MLB Trade Rumors: Top Potentially Available Bats and Their Best Fit
The trade deadline is still over two months away, but already it is becoming evident who will be a buyer and who will be a seller come July.
Also clear are some of the immediate needs of teams expected to be contenders, either due to injury or clear holes in the roster.
So here is a look at the top bats who could be available at the deadline and which team represents the best fit for them.
1B Carlos Lee, Houston Astros
In the final year of his six-year, $100 million deal, Lee has no doubt lost a step but is still a solid run producer and is off to a nice .300 BA, 4 HR, 21 RBI start.
He is due $18.5 million this season and can veto trades to 14 different teams, so there are no doubt some sticking points, but with the Astros expected to be out of things by July they'll likely do whatever they can to move him.
Best Fit: St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have not been shy about giving aging veterans a chance, evidenced by Lance Berkman and Rafael Furcal last season, and with the aforementioned Berkman recently hitting the DL with a torn meniscus, the Cardinals could be in the market for a short-term replacement at first base.
Prospect Matt Adams will get every chance to win and hold the job, but if they don't feel comfortable heading to the stretch run with him, Lee would make a lot of sense.
1B Bryan LaHair, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs rewarded LaHair's dominant season at Triple-A last year (.331 BA, 38 HR, 109 RBI) by handing him the starting first base job this season, but he was viewed as little more than a stop-gap option until Anthony Rizzo was ready to step in.
Instead, he has been among the best hitters in all of baseball with a .313 BA, 10 HR, 21 RBI line so far and that has led to speculation that he could be moved to the outfield.
That remains a possibility, but so is trading the 29-year-old as he likely does not factor into the Cubs long-term plans, despite the fact that he has looked like a Jose Bautista-'esque late-bloomer to this point.
Best Fit: Miami Marlins
The Marlins have slowly rounded into form following an offseason in which they spent a ton of money in an effort to build a winner in their first season in a new stadium.
However, 2011 All-Star first baseman Gaby Sanchez struggled to the point of demotion and the Marlins could look find a low-cost replacement with plans of contention now and in the immediate future.
1B Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have not started the 2012 season as many expected, as they were viewed as legitimate title contenders after an offseason in which they added marquee free agents Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.
They have a number of holes, with clear needs across the diamond and in the bullpen and they could look to deal Trumbo as a result. The natural first baseman has spent time at third base and in right field this season and is hitting .339 with 6 HR and 19 RBI.
It will likely take a solid reliever with team control or a big-league ready bat to pry Trumbo away from the Angels, but it could happen.
Best Fit: Toronto Blue Jays
After recently optioning Adam Lind to the minors, the Blue Jays have a hole at first base and while Yan Gomes has filled in nicely to this point, Trumbo would represent more of a long-term replacement.
Not only would he help a young team in contention this season, but would be under team control through 2016.
3B Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox
Youkilis was a consistent producer for the Red Sox up until last season—when he saw his average drop from .307 to .258—and the decline has continued this season.
His slow start has drawn the ire of manager Bobby Valentine and a trip to the DL opened the door at third base for top prospect Will Middlebrooks, who went on to hit .286 with 5 HR and 16 RBI over 77 at-bats in his absence.
Best Fit: Cleveland Indians
Both the Phillies and Indians reportedly scouted Youkilis during his minor league rehab, and he makes sense for both teams, as they look for an offensive boost.
The Indians seem like a better fit to me, as they don't have the bloated payroll of the Phillies. They have already added another former Red Sox in Johnny Damon and adding Youkilis would only help offensively and in the clubhouse.
SS Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs
ESPN analyst Buster Olney recently spoke of the Cubs' on-going rebuilding efforts and how this summer will represent an important crossroads for the team.
Not only will the team have to decide what to do with Bryan LaHair, but may also at least consider whether star shortstop Starlin Castro is really the face of the franchise moving forward or if the potential return they could fetch from moving him would be too good to turn down.
Best Fit: Tampa Bay Rays
The Cubs' biggest need moving forward is projectable young pitching, as they have a staff right now that is made up of stop-gap veterans and a minor league system that is extremely thin in talent on the mound.
It would take one hell of a package of prospects, but no team in baseball has more pitching depth than the Rays and with a clear need at shortstop it would certainly make sense for both sides.
LF Carlos Quentin, San Diego Padres
The Padres dealt a pair of pitching prospects to the White Sox this winter for Quentin in an effort to bolster their offense, but he has yet to see the field this season as he recovers from knee surgery.
He is expected back soon, and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports recently spoke to the possibility of the Padres moving Quentin if he hits well upon his return. They could also look to extend the free-agent-to-be if he produces early, but with the Padres a ways from contention, dealing him makes more sense.
Best Fit: Atlanta Braves
The Braves offense has been better than expected thus far, but they could still stand to add another power bat in the middle of their lineup, and if Quentin is hitting he would be just that.
Martin Prado (.315 BA) has been solid so far, but he produces more like a middle infielder and adding Quentin would give the Braves more lineup flexibility down the stretch.
CF Denard Span, Minnesota Twins
After nearly ending up with the Nationals at the deadline last season, Span remains a potential trade candidate and with the Twins scuffling out of the gates once again he could be shopped once again this summer.
He signed a team-friendly five-year, $16.5 million contract that runs through 2014 with an option for 2015, so the Twins by no means need to trade him, but if the return is worth it they likely wouldn't hesitate to do so.
Best Fit: Washington Nationals
The Nationals remains a logical fit for Span, as they are currently using a combination of Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina in center field.
He'd also give the team a legitimate lead-off hitter, something they have lacked of late while relying on Ian Desmond and his .304 career on-base percentage in the role.
DH/OF Delmon Young, Detroit Tigers
A free agent at season's end, Young did nothing to help his stock when he was suspended for seven games after he was arrested and charged with hate crime harassment.
The Tigers have been disappointing so far this season, and with Young likely not in their future plans they could look to move him this summer if they are not in the thick of things and perhaps even if they are.
Best Fit: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have managed to get decent production out of Bobby Abreu in left field over a short period, but in the long run the position has been a hole and could very well continue to be if Abreu regresses.
Young provided the Tigers with a boost after he was acquired at the deadline last season, and he could do much the same for the Dodgers this season as they look like they'll be in the middle of things come July.