Major League Baseball is still about seven weeks away from the non-waiver trade deadline, yet it hasn't stopped rumors from flying all over the web about who is available thus far.
The season is edging ever closer to identifying who the buyers and sellers will be, and because of the extra Wild Card in the playoffs this year for the first time, the determination of buyers and sellers will come later than in past years.
There are the usual suspects (Kansas City, Oakland, Cubs, San Diego), and also teams who have been pleasant surprises who could be buying rather than selling come late July (Orioles, Pirates, Mets).
With all of that in mind, we will attempt to identify who is currently the best player from each position who is currently being talked about and most likely to move by July 31.
Ryan Doumit has been a jack of all trades thus far for the Minnesota Twins, logging time at catcher, first base, right field and designated hitter.
Doumit, a lifetime .270 hitter, is currently batting .248 with five HR and 26 RBI, and is only signed through 2012.
The Twins certainly seemed destined to be sellers at the trade deadline with a current record of 21-34, and Doumit's bat will attract attention from several buyers.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com listed Doumit among his pool of 45 players currently likely to move before the deadline.
There was talk that the Washington Nationals would be interested in adding a veteran backstop after the season-ending knee injury suffered by Wilson Ramos, but Amanda Comak of the Washington Times reported two weeks ago that the Nats weren't actively pursuing targets.
After enduring close to 18 months of concussion symptoms along with other nagging injuries, Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau is relatively healthy once again—and could be available.
Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com discussed the fact that the Twins would at least entertain the thought of moving Morneau, considering that catcher Joe Mauer will likely be moved to first base full-time sometime in the near future.
There are a couple of problems that the Twins will likely face in trying to move Morneau, should they choose to do so. First, Morneau would be owed roughly $20 million through next season by the time the trade deadline rolls around, a large chunk of change for any team to take on.
Second, Morneau does have a no-trade clause, with the extent of that clause (full or partial) not known.
Morneau has 10 HR with 29 RBI thus far, so his production will be an attractive option in a market short on power supply.
There are very few middle infielders being discussed right now as far as trade options are concerned; however, one name who could come up quite frequently if his team is out of contention in a few weeks could be Marco Scutaro.
The Colorado Rockies have been playing better of late—winning seven of their last 10 games—but are still seven games under .500 and 10.5 games behind the NL West Division leading Los Angeles Dodgers.
Scutaro is currently filling in at shortstop in the absence of star Troy Tulowitzki, who is currently on the 15-day disabled list with a groin strain.
ESPN's Jayson Stark believes that the Rockies will wait until the last possible moment before deciding whether or not they will be buyers or sellers. If selling, Scutaro's name will be popular considering the relative dearth of middle infield help.
As mentioned in an earlier slide, middle infielders are virtually nowhere to be found for teams needing help in that area. However, one interesting name could be on the move for the second time in less than a year—Houston Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie.
According to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, Lowrie could be one of the Astros up for sale at the deadline, as Houston continues to move ahead with its overall plan of rebuilding the franchise.
Lowrie has been one of the offensive leaders for the Astros, currently hitting .288 with nine HR and 23 RBI.
When the season first started for the Boston Red Sox, there were very few mentions—if any—about the possibility of the team entertaining thoughts about trading third baseman Kevin Youkilis.
With one instance of back pain, that all changed.
When Youkilis landed on the disabled list in late April with recurring lower back pain, the Sox called up prized prospect Will Middlebrooks, who did nothing to disappoint in any way.
In the month of May, Middlebrooks hit .316 with six HR and 21 RBI, and all of a sudden, Youkilis' name became one of the most talked about on the trade circuit.
According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, at least 10 teams have expressed interest in Youkilis, either at third or first base depending on their need.
The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo tweeted that GM Ben Cherington has not initiated discussions with other teams, but they have checked in with him regarding Youk's status.
San Diego Padres left fielder Carlos Quentin has been on fire since returning from the disabled list following arthroscopic knee surgery.
In his first six games, Quentin hit .522 with five HR and nine RBI along with a fat 1.925 OPS. Obviously, the numbers will settle, but Quentin has certainly given his Padres a shot in the arm offensively thus far.
However, how long will he continue delivering that offense in San Diego? According to Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk, possibly not much longer.
At 19-37 and 16 games back in the NL West, there is no doubt in anyone's mind that the Padres will be selling. And considering the team is also up for sale with no apparent conclusion in immediate sight, a long-term extension for Quentin is likely off the table.
GM Josh Byrnes could absolutely get value for Quentin on the open market, with any number of contending teams that would love to add Quentin's bat to their lineup.
The Minnesota Twins have a weak offense and an even weaker pitching staff, ranked dead last in the American League with a 5.08 team ERA.
All signs point to the fact that they will likely be sellers as the trade deadline approaches, with several veterans likely to draw interest, including center fielder Denard Span.
According to Bill Ladson of MLB.com, the Washington Nationals are especially interested in Span, although no talks have been initiated between the two teams.
With Michael Morse just returning to the lineup and Jayson Werth likely out until early August, the addition of Span would allow manager Davey Johnson to play Bryan Harper full-time in right field, as the team doesn't view him as the long-term answer in center.
Oakland A's outfielder Coco Crisp could be made available as well, but his current .220 average along with the fact he's owed roughly $11.5 million through the 2013 season doesn't make him very desirable.
After a slow start in his new home with the Chicago Cubs, right fielder David DeJesus has rebounded nicely, posting a .375 OBP to go along with outstanding corner defense. The question now is how much longer DeJesus will be flashing the bat and leather at Wrigley Field.
DeJesus is almost certainly a candidate to be moved, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, who reported that the Cubs have told teams that everyone on the roster with the exception of Jeff Samardzija will be considered.
He may be 41 years old and playing very sparingly, but Colorado Rockies first baseman/pinch hitter Jason Giambi can still produce.
Giambi belted 13 HR and 32 RBI last season in just 131 at-bats, and has contributed one homer and seven RBI this year in very limited action.
While there are no rumors that attach Giambi's name to any team, his bat will be an attractive option for contending teams looking for bench depth and a late-inning spark. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com lists Giambi among his 45 players who will likely be available at the deadline.
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster is in the final year of his contract that pays him $14 million, and he has veto power on any trade. However, there aren't many who believe that Dempster will be in the North Side after late July.
Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com tweeted on Friday that the Los Angeles Dodgers could be very interested in pursuing Dempster.
Knobler also tweeted on Friday that aside from shortstop Starlin Castro, pretty much everyone is on the table.
Dempster finally posted his first win of the season on Tuesday night in 10 starts and now has a 2.59 ERA and 1.076 WHIP.
It's hard to argue against the results of southpaw starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez thus far for the Houston Astros. In 12 starts, Rodriguez is 4-4 with a 3.14 ERA and 1.228 WHIP.
Rodriguez's name continues to be mentioned in various trade rumors, with The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo being the latest to offer up his name.
According to Cafardo, the Astros have a long-term plan that includes trading off veterans and building the team through an incoming supply of younger players. Manager Brad Mills confirmed that plan as well, saying:
I think there’s a great belief in the plan we’ve laid out here, and we’re going to execute that plan. There’s no indication that plan has changed. This is an organization that wants to be good for a long time.
They just need to get there first.
Oakland Athletics reliever Grant Balfour may have lost his job as closer, but it doesn't lessen his value as a quality right-handed arm out of the bullpen.
Aside from Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeting early last month about the Los Angeles Angels' interest in upgrading their bullpen, no mention has been made of Balfour specifically recently. But it's the A's—they're bound to be offering Balfour up to someone eventually.
There could be a number of closers available at the trade deadline, including Huston Street, Brett Myers, Matt Capps and Rafael Betancourt. However, one name that wasn't necessarily expected could be close to the top of that list—Kansas City Royals closer Jonathan Broxton.
Broxton took a contract with the Royals knowing that he would be setting up games for incumbent closer Joakim Soria. However, Soria went down for the count with elbow issues and Tommy John surgery, and Broxton has been close to his former self as closer, so to speak.
Thus far, Broxton has 14 saves in 16 chances with a 1.59 ERA, and while the 5.6 K/9 rate is nowhere near his high of 13.5 in 2009, he has been nonetheless nasty.
In addition, The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo believes the Royals greatly enhanced Broxton's trade value by removing the restriction prohibiting Broxton from pitching more than two days in a row.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.