MLB Trade Deadline 2014: Top Trade Targets at Each Position
Each MLB general manager that will be acquiring talent by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline surely has a list of top targets that he believes will improve his club’s chances.
On that list could be a power-hitting first baseman or a defensive specialist that will improve the roster's depth. It could also be a left-handed reliever or a third starter that will provide some separation from the rest of the division.
But who are the top targets at those positions? Better yet, who are the best players likely available at each position across the MLB? That's what we're here to sort out.
Not every name on this list will be available at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Some of them are on teams that don’t quite know if they will be selling off assets or bringing players on board. If a club like the Cleveland Indians, for example, goes on a run, it will be adding talent rather than trading it away.
In other words, these are simply the top targets that will likely be inquired about.
That said, no players on teams in first or second place in their respective divisions will be mentioned, with one exception. That means that Adam Lind, Max Scherzer and Michael Morse will not be brought up. Sure, they are all free agents at the end of the season, but they are intrinsically tied to their teams' playoff chances and won’t be shopped.
We’re going to keep it simple. Here are the top targets at each position.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference and are accurate through Sunday, June 29.
The catching position isn’t in as great a demand as it has been in years past, but there is still a need, considering that the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers all have backstops that are performing terribly this season.
Not that any of those teams will go after a catcher, but if they do, there are a few that could be available in the coming weeks.
A.J. Pierzynski, Boston Red Sox
While the suspicion is that the Boston Red Sox will end up acquiring players this year, there is a chance that they will continue to fall in the standings in the AL East. If that happens, the only choice left for general manager Ben Cherington is to unload pieces that are set to become free agents at the end of the season.
Consider A.J. Pierzynski at the top of that list.
True, he is having an off season—by his standards, anyway—but he’d provide an offensive spark from the left side of the plate. Another thing to keep in mind is that in addition to catching, Pierzynski can serve as a team's designated hitter. On the season, he has a .249/.278/.350 slash line with four home runs and 31 RBI.
Kurt Suzuki, Minnesota Twins
In 229 at-bats this season, Suzuki has 15 doubles, 32 RBI and has a fine .297 batting average. True, his defense has slipped the past couple of seasons, but he would make a nice addition to any lineup. He gets on base and has been able to find the gaps this season.
Russell Martin, Pittsburgh Pirates
It will take a free fall in the standings for the Pittsburgh Pirates to make Russell Martin available. If their play did decline that suddenly, though, there is no doubt that Martin—who is getting on base at a .407 clip—would garner a lot of interest. For the season, he is batting .265 with a .384 slugging percentage and has drawn 27 walks.
1st Base/Designated Hitter
Honestly, there aren’t a lot of options at first base or designated hitter available. Most of the players who would bring back a ton of talent in any deal have multiple years left on their contracts or are on contending teams already.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a couple of guys out there that could make a difference, though.
Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox
When targeting a guy like Chicago White Sox first baseman/designated hitter Adam Dunn, two things are already known. First, he is going to hit his fair share of home runs. Second, he will strike out exponentially more than that.
In the last year of a four-year, $56 million contract he signed prior to the 2011 season, Dunn is primed for a trade. Not only are the White Sox going the wrong way in the AL Central, but several teams have a distinct need for guy with Dunn’s skill set.
General manager Rick Hahn will have to eat some (OK, most) of the remaining dollars if he wants to get a decent prospect in return, but it would be worth it, considering that keeping Dunn on the roster does absolutely nothing for the White Sox.
Kendrys Morales, Minnesota Twins
Singing Kendrys Morales was a shrewd move by Minnesota Twins general manager Terry Ryan. For one thing, Morales could have been the guy that gave the offense just enough firepower. Unfortunately, the Twins have lost 10 out of their last 15 games, and any hope they had of reaching the postseason seems long lost.
Morales will still pay dividends for the Twins, though, considering that he is a switch-hitting first baseman with a career .805 OPS. To be sure, Morales is going to have to start hitting more than he currently is to generate any real interest, but he is likely to be moved nonetheless.
Second base is arguably the position that is in greatest demand this season. Three teams—the San Francisco Giants, Oakland A’s and Toronto Blue Jays—need an everyday player, and most of the other contenders could stand to improve their depth.
As usual, though, the competition to acquire somebody solid is going to be fierce. Back in early June, MLB Network's Peter Gammons mentioned Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley as a potential trade candidate (via CSN Philly’s Corey Seidman). The likelihood of Philadelphia moving him is so remote, however, that he is not included on the following list.
Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox could be on the verge of moving Gordon Beckham after what seems like years of speculation. Frankly, that's been the case the past couple of seasons.
The problem the White Sox had in moving him was that his offensive production limited what they could get in return. And for some reason, the organization held out hope that he would be able to turn the corner and become the franchise second baseman they thought they were drafting back in 2008.
Well, Beckham is finally contributing, hitting .261 with a .730 OPS, and has been serviceable in the second spot in the order. And with a wealth of middle infield prospects in the minor leagues, the White Sox may finally pull the trigger.
Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers
Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks is a man without a home following the emergence of Scooter Gennett, who has a .404/.443/.702 slash line and has scored 15 runs since taking over as the leadoff hitter on June 10, per Baseball-Reference.
While Weeks would make a great addition for a team looking to add depth, that is exactly what he provides to the Brewers. Though it seems unlikely Milwaukee will move him, general manager Doug Melvin should remain open to considering offers.
In 132 at-bats this year, Weeks is slashing out at .265/.331/.409 and has 15 RBI. Not great, of course, but valuable nonetheless.
Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays
When the conversation turns to Tampa Bay Rays everyman Ben Zobrist, all eyes focus on general manager Andrew Friedman. See, Friedman could walk away with a substantial haul for Zobrist, but he's unlikely to make him available this season because of how well he fits into what the Rays do in each phase.
That won’t stop teams from inquiring about him, however. It will take quite a bit to land Zobrist, but there are a few organizations with the resources to make solid offers.
Daniel Murphy, New York Mets
First off, he is easily the best hitter among this group. On the season, he has a .301 batting average with 19 doubles, 11 stolen bases and a .768 OPS. The kid can rake at the dish, and he would immediately improve any offense.
The second reason is that Murphy has another season of arbitration eligibility. That means that whichever team acquires him will not only have his services to start the 2015 season, but will also be able to trade him next season, netting the club a nice prospect in the process.
Shortstop is another position where the options are limited and the needs are plentiful. Taken as a whole, most teams will simply be stuck with what they currently have at their disposal unless they come up with offers that are simply too good to refuse.
Though the Los Angeles Dodgers' Hanley Ramirez is set to become a free agent at the end of the season, that doesn’t mean he is going to be traded. If a rumor comes out stating otherwise, we can explore what that deal could look like; for now, however, Ramirez is not a target.
Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies
Two things have to happen for Philadelphia Phillies legend Jimmy Rollins to switch teams. First, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. must come to the realization that he needs to overhaul his roster. Second, Rollins has to agree to waive his no-trade rights.
For his part, Rollins has hinted that he would be agreeable to switching teams given the proper circumstances, but added that he’s "never honestly thought about waiving [his] no-trade clause", via USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.
One final thing to consider is that Rollins has a vesting option based on plate appearances and health that is sure to kick in, barring an unforeseen injury.
Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox
Alexei Ramirez is an intriguing name to watch on the trade market considering his scorching start to the season. He already has more home runs than he did all of last year and is rapidly approaching last season's RBI total. True, he isn’t stroking as many doubles, but his offensive game more than complements what he does in the field.
It is unlikely that general manager Rick Hahn will make Ramirez available, though. He still has one more year left on his contract and a $10 million team option for 2016. It stands to reason that Hahn will hold on to Ramirez with the expectation that the club will be competitive sooner rather than later.
Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians
For starters, the Indians have Francisco Lindor waiting in the wings. Secondly, Cabrera is a free agent at the end of the season. Finally, the lack of available players means that the interest in his services will be quite high.
Now, Cabrera’s defense has slipped substantially this season, but he is still fairly effective at the plate. In 294 at-bats, he has put together a .248/.313/.401 slash line with eight home runs and 33 RBI.
There is a dearth of talent at third base to begin with across MLB, but the guys who will be on the trading block this season is a who’s who of bad. In fact, it's difficult to call one of these guys a “top target” at all, considering how poorly he's played.
Chase Headley, San Diego Padres
In 211 at-bats, he is hitting a paltry .204 with six home runs and 23 RBI. Those numbers are woefully short of his career averages, and there doesn’t appear to be a silver lining. It looks like his bat speed has slowed down considerably, and he has lost a step in the field.
That said, someone will likely roll the dice to see if they can squeeze a couple of good months out of him. If the Padres can get anything of value for Headley, consider it a win.
Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks
Acquiring Martin Prado is a long shot, but he will certainly be a topic of conversation across the league given his ability to drive the ball and create runs. For the season, he is hitting .268 with 13 doubles, four triples and 35 RBI. Sure, his home run total is down, but he would be a nice pickup.
Now Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers is in a tricky spot with Prado. On one hand, he is under contract through the 2016 season at a reasonable price, making him valuable to the club. On the other hand, though, that contract and his overall ability make him attractive to potential buyers.
Almost every contending team, save the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels and Oakland A’s, needs help in the outfield. Some squads need help defensively or in center field, while others need a power bat to play corner outfielder. Whatever the case, you can expect to see quite a bit of movement at the position in the coming weeks.
Matt Kemp bears mentioning. There has been a lot of talk about his availability, and while anything is possible, it is unlikely that he will be moved. He is, after all, a large part of the reason the Dodgers have been playing so well lately.
Alejandro De Aza, LF, Chicago White Sox
Alejandro De Aza may be playing his way off the Chicago White Sox. Take, for example, the .365/.423/.540 slash line and six doubles he’s put up in the month of June. He has also been hitting the cutoff man (a big deal for him) and is generally playing good baseball.
Additionally, De Aza is a directional-split demon. All five of his home runs, 15 of his RBI and almost half of his doubles have come pulling the ball, according to FanGraphs. That can play very well in certain ballparks that play short to right field.
De Aza also has one more year of arbitration eligibility remaining, which should increase his value. There aren’t a lot of options in the minor leagues for the White Sox to replace De Aza, but if general manager Rick Hahn can find a taker, he should jump on it.
Emilio Bonifacio, CF, Chicago Cubs
He compiled a .261/.307/.340 slash line with 10 doubles, three triples and 13 stolen bases in 241 at-bats before going down with an oblique strain. Those numbers aren’t the reason he’s worth picking up, though.
Bonifacio is simply one of the most versatile players in MLB, logging time in center field, at third base, at second base and at shortstop. He could also play either corner spot in the outfield, so his value is tremendous. Assuming he returns from the disabled list ready to play, the Cubs should be able to move him for an attractive package.
Josh Willingham, LF, Minnesota Twins
Minnesota Twins left fielder Josh Willingham could end up being a designated hitter following his almost-certain trade, depending on which team grabs him. He is an outfielder by profession, however, so he is included in this group.
This season, he is hitting .252 with seven home runs, four doubles and an .886 OPS. One thing to recognize here is that while the sample size is only 115 at-bats, he is getting on base at a .399 clip. That is a positive sign for a team looking to add the long ball to the middle of its lineup.
Seth Smith, OF, San Diego Padres
While it’s true that San Diego Padres corner outfielder Seth Smith has seen his batting average fall from .309 at the beginning of June to .276 entering play on Monday, he is still one of the better targets in either league.
And make no mistake: The Padres will likely part ways with him in the coming weeks. Per ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark, Smith is one of the outfielders “at the top of their ‘BUY ME’ list.” It makes sense, too, given his production and the fact that he will be a free agent at the end of the season.
Alex Rios, RF, Texas Rangers
Alex Rios is having such a good season that it will be a shame to see him go, but that is the smart play for Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels. On the season, he has eight triples, 13 stolen bases and a .304/.336/.438 slash line.
Rios is a right fielder by trade, but he has played center field in the past. Granted, he struggled at times with his routes and seemed disinterested, but if needed, he could fill the role. He has a $13.5 million team option with a $1 million buyout for the 2015 season, so whoever lands him will have the chance to make it a multiyear relationship.
Marlon Byrd, RF, Philadelphia Phillies
Right fielder Marlon Byrd’s time with the Philadelphia Phillies could be short. Not that it’s his fault, of course.
Sure, his batting average and on-base percentage are down from his career averages, but he is slugging with the best of them and is producing runs. All told, he has a .268/.319/.487 slash line and already has 15 home runs, 48 RBI and 40 runs scored.
Byrd has a relatively reasonable contract that could run through the 2016 season if his option vests, so keeping him on the roster may be wise for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.
But given the contact situations of some of his other players, Byrd may be the easiest one to move.
As usual, starting pitching is in great demand. And as is typically the case, there are several pitchers with multiple years left on their contracts—think Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee—that are garnering some attention.
The Philadelphia Phillies might struggle to move Lee, though, and Hamels has a reasonable contract for next season, meaning that the Phillies would have to be wowed to move him. And while there are several other starters that could end up on the trade block—like Justin Masterson, A.J. Burnett, Ian Kennedy and Bartolo Colon—the following guys have better stuff.
Jason Hammel, Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel will draw a lot of attention as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. Not only is he a free agent at the end of the season, but his peripherals are out of this world.
In 102.2 innings pitched, he has a 2.98 ERA with a 1.013 WHIP and is striking out 8.5 batters every nine innings, while having issued only 21 walks all season. He is also a model of consistency, allowing more than three earned runs in only three of his 16 starts.
Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Chicago Cubs
If Jeff Samardzija isn’t traded by Chicago Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer this season, it will be a major shock.
Hoyer recently upped his offer to Samardzjia, but the stud pitcher "hasn't countered the Cubs' offer yet, he isn't obligated to counter it, and he may never counter it," according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. In other words, Hoyer did his due diligence, but since no deal was struck, trading the right-hander is a formality at this point.
In 17 starts this year, Samardzija has a 2-7 record with a 2.83 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 108.0 innings pitched. True, he has scuffled recently, but with one more year of arbitration remaining, he is no less attractive to a contending team.
David Price, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Left-hander David Price is easily the star of this group.
Not only is he pitching to the tune of a 3.63 ERA and 2.99 FIP, but he has only walked 14 while striking out 144 over the course of 124.0 innings pitched. It is truly remarkable.
The struggles of the Tampa Bay Rays could be a blessing in disguise for general manager Andrew Friedman. His farm system is not what it once was, and with limited payroll options, trading Price for a slew of prospects may be what gets his club back on track.
That is not what many Rays’ fans want to hear, but it is a reality that cannot be ignored. It’s a shame, too, since this season began with such high hopes before injuries took their toll.
There are a few different options available at closer this season, and most of them are quite good.
Jonathan Papelbon will be avoided here since his contract makes him the least desirable out of the bunch. Sure, his numbers are fantastic again this season, but the following guys are more reasonably priced and are quite good at what they do.
Huston Street, San Diego Padres
By the numbers, Huston Street from the San Diego Padres is one of the best closers in the MLB. In 29 appearances, he has a 0.93 ERA with a 0.759 WHIP and has struck out 31 batters in 29.0 innings pitched. He has been simply fantastic all season.
Street's $7 million team option for next season only makes him that much more attractive on the trade market. It gives the club that acquires him a few options: simply parting ways, picking the option up and bringing him back next season, or using that as a selling point in a trade this offseason.
Joakim Soria, Texas Rangers
Joakim Soria is in the final year of a two-year, $8 million contract with the Texas Rangers and is worth every penny. As a matter of fact, he is probably worth more.
In 29 games, he has collected 15 saves and has 39 strikeouts in only 27.2 innings pitched. Oh, he has a minuscule 0.795 WHIP and a 0.72 FIP. He will no doubt be at the top of many teams' wish lists.
Like Street, Soria has a $7 million team option for next season.
LaTroy Hawkins, Colorado Rockies
LaTroy Hawkins is having a very nice season for the Colorado Rockies after signing a one-year deal this past offseason. And with the Rockies quickly falling out of contention, it is only a matter of time before general manager Dan O’Dowd begins fielding offers for his services.
True, Hawkins’ FIP is bit inflated (4.00) and he is no longer a strikeout pitcher, but he has a nice 1.143 WHIP and has only walked seven batters in 28.0 innings pitched. He is a cost-effective option that will make the back end of any bullpen better.
Bridge and Setup Man
Bridge relievers will be the key for quite a few teams this year. Take the Atlanta Braves as an example. They have had a tough time this year finding the final guy in their bullpen that can serve as an effective complement to Craig Kimbrel and Co.
And since the bullpen has become such an integral part of a team’s success, expect there to be quite a bit of upgrading in the coming weeks. More relievers than these will surely be traded, but these three stand out.
Chad Qualls, RHP, Houston Astros
Yes, Chad Qualls has saved nine games for the Houston Astros. And yes, Fox Sports’ John Halpin recently noted that he will remain in that role even with the return of Jose Veras. He probably fits best as at right-handed setup man, though.
Qualls could be the best one of those available right now. In 31 games, he has a very nice 1.024 WHIP and has a 9.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Improving in both of those metrics would serve numerous contenders well as the season progresses.
Joaquin Benoit, RHP, San Diego Padres
Right-hander Joaquin Benoit is another San Diego Padres reliever who is having a dominant season.
In 33 appearances, he has a 1.34 ERA with a 0.743 WHIP and is striking out 10.2 batters every nine innings. Most amazingly, he has only allowed a run in three outings all year.
One thing that could get tricky here is that Benoit has another year and a team option for the 2016 season left on his contract. He’s scheduled to make $8 million next season, however, which may be a little rich for the Padres. Expect a deal to go down, but the prospect haul to be a bit less, considering the financial obligations to his new team.
Joe Thatcher, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
After a disastrous 2013 campaign in which he appeared in just 22 games and put up a 6.75 ERA, left-hander Joe Thatcher has been great for the Arizona Diamondbacks this season.
In 36 games covering 23.0 innings, he has a 2.74 ERA with 25 strikeouts and a 1.130 WHIP. Like Benoit, Thatcher has been consistent all year, allowing earned runs in only six appearances. Given the lack of available left-handers, he should net a nice return.
Oliver Perez is another left-hander in the Diamondbacks bullpen, but he is under contract through next season at a modest cost. Unless general manager Kevin Towers is overwhelmed, he would be wise to hold on to him.