The 2012 season continues to chug along the tracks towards its triumphant finish, and that means one thing: we draw ever closer to the beginning of the Hot Stove League once again.
Sure, no baseball gets played between the end of October and the beginning of March, but the offseason is always a wonderful time of year for baseball fans, when rumors and speculation run rampant as to how their favorite team is going to improve its roster in order to make a deep playoff run in 2013.
While signing free agents can serve as a quick fix, the art of the deal—the ability to work out a trade—remains at the heart of every general manager's job description.
It would be easy to sit here and write that Felix Hernandez is the Mariners' biggest trade chip, but there's one small problem: The Mariners aren't trading King Felix.
With that in mind, here's a look at every team's biggest trade chip that could be in play this winter.
There isn't a general manager in the game who won't be picking up the phone at some point this offseason and calling Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers to talk about 25-year-old right fielder Justin Upton.
Upton has been the subject of trade rumors since last winter. And while he's not had a great season in 2012—a .280 batting average, a .787 OPS, only 15 home runs and 62 RBI—he still has a chance to develop into the superstar that many believe he can be.
Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic spoke with a number of different executives and scouts about what sort of package Arizona could get in exchange for Upton. Not surprisingly, the verdict was unanimous:
"This season does diminish his value," a National League club executive said. "But there are going to be plenty of teams needing somebody like him. Somebody is going to ante up."
"If they decide to move him," said an assistant GM with an AL team, "they'll get a fairly robust return. Maybe not like before, but there's still a lot of upside."
Upton does have a partial no-trade clause that allows him to block moves to four teams: the Cubs, Indians, Red Sox and Yankees. But back in July, Upton's agent told Bob Nightengale of USA Today that Upton could be open to accepting a trade to one of the four.
Piecoro brings up a scenario that many have speculated about before: Arizona trading Upton to the Texas Rangers in exchange for shortstop Elvis Andrus. The Rangers have top prospect Jurickson Profar ready to take over at shortstop, while Andrus fills a gaping hole for the Diamondbacks.
Adding Upton would help replace the production that would be lost if Josh Hamilton left in free agency. And if the Rangers were able to re-sign Hamilton, it makes the Rangers that much of a better team.
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal believes that 28-year-old catcher Brian McCann's poor performance in 2012—specifically his .220 batting average and .700 OPS—is going to cost him a significant amount of money in negotiations for a contract extension with the Braves this winter.
The Braves holds a $12 million team option on McCann for the 2013 season, and they will exercise it, especially with their top catching prospect, 20-year-old Christian Bethancourt, still a year or two away from making an impact in the major leagues.
But should the Braves not be able to work out an extension with McCann, dealing him this winter makes sense. Atlanta could fetch a significant return for McCann, who isn't going to have as much value at the trade deadline next July.
Team president John Schuerholtz made no guarantees about McCann staying with the Braves back in April when talking to ESPN's Jayson Stark:
Sure, it (Yadier Molina's five-year, $75 million extension with the Cardinals) affects it. Absolutely. Does the Votto contract make it more difficult for teams to sign other first basemen? Does the Brandon Phillips contract make it more difficult for teams to sign other second basemen? Of course. They all do. They impact all of us. … Of course, it makes it more challenging.
Our organization has always been able to keep our players whom we wanted to keep. And our hope is that we're going to keep Mac. We hope he's here for a long time. But I'm pretty sure he and his agent read the papers and watch television. And they may even log onto the Internet now and then. So there are no guarantees.
Translation: There's a very good chance that McCann will be too expensive to keep in Atlanta long term. Should that ultimately be how it plays out, getting something of value for him aside from a draft pick makes a lot of sense for the Braves.
Named the third-best prospect in the Orioles' system and the fourth-best second base prospect by MLB.com heading into the season, 20-year-old Jonathan Schoop had an up-and-down season in his first year with Double-A Bowie.
Schoop finished the season with a .245/.324/.386 batting line, 14 home runs and 56 RBI in 124 games, splitting time between second base and shortstop and playing adequate defense at both spots.
Leading up to the trade deadline in July, ESPN's Jayson Stark named Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy as the untouchables in Baltimore's system—not Schoop.
Given Brian Roberts' uncertain future and Robert Andino clearly not being the long-term answer at the position, it's fair to say that the Orioles would likely have to be overwhelmed to move him.
By himself, Schoop has value. But if he were to be packaged with one of Baltimore's young pitchers—say Jake Arrieta, whom Stark opined could be available back at the deadline—he could be used to bring back another piece of the puzzle in Baltimore should the Orioles decide that they need to add one this winter.
Last month, we looked at why the Red Sox should trade Jacoby Ellsbury this winter. Since then, Scott McAdam of CSN New England quoted an unnamed American League executive who said that the Red Sox had "no chance" to work out a contract extension with the 29-year-old center fielder.
ESPN's Buster Olney intimated the same thing, telling the Mut and Merloni Show on WEEI 850 AM that the price tag on Ellsbury's next contract is going to be "astronomical"—something that makes sense when you consider who he's represented by.
Scott Boras spoke to the Boston Herald's Michael Silverman a few weeks ago, and while he left the door open for an extension to be worked out, Boras made it clear that Ellsbury will not come cheap:
The only thing I can say about Jacoby is that there are few players like him. He is a proven successful player in Boston and in the American League East environment, and he plays a premium position at Gold Glove levels. He is a franchise player.
A spate of injuries over the past few seasons—injuries that lean towards the freakish end of the spectrum, but injuries nonetheless—and the fact that he's represented by Boras could both work against the Red Sox in their attempt to receive fair-market value for Ellsbury.
But that doesn't mean that there isn't going to be interest around the league.
Olney reports that the Rangers have been doing their homework on Ellsbury as part of their "Plan B" should Josh Hamilton leave Texas as a free agent—not the first time that they've been linked to Ellsbury this season.
WEEI's Rob Bradford reports that the two teams discussed a blockbuster involving Ellsbury, among others, leading up to the trade deadline, though talks aren't thought to have gotten very serious.
Should they decide to move Ellsbury this winter, Boston could bring a quality starting pitcher back in return—an area that the team needs to address as it tries to return to the land of contenders in 2013.
If it seems like we've been here before, it's because we have. Each of the past two winters have been full of rumors and speculation surrounding Cubs right-hander Matt Garza.
His 2012 season ended prematurely due to an elbow injury, and the fact that he's not thrown in a game since July 21—along with the fact that there's only one year remaining on his deal—makes his value less than it was in previous offseasons.
That's not to say that teams won't have significant interest in acquiring him, though. The Blue Jays, Dodgers, Marlins, Pirates, Rangers, Reds, Red Sox, Royals, Tigers and Yankees were all linked to Garza at one point or another this season, and it stands to reason that many of those teams still have interest in adding the soon-to-be 29-year-old to their starting rotations for the 2013 season.
Prior to the 2013 season, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported that the Cubs wanted young pitching in exchange for Garza. And David Kaplan of Comcast Sports said that Chicago's asking price was "tremendously high."
ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews confirmed as much, citing an unnamed source who said that the Cubs asked the Yankees for two, if not all three, of their top prospects (prior to the Yankees dealing Jesus Montero to Seattle) in exchange for Garza.
Chicago has consistently said that it has no problems keeping Garza in Chicago long-term, but with the Cubs in the midst of a long rebuilding process that figures to keep them out of contention for a few seasons, the pieces that they'd get for Garza could be more valuable to the team than Garza himself.
The Cubs will have to lower their expectations as to what they can expect in return for him in order to facilitate a deal, but Garza will remain one of the more sought-after pitchers who isn't a free agent when the Hot Stove League gets underway.
As ESPN's Buster Olney noted earlier this season, the White Sox tried to trade 36-year-old left-handed reliever at both the non-waiver trade deadline in 2011 and again over the winter.
Due $5.5 million in 2013 and with a $6 million team option (or $1 million buyout) for 2014, coupled with the emergence of 24-year-old Hector Santiago and 28-year-old Donnie Veal as quality left-handed options out of the bullpen, the White Sox could look to move the veteran reliever once again this winter.
Virtually every team in baseball is always looking to improve its bullpen, especially when it comes to left-handed pitchers. So it stands to reason that there would be no a shortage of interested parties should the White Sox make him available.
It has less to do with Zack Cozart and more to do with the fact that Billy Hamilton is waiting to take his spot atop the Reds' lineup in the minor leagues that makes the Reds' starting shortstop a trade chip.
Cozart, 26, is under team control through the 2017 season, and he doesn't even become arbitration eligible until 2015. He's struggled with the bat but been solid defensively, posting a 9.4 UZR/150 (h/t Fangraphs)—a number that's seventh-best among all starting shortstops in baseball this season.
Hamilton, who spent time at both High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola, is a phenom on the basepaths, having gone a combined 155-of-192 in stolen base attempts this season.
A number of teams, including the Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland A's, could be in the market for a starting shortstop this winter.
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman says that the Indians will listen to offers for right fielder Shin-Soo Choo this winter, as the team is resigned to the fact that it will not be able to re-sign the 30-year-old when his contract expires after the 2013 season.
Rumors of a possible Choo trade started rumbling earlier this season, with Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal chiming in on what it would take to pry the former All-Star from the Tribe's hands:
Hearing price for #Indians' Choo is a major leaguer - a good one - with less than three years service time. Choo free agent after 2013.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 30, 2012
Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes that Choo's trade value takes a hit not only because of his impending free agency following the 2013 season (and the fact that he's a Scott Boras client), but also because the 30-year-old cannot hit left-handed pitching.
Choo has posted a .179/.313/.257 batting line against southpaws this season, and the line he has against lefties for his career is a disappointing .246/.337/.353.
Even with those things being held against him, Choo will generate a ton of interest, especially from those teams that don't want to overpay Nick Swisher as a free agent and that fail to land Justin Upton from the Diamondbacks.
The Phillies, Pirates, Rangers, Reds and Tigers were all said to have interest in Choo this summer, and there's no reason that all of those teams wouldn't check in with the Indians again this winter to try and put a deal together.
Finally getting a chance to close games, 37-year-old Rafael Betancourt has done well in the role for Colorado this season, converting 29-of-34 save opportunities and pitching to a 2.33 ERA and 1.06 WHIP.
Due $4.25 million in 2013 and with a mutual option in place at the same salary for the 2014 season, acquiring Betancourt isn't going to be a budget-busting ordeal for anyone.
Leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline at the end of July, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the Rockies were unlikely to deal their closer, despite interest from both the Giants and Rangers.
In addition to those two teams, the A's. Angels, Orioles, Red Sox, White Sox and Yankees were all said to have interest in adding Betancourt to their bullpens at some point during the season.
Adding bullpen help is always something that teams are in the market for, so while the Rockies aren't likely to land a huge return for Betancourt, they can certainly get one or two pieces to use in their quest to return to relevance in the National League West.
As we got closer to the non-waiver trade deadline, USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweeted that the MVP of this year's Futures Game during the All-Star break was not available in a trade...at least at that point in time:
The #Tigers are telling teams_at least right now_that prized 3B prospect Nick Castellanos is unavailable.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 16, 2012
Castellanos, 20, spent the first two-and-a-half seasons as a professional ballplayer playing third base, which happens to be the same position as Miguel Cabrera. In an effort to make him a more viable addition to the Tigers' major league roster, he finished the 2012 season playing 51 games in right field for the Tigers' Double-A affiliate, the Erie SeaWolves.
His trade value is highest if Castellanos is manning the hot corner, but regardless of where he is playing, multiple teams are sure to express interest.
Before the Astros traded Carlos Lee, Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez, 28-year-old shortstop Jed Lowrie was the player rumored to be on the move:
Dodgers are talking to Astros about a trade that would send Jed Lowrie to the Dodgers,with minor-leaguers Zach Lee and Garrett Gould to HOU.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) June 30, 2012
Obviously, that deal never happened (and you have to wonder what the Dodgers were thinking, giving up two of their best pitching prospects for Lowrie, a good but not great player), but even after the team made a number of moves, Lowrie was still on the trade block:
Even after dealing Carlos Lee, Myers, Wandy and Lyon, Astros telling teams they're still open to more deals. Even Lowrie, who is on DL.
— DKnobler (@DKnobler) July 30, 2012
Lowrie, who celebrates his 29th birthday next April, is under team control through the 2015 season and could be an attractive option for teams who are potentially in need of a shortstop, including the Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland A's.
Right fielder Wil Myers is going to begin his major league career in right field for the Royals in 2013, meaning that 28-year-old Jeff Francoeur is going to be relegated to the bench.
Unless, of course, the Royals trade him.
Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star wrote last month that the Royals would like to trade Francoeur, but that they wouldn't do so as a salary dump or for a negligible return—though, as ESPN's Jerry Crasnick noted back in July, that's exactly what the Royals can expect to get:
Jeff Francoeur's trade value is negligible because of his bad season. He's hitting .242 with 9 HRs and a .654 OPS. #royals
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 26, 2012
Francoeur's numbers haven't gotten any better at the plate, as he sits with a career-low .234 batting average and .654 OPS with only 13 home runs and 41 RBI. While his defense has been adequate, he still has one of the great throwing arms in the game, and his 19 assists lead all right fielders by a wide margin.
Due $7.5 million next season in the last year of his contract, the Royals may wind up having to eat some of his contract in order to facilitate a deal. But moving Francoeur is a must for GM Dayton Moore, as the team simply cannot keep Myers in the minor leagues any longer.
It's no secret that the Angels have a crowded outfield, and even if the team lets Torii Hunter walk away as a free agent, the logjam won't disappear entirely.
Back in July, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported that the Angels were willing to trade 25-year-old center fielder Peter Bourjos. His colleague, Danny Knobler, later confirmed that, saying that the team would move the speedy outfielder in exchange for bullpen help.
An excellent defensive player, Bourjos doesn't become arbitration-eligible until after the 2013 season and is under team control through 2016.
Teams that miss out on free-agent center fielders such as Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton and Shane Victorino could be interested, as could those teams that decide not to engage that trio in free agent negotiations at all.
Taken in the first round of the 2010 draft by the Dodgers, Zach Lee is unquestionably the team's best pitching prospect.
Yet that didn't stop the rumor mill from spitting out rumor after rumor that involved the 21-year-old right-hander.
CBS Sports' Danny Knobler said that when talks were ongoing between the Dodgers and Cubs regarding Ryan Dempster, the Cubs insisted on Lee being included in the package, which the Dodgers apparently weren't willing to do.
Jim Bowden of ESPN speculated that the Brewers wanted to acquire Lee in exchange for third baseman Aramis Ramirez.
You get the point. For someone that some believe isn't available, Lee sure seems available in the right deal.
While his numbers in 2012 were less than impressive—a 4.39 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 103 strikeouts in 121 innings of work split between High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Chattanooga—the Dodgers could move Lee for a contributing player at the major league level should they decide that's the way to go.
I thought the Marlins made a big mistake in not moving Josh Johnson at the non-waiver trade deadline, as his value was never going to be higher than it was at that point in time.
Prior to the deadline, CBS Sports' Danny Knobler reported that the Marlins' asking price for Johnson was ridiculous:
Some saying that Marlins want more for Johnson than Brewers got for Greinke. One rival official: "I think Zack has a Cy Young at his house."
— DKnobler (@DKnobler) July 28, 2012
Multiple teams were interested in acquiring him this summer, including the Blue Jays, Rangers, Reds and Red Sox.
While the old adage goes that pitching wins championships, it's difficult to do when you don't have a third baseman—Greg Dobbs is a nice player, but he's not an everyday starter.
The Marlins have a number of areas that they need to bolster, and moving Johnson, who becomes a free agent following the 2013 season, may be the fastest way for the team to return to the realm of playoff contender.
It's not a stretch to call the Brewers' Corey Hart the National League's version of Nick Swisher: someone who is well-liked by his teammates, plays the game the right way and who is versatile enough to play both right field and first base reasonably well.
That's what makes him such an attractive option for teams looking for help at either position.
Hart, 30, has said that his hope is to stay in Milwaukee and that he's open to remaining flexible position-wise in order to do what's best for the team, according to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy.
Tom Haudricort of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that multiple teams expressed interest in Hart this season but that the Brewers would need to be "overwhelmed" in order to move him.
But the 2012 season isn't the first time that teams have expressed interest in Hart. The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo talked about how the Red Sox had interest in acquiring him back in September of last year.
A free agent after the 2013 season, Hart could find himself on the move should the two sides not be able to agree to a contract extension this winter. A full year of Hart would bring back a greater return than he would next July, when he'd be nothing more than a two-month rental.
While Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are the sexier names who have been the subject of trade rumors over the past few months, center fielder Denard Span is the player who would bring back the biggest return for the Twins this winter.
Span, who turns 29 years old in February, is a quintessential leadoff hitter and remains one of the best defensive center fielders in the game.
Right before the non-waiver trade deadline, USA Today's Bob Nightengale was all over the Span rumors:
The Minnesota #Twins are listening to offers for CF Denard Span, but won't move him unless they get a major-league starter back in return.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 29, 2012
CBS Sports' Scott Miller reported on more than one occasion that the Reds were trying to obtain Span in order to replace Drew Stubbs in center field and, more importantly, give the Reds a legitimate table-setter at the top of their lineup.
As with Peter Bourjos, Span figures to draw considerable interest from teams this winter that either miss out on free agents like Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton and B.J. Upton or those that choose to stay away from the free agent frenzy altogether.
Should the Twins wind up moving Span, Ben Revere would slide to center field from right field, while Chris Parmalee, among others, would be a candidate to start in right field.
He's the face of the franchise and the team's best player by far, but soon-to-be 30-year-old third baseman David Wright might best serve the Mets as a trade chip this winter.
It goes without saying that the team is going to exercise the $16 million team option that it holds on Wright for the 2013 season. And the third baseman has been adamant that his goal is to work out a long-term extension with the club, most recently in comments he made to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.
But Wright, who played at a MVP-caliber pace for much of the 2012 season, isn't going to come cheap. Thoughts of being able to sign Wright to a five-year, $100 million extension—such as the one that the Nationals gave to their third baseman, Ryan Zimmerman—should be tossed out the window.
Wright is likely to be seeking a six- to eight-year deal in the $150 million range, approaching the deals that franchise players such as the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki, the Reds' Joey Votto and the Dodgers' Matt Kemp all received, per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
That simply might be too rich for Fred and Jeff Wilpon, the principal owners of the Mets, and the package of players that the Mets could receive in exchange for Wright would be huge.
On a team that has multiple holes and isn't likely to contend in the National League East for at least another season or two, moving Wright might be the smartest thing for the long-term success of the club.
With the Yankees' goal to be under the $189 million luxury tax threshold in 2014 still looming large, the team knows that Nick Swisher is going to hit free agency following this season, while Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter are all going to need new deals following the 2013 season.
Of that trio, re-signing Cano is a no-brainer and one that is going to be very expensive, likely approaching the $200 million range. Jeter is more valuable to the Yankees than to any other team in the league, and the PR nightmare that would ensue should he leave the Bronx simply isn't something that the team wants to deal with.
That leaves Curtis Granderson without a deal. While he has developed into one of the premier power hitters in the game, the center fielder, who turns 32 years old next March, has become an all-or-nothing type of player—think Adam Dunn without the walks.
He plays a decent center field, but nowhere near Gold Glove-caliber, and with the team having other options for the position—including Brett Gardner—dealing him for something of value could be a wise decision for the club, both on the field and financially as well.
With 26-year-old prospect Collin Cowgill ready for an everyday spot in the A's lineup, soon-to-be 33-year-old center fielder Coco Crisp could find himself on the move again this winter.
A solid defensive center fielder and an adept base stealer, swiping 35 bags in 39 attempts this season, Crisp's $7 million salary in 2013 could prove to be excess baggage for the A's.
He isn't going to bring back anything great in return, but a chance to unload his salary and free up playing time for Cowgill might be motivation enough for the A's that the return they receive is secondary. Crisp would certainly appeal to clubs looking for a relatively inexpensive solution in center field for 2013.
It wasn't long ago that Jimmy Rollins found himself on the trade block...sort of:
Phillies have reached out in last two weeks to dangle Jimmy Rollins.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 25, 2012
Due $22 million through the 2014 season (with an $11 million vesting option for 2015 as well), the soon-to-be 34-year-old wouldn't be the easiest player in the world for the Phillies to trade. And they'd likely have to pick up some of the salary remaining on his deal in order to get a solid return.
But the core of the Phillies isn't getting any younger, and the Phillies did start to play 22-year-old second-base prospect Cesar Hernandez at shortstop as the 2012 minor league season wore down, perhaps grooming him to be Rollins' eventual replacement.
While next winter may actually be the more ideal time for the Phillies to move Rollins, they'd be foolish to not at least investigate what they could get in return for him this winter.
Leading up to the trade deadline, MLB.com's Tom Singer reported that teams were willing to trade two major league bats to acquire Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan.
The Pirates ultimately decided to hold onto their closer, but that doesn't mean that they won't revisit the idea of dealing him this winter.
Hanrahan, who turns 31 years old next month, is under team control through the 2013 season. While moving him would leave the Pirates without an obvious choice to finish games, finding a closer may prove to be an easier task than adding quality major league bats to play alongside Andrew McCutchen this winter.
As the July 31 trade deadline drew closer, there wasn't a hotter name on the rumor mill than Padres third baseman Chase Headley, who had at least five teams pursuing him: the A's, Indians, Orioles, Pirates and Yankees.
Under team control through the 2014 season, Headley, 28, has emerged as a legitimate sleeper candidate in the National League MVP race—though the award is still expected to go to either the Giants' Buster Posey or the Pirates' Andrew McCutchen.
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal says that the Padres are giving serious thought to keeping Headley this winter and putting Jedd Gyorko—one of their top prospects and the expected successor to Headley at the hot corner—at second base next season.
The return that the Padres could receive for Headley would be significant, and at the very least, they owe it to themselves to see whether or not another team is willing to grossly overpay to acquire Headley's services.
Tim Lincecum has pitched much better since the All-Star break, posting a 3.06 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 79 strikeouts in 79.1 innings of work. But the 28-year-old is still sitting on the worst numbers on the season of his career.
The Giants have both Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner signed to long-term extensions, and with Lincecum due $22 million in 2013, whether or not the team will be able to work out a long-term deal with the two-time Cy Young Award winner is a legitimate question to ask.
GM Brian Sabean is likely to point to this year's struggles as a reason why Lincecum doesn't deserve the same type of money as Cain and Cole Hamels. But Lincecum's camp will point to his second-half performance as proof that his horrid first half was a fluke occurrence.
There aren't many teams who can absorb Lincecum's salary in 2013, and that number might limit what the Giants could receive in return for him—unless the club is willing to pick up some of that money.
Still, there's no question that when he's on, Lincecum remains one of the elite pitchers in baseball. And the Giants would be sure to receive a plethora of quality pieces in exchange for him.
Obviously, Felix Hernandez is their most valuable asset, but the team insists that it will not trade Hernandez, and we have no choice but to take the Mariners at their word.
That doesn't change the fact that Seattle has a trio of big-time pitching prospects in Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker who are going to make an impact in Seattle sooner rather than later. And that makes Vargas, who turns 30-years-old in February, expendable.
Vargas was available this season, but as Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports, the Mariners were asking for a lot in return for him.
A free agent following the 2013 season, Vargas is a reasonably-priced innings-eater and a southpaw—two things that multiple teams covet.
While he's pitched well in relief as a September call-up, 21-year-old Shelby Miller struggled mightily in his first season starting for Triple-A Memphis. He posted a 4.36 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, also allowing more hits than innings pitched.
ESPN's Jayson Stark reported at the end of July that the Cardinals had never been more open to moving Miller than they were at that point in time, and there's no reason to think that they wouldn't entertain the idea of moving their top pitching prospect again this winter.
What they could fetch in return for Miller is unknown; as one executive told Stark: "We've lost interest. I know that. The stuff coming out of his hand isn't as good. And the body doesn't look good. He's gotten a little heavy, and he's not the same guy."
But 21-year-old pitchers with high ceilings don't become available often, and chances are that a number of teams would be willing to gamble on Miller should the Cardinals make him available once again.
After Zack Greinke was traded to the Angels and Cole Hamels worked out a contract extension with the Phillies, James Shields became the pitcher that every GM wanted to get their hands on.
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported back in July that the Rays were seeking a package of prospects better than what the Brewers received for Greinke, and such a high asking price likely prevented him from being moved.
Tampa Bay holds a $9 million option on Shields for the 2013 season, and the team will exercise it. But the $12 million option that the team holds for 2014 is undeniably going to be far too expensive for the frugal Rays, and because of that, they'll look to move him.
While there hasn't been much recent chatter revolving around Shields, you can be sure that it's going to pick up significantly after the season ends.
Jurickson Profar will be starting at shortstop for the Rangers in 2013, which brings up the question: What will the Rangers do with All-Star incumbent Elvis Andrus?
Trade him, if you ask the Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro, who speculates that an Andrus-for-Justin Upton deal makes a ton of sense for both the Rangers and Diamondbacks.
If you think about it, it really does seem a like a deal where both teams come out as winners.
Andrus would fill a gaping hole on the left side of the Diamondbacks' infield, while Upton would add another powerful bat to the Rangers' lineup and serve as someone who could replace some of Josh Hamilton's production should the All-Star leave Texas as a free agent.
With the Blue Jays ready to move forward with prospect Adeiny Hechavarria as their everyday shortstop, CBS Sports' Danny Knobler reports that the team will look to move 29-year-old incumbent Yunel Escobar this winter.
Escobar was rumored to be heading to the A's at one point this season, but talks broke down and the A's acquired Stephen Drew from the Diamondbacks. But with Drew struggling to hit in Oakland, the two teams could revisit talks this winter.
He's under team control through the 2015 season at a reasonable $5 million per year, with the 2014 and 2015 seasons being team options. For someone who has been a consistent contributor on offense and not a major liability on defense, that's a more-than-reasonable salary.
Even with his recent three-game suspension by the Blue Jays for writing a gay slur on his eye black, there will be a market for Escobar this winter.
Mike Morse's future in Washington is largely tied to what the Nationals decide to do with first baseman Adam LaRoche and what they do in free agency.
ESPN's Jayson Stark reports that the Nationals are giving serious thought to exercising their $10 million team option on LaRoche, keeping him at first base. If the team goes out and signs a center fielder (like Michael Bourn or B.J. Upton) as many believe that they will, that makes Morse a man without a position.
Morse, who turns 31 years old next March, is a versatile player who can play both corner spots in the outfield, as well as first base. He is due a reasonable $6.75 million for 2013, the last year of his contract.
Were he to be made available, a number of teams could be interested in him, including the Yankees, who will likely be looking to replace Nick Swisher in right field this winter.