MLB Trade Rumors: Players Who Could Clear Waivers and Move By August 31
Baseball's non-waiver trade deadline came and went last weekend, with a number of clubs making last-minute additions to their team in a bid to make one final charge towards October.
There were buyers and there were sellers. Others decided to stay pat, content with what they had, or, more likely, unable or willing to shell out top dollar or part ways with highly-touted prospects.
Now that July 31 is a thing of the past, baseball fans can look forward to the next big deadline... August 31. It's a convoluted time in MLB's calendar when bluffs and counter bluffs can push a team over the top or hamper their finances for years to come.
It's a time when teams put virtually everyone up for grabs, only to take them back off of waivers when somebody shows interest in them, and it's a time where players, if dealt, can only get moved to the bidding team with the worst record within the league.
Should no teams show an interest in a player, usually because they don't want to get left picking up the player's remaining salary if his owner says, "Take him; he's yours," then it's open season once again, and clubs can trade him to any team they wish.
Here are some players who could pass through waivers, but still switch teams before the end of summer.
Carlos Beltran, New York Mets
Carlos Beltran should have no trouble clearing waivers. He hasn't shown enough of his pre-injury form to garner serious attention from many of the top clubs, and his $18.5 million contract looming for 2011 will put off a number of the smaller-market clubs.
In fact, it's pretty fair to say that clubs won't be making a waiver claim on the center fielder to stop a contender picking him up, simply because there is too much financial risk if they are stuck with him.
That said, should Beltran clear waivers, several teams could be interested in the former All-Star once they can bid freely for his services with Omar Minaya and Co. in Flushing.
Beltran's no-trade clause may make it hard for the Mets to move him anywhere, but it's not like Beltran has loved the organization these past 12 months. With Angel Pagan coming into his own in 2010, the Mets may have realized that Beltran is an expendable luxury they just can't afford to have. The only hesitation on pulling a deal might stem from having to play Jeff Francoeur every day.
Kosuke Fukudome, Chicago Cubs
I really thought that Fukudome would have been moved before the July 31 trade deadline, but it was not to be. The fourth-highest paid player on the Cubs is set to make $13.5 million next season, putting him in the same category as Beltran where teams would likely be too hesitant to put a waiver bid in for his services.
Assuming he clears waivers, there may be a handful of clubs who would be willing to discuss a move with Chicago. While he's not an elite outfielder, he could fit in as a No. 3 on quite a few teams. with the caveat that they don't expect him to hit move than .260 with a dozen home runs.
His bat isn't spectacular, but he could drive in 60 runs and score 80 times for whichever club he played for. Similarly, while his arm isn't the strongest in the league, he is a very capable fielder who makes good reads on the ball and rarely gets caught out of position.
There's a team out there that will be willing to take up his contract in 2011, I'm sure of it.
Scott Downs, Toronto Blue Jays
Listen, Scott Downs isn't going to be the most coveted player in the next month, but there were teams interested in him before the deadline, and I'm sure that a number of teams looking to sure up their 'pen will give him another glance before the end of August.
Downs has pitched to the tune of a 2.20 ERA this season, and he has been especially stingy against left-handed batters who are hitting just .175 against him.
His $4 million contact isn't too bad, but with him being a free agent at the end of the season, it would only be a short-term fix for a club in need of relief. Still, if a club did pick him up before August 31, he would be eligible for postseason play.
The Blue Jays don't have a whole lot of reasons not to trade away Downs, but unless a new club wants to take the gamble of extending his contract in 2011, the next few months could be filled with uncertainty for the 34-year-old.
Manny Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers
I understand the appeal with Manny, and I think there's still time for him to be sent away from Tinseltown before the dog days of summer have passed.
I know Tampa Bay and Chicago were interested as the non-waiver deadline came and went, and I think that he'll continue to generate speculation over the coming three weeks.
He's not going to be claimed on waivers though, that much is near certain. Ramirez is coming to the end of his two-year, $45 million deal in Mannywood and his injury problems have put off far too many potential suitors.
Once he clears waivers, things may be different, although the number of GMs ready to take a multi-million dollar risk on him are few and far between. There's a possibility he could stay on the west coast with a move to the Giants or Angels, but if the Dodgers are asking for too many prospects in return, he could be staying pat for the year.
Raul Ibanez, Philadelphia Phillies
If you took a look at Raul Ibanez this year, it may be difficult to understand just how he was an All-Star less than 12 months ago.
With just 10 homers and a .266 average this year, it seems this Phillies left fielder's 2009 was a fluke more than a substantial improvement.
Well, the power, at least. I'm not sure how many people bought into the idea that a 38-year-old would radically improve this late in the game, but that's for another column.
Ibanez is due to earn $11.5 million next season, and that alone is likely to see him through waivers. He is still good enough to see regular playing time, and as sick as Mariners fans must have been to see him producing at the level he did in '09, they must be a lot more content with the decision now that the picture has fully emerged.
The Phils are set in right field for the foreseeable future with Dom Brown, and he would have seen time in the Majors this year with or without an injury to Shane Victorino, and Jason Werth still has a few good years left in him.
I would be hesitant to have Ben Francisco as the everyday man out there, but assuming they could get a little younger in the process, I can see Ibanez being moved before the end of the year.
Nate McLouth, Atlanta Braves
Nate McLouth is in the middle year of a three-year, $15.75 million contract, and he provides an interesting proposition for clubs in the next month or so.
The $6.5 million he will make next year is probably enough to put off several teams throwing their hat in the ring, but he is also a buy-low candidate should he slip through waivers.
He hasn't came close to the form he showed in 2008 in Pittsburgh, and while Melky Cabrera hasn't exactly flashed a power bat out in center field, there's still a lot of skill lurking there, even if it is on display at Triple-A right now.
He is much better than the .168 he's shown so far, and I still think he's capable of a 20-homer, 20-steal season. Some team will take a chance on him before the year is out.
Brandon Lyon, Houston Astros
I like Brandon Lyon. I liked him more when he was in Detroit than Houston, but still, that shouldn't detract from his value. His strikeout rate is good if not spectacular and he has done a near-perfect job of keeping the ball in the yard... just one home run allowed this season. Jon Heyman said in a recent column that his salary ($5.25 million next season) is a little high for a non-closer, and I agree, but while that fact should see him through waivers it should not stop teams looking to acquire him afterward.
He picked up his second save of the year against the Brewers this weekend and he may get even more opportunities if Matt Lindstrom has prolonged back problems. It's a double-edged sword though.
While Lyon could prove he's a capable stopper, the Astros would be less likely to move him if Lindstrom goes to the DL any time soon.
The Astros are sellers, and even though Lyon only has a bit role, expect him to be out of Texas within the next few weeks. If Mark Melancon is as good as projected, they wont miss Lyon anyway.
Aaron Cook, Colorado Rockies
Aaron Cook's name was being banded about at the trade deadline several days ago, but he ended up staying in Colorado. The rumors were that the Rockies would move Cook for a middle reliever and an MLB-ready prospect, but the July 31st date came and went.
His $10.25 million salary probably isn't the be-all and end-all of trade negotiations, but it should be enough to see him clear waivers.
The Rockies have already shown this year that they are not averse to moving the 31-year-old righty, but while they are only a handful of games out of first they may not necessarily become sellers in time to pull the trigger on a deal.
Paul Maholm, Pittsburgh Pirates
San Diego showed serious interest in Maholm, but the former first-round draft pick continues to call Pittsburgh his home.
He is set to earn $4.5 million in 2011 and $5.75 the year after that, before it becomes a bit of a crap shoot whether he will be worth the near $10 million he would make if the Padres exercised their club option. The 28-year-old is 6-9 with a 4.52 ERA through 21 starts this year, but while he's a solid No. 2 in Pittsburgh, he would make a nice guy at the back end of a rotation pretty much anywhere else.
The Dodgers and Mets were also showing interest towards the 11th hour, although they apparently were not willing to part with the Major League-ready pieces the Pirates wanted. General manager Neal Huntington had said that the club was no longer interested in grabbing prospects for the sake of it, and when they have a solid starter in a pitching-depleted rotation, it's probably for the best. Still, don't expect them to shirk a deal if the right thing comes along.