MLB Trade Speculation: Updating Top 8 Hitting Targets 1 Month from Deadline

Jason MartinezContributor IJuly 5, 2013

MLB Trade Speculation: Updating Top 8 Hitting Targets 1 Month from Deadline

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    Without Giancarlo Stanton, whom the Miami Marlins seem adamant about holding on to this season, or San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley, whose team is still hanging around in a very winnable NL West, the trade market is lacking in young and controllable talent.

    Still, there are more than a few capable hitters who could be moving from a non-contender to a contender in the coming weeks leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. All eight hitters on this list are on teams with losing records that are either no longer in playoff contention or aren't expected to remain in contention much longer.

    Some bigger names could be added to the list as teams drop out of the playoff picture over the next couple of weeks. For now, this is my list of the top eight available hitters on the trade market.    

8. Justin Ruggiano, OF, Miami Marlins

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    Giancarlo Stanton might not be available, but that doesn't mean the Marlins don't have an outfielder with some home run power to trade.

    Since joining the team early in 2012, the 31-year-old Justin Ruggiano has 25 homers, 32 doubles and 23 stolen bases in 162 games. If he weren't playing in Miami and didn't have the journeyman reputation, his name would be a lot more popular on the trade rumor mill.

    Not only can Ruggiano hit the long ball and steal a few bases, but he's also a pretty good defender at all three outfield spots. He's also under team control for three more seasons after this one and will be eligible for arbitration next offseason, which might be a good enough reason for the Marlins to trade him.

    Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna will likely be the starting outfield in 2014, meaning that Ruggiano would be an expensive fourth outfielder on a team that probably can't afford that luxury.    

7. Michael Young, 3B/1B, Philadelphia Phillies

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    At 36, Michael Young isn't nearly the same hitter as he was with Texas when he had an .819 OPS while averaging 17 homers, 38 doubles and 90 runs batted in from 2003-2011. That doesn't mean his tank is empty.

    Through 79 games, Young is hitting .285 with five homers, 14 doubles and 20 multi-hit games. Since June 6, he's hitting .333 (36-for-108), including three three-hit games and a four-hit game. Still think he's washed up? Young has posted an .800-plus OPS in three of his last four months (September 2012, April 2013 and June 2013). 

    Young might give a team the most value bouncing between first base, third base and designated hitter, although the Dodgers could be interested in making him their everyday third baseman.

    The Yankees could also be a fit, although it appears they have several options to choose from. Young might be the least costly, however, in terms of minor league talent.  

6. Michael Morse, 1B/OF, Seattle Mariners

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    Currently on the disabled list with a strained quad, Michael Morse could begin a rehab assignment in the next few days and return to the Mariners lineup after the All-Star break. That will give contending teams in need of a right-handed power bat plenty of time to make sure the 31-year-old is healthy and swinging the bat well.

    Trying to play through the injury last month, Morse was only 8-for-34 with no homers. He was red hot early in the season, however, blasting nine homers through May 1. Overall, Morse is 21-for-69 with five homers and five doubles.

    While he's not a great outfielder, his versatility will certainly expand the pool of teams interested in acquiring him to include the Pirates, Royals and Giants. The Yankees, of course, could use a right-handed hitter to replace Mark Teixeira at first base, and the Rangers could give him at-bats at a few different spots (DH, 1B, LF).  

5. Adam Dunn, 1B, Chicago White Sox

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    While Alex Rios is cooling down at the wrong time, Adam Dunn is heating up at just the right time.

    The 33-year-old, who is due the remainder of his $15 million salary in 2013 and another $15 million next season, has his batting average over .200 for the first time since April 10 after a three-hit game on Sunday.

    Dunn has 23 homers and 57 runs batted in on the year and is on pace for his second consecutive 40-homer season and the seventh of his career. It's probably wise to keep him out of the lineup against left-handed starters—he's only 9-for-65 against left-handed pitchers—but he could still be a force in the middle of the lineup when a right-hander is on the mound (.826 OPS versus right-handed pitching).

    There are only a few teams, if that, who would be willing to take on Dunn's remaining salary, and the return will likely be diminished if a team does take on the entire amount.

    Expect the White Sox to be willing to eat a portion of the deal if they can get a top prospect in return. The Yankees need a first baseman, while the Orioles could use Dunn as their primary designated hitter.  

4. Nate Schierholtz, OF, Chicago Cubs

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    There wasn't a team in baseball who thought Nate Schierholtz would have an .847 OPS with 11 homers in early July.

    The Phillies certainly didn't, because they didn't tender him a contract, saving them an estimated $2 million. They used some of that savings on free agent Delmon Young, which tells you how little they thought of Schierholtz.

    For $2.25 million, the Cubs signed the former Giants and Phillies outfielder and probably expected a typical Nate Schierholtz season. Over the past three seasons, he had a .719 OPS and had averaged six homers, 27 runs batted in and 120 games.

    Not only have they already gotten much more than expected from the 29-year-old in half of a season, they have him under team control through 2014. And if they wanted, they could trade him now while he's likely at peak value.

    His former team, the Giants, could have interest. The Royals and Pirates could also be in the bidding.  

3. Alex Rios, OF, Chicago White Sox

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    Ever since it became evident that the White Sox were quickly falling out of contention and would be "sellers" at the trade deadline, Alex Rios' bat has gone quiet. He has a .218 batting average and no homers over his last 78 at-bats.

    If he had kept up what he had been doing earlier in the season—842 OPS, 11 homers before his recent slump—the 32-year-old would easily top this list.

    As it stands, Rios is still on pace for a 22-homer, 32-stolen base season and is signed through 2014 ($12.5 million) with a $13.5 million club option for 2015. The White Sox should net a pretty good prospect or two in return.

    The Giants, Rangers and Diamondbacks are said to have interest, according to ESPN Chicago's Bruce Levine, while the Pirates could look for an upgrade in right field if Jose Tabata doesn't produce over the next couple of weeks.

    Rios has a partial no-trade clause, allowing him to block trades to the Astros, Athletics, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Royals and Yankees.

2. Raul Ibañez, OF, Seattle Mariners

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    There's been no bigger surprise during the first half of the season than Raul Ibañez, who is on pace to shatter the record for most homers by a player 41 years of age or older. Hall of Famer Ted Williams hit 29 at age 41. Ibañez, also 41, already has 21 homers.

    With the 37-48 Mariners going nowhere fast, Ibañez is likely to break the record in another uniform. There'll be plenty of interest in the left-handed-hitting outfielder, who also starred in the postseason last year with the Yankees (7-for-22, three HR).

    He was still only able to land a one-year, $2.75 million deal this past offseason despite a pretty good overall season in 2012. Now, several of those teams that weren't interested in Ibañez in the offseason will be more than willing to part with a minor league prospect in order to acquire his services for the remainder of the season.

    Although he'd fit best as a team's designated hitter, Ibañez has started 46 games in the outfield. His shaky defense probably wouldn't scare a National League team away knowing what he'd bring to the middle of the order with his bat. Potential fits include the Orioles, Pirates and Royals.      

1. Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies

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    The 34-year-old Chase Utley had a promising start to the season, posting a .721 OPS with seven homers and five stolen bases over his first 43 games before landing on the disabled list with a strained oblique.

    He returned a month later and hasn't missed a beat, homering four times in his first nine games back and boosting his OPS to .870 with 15 hits in 50 at-bats, including four doubles and a triple to go along with the home runs.

    Utley's trade value has also taken a major leap forward, not only due to his on-field production but because his knees, which have given him problems in the past, appear healthy enough to keep him on the field for at least another few months.

    Beyond that, it likely won't matter to teams hoping to acquire him in July because he'll become a free agent after the season. The knees will certainly be a bigger concern during the free-agency period.

    Contending teams that could use an upgrade at second base include the A's, Blue Jays, Dodgers and Royals, while the Yankees could possibly acquire him to be their first baseman.

    Utley can block trades to 21 teams, which haven't been revealed, although he could waive the no-trade clause in order to finish off the season in a pennant race.