox and G Keyon Dooling. Maggette gives Boston a big boost on the wing. A boost that is sorely needed in Boston. Sasha Pavlovic and Mickael Pietrus are nice back up options, but the Celtics need some bench scoring. Maggette immediately becomes the best scoring option on the second unit. He also becomes the fifth best player on the team. Yes, this is no screw up. Boston dealing one of their better big men (yikes) in O’Neal. White is younger and cheaper. White can play the four with KG at the five. White can play five with Brandon Bass at the four. Greg Stiemsma has been serviceable. This isn’t a complete loss. Granted this doesn’t help Boston at all for the future seeing as they have to pay Maggette next year, but it certainly would help this year.

The Detroit Pistons have some nice pieces. (Read: Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe). They also have some overpaid ones. (Read: Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon.) It should be noted that Charlie V and Ben Gordon aren’t bad options, they just cost a lot.

How about this-

G Ben Gordon, F Charlie Villanueva and F Austin Daye to…….(fake, corny drum roll please…..) Atlanta for G Joe Johnson. Yes, this is terrible for the Hawks and the trade machine spits it out as their projected wins going down by five, but what if they trade their contractual albatross (Johnson) to Detroit for two contractual crows, so to speak. They also get a young guy with some upside (Austin Daye) who is a tweener in every since of the word.

Detroit gets a star player and All-Star to pair with Monroe, Knight and Jonas Jerebko. They also get a ticket-draw, so to speak, in Johnson. One that they desperately need. Think about that nucleus for Detroit, Johnson, Monroe, Knight and Jerebko, plus a likely lottery pick in a deep draft (probably another big man). Sounds pretty good right? Atlanta meanwhile moves to more of a Portland like blue-print. One lead scoring option who’s a good player ,not a superstar yet, (Josh Smith) and a flurry of secondary options that can contribute 10-20 points on a given night (Jeff Teague, Tracey McGrady, Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Charlie V and Marvin Williams). That’s not too bad, right? Probably still good enough to make the playoffs in the East. Did I mention Atlanta saves like a bajillion dollars?

Next up is the Hornets. Did anyone think that they would be this bad without Chris Paul? They aren’t short of good players. Eric Gordon is a very good two. Chris Kaman is solid. So are Jarret Jack and Emeka Okafor. Point is New Orleans has pieces that some teams might be interested in.

Proposed trade numero uno-

C Chris Kaman to Indiana for …. picks. Indiana has the cap room and is supposedly looking for another center to play behind Roy Hibbert. Kaman provides a more than quality option for Indiana. If it is picks, then  they are TBD. I’m not sure what the asking price for a potential All-Star Center is in the NBA these days.

Or….

C Chris Kaman to Houston for PG Johnny Flynn, C Hasheem Thabeet and G/F Terrence Williams. All three lottery picks who could use a change of scenery. All are also buried on the depth chart by well, depth. New Orleans gets three young pieces with a lot of potential for a guy who is a rental for them at best.

SF Trevor Ariza to Boston for F/C Chris Wilcox, G Keyon Dooling , G E’twaun Moore and a second round pick. Ariza doesn’t have a bad contract by any stretch, but I’m sure the New Orleans management (read David Stern) will want to shed some cash. The Hornets get two guys on expiring contracts who are potential buy-out guys as well as some youth infusion of Moore and another pick. I still can’t stress Boston’s need for perimeter help. Ariza is a bit like James Posey, so maybe that will help the Celtics.

The Washington Wizards. What can be said about the Wizards. They play in Washington, they’re called the Wizards. No, but seriously, the Wizards aren’t very good. They have some cap room, which is a plus, but something probably has to be done about Rashard Lewis and his 21 million dollar salary. That is way too much for a player that isn’t a part of Washington’s future, let alone worth that much. John Wall is a great building block. JaVale McGee can dunk it home. Jordan Crawford and Nick Young can both score. There’s upside, they just need more players with that kind of upside. Plus they could use my favorite thing to write about… Picks.

Deals that might work (just a heads up, I’m running out of synonyms for that phrase)-

PF/C Andray Blatche and a 2012 first-round pick to Sacramento for PF/C DaMarcus Cousins. It’s somewhat of a swap of headaches. Yes,the Wizards give up a likely lottery pick and a potential number one pick. But think of the potential of John Wall and Cousins playing together again. Those two with the rest of their young nucleus, not to mention Jan Vesley. Yikes. Blatche still has some potential. Even though he’s injured now, it still could be there for Blatche.

Jimmer mania has moved to Sacramento. Sacramento is also on their second coach of the season. The Kings have a good nucleus with guys like Cousins, Tyreke Evans, Jimmer, guys like that. The Kings have a lot of cap space, so money isn’t an issue. Here’s what I would do if I ran the Kings-

Trade SG Francisco Garcia and C Jason Thompson to Boston for C Jermaine O’Neal, PF/C Chris Wilcox and G Keyon Dooling. As you can tell I think the C’s could make some moves to help their bench and these guy’s expiring contracts are currently the best assets that Boston can move. Thompson helps them a lot in the frontcourt, and if he doesn’t work out, his contract expires after the season too. Garcia gives Boston their overstated boost on the wing. Sacramento gets out of Garcia’s contract and saves even more money.

So, don’t lose it thinking these deals are going to happen. Some of them might and some of them have absolutely no chance.

Really?

Did the Mariners just trade Michael Pineda? Really? I’m not a Mariner fan by any stretch, but living in the northwest you tend to hear a lot about them. Though I didn’t get this from any Tacoma News Tribune or Everett Herald, I got it from ESPN.com, which is probably because the Yankees are involved. That in and of itself is an entirely different matter (big market bias, etc…). The Mariners will supposedly get phenom-hitting-extraordinaire-whatever-term-makes-sense-to-you hitter (at this point he’s probably a DH and not a catcher — which is what he was originally going to play) Jesus Montero as well as pitcher Hector Noesi. Montero is number nine overall on MLB.com’s Top 50 prospect list. Noesi is a swingman type, or pitched like one last year. Pineda is an All-Star already at age 22. An All-Star at 22! Minor Leaguer Jose Campos is also heading to the Bronx.

This could turn out a number of ways:

One: Pineda joins an established group of players who thrived or enjoyed success after leaving Seattle (past success or no). This group includes Randy Johnson, David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, Raul Ibanez, Carlos Guillen, Gil Meche, Derek Lowe, Jason Varitek, Freddy Garcia, Adam Jones, Michael Morse, JJ Putz, George Sherrill (now back in Seattle), Miguel Olivo (ditto), Joel Pinero, Adrian Beltre, Doug Fister, Jamie Moyer, Shin-Soo Choo, Randy Winn, Cliff Lee and Ken Griffey Jr.

Two: All players and parties succeed and come out beautifully (see Edwin Jackson, Curtis Granderson and Max Scherzer trade).

Three: Montero joins a list of his own in the number of hitters who have arrived in the hitters’ death row that is Safeco Field. See Richie Sexson, Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, older Griffey, Kenji Johjima, Bill Hall, Brad Wilkerson and Ben Broussard.

It’s probably somewhat of a combination of all three. Number three probably only at the beginning of Montero’s Emerald City career only because of the adjustment it will take. On the flip side Pineda will probably flourish with an actual offense scoring runs for him.

So, at the end of the day (that day being the day when all players involved have filed retirement papers) this will probably end up like number two. But if I’m jinxing it by writing this and it turns into solely one and three, I won’t be surprised.

Logjam

Montero gives the M’s somewhat of a nice problem to have. He gives them an abundance of somewhat unproven corner-outfielder-firstbase-DH types. Throw him in with Justin Smoak, Mike Carp and Casper Wells and the word logjam comes to mind.

Montero, Smoak and second baseman Dustin Ackley form an intriguing young middle-of-the-order type. A combo of Ackley, Montero and Smoak in the 3-4-5 order is likely. This acquisition probably spells the end of Mike Carp or Casper Wells starts on a regular basis. One is probably going to take over in left with the other waiting for Ichiro to retire before taking over right field.

To be clear, Carp, Kyle Seager and Brendan Ryan aren’t a supporting cast that’s going to get it done championship-wise in the future, or now frankly. Franklin Guitierrez and Miguel Olivo could play on a lot of teams, but Gutierrez is on the mend from an injury-plagued season, and Olivo is being pursued by recently acquired John Jaso at the catcher position.

Montero clearly gives the Mariners a player to build around offensively. But did they give up too much?

Of the teams that made successful runs in the postseason, or to it, had somewhat of an effective one-two punch. Detroit: Justin Verlander and Doug Fister. New York: CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. St. Louis Cardinals: Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia. Tampa Bay: James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson. Arizona: Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. Philadelphia and Milwaukee were a few of the exceptions, seeing as they have a one-two-three punch at the top of their rotations. Zack Grienke, Shawn Marcum and Yovanni Gallardo lead the beer makers’ staff while Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels will roll out 1-2-3 for Philly.

(Notice how I left out Texas? See, they don’t have an ace so they don’t really fit on the list.)

The Mariners had an enticing future one-two punch now and later with Pineda and Felix Hernandez. This is probably along the lines of the M’s thinking: We need hitting for one, and two we have an abundance (somewhat) of young pitchers to dangle to get some. Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are both top prospects for Seattle, but New York probably wanted a young pitcher who could contribute right away (Pineda) instead of a prospect who has yet to throw a pitch in AAA.

Think about those two and possibly Jason Vargas or Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush or even Campos as a fifth pitcher paired with Felix and Pineda.

(It probably should be noted that Campos isn’t just an afterthought or a throw in, he was the M’s number four overall prospect according to MLB.com.)

The Campos addition makes for somewhat of a tougher loss for Seattle. Yes, he probably would have had issues cracking a rotation with all the projected talent, but why not keep the depth, or at least put it towards somewhat of an experienced hitter like a Hanley Ramirez (not that that is going to happen, I was just throwing that name out there as an example).

Positional Problems

Jesus Montero will suit up for your Seattle Mariners. The only thing that will be in question is where the hitting-phenom will play. Montero is a catcher by trade, but has been tabbed by scouts and higher ups as a player up for positional relocation due to lack of defensive prowess. (I just moved to jolly old England and became an established professor with a large library for one sentence there.)

So if not at catcher, then where?

Montero might have an outfielder’s glove up his sleeve, (in which case the guy has some big sleeves). Who knows? In all likely-hood he will probably find his starts at DH with the occasional start at first base or catching, (like a Victor Martinez situation, almost) or at first base with dosages of time at DH and behind the dish.

The latter situation there probably won’t come to fruition unless Justin Smoak is moved. If he’s moved it will either be as a piece in a trade for a more experienced hitter at say third base, or a swap for more pitching.

Smoak probably isn’t going anywhere seeing as he was the M’s key in the Cliff Lee trade, and he provides a substantial part of their hazy future.

Chris Paul is Going to the Clippers (and the Fit the Lakers Will Throw)

The Chris Paul saga has ended. And while the term “saga” has been used for a lot of fiascos and ongoing events, this one actually fit the definition of a saga:  A series of events or a story stretching over a long period (or so says dictionary.com). We had the vetoed Lakers-Rockets deal, the trade the Clippers pulled out of and the trade the Clippers actually made.

Paul will obviously be playing in LA. On the Hornets side of things they got a guy who could be more of a dynamic scoring threat than he already is (Eric Gordon). They also acquired a guy with a ton of upside in Al Farouq Aminu, a borderline All-Star in Chris Kaman and Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first round pick.

Minnesota’s first rounder could end up not being the number one overall pick that everyone thinks it will be. While it’s probably a lottery pick, people have to remember that Minnesota has some talent. Kevin Love is ridiculous on the boards. Guards  Ricky Rubio and JJ Barea can fill it up along with former number two overall pick Michael Beasley. That, combined with the lottery, could sink the chances for a number one overall selection. The draft is going to be extremely deep this year, and the lottery will be the crème of the crop.

So that’s the Hornets coming away with an extremely legit shooting guard in Eric Gordon. Kaman, who could be moved for more pieces and picks, is even more of a trade piece than usual because of his expiring contract and high level of play. Farouq Aminu still has a high ceiling and will contribute to the team. You throw in Aminu and Gordon with two lottery picks in a stacked draft, and it means two potentially good to superstar type players.

On the flipside you have Chris Paul lining up with Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan as a starting five. Follow that up with Eric Bledsoe, Mo Williams, Randy Foye and Ryan Gomes off the bench. Add on a potential to bring in another big guy, which they need, and you have the potential to be really, really good long term.

On the flip-flip-side there are the Lakers. The Lakers not only lost out on Chris Paul, but lost one of their key players in the process: Lamar Odom. Throw in that with his replacement, none other than Josh McRoberts (not a bad player at all, just not Odom), and you have all the ingredients for a dismal year.

To be honest, at this point a dismal year for the Lakers is probably a loss in the conference semifinals like last year. The Lakers could be faced with the realization that not only the Clippers could be better in the long term, but also that the Lakers could be on the short end of the stick in the present. Another realization that could come to fruition is that this could be the eventual downfall of the Kobe Bryant era. Pau Gasol could be shipped out to either get Dwight Howard, or pieces for him. Ditto Andrew Bynum. If Gasol goes and Howard isn’t on the plane back to LA then we might see a string of seasons somewhere in the no man’s land that is first-round playoff losses that could happen until Kobe eventually retires (yes that will happen at some point in time Lakers fans).

Because of this the Lakers probably will throw a behind-the-scenes temper tantrum at the League and David Stern after getting their own Chris Paul deal nixed and then seeing him head to their constant-butt-of-jokes-cross-arena-more-of-a-punching-bag-than-rival-Clippers. It may surprise you, or it may not, but at season’s end the better team is probably going to be the punching bag.