MLB Trade Scenarios: Hottest Names to Watch Before Opening Day
With spring training under way, teams are beginning to sort out the biggest questions surrounding their rosters as they push closer to opening day.
While the free agent market has more or less tapped dry, the rumor mill is still swirling regarding potential trade candidates.
So here is a look at some of the hottest names that could be available in the next few weeks—guys who have reached an impasse in extension talks, are out of minor league options, or have been made available for some other reason.
CF Justin Maxwell, New York Yankees
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Acquired last offseason for a minor leaguer, Maxwell tallied just 177 at bats for the Yankees Triple-A affiliate last season and managed to hit 16 home runs in that short time.
His last major league stint was with the Nationals in 2010 when he hit just .144 BA, 3 HR, 12 RBI, but at 6'5" and 235-pounds he has the size and athleticism to put it all together. He is out of options, and there does not appear to be a roster spot for him, so the Yankees could look to move him if he shows something this spring.
RP D.J. Carrasco, New York Mets
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Among the position battles in Mets camp, D.J. Carrasco, Bobby Parnell and Miguel Batista are vying for two bullpen spots and coming off of a season in which he appeared in 42 games and posted a 6.02 ERA Carrasco could be the odd man out.
Despite the struggles last season, there could be some teams interested in picking up the 35-year-old right-hander who has a solid track record of success.
SP/RP Michael Bowden, Boston Red Sox
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A former first-round pick by the Red Sox in 2005, Bowden ranked among Baseball America's Top 100 prospects for three straight years but he has never been able to catch on with the big league club.
He is out of minor league options, and is hoping to earn a bullpen spot out of spring training this year. If he fails to win one, the team will likely look to trade him before letting him hit waivers, and at just 25 years old he should still have some value.
1B Carlos Lee, Houston Astros
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After dealing Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn, Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman over the past few seasons, the Astros are left with very few veterans on their roster as they are fully committed to rebuilding at this point.
One veteran that is still around is Carlos Lee, who is entering the final year of a six-year, $100 million contract, and is due $18.5 million. The Astros have indicated that they are willing to take on half of his salary in a move and should a team find themselves with an offensive void he could be a good acquisition after hitting 18 HR with 94 RBI last season.
RP Kevin Gregg, Baltimore Orioles
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After signing a to a two-year, $10 million contract last offseason, Gregg posted a 4.37 ERA and went 22-of-29 on save opportunities as the Orioles closer.
This spring though, he is competing with Jim Johnson for the closer's role and if he fails to win the job as many anticipate the Orioles could look to move the 34-year-old right-hander.
2B Jeff Baker, Chicago Cubs
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The Cubs are going young this coming season with their new regime in place, and while veterans like Marlon Byrd, Ryan Dempster and Alfonso Soriano could be dealt at some point this coming season, that likely won't come until after the deadline.
However, utility player Jeff Baker could find a new home sooner rather than later with the team's claiming of utility man Adrian Cardenas from the Athletics, and after balking at the prospect of trading Baker at the deadline last year, expect him to be playing elsewhere at least before 2012 is over.
C Francisco Cervelli, New York Yankees
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Following a surprisingly productive season, Russell Martin will once again serve as the Yankees starting catcher, and with Jorge Posada and Jesus Montero no longer with the team, the backup job will go to Francisco Cervelli.
The 26-year-old has performed well in limited action, with a .272 BA, 5 HR, 71 RBI career line over 489 at bats. Despite that success, he could be pushed by prospect Austin Romine very soon, and once he's ready Cervelli could become expendable.
SS Jason Bartlett, San Diego Padres
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Last offseason, the Padres dealt four players to the Rays for Bartlett in an effort to shore up their middle infield after also adding second baseman Orlando Hudson.
However, his numbers dropped to .245 BA, 2 HR, 40 RBI, 61 R last season and with incumbent Everth Cabrera more than capable of stepping into a starting role if Bartlett were traded. The team has made him available all winter, but he has garnered little interest.
SP Joe Blanton, Philadelphia Phillies
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Entering the final season of a three-year, $24 million contract, Blanton is once again being shopped with the Phillies said to be willing to eat up to $2 million of the $8 million remaining on his deal.
Kyle Kendrick is more than capable of stepping into the fifth starter spot after splitting last season between the bullpen and rotation, going 8-6 with a 3.22 ERA.
IF/LF Martin Prado, Atlanta Braves
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Starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens has been the name most brought up in Braves trade talks, but Martin Prado could be on the move as well at some point in 2012.
Once among the top utility players in all of baseball, Prado settled in as the Braves starting left fielder last season. The team could use another power bat in the middle of the lineup, and left field seems to be the most logical area to upgrade, and given his defensive versatility Atlanta would likely have little trouble finding a taker for Prado.
DH/OF Bobby Abreu, Los Angeles Angels
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With the signing of Albert Pujols, there will be stiff competition for at bats with the Angels this coming season as Mark Trumbo, Kendrys Morales and Bobby Abreu will all be vying for DH at bats.
Trumbo is shifting to third base, and the Angels have indicated that they intend to find a way to get Abreu regular at bats, but he has not been shy about saying he wants to play everyday or be moved. It remains to be seen if he will open the season in Los Angeles, and with $9 million left on his deal he may be tough to move.
SP Gavin Floyd, Chicago White Sox
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The White Sox look to be headed for a rebuild, and while they did re-sign John Danks this offseason right-hander Gavin Floyd is headed for free agency at season's end if the team chooses not to pick up his $9.5 million option.
After a 17-8 season in his first full year in the White Sox rotation, Floyd has gone 33-37 with a 4.17 ERA over the three seasons since. The 29-year-old is talented, and despite the fact he has been available all winter he remains a consistent name on the rumor market.
LF Gerardo Parra, Arizona Diamondbacks
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The Diamondbacks everyday left fielder last season, Parra hit .292 BA, 8 HR, 46 RBI, 15 SB and won the first Gold Glove of his career at the age of 24.
However, the team signed Jason Kubel as a free agent and he will open the season as the team's left fielder, relegating Parra to a reserve role, and while the Diamondbacks have indicated they would like to keep him around there have been a handful of teams interested in acquiring him.
SP John Lannan, Washington Nationals
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The Nationals significantly upgraded their starting rotation this offseason, adding Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson to join young talents Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman.
That leaves the fifth starter spot to whoever emerges from the group of John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Detwiler, and if Wang wins the job as many expect Lannan could be on his way out. He should have some value after a solid 10-13, 3.70 ERA, 106 Ks season last year.
SP Jeff Niemann, Tampa Bay Rays
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With Matt Moore headed for a rotation spot this spring, there is a logjam in the Rays rotation as David Price, James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson will join Moore in guaranteed rotation spots and Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann will compete for the fifth spot.
Last season Davis (11-10, 4.45 ERA, 26 years old) and Niemann (11-7, 4.06 ERA, 29 years old) had similar seasons, but considering Davis is younger and is locked up through 2014 after signing a four-year, $10.1 million contract prior to last season that includes team options through 2017.
SS Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels
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The Angels extended second baseman Howie Kendrick this offseason, and will need to do the same if they hope to keep fellow middle infield mate Erick Aybar around after this coming season.
He is coming off the best season of his career as he hit .279 BA, 10 HR, 59 RBI, 30 SB and won the Gold Glove, but despite that the team could choose to let him walk and re-sign Maicer Izturis to keep the position warm until top prospect Jean Segura is ready, making Aybar a potential trade candidate.
SP Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta Braves
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The Braves look the part of a contender this coming season, but there is no question they could benefit from adding a power bat in left field and moving Martin Prado back to the infield/dealing him.
With so much pitching depth, the piece they could use to pull of a deal could be 26-year-old Jair Jurrjens who will be entering his final year of arbitration eligibility. Last season he was 13-6 with a 2.96 ERA and he has the stuff to be a future rotation ace.
2B Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds
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Entering the final year of a five-year, $38 million contract, All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips and coming off of a .300 BA, 18 HR, 82 RBI, 14 SB season he is among the top second baseman in all of baseball.
The Reds would no doubt love to keep Phillips around, but talks have been relatively quiet this offseason to this point and until he is signed his name will remain in the headlines.
SP Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
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Until the Phillies and Hamels can come to terms on a contract extension, his name will remain in the headlines and there will remain at least a slim chance that he is moved.
In six seasons in the league, he has gone 74-54, 3.39 ERA, 1,091 Ks and he is coming off the best season of his career as he went 14-9, 2.79 ERA, 194 Ks. Still just 28, he has plenty of good season ahead of him, and while the two sides remain a ways apart negotiations are on-going at this point.
SP Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants
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In the same vain as Hamels, Cain is also heading for free agency this offseason and will be among the marquee names on the free agent market at season's end if he is unable to reach an extension.
Last week, I explored potential landing spots for Cain if the Giants are unable to reach an agreement with him, and while it is hard to imagine the Giants letting him walk the right offer could be enough to sway their decision.