As of today, 16 major league teams either hold a playoff spot or are within 8.5 games of one and could be looking to improve their playoff chances by making a waiver wire deal in the near future.
Three trades have happened thus far with the Rangers acquiring outfielder Alex Rios from the Rangers for prospect Leury Garcia, the Royals picking up utility infielder Jamey Carroll from Minnesota for a player to be named later or cash considerations, and the Rays acquiring lefty Wesley Wright from the Astros for cash considerations, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
With plenty of trade possibilities still lingering, here's all the latest waiver-trade buzz from around the league.
Willingham an August Trade Candidate?
With the Twins hanging around longer than expected in the playoff race this season, Josh Willingham's name never really surfaced in trade rumors. Once the team started to fall from contention, Willingham (pictured) landed on the disabled list, where he remained the entire month of July because of a knee injury.
Now that Willingham's back, the 34-year-old could be a waiver-trade candidate, according to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe. Passing through waivers isn't a strong bet, given his team friendly $7 million salary in 2014 and history of success (.847 OPS, 24 HR, 77 RBI, 61 BB per season from 2006-2012).
But the right-handed hitting slugger is having a subpar season, by his standards, with a .742 OPS in 74 games. He's 2-for-17 with a homer since his return from the disabled list and his .689 OPS against left-handed pitching is also a concern. There's at least a chance he clears now.
If placed on waivers, teams like the Orioles, Red Sox, Royals, Pirates and Rangers could all have interest, although the Twins are unlikely to sell low on a veteran who still fits into their plans in 2014 at an affordable salary. In other words, acquiring Willingham won't come cheap.
Braves and Red Sox Seek Power Threat off the Bench
It's no secret that the Braves have been looking for bench help since last month, and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that they are specifically hoping to acquire a legitimate power threat.
While they had arguably the biggest power threat off the bench during the first half of the season in Evan Gattis (.873 OPS, 14 HR overall; 6-for-8, 4 HR as a pinch-hitter), he's struggled a bit in the second half (.659 OPS, 1 HR) and hadn't been as available off the bench since he was the primary backup for catcher Brian McCann with Gerald Laird on the disabled list.
With Laird back, it's possible that they lean on Gattis as the primary hitter off the bench, but they could also be seeking a left-handed hitting complement with a lot more pinch-hitting experience in the majors.
Mark Kotsay of the Padres and Greg Dobbs of the Marlins are likely available, although that duo has combined for just three homers in 336 at-bats. Their respective teammates, Jesus Guzman and Justin Ruggiano, are right-handed-hitting reserves with power—Guzman has three pinch-hit homers; Ruggiano has 12 homers overall—but both are still very inexpensive with several years of team control and might not be available. Ruggiano is also in a 42 at-bat hitless streak. Maybe a change of scenery would help?
Cafardo also reported in his column that the Red Sox are looking for a right-handed power bat, but Mark Reynolds, recently released by the Indians, is not on their radar. After trading away Jose Iglesias in the Jake Peavy deal, they could be looking for someone who offers more defensive ability on the left side of the infield and Reynolds is not that guy.
Potentially available players with power and ability to play strong infield defense are few and far between, although utility infielder Donnie Murphy of the Cubs hit three homers in his first 21 at-bats of the season after a recent call-up. It's unlikely that this small sample boosts his value as a 30-year-old journeyman, but the fact that he's the lone name that comes to mind tells you that the Sox's search for power and defense off the bench will likely be a difficult one.
Josh Johnson Could Be Traded
As was the case with Tim Lincecum, Blue Jays pitcher Josh Johnson's free-agent value during the upcoming offseason could make a huge jump with a strong finish. And given Johnson's past success as one of the top starting pitchers in the game (56-37, 3.15 ERA, 8.2 K/9 from 2005-2012), there's still a chance he can turn things around in time to build interest for a possible August trade.
The 29-year-old Johnson (pictured) has already cleared waivers, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, and he looked strong in his last start (5 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 2 BB, 5 K), but his overall struggles on the season (6.20 ERA in 16 starts) will have teams proceeding with caution in trade talks. Most wouldn't be willing to give up much in a trade for the right-hander who is also due close to $4 million in salary.
After his next start was pushed back to Wednesday due to forearm soreness, Johnson has taken another step in the wrong direction. According to the Associated Press (via ESPN), the Blue Jays have placed the big hurler on the DL to give his forearm some additional rest. This certainly doesn't help his cause, but if he doesn't suffer any more setbacks and pitches like he is capable of in his return, there's a good chance that a few contending teams will be contacting Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos to find out what it would take to acquire him as the postseason nears.
A's on the Lookout for Catching Help?
With catcher John Jaso (pictured) on the disabled list with a concussion and no timetable for return, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets that the A's might have to scour the waiver wire for catching help.
Derek Norris (.728 OPS, 8 HR in 80 games) and Stephen Vogt (.719 OPS, 2 HR in 17 games) have done a solid job, but there is little catching depth behind them on the depth chart. There is also one less veteran available in free agency after Kelly Shoppach signed a minor league deal with the Pirates on Tuesday, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
While they don't necessarily need a starting catcher, adding another veteran to team with Norris should Jaso be out for an extended period of time could make sense. It's not certain why the Phillies are holding on to Carlos Ruiz, a free agent after the season, but he could be a target.
The 34-year-old Ruiz is having a terrible season at the plate (.629 OPS), but he has playoff experience and was known more for his defense, leadership and clutch hitting before a breakout offensive season in 2012. For what it's worth, he's starting to heat up in August (8-for-26, HR, 2 2B) and still probably won't cost very much.
Other possibilities include John Buck (.655 OPS, 14 HR) of the Mets, who will also be a free agent after the season and could lose playing time down the stretch with top prospect Travis d'Arnaud inching closer to the majors, and fellow free agent-to-be Dioner Navarro of the Cubs, who is unlikely to get very far on the waiver wire considering his low salary and strong overall numbers in 2013.
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