The trade deadline is an interesting dance.
It’s amazing because it’s a dance that everyone is involved with. A dance in which the best team in the league is just as important as the worst team in the league. A dance where teams you're not even negotiating with can effect your own trade by setting the value of players in the market. A dance of give and take, wait and see.
The Cardinals trade for Matt Holliday last Friday set the tone.
Oakland shipped the perennial slugger Holliday to St. Louis for three prospects. These types of trades in which a rebuilding team is trading with a competing team is usually involves a star in return for prospects, but which prospects are traded are the most telling. Especially in this move, the first major midseason trade.
In return for Matt Holliday, The A’s got Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortenson, and Shane Peterson.
Wallace was the Cardinals top minor league prospect. Drafted 13th overall in 2008, out of Arizona Wallace slugged his way last year into Double A. The third basemen has a bat that impresses many, and people are sure that despite his size or glove, he will be a hitter in the Major Leagues very soon. He projects as a future starter and possible All-Star, and ranked in the top 50 prospects according to Baseball America this season.
Mortenson was ranked as the Cardinals sixth best prospect going into 2009, and had just made the big leagues before being traded. Shane Peterson is a 21-year-old outfielder who was drafted in the second round in 2008 by the Cardinals.
So in review, in return for the slugger Matt Holliday, who is in the last year of his contract, the Cardinals traded away their top two picks from last year, and two of their top 10 prospects…that’s quite a purse.
Many argue it is more than worth it however, as Holliday is a career .317 winner and almost won the Triple Crown back in 2007. That kind of protection for Albert Pujols, and the daunting one-two punch it creates should be taken when the opportunity approaches. Now the Cardinals have a one-two punch that can be considered better than the old Manny-Papi punch, and the A’s have some major keys for the future, and a possible replacement for Eric Chavez. Congratulations to both.
But now the Market is set. A player with less than half a season on his contract, who is batting .286/.378/.464 with 11 homers and 54 RBI pulls in two top 10 prospects and some change.
Adam Dunn on the other hand has a year and a half left on his contract, is batting .275/.403/.553 with 25 homers and 70 RBI.
Josh Willingham is batting .291/.407/.565 with 14 homers and 31 RBI.
This gives Rizzo and the Nats an incredible bargaining tool over the next four days. While Dunn and especially Willingham do not have the track record of Matt Holliday they are currently out performing him, and the demand has gone up with Holliday now on a competing team.
The time is crunching down, and with the Cardinals receiving a Matt Holliday, other competing teams are surely feeling the pressure to acquire a slugger of their own.
With Dunn hitting a career 70 points below Holliday and Willingham renowned for streakiness, the same exact deal may be hard to command. But certainly the Nats should be able to command one of a perspective teams top five prospects, if not two.
The Nats have an ultimate bargaining point to attain future pieces of the future puzzle. They must not fail as they have in the past; they have commodities that are valued, they must move them.