Despite persistent rumors that a deal would happen, the Chicago Cubs did not trade Matt Garza over the winter. They still may during spring training, of course, but at this point, their best course seems to be to wait until July and trade Garza to a team eager to improve at the trade deadline.
The deadline creates market pressure that inflates the value of certain kinds of players. Teams who are on the cusp of the playoff race—or who are clearly headed for October but feel they need one more piece in order to be postseason-ready—will surrender more talent in trade for players in July than in January.
Not only that, but the clarity of a race two-thirds run allows sellers to play certain teams' offers off of others. The Nationals, for instance, might give up a bit more for Player X if that player would also help the rival Phillies, and if the consensus is that the Phillies also have interest. That allows Player X's current team to extract top-tier talent in trade.
It's not only the stars.
Role and platoon players who round out a roster just right can have much greater perceived value near the deadline than at other times. Ditto for relief pitchers. For now, though, the only clear candidates for deadline bidding wars are the guys who play for poor teams, but who could help a contender in a major way. Here are the 20 best players who could turn baseball's midsummer Bazaar into a high-stakes auction.