Ranking the Top 10 Middle Infielders Potentially Available at the Trade Deadline
Of the names we're hearing that are very likely available on the trade market, there's not much to get excited about. At least not in terms of a player who can make an impact down the stretch as Marco Scutaro did with the San Francisco Giants in 2012.
But there are several second basemen on non-contending teams, or teams on the cusp of being a non-contender, who could be difference-makers if acquired. Whether their team pulls the trigger on a trade has a lot to do with the offer on the table.
Considering how thin the market is and with a handful of teams, including the Oakland A's, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals, looking for middle infield upgrades, it wouldn't surprise me to see at least one of the top five names on this list go in a pre-deadline deal.
Here is a list of the top 10 potentially available middle infielders.
10. Jamey Carroll, 2B/SS, Minnesota Twins
The 39-year-old is having a terrible season at the plate (.533 OPS)—probably his worst ever—so his inclusion on this list just shows how thin the middle infield trade market is.
If anything, Jamey Carroll can play three different positions on the infield, he's as scrappy as they come and he has hit lefties well in a small sample this season (.725 OPS; 10-for-33). A team that is very thin up the middle could see some value in the veteran and could probably acquire him for almost nothing.
9. Emilio Bonifacio, IF/OF, Toronto Blue Jays
The switch-hitting utility man has had one really good season in the majors when he had a .753 OPS and 40 stolen bases for the Marlins back in 2011. Aside from that, Emilio Bonifacio has been a pretty mediocre big leaguer.
His first season with Toronto has been the worst of his career (.558 OPS, 11 SB), and he's now relegated to the bench with occasional starts at second base and the outfield. His speed and versatility are his biggest assets right now, so if a team feels it can utilize those skills, he could land on a contending team's bench for the stretch run.
8. Omar Quintanilla, SS, New York Mets
The left-hitting shortstop has played so well that when Ruben Tejada was ready to return from the disabled list, the New York Mets sent him to Triple-A.
While the journeyman doesn't offer much with the bat (.631 OPS), Omar Quintanilla is a capable defender and can also play second base and third base. Like Carroll and Bonifacio, he's an option to help a contending team off the bench.
7. Brendan Ryan, SS, Seattle Mariners
If it's defense that you need, Brendan Ryan is the guy you want. The 31-year-old is one of the best in baseball at fielding his position. He just can't hit.
Not a lot of teams around the league get much offense from the shortstop position anyway, so Ryan still has some value if you think of it in terms of runs saved on defense versus offense lost over a team's current option.
If it works in Ryan's favor, a team might be willing to take a flier on him. Or if the Detroit Tigers happen to lose Jhonny Peralta to a suspension for his alleged involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, Ryan could be a solid backup plan.
6. Danny Espinosa, 2B/SS, Washington Nationals
Danny Espinosa might not be the answer for a team trying to win a playoff spot in 2013. He posted a .465 OPS in 44 big league games and hasn't been much better in Triple-A (.567 OPS in 40 games).
But the 26-year-old had a combined 38 homers and 37 stolen bases in 2011-12. The talent is there. The question is whether he's just regressed or if multiple injuries—he's playing with a partially torn rotator cuff and also spent time on the disabled list with a wrist injury—have caused him to struggle.
If a team like the Kansas City Royals, who is looking to find a long-term answer at the position, believes he can bounce back, maybe they'll try to buy low on him now.
5. Daniel Murphy, 2B, New York Mets
With second base prospect Wilmer Flores putting up big numbers in Triple-A (.876 OPS, 12 HR in 95 games), this could be the time to try to move Daniel Murphy to open up a spot. If only his production wasn't on the decline for the second consecutive season (.810 OPS in 2011; .735 OPS in 2012; .712 OPS in 2013), the Mets could have a few different teams willing to give up a pretty good prospect or two for the 28-year-old.
Murphy is heating up, however, with 24 hits in his last 70 at-bats (.343 BA), so the timing could still be right for a deal if general manager Sandy Alderson is ready to get the Flores era started in New York.
4. Gordon Beckham, 2B, Chicago White Sox
Gordon Beckham's name hasn't really been mentioned much on the rumor mill, except for a recent tweet from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports saying that the Toronto Blue Jays had some interest earlier in the season. Now that the Blue Jays aren't anywhere close in the playoff race, those talks aren't likely to resume before the trade deadline.
If they were to make him available, or if they already have like so many of their other veteran players, there will likely be plenty of interest. Although he missed time with a hand injury, the 26-year-old is having his best season since his rookie year in 2008 (.807 OPS, 14 HR). He's hitting .325 with two homers and nine doubles in 46 games.
Beckham also has two years left of team control, which is why the White Sox will set the price high and likely hold onto him unless they're blown away by an offer.
3. Rickie Weeks, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers
The 30-year-old had his second consecutive horrible start to the season when he posted a .565 OPS over the first two months. It's what he's capable of doing—as evidenced by the following month (1.106 OPS in June) and his big second half of 2012 (.800 OPS, 13 HR, 10 SB)—that would make him so intriguing if the Brewers made him available in a trade.
Part of the problem is that Brewers general manager Doug Melvin doesn't seem interested in selling low on a player whose value has dipped, such as Yovani Gallardo. So unless a team wants to pay for what Rickie Weeks could potentially do and risk the numerous slumps over the past two seasons, it's possible he can change teams before the deadline.
Weeks is signed through 2014 ($11 million) with an $11.5 million club option for 2015.
2. Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Pirates had interest in Ramirez last week, while Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune wrote that the Sox turned down a deal that would have brought pitching prospect Carlos Martinez over from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Ramirez.
Heyman later tweeted that the Sox did not turn down the deal, although the Cards could very well be interested in Ramirez.
Regardless, the rumors are a pretty good sign that the White Sox are at least discussing the 31-year-old shortstop, who hasn't hit for power this season (1 HR) but still plays solid defense and is hitting .315 over his past 38 games.
He'd likely be a shortstop upgrade on either the Pirates or Cardinals, although the price tag could be high based on his past overall success (17 HR, 71 RBI per season between 2008 and 2011) and a team-friendly contract that runs through 2015 ($9.5 million in 2014, $10 million in 2015) with a $10 million club option for 2016.
1. Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
The latest on Chase Utley and the Philadelphia Phillies is that they've discussed a long-term contract extension, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, but could trade him if they don't think they can come to terms before he hits free agency at season's end.
Even at age 34, Utley's value is peaking because of the huge season he's having (.847 OPS, 13 HR, 7 SB) and the lack of issues with his knees, which were a huge concern coming into the season.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. can likely get a very good prospect or two in a package for Utley, so he better be very certain that he can sign him long term if he holds onto him at the deadline without an extension in place.