The MLB trade deadline is fast approaching, and as teams establish themselves as contenders or pretenders, many players begin to emerge as trade candidates.
One of the interesting storylines to watch heading into the summer is that there are players on good teams who are on the market. Stars such as Kevin Youkilis and Wandy Rodriguez are two established veterans having good seasons on teams with positive run differentials, but their teams are still looking to deal them.
There are also the teams who have already fallen out of contention, such as the Chicago Cubs and Kansas City Royals, who are simply looking to mortgage their valuable assets from 2012 into a package that will help them in the future.
With that, here are 10 of the hottest players on the block heading toward the trading deadline.
As the losses pile up for the Cubs, the odds continue to climb that longtime ace Ryan Dempster will be moved by the trade deadline.
Even Dempster knows his potential fate, as reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.
After Monday's win against the Padres snapped Chicago's 12-game losing streak, the Cubs are now 16-32.
Dempster has not picked up a win yet this season despite having the fourth-best ERA in all of baseball—an ERA that would look very nice in a contending team's uniform, with the Cubs picking up a nice package in return.
Jeff Francoeur has certainly been around the block over the past couple of seasons, playing with four different organizations since 2009.
With the Royals out of the playoff race, this summer should be no different, especially considering Frenchy's last two weeks.
The slugging right fielder is currently riding an eight-game hitting streak during which he is hitting .500 (16-for-32) with four homers and six RBI.
He has a guaranteed deal for $7.5 million next season, but because he is producing at a high-quality level, that salary should not prevent him from being dealt to a contending team.
The biggest potential target for contenders this season will be Milwaukee Brewers ace Zack Greinke.
Sitting at 20-28, if the Brewers feel they will not be able to sign Greinke to an extension—and they already suspended contract talks—they will not want to lose him for a couple of draft picks akin to CC Sabathia a couple of years ago.
Even with his recent implosion against the Diamondbacks, where he gave up seven runs and only recorded seven outs, he still has the second-best FIP in all of baseball.
If a team is able to trade for him, its chances of a deep run in October would be enhanced tremendously.
Wandy Rodriguez is having himself yet another outstanding season.
In each of the previous four seasons, the Astros LHP has had an ERA at or below 3.60, and he has stepped up his game even further this season, sporting a 2.49 ERA.
While the Astros have a positive run differential, which is usually a good sign of a team's chances of success, I do not believe Houston has the ability to maintain it over the course of the season.
When they fall out of contention, the Astros will revisit their assets, and Rodriguez will be able to bring back a nice package and/or salary relief in a trade.
Outside of last season, Youkilis has been as consistent as they come and had hits in four of his first five games after returning from the DL. If he is made available, he will assuredly draw a lot of interest at the hot corner.
There aren't a ton of rumors surrounding Matt Capps at the moment, but a pitcher of his pedigree will attract a lot of attention by the time July rolls around.
Sitting at 16-32, the Twins' season is virtually already over, and with a career 3.52 ERA and 134 saves, Capps has experience late in games that would be a great asset to contending teams.
Jonathan Broxton is having himself an outstanding season as the Royals closer.
While he is not quite back to the dominant pitcher he once was with the Dodgers, his 1.93 ERA is nothing to scoff at.
The Royals have a ton of young talent at the back end of their bullpen in Tim Collins, Aaron Crow and Greg Holland. They are 19-28 heading into Tuesday's action and will look toward their future by trying to trade Broxton.
He should garner a lot of interest.
Kevin Millwood is by no means the front-of-the-rotation-caliber starter he was at the beginning of his career, but he has been flat-out dominant this month.
Over a recent three-start stretch, the Mariners RHP was 3-0 with a 0.41 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 22 innings against three of the best hitting teams in the league—at New York Yankees, at Colorado Rockies, versus Texas Rangers.
A pitcher with Millwood's experience and ability to eat innings could be an underrated asset for contending teams that don't want to trade their farm system for the likes of Zack Greinke or Ryan Dempster at the deadline.
Brian Fuentes is another closer that should be available come July.
The A's got off to a decent start this season but have since lost six in a row and find themselves five games under .500 and nine games behind the Rangers.
Billy Beane is one of the most aggressive general managers in baseball, and when he has an asset to deal, he hardly ever hesitates.
Good thing for him, Fuentes has thrived filling in as the closer and would most certainly be a quality addition for a contending team's bullpen as a LHP who can get both lefties and righties out.
The Nationals have been trying to trade John Lannan for what seems like forever without success.
The rumors died down for a little while when the season began, but after some struggles in the big league bullpen, the rumors have ramped back up, per Buster Olney of ESPN (via MLBTradeRumors.com).
He has struggled mightily this season after being demoted to the minor leagues with a 6.12 ERA in nine starts. Having said that, he has a 4.00 ERA for his career in 751 big-league innings, so he has proven that he can get be successful in the majors.
It does not appear that the Nationals are asking for a lot in return, so Lannan has the look of another underrated acquisition that can fill in at the back of a contending team's rotation.