With each passing day in the MLB, trade talk becomes a bit more pronounced.
Oftentimes, performance dictates how a team proceeds as it approaches the trade deadline in late July. In some cases, injuries will determine a team's actions as well.
Inevitably, each team will have players on its roster that it may try to unload but will find no suitors. Bloated long-term contracts could be a factor. So, too, could current performance and historical trends.
Whatever the case, each MLB team has at least one member of its roster that would be considered worthless trade bait.
Here is an accounting of those players.
With Didi Gregorius taking over at shortstop, Cliff Pennington has now moved to second base, albeit temporarily.
Pennington is only there because Aaron Hill is on the disabled list with a broken hand. So, too, is Willie Bloomquist, who is working his way back from a strained oblique.
If Gregorius continues his hot start, Pennington will likely be out of a job once Bloomquist and Hill make their way back.
Given that he's hit only .194 thus far and .213 since the start of the 2012 season, Pennington likely won't be getting many offers from suitors. His two-year, $5 million deal is also a major roadblock—teams simply won't commit more than a year to a utility infielder hitting below the Mendoza line.
Second baseman Dan Uggla signed a five-year, $62 million deal with the Atlanta Braves shortly after his trade from the Florida Marlins in 2010. Under the terms of the deal, Uggla is making $13 million during the final three years of the deal, meaning the Braves currently owe him just under $39 million.
Uggla belted 36 home runs in the first year of his deal, but courtesy of a horrible first half, he hit just .233 with a career-low .764 OPS. He followed up with a worse year in 2012, hitting just .220 with a .732 OPS. His 19 home runs represented a low mark in his career as well.
Now, Uggla is struggling once again. He's hitting just .185 with a whopping 31.2 strikeout rate. With those numbers, it's hard to imagine him spending the rest of his days in an Atlanta uniform under his current contract.
In turn, the Braves are caught between a rock and a hard place. Uggla's deal makes it extremely difficult to move him. Any deal involving him will require the Braves to pony up a sizable portion of the remaining dollars on his deal. With his current performance, the Braves likely won't receive an attractive package in return, either.
Absolutely stuck between that rock and a hard place.
The Baltimore Orioles have been set up in such a way that they currently don't have players under contract that would be considered outrageous deals. They also don't have players currently on their roster who could be worthless to other teams for that matter.
An argument could be made for designated hitter/infielder Wilson Betemit. He's currently on the disabled list while he rehabs from arthroscopic knee surgery. His contract is up at the end of the year, and it's hard to point at his $1.75 million salary as a hindrance.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy is owed $14 through next season, making it difficult to deal him as well. He is hitting just .179 but has three home runs and 12 RBI. Projected over a full season, it's hard to call that worthless.
Boston Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey is tentatively scheduled to make his return to the lineup on Sunday.
With his biceps injury a thing of the past, Lackey will again attempt his return from Tommy John surgery and try to provide his team with quality starts from here on out.
The Red Sox would love to see the Lackey that was on top of his game with the Los Angeles Angels in the late 2000s. If they get the Lackey that completely underwhelmed in 2011, though, he becomes an expensive roster piece that is close to untouchable in a trade.
Lackey is owed $15.25 million for each of the next two seasons. The good news—if you can call it that—is that a clause in his contract calls for the Red Sox to pick up an option for the 2015 season at the league-minimum salary if Lackey missed significant time due to an elbow injury.
That doesn't necessarily make him more palatable to other teams, however.
Even though he's only making $2 million, the Chicago Cubs took a decided risk in bringing back third baseman Ian Stewart for one more season. Stewart hit just .201 with five home runs in 55 games last season before undergoing surgery on his left wrist during the All-Star break.
Fearing a lack of production from third base, the Cubs took a chance and signed Stewart, hoping the surgery would correct his offensive woes. Unfortunately, he was placed on the disabled list with a left quad injury and has yet to make his 2013 debut.
Stewart is currently on assignment at Triple-A Iowa, but he has struggled at the plate, going 1-for-17 with eight strikeouts.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum made clear in comments to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun Times that he's in no rush to see Stewart back in Chicago:
We’re not in a big hurry. [Luis] Valbuena right now has probably been one of our most consistent players defensively and offensively — on-base percentage, getting his walks. He’s doing a good job.
There’s no real urgency [with Stewart]. He’s got to go down there and get hot swinging the bat.
Sounds pretty close to a condemnation, doesn't it?
The Cubs are hoping that prospect Josh Vitters is their long-term solution at third. Unless Stewart somehow starts raking in Iowa, his future in Chicago is indeed cloudy and his trade value is nearly nonexistent.
The Chicago White Sox are currently paying $15 million annually to a guy hitting .100 who creates a massive windstorm with each whiff at the plate.
Designated hitter Adam Dunn got paid $12 million to hit just .159 with 11 home runs in 2011. He brought in $14 million last year while slugging 41 home runs and raising his average just slightly above the Mendoza line.
Now, Dunn is making $15 million while serving as an almost-automatic out.
Opposing pitchers must be delighted when Dunn steps to the plate this season. He's hitting worse than most National League pitchers at this point, except for the all-too-occasional home run.
General manager Rick Hahn must be cursing Kenny Williams for agreeing to that deal.
Calling Jonathan Broxton worthless is not what's trying to be conveyed here at all.
When he was offered a three-year deal, it was with the idea that he would be the closer for the Cincinnati Reds. Cincinnati was keen on moving Aroldis Chapman to the starting rotation, but only if it had an established closer in place.
The Reds of course waffled on that decision—much like the year before—and Broxton was relegated to a seventh/eighth-inning relief status.
Few relievers in baseball are being paid $21 million over three years to work in support of their closer.
Broxton is by no means worthless, but the contract could be in terms of its trade value.
After signing a one-year, $7 million contract with the Cleveland Indians, Brett Myers was supposed to help upgrade a starting rotation that was woeful in 2012.
However, Myers posted an 0-3 record with an ugly 8.02 ERA. Opposing batters had no trouble figuring him out early, hitting .319 with a 1.057 OPS against him.
Myers is now on the disabled list after being diagnosed with tendinitis and a sprained ligament in his elbow.
If he continues tanking after his return, player and contract are completely useless in terms of trade value.
When the Colorado Rockies re-signed pitcher Jeff Francis to a one-year deal during the offseason, you could have characterized my reaction at the time as somewhat incredulous.
Francis was brought back for a second stint by the Rockies last year and posted a 5.58 ERA in 24 starts, adding to the Rockies' misery from their rotation.
He's doing the same this year as well.
Francis has thus far posted an 8.44 ERA in his four starts. Opposing batters have had a field day against him, hitting .375 with a 1.045 OPS.
The $1.5 million contract wouldn't be a deterrent in dealing Francis, but his current worth in terms of performance is a horse of a different color.
With a $900K salary and a spot as the 24th or 25th player on the roster, utility man Don Kelly of the Detroit Tigers is not going to be a game-changer on many occasions.
But providing at least something at this point would be nice.
Kelly hit just .186 with a home run in 75 games last year and appeared in only four games, with two plate appearances during the postseason. This year, Kelly has hit just .118 in 10 games.
At 33 years of age and with his current production, a minor league replacement player would have more value than Kelly in any trade scenario.
After hitting a blazing .042 with a lofty .157 OPS, the Houston Astros finally decided to ship first baseman Brett Wallace to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Sarcasm aside, Wallace completely stunk up the joint, and I'm honestly surprised the Astros didn't just grant him his release.
Because, at this point, Wallace has virtually no value at all.
The Kansas City Royals made several changes to their pitching staff this offseason, opting to do everything they could to win now.
Thus far, all of the transactions have worked out well. With a 3.27 ERA, the Royals have the third-best staff in the American League.
At this point, the Royals don't have a contract that would be considered worthless at all.
Contributions have come from the entire roster. Considering they're sitting at the top of the AL Central Division as of Thursday, general manager Dayton Moore has constructed a roster that finally seems to make sense and has given fans in Kansas City hope for the first time in over 25 years.
Contributing a 7.84 ERA thus far in four starts, Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Joe Blanton has taken a beating from fans and media alike.
Consider this particular stat from MLB.com beat writer Alden Gonzalez:
Joe Blanton has given up at least one hit in each of the 22 innings he's taken the mound in this season; a run in 14 of them. #Angels— Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) April 23, 2013
Here's a fan who describes what he believes Blanton might be worth on the open market:
Hey Dodgers hear you might need a pitcher? How about this guy, Joe Blanton, for a carton of dodgers dogs and a box of peanuts?— Eric Manley (@emanl001) April 23, 2013
Sometimes, it's just worth it to let Twitter be the judge. And in this case, Blanton's worth has been vocalized quite clearly.
With Luis Cruz struggling early and Hanley Ramirez still hobbled, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been forced to use Juan Uribe much more than they probably would have liked.
Uribe has been a complete disaster since signing a three-year deal prior to the 2011 season. Thankfully, the Dodgers are out from under his contract at the end of the season.
But in hitting just .190 thus far, they still wouldn't get much of anything in value in return should they decide to purge later in the season.
One fan in particular thought he saw a mirage the other day; he felt compelled to provide evidence:
Yeah, there's real value there.
Miami Marlins outfielder Chris Coghlan—a former National League Rookie of the Year Award winner—is still hanging on to job.
Coghlan is hitting .171 with one RBI in 16 games this season. After winning the award as the top rookie in 2009, he has struggled mightily, hitting just .140 in 39 games last season.
Hanging on with the Marlins is more a condemnation of the team's state of affairs than it is Coghlan's skills at this point.
Before this season, Alex Gonzalez had never started at a position other than shortstop. He's playing out of position this year, and he's batting like he's out of sorts.
Gonzalez has hit just .145 thus far with one home run. Coming off a torn ACL that cut short his 2012 season, he was brought back on a one-year deal. With injuries to Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart, he put his glove to the test at two new positions.
So far, the glove has been fine. The bat, however, has been non-existent.
If the Brewers are inclined to be sellers at the trade market, Gonzalez might have worth as a defensive replacement. But Milwaukee shouldn't be expecting much of any value in return.
The Minnesota Twins are playing surprisingly good baseball, with a 9-9 record through their first 18 games. They took a band-aid approach this offseason, choosing to patch up their pitching staff with low-risk signings and trades involving pitching prospects for the future.
Kevin Correia has been a pleasant surprise, Mike Pelfrey has been up and down in his early return from Tommy John surgery and Vance Worley delivered a quality outing in his last appearance after three shaky starts.
The bullpen is fifth in the majors with a 2.37 ERA, and the starting lineup is hitting .241 but is 10th in the majors with runners in scoring position.
Are things perfect in Minnesota? Not by a long shot, but I wouldn't proclaim anyone on the roster as worthless in value at this point, either.
Where else in America can you positively stink in your job one year and get an automatic raise for the following year?
At times, that can describe Major League Baseball, and it absolutely describes New York Mets reliever Frank Francisco.
Francisco was signed to a two-year, $12 million contract prior to the start of last season. He proceeded to post an ugly 5.53 ERA with just 23 saves. He made $5.5 million for his efforts and is due to make $6.5 million this season.
He has yet to make it onto the field, currently rehabbing a sore elbow in Florida. If Francisco returns and fails to improve on last year's subpar effort, his value on the open market will be next to nil.
With $114 million left for the next five years, bad hips and a regression in production, it should be fairly obvious that New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez simply won't interest anyone as trade bait.
Not in this lifetime, anyway.
Rodriguez won't even be available until the All-Star break or later, so his value—or lack thereof—is even more pronounced.
It seems like a contradiction in terms to call a man with the richest contract in baseball worthless. But considering the current state of affairs, there's no other term that's more appropriate.
The Oakland Athletics are once again operating with a payroll near the bottom of the league. At $60.7 million, according to USA Today, it's the fourth-lowest payroll in the majors.
Outfielder Chris Young holds down the largest salary on the team at $8.5 million (tied with Yoenis Cespedes). While he's hitting only .164, he has contributed four home runs and 14 RBI.
General manager Billy Beane has his team once again primed and ready to do damage in the AL West, and his troops are far from worthless in terms of trade value at this point.
The Philadelphia Phillies have a bevy of bloated contracts, making it difficult for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. to successfully navigate through changes in his roster.
With a current record of 9-14, patience is starting to wear thin among fans in Philadelphia. Fans on Twitter are already chiming in on their team's possible playoff chances:
@mikemiss975 Phillies are 9-14 & i still hear sports radio talk postseason/playoffs....anyone that sees this team playing postseason is nuts— Robert Kinsler (@bokins1967) April 26, 2013
A player with one of the above-mentioned bloated contracts, Ryan Howard, has already seen the wrath of fans on Twitter:
phillies 9-14 this year..cant say i didnt tell you so..ryan howard is the biggest waste of $ in baseball..along with a-rod ill admit— tiger would (@TheReal_JayG) April 25, 2013
Considering the negative sentiment lately about A-Rod, that's definitely not a good sign.
Another fan sees the downward progression in Howard's production:
Howard is hitting .284 but with only two home runs and nine RBI thus far.
Since signing a two-year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates prior to the 2012 season, shortstop Clint Barmes has hit just .219, including a .140 average to start the 2013 season.
It's fair to say that fans aren't thrilled with Barmes right now. When Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Phillippe Aumonte hit Barmes with a pitch in Thursday's game, one fan on Twitter was prompted to discuss the futility of such a play.
Hitting Clint Barmes with a pitch has to be the most futile possible thing to do in a baseball game.— Pat Lackey (@whygavs) April 25, 2013
Another was just thrilled that Barmes somehow found a way to get on base.
Clint Barmes hit by pitch!Hooray!Not an automatic out!#Pirates.
— JordanSembower (@JordanSembower) April 25, 2013
When sentiment is trending so badly like that, it's a clear indication of the perception of that particular player's worth. In the case of Barmes, fans don't hold back in their feelings.
The San Diego Padres have seen their share of misery in terms of on-field performance early in the 2013 season. With the second-worst record in the National League, it's hard not to see it, in fact.
What the Padres have in abundance, however, is trade bait. None of their current players have contracts that would be considered a hindrance or roadblock, and if they continue on their current path, general manager Josh Byrnes is likely to field a bevy of calls from interested parties.
The San Francisco Giants worked during the offseason to take care of their own.
General manager Brian Sabean's chief concern during the winter was to re-sign his own free agents, and he was successful with his three main targets—Jeremy Affeldt, Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro.
A positive argument could certainly be made in the deals offered to both Pagan and Scutaro. But Affeldt's three-year, $21 million contract raised a whole lot of eyebrows.
Simply put, if the Giants were to consider being sellers at the deadline, no other team would be willing to jump for Affeldt's services. It's clear the Giants valued Affeldt far beyond any other team—the salary offered to home reflects that sentiment.
But no other team in its right mind would take that salary on for the sake of trying to win this season. Two more years and an additional $14 million makes Affeldt nearly untouchable.
The Seattle Mariners have several outstanding young pitching prospects currently developing in their system, but none of them are quite ready for the bright lights and the big city.
Needing arms for their rotation, the Mariners saw an opportunity and went for it, acquiring Aaron Harang from the Colorado Rockies just five days after he had been dealt by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Thus far, Harang hasn't done anything to help the Mariners rotation. He's posted a 10.24 ERA in his two starts thus far.
With Seattle currently sporting a 9-15 record, it's not hard to see that it could be sellers by the All-Star break. Harang could very well be one of the pieces dangled by GM Jack Zduriencik. Considering the effort put forth thus far, Zduriencik would be well-advised to keep his expectations low in terms of the value he'll receive in return.
For much of his career, Ty Wigginton has served a role as a versatile reserve capable of filling in at multiple positions and providing his team with key at-bats in pressure situations.
Now with his eighth team in 12 seasons, it's possible Wigginton has finally hit a wall. He's hitting just .125 in 10 games thus far for the St. Louis Cardinals.
It's certainly early in the season and way too early to pronounce Wigginton as washed up, but based on early returns, he's not giving the Cardinals what they expected. And they're stuck with him for another season as well.
The Tampa Bay Rays are the third team in the past three years to take a chance on second baseman Kelly Johnson.
After the Atlanta Braves declined to offer Johnson a contract, he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010. He proceeded to have a career year with 26 home runs, 71 RBI and a .284 average.
That would prove to be the high water in his career, however.
Johnson struggled to the point that the D-Backs gave up on him in 2011, swapping second basemen with the Toronto Blue Jays, who had lost patience with Aaron Hill.
Johnson showed enough promise for the rest of that season to prompt the Jays to re-sign him for 2012. That proved to be a mistake, as he hit just .225 with 159 strikeouts.
This year, it was the Rays' turn to take a chance, signing Johnson to a one-year, $2.45 million deal.
The Rays are getting the exact same from Johnson that he delivered in the previous two seasons: not much. He's hitting just .185 in 19 games thus far.
With four teams in five years and production that hasn't come close to matching expectations, Johnson's value to other teams at this point is minimal at best.
Catcher Geovany Soto won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2008. He hasn't come close to equaling that season since.
Now with the Texas Rangers, Soto has been relegated to backup duty only, and his production thus far has been minimal, with a .154 average in four games.
Soto's value at this point is even less than minimal—there are plenty of catchers currently toiling in the majors who provide far more production for less money.
When the Toronto Blue Jays revamped their starting rotation over the offseason, it meant that one-time ace Ricky Romero—coming off a rocky 2012 season—was now the No. 5 starter.
It was quite a drop for a pitcher once deemed the anchor of the future for the Jays. His ongoing struggles in spring training led to him being assigned to extended spring training to work out his mechanics.
Romero is owed $22.5 million over the next three seasons. If he's unable to work the kinks out of his delivery, his value is virtually nil.
Dan Haren suffered through the worst season of his career last year with the Los Angeles Angels. He saw his consecutive-games-started streak come to an end, diminished velocity and questions about his health.
The Washington Nationals took a chance and signed Haren to a one-year, $13 million deal. They may be regretting that decision.
Haren has yet to throw anything close to a quality start and has failed to register more than five innings in any start. With a 1-3 record and 7.36 ERA, he looks like a shell of the pitcher who was considered durable and effective for nearly a decade.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.
Feel free to talk baseball with Doug anytime on Twitter.