Some players could use change of scenery
Fresh perspectives might be best Trade Deadline outcome
Some players will move because they are approaching a salary bracket that won't fit into their current teams' budgets. Others will move to contenders hoping to find the answers to their needs. Yet others will be turned into building blocks for teams in transition.There will be plenty of traffic. This time of year, baseball becomes Grand Central Station: Throngs of rumored commuters and a handful of actual travelers mill around as the big clock ticks down to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Never mind who will move, or even who might move. But who should be moving to new pastures to revitalize a lagging career or perhaps wipe a smudged slate clean? Which players could most benefit from a change of scenery? The basis for inclusion on this list should be quite clear. To sum them up, last summer's ideal candidates would have been Milton Bradley, who felt just as trapped with the Cubs as the North Siders did with him, and Vicente Padilla, who soon after being released by the Rangers flourished with the Dodgers. Now, there is a belief that, for many, any change is good if the new scenery replaces Yankee Stadium with Wrigley Field or any ballpark where the pitcher takes his own cuts. In other words, moving from the American League to the National League will light a fire underneath you -- especially if you're a pitcher. That theory gained steam last summer because veterans John Smoltz and Brad Penny, who'd both been zeroes with the Red Sox, became late-season pitching heroes with the Cardinals and Giants, respectively. Not to mention Padilla. Then along came Carlos Silva, who after going 5-18 in two seasons in Seattle, was 9-3 before this year's All-Star break with the Cubs. But, perceptions aside, jumping on the other side of the league fence doesn't set off any magic wake-up calls. Some playing styles indeed may be better suited to one league or the other, but often all it takes is a new uniform, not a new league. The Bittersweet 16, in order of get-me-out-of-here urgency: Mike Lowell, Red Sox: No revelations here for the Prisoner of Yawkey Way. He was ticketed out of town when Boston signed free agent Adrian Beltre, and became trapped when a December trade to Texas fell through with diagnosis of a right-thumb ligament injury that required surgery. He has been stuck in limbo ever since, playing little (80 at-bats), with his release requests ignored. "I think that's been addressed. I've got no say," said Lowell, who has been uncommonly candid about his plight. "What do you want me to do? Maybe nobody wants me. Maybe there are four that want me. I've been hearing a lot of different things." Carlos Zambrano, Cubs: Despite his track record -- and his baggage -- do you realize he only just turned 29? Get him away from Lou Piniella and "Z" could turn back on the Ks. Piniella would certainly appreciate it. Brandon Wood, Angels: He has hit 161 home runs in the Minors, but hit .181 in 142 games over parts of four seasons with the Angels, with more than 12 times as many strikeouts (126) as homers (10). By now, he must be completely psyched out by the sight of red. But he is only 25 -- much too young for self-doubts. Give him a fresh start. B.J. Upton, Rays: He has been in harrowing, steady decline since becoming a breakthrough star at 22 in 2007. His on-field lapses have rolled eyes in the Tampa Bay region a little too often. At 25, his immense talents could bring a bounty on the trade market, and he'd be freed from the sense that he needs to convert skeptics. Seeing it the same way, a scout said of Upton earlier this season: "I think he just needs a change of scenery, and that's not to imply that Tampa Bay doesn't create a good place for him. But sometimes you just need a new perspective on things, and I think he might take off if he were someplace else." Casey Kotchman, Mariners: First, Seattle reacquired Russell Branyan, then traded for Justin Smoak. OK, Kotchman gets the idea, and has had only 38 at-bats in the past month. Toss him the league lifeline? Kotchman batted .282 with the Braves in the first half of last season, but .215 with the Red Sox and the Mariners since. Jeff Francoeur, Mets: Who knows? The 26-year-old outfielder could be one of those perpetual new-scenery guys. After hitting .250 in Atlanta the first half of last season, he picked it up with the Mets (.311), but now is back hitting at that same .250 level. Carlos Beltran's return has reduced him to bench insurance. Andy LaRoche, Pirates: He is on the flip-side of the stir the Bucs created a month ago by calling up Pedro Alvarez, the second overall selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. LaRoche has started five games since. There are better uses for a 26-year-old's bat. Joba Chamberlain, Yankees: He doesn't want to leave, but can anyone rule out that the Joba Rules and the jig-jag between rotation and bullpen has lowered his once-high ceiling? Dioner Navarro, Rays: One of the spark plugs of the '08 AL champions is back in the Minors and John Jaso has taken over as the primary backstop in Tampa Bay. Chris Getz, Royals: Someone must be able to use a 26-year-old with a lifetime 89-percent stolen-base success rate. The Royals can't, even after dealing Mark Teahen to acquire him from the White Sox. An early injury opened to door for Mike Aviles, whose hot bat has kept him at second and Getz in the dugout. Chris Snyder, D-backs: A solid, hard-nosed catcher with a throwback style, he lost his starting job to Miguel Montero last season through injury. Snyder did a solid job when given a reprieve early this season by Montero's own trip to the disabled list. Tough to swallow is that Montero got his job back upon his June 20 return and he's started 20 games since. That number is seven for Snyder. Kosuke Fukudome, Cubs: He got out of Piniella's doghouse, but the emergence of rookie Tyler Colvin is making it increasingly difficult for him to get out of the Cubs' dugout. Jeff Larish, Tigers: A left-handed hitter with considerable pop -- 88 Minor League homers since '06 -- who won't get the same chance Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch have taken advantage of because Miguel Cabrera has a padlock on his position. Delwyn Young, Pirates: He is a young player without a position, but with a specialty: He is a viable threat off the bench. Thirty-nine of his 62 appearances have been as a pinch-hitter -- a role in which he has gone 11-for-38. Being a switch-hitter makes him even more valuable in a role that could help an NL contender. Jeremy Hellickson, Rays: Lights-out in Durham, squeezed-out in Tampa Bay. The 23-year-old righty has gone 17-3 in Triple-A, improving his overall Minor League record to 48-15 with a sharp 2.62 ERA since being a fourth-round pick in the '05 First-Year Player Draft. But whose job is he supposed to take with the Rays? Being wait-listed has to be getting to him. Manny Ramirez, Dodgers: It hasn't taken nearly as long as it did in Boston, but it may again be time for Manny to move on, if his career still has another layer left in it. His recurring leg problems only underline the fact that his remaining productive days should be spent in the AL as a designated hitter.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.