MLB Trade Rumors: Biggest Bargain at Each Position
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Trying to find a bargain at the MLB trade deadline is like trying to find a needle in a haystack—it's virtually impossible.
With more teams fancying themselves as contenders this season due to the additional wild-card spot in each league, the number of teams looking to move pieces at the deadline has shrunk. The laws of supply and demand would tell us that with more teams buying and fewer teams selling, it's a seller's market and the prices will be high.
While that remains true for the big-name players—the real game-changers—that doesn't mean that there aren't some quality players who are flying under the radar who could find themselves in a new clubhouse over the next two weeks.
Let's take a look at who those players are—and whether they really are bargains or just fool's gold.
*To be included in this list, players must be linked to trade chatter from a reputable source rather than blatant speculation from random places.*
Kelly Shoppach is the best option out of a weak group.
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For teams looking to upgrade behind the plate, the pickings are slim.
While there have been no concrete signs that any catcher is readily available, rumors have swirled around veterans such as Colorado's Ramon Hernandez and Oakland's Kurt Suzuki—though both veterans have multiple years and dollars remaining on their deals which make it difficult to call them bargains.
The Cubs' Geovany Soto is also likely available, though there have been no substantial rumors revolving around his availability or if there is even a market for his services—understandable considering his contract and the continued deterioration of his play on the field.
MLB Network's Peter Gammons reported that Boston, while they are looking to add pieces at the deadline, could be willing to move backup catcher Kelly Shoppach:
Mets have considered Kelly Shoppach if price on Ramon Hernandez is too high, which would get Ryan Lavarnway to Boston.
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) July 14, 2012
Shoppach, 32, has spent the majority of his career as a backup or as part of a platoon behind the plate, and that's his ideal spot on any contending team.
A career .228/.318/.426 hitter, Shoppach has played well in limited time for the Red Sox this season, posting a batting line of .271/.364/.552 with five home runs and 14 RBI over 35 games played. He also has postseason experience, posting a .280/.379/.600 line in nine playoff games.
Since he's owed only a fraction of his $1.135 million salary in 2012 and set to become a free agent after the season, any team that trades for him doesn't have to worry about any long-term ramifications from adding him to their roster.
Boston's asking price wouldn't be much, considering that he's a backup and that they have Ryan Lavarnway chomping at the bit in the minors to join the big club.
All things considered, Kelly Shoppach delivers the biggest bang for your buck among potentially available catchers.
Can we even call Giambi a first baseman at this point in his career?
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As with the catching position, there isn't much in the way of a bargain to be had at first base.
The Cubs' Bryan LaHair is available, but as Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi reports, their asking price is high and they don't need to move him.
Justin Morneau of the Twins is potentially available, but between concerns over his health and the more than $14 million that he's owed through the 2013 season, it's impossible to classify him as a bargain.
Technically, Colorado's Jason Giambi is a first baseman, though you'd be hard pressed to find a team brave enough to play him at the position on a regular basis. That being said, Troy Renck of the Denver Post says that the 40-year-old is likely to find himself with an American League contender before long.
Relegated to 78 at-bats this season as a pinch hitter, Giambi has posted a .244/.384/.333 batting line with a home run and eight RBI. Owed a portion of the $1 million salary he was due in 2012, he still has the ability to get on base—and that skill alone makes him a bargain for the contender that grabs him from the Rockies.
Darwin Barney would be a steal if the Tigers can get him for what they're offering.
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We've heard rumors about a handful of second basemen, including the Marlins' Omar Infante, possibly heading to Detroit. Bob Nightengale of USA Today has said that the Tigers and Marlins have discussed a deal, though their asking price would preclude us from calling him a bargain.
ESPN's Jim Bowden says that the Tigers want to get their hands on Cubs' second baseman Darwin Barney, and that they are offering the Cubs mid-level prospects in return.
If the Tigers—or anyone else for that matter—can acquire Barney for mid-level prospects, that acquisition would unquestionably be one of the shrewdest moves we've seen all year.
Barney's defense has been outstanding in 2012, and while he isn't going to wow anyone at the plate—he offers little in the way of power—his .262/.306/.374 batting line in 86 games this season isn't going to drag down a team's lineup significantly.
Throw in the fact that he's only 26 years old, making $500,000 this season and doesn't even become arbitration eligible until 2014, and you have a bargain on your hands—if the Tigers are right and mid-level prospects will get a deal done.
Chase Headley is a much better player than most realize.
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As far as everyday third basemen go, Milwaukee's Aramis Ramirez is the biggest name that we've seen bandied about—but between his contract and the Brewers' asking price, it's impossible to call him a bargain acquisition, even if he were to have an offensive explosion once he reaches a contender.
The hottest name at the hot corner as of late has been San Diego's Chase Headley, and as ESPN's Buster Olney reports, teams have been dismayed by the Padres' asking price:
One team says the highest market price they've encountered is the Padres' asking price for Chase Headley.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 18, 2012
Olney's colleague, Jim Bowden, says that regardless of the Padres' asking price, six teams are in on Headley and it's all but a certainty that he'll be dealt before the deadline:
There are now six teams in trade discussions with Padres regarding Chase Headley who in all likelihood will be dealt by deadline
— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) July 17, 2012
Why the hubbub about someone that the casual fan has never heard of?
Because Headley is a heck of a ballplayer, one who has been flying under the radar for years while watching his offensive numbers suffer having to play in the cavernous field known as Petco Park.
An above-average defender at third base, the 28-year-old Headley has posted a batting line of .268/.366/.425 with 10 home runs and 45 RBI through 92 games for the Padres this season.
Under team control through the 2014 season, the switch-hitter will be the steal of the summer, even with the Padres asking for the moon in return.
Hitting in a contender's lineup with quality players around him, Headley is going to put up big numbers for the rest of the season once he's moved.
Marco Scutaro isn't Ozzie Smith, but he can get the job done.
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With the Blue Jays looking to move shortstop Yunel Escobar, likely to make room for über-prospect Adeiny Hechavarria, you could make the argument that the 29-year-old would be a bargain acquisition considering his reasonable $5 million salary and the fact that he's under team control through the 2015 season—but I'd disagree.
The bargain to be had can be found out west in Denver, where the floundering Rockies have seen teams such as the Tigers express interest in 11-year-veteran Marco Scutaro:
scouts checking in at Coors Field. Tigers tracking Scutaro. Texas, Dodgers and Angels checking out Hammels.— Tracy Ringolsby (@ROOTSPORTS_TR) July 15, 2012
Owed only a portion of the $6 million he will earn in 2012 and a free agent following the season, the 36-year-old Scutaro remains a solid defender and has put together a solid season at the plate, hitting .275/.329/.367 with four home runs and 26 RBI.
Scutaro's experience, professional approach at the plate and versatility in the field—he is a quality shortstop or second baseman—coupled with the fact that Colorado can't expect much in return for him, makes it easy to call Scutaro a bargain.
Mark Kotsay's value lies in more than just his on-field ability.
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While there are a plethora of quality corner outfielders who are potentially available, including Arizona's Justin Upton and San Diego's Carlos Quentin, either the asking price, salaries or a combination of the two preclude us from counting the vast majority of them as bargains.
But that doesn't mean there isn't a bargain to be found, and to find one we only need to look further down the Padres' bench, where 36-year-old Mark Kotsay has drawn interest from multiple teams, according to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports.
In the midst of his 16th big league season, Kotsay has been productive in limited playing time for the Padres this season, posting a .288/.360/.375 batting line in 80 at-bats while still providing solid defense in both corner outfield spots.
Aside from his ability to still be a productive ballplayer, Kotsay is a veteran leader in the clubhouse, and as we have seen in the past, sometimes that attribute is even more valuable to a contending team than the player's on-field production.
We got a taste of what Peter Bourjos could do with regular playing time in 2011.
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There are a bunch of quality center fielders available, though you'd be hard pressed to find a bargain among them. The Phillies' Shane Victorino, Tampa's B.J. Upton and Minnesota's Denard Span are all assured of commanding something significant in return for their current teams should they find themselves traded.
Such is not the case with the Angels' fourth outfielder, 25-year-old Peter Bourjos.
Under team control through the 2016 season, the speedy center fielder showed last season that he can be a productive everyday player when given the chance, posting a batting line of .271/.327/.438 with 12 home runs, 43 RBI while going 22-for-31 on stolen base attempts. He uses that speed to cover a ton of ground in center field, allowing him to get to balls that others have no chance at.
CBS Sports' Danny Knobler says that Bourjos is available for the right reliever—and while relief pitching is a valuable commodity, picking up a productive outfielder not yet in his prime who is under team control for the foreseeable future would be a coup for anyone who has the reliever that the Angels covet.
There's no questioning Liriano's talent...
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There isn't a more valuable commodity in baseball than starting pitching, and it goes without saying that there isn't a bargain to be found among Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels, just to name a few.
But that's not to say that there isn't a potential bargain sitting out there.
Twins' starter Francisco Liriano is garnering interest from multiple teams, according to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports, and with good reason.
A free agent following the season, the 28-year-old southpaw is owed only a portion of his $5.5 million salary and has shown flashes of the pitcher that took baseball by storm in 2006, when he went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA.
It really depends on which Liriano a team is getting in order to call him a bargain, but if he continues to throw as he has since the beginning of June, with a 3.16 ERA and 68 strikeouts over 57.1 innings pitched, Liriano could be a game-changer in the playoff race.
Wade Davis could be a versatile option for a number of teams.
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As with starting pitching, quality relievers are a hot commodity and come with a hefty asking price by their current teams. Players like the Padres' Huston Street, while there is legitimate interest from a number of teams, are valuable piece that wouldn't come cheap.
While there is no indication as to what their asking price may be, Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal says that Wade Davis, among other Rays' pitchers, are available in the right deal.
Under team control through the 2017 season—though the last three years of his deal are all team options (and rather expensive ones for a relief pitcher)—the 26-year-old righty has shown the ability to both start and pitch out of the bullpen effectively.
Pitching exclusively out of the 'pen in 2012, Davis has posted a 2.89 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and a 9.7 K/9 ratio.
It's that versatility that makes him a bargain. Davis can be a traditional reliever, a long-man out of the pen, a spot starter or a full-time member of a team's starting rotation.
Soriano is a bargain if the rumors are true.
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Any of the position players that we've touched on could serve as a designated hitter for an American League club, but there may be no better candidate for a DH spot on a contending team than the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano.
You may be asking yourself how I could possibly include Soriano in an article on bargains, considering that he's due more than $36 million dollars through the 2014 season. Well, if what CBS Sports' Danny Knobler reported back in May is true, then it's not even a debatable point:
Not surprisingly, Cubs are telling teams they will eat almost all of Soriano $$ (maybe all but $3 mill) if they can dump him.
— DKnobler (@DKnobler) May 31, 2012
That works out to roughly $1.5 million in each of the next two seasons to plug a 36-year-old into the middle of your lineup, a player who has posted a .272/.326./.489 batting line with 17 home runs and 53 RBI thus far in 2012.
Talk about a bargain!