5 MLB Players Who Should Be Traded but Won't Be
Major League Baseball's non-waiver trade deadline is less than two weeks away, signaling a flurry of rumors and supply-and-demand stories about the available players for this year's stretch run.
Of course, the players that aren't readily available can sometimes be more intriguing than the few that are.
Yesterday, we covered the three teams that could change the course of the pennant races by holding a fire sale. If rumors of Matt Garza's move to Texas (via the Chicago Tribune) become prescient, one of the big names will be off the board.
In a world where general managers eschew public opinion and television ratings in favor of long-term thinking and common sense, more big names could be prizes on the open market.
Here are five players that should be traded but ultimately won't be.
1. Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins
No, I don't mean impending free agent and former MVP Justin Morneau.
Mauer, not just Morneau, should be on the trade block for the awful (39-53) Twins in order to expedite a true rebuilding process.
Of course, Mauer's name is the most outlandish on this list due to his stature as Minnesota's hometown star, future Hall of Fame bat, consistent excellence and long-term contract, but that doesn't mean selling him at the trade deadline is foolhardy.
While Mauer, if he can remain healthy, is a great bet to continue hitting well into his late 30s, he's no longer young, has had leg issues in recent years and is part of a franchise where impact talent isn't quite ready for the big leagues.
A quick look at the Twins farm system yields two names that stand out: Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano.
Along with recent call-up Kyle Gibson, there is some young talent in the mix, but probably not enough, especially on the pitching side, to turn things around quickly in Minnesota.
Making Mauer available would change that quickly. Considering the dearth of offensive, especially from the catching position, in the game, teams in need of offense would pay dearly for any hitter with a career .405 on-base percentage.
By 2016, the Twins could be relevant again, but Mauer will enter that season as a 33-year-old catcher.
Fans would detest the move in Minnesota, but the benefits are hard to ignore.
2. Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres
One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn't belong.
2009: 12 HR, .392 SLG
2010: 11 HR, .375 SLG
2011: 4 HR, .399 SLG
2012: 31 HR, .498 SLG
2013: 7 HR, .359 SLG
The San Diego Padres are a poor team that should be a major seller at the trade deadline. Of their major pieces, third baseman Chase Headley, just a year removed from leading the National League in RBI, could be a hot commodity.
Of course, his numbers, at the age of 29, do leave some cause for alarm. Was 2012 a true breakout season or simply a blip on the radar screen for a good, not great hitter?
To be fair, Petco Park suppresses offense, so Headley's OPS+ was above average in 2009 and 2011 despite modest home run and slugging percentage numbers. This season, the thumb injury suffered in spring training could be the cause of a power slippage.
Headley is under contract through 2014, so there won't be a rush to move him, especially if contenders are trying to buy low on a good player. But, if San Diego can market him as the star of 2012, he's worth moving for a big haul.
If that 2012 season does turn out to be an aberration, trading him now could become the smartest move San Diego has made in a long, long time.
3. Jonathan Papelbon, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Since debuting in 2005, Jonathan Papelbon has been a strikeout machine, dominating opposing lineups, mostly in the ninth inning, due to his ability to keep balls out of play.
Unfortunately for the Philadelphia Phillies and Papelbon, the closer's strikeout prowess has disappeared in 2013.
The following represents Papelbon's K/9 marks since 2005: 9.0, 9.9, 13.0, 10.0, 10.1, 10.2, 12.2, 11.8 and 7.9.
Of course, Papelbon did spend some time shifting between the starting rotation and bullpen in 2005. From 2006-2012, the first seven full seasons of relief pitching for Papelbon, he averaged 11.0 K/9.
A dip to under eight in 2013 is alarming, especially when considering the $26 million he's owed in 2014-2015, along with a $13 million vesting option in 2016.
Heading out of the All-Star break, 83 qualified relief pitchers have bigger K/9 rates than Papelbon this season.
Of course, the 32-year-old closer does have a pedigree, experience and a World Series ring, making him an attractive trade-deadline piece for a team like the Detroit Tigers.
Philadelphia isn't ready to sell, but keeping Papelbon through his decline seems ridiculous.
4. Michael Cuddyer, OF, Colorado Rockies
Considering the state of the Colorado Rockies (46-50, 4.5 GB in NL West), it was mildly surprising to watch three of their players introduced as starters in the All-Star Game at Citi Field on Tuesday night.
While the duo of Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki came as no surprise, the continued excellence of 34-year-old Michael Cuddyer (.874 OPS since arriving in Colorado as a free agent prior to 2012) represents a conundrum for Rockies executives.
On the one hand, as pointed out by CBS Sports' Mike Axisa, the team's owner has no plans to move the All-Star outfielder.
On the other, Cuddyer is in the midst of a career year, playing on a team that isn't likely to make a run to the postseason, and he can't be far off from declining as an all-around player.
Heading into the season, there was speculation of Colorado holding a fire sale by moving either Tulowitzki or Gonzalez. Due to Cuddyer's brilliant season, they can sell, add high-level young talent to the organization, but still hold onto their pair of stars.
If 2014 Michael Cuddyer reverts back to the good, not great hitter he always was, holding onto him will be remembered as a major mistake in Denver.
5. Marlon Byrd, OF, New York Mets
Of all the surprise stories of the 2013 season, Marlon Byrd's redemption story in Flushing, Queens, N.Y. might be the most surprising of them all.
At the age of 35, after posting a .488 OPS and serving a suspension in 2012, Byrd is thriving for the 2013 Mets. Heading out of the All-Star break, the right fielder has a .502 OPS, good for the best he's ever posted during a 12-year major league career.
To put that slugging percentage into perspective, it's higher than the marks currently posted by Adam Jones, Jose Bautista, Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Trumbo and Andrew McCutchen.
Due to the one-year, $700,000 deal Byrd signed over the winter, no available hitter profiles as such a bargain at the deadline.
Of course, the Mets are prioritizing a strong finish to set up the fanbase for success in 2014. That, for now, seems to include Byrd's bat in the middle of the order.
On a team that won't compete for a postseason spot this summer, a few extra wins in August and September mean very little in the grand scheme for New York.
If the right offer comes along, Sandy Alderson should move on from Byrd without any reservations.
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