Ranking MLB's Top 10 Corner Infield Trade Candidates
Several contending teams around the league will be looking to add a corner infielder by the trade deadline. The problem is that it doesn't appear as if the market will be flush with options.
The New York Yankees, who are without corner infield tandem Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis after both recently reaggravated injuries, could be looking for help. The cast of journeymen who have played so far above their heads for the first couple of months have all seen their production dwindle while the Yankees have dropped to four games out in the American League East.
With Youkilis out a minimum of eight weeks after back surgery and Teixeira possibly requiring season-ending wrist surgery, the combination of Lyle Overbay, David Adams and Jayson Nix at two spots in the lineup that should be providing some firepower makes it hard to believe the Yankees will stand pat.
Here are the top 10 corner infielders who could make sense for the Yankees or any other team looking for an upgrade at first or third base.
10. Carlos Pena, 1B, Houston Astros
From 2007 to 2011, Carlos Pena posted an .871 OPS while averaging 34 homers, 97 runs batted in and 95 walks in four seasons with Tampa Bay and the last with the Chicago Cubs. He returned to the Tampa Bay Rays last season, but his production had declined dramatically as he finished with a .684 OPS in 160 games.
At age 35, you can't expect him to return to his old form, but he's still a serviceable first baseman who can draw plenty of walks and hit the occasional homer (seven home runs, 35 walks in 69 games for Houston in 2013).
There aren't too many teams, if any, that would see him as a big enough upgrade to pursue, although he could be a very good fit with a contender as a left-handed bat off the bench.
9. Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins
I'm not sure winning the AL MVP award seven seasons ago and being voted to four consecutive All-Star Games from 2007 to 2010 will do anything for Justin Morneau's trade value, but it's about all the Minnesota Twins can use to try to get something of value in return for the 32-year-old.
After battling injuries for the past few seasons, he's healthy and playing everyday again. But his home run power is all but gone. The guy who averaged 30 homers per season from 2006 to 2009 has just two homers in 244 at-bats this season.
He is hitting .287 with 17 doubles, though. If he can mix in four or five homers in the next month—his last homer came on April 28—he could skyrocket to the top of this list. Regardless, the potential that he might actually return to his previous form will result in several teams being interested in at least taking a flier on Morneau.
As for the remainder of his $14 million salary for 2013, the Twins might have to eat most of it in order to get a decent prospect in return.
8. Michael Young, 3B/1B, Philadelphia Phillies
A promising start (.830 OPS in April) for Michael Young was all but written off after he posted a dismal .567 OPS in May. But here he comes again with 22 hits in 58 at-bats this month, including three doubles in Tuesday's game.
The 36-year-old would give the Yankees a versatile veteran who could give them starts at each corner and give them a solid bat off the bench if they ever get back to full strength.
7. Corey Hart, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers
Corey Hart isn't even expected to return to action until sometime after the All-Star break as his recovery from offseason knee surgery has taken longer than expected. The Milwaukee Brewers would've loved to have him back much sooner, not only to help a struggling ballclub, but to make sure his trade value was high by the time the trade deadline came around.
As it stands, interested teams won't have much assurance that he's 100 percent healthy and ready to produce as he has in the past. On the other hand, they could get a great value on a 31-year-old who has an .830 OPS while averaging 24 homers, 78 runs batted in, 33 doubles and 13 stolen bases over the past six seasons.
The price will be high for a rest-of-season rental coming off knee surgery, however, because he's a proven run producer who can hit anywhere in the lineup.
6. Paul Konerko, 1B, Chicago White Sox
Age may have finally caught up to one of the most consistent hitter's in the game. Or maybe it hasn't and Paul Konerko was just in a very uncharacteristic two-month long slump.
After posting a .630 OPS with only five homers in his first 197 at-bats, the 37-year-old is starting to show signs of life over the past 10 days (12-for-33, HR, 2 2B, 4 BB, 2 K). The power isn't quite there yet, but this could be a sign that he's breaking out of his slump.
If he can keep it up for a few more weeks and the Chicago White Sox can't gain ground in the playoff race, there will be plenty of teams hoping to acquire him. He'll need to decide if he'll waive his no-trade clause that he earned by spending at least 10 years in the majors and at least five of those with his current team.
5. Kendrys Morales, 1B, Seattle Mariners
Once upon a time, Kendrys Morales went by "Kendry Morales" and was an MVP candidate who hit .306 with 34 homers, 108 runs batted in and 43 doubles with the Los Angeles Angels back in 2009. He also started 147 games at first base that season.
But 51 games into the 2010 season, he fractured his ankle celebrating a walk-off grand slam and required season-ending surgery. Rehab did not go well, and he was forced to miss the 2011 season, as well.
The switch-hitter finally returned to the field in 2012, albeit a heavier version than when he had last played, and posted a .787 OPS while getting most of his at-bats as the designated hitter. Traded to Seattle prior to this season, it's been more of the same production (.768 OPS) while continuing to log most of his playing as the designated hitter.
What would amount to a two-to-three-month rental, acquiring the 29-year-old free agent-to-be Morales wouldn't cost a whole lot in return if the Seattle Mariners made him available on the trade market. He's in a 4-for-39 slump, but he was actually starting to resemble his 2009 form when he hit .335 with seven homers, 13 doubles and 28 runs batted in over his previous 40 games.
The Yankees wouldn't have a whole lot of at-bats for him in the designated hitter spot with Travis Hafner locked into that role, but he could still be a fit if they don't think his defense would be too much of a liability.
4. Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, Cleveland Indians
The 29-year-old looked like one of the biggest free-agent bargains in the game for about the first six weeks of the season. Mark Reynolds had a .934 OPS with 12 homers and 37 runs batted in through his first 138 at-bats.
Since, while spending most of his time at third base after a struggling Lonnie Chisenhall was demoted, Reynolds has a .476 OPS with seven walks and 42 strikeouts. Alarming, right? Sort of. But that's Reynolds. He's very streaky. Chisenhall is back, however, so maybe Reynolds will get it going again once he moves off of third base, where he's just not a very good defender.
Ideally, he'd fit on a team where he could play mostly first base and fill in occasionally at third. Sounds like a great fit for the Yankees.
3. Trevor Plouffe, 3B, Minnesota Twins
There's been no indication that the Twins would consider trading Trevor Plouffe, a 27-year-old under team control through 2017. But considering the lack of options that will be available on the trade market and Plouffe's impressive power numbers over his past 139 games played (28 HR, 28 2B, 74 RBI), he could bring back a nice return in a trade.
Of course, the Twins would then be left looking to fill a void in 2014, so they'll likely stand firm with a very high asking price for their young third baseman.
2. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers
Aramis Ramirez would be the clear-cut favorite on this list if he wasn't hampered by a knee injury that's cost him some time and might even have something to do with his lack of production as of late.
The soon-to-be 35-year-old had a very strong month of May (.834 OPS, 3 HR, 5 2B, 13 RBI) after returning from the disabled list, but he's just 10-for-45 in June and hasn't homered since May 17, when he hit two in the same game. He had a .900 OPS in his Milwaukee debut last season, including 27 homers and 50 doubles.
With another year remaining on his contract (due $16 million in 2014; $14 million mutual option with $4 million buyout in 2015), Ramirez is a risk to take on due to his age and his balky knee. But with a lack of options available for a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers, he'll still have plenty of interest from contending teams.
1. Michael Morse, 1B/OF, Seattle Mariners
Interestingly enough, it's Michael Morse's former team, the Washington Nationals, that could probably use his right-handed bat in the middle of its order more than any team in baseball. The Nationals have a league-worst .611 OPS versus left-handed pitching, while Morse is crushing lefties this season (.977 OPS, 5 HR, 5 2B) and has a pretty good track record against them throughout his career (.876 OPS).
The 31-year-old has missed time with a fractured pinkie and is currently playing with a sore quad muscle, but he could be a force in the second half if completely healthy. The asking price would be high for a rest-of-season rental, but the potential reward could be higher than any other player on this list.
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