Tampa Bay Sports Day

Buyers…Sellers…Chasers…Dwellars

The countdown has begun to determine which category your favorite team belongs before the always highly anticipated waiver-less trading deadline on July 31st. Are they buyers or sellers? Chasers or bottom-dwellars?

Here in New York the daily rants flip-flop from day-to-day. In Queens, when the Mets win, it’s “Hey, maybe they’ve got a chance.” When they lose, it’s, “Who’s gonna go?”

In the Bronx, the Yankees haven’t been sellers since…well, maybe not ever, but now, with the news that “rookie” Ace Masahiro Tanaka has been put on the shelf for about two weeks with elbow “inflammation,” and the fear his injury could curtail much if not all of the rest of the season, there is the chance that perhaps this could be the year they reboot.

At just two games over .500 and behind two other teams in the AL East, the Yankees have a hill to climb no matter if chosen All-Star Tanaka makes a speedy recovery or not. Even with two Wild Card slots available, this could be a turning point, a down-turning point, in Yankees history.

As all Yankees fans know, they’ve lost four-fifths of their starting rotation since opening Day, and have not received the type of offensive production they projected from the likes of free agent signings Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann.

Yankees GM Brain Cashman has already tried to shore up the rotation with the recent trade for Arizona’s Brandon McCarthy. His Yankees debut was just so-so, leaning on the glass half-full side of optimism – 6.2 innings, four runs, but only one earned, with 3 Ks and only one walk.

Cashman is still working the phones in an effort to improve the team for this year, far from adapting to seller mode.

Who can he get? That depends on who’s selling, and at this point, there may be a lot of carnival barkers hawking their wares, with more on the way.

Cash might do some shopping in Texas, Minnesota, Colorado, or down in Philadelphia, where the Phillies may soon be hosting one heck of a fire sale. At 40-51, the Phils are looking at another wasted season, with a lot of heavy payroll ballplayers on the back sides of their careers.

There has been speculation Cliff Lee might soon be fitted for pinstripes. Lee’s wife turned down a chance to join the Yankees when he was a free agent, but she might not have a say this time. Lee is due some $48 million in the next two seasons, so that scares off most teams, but since when do the Yankees care about payroll? They blew past that projected $189 million budget like a Maserati past a Smart car on the highway when the opportunity to secure Tanaka came their way.

As far as prospects available, or the types of players desire, the Yankees are not known to have the deepest system, but when you’re absorbing the big bucks, the level of prospects tend to drop a notch or two. Lee is signing checks for $25 mil this year, is due $25 mil next year, and has a ’16 vesting option for $27.5 mil.

Think the last-place Phillies wouldn’t mind clearing that payroll? You’re right.

Who would the Yankees deal? Likely lower-level prospects with the “potential” of a future.

But would the Yankees even want Lee at this point, at age 35 and injured? He’s been on the shelf since the end of May with an elbow injury but he may be close to being reinstated. Lee threw his second rehab appearance for Clearwater recently, and gave up three runs in four innings. If he looks good back on the big club, the Yankees will at least send some scouts.

Would the Rangers part with any of their big guns, Adrian Beltre or Alex Rios? Unlikely, but they are big ticket players and that might make them available. Beltre pulls down $17 mil this year, and will get $18 mil in ’15, $16 mil in ’16. Rios draws $12.5 mil this year, $13.5 mil in ’15.

Forget about the Rockies parting with Troy Tulowitzky. Yes, he would be the perfect successor to Derek Jeter, but not this year, not with his royal highness still manning the shortstop position. Maybe over the winter talks can develop, but not now. And yes, Tulo makes a ton of money between now and the next Millennium.

But they might part with slugger Carlos Gonzalez, who also is on the DL with a finger injury. Again, a return to full body health and strength is a must, and whether the Yankees can offer anyone Colorado would desire is a big what-if, but it is possible.

The Yankees had wanted to deal for the Cubs’ Jeff Samardzjia (and so did everybody else in baseball), but Chicago was romanced by Oakland with a multi-player offer topped by one of baseball’s top shortstop prospects, Addison Russell.

The Mets, while they won’t admit it, have a need at shortstop, and their interest could be aimed at the Cubbies’ Starlin Castro. Now that Chicago has “Shortstop of the Future” in place, Castro could be expendable. But Castro makes $42 mil over the next five years, with a $16 mil team option for 2020, and the Metropolitans still have a tendency to avoid big-ticket items.

Nonetheless, the price could be costly. Noah Syndergaard? Rafael Montero? Jack Leathersich? Kevin Plawecki? Cory Vaughn? Brandon Nimmo?

Who would you deal?

Forget about that Dillon Gee trade talk you sometimes hear on the radio. You know the baseball adage…when you get five good starters, go get some more. And when you get some more, go get some more.

To deal a now proven commodity like Gee – unless it was for another proven commodity – such as Giancarlo Stanton (Yeah, like that could ever happen), is downright foolish. Yes, the Mets have a strength in starting pitching from Gee to Niese to Wheeler to deGrom, and Harvey back next year, but it’s smarter to deal potential than proven.

Uh, oh, that could mean the Viking, Syndergaard, is in somebody’s sights.

The Mets also have a need for a big slugger, conceivably a leftfielder, having whiffed by not signing Nelson Cruz. They’ve been window-shopping Gonzalez as well, but have lower-priced targets in mind.

If they turn their caps around and become sellers, there’ll be a line out the door for any of their young pitchers, both on the major league level and in the minors. But it should really have to be a big-time turnaround deal, ala Keith Hernandez, or Gary Carter, or Donn Clendenon, to make losing some of those valuable arms.

Bartolo Colon and Daisuke Matsuzaka could be targeted by other clubs. Colon cause he defies his birth certificate by continuing to pitch well into his 40s, and Dice-K cause he has proven he can fill just about any pitching role, from starter to closer, and is making not much more than rookie money.

The Mets’ resurrection of Bobby Abreu’s career might also attract Wild Card wanna-bes. Anyone looking for a veteran presence in the clubhouse and off the bench would be wise to consider Abreu. But GM Sandy Alderson also likes Abreu for those very same reasons, so it would have to be a decent prospect to make a switch.

If the Mets go in the tank the next two weeks, look for both pitchers to possibly be dealt, including conceivably to, the Yankees, believe it or not. If the Mets stay in the race to any degree, they’ll likely stand close to pat, and possibly make deals later in the summer with some of their veteran players. They’ll be easy listings to obtain waivers. Then the young arms stay put.

It’s all speculation. The next two weeks will tell the story.