Projecting the Top 15 Potentially Available MLB Trade Targets in July
Last year's trade deadline was more like a "dudline" (get it?). Few teams were willing to sell, and even fewer big names changed jerseys. Here's hoping there will be more action between now and July 31 this time around.
In 2013, the top chips that were flipped were a batch of underwhelming right-handers: Matt Garza (Chicago Cubs to Texas Rangers), Jake Peavy (Chicago White Sox to Boston Red Sox), Ricky Nolasco (Miami Marlins to Los Angeles Dodgers) and Ian Kennedy (Arizona Diamondbacks to San Diego Padres).
On the position player side, Alfonso Soriano turned out to be a productive bat for the New York Yankees after they acquired him from the Cubs, but again, that was hardly anybody's idea of a blockbuster.
This year, though, there may well be a few blockbusters, at least if the early rumor mill and speculation chain is to be believed. Then again, given the parity in Major League Baseball this season—only a handful of teams are clearly out of the playoff picture as the three-month mark approaches—as well as the recent addition of a second wild-card spot in each league, clubs are less likely to hang the "seller" sign.
Still, with the deadline only slightly more than a month away, here's a rundown of the 15 biggest names who could be on the block, for one reason or another, and who potentially—although not necessarily—could be moved before the July 31 trade deadline.
Others Who Could Be on the Block
Elvis Andrus, SS, Texas Rangers
A.J. Burnett, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Daniel Murphy, 2B, New York Mets
Miguel Montero, C, Arizona Diamondbacks
Seth Smith, OF, San Diego Padres
Aaron Hill, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Adam Dunn, DH, Chicago White Sox
Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres
Bartolo Colon, RHP, New York Mets
Jonathan Papelbon, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Jorge De La Rosa, LHP, Colorado Rockies
Joaquin Benoit, RHP, San Diego Padres
Gordon Beckham, 2B, Chicago White Sox
John Danks, LHP, Chicago White Sox
Nate Schierholtz, OF, Chicago Cubs
Joakim Soria, RHP, Texas Rangers
After missing all of 2012 and most of 2013 while undergoing and then recovering from Tommy John surgery, Joakim Soria looks to be back to his old self, which is a good thing for the Texas Rangers.
With injuries up (and down) the wazoo, the Rangers have barely been hanging around .500 for the past month, and a quality closer like Soria is a luxury that would bring more in via trade than he can provide for a losing team.
Because the 30-year-old's salary is team-friendly at whatever's left of $5.5 million this year and $7 million in 2015 (or a $0.5 million buyout), just about any contending team in need of a closer (Tigers? Orioles? Angels?) will be able to afford Soria from a financial standpoint. And the Rangers could seek a decent return for a proven stopper who currently has a 1.75 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 35/3 K/BB.
Huston Street, RHP, San Diego Padres
Seems like Huston Street is on these trade-candidate lists every year, doesn't it? Well, with the recent firing of general manager Josh Byrnes in San Diego, 2014 may be the year he's traded. Finally.
More than a few clubs in search of a ninth-inning option are sure to be enticed by the 30-year-old longtime closer's 254 career saves—the fifth-most among active pitchers—as well Street's performance this season (0.96 ERA) and the fact that he's managed to stay healthy for the first time in years.
Street, who has a club option for 2015 at a reasonable $7 million, is already drawing interest from teams, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, as is his setup man Joaquin Benoit, who also has closing experience.
Josh Willingham, OF/DH, Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins missed a golden opportunity to trade the aging, injury-prone Josh Willingham after his career year in 2012 (35 homers, 110 RBI), but he's doing his best to see that they get something of value should they choose to move him in the final year of a contract that pays him just $7 million.
Since coming back from an early-season disabled list stint at the end of May, the 35-year-old has driven in 22 of his 23 runs and smacked all seven of his homers in 27 games.
Willingham can fake it in a corner outfield position, but ideally the team that acquires him (Mariners?) will be in the AL so that he can be used at designated hitter, where his coveted right-handed power fits best.
Marlon Byrd, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Stop us if you've heard this one before: Marlon Byrd is a prime candidate to be swapped.
As a veteran with a reasonable contract ($8 million next year with a club option for the same price in 2016) on a Philadelphia Phillies team that is old and getting older fast, the 36-year-old almost has to be traded for the second summer in a row. Last year, the New York Mets were able to land an intriguing prospect in second baseman Dilson Herrera (.311/.361/.413 at High-A and Double-A this year) from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Byrd.
Byrd's strikeout problems have become a tad ridiculous (28.5 percent), but his power is still in play with 13 homers and a .474 slugging percentage on the year. One team that could be a fit is the Kansas City Royals, according to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star.
Surely, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. will do the smart thing and trade Byrd, right?
Justin Masterson, RHP, Cleveland Indians
A trade bullseye got plastered onto Justin Masterson's back the moment the free-agent-to-be's extension talks with the Cleveland Indians fell apart earlier in the year.
Combine that with the 29-year-old's inconsistent outings through half of the season so far—after a strong 2013, his 5.03 ERA and 1.54 WHIP this year would be career worsts—and it's looking less and less like the Indians will be aiming to lock him up long term.
First, though, he'll need to get past a sore right knee issue that may be responsible for his drop in velocity this season, as pointed out by Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. If injury and/or poor performance knock Masterson's value down too far, he might not command enough to make him tradeable.
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
Whereas Byrd is a pretty easy piece for the Phillies to move (or should be), Jimmy Rollins poses a bit more of a challenge, despite the fact that his production (.727 OPS) has rebounded some this season.
For one, he's been in Philly since, like, forever, which tends to make it tougher for a team to part with a player, especially one who recently became the franchise's all-time hits leader.
For another, the 35-year-old has the right to veto any trade because he's been with the club for 15 seasons, which gives Rollins 10-and-5 rights as a player with 10 years in the majors and five with his current team.
Still, Rollins made it clear that he would be open to a deal if the Phillies ever do decide to "blow everything up," per ESPN. With a little more than 200 more plate appearances, his $11 million option for 2015 vests, so there is some buyer beware here, even though shortstop is one of the harder positions to fill. Just ask the Tigers, Mariners and Pirates, among a few other squads that are pushing toward October.
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Cleveland Indians
While on the topic of the hard-to-fill shortstop position, there's also Asdrubal Cabrera. It feels like Cabrera has been on the block since before Twitter became a thing, but he's still only 28 and this really should be the year he gets shopped hard.
The Indians have been up and down all season, but they remain in the AL Central race. So why would they consider trading Cabrera? Because not only is he set to hit free agency at season's end, the team also has elite shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor—a 20-year-old who's already at Double-A after being selected eighth overall in 2011—just about ready to take the reins.
Another reason to get Lindor up and at 'em sooner than later? Defense has not been a strong suit for Cabrera this year—or the Indians as a whole, for that matter—as Jim Ingraham of the Morning Journal recently pointed out.
Kendrys Morales, 1B/DH, Minnesota Twins
Don't think because the Twins only just inked Kendrys Morales to a prorated $14 million deal (about $7 million) three weeks ago doesn't mean they can't turn around and flip him by the end of July. After all, this is a franchise that is still very much in the rebuilding phase, and a switch-hitting slugger like Morales, 31, could net another piece or two for the future.
As Mark Townsend of Yahoo Sports' Big League Stew wrote at the time Morales signed on June 8:
In a perfect world, [the Twins] will contend and Morales will be a big part of it. But it's also possible they'll look to spin him for a prospect or two at the trade deadline if it doesn't work out. One would think that possibility also played a role in Minnesota's decision to pursue him and ultimately sign him up.
Indeed, that very scenario may play out, particularly since the Twins are under .500 and, realistically, don't have all that much hope of remaining in contention with their current roster—even with Morales on it.
Jason Hammel, RHP, Chicago Cubs
Jason Hammel isn't the Chicago Cubs' primary piece, even if the scope is narrowed down to their rotation members. But he's a quality arm whose 2014 performance (2.99 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 8.5 K/9) will garner plenty of attention.
Some teams might be turned off because Hammel, who signed a one-year deal over the winter, is a three-month rental. But others might see that as a positive considering the 31-year-old has an injury history and won't count toward the 2015 payroll at all (unless he re-signs with the club that gets him).
In Hammel, the rebuilding Cubs have a better version of Scott Feldman, who was last year's scrap-heap signing who turned into an intriguing trade chip that brought back Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop.
Ian Kennedy, RHP, San Diego Padres
After being traded to the Padres last July, Ian Kennedy is in the middle of a solid bounce-back campaign with a 3.90 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 9.6 K/9. He's also only 29 years old and remains under team control through 2015.
Oh, and there's that whole front-office shakeup that could bring changes to the Padres, as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports writes:
The team does not expect to hire a GM in time for him to make trades before the deadline, Dee said. For now, the club will rely on three co-interim GMs—[A.J.] Hinch, [Omar] Minaya and assistant GM Fred Uhlman Jr. [Club president Mike] Dee said that he, too, will be part of the decision-making process, helping to build consensus.
Add it all up, and Kennedy, one of the rebuilding club's best trade chips, could be a fit for contenders in need of rotation depth, like the Athletics, Giants, Blue Jays, Angels, Cardinals and Pirates.
Ben Zobrist, INF/OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Nobody saw 2014 going this way for the Tampa Bay Rays, who were a popular preseason pick to win the AL East and make a strong run to get back to the World Series for just the second time in franchise history after 2008. Alas, they're sporting the worst record in all of MLB, which makes them surefire sellers—and perhaps sooner than later.
While there's another, bigger name on the Rays roster that will be the hottest commodity in baseball in July (more on that in a bit), the underrated Ben Zobrist could be an under-the-radar trade target, per Rosenthal.
Now 33 and coming off a DL stint in May, Zobrist no longer is capable of making the kind of impact he used to. That said, he's still an extremely valuable piece because of his defensive versatility, switch-hitting ability and on-base prowess.
All of the above would make him a good get for any number of teams in need of help at corner outfield or middle infield (Tigers? Giants?). But with an affordable $7.5 million option for 2015, Zobrist is practically tailor-made for the A's, a small-market team that uses every nook and cranny of its roster to great success.
Alex Rios, OF, Texas Rangers
There's a strong sense that Alex Rios, like Marlon Byrd, is in the been-here-before position as a veteran outfielder who could be swapped in back-to-back years.
Traded in a salary dump by the Chicago White Sox to the Texas Rangers for infielder Leury Garcia during the August waiver-trade period in 2013, the 33-year-old is in line to be on the move again—and perhaps earlier in the season this time.
Rios is playing well (.808 OPS), and his contract makes him equally enticing considering he's owed the remainder of his $13 million salary for 2014 and has a $14 million option (or $2 million buyout) if he changes teams.
The Rangers, though, should only act here if the right offer comes along, as the late, great Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas wrote recently:
Rios' value is as high as ever thanks to a consistent season. But just because Rios is a hot name and could help a contending club doesn't mean the Rangers should trade him even if they drop out of contention...
So don't be in such a rush to deal Rios. The Rangers are in a great spot here. They can see what the market looks like for the 33-year-old veteran, and if they get a deal they can't refuse that includes prospects and pieces that could help for the future, they do it. If not, they keep Rios for next season.
Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Chicago Cubs
The on-again-off-again negotiations between Jeff Samardzija and the Chicago Cubs are off again. The latest, as reported earlier in June by Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, is that the 29-year-old rejected a proposed extension in the neighborhood of $85 million over five years.
And so after what was likely the last attempt to sign Samardzija long term, the club will be receiving trade offers non-stop for the coveted right-hander over the next few weeks.
Although he's under team control through 2015, his value on the market is higher now than it would be once 2014 is over, so expect president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer to act as if they think a deal is worth doing. Remember, this franchise's time line for returning to relevance remains 2016 and beyond.
Last July, Matt Garza was the big-name starter teams were after, and he helped Chicago get three players who have contributed this season—third baseman Mike Olt and righty relievers Neil Ramirez and Justin Grimm—along with a high-upside pitching prospect in C.J. Edwards.
One imagines the Cubs will get more for Samardzija, who is not only better than Garza was at this time last year, but also is not a rental as a pending free agent like Garza was.
Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers
Seeing Adrian Beltre's name here might come as somewhat of a surprise. He's more of a longshot to be traded than most of the others on this list due to the fact that he's a cornerstone player with multiple years left on his contract on a team that had expectations of contending this season. Of course, that was before just about the entire Rangers roster hit the DL.
With the club having lost seven straight to fall that many games below .500, it's not all that surprising to hear that GM Jon Daniels is at least assessing what some of his top names, like Beltre, could fetch if made available, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. To be clear, though, by no means does Daniels have to move Beltre, so something would happen only if he was overwhelmed by an offer.
The 35-year-old is owed about $8 million for the rest of this season, followed by $18 million in 2015 and a $16 million option in 2016. That would limit the market for Beltre some, but for those teams with a need at third base who could afford to take on that kind of dough going forward—like the Dodgers, Yankees, Angels and maybe the Tigers—he'd be an attractive target due to both his price and production.
David Price, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Not only is David Price the biggest name in line to be traded this July, but he's also among the most likely to be moved and is playing better than just about anyone else on the market. That's the good news in what has become a lost season for the Rays.
After Wednesday's start in which he struck out at least 10 batters for the fifth straight game, Price is in some elite company. His ERA was higher than usual (in the mid-4.00s) back in late May, but it's dropped in each of the 28-year-old's past six starts and currently sits at a more reasonable 3.63. Plus, his 144/14 K/BB is simply superb.
The Rays are very savvy when it comes to trades, so while they typically wait to get what they want when moving a big-time piece, there's at least a chance they could act sooner while Price is this hot. In fact, Buster Olney of ESPN reported Tuesday that Tampa is game to trade Price—like now.
More than likely, that won't happen and this will play out over a few weeks and into mid- or late July so the club can leverage all the interested parties against each other. And there are plenty of those, from the Dodgers and Giants to the Angels and Yankees to the Cardinals and Blue Jays, among others, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times points out.
Price is due to become a free agent after 2015 and his salary ($14 million in 2014) could jump into the $18-20 million range. He's simply too expensive for the mini-market Rays to hang onto and would bring too big of a return for them not to pull the trigger. The only questions are when that will happen and to which team.
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