The 2013 season is still a mere two months away, but it's never too early to start thinking about which players could be targeted for trade by contenders.
Could someone like Jacoby Ellsbury find himself on his way out of Boston before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline?
What other players could suffer similar fates?
Here is a list of 10 players who could find themselves targeted by contenders if they are made available by their present clubs for trades.
The 2013 Atlanta Braves are positioned to be serious contenders in the National League with the offseason acquisitions of B.J. and Justin Upton. If the Braves fail to live up to their preseason hype, there is one player who could wind up on the trading block.
The 28-year-old catcher is coming off shoulder surgery for a torn labrum. McCann has been one of the most successful catchers in the National League as he has averaged a .279 batting average during his eight-year career with the Braves. He has also recorded six-straight NL All-Star appearances (2006-11) with five Silver Slugger awards to his credit.
McCann is signed through the end of the 2013 season. The Braves and McCann have agreed not to commence trade discussions until after the season.
Would the Braves trade McCann?
If the Braves fail to live up to expectations, there is a good chance that McCann could be available. The Braves do have a highly-touted catching prospect, Christian Bethancourt, waiting in the wings, and his progression in the minors could dictate McCann's future.
One caveat to a McCann trade could be teams' concerns on his health and durability. However, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that bullpen coach Eddie Perez feels McCann will be fine.
“I think this year he’s going to be healthy,” Perez told the AJC. “I saw him last week and he looks really good. He’s going to put up some numbers. And I’m not going to be surprised. I’m sure he’s going to have an unbelievable season this year”
If McCann has a good season and the Braves fail to meet expectations, there could be a slew of teams interested in his services.
One team to keep an eye on if McCann comes available would be the New York Yankees. The Yankees could use McCann as a catcher/DH to split time with Francisco Cervelli or Chris Stewart. He could also provide a capable left-handed bat and bridge to future Yankee starting catching prospect Austin Romine.
The Yankees did a similar move in the late 1990s when they brought in Joe Girardi to help groom Jorge Posada into his eventual starting role.
McCann's availability, however, will depend on a myriad of health and team factors. Braves fans are hoping that McCann proves to be another essential piece that leads them back to the postseason.
Another player who is recovering from an injury who could come available this summer via the trade market is Brewers first baseman Corey Hart.
Hart, who went under the knife on Jan. 25 to repair a cartilage tear in his right knee, is expected to return to the Brewers sometime in April. His availability, however, will be dictated on whether or not he returns to full strength and if the Brewers are in contention for the NL Central crown.
"If it takes a little longer then mid to end of May, but I feel good about end of April," Hart told the AP. "So basically like 2011, when I came back and hit 26 homers in five months."
Hart would be attractive to many teams if he becomes available because of his power-hitting ability. Hart has averaged 26 home runs per season during his nine-year career, all spent with the Brewers.
Trading the home-grown Hart may be a bit disconcerting to Brewers fans, but he could provide some value in return if he rounds back into previous form.
Where could Hart possibly wind up if he becomes available?
The AL Central projects to be a competitive division in 2013, and the Cleveland Indians could be one of the teams interested in Hart's services if he becomes available.
It has been no secret that the Indians have had problems with production from the corner infield and outfield positions.The Indians made strides this past offseason to rectify those problems by signing Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds.
The Reynolds signing was more of a stopgap measure for Cleveland as he was signed to an incentive-laden one-year, $6 million deal. If Reynolds is unable to replicate his 2012 numbers with the Baltimore Orioles (.221 BA, 23 HR, 61 RBI), there is a good chance general manager Chris Antonetti will be looking for some help.
One of the hot trade discussions batted around this offseason involved Seattle Mariners slugger Mike Morse. The 30-year-old outfielder/first baseman was the subject of a myriad of trade rumors. It seemed almost every team was vying to make a trade for his services.
One team, the Mariners, were able to acquire Morse in January as part of a three-team deal and now projects to play a role with the club during the upcoming season.
Greg Johns of MLB.com reported that Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik was singing his praises.
"It's certainly gives you some big pop in this lineup," Zduriencik said. "We were looking for a banger, and in Michael we got that..."
This will be the second go-around with Morse with the Mariners as he played with the club from 2005-08. He never was able to gain any sort of traction in Seattle and was eventually traded to the Washington Nationals, where he blossomed into a decent everyday player.
Could Morse find himself on the trading block again?
Morse is an interesting case because he could indeed find himself back on the trading block if the Mariners falter in 2013. He is in the last year of a $10.5 million deal and could prove to be a valuable trade asset for many teams looking for power and versatility.
Seattle has also been known to trade away players shortly after acquiring them. The Mariners acquired Cliff Lee after the 2009 season only to trade him before the trade deadline during the following season.
You can expect Morse's name to be batted around the rumor mill once again if the Mariners fail to remain in contention. The usual suspects from the AL East will undoubtedly be in play for his services.
Value, value, value.
Teams are often looking for value when they attempt to swing trades to bolster their team's chances of winning a World Series. One player would could hold tremendous value as the season unfolds is Delmon Young of the Philadelphia Phillies.
A postseason hero with the Detroit Tigers in 2012, Young struggled to parlay his ALCS MVP into a lucrative long-term deal.
Instead, Young signed a one-year, incentive-laden $750 K deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Many have blamed Young's weight struggles on his inability to secure a long-term deal.
According to a story in USA TODAY, Young can make an additional 600K if he meets certain weight-loss requirements.
"When I knew I wasn't going to see the field, you can eat just a little bit extra," Young said to reporters in January. "I've been on a strict diet. You can get carried away on clubhouse food and late-night room service. Some ice cream and good-luck cakes. But when you go back to the outfield, you have got to eat lighter."
Young has averaged 16 home runs and 89 RBI throughout his seven-year career. If he can stay healthy and in shape, there is a good chance teams will come calling if the Phillies fall out of contention.
Could the Phillies trade Young?
It really depends how they fare in the newly competitive NL East. As it stands right now, the Phillies could be considered to be third-best team on paper in the division behind the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals. If the Phillies are unable to gain any traction in 2013, there is a good chance that Young could find himself on the trade market.
Who would be interested?
The short answer is everyone!
His salary and pending free-agent status could spur many teams into inquiring about the slugger. Even small-market teams such as the Oakland A's and the Pittsburgh Pirates could find themselves vying for Young if he becomes available.
Is Matt Garza part of Theo Epstein's future plans?
That answer will undoubtedly be answered in 2013 as the Cubs continue to look to rebuild for the future.
Garza is one of the holdovers from the Jim Hendry regime and could still play a significant role for the Cubs going forward. However, at 29, Garza has the potential to be a significant trade chip if the Cubs decide to move the veteran pitcher before he becomes a free agent after season's end.
Where could Garza wind up?
There have been several teams over the past year who have shown interest in the right-hander. Garza will have to prove, however, that he fully healed from the elbow injury that sidelined him for the latter part of the 2012 season. Some possible destinations that have been mentioned have included the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees.
Garza has been a consistently good pitcher when he has been healthy. He went 10-10 with a 3.32 ERA in 31 starts in 2011. If he can stay off the disabled list, he would be a good option for teams looking for a veteran arm before the trade deadline.
The Giants will have an interesting decision to make this season in regards to two-time NL Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum.
The 28-year-old right-hander is due to become a free agent at the end of the 2013 season, and the Giants will have to decide whether or not to re-sign him to a long-term deal.
Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle said via Twitter that the Giants are going to try to re-sign the hurler to a long-term deal.
Random piece of info: #sfgiants have not given up on Lincecum long-term. I'm told prospect of re-signing Lince as a FA next year ...— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) January 15, 2013
If the Giants chose not to re-sign Lincecum, there is a good chance that they may try to trade him before the July 31 trade deadline.
Lincecum is an interesting possibility for many teams as he has already won two NL Cy Young awards in his career. However, velocity issues and a sub-par 10-15 record in 2012 could deter some teams from giving up any blue-chip prospects if the Giants decide to put him on the trading block.
The first half of 2012 will tell the tale for Lincecum and the defending world champion Giants. There is a good chance Lincecum could become available if the Giants fail to meet up to expectations.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson will have a big decision to make regarding the future of Johan Santana. The 33-year-old left-hander is entering the final season of six-year, $137.5 million contract. The club does hold a $25 million option for 2014, but it's almost a foregone conclusion that Alderson and Co. will not exercise it.
So, will the Mets be placing Santana on the trading block this summer and if they do will there be teams vying to make a deal?
Santana has won two Cy Young awards and has led his respective leagues in ERA three times. His win totals have not been awfully impressive over the past several seasons, and he did miss all of 2011 with a shoulder injury.
However, his no-hitter in 2012 for the Mets was the first in franchise history, and he has shown that he can still be a capable pitcher when healthy.
Even with his positives, the Mets seem to be looking to get younger in the rotation. There is a good chance they will look to deal him to a team willing to take a chance on a veteran left-handed arm.
You can never quite count out the Los Angeles Angels. Arte Moreno has deep pockets and he wouldn't bat an eyelash to add another starter. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe believes that the Mets would also be willing to pay part of the remaining salary on Santana if the right deal presented itself.
Stay tuned on this one.
There was some significant Jacoby Ellsbury news in January as he avoided arbitration and signed a one-year, $9 million contract with the Red Sox in 2013.
This move doesn't guarantee that the 29-year-old center fielder will re-sign with the club prior to the end of the season. Also, since Ellsbury is a Scott Boras client, there is a good chance the Red Sox will be interested in fielding trades for the speedy center fielder.
So, where could Ellsbury potentially wind up?
Well, one trade idea that has been thrown out there was by former Red Sox Curt Schilling who said via Twitter that the Phillies should start trade talks. Schilling tweeted:
Phillies call Boston, Lee for Ellsbury— Curt Schilling (@gehrig38) December 5, 2012
Fellow Bleacher Report writer Ian Casselberry thinks trading Ellsbury for Cliff Lee would be a "terrible idea." I agree as it doesn't seem like the Red Sox are interested in adding veteran arms. A team like the New York Mets could be a decent fit for a player such as Ellsbury.
Ellsbury battled through injuries in 2012, playing in 74 games where he batted .271 with four home runs and 26 RBI.
The Royals made a big splash this offseason with the acquisition of James Shields. With the acquisition of Shields, the Royals are hoping he can provide some veteran stability to a rotation which has been lacking a quality front-line starter for many years.
If the move for Shields does not prove to be enough for the Royals to climb back into contention in the AL Central, there is a good chance he could be on the trading block before the July 31 deadline.
Shields is owed $9 million this season and has a $12 million option for 2014. He also has a $1 million buyout for 2014, and that could prove to be enticing for teams who are looking for a capable rent-a-starter for the stretch run.
Joba Chamberlain burst spectacularly onto the scene with the Yankees in 2007 where he pitched to a miniscule 0.38 ERA. His regular season dominance was expected to carry over into the subsequent postseason and ALDS against the Cleveland Indians.
A Lake Erie insect attack followed by "Joba Rules" and several bizarre injuries have clouded a once promising career. Still at 27, Chamberlain still has the potential to play a significant role for the Yankees.
Would the Yankees ever consider trading Chamberlain?
The Yankees will at least have to entertain the idea if they fall out of contention. The idea of the Yankees not being in postseason contention sounds quite ridiculous as they have missed appearing only once in the last 18 years.
Still, with the upgrades in Toronto and Baltimore, the possibility of the Yankees not making the playoffs doesn't seem so far-fetched.
The Yankees avoided arbitration with Chamberlain in January agreeing on a one-year, $1.875 million deal. Chamberlain appeared in only 22 games in 2012, going 1-0 with a 4.35 ERA in 20 innings pitched. If he proves to be fully recovered from subsequent elbow and ankle troubles, there is a chance the Yankees might entertain dealing him.