Friday, July 10, 2009

Listening and not listening

J.P. Ricciardi set off a firestorm of conversation throughout the baseball world when he told FoxSports' Ken Rosenthal he was open to "listening" to offers for ace pitcher Roy Halladay. Talking heads and tapping fingers all over the country began trying to piece together offers that would give their favorite team a chance to land perhaps baseball's best pitcher.

The news, of course, wasn't that Ricciardi suddenly was listening. Ricciardi always is listening. If he ever hung up the phone simply because another general manager wanted to talk about Halladay, he wouldn't be doing his job as a general manager. Had Twins general manager Bill Smith called this winter and offered Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, Ricciardi would have made that trade in about two seconds flat.

Every team has a player or two around whom they're hoping to build, but the level of "We're not going to listen" varies wildly from team to team. Here's a look at the player on each of the other 29 teams who would be least likely to be traded ranked by just how unlikely it would be:

No, really, we're not listening
1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Pujols is the St. Louis franchise. He's also the best player in the game. The Texas Rangers could offer their 25-man roster to the Cardinals for Pujols and John Mozeliak probably wouldn't do it. In fact, that's how you can decide if a player truly is untouchable. Just ask the question: "Would you trade him straight up for Pujols?" The answer to that question, in 100 percent of cases, is, "Yes."

2. Zack Greinke, Royals
3. Matt Wieters, Orioles
We can lump these two together because a trade of either would send the following message to fans: We don't really care about our franchise. Greinke is the only ray of light to come out of Kansas City in years, and Wieters once hit a home run into McCovey Cove in San Francisco -- from Baltimore. (That may or may not actually be true.) An opposing general manager would have to shout really fast -- "WewantWietersand we'llgiveyouDavidWrightand JoseReyesforhim!" -- to get either Mike Flanagan or Dayton Moore not to hang up the phone. Wieters and Greinke give fans a reason to be optimistic about two teams that haven't given much reason for optimism lately.

4. Tim Lincecum, Giants
Just think: Lincecum and Barry Zito, together, are being paid $19.15 million this year. One of the two has a 2.33 ERA and 149 strikeouts. The other is making $18.5 million.

5. Evan Longoria, Rays
He's already one of the best players in the game, and he's not yet 24 years old. If the Rays have their way, he'll be hitting home runs in the playoffs for years to come.

6. Adrian Gonzalez, Padres
Not only is he extraordinarily talented and extraordinarily affordable, but he's a San Diego native and is almost universally beloved in his home city.

7. Grady Sizemore, Indians
If the Indians were to trade Cliff Lee or Victor Martinez, they'd be announcing to their fans that they've given up on the 2010 season. If they were to trade Sizemore, they'd be announcing to their fans that they've given up, period.

8. Joe Mauer, Twins
Only this low because he's set to be a free agent in two years, so a handful of Twins fans would understand the rationale. He otherwise is to Minnesota what Gonzalez is to San Diego.

9. Tommy Hanson, Braves
If you're the reason the Braves burned bridges with Tom Glavine, well, you're going stick around for a while.

10. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks have never really had a franchise player. (No, Luis Gonzalez doesn't count.) Upton will be -- or already is -- their first.

11. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
This means you, Red Sox fans who think you can get him back.

12. Chase Utley, Phillies
The best second baseman in the game, the only reason Ruben Amaro would even think about making a deal would be to clear the $60 million he's owed from 2010-13 off the books.

13. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
Neal Huntington has shown a willingness to deal anyone and everyone, but you can't claim you're building toward the future if you trade away McCutchen.

14. Josh Hamilton, Rangers
The Rangers gave Hamilton his second chance a couple of years ago, and it's paid off big-time. It would almost seem heartless to trade the guy now.

15. Ryan Braun, Brewers
Not only is he one of the best young hitters in the game, but he's not even due $10 million a year in salary until 2014.

You can leave a message if you want
16. Derek Jeter, Yankees
He's getting old and still has no defensive range, but imagine the riots in the Bronx if Jeter ever was traded.

17. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
He's another aging face of an organization due quite a bit of money over the next few years. (He's owed $17 million every year until 2012, to be precise.) It wouldn't be a bad thing for the Mariners to pick up some pitching prospects and then spend Ichiro's money on a free agent like Jason Bay. But it's also clear that they've staked their future on Ichiro, and a deal like that would be a tough sell to the team's Pacific Northwest -- and Japanese -- fan base.

18. Manny Ramirez, Dodgers
It's not like any other team is beating down Ned Colletti's door to deal for Ramirez, anyway, but the Dodgers have invested so much in Ramirez over the last 11 months that they'd be insane to ship him out for anything less than an overwhelming haul of young players.

19. Oliver Perez, Mets
Wait, no, that's not right.

19. David Wright, Mets
The Mets might be in bad shape now, but there's still a core in place to compete. David Wright is New York's next Jeter.

20. Jon Lester, Red Sox
It's a testament to Theo Epstein that the Red Sox don't have to stake themselves to any one young player going forward. They'd rather not trade Lester -- or Dustin Pedroia or Kevin Youkilis, for that matter -- but if the Marlins offered Ramirez, they'd at least think about it.

21. Justin Verlander, Tigers
It's no coincidence that Verlander is to the Tigers what Lester is to the Red Sox -- a staff ace and a strikeout machine.

22. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
He's the only thing resembling a franchise player on that roster, but he's still only the third-best third baseman in his division. (From the AP story about his All-Star selection: "The only statistical category in which Zimmerman leads the Nationals are doubles (22) and errors (12)."

We have no reason at all not to listen
23. Brett Anderson, Athletics
Like the Red Sox with Lester, the Athletics would be loath to trade a pitcher who might already be their staff ace. But with so many holes all over the field, if Anderson could fetch a package of big-league-ready talent, Billy Beane would do it.

24. Jay Bruce, Reds
He's a budding star, but if the Reds could get overwhelmed with an offer, you'd think they'd be willing to consider it.

25. Carlos Quentin, White Sox
You also might be selling high on last season's 36 home runs if you could get a top-of-the-rotation starter in exchange for him.

26. Jered Weaver, Angels
He should have been an All-Star this year, but he's still the type of young pitcher who's eminently replaceable if someone comes along with the right deal. If the Blue Jays called and offered Halladay straight up for Weaver, you'd think the Angels would have to jump at that deal.

27. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
It's not much of a reach to take the stance that Tulowitzki peaked two years ago and might never again have the trade value he has now. If someone offered a front-line starting pitcher, the Rockies would have to make that deal.

28. Geovany Soto, Cubs
It's not easy to find a young catcher who burst onto the scene quite like Soto did a year ago, but he's regressed badly in his sophomore season and just landed on the disabled list with an oblique strain.

29. Roy Oswalt, Astros
Drayton McLane has refused to sign off on any deal that includes his team's 32-year-old ace, but that's probably not a good stance to take. Oswalt is owed big money over the next three seasons -- $15 million in 2010, $16 million in 2011 and either $16 million or a $2 million option in 2012 -- but the Astros have gone pretty much nowhere with him at the top of their pitching staff. If someone offered the type of package Ricciardi wants for Halladay, the Astros would be making a mistake not to think long and hard about taking it.

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