With the July 31 MLB trade deadline fast approaching, speculators all across baseball are trying to gauge which players will stay put and which will be dealt as contending teams in all divisions gear up to make their playoff pushes.
With the addition of a second wild card to the playoff structure, ten teams will now qualify for the postseason, making the demand for eleventh-hour additions to shore up any weaknesses that much greater.
While it's one thing to be shipped off right as August draws near, how exciting (and odd?) must it be for a major leaguer to don his old jersey and find himself walking down memory lane into his old team's clubhouse? What follows is a list of the eight players most likely to be traded back to one of their former teams in the days leading up to the July 31 deadline.
1. Hanley Ramirez
According to CBS Sports, Carl Crawford may well be shipped from the Red Sox to the Miami Marlins for Hanley Ramirez and Heath Bell before the trade deadline expires.
Much of the focus here is on Crawford, due to the string of great seasons he had with the Tampa Bay Rays and the astronomical $19.5 million he’s getting paid to sit on the disabled list for the Red Sox.
But let’s not forget about Ramirez! Though he’s been a Marlin for essentially his whole career, winning the Rookie of the Year award with them in ’06 and ruling the roost in their infield ever since, most people forget that he actually came up with the Red Sox.
In 2005, Ramirez came up for a cup of coffee with Boston before being dealt to the Marlins in the Josh Beckett deal. And if Crawford does indeed get shipped back to the state of Florida (albeit with a new team), it seems likely that Hanley Ramirez will find himself back in Beantown.
2. Ryan Dempster
Everyone’s talking about Dempster getting dealt. After all, the Cubs have long since played their way out of contention, and teams like the Dodgers, Tigers and Braves have all been identified as being in the hunt.
But what about the Reds?
Cincinnati is dueling with Pittsburgh for the lead in the NL Central, and once again landing Dempster—who last hurled for the team a decade ago but is now pitching lights-out to a tune of a league-leading 1.86 ERA—might be good for the Reds.
3. Edinson Volquez
Another player with a lot of potential to return to Cincinnati is Edinson Volquez. Currently mired with the Padres, he’s got 104 K’s in 112.1 IP; and though his W-L is sub-.500, whose wouldn’t be with the Pads? Meanwhile, his ERA is a respectable 3.69, and in his one injury-free season—which was, in fact, with the Reds a few years back—Volquez went 17-6 and earned an All-Star nod.
Dempster’s more likely to be higher up on the Reds’ wish list; but if they can’t land Dempster, Cincinnati might go out on a limb and try to make a trade for Volquez.
4. Cliff Lee
After capturing five straight NL East titles, the Phillies find themselves in the division cellar in 2012. As Kevin Noonan wrote for Town Square Delaware, it’s time to face the facts: the Phillies aren’t in a slump; they’re just not very good right now. And that means it’s time to rebuild.
Cliff Lee is the kind of talent that any team would be happy to have. And, frankly, given the poor run support he’s been getting from his team, Lee would probably love to go. He’s 1-6 this year with a 3.72 ERA and 106 K’s in 111.1 innings. On Wednesday, he pitched eight innings of one-run ball only to leave with a no decision.
So where’s Lee going to end up? Some might say he could return to Texas; but having just signed fellow former Phillie Roy Oswalt to shore up an already strong pitching corps, the Rangers probably won’t go after Lee. But Cleveland might!
The Indians are on the playoff bubble, and Lee came up with them—in fact, he won his lone Cy Young award with the team in 2008.
5. Alfonso Soriano
It’s almost impossible to imagine, given the way he left—well, everywhere. Soriano is, after all, known for two things: blasting homers and burning bridges. But the fact remains that the Cubs are in the dregs of the already-weak NL Central, and the Yankees, Rangers and Nationals—all of Soriano’s former teams—are atop their divisions and looking to make runs not just to the playoffs but to the World Series itself.
Soriano has an .800-plus OPS and is on track to hit 30 HR and drive in 100 RBI. Sure, he’s left some harsh words in his wake, but do you think any of those contenders wants one their potential rivals to pick up Soriano? Heck, no.
They’d rather have his pop in their own lineup, not in an opponent’s. So even though Soriano is not the most beloved of players, with the Cubs playing the way they are, the right package of prospects might put Soriano somewhere he—and his future ownership, likely—thought he had left behind for good.
6. Josh Willingham
Let’s get this out of the way: the Twins just look terrible. But Willingham is looking great. A tough All-Star snub, Willingham has notched 23 HR in 87 games—numbers that, if he were a Yankee, might have gotten him selected to the Midsummer Classic.
The Twins need some new blood, but they won’t be willing to deal franchise faces Justin Morneau or Joe Mauer to get it. Meanwhile, the red-hot Nationals—Willingham’s former team—could use some pop in their outfield.
What’s more, at just $7 million per year for the next three years, Willingham’s contract is even manageable. As the deadline draws near, the Nats just might make a move.
7. Brandon League
Last year, Brandon League had 37 saves. This year, so far, he has nine. It’s not his fault—he’s pitched 41 games in relief, finishing 23. It’s just that Seattle isn’t winning any games for him to save!
Seattle likely won’t be able to hold League, as he’s arbitration eligible after this year; and any decent player in his right mind would try to get off the Mariners.
Meanwhile, in the hyper-competitive AL East, the Blue Jays are struggling to stay relevant. So maybe Toronto ships west a couple of prospects and welcomes back League to the Blue Jay bullpen to run the setup role for current Toronto closer Case Janssen.
After all, given the way aged ex-all star Francisco Cordero has handled the role—posting a 5.77 ERA and a WHIP of 1.806 so far this season—the team could benefit from League’s help.
8. Jonathan Broxton
After back-to-back All-Star seasons in 2009 and 2010, Broxton fell off in 2011, and the Dodgers let him walk. Broxton signed a one-year free-agent deal with the Royals in the off-season and has returned to form there, becoming one of the only bright lights in that organization with a 2.14 ERA and 22 saves to date.
The Royals would love to keep him, but Broxton’s a free agent again after this season; and as well as he’s played, there’s no way he’s going to stay in Kansas City. He’s going to look for a multi-year contract with a contender offering big money.
So the Royals may look to deal him; and there’s no reason the contending, but struggling, Dodgers wouldn’t like to reclaim this strong bullpen arm for half a season on the cheap.