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East Carolina Hall of Famer and
former baseball coach Keith LeClair.
 (Photo: ECU Media Relations)

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Editor's note: This feature
coordinated by Denny O'Brien.



From The Dugout

By Keith LeClair

Trading Places

This is the time of year when general managers will have either pushed all the right buttons in putting their teams in position to make a playoff run or simply depleted their farm system for merely a second place finish.

So, is it all worth the gamble?

Well, for the smaller market teams, this time of year is huge in building a team that can compete for a playoff spot in the near future, with young up-and- coming stars from other organizations. And for the high rollers, honestly, it doesn't matter, because when the off-season comes, the check book will be out and the ink will be written to sign any free agent that will be needed to replace any holes that obstruct a World Series ring.

So, how can this trading deadline be good for Major League baseball? I have thought long and hard about this scenario and believe it's truly one of the ways smaller market teams actually have a chance to build up their talent to become successful.

I remember two trades in particular that made huge differences to smaller market teams — I realize there are a lot more — but these players everyone will know and their trades came at the deadline during a pennant chase. One was Doyle Alexander of the Braves for little known John Smoltz. Even though Alexander did what the Tigers wanted from him in the trade, there is no question that Smoltz has done more for the Braves organization.

The other trade I want to mention is even more lopsided when it comes down to value and longevity. The Red Sox, who are known for making some of the wildest trades in history, acquired Larry Anderson from the Astros — who I may add was about at the end of his career — for Jeff Bagwell, who has been one of the elite players in the game over the years.

What we must realize during these trading periods is that there are two objectives: win now and worry about the future later; and build now for the future. Sometimes teams can do both with the right trade, but more often than not these players traded into a pennant chase are no more than a good rent-a-TV, in other words rent-a -players.

Now that we have talked about some of the things that occur at the trading deadline, let's tackle what we are seeing this year. In honesty, predicting what will happen at this year's deadline will be the toughest, because their are so many teams in the race, causing a greater demand on buyers than sellers. So, the break-busting deals we may see could come in late August when more teams fall out of the race and try to drop players with high salaries, clearing them up for the free agency market to come next winter. But for this to happen, the player must clear waivers first before a deal can be complete.

With all this said, let's breakdown the trades that have occurred as of 11:45 Saturday morning. I won't go through every trade, but only some of the blockbusters, if you want to call any of these block blusters.


The Marlins traded RHP Brad Penny, 1B Hee Seop Choi and minor league LHP Billy Murphy to the Dodgers for catcher Paul LaDuca, RF Juan Encarnacion and RHP Guillermo Mota.

Evaluation: The Dodgers, with one of the best records in baseball, seem to have given up an awful lot for what they received in exchange. Speculation has the Dodgers lining up to go after Steve Finley or Randy Johnson, so we will have to wait and see how all this shakes down before casting judgment.

The Marlins, on the other hand, received just what they needed, a solid catcher in LaDica, RBI guy in Encarnacion and a terrific setup guy in Mota. Now they are primed for the stretch drive.

Dodgers' grade: D — Penny is not a dominator and Choi strikes out way too much and can't hit with men in scoring position.

Marlins' grade: A — The Marlins addressed every need in just one trade, without giving up much. unless, Josh Beckett has continued blister problems and is forced to miss starts, then Brad Penny will be sorely missed.


The Mets receive RHP Kris Benson and Jeff Keppinger in exchange for Ty Wiggington, minor league RHP Matt Peterson and SS Juan Bautista, who came to the Mets from Kansas City in an earlier trade for C Justin Huber.

Evaluation: The Mets get what they hope will be a solid starter in Kris Benson, but his past doesn't indicate that will be the case. His numbers are average at best and he has a career losing record. The Pirates get a promising young third baseman and a highly regarded prospect in Peterson.

Mets' grade: C — Didn't give up a lot, but they also didn't get much in return.

Pirates' grade: B — They have a potential great player in Wiggington and he is still young. If Peterson and Bautista pan out, this will be a great trade.

Banner 10000094

Mets-Devil Rays

Mets receive Victor Zambrano and pitcher Bartolome Fortunato in exchange for minor leaguers LHP Scott Kazmir and RHP Jose Diaz.

Evaluation: Mets got Zambrano, who has potential but can't throw strikes, which is not what you want in a pennant chase. The Devil Rays got the Mets' best LHP prospect in Kazmir.

Mets' grade: C — Only time will prove me wrong.

Devil Rays' grade: A- — If Kazmir pans out, it could be a steal, but he is young and they will need to be patient.

Other news of interest

The Phillies traded Ricky LeDee and a minor leaguer to the Giants for Felix Rodriguez, and then acquired Todd Jones from Cincinnati — An obvious move to shore up their bullpen, but what now will they do in centerfield? Great question!

Folks, it's past 4:00 o'clock and the trading deadline has passed with no Randy Johnson or Larry Walker being traded. But rumor does have it Steve Finley was traded from Arizona to the Dodgers. If that's the case, LA was certainly the busiest during this trading period. Whether the move will work out and produce a run at the playoffs and World Series, nobody knows but time. Hopefully the D-backs got some good young prospects in return for Finley. What excites me most about the trading period is seeing where and when some of these young prospects will become superstars and which teams will regret their trades.

In my opinion, these trades can make or break an organization and nothing short of a world championship will be forgiven, especially if you trade away the next John Smoltz or Jeff Bagwell.

Hey, how about Sam Narron making his big debut against Oakland after only two years removed from the Pirate program. Do you think they could have given him a bigger start in his debut? That says a lot about Sam and what the Rangers think of his future.

Having coached Sam and knowing his strengths, it was obvious Sam was a little nervous and didn't have his best command nor stuff before giving way to a reliever. But the Rangers came back to win and I have no doubt in my mind that Sam will have a long and great Major League career.

On a bright note, Chad Tracy was three-for-four last night and his average has climbed over .280. Mark Grace, one of the Cubbies' announcers, spoke high praise of Chad, and how he worked hard, kept quiet and went about his business. He also added that Chad was the first one to the park and last one to leave. Now, that's what Pirate baseball is all about.

It sure is awesome to see all these Pirates break into the big leagues.

If you have a question or comment about the Pirates in particular or baseball in general, get a learned response by firing your best pitch at Ol' Condo. Submit your message by clicking the following e-mail link: E-mail Coach LeClair.

02.23.07 10:27 AM


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