MLB Trade Rumors: Updating Every Contender's Biggest Trade Chip
In the first season of Major League Baseball's newly-expanded playoff format, a record number of teams remain in contention as Memorial Day looms.
They each possess valuable trade chips to offer in exchanges for impact players. I have identified the biggest talents being shopped and provided links to prove it.
At this point, only eight clubs appear to be "out of it"—either because they face a daunting uphill battle after the season's first quarter, or because they've expressed an organizational indifference to winning in 2012.
These probable mid-summer sellers—the Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners—have been excluded from this article.
But that leaves more than 70 percent of the league left to dissect.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Joe Saunders
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Joe Saunders has fallen back down to Earth.
He maintained a 0.90 earned run average through his first four outings, but the Arizona Diamondbacks are losing patience with his May regression (0-2, 7.40 ERA, 1.94 WHIP).
They are double-digit games out of first place in the National League West and prepared to shake up the roster.
The D-Backs have an unusual surplus of starting pitchers. In fact, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears that they could "entertain offers...regardless of where they are in the standings."
Saunders' left arm is a durable one that has logged more than 1,000 MLB innings.
Atlanta Braves: Andrelton Simmons
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Andrelton Simmons made a solid first impression in Atlanta Braves spring training. Many witnesses to his preseason exploits believed him to be a legitimate challenger to Tyler Pastornicky for the role of everyday shortstop.
Simmons is gifted with awesome potential and likely to perform at the major-league level this summer.
He would be most valuable to the 2012 Braves as the centerpiece in a package that fetches them a significant player via trade.
Baltimore Orioles: Mark Reynolds
The Baltimore Orioles will need every available resource to sustain their improbable reign atop the AL East.
Except for Mark Reynolds.
MLB Trade Rumors reported that the O's would "do anything" to deal the strikeout-prone third baseman. And that was before the season began. His recovery from a strained right oblique has progressed to the point where Reynolds is hitting off a tee.
Perhaps this 220-pound liability can be moved—that is, if his hot play immediately before the injury wasn't a fluke (.308/.457/.654 in six May games).
Boston Red Sox: Kevin Youkilis
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Kevin Youkilis told ESPN's Gordon Edes that he "has no idea" how the emergence of rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks affects his future with the Boston Red Sox.
That was a lie. Youk knows he's on the trading block.
The nine-year MLB veteran is earning $12 million this season. That's too much for a part-time player. However, teams that may be interested in using him regularly include the Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Indians and Philadelphia Phillies.
Buster Olney—also of ESPN—insists that suitors would like to see three productive and healthy weeks out of Youkilis to gauge his remaining ability.
Chicago White Sox: Gordon Beckham
The signing of Orlando Hudson brings an established infielder to the Chicago White Sox. He'll fill the vacancy at third base, created when Brent Morel landed on the disabled list with a lumbar back strain.
But on the right side of the infield, former top prospect Gordon Beckham is underachieving (outside of a productive series against the Chicago Cubs).
When Morel gets healthy, Hudson could slide over to second base.
Other teams value Beckham's smooth defense and remain optimistic that he can rediscover his 2009 form.
Cincinnati Reds: Mike Leake
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The Cincinnati Reds have weakened veterans and developing stars, but not many pieces to trade.
Scott Rolen (shoulder) has no timetable to resume baseball activities. Billy Bray is dealing with back and groin injuries. Aroldis Chapman and Devin Mesoraco are off limits.
Some good news: Reliever Nick Masset (shoulder) plans to resume throwing this week. His eventual return to the team would bolster the bullpen and give Dusty Baker the option of moving somebody new into the rotation.
Though Mike Leake was masterful in his latest start, he was previously mired in an awful slump. He may never not be hittable (excuse the double negative). The Reds would be better off with Chapman or even Alfredo Simon pitching every fifth day.
Cleveland Indians: Matt LaPorta
Matt LaPorta ranks third among all International League players (Triple-A) in batting average and isolated power. The only names ahead of him in those categories—Brad Eldred and Will Middlebrooks—have tasted the majors in 2012.
So how come he hasn't been promoted?
The Cleveland Indians simply don't feel pressured to recall their left fielder/first baseman. Johnny Damon and Casey Kotchman, respectively, man those positions.
The Tribe is comfortably in first place and more inclined to trade LaPorta for an important piece than give him another chance to be one.
His status is uncertain.
Detroit Tigers: Jacob Turner
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The Detroit Tigers are blessed with decent—though not extraordinary—starting pitching. At least their fearsome fivesome is intact.
Also, they have a trio of promising hurlers who are just one level below "The Show." Right-hander Jacob Turner, 21, is the most highly-touted of the bunch.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Alberto Callaspo
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Never mind the typically laid-back disposition of fans in the Southern California market. There will be riots if the stacked Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim don't qualify for the postseason.
This winter's highest spenders are in the AL West cellar despite an abundance of talent.
Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports linked outfielder Peter Bourjos to the Washington Nationals as recently as mid-May. However, the long-term loss of Vernon Wells has opened up a spot for the slumping speedster.
More likely, the Angels will shop Alberto Callaspo, speculates David Riley of Monkey with a Halo. He's a sound defensive third baseman who's losing starts to Mark Trumbo.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Nathan Eovaldi
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The Los Angeles Dodgers continue to amaze. They were the first MLB team to reach 30 wins this season, even though they've had to overcome a stream of injuries.
GM Ned Colletti expects to have flexibility to consummate significant trades (thanks to new ownership).
Though the farm system lacks depth, Colletti won't hesitate to pluck developing talent. It's more sensible than parting with the major leaguers who are responsible for his squad's early-season accomplishments.
Nathan Eovaldi is arguably their most coveted young pitcher.
Miami Marlins: Chris Coghlan
The Miami Marlins have recalled outfielder Chris Coghlan from Triple-A by necessity with Emilio Bonifacio (thumb) out through early June. His stint will be brief.
Even recently-demoted first baseman Gaby Sanchez has better job security. The Miami Herald's Manny Navarro thinks he could return the first day he's eligible.
Coghlan should draw interest because he is inexpensive and productive against right-handed pitching.
New York Mets: Scott Hairston
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MLB.com's Anthony DiComo writes that the New York Mets have "no other options" but to play Jason Bay and hope he succeeds. He cites Bay's bloated salary and injury history as reasons why he is immovable via trade.
Scott Hairston will be expendable if the franchise heeds DiComo's advice. He is a reputable outfielder who offers everything that Bay does, but at a reasonable price.
New York Yankees: Freddy Garcia
Though the New York Yankees starting rotation has disappointed in 2012, management will stick by its decision to banish Freddy Garcia to the bullpen.
The team currently has five healthy arms. Also, David Phelps is ahead of Garcia in the pecking order.
There should be a market for this veteran considering his 145 career victories and good performances as recently as last fall. In March, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Miami Marlins discussed him with the Yankees.
Oakland Athletics: Grant Balfour
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Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors pegged Grant Balfour as a trade candidate last month. Unfortunately, Balfour has achieved just one perfect appearance in 13 tries since the piece was written.
Then again, Nicholson-Smith was assuming that the Oakland Athletics would fade in the AL West despite his contributions.
In reality, things have gone very differently this season. The A's are overcoming Balfour's struggles and contending in spite of him!
Dan Mennella still thinks they "will be shopping Balfour hard before the deadline." He insists that the reliever's durability makes him a desirable trade chip.
Philadelphia Phillies: Domonic Brown
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Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel offered encouragement to John Mayberry Jr. when his swing was out of whack last month. His commitment hasn't wavered now that Mayberry is seeing the ball better.
As a result, Domonic Brown is the odd man out in the organization.
Brown—who currently patrols left field for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs—is still viewed as a top talent. At least by Jim Callis of Baseball America. He doesn't mesh with the Phils, but other teams would be elated to acquire him.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Erik Bedard
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The Pittsburgh Pirates would improve their playoff odds by dealing Opening Day starter Erik Bedard, who has struck out 48 batters in 46 innings to go along with a 3.52 ERA..
Sounds peculiar, I know.
While his modest $4.5 million salary "shouldn't be a deterrent for most suitors" (per MLB Trade Rumors' Dan Mennella), it represents one of the highest figures on the Bucs' 2012 payroll. So shedding it would be a win-win decision.
That money ought to be spent on fixing the anemic offense. Pittsburgh could be atop the NL Central with just one reputable hitter complimenting Andrew McCutchen.
Jeff Karstens (shoulder inflammation) is a few rehab starts away from potentially rejoining the big-league rotation. He could take on Bedard's workload.
San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt
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Aubrey Huff was finally back in the starting lineup on Tuesday night after a month spent pinch-hitting and addressing an anxiety disorder. If he could form an adequate first-base platoon with Brett Pill, the San Francisco Giants could start showing 24-year-old Brandon Belt to needy teams.
"He's going nowhere," GM Brian Sabean told Scott Ostler at the beginning of May. But circumstances have changed since then.
A five-game deficit in the NL West has swelled to seven.
Belt—who remains homer-less this season—isn't contributing with his bat.
St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Adams
Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch
First baseman Lance Berkman will miss 6-8 weeks with a severely torn meniscus in the cartilage of his right knee. Rookie Matt Adams is the temporary beneficiary of his plate appearances.
Adams was promoted by the St. Louis Cardinals following three years of dominance in the minor leagues. He's pre-arbitration eligible, and sellers will like that.
We might see him and several other prospects swapped for an impact player capable of keeping the defending world champions afloat.
Tampa Bay Rays: Luke Scott
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Luke Scott is amid a productive season as designated hitter for the Tampa Bay Rays. He leads the team with 30 RBI.
He would make tempting trade bait given his .259/.323/.529 line against right-handers and team option for 2013.
Texas Rangers: Mike Olt
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Mike Olt is the top slugger in the Texas Rangers organization.
Inconveniently, third baseman Adrian Beltre blocks his path to Arlington. The All-Star is signed through 2015 with a vesting option for 2016.
Olt isn't bitter. Rather, he is eager to become more versatile. This 23-year-old's willingness to carry several gloves through his baseball career serves as evidence of his good intangibles.
Toronto Blue Jays: Adam Lind
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Adam Lind won't be a trade chip for the Toronto Blue Jays if another front office picks him off waivers (he was out-righted by the team on May 18). But an American League executive assured Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that there's "no chance he gets claimed."
If that holds true, Lind will stay with the Blue Jays organization...for now.
His team-friendly contract would be a bargain if he ever replicates his breakout 2009 campaign.
Though Toronto hasn't been impressed with him recently, there will be offensively-starved teams calling before long.
Washington Nationals: John Lannan
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The 2012 Washington Nationals are beleaguered by injuries. Brad Lidge, Michael Morse, Wilson Ramos, Drew Storen and Jayson Werth are among their wounded.
Only the starting pitching hasn't been compromised thus far.
John Lannan—a southpaw who has thrice hurled 180 MLB innings in a season—won't be getting an opportunity any time soon. Especially not with Chien-Ming Wang on the active roster.
Lannan's initial trade request did not lead to a deal, but there's still a chance he gets moved.