MLB Trade Deadline: 5 Players Who Could Tip the Balance of Power If Moved

Nate LevinsonCorrespondent IJuly 19, 2013

MLB Trade Deadline: 5 Players Who Could Tip the Balance of Power If Moved

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    The trade deadline is less than two weeks away and there is no doubt that several high-profile players will be changing teams before it passes. Players like Matt Garza, Cliff Lee and Chase Utley could all be dealt soon and may end up having huge impacts on playoff races.

    Even the teams in first place coming out of the All-Star break know they have holes to fill, and now that there are two Wild Card spots, more teams feel they can make a run, and you can bet that the players on this list will be pursued heavily.

    The following players are ranked according to the impact they can have if traded.

    Present and past statistics, as well as present ability, are the best ways to judge the impact a player might have if traded.

    It is also important to note how a player's current environment factors into their statistics. A power hitter who plays in a big park might not have great numbers, but could do a lot for a contending team that plays in a hitters' park.

Honorable Mentions

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    Far more players than can fit on this list will be dealt at this year's trade deadline. Some traded will be impact players, while others will hopefully fill key roles for the team to which they are traded.

    The following players all fall somewhere in between these two categories. Not quite good enough to sway a pennant race, but more than just role players.

    Starting pitchers Bud Norris of the Houston Astros, Jake Peavy of the Chicago White Sox and Yovani Gallardo of the Milwaukee Brewers all could be good pickups for a team that trades for them, but each comes with question marks.

    Norris may be the best option of these three when considering this year's performance, but he has no experience in a pennant race and still has 4.29 career ERA.

    Peavy, meanwhile, has been on the disabled list with a fractured rib since June 4 and his numbers weren't on par with his statistics from last season when he was healthy.

    Gallardo's velocity has been down this year and his ERA is nearly a full run higher than it has been in any other season of his career.

    Reliever Jonathan Papelbon just missed making this list of five, too, and the one reliever who did make the list has simply had a better year. Bullpen help may be the easiest thing to find at the deadline, and it's not often you hear about a reliever seriously impacting a playoff race.

5. Jesse Crain, RP, Chicago White Sox

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    Crain is the lone reliever to make this list, but his numbers this season made it impossible to keep him off it.

    In 36.2 innings on the season, the right-hander has 46 strikeouts, just 11 walks and a minuscule 0.74 ERA.

    He has been a set-up man in Chicago and Minnesota before that, and some teams in need of a closer may be weary of making a trade for someone who hasn't proven he can finish games.

    Still, this shouldn't scare many teams off since proven set-up men like Crain are valuable commodities.

    Crain is on the DL with a sprained right shoulder, but the injury isn't a huge concern as he's expected to make his return within the next week.

    He'll have to show that he's healthy when that does happen, but if he can prove that, Crain could be the most sought after relief pitcher on the market.

4. Kendrys Morales, 1B, Seattle Mariners

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    Morales has been hot of late with five of his 14 home runs coming in just 12 July games, and falls under the category of players who could take off when traded.

    Safeco Field is one of the bigger parks in the league and is not usually kind to power hitters like Morales.

    Still, he has managed an .800 OPS thus far this season and he seems to be consistently improving his play as he gets further away from the horrible knee injury he suffered during the 2010 season.

    With very few power bats available on the market, many teams looking to bolster the middle of the lineup could pursue Morales.

    Morales isn't a classic three or four hitter since he doesn't walk much, but he could slot into the fifth or sixth spot in a deep lineup and do a lot of damage.

    The Yankees, who have been forced to start Lyle Overbay at first base all season, could be one team that tries to make a move for the switch-hitter before July 31.

3. Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Utley's years of being a perennial MVP candidate are long behind him, but he still is more than capable of being an impact player for any team that trades for him.

    On the year, Utley is hitting .272 with 11 homers in 67 games. That power is more valuable, too, since Utley plays a position in second base where most teams don't get much power production.

    Advanced defensive metrics grade Utley as above average, and he's a solid baserunner too, so his value goes well beyond just what he can do with the bat.

    Utley did miss almost a month with an oblique strain and has battled injuries in the past several years, but he's healthy now and could be a huge asset for a contender.

2. Matt Garza, SP, Chicago Cubs

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    Garza is the player on this list most likely to be traded and there have even been reports that a deal with the Texas Rangers is "99 percent done."

    No matter where Garza is traded, he'll be an asset for his new team.

    The 29-year-old right-hander has been especially hot of late, pitching to a 1.66 ERA in three July starts.

    He's been in the playoffs twice before with the Tampa Bay Rays, so he has experience pitching in a pennant run and the big stage shouldn't be too much for him.

    Like the previous three players on this list, Garza has battled injuries of late, missing time both this year and last, but he's healthy now and is the highest quality right-handed pitcher on the market.

    While Garza will definitely help a team down the stretch, the dearth of starting pitching on the market will ensure that the Cubs get top dollar for their top starter.

    The team that gets him may benefit this year, but in the future they may rue the day they overpaid to get him.

1. Cliff Lee, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Lee has been in this position before as he’s been traded twice at the trading deadline since 2009.

    Once, he was traded from the Indians to the Phillies, and another time from the Mariners to the Rangers. Each time, the trade worked out pretty well for the team that got Lee, as he led the Phillies to the World Series in 2009 and the Rangers to the World Series in 2010.

    Not only does Lee have the playoff experience (and success) that teams look for, but he also seems to be getting better with age.

    This year, Lee is 10-3 with a 2.86 ERA and gaudy 5.95 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

    Lee's price will be high, but any team that's serious about making a second half run has to consider making a deal for him.

    He's proven before that he can be the juice a team needs to make a push deep into the postseason and there's no reason to believe he can't play that part again.

    The only question now is whether or not he will be traded.

    Phillies' General Manager Ruben Amaro told Jon Heyman of CBS Sports that he wasn't looking to trade Lee, but for the right price he could certainly be dealt.

    If the right offer comes along and Lee is moved, look for the team that acquires him to make a run towards the World Series in October.