MLB Trade Rumors: Ideal Destinations for Top 5 Players on the Market

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJune 20, 2013

MLB Trade Rumors: Ideal Destinations for Top 5 Players on the Market

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    Now that the draft is over, the next milestone in the Major League Baseball season is the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. All 30 teams have had time to evaluate where they are now and where they are going in the future. 

    While a lot of things are going to change over the next six weeks that may alter who buys and who sells, teams know that what they do is going to change everything for better or worse. 

    One of the problems with the trade deadline, especially at this particular moment, is that there are so many teams still in contention, or under the illusion of contention; thus there won't be as many trades bantered about right now.

    That doesn't mean there aren't rumors, though. It just goes to show how much this stretch of the season has changed over the years with the advent of the second wild card. 

    Here is our look at the top players who could be on the move at the deadline, and the best fit for them. 

Cliff Lee, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Best Fit: Cliff Lee to the Texas Rangers

    The Phillies are in a position where the smart thing to do would be trading their big-league assets to build for the future. They are an older team with a lot of bad contracts that aren't going to magically disappear. 

    But the team is starting to show signs of life, which is going to fool general manager Ruben Amaro into thinking they are contenders, giving him a false sense of justification of the baffling decisions he's made and will likely continue to make.

    They are a lot like the 2012 White Sox, who were expected to take a step back, yet they managed to contend for the entire season and failed to unload some valuable players.

    Now, you look at the Sox and they are a disaster. Most of those assets have fallen so hard and fast that they would be lucky to get half the value they could have last year. 

    Sitting at 35-38, there is no real evidence that the Phillies are going to contend for a playoff spot. That leaves the fate of a number of players in doubt. Chief among them is Cliff Lee. 

    Peter Gammons of MLB Network quoted a rival general manager as saying Lee won't get traded because of the Phillies' impending television deal, which will bring a nice influx of cash. 

    Lee did not exactly sound committed to the Phillies last week when asked about staying in Philadelphia (h/t Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia). 

    "I definitely want to win. There’s no doubt about that. I want to win. I don’t know how to say it besides that. I want to win," Lee said.

    Lee does have a partial no-trade clause to 20 teams, with the Rangers on the list, so he would have to approve any deal. 

    But we know that Lee can pitch in Texas. He has had success in the past with the Rangers and would fill a huge void for that franchise, and they have so many questions in the rotation after Yu Darvish.

    They are getting Martin Perez back soon, but Justin Grimm and Nick Tepesch have been scuffling lately. Alexi Ogando can't stay healthy as a starter. Derek Holland has been very good this year and may have turned a corner, but he has to prove he can succeed over an entire season. 

    Meanwhile, Jurickson Profar's talent is going to waste right now. With Elvis Andrus entrenched at shortstop, Profar will be playing out of position for the next eight years if he stays in Arlington. That's not to say he can't play second base, but he is most valuable as a shortstop. 

    But Ian Kinsler is locked into second base and Ron Washington shows no interest in shifting him to first base to get Profar daily at-bats. 

    The Phillies would get a potential franchise player they can build around to replace Jimmy Rollins, who is still a solid defensive shortstop at 34 years old but lacks power on offense and can't get his on-base percentage over .330.

    The Rangers could feel confident in getting a fair return for Profar by acquiring Lee, who is signed to a reasonable contract by elite-pitcher standards and would be around for at least 3.5 years ($62.5 million from 2014-2016, via Cots Baseball Contracts). 

Yovani Gallardo, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Best Fit: Yovani Gallardo to the Baltimore Orioles

    Of all the things that baffle me about baseball, and there are many, the one that sticks with me the most, especially since the start of the 2012 season, has been the success of the Baltimore Orioles. 

    I don't mean that in a condescending way, either. No one saw them making the playoffs in 2012, but an incredible bullpen and remarkable record in one-run and extra-inning games made them the surprise team (along with Oakland). 

    Now, despite having a starting rotation largely comprised of spare parts, bringing up Kevin Gausman earlier than they probably wanted to and Dylan Bundy—who would have been first on the call-up list entering the season—having yet to throw a pitch in a game at any level, the Orioles find themselves 42-31, 1.5 games behind Boston in the American League East.

    The Orioles' starters currently rank 18th in innings pitched, with 413.2, and 27th in ERA, at 4.76. That has to be the spot they target during the trade season, with Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo making for a very attractive option, considering his salary, age and the fact that he is signed through 2014. 

    Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that there are whispers that, if the Brewers do put Gallardo on the market, the Orioles could make a play for him:

    Gallardo may be a logical target for the Orioles, and Orioles pitching coordinator Rick Peterson very much likes Gallardo, as Gallardo thrived when Peterson was in Milwaukee as pitching coach. So there's more than just guesswork here.

    However, the initial word is that the Orioles' interest isn't as strong as one might guess. In fact, it doesn't seem strong at all right now.

    Gallardo might be affordable in terms of what the Orioles, or any other team, might have to give up, considering his struggles this year. He has pitched better recently, giving up just seven hits and three walks in his last two starts (14 innings). Granted, one of those starts was against Miami. 

    Moving to the American League East would be a test for Gallardo, but it could also help his career. He seems adrift at times with an underperforming Brewers team that doesn't figure to contend anytime soon. 

    The Orioles, for all their flaws, find ways to win games and have a good young nucleus with Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and Chris Davis. They could get better later this season, as Gausman gets more experience, and next year with Dylan Bundy making his return, assuming he stays healthy. 

    They still need at least one more starting pitcher who can give them 180 innings if they want to be an elite team in the American League. 

Matt Adams, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Best Fit: Matt Adams to the New York Yankees

    This is a scenario that is almost too good to pass up, though Buster Olney of ESPN notes that the Cardinals are remaining steadfast in their refusal to move Matt Adams, so it would take a reversal on their part if he's to go anywhere. 

    However, one of the drawbacks, if you want to call it that, to having so much depth in the big leagues and in your farm system is that there just isn't room for everyone. One reason you build depth in the minors is to trade it and acquire assets needed to help the parent club. 

    Adams has excelled in a part-time role for St. Louis this year. He is .313/.345/.538 with four home runs in 80 at-bats. But, given his talent, mainly as a hitter since he won't offer much with the glove at first base, and the fact the Cardinals have Allen Craig locked into a long-term deal, it doesn't make sense to keep him on the bench. 

    The Yankees have a lot of problems in their lineup and at first base right now. Mark Teixeira returned after missing 53 games with a wrist injury, only to reinjure the same wrist last weekend and land back on the disabled list. 

    In addition to keeping Teixeira healthy, the Yankees are also relying on Travis Hafner as their primary designated hitter. Even though they have older players who will be returning from injuries and will need time at DH, like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson, they have to consider the future as well. 

    Adams has five-plus years of club control still remaining and is just 24 years old. He needs to find an opportunity to play every day. The Yankees are trying to keep costs down, at least by their standards, and this would be a golden chance for them to find some upside at a corner infield spot. 

Matt Garza, RHP, Chicago Cubs

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    Best Fit: Matt Garza to the San Francisco Giants

    For a team that has been lauded, and rightfully so, for its ability to develop pitching, the San Francisco Giants face an interesting conundrum at the trade deadline this year. They are clearly in win-now mode and are just 1.5 games out of first place in a surprisingly competitive National League West. 

    But the starting pitching for the Giants this year has been a disappointment. Tim Lincecum is clearly never going to be anything close to what he was when he won back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 2009 and 2010; Matt Cain's knack for giving up fly balls appears to be catching up to him, as he has allowed 15 home runs in 95 innings; and Barry Zito has an ERA close to 5.00. 

    Matt Garza hasn't been much better than that in a small sample size so far this season, with an ERA of 4.98 and five home runs allowed in 34.1 innings. 

    The Cubs have every reason to trade Garza this season. They probably would have last year had he not gotten injured before the deadline, making it impossible for the team to move him. 

    Now that Garza has returned, teams are able to get a look at what he can do and make what they believe to be a fair offer to the Cubs. The trade winds haven't really gotten going around him, but with a few more starts under his belt, we should see them start to swirl. 

    We know that the Giants will be aggressive in their approach at the deadline to make a move they believe can help them out immediately, so don't be shocked to see them pull the trigger. Whether that's Garza or someone else, we'll have to wait and see. 

Bud Norris, RHP, Houston Astros

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    Best Fit: Bud Norris to the Detroit Tigers

    The Astros don't have a lot of parts left to trade after selling off virtually all their assets last year, but Bud Norris and Lucas Harrell are the two best bets to find a new home before July 31. 

    While Harrell likely has more value as a starting pitcher, Norris has the versatility to make a spot start on occasion and pitch out of the bullpen for a contending team down the stretch. 

    With that in mind, the Detroit Tigers are in desperate need of more arms for their bullpen. Jose Valverde has pitched about as well as anyone would have expected when he was inserted back into the closer's role almost two months ago. 

    Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly are having terrific seasons, but the rest of the crew has left much to be desired. Phil Coke is a left-handed specialist, but right-handed hitters have an .843 OPS against him. And Al Alburquerque has walked 13 in 14.1 innings. 

    Last month, Danny Knobler of CBS Sports wrote that the Tigers were still hard up for bullpen help. In the weeks that have followed, it is hard to see that stance changing much at all. Their rotation is still deep, though Rick Porcello has been inconsistent all season. 

    Adding Norris, who boasts a 3.64 ERA in 15 starts this season, to the roster would also give the Tigers some flexibility. They could put him in the bullpen as a long man or one-inning guy. He could also have value as a starter, if that's the route the Tigers want to take.