MLB Trade Rumors and Speculation: 6 Hitters Poised for a Huge Second Half

Christopher Benvie@CSBenvie81Correspondent IIJuly 8, 2012

MLB Trade Rumors and Speculation: 6 Hitters Poised for a Huge Second Half

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    Sometimes a little change is all you need as a catalyst for success.

    In a season that has proven to be full of surprising surges for some players and teams alike, and disappointing starts for others, there is hope on the horizon. The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is approaching faster than Sandra Bullock driving a bomb-laced bus in Santa Monica.

    Several teams that were assumed to be major players coming into the 2012 season have fallen surprisingly flat on their faces. While some may try to stitch together some semblance of a season after the All-Star break, some heavy decisions must be made in short order.

    Here is a list of six hitters who could benefit from a change of scenery and provide monstrous impact in a new city.

Alfonso Soriano

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    At 36 years of age, Alfonso Soriano is obviously on the back nine of his career. He also owns a very unattractive contract, earning the balance of $18 million this season, 2013 and 2014 as well.

    Oh...and he has a full no-trade clause in his contract.

    So, to summarize, he's old, overpaid and difficult to move. Why then would any team want to take on Soriano?

    Well, first of all, the Chicago Cubs are realists. Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman writes that the Cubs are willing to eat most of the $45 million or so left on Soriano's contract if it means starting their rebuilding process sooner rather than later.

    Soriano will likely not draw much interest from teams looking for an outfielder. However, those in the American League in need of a versatile DH may have reason to bite.

    The Tampa Bay Rays could be such a team. Known for being frugal in their business dealings, adding a veteran bat like Soriano's could help provide the offense the team has been missing since watching Evan Longoria go on the disabled list.

    What's more, as Heyman noted, Soriano could be swayed to waive his no-trade clause if it means going to a contender.

    The Rays are currently third in the American League East; however, they are serious contenders for one of the two wild-card slots. They certainly have the pitching to get there.

Dexter Fowler

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    The Colorado Rockies do not want to trade Dexter Fowler, but will not say that he is untouchable.

    While the Rox have made it known that Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer are off-limits, general manager Dan O'Dowd won't go so far as to say that regarding Fowler.

    O'Dowd told CBS Sports' Jon Heyman just last week: "I can't say for certain (we're not trading him) but we put a lot higher value on him than someone looking to acquire him." 

    That's all fine and well, but the reality is that as of Sunday morning, the Rockies are sitting at the bottom of the NL West, 13.5 games out of contention with a small-market payroll.

    While Fowler is not exactly killing their payroll, earning $2.35 million this season, he will be arbitration eligible next year. Furthermore, he is having a breakout season for the Rox.

    Several teams would certainly like the addition of a quality center fielder heading down the stretch. While Fowler is already having a great year, he's doing so on an underperforming club. 

    A very interesting landing spot could be with the Washington Nationals, a team that has been playing around with its outfield all season long, having had 51 different batting orders since the start of the season.

    Fowler's .300 average and league-leading nine triples would fit nicely in the Nats lineup.

Carlos Quentin

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    Since signing his one-year deal with the San Diego Padres, trade rumors have been swirling around Carlos Quentin.

    While he has never lived up to the success displayed in his 2008 campaign, coming in fifth in AL MVP voting, winning a Silver Slugger Award and being named to the All-Star team, Quentin still has shown that can provide 20 or more home runs and pepper in some doubles.

    Playing in San Diego has not been kind to Quentin. Starting the season on the DL didn't exactly help his cause either. He is only batting .275 with eight home runs on the season.

    However, those numbers are coming at Petco, a pitcher-friendly ballpark.

    The Cincinnati Reds have been the leader in the clubhouse in terms of acquiring Quentin and could provide him just the atmosphere he needs to have an explosive second half of the season.

    While the Reds have somewhat cooled off as of late, relying heavily on the bats of Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, the addition of Quentin would allow them to place Brandon Phillips in the leadoff spot and bat Quentin cleanup. 

    The Reds need to be aware of the Cardinals and should be proactive at the trade deadline.

Justin Upton

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    The weather isn't the only thing that gets hot in the desert—so do Arizona Diamondback fans. Right now, they're fuming over the poor play of Justin Upton.

    His .737 OPS is the lowest of his career. He is not hitting home runs (seven total on the season) nor is he providing a lot of run production (37 RBI). 

    While the D'Backs are only 5.5 games out of the NL West race, it feels like much further away than that to fans in the desert.

    Moving Justin Upton could be beneficial for both the Diamondbacks and Upton.

    Several teams have been rumored or speculated as being interested in acquiring the two-time All-Star right fielder. AL powerhouses like the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox have been floated around, neither of which seem to be serious.

    A much more intriguing landing spot could be with the Baltimore Orioles.

    The O's find themselves in second place in the AL East and having one of their best seasons since 1997 when they won the pennant.

    The addition of a player like Justin Upton could put them over the top to make the playoffs and possibly make a run at catching the New York Yankees.

Justin Morneau

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    It wasn't all that long ago that Justin Morneau was believed to be a key cog in the future of the Minnesota Twins.

    That whole "key" piece might now actually refer to being a key trade piece that brings back some prospects to build upon.

    While hampered with injuries over the last few seasons, Morneau, when healthy, has proven that he can be one of the best first basemen in the game. He has the 2006 AL MVP hardware to prove it.

    The Twins would likely have a hard time moving Morneau because of the remainder of his contract for this season and the $14 million owed him next season as well as his history with concussions.

    However, a team like the Toronto Blue Jays are one that might be willing to take the risk if they so believe they could contend in the AL East and get out of the gutter.

    More so, a team that has not been tied to Morneau yet, but could certainly use an upgrade at first would be the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    The Dodgers could greatly benefit from a first baseman the caliber of Morneau. He brings power, average and the ability to drive in runs—something the blue have been missing in the absence of Matt Kemp and the recent sidelining of Andre Ethier. Upon a healthy return of the other two, a Morneau/Kemp/Ethier middle of the lineup could be quite scary.

Shane Victorino

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    The epitome of disappointing, the Philadelphia Phillies are currently 14 games out of NL East contention, dwelling at the bottom of the division, engulfed in rumors surrounding Shane Victorino, Cole Hamels and others.

    Why not perpetuate the rumors?

    For various reasons the Phils are struggling this season.

    Heading into the 2012 season, the Flyin' Hawaiian was rumored to be seeking a five-year deal from the Phillies. He's yet to get that deal done. It doesn't appear as though it will come to fruition either.

    However, teams looking for a nice rental piece for the remainder of the 2012 season may find Victorino's services quite useful.

    He isn't exactly tearing the cover off of the ball right now in Philly, batting just .246 with eight home runs and 38 RBI, but he offers suitors a bat capable of piling up the doubles and triples.

    Once again, the Cincinnati Reds have been mentioned in rumors regarding Victorino, but a more intriguing name has resurfaced as of late: the New York Yankees.

    Why would the Yankees want a player like Victorino when they have the best record in baseball? Because they're the Yankees and they want to win.

    Interestingly enough, Victorino could get some pretty decent playing time platooning with Andruw Jones in left or DH'ing down the stretch.