It's not always a player's fault when he ends up on the chopping block.
Sure, lots of big names around the league play their way out of jobs by drastically underperforming the expectations. Other stars merely have the misfortune of playing for teams that don't live up to the billing and subsequently need to sell off any valuable assets in a desperate effort to reload. Finally, there is the group of players who excelled on competitive teams but who have simply outgrown the means of their small-market clubs.
With these considerations in mind, here's a look at 10 big-name MLB players on the chopping block this offseason.
Note: All statistics and salary information courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
Howie Kendrick is just one of a number of Los Angeles Angels whose job status is far from secure.
According to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com, the Angels will look to move one of Erick Aybar, Mark Trumbo or Kendrick to bolster the rotation, with the veteran second baseman the most "likely." The Angels only have three of their five rotation spots locked down, so clearly reinforcements are in order.
ESPN's Buster Olney (subscription required) writes that according to MLB executives, Kendrick is a "middling piece," who would draw less than a blockbuster return. Olney floats Rick Porcello of the Detroit Tigers and Charlie Morton of the Pittsburgh Pirates as potential targets for the Angels' front office.
As Olney observes, Kendrick's contract diminishes his trade value—he still has two years and $18.75 million left on his deal. However, his defensive versatility—Kendrick has played 78 games at first base in his career—should expand the list of suitors.
In three seasons for the Chicago White Sox, Adam Dunn has posted an abysmal .197 batting average while striking out a remarkable 588 times.
It's numbers like those that have prompted many to suggest that despite the $15 million he is owed in 2014, Dunn's time should be up in Chicago. According to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, "It's time for the [White] Sox to cut the cord."
It's a compelling argument by Sullivan, but the final decision is far more complicated. The White Sox have already signed powerful first baseman Jose Abreu. Plus, as general manager Rick Hahn noted to Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago, Paul Konerko has a "spot" on the team if he wants it.
There's still a chance that Konerko will turn down the offer. If he doesn't, however, it's hard to see the White Sox needing all three sluggers. With a $15 million price tag in 2014, Dunn is about as immovable as trade chips get. Still, something will have to give, and an outright release isn't out of the question.
Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago tweets that the Toronto Blue Jays are the latest team to express an interest in Jeff Samardzija:
Teams have inquired about StarterJeff Samardzija. Source: Toronto putting together package of young players.— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) November 23, 2013
The powerful right-hander falls into the group of talented players languishing on floundering teams. Coming off a 96-loss season, the Chicago Cubs have a decision to make on Samardzija.
The team can either keep him around as a building block as part of an unexpectedly slow rebuilding process, or flip him to further strengthen an already talented farm system. According to Matt Eddy of Baseball America, the Cubs are tied with the Kansas City Royals for the fifth-best minor league system in all of baseball.
Whichever decision the team arrives at, the Cubs are in no rush to pull the trigger as the tall right-hander can't become a free agent until after the 2015 season.
It won't be easy for the Atlanta Braves to unload the disappointing Dan Uggla.
The second baseman hit just .179 in 2013, and he still has two years and $26 million left on his deal. Mark Bowman of MLB.com suggests that the Braves, "might have to eat 60 percent" of his remaining contract to make a trade work. Even if Braves GM Frank Wren is willing to take on over half of the money left on Uggla's deal, it's hard to see teams lining up for his services.
As Bowman comments, one option would be to bring back Uggla and hope the "chip" on his shoulder motivates him to turn in a huge comeback season. For a player who has watched his OPS dip from .877 in 2010 to .671 in 2013, that will have to be one giant chip.
Rickie Weeks has worn out his welcome in Milwaukee.
After earning an All-Star nod in 2011, the second baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers went on to hit .230 in 2012 and just .209 last season. With the emergence of Scooter Gennett, Weeks is now a player without a position heading into next season.
Any hopes of trading the 31-year-old are complicated by his contract situation. The Brewers still owe Weeks $11 million before he becomes a free agent at the end of the 2014 season. That's a lot of money for a player who posted a .663 OPS in 2013.
A brave club could gamble on Weeks' power potential—before his dismal 2013 season he cleared the 20-home run mark in three straight campaigns. If the Brewers hope to swing a deal, though, they will have to throw in some serious cash and be prepared to receive a modest return.
There is an excellent chance that Ike Davis has played his final game for the New York Mets.
As Adam Rubin of ESPN New York explains, the Mets are looking to deal either Lucas Duda or Davis. For his part, Davis wants to stay in New York. The first baseman told Rubin, "Honestly, I've loved my time with the Mets. I'm still a Met right now, and I don't want to get traded."
The Mets' front office faces a tough decision when it comes to the 26-year-old. In 2012, Davis crushed 32 home runs only to follow that up with nine long balls last season. However, Davis isn't down about his less-than-stellar season in 2012, as he told Rubin:
That's life, man. You can't just sit there and cry -- you've got to move on. Like this year: I'm not going to sit here and pout because I've been bad. No, I'm going to work my butt off and see if I can be better next year.
Whichever club Davis ends up on next season, the first baseman sounds primed for a breakout year in 2014.
Brandon Phillips is yet another veteran second baseman who finds himself on the chopping block this offseason.
The 32-year-old provides durability and pop as he has played in at least 141 games and hit at least 17 home runs in eight straight seasons. The question then is why is Phillips available if he's been such a consistent producer?
The answer comes down to money. Over the next four seasons, the Reds owe the three-time All-Star $50 million. While it won't be easy to unload such a large financial commitment, there's reason for optimism. As the recent Ian Kinsler-for-Prince Fielder swap demonstrated, with a little creative thinking just about any contract can be moved.
Mark Trumbo represents the Angels' most intriguing trade bait this offseason.
On the surface, there's a lot to like about Trumbo's game. In the past three seasons, the slugger has launched 95 home runs, including a career-best 34 in 2013. It's that type of power that has led the Angels to think big when it comes to dealing the first baseman, as Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com explains:
I don't expect the Angels to trade Trumbo unless it means packaging him in a deal that can bring back a cost-controlled, top-of-rotation caliber starter. If that's the case—and perhaps only if that's the case—it'd be foolish to say no.
Whether the Angels will receive such an offer remains to be seen. While Trumbo boasts a higher home run total from 2013 than any player on the free-agent market, there are still red flags to consider. Last season, Trumbo hit just .234, and in parts of four seasons he owns a .299 OBP. Such awful on-base skills will seriously dent Trumbo's trade value.
As a result, the Angels will face a tough choice in whether to cash in or hold onto the club's best trade piece.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have a tricky task ahead of themselves if they plan to get out from under Matt Kemp's massive contract.
The center fielder still has six years and $128 million left on his deal, and in 2013 injuries limited him to just 73 games. With Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig all on board, and prospect Joc Pederson on the verge of breaking into the big leagues, Kemp could find himself on the outside looking in.
However, as Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports argues, now is not the time for the Dodgers to give up on the two-time All-Star:
The last time it appeared Kemp had outstayed his welcome in Los Angeles, when the keep-him-or-trade-him debate raged, he responded with his 39-40 season. He played hard—and smarter—for Don Mattingly, finishing the 2011 season 13 batting average points from a Triple Crown.
It's an excellent point by Brown. Sure, trading Kemp would lighten the payroll and lessen the crowd in the outfield. As Brown notes, however, the biggest danger of trading Kemp for the Dodgers is that the outfielder will discover his old form for a new team.
It's no secret that David Price's time with the Tampa Bay Rays is coming to an end.
The day after the Boston Red Sox knocked the Tampa Bay Rays out of the playoffs, Price explained to Bill Chastain of MLB.com, "If you go from what's been done in the past, I guess your'e going to have to think you're going to get traded."
For the Rays, there's no urgency to make a move on the left-hander. The 2012 AL Cy Young award winner doesn't become a free agent until the end of the 2015 season. That means that Tampa Bay can hold onto Price up until the All-Star break and still count on scoring a major haul of young players.
For now, Price remains atop the the chopping block, and it's likely to be quite awhile before he learns his fate.