With the trade deadline approximately one month away, look for some major moves to occur, especially among contending teams. Struggling players like Justin Morneau, Vernon Wells and Randy Wolf could all have new homes by July 31.
It seems MLB currently has an unusual amount of parity among its clubs—the Washington Nationals are leading the NL East while the Baltimore Orioles are ahead of teams like the Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. For this reason, teams will be looking to gain any and every advantage they can.
This could very well lead to teams taking on players who are struggling thus far in 2012, yet have the track record and experience to suggest they still have something to offer.
Here are the top five players who, while underachieving so far in 2012, can still impact divisional races on new teams.
Once Vernon Wells comes off the DL, he will have a very tough time finding any playing time in an outfield that includes Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout and Torii Hunter. The fact that Wells couldn't find his swing prior to his thumb injury in May doesn't help the 33-year-old's chances. Before the injury, Wells was hitting .244 with just six home runs and 12 RBI along with a troubling 17 strikeouts.
While the three-time All-Star isn't going to produce like he used to, Wells is still a valuable asset for any club. He's a veteran who has had great success in the league and his power isn't completely gone—though it's just holding on by a thread.
Wells is also still an above-average defender, although he has lost a considerable amount of range in the outfield—hence the move from center to left field.
Trading Wells could prove to be difficult as his contract includes a no-trade clause. Further diminishing the already-small chance of Wells being traded is the fact that he doesn't plan on waiving his no-trade clause, according to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports.
Chone Figgins has been a monumental bust in Seattle since signing his four-year, $36 million deal prior to the 2010 season.
After an OK year in his first season as a Mariner—hitting .259 with 42 stolen bases and an OBP of .340—Figgins played in just 81 games last season and struggled mightily. In 2012, things have not gotten any better for the 34-year-old.
He's hitting an embarrassing .191, has an OBP of .252 and has just three stolen bases. He's also on pace to set a career high in strikeouts, as he already has 37.
Despite the tremendous struggles Figgins has gone through over the last couple of seasons, he could still be a very valuable piece for a contending club. He's the ultimate utility player—he can play multiple infield positions as well as either corner outfield spot, and he still possesses the speed to be an effective pinch-runner.
Making the trade even more likely is the Mariners have reportedly made it public that they are willing to foot some of the $36 million bill for Figgins, according to Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi.
So far in 2012, Brian Fuentes has had his worst year of his career. His ERA is sky-high at 6.85 and he has blown three of his eight save opportunities. It's no surprise that Fuentes lost his closing job to Grant Balfour and the A's are shopping the 36-year-old lefty.
Despite his recent troubles, Fuentes has been a solid relief pitcher throughout his career. He has a career ERA of 3.57 and recently achieved his 200th career save, which is nothing to yawn at.
Effective left-handed relievers have seemingly always been at a premium, so don't be surprised if some contending team takes a chance on Fuentes to see if they can squeeze a few good outings out of him. Multiple teams in the hunt are in need of lefty relievers, including the Indians, Diamondbacks, Mets, Rays, Orioles and Cardinals—all of whom are in the bottom 10 in ERA versus left-handed hitters.
Another lefty pitcher who has had his troubles in 2012 is Randy Wolf. The 13-year veteran is 2-5 with an ERA of 5.32 and a 1.56 WHIP. However, those numbers are not indicative of Wolf's career—he has 129 career wins, a career ERA of 4.14 and an impressive career WHIP of 1.33.
Wolf can both start and come out of the bullpen on occasion, providing some unique versatility to a pitching staff. This may help convince contending teams to give the 35-year-old a chance. He would also be a great locker room presence, as Wolf has always been known as an outstanding teammate.
Teams that could potentially trade for Wolf mirror those mentioned in the Fuentes slide—Mets, Indians, Diamondbacks, Rays, Orioles and Cardinals. However, because Wolf is a starting pitcher who can serve as a spot-reliever, many more teams may be interested in the veteran's services.
The one hiccup that may stop a deal is Wolf's large salary—he's going to make $9.5 million this season and is set to make $10 million next year.
Justin Morneau was one of the most feared left-handed hitters for a four-year stretch when he averaged 29 homers and 118 RBI from 2006-2009.
Since 2009, Morneau has dealt with numerous injuries, most notably his concussion he suffered in July of 2010. That head injury brought continuous recurring symptoms that plagued the 31-year-old and still do to this day. He has played in just 125 games since July 2010 and at one point, Morneau even thought the concussions would end his career.
Nevertheless, Morneau is still a viable threat from the left side of the plate, and multiple contending teams are in desperate need of some pop in their lineup—Dodgers, Giants and Mets, to name a few.
Although Morneau is struggling overall in 2012, he can still bring the lumber. He has 10 home runs thus far this season, and while this may sound unimpressive, it's already six more than he had all of last season in 13 fewer games.
While the Twins would likely like to trade Morneau to get his lucrative contract off the books, that same contract, along with his troubled history of concussions, is what may hinder a trade from happening, according to ESPN's Buster Olney.
While the former MVP won't be able to produce as he once did, Morneau could still bring a big bat to a lineup in need. Look for the Dodgers to make a push, as they rank in the bottom 10 in both home runs and RBI.