In the run-up to baseball's non-waiver trade deadline, the focus is almost exclusively on the game's biggest names. We're fascinated by whispers of negotiations and bidding wars over marquee names and pay little mind to the lower-key players who could play similar roles.
But, as teams are quickly finding out, you've got to have a Plan B.
Two of the market's biggest names, Cliff Lee and Dan Haren, are now off the market. That doesn't mean the teams that missed out on them are simply giving up on improving their rotations—if they're smart, they'll look for other people to fill their open spots.
In this slideshow are 10 fairly uninspiring, yet useful, trade candidates who teams are likely to pursue if they miss out on flashier names, along with who they'd replace and which teams could be interested.
There are reasons why none of the players here are teams' first choices, but that doesn't mean these consolation prizes don't deserve to contribute in the pennant run.
Consolation for: Roy Oswalt
In 2007, Fausto Carmona became a Cy Young candidate when he went 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA for an Indians team that came just one game away from the World Series. From 2008-09, he went 13-19 with a 5.89 ERA and more walks (140) than strikeouts (137). Go figure.
Carmona seems to have found a happy medium this year with a 10-7 record and a 3.51 ERA, though he's been helped by a .269 BABIP and 6.0 percent HR/FB rate. But even his 4.52 xFIP isn't bad for a 26-year-old pitcher—especially one with a 61 percent career GB rate.
Like Oswalt, Carmona would impact more than one pennant race; he's guaranteed a little over $8 million through 2011, with options for 2012-14 at $7, $9, and $12 million, respectively. Eight digits for a pitcher with Cy Young upside through 2013 is a pretty good deal.
The Indians won't give Carmona up easily, but he's certainly gettable for the right package.
Could interest: Phillies, Cardinals, Dodgers
Consolation for: Prince Fielder
Adam LaRoche is a second-half slugger, plain and simple. It doesn't make sense and no one understands why. That's just how it is.
His career slashline in the first half is a pedestrian .252/.327/.449. But he turns into a monster after the All-Star break, with a career line of .299/.362/.542. It's the nature of the beast.
That's a pretty good deal for a guy who has just over $3 million guaranteed on his contract, especially considering that his .904 career second-half OPS is equal to Fielder's mark so far this year.
The D-Backs aren't going anywhere this year, and there are plenty of contending teams who could use LaRoche's bat.
Could interest: Angels, White Sox, Rays
Consolation for: Ted Lilly
No one will ever mistake Westbrook for an ace. With a career record of 69-70 and a 4.35 ERA, he's not exactly a perennial Cy Young candidate.
But even if he's not headed for Cooperstown, Westbrook has two things that set him apart from most other pitchers on the market: inducing grounders and consistency.
Since 2003 (his first full season in the majors), Westbrook has never finished a season with an ERA over 4.50 or a groundball rate under 53 percent. Right now, he ranks seventh in the league in burning worms—and that's in a down year. His 58.8 percent GB rate since 2002 ranks fourth in the game among pitchers with at least 700 innings.
He's owed about $4 million before his contract expires at the end of the season. The Indians would surely eat his remaining salary for a couple of solid prospects.
Westbrook won't make headlines and he's not an ideal choice to start a Game Seven, but a reliable innings-eater could do wonders to help a top-heavy staff for the stretch run.
Could interest: Cardinals, Yankees, Dodgers
Consolation for: Adam Dunn
It hasn't been a banner year for Big Puma. At age 34, he's on pace to set full-season lows in just about every offensive category.
But that doesn't mean he's completely washed up. Berkman's eye is as good as ever, so he's still reaching base at a well-above average .360 clip. He still has some thunder in his bat (12 homers) and has knocked in 44 runs in just 88 games.
He's still guaranteed close to $8 million to play for two more months, but the Astros would likely eat some of that if it improved their return haul.
Plus if you're a team like the White Sox, you'd probably rather pay a few more dollars than give into the Nationals' demands and sell Gordon Beckham's future for a few weeks of Adam Dunn.
Could interest: White Sox, Giants, Tigers
Consolation for: Ty Wigginton
Orioles utility man Ty Wigginton stormed out of the gate for Baltimore to start the season, smashing 13 homers with a .975 OPS in his first 41 games. As a result, he's been the subject of almost nonstop trade rumors over the last two months, and the O's are demanding a promising young shortstop in exchange for Wigginton's services.
No one seems to have noticed that his production has since dropped off the table; since May 23, he's hit just .209 with only three homers and a .607 OPS. It's no wonder teams have balked at Baltimore's asking price.
Meanwhile, Wigginton's teammate Miguel Tejada is also apparently up for grabs. He's actually been better than Wigginton over that time span, though admittedly not by much (.655 OPS).
The point is, Miggy will provide similar production at (presumably) a much lower price. Don't be surprised if he skips town this week while Wiggy is left behind.
Could interest: Phillies, Yankees, Rangers
Consolation for: Jorge Cantu
You wouldn't know it from all the buzz surrounding him, but Jorge Cantu is having a pretty bad season. A .721 OPS combined with poor fielding (-5.1 UZR) simply isn't good enough for a corner infielder.
For some reason, a bidding war of sorts has emerged for Cantu, even though a contender would probably use him as a backup infielder. Whatever works, I suppose.
But as long as you're in the market for a versatile infielder with a weak bat, why not give some love to Jhonny Peralta? After all, the 28-year-old third baseman is just two years removed from 23 homers and 104 runs.
He'll make less than $2 million for the rest of the season, making him cheaper than Cantu. And unlike last year's sell-offs Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez, Tribe fans wouldn't be sad to see him go.
Could interest: Giants, Rockies, Rangers
Consolation for: Jayson Werth
Make no mistake, Austin Kearns is nothing special. He's not the kind of guy who will put butts in seats and he hasn't sent shivers down a pitcher's spine since he was a rookie in 2002.
But Kearns has revived his career in Cleveland this year, hitting six homers with 41 RBI and a .757 OPS in 80 games. Even combined with his solid glove (8.5 career UZR/150), that's not enough for him to earn a bobblehead night in his honor, but it's certainly enough to help out a team in need of outfield assistance.
Consider that Werth is still on the hook for more than $2 million for the rest of the season while Kearns will earn something in the mid-six digit range and that the Phillies will need a much better package to move their outfielder. Getting stuck with Kearns might not be such a bad thing.
Could interest: Red Sox, Tigers, Giants
Consolation for: Corey Hart
Okay, so these players don't have much in common; Hart is a power hitter with 22 homers to his name while Podsednik is a slap hitter with 29 steals. The point is, they're both outfield upgrades.
Scotty-Pods is hitting .309 on the year—it's always easier to steal bases when you can reach base often. That might not make him as valuable as Hart, but that's why he's the second choice.
Could interest: Braves, Padres, Giants
Consolation for: Jose Bautista
Mike Lowell would be a huge risk to take on for any team. He's performed poorly (.658 OPS) in the limited action he's seen this year, and thanks to a hip injury he hasn't played in a big league game in more than a month.
But he isn't just high-risk—he's high-reward.
From 2006-9, Lowell smacked 75 homers with 348 RBI and an .829 OPS while leading the Red Sox to a World Series win. Just last year he smoked 17 bombs with an .811 OPS.
Bottom line: he's not washed up yet. Given the Red Sox' willingness to eat most of his remaining salary, he could be worth the risk for whoever misses out on Bautista.
Could interest: Tigers, White Sox, Twins
Consolation for: Matt Capps
No, he's no longer an elite pitcher, and yes, he's a pretty big risk to take. But Wood's situation isn't as dire as his 6.30 ERA would suggest.
He's still lighting up the radar guns (average fastball speed: 95 mph). He's still striking out batters at an impressive rate (8.1 K/9). He's even learning to mix in a cutter (21 percent of pitches thrown this year).
You're taking a risk every time you throw him out in a save situation, but if he were traded, chances are he'd be used as a lower-pressure setup guy.
The Indians would be happy for someone to take Wood and his contract off their hands, and in a relief market as thin as this year's, his upside and closing experience puts him towards the top of the list by default.
Could interest: Red Sox, Yankees, Rockies