We're still probably about six to eight weeks away from when the majority of in-season trades will go down. Aside from a few useful players who may have become expendable for some reason or another—the Atlanta Braves traded Juan Francisco to the Brewers on Monday after he was "DFA'd" a few days ago—don't expect much trade activity in the month of June.
There were two notable deals last June. The first happened on June 24 with Kevin Youkilis moving from the Boston Red Sox to the Chicago White Sox for utility man Brent Lillibridge and pitcher Zach Stewart.
At the time, Youkilis had just returned from a three-week stint on the disabled list and had been struggling at the plate earlier in the season. His replacement, rookie Will Middlebrooks, had burst onto the scene and was sporting a .949 OPS with nine homers and 34 RBIs in less than two months in the majors.
It turned out to be a great deal for Chicago, where Youkilis gave the team plenty of production with a .771 OPS and 15 homers in 80 games. Lillibridge was 2-for-16 in his short Red Sox career. Stewart, now back in the White Sox organization, allowed 14 earned runs in 5.2 innings over two starts.
The second trade happened on June 27 when the Baltimore Orioles added veteran Jim Thome for two minor leaguers, catcher Gabriel Lino and pitcher Kyle Simon. While he didn't make a huge impact on the field, mostly because of a neck injury that sidelined him for nearly two months, Thome did post a .744 OPS with three homers in 28 games and also had 15 postseason plate appearances.
I don't know if we'll have any impact trades in June, but there will be plenty of rumors and speculation. Here's all of the latest.
No. 1 Player On Trade Market?
When Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe recently asked 12 executives, scouts and players who would be the top player on the trade market, the consensus pick was Philadelphia Phillies starter Cliff Lee.
The fact that Lee was the choice, even though the Phillies are still only 7.5 games out in the NL East, gives you an idea of what people around the league think of their chances to stay in the playoff race.
The 34-year-old lefty also expects to be dealt, according to this article by Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports. Lee can block trades to 20 teams, including the Orioles, Texas Rangers, Red Sox and New York Yankees. The Cardinals have been confirmed to not be on the no-trade list.
As for whether Lee would accept a deal, he seems open to the possibility (via Morosi).
I can’t sit here and come up with the what-ifs. If (a trade scenario) presents itself, I’ll have to look at the situation and figure it out. Right now, I’m a Phillie and I want to do everything I can to help this team win.
Don't expect the Orioles to have interest, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. They are on Lee's no-trade list, but he is way out of their price range anyway. Second-tier options such Josh Johnson or Jason Vargas could make more sense.
The O's are 32-25 and have played well overall, but they've already used 11 starting pitchers and have had quality starts in just 44 percent of their 57 games.
Some other "game-changers" who could be shopped for top prospects, according to one American League general manager (via Cafardo), are Jake Peavy and Alex Rios of the White Sox, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion of the Toronto Blue Jays and Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins.
Cafardo also thinks the Phillies would shop closer Jonathan Papelbon if they start selling off major pieces like Lee because they wouldn't need a top closer in a rebuilding situation
Peavy (pictured), who has a guaranteed $14.5 million salary for 2014 and a possible $15 million player option in 2015, could be the top starter available if the Sox decided to sell.
In this article by Chuck Garfien of CSN Chicago, the 32-year-old Peavy says he'd love to finish his career in Chicago, but is also open to the possibility of being traded to a contender that has a shot at a World Series.
After several injury-plagued seasons, the former NL Cy Young winner has a 3.43 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.2 K/9 in 42 starts since the start of the 2012 season. The White Sox are only 6.5 games out in the AL Central, but are 24-31 after seven consecutive losses.
Brewers Players Could Be Popular Trade Targets
One team that might not be that far away from throwing in the towel and going into "seller" mode is the last-place Milwaukee Brewers. At 21-35 and 16.5 games out in the NL Central, they could look to shop free-agent-to-be Corey Hart when he comes of the disabled list in a few weeks as well as lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez.
General manager Doug Melvin states in this article by Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he'd be searching for players who could help two to three years down the road. So if he's looking that far ahead, he could be willing to trade ace Yovani Gallardo, who is only signed through 2014 with a $13 million club option in 2015.
The problem is that he's not pitching anything like an ace in 2013. He has a 5.05 ERA with a 1.493 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched)—both would be career highs—and his 7.4 K/9 would be the lowest of his career, which had been pretty darn good coming into the season (3.63 ERA, 3.5 BB/9, 9.2 K/9 from 2007-2012).
Gallardo is only 27 years old, however, and the $11.85 million contract he's guaranteed ($11.25 million in 2014 salary plus $600,000 buyout for 2015) for the remainder of his deal would be a bargain if he can bounce back. If the Brewers are willing to sell a bit low considering his current struggles, there could be several teams interested.
Another Milwuakee player certain to draw interest is veteran third baseman Aramis Ramirez (pictured), who told Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports that he is aware of this. The soon-to-be 35-year-old is having another terrific season (.877 OPS) despite battling knee issues that cost him a few weeks on the disabled list and several days off since returning.
Guaranteed $20 million through 2014—$16 million in 2014 salary plus a $4 million buyout if his $14 million mutual option isn't exercised in 2015—Ramirez would seem like a risky acquisition considering his high salary, knee trouble and age.
A contending team desperate for some right-handed power in the middle of the lineup and a corner infielder or designated hitter could be willing to give up a prospect or two—just don't expect an elite player in return.