Sunday, July 30, 2006

White House Unlikely To Deal Cheney Before Trade Deadline

With Monday afternoon’s trade deadline looming, speculation has been rampant about a handful of major league stars. No player has been more in demand than Washington Nationals outfielder Alfonso Soriano. However, the market for another high-priced veteran in D.C. has been very limited. Sources close to the White House concede that the Bush administration is unlikely to be able to trade Vice President Dick Cheney.

Upon taking office in 2001, Cheney was viewed as a significant asset to the administration for his savvy veteran leadership. However, most observers feel that he is well past his prime. Potential trading partners have been scared off by Cheney’s age and health problems, as well as the additional two year commitment to him beyond this season. Additionally, other clubs feared that a clubhouse disagreement could lead Cheney to shoot a teammate.

The New York Yankees’ acquisition of Bobby Abreu from Philadelphia appeared to kill the White House’s best hope for a trade. The Bronx Bombers are known for stockpiling high-priced veterans. However, even they did not find Cheney appealing, particularly given the administration’s request for highly touted pitching prospect Philip Hughes in return. Most observers considered the White House proposal to be completely unrealistic. They added that Hughes would be a bad fit for the administration, given the right-hander’s lack of foreign policy expertise.

The Yankees were also fearful of the baggage Cheney might bring to the Bronx. Reportedly, his proposed trade to New York dictated that all Yankee Stadium concessions would be run by Halliburton. Additionally, the vice president’s abysmal approval rating meant that his acquisition would likely alienate Yankee fans. As third baseman Alex Rodriguez remarked, “I can’t imagine such an unpopular guy playing for our team.”

A source close to the White House indicated that President Bush is very disappointed over his inability to make a trade. Finding a taker for Cheney could have eased his regret over an ill-fated deadline deal he made in 1989 as managing partner of the Texas Rangers. In that transaction, Bush traded away a young Sammy Sosa to the Chicago White Sox. The president is still eager to atone for that mistake. Upon his inauguration in 2001, he was dismayed to learn that the 12-year-old deal could not be nullified by a presidential veto.

The White House’s urgency to deal Cheney has been heightened by the stance of another high-priced veteran in the administration. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has made it clear that he is not going anywhere. Last week, the president reportedly sent an aide to Rumsfeld’s office to see whether the Cabinet member might waive his no-trade clause. According to White House sources, Rumsfeld responded by sending the staffer to Guantanamo Bay.

With Cheney seemingly remaining in Washington for now, the administration apparently holds out hope that he will exercise his option and become a free agent after November’s mid-term elections. In the meantime, as Vice President he retains the right to cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate as necessary. President Bush would love to trade for another guy who specializes in breaking ties. But David Ortiz is staying in Boston.