Monday evening was much of the same for Ichiro Suzuki.
He went through his day just like any other and when it was time to go to work, he left for Safeco Field in his car, waved at the same parking attendant on the way in and headed into to the clubhouse.
Except this time it was the visitors clubhouse. Sure, Ichiro’s first at-bat brought hearty cheers from the loyal Mariners fans as usual, but they had a much different tone.
Rather than saying, “Let’s go Ichiro!” to one of their few prized possessions of the last decade, they were saying, “Thanks for the memories!” to the newest member of the Yankees.
Every year a similar scene takes place, even if it’s not quite as instantaneous. No matter how safe we sometimes think our aged hometown heroes are from the sadness of a cross-country trade, the MLB trade deadline always seems to surprise us.
Based on Ichiro’s eleven-and-a-half year tenure with the Mariners alone, Monday’s news came unexpectedly. The move out of Seattle was one that tugged on the heartstring but made sense from an objective standpoint, considering the Yankees’ need for a reliable left fielder with speedster Brett Gardner out for the season with an elbow injury (shouldn’t have been so quick to dump Melky, no?).
A couple pitching prospects for a Mariners squad desperately in need of rebuilding can’t hurt either.
With the MLB trade deadline less than a week away, we might have already seen the biggest surprise, but a few other big names could likely be on the move.
Here are some of my predictions for what has the makings to be a wild week in baseball:
RHP Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers:
A few GM’s around the league are skeptical to trade for Hamels and it has nothing to do with his performance. 11-4 with a 3.23 ERA to date, the only drawback of pursuing the All-Star is the fact that he’s a rental in the last year of his contract. Still, the Rangers are no average team. With yet another AL West title in sights, they are more focused on getting the guy that can finally get them the last out of the World Series than having to negotiate a long-term contract in the off-season.
RHP Ryan Dempster to the Atlanta Braves:
At 5-4 with a league-best 2.11 ERA among starting pitchers, Dempster’s case is similar in that he’s a rental who could also be headed to a playoff contender. As of this afternoon, the Braves trailed the 2012 fair-weather fan favorite Washington Nationals by 4.5 games in the NL East and were a mere half game out of the National League’s second Wild Card spot. The only deterrent to this potential deal? Dempster, a more than ten-year vet who has been with the Cubs for over five years, can by rule veto any trade his team proposes. If it falls through, here’s to another year for Dumpster in the world’s longest-cursed sports franchise!
3B (Begrudgingly) Hanley Ramirez to the OAKLAND ATHLETICS?!?!?!
The surprise factor with this potential trade could even trump Ichiro’s. For the past decade, the A’s have been cheaper than Phil Knight at an Adidas outlet. This year, something’s different. Not only did GM Billy Beane spring for power-hitting Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes with a 4-year, $36 million deal, they find themselves in contention for a Wild Card spot (15-2 in their last 17) for the first time since 2006. Despite his unpredictable attitude and grumblings about having to play third base for the Marlins, Ramirez could be the consistent bat on the left side of the infield that closes the deal for the A’s down the stretch. He will be seen as a welcome replacement for Brandon Inge, who has been hitting below the Mendoza Line since his arrival in Oakland earlier this season.
OF Peter Bourjos and RHP Ervin Santana to the Tampa Bay Rays:
At 4-10 with a 6.00 ERA, starting pitcher Ervin Santana isn’t exactly having the long-term contract season the Los Angeles Angels had hoped for. Bourjos isn’t doing much better, with a .223 batting average on the season. Still, Santana has thrown well enough in recent years and Bourjos is just young and fast enough (25 years old with the nickname “Speedy Petey”) that this deal might be worth taking a chance on (with maybe a prospect thrown in here or there) for the Rays. With a solid 8-6 record and a 4.39 ERA, Shields is the ideal back-end starting pitcher that could help Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson, Dan Haren and the Angels reach one of the two AL Wild Card spots up for grabs. It would almost be easier to ask at this point, “Who isn’t in the AL Wild Card race?”