Ranking the Top 9 Potential MLB Trade Deadline Steals

Karl Buscheck@@KarlBuscheckContributor IIIJuly 25, 2014

Ranking the Top 9 Potential MLB Trade Deadline Steals

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    It's all about supply and demand. 

    As the MLB trade deadline edges closer, the market is lacking in sellers, but it's absolutely flooded with buyers. That means it will be nearly impossible to find a bargain between now and July 31.

    However, there are exceptions to the rule. The following nine players all have the potential to be deadline steals.

    Some of the players happen to play positions that are actually flush with talent. Others have endured a poor first half of the season but could be jump-started by switching teams. The players are ranked based on the impact that they are capable of making between now and the end of the year.

    You won't find David Price on the list, but you will find unheralded players who could just be the final piece for a playoff contender. 

9. Antonio Bastardo, RP, Philadelphia Phillies

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    2014 Salary: $2 million

    There are a ton of left-handed relievers on the trade market. 

    That makes Antonio Bastardo a perfect fit to land on this list. The reliever has been scuffling in his past 10 outings for the Philadelphia Phillies, posting a 5.63 ERA in that stretch, but he still owns a respectable 3.27 mark on the season.

    The 28-year-old has also demonstrated a knack for getting strikeouts, with 53 in 44 frames. The ability to produce swing-and-misses is a valuable asset for a late-inning reliever—especially one who could soon be pitching in high-leverage situations for a contender. 

    Another strong point for Bastardo is that he's isn't just a lefty specialist, as his manager Ryne Sandberg noted.

    "Just good stuff, mixing his pitches really well, real good location. He's been equally effective against left-handed and right-handed batters," Sandberg said, via Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly.

    Sandberg is spot on. Bastardo has limited lefties to a .140 average and righties to a .175 mark.

8. Tony Sipp, RP, Houston Astros

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    2014 Salary: $500,000

    Like Bastardo, Tony Sipp is a left-handed reliever who has been racking up punchouts in 2014. He owns a 12.6 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio and has also posted a 2.45 ERA in 31 games for the Houston Astros.

    Sipp and fellow reliever Chad Qualls are Houston's "most likely trade pieces," according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The 31-year-old has an affordable price tag, too, as he earns less than $1 million this season and will be arbitration eligible in the winter. 

7. Josh Willingham, OF, Minnesota Twins

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    2014 Salary: $7 million

    The 2014 season has not gone according to plan for Josh Willingham.

    A fractured wrist has limited the 35-year-old to just 54 games, and he hasn't exactly been productive when he's been on the diamond. On the season, the right-handed batter is hitting .207 with nine home runs for the Minnesota Twins.

    All the trade buzz surrounding Willingham certainly hasn't been to blame for his shaky campaign. As Willingham explained via Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com, he doesn't focus on the outside noise, saying, "I pay seriously zero attention to it. What I do hear comes from my teammates or my wife, but I really don't pay any attention to it."

    Willingham's contract situation makes him a player worth gambling on.

    The outfielder is playing out the final months of a three-year, $21 million deal, and he could be set for a strong end to the season as he looks to boost his free-agent value entering the offseason. 

6. Dayan Viciedo, OF, Chicago White Sox

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    2014 Salary: $2.8 million

    Dayan Viciedo's numbers are far from inspiring.  

    The outfielder is swinging at a clip of .233 for the Chicago White Sox in 2014. What makes the Cuban an intriguing candidate to be a trade deadline steal is that he has all sorts of power potential. Viciedo clubbed 25 home runs back in 2012, his first full season in the big leagues. This year, the right-handed hitter has gone yard 12 times.  

    With such a lack of pop on the market, Viciedo is worth a flier for a contender that is looking to upgrade its offense. 

5. Chad Qualls, RP, Houston Astros

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    2014 Salary: $2.75 million

    Qualls has quietly been enjoying a lot of success for the Houston Astros in 2014. 

    The right-handed reliever has a 1.78 ERA and is 11-for-13 in save attempts. Jeff Luhnow, the general manager of the Astros, is in no rush to deal the 35-year-old, as he explained via Brian McTaggart of MLB.com.

    "We need more Chad Qualls. We don't need less," Luhnow said.

    Luhnow is correct. Houston's bullpen has been dismal this season, posting the worst ERA in baseball. Of course, such a statement is also a textbook way to build up his trade value.

    Qualls is one of two closers to crack the list, but he lands in the No. 5 spot because he's also under contract for 2015 at $3 million and has an option for 2016. The closer who lands ahead of him becomes a free agent at the end of this season. 

4. LaTroy Hawkins, RP, Colorado Rockies

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    2014 Salary: $2.25 million

    As far as trade deadline bargains are concerned, LaTroy Hawkins checks all the boxes.

    The Colorado Rockies right-hander is effective, reasonably priced and set to become a free agent at the end of the season. The 41-year-old would be a fit on nearly any contender, as he could slide into a setup role while also providing closing insurance.

    Hawkins has locked down 17 of 18 save opportunities despite pitching his home games at the inhospitable Coors Field.

3. Kurt Suzuki, C, Minnesota Twins

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    2014 Salary: $2.75 million

    Kurt Suzuki's calling card has always been his glove.

    The 30-year-old backstop is renowned for his defensive skills. Suzuki is also well respected for his ability to handle a pitching staff. This year, the right-handed hitter has also been producing at the plate for the Minnesota Twins. Suzuki is hitting .308 with 19 doubles, which earned him his first All-Star appearance. 

    Suzuki would be an outstanding pickup for any playoff hopeful looking for an extra catcher—especially since he's playing on a one-year, $2.75 million deal.

2. Ross Detwiler, RP/SP, Washington Nationals

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    2014 Salary: $3 million

    There's no room for Ross Detwiler in the Washington Nationals rotation.

    For an array of other clubs, though, the left-hander would represent an immediate upgrade. Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post suggests that the Nats could be inclined to deal Detwiler to a team where he "could be of more value" as a starter. 

    For interested teams, trading for Detwiler would represent an opportunity to buy low on a pitcher who started 40 games for the Nationals during the 2012 and 2013 seasons combined. 

1. Ian Kennedy, SP, San Diego Padres

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    2014 Salary: $6.1 million

    The market for starting pitchers is thin.

    Nearly every available starter is either attached to an exorbitant multiyear deal or would cost a haul in terms of prospects. Ian Kennedy of the San Diego Padres doesn't fall into either of those categories. The right-hander is pitching on a manageable one-year, $6.1 million deal, and acquiring him wouldn't require a team to sell the farm. 

    Plus, he's enjoyed a resurgent season in 2014. Kennedy has an 8-9 record with a 3.66 ERA but has actually been better on the road (3.18 ERA) than at the pitcher-friendly Petco Park (4.18 ERA).


    Note: All stats and videos courtesy of MLB.com. All salary information courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts on BaseballProspectus.com.

    If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.