In the baseball world, this weekend is a signpost in the marathon of a season where teams jockeying for the playoffs are seeking to upgrade their rosters with trades. So far, the highest-profile names that could potentially be moved, star Washington outfielder Juan Soto and two-way phenomenon Shohei Ohtani of the Angels, remain with their current teams. They’re unique, valuable commodities that despite their employers’ woes, they are seeking to get maximum return in exchange for these transformational people.
Both teams’ general managers might want to take heed of the approach being taken by Sergey Lavrov.
No, he’ s not a general manager in the KHL. He’s Russia’s foreign minister, who is currently in contact with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. And Russia just happens to be where Brittany Griner is currently being detained, having committed the mortal sin of gaving vape cartirdges filled with cannabis oil found in her luggage. Griner is arguably one of the country’s most prominent female athletes, a WNBA superstar and a visible presence in the LGBTQI+ movement, as well as a hero to countless African-American females (not to mention plenty of other people from other races and genders, myself included).
Blinken revealed earlier this week that he placed a call to Lavrov, which was, as MSN reported, “a frank and direct conversation” centered primarily on the fates of Griner and corporate security executive Paul Whelan, who is being detained for similar alleged violations. Here’s how MSN recapped the respective sides’ summations:
Blinken did not provide details of Lavrov’s response to what he had previously called a “substantial proposal” for Russia to release Whelan and Griner. Blinken had publicly requested the call and revealed the existence of the offer to Russia. People familiar with the offer say the U.S. wants to swap Whelan and Griner for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
“I urged Foreign Minister Lavrov to move forward with that proposal,” he said. “I can’t give you an assessment of whether that is any more or less likely.”
Blinken also said he had pressed Lavrov on the importance of Russia following through on an agreement to allow Ukrainian grain shipments to leave the Black Sea and warned him of consequences should Moscow move ahead with suspected plans to annex portions of eastern and southern Ukraine.
Blinken said he told Lavrov that the world will “never recognize” any annexation of Ukrainian territory, which he said would “result in significant additional costs for Russia.”
He declined to comment on how Lavrov replied to his messages. “I don’t want to characterize any of Foreign Minister Lavrov’s responses.”
In its statement afterward, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Lavrov “strongly suggested” to Blinken “returning to a professional dialogue in the mode of quiet diplomacy” on any efforts at American detainees’ release.
Lavrov also repeated Russia’s vows to keep fighting until it has achieved its aims in Ukraine, renewed complaints that U.S. and NATO support to Ukraine was prolonging the conflict, and accused the U.S. of not yet keeping up its end of agreements on the grain shipments from Ukraine, the Foreign Ministry said.
Despite the fact this involves Russia, this is what is commonly known as a Mexican standoff. And make no mistake–perhaps not as imminently, but with greater urgency, the clocks on deal-making are ticking.
For the more mundane world of baseball trades, they have until 1 PM PT Tuesday to pull off deals. While neither top name has yet to move, a few smaller deals have already been consumated, the most notable of which being star pitcher Luis Castillo of Cincinnati moving to Seattle for prospects. Rumors are rampant that things will heat up as we move toward Tuesday, but for Washington’s baseball team they have the luxury of waiting it out–Soto’s under contract for 2.5 more years. However, they are also for sale, so the current management is not guaranteed to be around much longer. The uncertainty of leadership continuity is the biggest reason why the Soto camp rejected a 15=year, $440M contract extension that would have made him the highest compensated player in the game.
And the question of leadership continuity is exactly what is driving the urgency of Blinken making a deal for Washington’s political team.
The hopes of Democrats, both in the upcoming midterms and the 2024 presidential race, is largely dependent on their disproportionate reliance of all of the constituencies which Griner cuts across–women, people of color and LGTBQI+–as voters who need to turn out and find a way to get their votes to count and possibly avoid the feared Red Wave that could ultimately make the second half of the Biden presidency moot. And will probably cost Blinken his job in the end, too. Yes, Whalen, and others stuck in the horrible conditions of Russian incarceration, deserve attention. But Griner’s detention is arguably a shot across the bow that the wily Putin loyalists realize will stick in the craw of the Biden regime. And it sadly would not be disingeneous to believe that plenty of people who support Biden’s ouster would also support not giving up a bargaining chip like The Merchant of Death in exchange for someone as polarizingly unappealing to their world view as Griner is.
So the clock on a far bigger trade than any that of any baseball player is heading to a November 3 deadline. And off a week where Biden perhaps showed some slight signs of life after Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer reached an agreement on a limited number of agenda items from the original Build Back Better bill, the timing of Blinken’s ability to make progress could be instrumental in helping to qwell the Red Wave.
So far in both worlds, nothing significant to report. But keep your eyes on your respective bottom third tickers or I Phone alerts. The next few days could be especially intriguing.
Until next time…