MLB Stars That Could Hit the Trade Block
Take a deep breath, everyone.
If nothing else, it has been an exciting week in playoff baseball. One that has seen now four series go to a Game 5, getting every fanbase riled up in the process.
Isn't October baseball great?
With all of the excitement going on in the 2012 postseason, it is hard to look forward to free agency, but as with everything in life, time will pass and it will be here before you know it.
Admittedly, the free agent class this winter is not as strong as years past, which brings up the question: will that result in a heated up trade market?
There will be teams looking to improve their respective rosters by any means necessary. Then, there are teams that witnessed some young talent develop nicely over the last couple months of the 2012 season.
As fans, whose name can you expect to see mentioned in any of the offseason trade fodder? Here's a look at a handful that will garner calls from opposing general managers, even if it is just kicking tires.
If you're a Boston Red Sox fan, you are likely wondering how I can label Ellsbury as trade fodder.
The answer is a somewhat complicated one, but worth explaining.
Ellsbury is eligible for his final year of arbitration, which, if the Red Sox so desire to offer him arbitration they will likely end up paying him somewhere around $10 million for the 2013 season.
That doesn't come across as too steep of a figure, especially for a Red Sox organization that just was handed a $260 million gift from the Los Angeles Dodgers in August.
However, it gets a little tricky.
The Red Sox need to identify which Ellsbury they'll be getting in 2013, should they decide to retain his services for one more season. Will he be the 2011 version that was the American League MVP runner up?
You know the one, he batted .321 with 32 home runs, 105 RBI and 39 stolen bases.
Or, would they be bringing back the 2012 version of Ellsbury who batted .271 with four home runs, 26 RBI and 14 stolen bases (albeit during an injury-shortened season.)
Speaking of injuries, 2012 marks the second season in three years that Ellsbury has been plagued by injury. True, neither season was due to fault of his own, but that should factor into the Red Sox willingness to sign him.
Beyond that, his agent is Scott Boras, a man notorious for taking his clients to market and getting the top dollar for their services. The likelihood of the Red Sox signing Ellsbury long term is extremely slim.
He is one of the few marketable trade chips the team has in an offseason that should be filled with changes.
Look for teams like Texas or even San Francisco perhaps, who may lose an outfielder to free agency, to show interest in a player like Ellsbury, even if it is for a one-year rental.
Speaking of Texas, the Rangers' starting shortstop Elvis Andrus may very well find his name floating around as trade fodder.
The reasoning behind such a move is simple: Jurickson Profar is waiting in the wings.
Arguably the best shortstop prospect in all of baseball right now, Profar has shown that he is ready and willing to take over (if given the opportunity) as the Rangers everyday shortstop.
Andrus has been a fine player for the Rangers, batting .286 this season with 180 hits and 62 RBI. The 2012 All-Star shortstop also posted a .976 fielding percentage for the Rangers this season.
At just 24 years of age, it may seem silly for the Rangers to move him; however, there will be several teams that are looking for help at short.
Consider the following: for the third consecutive season, the Rangers fell short of their ultimate goal. This season they fell further behind than recent years. With the impending loss of Josh Hamilton to free agency and the emergence of Adrian Beltre as a team MVP, it may be time to go in a new direction.
Defensively, the left side of the infield would be lock-down good: Profar and Beltre would pretty much swallow up anything hit that way.
Utilizing players like Andrus to add supplemental chips may be the wisest thing Nolan Ryan and Co. can do at this point.
Trade rumors seem to follow Cliff Lee wherever he goes, regardless of what he does.
This season will prove to be no different than years past.
Regardless of the fact that he is 34 years old and coming off of a disappointing 6-9 season, the former Cy Young Award Winner will be dangled out there by the Phillies this winter.
Like many other players, Lee was placed on waivers this past August. He was indeed claimed by the Dodgers, but a deal was not ironed out.
Could that just have been a farce to show Philly fans that the team was trying to make major changes? Possibly.
However, the reality is, several teams will have their eyes on Cliff Lee.
The more pressing question is, should the Phils decide to move Lee, how much of his $75 million contract would they be willing to eat?
Keep in mind, Lee does own a $27.5 million vesting option for 2016, which becomes guaranteed if he pitches 200 innings in 2015, or 400 innings between 2014 and 2015 combined.
While the team appears to be in a full-blown rebuild, Lee, not a player that ownership views as a key member of the franchise (see: Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, etc.) that could make him more expendable for the right price.
I know you've heard this before, but, personally, I subscribe to the ideas brought forth by Fox Sports's Ken Rosenthal in his June 22 piece chronicling how the Mariners could better themselves by trading King Felix.
It is a disservice to the game of baseball to have such a talented pitcher playing for a team that has not been considered a serious contender in a decade and is almost as far away from being considered one.
The team loves him. The fans love him. Sure, I get that. However, the smart baseball decision says: trade Felix Hernandez.
Right now, he has the absolutely highest value that he will ever have as a member of the Mariners. He is just 26 years old (27 just after the 2013 season kicks off) with two seasons left under team control.
For an ace, the $38.5 million owed to him is not insufferable. There are several teams that would gladly pay that salary and give up a significant package to acquire him.
Mariners fans are tired of hearing it, but this may actually, finally, really, possibly be the time when the front office pulls the trigger, for the right reasons no less.
This move is another one that many consider to be sacrilege.
Joe Mauer is a rare case in baseball: a local boy who turned away from the "big bucks" to stay with the local nine.
Of course, he is still making $23 million per year, far from destitute.
Regardless, the Twins have reached a point in their franchise history where they need to explore what the future may hold. Joe Mauer has been the be-all-end-all for the past nine seasons.
He is a career .323 batter who has seen his power numbers slide in the past couple of seasons (yes, in large part due to injury) but has maintained an impressive .405 career OBP.
He can catch half the time, maybe even two-thirds of the time. More so, he could play first base or DH. Several teams would eat up the opportunity to add a player with that much versatility to their rosters.
The Twins, naturally would benefit from both salary relief and some fine young talent to start a rebuild around.
Admittedly, this may be a stretch.
The Angels are going into what may be a very interesting winter.
They've found the face and future of the franchise in Mike Trout. They have Albert Pujols locked up long-term and a more than formidable pitching rotation.
Mark Trumbo is displaced as the acting utility man. He is far too talented to be on the bench a majority of the time. He has proven that third base is not really an option for him. Yes, the Halos can put him in the outfield, but his talent is pretty wasted out there as well.
The man is a first baseman by trade. He hits for power and would be enticing to a number of teams looking for help at first.
The catch with this move is the fact that the Angels could easily move Howie Kendrick and will see Torii Hunter likely leave in free agency.
In other words, they can make a spot for Trumbo.
It will all boil down to compensation. Trumbo's name will undoubtedly be floated this winter, whether fans hear about it or not.
The question is, will the Angels be enticed enough to part with the 26-year-old?
If you didn't pick up on the disconnect between Justin Upton and team ownership this season (in particular), then you must not have been paying much attention to the Diamondbacks.
Trade speculation has circled around Upton and CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported he was claimed off waivers this past August as well.
The 25-year-old Upton has never really blossomed into the player many thought he would be.
Perhaps I should bite my tongue. He hasn't elevated his game to meet expectations as of yet. That said, the Diamondbacks appear to have had their fill of Upton.
He could be an attractive option for teams that are looking to make a splash this winter with a free agent signing, but fall short of the Josh Hamilton's, Melky Cabrera's and even, dare I say Cody Ross's of the world.
Upton could bring back some major league-ready talent, alongside prospects that could help Arizona get back to the glory days sooner than later.
The D'Backs dealt Stephen Drew as well as Ryan Roberts last season, maybe it is just time to turn the page on Upton and start fresh.