The MLB trade deadline is fast approaching (July 31), and while all of the attention goes to the frontline players and the rumored blockbuster deals involving them, it is often the smaller-scale moves that make all the difference.
Look no further back than last season, when the Angels landed the prize of the deadline in Zack Greinke in a deal with the Brewers. However, the Angels wound up missing the postseason, and perhaps the best pickup across the league wound up being the Giants' acquisition of Marco Scutaro.
So while the star players will continue to grab headlines, here is a look at 10 underrated trade targets who could make a solid impact for a contender down the stretch.
2013 Stats: .212/.325/.354, 8 HR, 25 RBI, 38 R
With their move to the American League, the Astros employed a DH for the first time this season. They signed veteran Carlos Pena to a one-year, $2.9 million deal to fill that role.
He's not the 30-home run threat he once was, but he's a solid veteran presence in the clubhouse with some postseason experience. He's also a lefty who can provide a professional at-bat and good plate discipline off the bench.
The Astros have no reason to hold onto him, so they'll likely take what they can get at the deadline. For a contender in need of a left-handed bat, he could be a nice addition.
2013 Stats: 44 G, 1-6, 15 HLD, 3.59 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 8.2 K/9
A solid member of the Reds bullpen from 2007-2009, Jared Burton made just 10 combined appearances in 2010 and 2011 before signing with the Twins as a free agent prior to last season.
He made 64 appearances for them last season, posting a brilliant 2.18 ERA with 18 holds in 62 innings of work. That was enough for the Twins to give him a two-year, $5.45 million deal with a $3.6 million option for 2015.
He's been solid once again this season, and those added years of control at a reasonable price make him that much more attractive a trade target to contenders. His asking price will no doubt be lower than All-Star teammate Glen Perkins, but he could make a big impact nonetheless.
2013 Stats: .269/.327/.498, 11 HR, 34 RBI, 35 R
The Cubs signed Nate Schierholtz to a one-year, $2.25 million deal this offseason to platoon with Scott Hairston in right field, and he has been one of the team's most consistent players so far this season.
His .825 OPS ranks 19th among all outfielders with at least 200 at-bats on the year. With just 12 of his at-bats coming against left-handed pitching, he may be as good a platoon left-handed bat as there is on the market.
Though he's still under team control and arbitration eligible next season, his asking price likely won't be much more than a mid-level prospect, and he could be a big addition for any contender looking to bolster their outfield production.
2013 Stats: 16 GS, 4-7, 5.55 ERA, 1.560 WHIP, 45 K, 82.2 IP
Looking to bolster their starting rotation this past offseason, the Twins signed Mike Pelfrey to a one-year, $4 million deal.
The right-hander missed most of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he was healthy to start the season. He has proven to be a solid flyer for the Twins despite his less-than-impressive overall numbers.
Over his last six starts, he's gone 1-2 with a respectable 3.93 ERA and four quality starts. Not ace numbers by any means, but he could be a useful veteran arm to provide some depth and fill out a contender's staff.
2013 Stats: .288/.362/.512, 8 HR, 19 RBI, 19 R
The Cubs signed Dioner Navarro to a one-year, $1.75 million deal in the offseason to serve as their backup catcher for the 2013 season.
Little was expected of him offensively, as he had seen a total of 369 at-bats and hit .211/.279/.325 over the past three seasons. However, he's been a stud at the plate, serving as the team's top pinch-hitter and seeing a couple of starts a week.
One of the highlights of the Cubs season was his three-home run, six-RBI game against the rival White Sox on May 29, and he would be a welcome addition to any contender's bench. The fact that he's 6-for-15 with two home runs as a pinch-hitter may be his most appealing attribute.
2013 Stats: 24 G, 1-1, 10-of-10 SV, 1.14 ERA, 3.0 BB/9, 9.9 K/9
A free agent when the season began, Francisco Rodriguez signed a minor league deal with the Brewers on April 17, and he joined the big league team roughly a month later.
He moved into the closer's role after Jim Henderson went down with an injury, and he's looked like the K-Rod of old in that role so far.
Seeing as he's making next to nothing and is a free agent at the end of the season, he's the perfect rental arm for a contender looking to bolster its bullpen. With the Diamondbacks and Tigers in particular looking for a reliable closer, he could play a huge role for someone down the stretch.
2013 Stats: .333/.355/.438, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 19 R
Taken with the No. 8 pick in the 2009 draft, Gordon Beckham looked like a future star when he joined the White Sox the following season and hit .270/.347/.460 with 14 home runs and 63 RBI as a 22-year-old rookie.
In the three full seasons since then, however, he's hit just .238/.303/.362 and averaged 12 home runs and 51 RBI. That's decent pop for a second baseman, but it's far from the type of numbers the White Sox were expecting him to be putting up.
A broken hamate and the resulting surgery kept him sidelined until June 3, but he has been terrific in limited action so far this season. With the White Sox potentially in fire-sale mode, and the second base market always thin, he could be a nice pickup with long-term potential.
2013 Stats: 43 G, 4-5, 12 HLD, 2.93 ERA, 1.8 BB/9, 8.1 K/9
Since he broke into the league in 2009, no pitcher has appeared in more games than Padres reliever Luke Gregerson. He's tallied 333 appearances over that span.
The 29-year-old has a 2.92 ERA and 1.101 WHIP for his career, and he has been as reliable as any late-inning arm in baseball. He has a ton of value on the trade market as a result.
He'll be arbitration eligible this coming offseason, and he will no doubt get a raise over the $3.2 million he's making this season. The Padres could look to move him before they have to pay him.
2013 Stats: .292/.361/.368, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 46 R, 10 SB
When the Brewers signed Norichika Aoki out of Japan prior to last season, the idea was for him to serve as the team's fourth outfielder.
However, when injuries forced Corey Hart from right field to first base, he stepped into an everyday role and thrived. He wound up playing in 151 games, and he finished the year with a .288/.355/.433 line to go with 10 home runs and 30 steals.
His power is down this season, but his on-base numbers are still a plus, and he has an incredibly cost-effective $1.5 million team option for next season. For someone looking for a table-setter and a player they can invest in beyond this season, Aoki would be a fantastic pickup.
2013 Stats: 20 GS, 9-8, 4.28 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 67 K, 120 IP
While Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez got all of the attention for their respective deadline moves last season, Joe Saunders quietly went 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven starts for the Orioles.
He then got the ball for their Wild Card Game and went 5.2 innings, allowing just six hits and one run to pick up the win.
Despite that strong finish to the year, he was unable to find a multi-year deal this offseason and wound up signing a one-year, $6.5 million contract with the Mariners. A proven veteran who was a terrific under-the-radar pickup last season, he could once again make an impact in a contender's rotation this season.