7 MLB Players Guaranteed to Be Dealt Before Trade Deadline
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There are currently only five MLB teams that are more than 10 games out of a playoff spot and more than a few examples of similar teams catching fire late in the season and returning to playoff contention.
On the other hand, most of these teams just aren't very good.
Some teams that are only a few games back are obviously not very good. While one can't completely eliminate them from playing meaningful baseball again for much longer, it's becoming clear which teams won't be "buyers" this July and will certainly be looking to trade any soon-to-be free agents on their roster.
Here are seven players I guarantee will be dealt by July 31, 2013.
Marlon Byrd, OF, New York Mets
In case you haven't noticed, Marlon Byrd is having a pretty good season for the Mets. The 35-year-old outfielder came into Monday's game with an .816 OPS, including 11 homers and 32 runs batted in. His 27-homer pace would be a career high.
The Mets are nowhere close to a playoff spot and any free agent-to-be will be on the trade block. That means Byrd and veteran relievers Brandon Lyon and LaTroy Hawkins, neither of whom would bring back much in return.
Byrd could be approaching peak value during his recent hot streak, and the Mets might want to open playing time for Double-A right fielder Cesar Puello, who is having a breakout season (.330 BA, 13 HR, 46 RBI, 11 2B, 17 SB in 53 games) and could merit a big league call-up by midseason.
Jesse Crain, RP, Chicago White Sox
After not pitching for a week, all Crain did on Monday was pitch 1.2 scoreless innings while striking out three of five batters faced to extend his scoreless appearance streak to 26 (25.2 IP, 17 H, 7 BB, 36 K). He's easily the top reliever expected to be available in a trade over the next six weeks.
The White Sox, who are 28-39, aren't ready to call it a season just yet. But they know they'll have a nice trade chip if they don't get back into contention. The 31-year-old Crain is in the last season of a three-year, $13 million deal.
Scott Feldman, RHP, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs might have a miserable second half of the season—yes, even more miserable than the first half they're having (28-40)—if they were to trade Feldman and Matt Garza. But there's no way they can pass on the opportunity to trade two starting pitchers headed for free agency who are both pitching extremely well and would net the Cubs a few good prospects.
The 30-year-old Feldman lowered his ERA to 3.05 with a brilliant one-run, two-hit performance over seven innings on Saturday to give him his eighth quality start in his last 11 outings.
Signed to a one-year, $6 million deal before the season, the Cubs will likely end up paying for about half of that and netting a very good prospect in a trade.
Matt Garza, SP, Chicago Cubs
The 29-year-old bounced back from a disastrous outing on June 11 (5 IP, 9 ER, 9 H) to pitch seven shutout innings against the Mets on Sunday. He's had a few decent starts since returning from the disabled list on May 21, but he'll need to be more consistent and run off a string of solid starts for his value to peak.
For now, I'm guessing every team looking for starting pitching is keeping close tabs on Garza to make sure he's healthy and worth what will likely be a very high asking price by the Cubs. It's quite possible that Garza is the top starter on the trade market.
The Cubs could afford to sign Garza to a long-term extension, but they'll also be in good position to sign him this offseason even if they trade him away for prospects in July.
Ricky Nolasco, SP, Miami Marlins
I can't think of a single reason for the Marlins to hold on to Nolasco.
The 30-year-old right-hander will be a free agent after the season, and he's an extreme long shot to return. The Marlins need to look to the future and have a couple of young starters returning from the disabled list soon—Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi—that will need innings, and young starters Jose Fernandez and Jacob Turner already in the rotation.
Nolasco's also pitching well enough (3.61 ERA, 94.2 IP, 86 H, 23 BB, 76 K in 15 starts) that several contending teams would not only give up a decent prospect in return, but also likely pick up at least most of the remainder of his $11.5 million salary.
The only question is how much longer they'll wait to trade him. My guess is that he'll be one of the next players dealt.
Francisco Rodriguez, RP, Milwaukee Brewers
By mid-July, Rodriguez will likely have joined the 300-save club—he's at 298 right now, and the Brewers will likely give him the save opportunities to reach the goal. He's also pitching well thus far (11.1 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 10 K, 4 SV) and will be a nice piece for the back of a contending team's bullpen.
The 31-year-old could even be a target for a team seeking a closer—the Tigers could use an upgrade—but there will be a lot more teams looking for a seventh- or eighth-inning upgrade. Adding an experienced closer like Rodriguez as a setup man could be a savvy move for a team that needs to strengthen its 'pen.
Jason Vargas, LHP, Los Angeles Angels
If there's any team capable of making a run back into the playoff picture, it's the Angels—they're currently 30-39 and 8.5 games back of a playoff spot. So if there was one player I was on the fence about including, it would be Vargas.
But it's still a long shot and it's still very likely the 30-year-old Vargas, who is a free agent at season's end, will be on the trade block. The left-hander has a quality start in eight of his last 10 outings while posting a 3.10 ERA over that span.
Vargas has an $8.5 million salary, a steep price for some teams. If the Angels were to take on a couple extra million, they could land a better prospect for their very thin farm system.