Over two months into the 2012 MLB season, trades and signings have already transpired but, of course, the big trades are going to be made at the trade deadline in about six weeks.
This is not a list of players who will or won't be traded. Rather, it is a list of players who could be talked about greatly over the next couple months. Some will never leave their current team, while it's almost a certainty for others.
Here are 40 such names to watch. Some names may indeed sound ridiculous, but those types of names always pop up as shockers before the deadline game is over.
To start off, the first batch of slides will be Cubs players, as I see them as likely the busiest trade team at the deadline.
No surprise here—has Matt Garza ever not been the subject of trade rumors? He's probably used to it by now, especially since he's stayed with the Cubs for two seasons so far and remains there.
He's a consistently solid pitcher, and if a team suffers an injury, he is a great piece of pitching depth. Keep an eye out for injuries to No. 2 or 3 starters on teams, as they will likely make a play for Garza.
The Cubs' top-two prospects in Triple-A are being blocked off right now by two players who are having surprisingly good years, making their trade value high. The first is center fielder Tony Campana.
Campana had a hot start after taking over for the departed Marlon Byrd. Since Brett Jackson is ready to go in the minors, Campana could be someone the Cubs can get a couple of flier prospects for, unless they would rather keep him as a fourth outfielder.
On the surface, Ryan Dempster is just a 35-year-old pitcher with a 2-3 record on a last-place team. Looking past that though, he's having a career year.
In 11 games he has 63 strikeouts and a 2.31 ERA. A dominant outing from a veteran pitcher means that the Cubs have someone they could get a good amount for. Surprise contenders love to pick up that solid veteran, so the Cubs can continue to rebuild with him.
Alfonso Soriano is the one guy who's stopping Theo Epstein from jumping into full rebuild mode, since he still has to ship off his massive contract. Hitting .275 with 12 home runs may just be enough to get a team interested.
Combine that with Soriano's willingness to be traded to a contender, and this is the perfect opportunity for the Cubs; many players have the numbers even if they are faring poorly as a team, and if there's one chance they have to trade Soriano, it may be now.
The last member of the Cubs who will be big in trade-deadline talks (any Starlin Castro discussion is smoke and mirrors) is Bryan LaHair, and he seems to be the most obvious trade piece when everything is looked at.
LaHair is hitting .304 with 12 home runs thanks to a very hot start, and with Anthony Rizzo ready to go in Triple-A Iowa, LaHair's value is never going to be higher than now. I'd actually be surprised if LaHair lasts until the deadline; the sooner the Cubs trade him, the more valuable he'll be.
I noted that Castro trade rumors are smoke and mirrors, and there's no question in my mind that's the case. That being said, it is still worthy to note.
Castro is 22 and could be a shortstop of the future for a team, like he already is for the Cubs. According to the Los Angeles Times, Theo Epstein noted that Castro was not untouchable, but that's all it means; it is simply a ploy to get offers moving for other players since the Cubs will be on teams' minds.
If there's anyone in the league who has a 100 percent chance of being gone by the trade deadline, it's Kevin Youkilis. We all know the story already. With Youkilis struggling and Will Middlebrooks being promoted and playing great, there's nowhere to put Youk now.
The Red Sox need pitching depth and outfield help if they want to compete—let alone contend—in the AL East, so it's simply a question of who will make the best offer over the next six weeks.
To put it bluntly, there's no chance the Mariners trade Felix Hernandez. He's the ace of the rotation, and if they want to make any progress in the AL West, they need to keep him.
That being said, every year he's a name that floats around. He's not going to be traded, but as his contract gets closer to expiring, we're going to see more concrete deals emerge as teams try to acquire him anyway.
For a short time in May, Chris Perez was suddenly the subject of trade rumors after making some comments about the Cleveland Indians being last in attendance.
As long as the Indians remain near first place he won't be traded, but the possibility is there since he's a top closer in a year where most of the usual sure-things are struggling. He would garner more on the deadline market this year than in most other years.
John Lannan, a Triple-A pitcher for the Nationals, was a hot trade commodity for the first couple of months, and I couldn't figure out why, since he wasn't pitching well.
Looks like other teams got wise to that, since the latest news is that he's no longer that hot pickup. There are teams that could still take a flier on him and pick him up, but the Nats will be lucky to get anything for him now.
The Philadelphia Phillies are mired in last place with a horrendous lineup, and as a result, they are going to be a big name on the trade market even if they have no desire to trade anyone.
Hunter Pence could be the biggest name due to his hot bat. His name has not popped up much, but his youth and ability may make him the best trade possibility for the Phillies if they want to bounce back.
Shane Victorino at least makes more sense as a trade candidate than Pence might, since he has an expiring contract, is a bit older and can provide veteran leadership while still being able to hit and field.
He has been considered a trade possibility all year, and if the Phillies can get some quality bats for him, then he's worth shipping out, especially if they don't think they can re-sign him.
Cole Hamels appears to be the hottest pitching free agent for 2013, and by extension, he's going to be the biggest draw for trade rumors during the deadline as teams look for pitching talent.
The Phillies would rather re-sign him than trade him, but he's the guy who's going to demand far more prospect talent than anyone else, meaning I'm sure they'll at least look into the possibility.
Joe Blanton is going to be the one the Phillies ship off if they can't find buyers for anyone else, since he's not going to give Philadelphia that much in return.
Still, he was a big trade prospect this past offseason, and if a team thinks a change of scenery would be best for him, it's worth it for the Phillies to at least try to get something.
Nick Swisher's contract expires at the end of this year, and my gut is that the Yankees will not keep him around. Since he's struggled a bit this year, trade rumors have fallen off.
Should he get hot in July, though, the trade rumors will certainly bounce back as the Yankees examine what they need to do to stay at the top of the AL East, and Swisher doesn't seem to fit into their long-term plans.
The Chicago White Sox are in first place in spite of John Danks, who has struggled this season and is rehabbing an injury. Should the White Sox fall down and Danks rebound, he could be tradeable.
It sounds stupid, especially because Danks just signed a big deal, but I would not put anything past White Sox GM Kenny Williams. It would certainly be a complete shock, but there have been players with sizable contracts traded in the past.
Contract-wise, Gavin Floyd makes a lot more sense to trade than Danks, since his contract expires at the end of the year. And after a horrendous past few starts, it looks less likely that the White Sox will pick up the option.
If he continues to struggle, then no trades will happen; but if he bounces back to his April form, the White Sox will definitely consider trading him—even if they're in first—since they are not afraid to take a risk.
Those who are still in the Kevin Youkilis camp will say that it makes more sense for Boston to trade the hot piece on their team rather than an established veteran who has been there before.
It's assumed that, given the two, the Red Sox will keep Middlebrooks, but that won't stop rumor mills from discussing the other side of the story, which is fair even if it is far-fetched.
The Los Angeles Angels have stated that despite a crowded outfield, they have no desire to trade Peter Bourjos, saying this as recently as a couple of days ago.
Still, they have Mark Trumbo, Torii Hunter, Mike Trout and will soon have Vernon Wells back, too. There's no room for all of them, and if a team gives the Angels a good offer, they'll consider it despite their firm stance right now.
If the Mets decided not to trade Jose Reyes during a career year last year when they were toiling in last place, then there's no chance they trade David Wright.
Wright is having a career year as well, but the Mets are actually playing well, and as high as his value would be, the Mets won't trade him. Wright says he won't discuss a contract until the offseason, which is going to make trade rumors pop up, but they aren't ones to be believed.
There are three players who were a big part of trade rumors in the offseason for the Houston Astros, but all three remained on the team in 2012. That seems likely to change.
First is Wandy Rodriguez. His contract expires after 2013, so he's the least likely to be traded. Having said that, he's been consistently good as the workhorse of the team, and any team with durability issues could make a push.
Carlos Lee's the type of player a team would pick up more for the veteran presence than what he can do on the field, because while he can still get on base, well...that's about it.
His name will pop up, and how serious talks get will be dependent upon how much of the contract the Astros want to pay; if a team can get him for next to nothing, then he'll be on a contender after the deadline.
Last up is easily the most likely to be traded, Brett Myers. He's been dominant as a closer so far this season, and with how many teams need reliable closers, the Astros could get a good amount for him.
His contract provides an option that states whoever picks him up might move him to setup-man duties, depending on whether they want to pay the $10 million. But then again, if they're picking him up, it's because they need that closer.
In just third place in the AL Central, the Detroit Tigers are struggling. Jhonny Peralta hasn't done much after a career year last year.
If the Tigers want to move someone to gain pitching help, then Peralta could be one of the players, since he has an expiring contract and usually has a great bat for a shortstop.
Any team needing a short-term shortstop would pick him up.
B.J. Upton is one of those players who naturally seems to end up in trade rumors by playing well enough for a team to pick up, yet he remains expendable, thanks to a low batting average.
He's been playing well, but if it means plugging in Desmond Jennings full time (even if he has to play center temporarily), then the Rays will gladly pull the trigger on Upton and his expiring contract.
Carlos Quentin seems like he's become a perfect trade piece for the San Diego Padres. They gave up a couple of prospects they didn't need, and now Quentin has hit five home runs in 10 games.
Quentin's contract is expiring, meaning that there will be a lot of trade discussion on him. Personally, I think this is just the type of player the Padres need to sign long-term, but they could just as easily re-trade for prospects.
Like in Jhonny Peralta's case, power-hitting middle infielders are not the easiest to come by, and those with expiring contracts are a hot trade commodity.
Kelly Johnson's playing solid baseball both on offense and defense, and if the Blue Jays don't feel up to re-signing him, then getting a nice piece or two could be just what they need to do.
Edwin Encarnacion has been having a career year serving primarily as the Blue Jays DH, and he's another player who has as good a chance of receiving a long-term contract as he has of being be traded.
Plenty of teams would want Encarnacion's power and versatility on the field, and his trade value isn't going to be higher. So, if the Blue Jays don't think they can or don't want to re-sign him, he will be shipped out.
The Blue Jays have their catcher of the future in Travis D'Arnaud, and based on the way he's playing in the minors, he's ready to come up at any time.
That makes J.P. Arencibia a hot name on the trade market. He could work as a DH, too, since he has a good bat, but if they keep Edwin Encarnacion, then it's nearly certain that Arencibia will be traded before the deadline.
If the Angels actually are serious about not trading Peter Bourjos, then it opens the door for other possibilities, namely Torii Hunter.
Hunter has an expiring contract and can still play the outfield, so teams would be able to get someone well-rounded. The Angels are trying to contend, so there would be reasons besides where they are in the standings if trade rumors actually do pop up for Hunter, which is admittedly unlikely.
A strong rotation combined with the best lineup in baseball, as well as the arrival of Roy Oswalt, means that the back of the rotation is expendable for the Texas Rangers.
The Rangers want to trade for a right-handed bat, and Scott Feldman could be shipped out as a result. He's not pitching well this year but has had good years, meaning he could be a player to add in along with others in a trade package.
Like Scott Feldman, Mark Lowe is another player whose name has been tossed around as a Rangers trade option. The reliever has pitched well this year with a 3.09 ERA in 21 games.
A reliever who's not a closer doesn't garner much interest, but a Lowe-Feldman package deal could happen if the Rangers pick up someone who is being sold at a bargain.
Justin Morneau is one of those players where there's no right option in regard to what to do with him. Just enough of his power is back now, though, that he may be tradeable.
There are a few teams that would be a good fit for him, but the Twins would want a couple of prospects, as they are likely to enter full rebuilding mode this offseason.
It's far less likely for Josh Willingham to be traded since the Twins just gave him a three-year deal, but with everything they have to fix, it's always possible that he's traded.
He's hitting very well and could provide much-needed pitching help in exchange for his services. I'm sure the Twins would rather keep him around; if they need to trade him, then they can in 2014, but people will still discuss the possibility.
Michael Bourn has had a career year for the Atlanta Braves so far, and his free-agent stock is drastically improving, as he looks to get a huge payday in free agency.
The Nationals are looking to acquire him, and while trading to a contender in your own division makes no sense, it is entirely possible that the Braves trade him, since he does have that high price tag now.
The Kansas City Royals just never seemed to get it going this year. Despite many having high hopes for them, they're in fourth place and will probably stay there.
That makes players available, such as right fielder Jeff Francoeur. Wil Myers seems ready to join the majors, and Francoeur is playing decently enough that the Royals may be at least able to get something for him, hence why they're entertaining the possibility.
Since 2011, Brandon McCarthy has rebounded and transformed from a run-of-the-mill starter into a formidable top pitcher. His 2.79 ERA in 11 games will command a lot of interest.
With an expiring contract at the end of the season, he's the type of player the A's would want to keep long-term rather than trade away, but when it comes to trading pitchers, nothing's off limits for Oakland.
There are only a handful of closers who are pitching great in the majors this year, and the Twins happen to have one of them in Matt Capps, who has done well in 25 games.
His contract expires after this season, though he has an option that's a bargain for the Twins to pick up. Still, if they can get something for him, then it's worth trying to trade him.
The Milwaukee Brewers have perhaps been baseball's most shocking team this year. They are finally starting to bounce back, but in April and May, they had mediocre hitting and horrible pitching, meaning that trade candidates are popping up.
Shaun Marcum has been a consistently good pitcher since joining the Brewers, and if they want to build depth to help out the players who are there for the long haul, Marcum may be their best trade bait.
As much as other Brewers pitchers may be struggling this year, Zack Greinke has been dominant. Combine that with a great strikeout-to-walk ratio and an expiring contract, and you will have many teams asking about him.
Greinke is a pitcher the Brewers need to re-sign quickly if they want to keep him. If they think he's playing out of their price range, which is entirely possible, then that may open up trade talks—even though I think it's a very slim chance he goes anywhere.