Surprise MLB Teams That Could End Up as Sellers in 2013
Yesterday, I wrote about five teams that could be surprise “buyers” at the trade deadline. Now to the teams that are surprisingly bad early on and could be “sellers” by the time we get to July.
For those of us who love to hear all the latest rumors and rumblings on the "Hot Stove," we’ll have lots of fun discussing the several unexpected names on the market and trying to determine where they could be headed and what their team can get in return.
In 2012, the Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins were the unexpected “sellers.” The Boston Red Sox were still clinging to hope in late July but eventually unloaded some impact players a month later in the blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
So who will it be in 2013? Here’s an early look at five teams that might not be as good as we thought "on paper" and could be looking to deal some major league talent for prospects a few months from now.
Los Angeles Angels
Losing Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana and replacing them with Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas this past offseason hasn’t worked out so far for the 4-10 Los Angeles Angels.
The trio is a combined 1-6 with a 7.36 ERA through eight starts with 11 walks and 22 strikeouts in 40.1 innings pitched. Neither Haren nor Santana were particularly great last season, but both pitched well in the second half as the Angels made a strong run at a playoff spot.
The inability of the rotation to work deep into games is causing the bullpen to be overworked. Losing ace Jered Weaver for four to six weeks with a fractured elbow doesn’t help either. C.J. Wilson has kept his team in the game during his three outings, but his 11 walks to 14 strikeouts ratio can’t have Angels fans feeling very confident about their current No. 1 starter.
The offense, led by Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo, appears capable of leading a potentially potent attack while the pitching staff struggles, but the Angels have already lost the left side of their infield for extended time due to injuries and Josh Hamilton (pictured) is off to a terrible start (.200 BA, 2 HR, 4 BB, 18 K).
We can’t forget that the 2012 Angels were off to a 6-14 start before Trout sparked the team and led them back into the division race. The 2013 version, as thin as it is in the pitching staff, will find it hard to duplicate the task.
Amongst the players who could be shopped if the Angels fall out of contention are free agent-to-be relief pitchers Scott Downs and Ryan Madson, and the lefty Vargas, who is making $8.5 million and could have some value as long as the Angels are willing to eat some salary.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Hearing “you can never have enough pitching depth” can sound like a cliche, but it sure seems like it always comes to fruition at some point during the season.
The Dodgers were set to start 2013 with three starting pitchers as the odd men out in a very deep and talented rotation.
But Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly started the season on the disabled list, Aaron Harang was traded to the Colorado Rockies (they traded him to Seattle), Greinke was lost for two months with a fractured collarbone, and now Chris Capuano is on the shelf with a strained calf.
Good bye, pitching depth. Now the infield, also short on depth, has some company. Hanley Ramirez’s (pictured) injury exposed that early on. Now the pitching looks vulnerable.
A three-game sweep by the last-place San Diego Padres has the Dodgers under .500 (7-8) and in fourth place early in the season. They certainly have enough talent on the 25-man roster, however, to hang around and make a strong run once they get fully healthy in the second half.
More injuries, though, and they could struggle to be a .500 team, much less one that competes for the playoffs.
The list of pending free agents isn’t impressive (Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston Jr., Skip Schumaker, Capuano, Ted Lilly, Matt Guerrier, J.P. Howell), but they could look to shop a corner outfielder, likely Andre Ethier, so top prospect Yasiel Puig can take over in right field in 2014.
Despite an offseason filled with some not-so-exciting acquisitions (John Lannan, Ben Revere, Delmon Young, Michael Young), any team with Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay (pictured) and Cliff Lee leading the rotation has a chance to compete.
Full seasons from Chase Utley and Ryan Howard also gave the team reason for optimism while the signing of top setup man Mike Adams was a step in improving a bullpen that struggled in 2012.
After losing three straight to drop to 6-9, though, they’re already 6.5 games out in the NL East where the Atlanta Braves are threatening to run away early and the Washington Nationals are capable of joining them.
The significance of a good season from an impending free agent is that they could be shopped to a contender, as Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino were last July. Utley and Young, the only two position players who are off to good starts, along with Halladay, will likely be the most sought-after players.
Utley and Halladay have partial no-trade clauses in their contracts, but both would likely consider waiving it for a chance to play in October.
Tampa Bay Rays
Entering the 2013 season without No. 2 starter James Shields, who was traded to the Kansas City Royals in the offseason, and with several question marks in the starting lineup, the Tampa Bay Rays appeared to have some challenges ahead of them.
While they’ve certainly been able to exceed expectations plenty of times in the past, they’re off to a rough start, and they may not have the firepower to dig themselves out of a hole.
No, not even power-hitting prospect Wil Myers, who is likely to join the team sometime in June, can save the Rays if they fall too far out of the playoff race.
If Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson or James Loney can get hot, they could have some value on the trade market, as will Luke Scott if he can get healthy. Closer Fernando Rodney, if he’s anywhere near the pitcher he was in 2012, will be in high demand and could get the Rays a very good prospect back in a deal.
The big catch, though, for contenders would 2012 AL Cy Young winner David Price (pictured). It’s unlikely the Rays would shop him just yet since he's under team control through 2015, but it’s becoming obvious that they won’t be able to afford him long term.
The 27-year-old could bring back an impressive haul of young talent, although the Rays could wait until the offseason when more teams would be involved in the bidding.
Toronto Blue Jays
It was the Marlins who had great expectations in 2012 after signing Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle in the offseason. They failed to come anywhere close to those expectations, though.
Now it’s the Toronto Blue Jays who've acquired Reyes and Buehrle, along with Josh Johnson, R.A. Dickey and Melky Cabrera and entered the 2013 season with championship aspirations. And like the Marlins, they’re off to a disappointing start. To make matters worse, Reyes could miss three months with an ankle injury.
Buehrle (7.31 ERA), Dickey (5.82 ERA) and Johnson (6.91 ERA) might be better than their inflated ERAs indicate due to each having one really bad start (Buehrle has had two poor starts), but none of the three look like the No. 1 starter they’ve been in the past so far.
Reyes was the hottest hitter in the Jays’ lineup while newcomers Cabrera, Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis have struggled, Jose Bautista has missed several games due to an ear infection and back spasms and Edwin Encarnacion is off to a slow start.
They’re talented enough to turn things around. But so were the Marlins, who actually had a nice run to get back into it last May before falling apart again in June.
If they can't, the Jays could have one of the top starting pitcher trade chips on the market if Johnson’s last start is any indication. The 29 year-old, who is in the last year of a four-year, $39 million contract, allowed just two earned runs over seven innings with two walks and eight strikeouts.
He was one of the top pitchers in the game before a shoulder injury knocked him out of action in 2011.
Shopping center fielder Colby Rasmus (.879 OPS), who is under contract through 2014, to open up a spot for Anthony Gose is also a possibility.