MLB Trade Speculation: Each Team's Player Most Likely to Be Dealt at Deadline
There's pitching depth, and then there are the Atlanta Braves. By midseason, the Braves might have seven or eight perfectly salient big-league starting pitchers, and five or six of them are going to be better than Jair Jurrjens.
That's a major reason Jurrjens will be on the trade block come July.
As MLB spring training moves toward league play, it's the time of year to imagine and wonder who will win each division. It's the time to make playoff predictions, and to do that, one must be able to do more than simply analyze the roster in place.
Predictions for the season are about the ability to envision how the roster will change as the season moves along. Jurrjens is one player who could help the Braves acquire a much-needed bat and change the landscape of the NL East.
Here are 15 players who will be in the mix as trade bait just the other side of the All-Star break.
Arizona Diamondbacks: John McDonald
On the Diamondbacks bench, there's a bit of a logjam for infielders without substantive offensive skills. Willie Bloomquist can do everything McDonald can do, so he'll be an expendable piece for the (presumably competitive) Diamondbacks as the deadline approaches.
Plenty of teams are in search of veteran infielders with good gloves and positive attitudes, so there should be a nice mini-market for McDonald.
Atlanta Braves: Jair Jurrjens
With a career strikeout-to-walk ratio under two-to-one and less than a strikeout every six opponent plate appearances, Jurrjens is simply overrated. He's a pitch-to-contact guy without the ability to consistently generate broken bats or squibbers. He has a slider, but a poor one, and everything else he throws is fairly straight and uninteresting.
That said, Jurrjens has put up some good ERA numbers and has become much more highly touted than he deserves. For Atlanta, his greatest value is as a trade chip.
Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gregg
Relievers without a true closer pedigree don't net much in deadline trades, but often, even what one does get in exchange for them is more than they are inherently worth.
Gregg is a burly, hard-throwing former closer but doesn't really do anything very well. He will command little, but the Orioles aren't in a position to hold out. They will trade a few players this July, as they virtually always do, but the most expendable and natural trade candidate is Gregg.
Boston Red Sox: Anthony Ranaudo
Boston is not going to give away the farm to win it all in 2012. They can afford to be a bit more patient than that, so Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts will be off limits regardless of whom Boston might target at the deadline.
Ranaudo is not necessarily so out of reach. He's a tier below Boston's best prospects, but still has the upside and name value to lure an impact return.
The Red Sox don't need much, but what they might need this summer, Ranaudo can help them get.
Chicago Cubs: Matt Garza
"Rebuilding" is the watchword at Wrigley Field, perhaps for the first time in-season since the mid-1990s. The Cubs need to load up their farm system and find impact players they can control in 2015 and beyond.
Trading Garza is the easiest, sexiest and quickest way for them to do so.
Chicago might also ship out Marlon Byrd, Geovany Soto, Ryan Dempster and/or Alfonso Soriano, but Garza will be the biggest name on their trading block. He's the one who could fetch a game-changing package.
Chicago White Sox: A.J. Pierzynski
It feels like forever that the White Sox have been waiting for Tyler Flowers to develop into a starting catcher and the heir apparent to A.J. Pierzynski. The wait might finally be over, though. Flowers hit well late in 2011, and may threaten Pierzynski immediately.
By midseason, the White Sox will be in fourth place, and the time will come to shed unneeded players, or those too old and limited to be part of a long-term solution. Pierzynski bats left-handed, if nothing else, and left-hitting backup catchers can fetch neat returns in the heat of a playoff race.
Cincinnati Reds: Didi Gregorius
If the Reds fall out of contention before the deadline, they might try to trade Brandon Phillips and/or Bronson Arroyo after the All-Star break. That is not going to happen, though. Cincinnati is a very good team, and they will be looking to add premium talent at the deadline.
To get it, they will need to surrender a prospect or two. Gregorius fits because the Reds have Zack Cozart ahead of him and Billy Hamilton behind him at shortstop within the organization.
Because he is the right blend of polished and toolsy, he should be a big part of some midseason package, perhaps for help at third base in the event of a Scott Rolen injury.
Cleveland Indians: Chris Perez
I foresee the Indians struggling to stay in the AL Central race in 2012. If they do, trades become an imperative. The Cleveland farm system has been thoroughly gutted over the past year and a half, and they need to rebuild it.
That could mean trading closer Chris Perez. Already long surpassed in skills by Vinnie Pestano, Perez will now give up the closing gig for all of spring training and (likely) the opening days of the season after suffering an oblique strain.
Pestano should take to that role well. His slider evokes Carlos Marmol; batters are helpless when he uses it properly. Nonetheless, if Cleveland uses Perez as closer after he returns, they should be able to trade him for some long-term help and can then install Pestano.
Colorado Rockies: Eric Young, Jr.
The Rockies can't send Young to the minors to begin the season without sending him through waivers first, so he has an edge over some of the other very young players vying for a roster spot as a utility player. He should stay comfortably a part of the team through the All-Star break.
Thereafter, though, it's likely D.J. LeMahieu will be ready for some MLB opportunities. Chris Nelson and Jonathan Herrera will provide similar roster pressure.
Young still has enough promise to be a throw-in or complementary part in any trade the Rockies make.
Detroit Tigers: Jacob Turner
At 21 years old, Turner already seems virtually ready for the big time. He throws hard, though not overwhelmingly so. He has tremendous command, a filthy curveball and unusual poise for his age.
The Tigers should, by all rights, hold onto him, but they have created a window in which they need to win. Dealing him could bring in the one missing piece to the puzzle.
Houston Astros: Wandy Rodriguez
Though owed big money for a while, Rodriguez is a very good pitcher. Regardless of his price (and it is high), teams should take interest in him, especially as the deadline approaches. Left-handed starters with good strikeout rates are not easy to find.
The X-factor in efforts to deal him will be how much Houston is willing to eat to make it happen.
Kansas City Royals: Cheslor Cuthbert
Wil Myers, Bubba Starling and Mike Montgomery grab the headlines, but Cuthbert had a huge season in the Royals system in 2011. He's a top-level minor-league talent, and if (as I suspect) the Royals are surprisingly competitive at the trade deadline, it's Cuthbert they would likely try to turn into a pitcher for the front of their rotation.
Los Angeles Angels: Bobby Abreu
Mike Trout will probably begin the season in the minors, making it possible for Anaheim to retain all their corner outfield and DH options for a bit. When they eventually need to clear space for Trout on a full-time basis, though, it will mean trading the aging but not entirely ineffective Abreu.
Bullpen help would be the right target.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Andre Ethier
Perhaps the biggest roadblock to the Angels' efforts to deal Abreu will be the availability of Ethier. The Dodgers are not going to contend in 2012, and it's already fairly clear Ethier (a free agent next winter) might not be back.
Of note, the Dodgers' farm system includes perhaps six or seven times as much pitching as positional talent. Any trade should involve a positional prospect coming to L.A.
Miami Marlins: Marcell Ozuna
The buzz is all about Christian Yelich in the Marlins system, and rightfully so. He's going to be a great player and should be untouchable this year given the state of the system.
Yelich played left field last year in the minors, and for the bulk of the year, the other corner outfield spot was the purview of Marcell Ozuna. Much refinement remains necessary for Ozuna, but he has big tools.
The Marlins will be looking for a center fielder or pitching at the deadline, and Ozuna could help them land it.
Milwaukee Brewers: Carlos Gomez
Though Milwaukee has been patient, it's clear by now that no sudden offensive epiphany is coming for Gomez. He will always be only a plus defensive center fielder, good runner and nothing else. The team has two fleet outfielders in his mold that are not him, and Caleb Gindl is knocking down the door to the parent club, too.
Gomez will fit in a bench role somewhere, but his days as a Brewer are numbered.
Minnesota Twins: Francisco Liriano
Last year, the Mariners landed two solid outfield prospects in a trade that sent away rent-a-pitcher Erik Bedard. The Twins will try to make a similarly savvy sell in 2012. Liriano is due to hit free agency after the year, but in the meantime, he's a very risky but a very high-upside play.
New York Mets: David Wright
Wright's services for 2013 are not guaranteed to any team that trades for him, but that's okay. He is the rare player who truly changes a playoff race, simply by unpacking his bag. Freed from Citi Field, it's even possible Wright would see a major power spike.
Of course, to trade him, the Mets will have to be blown away. They held onto Jose Reyes last year, for reasons still beyond my imagining.
New York Yankees: Dellin Betances
Trading for Michael Pineda was not a vote of no confidence in their top two pitching prospects, but the Yankees are hedging their bets after both hurlers had just okay 2011 seasons. Betances, in particular, seems very likely to end up as a relief ace, not an ace.
If the Yankees decide they need a more sturdy solution at DH, or if someone gets hurt and opens an area of need, New York might trade Betances this summer, before his value drops.
Oakland Athletics: Kurt Suzuki
With the acquisition of catching prospect Derek Norris, the A's confirmed that Suzuki would not be the long-term answer at catcher.
Any short-term solution in Oakland right now is not a true solution, so if Landon Powell shows signs of being able to catch even acceptably on a regular basis down the stretch, Suzuki could be dealt for prospects.
Philadelphia Phillies: Joe Blanton
Despite failing to figure out a would-be trade for A.J. Burnett that would have sent Blanton off, the Phillies still might try to deal him. Kyle Kendrick now has a two-year contract on which to work, and Vance Worley presumably will get a rotation spot again this year.
Blanton is the odd man out, and it makes sense to trade him and eat the money owed to him if the Phillies can get anything useful in return.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Erik Bedard
Pittsburgh nabbed Bedard this winter at a nice price, but the best way for them to maximize the value they got is to trade Bedard and get more long-term talent in return.
They may actually stay in the NL Central race for a while, but assuming they do not, trading Bedard should return a nice consolation prize.
San Diego Padres: Jason Bartlett
Health is the big question surrounding Bartlett. He's a sound defensive shortstop with speed and (sometimes) on-base skills, so when he makes it onto the field, he's a useful piece. The Padres will not compete in 2012, though, so trading him would provide the greatest possible utility for San Diego.
San Francisco Giants: Conor Gillaspie
There are scouts, experts and teams who think very highly of Gillaspie, and believe that despite his imperfect profile, he can be a good hitter at the big-league level. The Giants probably think so, too.
With Brandon Belt, Aubrey Huff and Pablo Sandoval already in place, though, there's little roster space for the corner infield-only Gillaspie. He's a likely trade chip, and should help the Giants shore up left field a bit if they trade him to the right place.
Seattle Mariners: Chone Figgins
Figgins took the slow train to Adam Dunn Town, flat-lining last season after a poor 2010. If he can recover any semblance of his former patient form or solid defensive chops, though, and if Seattle is willing to assume some of the money they still owe him, he should be at least attractive enough to net the Mariners something.
St. Louis Cardinals: Jake Westbrook
Shelby Miller cometh, and when he does, the Cardinals need to clear a spot in the rotation for him. They can do so by trading either Kyle Lohse or Westbrook.
While Lohse would net them a better haul, trading him would also leave the team more exposed in the event (inevitable, by the way) of a Chris Carpenter injury.
Lohse also might not be as inclined to accept a trade as would Westbrook. Both men have no-trade clauses.
Tampa Bay Rays: Chris Archer
The Rays need pitching depth the way Bill Gates needs welfare. They can certainly afford to trade from strength if their weaknesses at catcher or shortstop become glaring problems.
Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann are on the block already at the right price, but one might well settle into a bullpen role to which they are very well suited once the season starts. Archer is unnecessary depth.
Texas Rangers: Mike Olt
After a breakout year that saw him shred both the Carolina and the Arizona Fall Leagues, Olt is on everyone's radar. He's a terrific defensive third baseman with plus power potential. He's blocked, though, by the long-term investment (a good one) the Rangers made in Adrian Beltre.
Olt's highest value to Texas is as a very, very good trade chip.
Toronto Blue Jays: Rajai Davis
Davis is a speed demon with a solid glove in center field, but that's about all he does. The Jays have Ben Francisco as their fourth outfielder, so Davis truly is a spare part, but he could be a sound fourth option for some teams.
Toronto is always looking for the next deal.
Washington Nationals: Adam LaRoche
By the All-Star break, Bryce Harper is going to be a National. That will make the corner outfield crowded and is likely to push Mike Morse in to first base.
LaRoche is a free agent at season's end, so money is not a huge issue, and the Nats should be able to find a buyer for their 25-homer, boring but steady first baseman if and when all that happens.
The question will be whether they trade him for prospects because they are fading, or trade him to address center field amid a heated chase for the playoffs.