MLB Trade Rumors: 20 Big Targets Every Contender Will Go After
While we haven't yet reached Memorial Day weekend, don't think for a second that general managers around the league haven't dispatched their scouts to watch a number of potential July trade targets in action.
The wheels are turning in front offices around the league as teams continue to try to figure out who they are—truly contenders or merely pretenders.
For those who are contenders, these teams are constantly trying to figure out how they can get a leg up on their competition, both in the standings and for potential trade acquisitions.
Chances are many of the contenders will be chasing after the same handful of players by the time the trade deadline rolls around.
Lets take a look at 20 players who could be in play as the season rolls on.
Grant Balfour, RP, Oakland A's
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2012 Stats: 1-1, 4.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 18 IP, 14 H, 7 BB, 14 K, 7 SV
If you consider Oakland paradise, then there's trouble in paradise.
I told him I wasn't happy. I was [ticked] off. That's fine. Whatever. I'll just go on the field and do what I gotta do. ...
Do I feel it was kind of a short leash? A little bit. I had a couple bad games. I feel like I pitched pretty good for the last year and a month, and a couple bad games and there goes that. It's kind of a bummer. But whatever.
When asked about Balfour's comments by Fletcher, Melvin had a different take:
I wouldn't say he wasn't happy. It was more 'Do I have a chance to get this back?' and I said 'Absolutely.' I've been on many teams [where] you give the closer a little break and give him a chance to iron things out, and he'll have that opportunity. It's not uncommon that guys get pulled out of that role and end up reclaiming it.
Balfour, 34, is available right now, according to ESPN's Buster Olney.
It's not a matter of whether a contender will make a deal for Balfour; it's when it'll make a deal for Balfour.
Bartolo Colon, SP, Oakland A's
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2012 Stats: 3-4, 4.13 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 56.2 IP, 63 H, 8 BB, 31 K
Why wouldn't a contender want Bartolo Colon?
He's been a solid pitcher since returning from his apparent exile from baseball last season, posting a 4.03 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 166 strikeouts over 221 innings pitched between the New York Yankees and Oakland A's.
Colon, on a one-year, $2 million contract, gives a contender an innings eater at the back of its rotation, an experienced long reliever out of the bullpen or simply a spot starter to use sparingly.
The chances of Oakland asking for anything substantial in return are minimal, making him an attractive option for teams who aren't willing to pay the price for bigger and better arms that could be available.
Ryan Dempster, SP, Chicago Cubs
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2012 Stats: 0-1, 1.74 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 41.1 IP, 29 H, 11 BB, 41 K
Things change over time, so it's possible that 35-year-old Ryan Dempster has had a change of heart since February, when he told Sirius/XM radio that he would love to spend the rest of his career as a Cub:
As you get older and you get near the end of contracts, you kind of wonder. But at the same time, when I signed on with the Cubs my first time, I was hurt and I had a chance (to) sit there on the bench and kind of watch it all play out in 2004.
(I’ve) had a couple different opportunities to sign back and I’ve always thought I want to be here and win. ... I’ve never quit anything in my life and I don’t want to quit it now.
I want to be there when we’re winning and we’re winning on a consistent basis and—most importantly—when we’re winning a World Series. If that means you’re fighting through some tough times, sometimes that makes it more gratifying in the end.
Dempster, who has been a Cub since 2004, has 10-and-5 rights, which means that he can veto any trade the Cubs try to make that involves him.
That being the case, there is sure to be significant interest in the right-hander if and when Cubs GM Jed Hoyer makes him available, though I think Hoyer will be hard pressed to bring back anyone who is considered a "big-time" prospect in return.
Gavin Floyd, SP, Chicago White Sox
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2012 Stats: 3-3, 2.53 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 46.1 IP, 31 H, 13 BB, 42 K
Rumors ran rampant over this past winter that the Chicago White Sox were willing to trade 29-year-old right-hander Gavin Floyd.
CBS Sports was all over the rumors, with Jon Heyman reporting that the Toronto Blue Jays had discussions with the White Sox, while Danny Knobler chimed in that both the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox had interest, with Baltimore getting closer than anyone else to making a deal.
Chicago holds a $9.5 million team option on Floyd for the 2013 season, a reasonable price tag for a pitcher in his prime.
Buster Olney of ESPN reported in March that Chicago's asking price for Floyd over the winter was "huge" and that it scared some teams off.
That being the case, Floyd, unlike some of the other pitchers we'll look at here, is essentially under contract for another season at a reasonable price—so it makes sense that White Sox GM Kenny Williams would hold out for a big return.
Of course, if the White Sox are still in contention when the trade deadline rolls around, then it's a moot point, as I don't see them looking to sell off a valuable commodity like Floyd.
Matt Garza, SP, Chicago Cubs
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2012 Stats: 2-1, 2.56 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 38.2 IP, 23 H, 15 BB, 39 K
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that talks between the Chicago Cubs and the representatives for Matt Garza are going very well, but things can always change.
One of the most sought-after players who was never officially made available by the Cubs, the 28-year-old right-hander would once again be among the market's most coveted players should talks break down and the Cubs decide to make him available.
Zack Greinke, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
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2012 Stats: 4-1, 2.88 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 50 IP, 46 H, 10 BB, 53 K
A free agent following the season, 28-year-old right-hander Zack Greinke is sure to receive some lucrative offers if he hits the open market—offers that could push him out of Milwaukee's price range.
Last week, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that there had been no progress made on a contract extension between the Brewers and Team Greinke—and that has me thinking that he could be made available at the trade deadline.
As with Cole Hamels, Greinke is a game-changer, so the price tag is sure to be steep—at least one, if not two top-10 prospects along with a few other pieces.
This is assuming that the Brewers are still struggling to contend. If they find themselves in the thick of the playoff race, the Brewers may look to add pieces rather than sell off their most valuable assets, such as Greinke.
Travis Hafner, DH, Cleveland Indians
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2012 Stats: .252/.397/.430, 4 HR, 16 RBI
As with a number of players we're looking at, if the Cleveland Indians are still in contention as the trade deadline approaches, then the likelihood of them moving Travis Hafner becomes more remote.
But Hafner, who turns 35 in June, isn't really a part of the Indians' long-term plans, and if they are able to acquire something they desire—say, a first baseman or a young left fielder—it's hard to see them not moving the man affectionately known as "Pronk" when teams call.
Back in February, the Indians and New York Yankees were reportedly in talks that revolved around Hafner and current Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
Hafner has a limited no-trade clause in his current contract, and he will earn 10-and-5 rights in September, which will give him the ability to block any future trades.
With that being said, and given the fact that Hafner is due either $13 million in salary or a $2.75 million buyout in 2013, it's hard to see the Indians holding on to him.
Cole Hamels, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
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2012 Stats: 5-1, 2.28 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 47.1 IP, 40 H, 9 BB, 49 K
While the Phillies want nothing more than to work out an extension with 28-year-old left-handed starter Cole Hamels, the team may be better served by moving Hamels at the trade deadline—assuming that the team is still hovering around .500 and on the outside of the playoff race looking in.
Ruben Amaro Jr., GM of the Phillies, has already said that he would need to give serious consideration to selling off players at the trade deadline if that's the scenario laid before him.
Howard Eskin of NBC 10 in Philadelphia reports that Hamels wants a seven-year deal, and when you figure that Hamels is going to be the biggest prize on the free-agent market, it's feasible that he could become the game's highest-paid pitcher—and out of the Phillies' price range.
There isn't a contender in the league that wouldn't investigate what renting Hamels for two months would cost, and the cost is sure to be high—because Cole Hamels is a game-changer.
A package built around at least one, if not two top-10 prospects in addition to some lesser pieces sounds about right for an asking price.
Joel Hanrahan, Closer, Pittsburgh Pirates
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2012 Stats: 1-0, 3.55 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 12.2 IP, 6 H, 9 BB, 14 K, 7 SV
While the Pittsburgh Pirates reversed course last season and actually acquired players at the deadline (namely Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick) rather than trade pieces away, moving 30-year-old Joel Hanrahan could make sense for the Bucs.
Hanrahan, earning $4.1 million this season and headed to arbitration again this winter, would be one of the most sought-after closers were the Pirates to make him available.
With the rash of injuries that has crippled bullpens around the league, being able to add a man who has been successful in 47 of his last 52 save opportunities could bring the Pirates a prospect that they would not be able to acquire otherwise.
John Lannan, SP, Washington Nationals
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2012 Stats (Triple-A): 3-3, 5.31 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 39 IP, 48 H, 15 BB, 21 K
Towards the end of last month, ESPN's Jayson Stark reported that the Washington Nationals remained vigilant in trying to trade 27-year-old left-handed starter John Lannan, currently banished to Triple-A Syracuse, but that the team was hesitant to get less than fair value given Lannan's rough start to the season.
Lannan, who has a 4.00 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 751 innings pitched for the Nationals over the past five seasons, requested a trade shortly after being demoted.
"I believe that I belong in a big league rotation," Lannan emailed reporters, including Amanda Comak of the Washington Times.
His $5 million salary, coupled with his poor start to the season, may have scared some teams off initially.
But he's still relatively young, he has had success in the major leagues already and he's a lefty. Sooner or later, a contender is going to swoop in to scoop him up, and the result will be a stronger starting rotation heading into the stretch run.
Brandon League, Closer, Seattle Mariners
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2012 Stats: 0-2, 2.12 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 17 IP, 13 H, 7 BB, 9 K, 8 SV
A free agent following the season, 29-year-old Brandon League will likely be too expensive for the Seattle Mariners' liking this winter, so it makes sense for the team to look to move him at this year's trade deadline.
Last month, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote that the Los Angeles Angels had expressed interest in League, and they're surely not the only team that would like to acquire him to shore up the bullpen.
League, who is 8-of-10 in save opportunities this season, will probably wind up being traded to the highest bidder. Seattle has multiple options currently on its roster and in the minors who can pick up where League left off.
Shaun Marcum, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
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2012 Stats: 2-1, 3.07 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 44 IP, 35 H, 16 BB, 39 K
Back in February, Shaun Marcum told Todd Rosiak of the Journal Sentinel that he would like to remain a Brewer:
When we were doing the arbitration thing, we were told they just wanted to do a one-year deal. I'm assuming that's what that means—we're just doing one year and they're going to let me walk.
They know I want to stay here; it's whether or not they want to try to work something out. So that's up to them. I don't write the checks.
Marcum, a 30-year-old right-hander, would certainly cost less in the way of prospects than Cole Hamels or his teammate, Zack Greinke, which could make him even more attractive to contending teams than his counterparts.
Brett Myers, Closer, Houston Astros
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2012 Stats: 0-1, 2.08 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 13 IP, 8 H, 3 BB, 8 K, 9 SV
Making the move from starting pitcher to closer was probably the best decision that 31-year-old Brett Myers could have made.
Mediocre as a starter, Myers has performed very well as the closer for the Houston Astros thus far in 2012, converting nine of his 10 save opportunities.
But it may have also made dealing him more difficult for the Astros and their GM, Jeff Luhnow.
Myers, who is earning $11 million this season, has a $10 million vesting option or a $3 million buyout in 2013. While nobody is exactly sure what would guarantee that option for Myers, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports opines that it vests when Myers finishes his 55th game of the season.
On top of that, Myers would be owed an additional $500,000 if he is traded.
Considering the number of teams who have had major bullpen issues already, Myers is sure to garner a ton of interest.
Carl Pavano, SP, Minnesota Twins
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2012 Stats: 2-3, 5.14 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 49 IP, 56 H, 6 BB, 23 K
Carl Pavano has allowed four or more earned runs in five of his eight starts so far in 2012, but that doesn't mean that there won't be a market for the 36-year-old at the trade deadline.
Pavano won't cost much in the way of prospects, and he's proven to be a serviceable enough arm with the Twins, posting a 4.02 ERA and 1.28 WHIP and averaging more than 220 innings a year over the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
At the very least, a contender could pick him up as both insurance against injury and to give one of its regular starting pitchers a break.
Jake Peavy, SP, Chicago White Sox
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2012 Stats: 4-1, 2.65 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 57.2 IP, 44 H, 9 BB, 48 K
If the White Sox are still in contention for a playoff spot when the trade deadline rolls around, it obviously lowers the chances that they will look to deal 30-year-old Jake Peavy.
At the same time, Peavy understands that baseball is a business and that White Sox GM Kenny Williams will do what's best for the team, as he explained to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports: "If [a trade] comes about, I’ll welcome that and do what I’m asked to do. But I’d love to be in Chicago."
Peavy is making $17 million this season and looking at a $22 million team option or a $4 million buyout for 2013. Chicago would likely need to include cash in any deal involving Peavy in order to get a decent return for him.
Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Houston Astros
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2012 Stats: 3-3, 1.99 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 54.1 IP, 41 H, 13 BB, 36 K
Wandy Rodriguez was a hot commodity leading up to the trade deadline last season, yet he ultimately remained in Houston.
Now the 33-year-old left-hander is pitching as well as he ever has, and with the Houston Astros rebuilding, it makes sense that he'd become a hot commodity again.
After Cole Hamels, Rodriguez would likely be the most attractive lefty available, though he comes with a hefty price tag, both in dollars and prospects.
Rodriguez is making $10 million this season, is owed $13 million for 2013 and the $13 million team option that is out there for 2014 becomes a player option if he is traded.
As for the players it would take to acquire Rodriguez, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow was candid with Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports:
Our objective is to aggregate as much talent as possible, as quickly as possible. If we have pieces on our club that are in demand by other clubs and we get enough future value for them to make up for the short-term loss, we’ll consider every opportunity.
In order for Luhnow to get the future value that he seeks, he'd likely have to convince new Astros owner Jim Crane to eat a significant portion of the money still owed to Rodriguez.
Shane Victorino, CF, Philadelphia Phillies
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2012 Stats: .250/.301/.408, 5 HR, 14 RBI, 11 SB
As we looked at with Cole Hamels, the Phillies could be in a situation where they are moving pieces around the league, and Shane Victorino could be one of those pieces.
During spring training, Victorino told Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer that he wanted to stay in Philadelphia: "My whole thing, more than anything, I would like to get something done now. I'd like to be a Phillie for the rest of my career. That's happy enough for me."
Victorino, were he made available at the deadline, would be a sought-after commodity—Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported last week that the Toronto Blue Jays had already touched base with the Phillies about both Victorino and Hamels.
Victorino figures to bring the Phillies far less of a return in a trade than Hamels would, something that could make him more likely a candidate to be dealt.
Edinson Volquez, SP, San Diego Padres
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2012 Stats: 2-2, 2.79 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 48.1 IP, 36 H, 24 BB, 43 K
Acquired this winter as part of the package the Padres received in exchange for Mat Latos, 28-year-old right-hander Edinson Volquez may yet be on the move again.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that Volquez very well could be a trade candidate this July, and if he's made available, a number of teams could have interest.
Volquez has allowed two earned runs or fewer in six of his eight starts on the season, including this past Saturday in Philadelphia.
Continued strong showings away from the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park will only increase his value and what the Padres ask for in return.
David Wright, 3B, New York Mets
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2012 Stats: .408/.497/.608, 4 HR, 21 RBI
Over the weekend, Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal reported that the New York Mets were likely to offer third baseman David Wright a contract extension sooner rather than later.
To that end, Mets GM Sandy Alderson told Costa, "I certainly do not foresee, under any circumstances, David being a topic of discussion at the trade deadline."
Take it for what it's worth, but Alderson did not come out and say that he absolutely would not trade David Wright.
Yesterday, Wright told Adam Rubin of ESPN New York that neither he or his agents had been approached by the Mets:
I haven't talked to Sam or Seth [Levinson] or Keith [Miller] about anything. That's something I've yet to think about or approach with anybody, because it hasn't been brought up. There's no answer to that because it hasn't been approached yet. I'd have to discuss that with Sam and Seth and come up with a plan first. But, like I said, there's nothing going on.
If Wright remains without an extension as the deadline approaches, and should the Mets fall out of contention, it would make sense for them to listen to offers from contenders.
Wright is having a career year, and while a trade would automatically veto the $16 million team option the Mets hold for 2013, the return that the Mets would receive in exchange for Wright would be considerable.
To that end, there's no reason Wright couldn't re-sign with the Mets following the season, when he'd be a free agent.
Kevin Youkilis, 3B, Boston Red Sox
2012 Stats: .219/.292/.344, 2 HR, 9 RBI
Boston has seen the future at third base, and his name is Will Middlebrooks.
With incumbent third baseman Kevin Youkilis on the disabled list with a strained lower back, Middlebrooks has shined in his first chance to play in the majors, hitting .304/.347/.674 with four home runs and 13 RBI in 11 games.
Youkilis, who is set to begin his minor league rehab assignment today, will need to show teams that he is healthy and productive before any trade discussions could take place.
That being said, there may not be a player with more playoff experience available than the 33-year-old Youkilis, and that's a valuable commodity for a young, contending team to have in its clubhouse.
With a $13 million team option or a $1 million buyout on the books for 2013, Boston may have to include cash in any deal if it hopes to receive much of value in return.