MLB Trade Rumors: BJ Upton and 10 Other Available Chips for 2011
Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford are the biggest names of a lackluster 2010 MLB free agent class.
In only a matter of weeks, Lee will be re-joined with former Cleveland Indians teammate CC Sabathia in New York, and Crawford will be heading to Hollywood to become a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
This will leave the headlines open for players like Jayson Werth, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, who will be vying for major contracts, and looking for a team to call home.
While a lot of the focus is on this year's free agent class, I'm focusing on players who could possibly be dealt before the season begins.
That free agent class will be highlighted by a duo of first basemen, Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez, and, if Albert Pujols and the Cardinals can't work out an extension, he will be the precious prize of 2011.
Let's look at BJ Upton and 10 other available chips for 2011.
Let's play ball.
BJ Upton, Tampa Bay Rays
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Arbitration eligible after the 2011 season, the Tampa Bay Rays are going to be faced with the same situation they experienced with Carl Crawford just this season, as Upton will be looking for a major contract and the Rays will be unable to keep him.
Upton, who has seen his production in batting average, home runs and RBI decline over the past three seasons, after hitting .300 with 24 home runs, 82 RBI, to go along with 22 steals in 2007, the Rays' talented young outfielder will be looking for a multi-year deal to stay in Tampa.
If Upton is still a Ray in 2011, he will be asked to carry the load, and replace the production Crawford is taking with him to the Golden State—a difficult task for a player who hasn't produced in the past three seasons.
Alongside Evan Longoria, Upton is playing for his future and for a contract. If the Rays were smart, they'd look to trade Upton this upcoming season, instead of letting him walk for nothing, as the Rays might soon find themselves, once again, at the bottom of the barrel in the AL East.
First Crawford leaves town, and now Upton can start packing his bags for a new home.
If both of these superstars were to stay in Tampa, a dynasty would've been born.
But unfortunately this is the world of baseball.
Jonathan Papelbon, Boston Red Sox
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With the Boston Red Sox grooming Daniel Bard to become the future closer, Jonathan Papelbon's time in Boston is all but over. Scheduled to make $9.35 million in 2011, Papelbon will be looking for a major contract as he enters the prime of his career.
Not long ago, Papelbon was the second best closer in the league, behind Mariano Rivera. But during a year where the Red Sox were plagued by injuries, and could ill-afford to lose crucial games, Papelbon struggled pitching to a 3.30 ERA and recording 36 saves in 42 opportunities.
During any other year, a 36 save season would be satisfying, but it was Pabelbon's blown saves that cost the Red Sox a shot at the playoffs.
Papelbon will be looking for an eight-figure deal next season, and if the Red Sox are not willing to pay him, somebody will want him as their closer.
Personally, I wouldn't. But then again, why would I want somebody else when I have Mo on the mound?
Carlos Beltran, New York Mets
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Do you remember when Carlos Beltran was healthy? Do you remember when Beltran put the Houston Astros on his back with a postseason performance for the ages, carrying the 2005 'Stros all the way to the World Series?
Do you remember when Beltran failed to swing the bat with the based loaded, during bottom of the ninth of Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS?
(But why talk about the past, when I can discuss the wonderful future of the Mets)
Willing to waive his no-trade clause or change positions, Beltran enters this season playing for a new contract, and looking to be the offensive spark the Mets desperately need.
They might have found it in new general manager, Sandy Alderson. And hopefully, the Mets will continue their positive outlook for the 2010 with the hiring of a manager who will have all the attributes and characteristics that former manager, Jerry Manuel, failed to display during his tenure with the Mets.
But in order for the Mets to be "somewhat" successful during the 2011 season, Beltran will need to get back to playing like his former self, and display his power and talent that he's shown in years past.
Being in the final year of his seven-year, $119 million contract that he signed in January of 2005, earning roughly $19 million in 2010, Beltran will need to prove that his surgically repaired knee is no longer a bother.
Beltran will need to prove that his seven home run, 27 RBI season was a fluke.
Beltran will need to prove he still has some power in his bat, and that he's still able to be the great defensive outfielder, three-time gold glove winner, that we were once used to seeing patrol center field.
Many have criticized Beltran for not being the outspoken leader the fans want him to be, but he has always excelled on the field.
If Beltran lasts the entire season with the Mets, this will most likely be his final season in a Mets uniform, as Angel Pagan is waiting in the wings to take over the reign of center field.
He might be traded during this offseason. He might be dealt during the regular season. He might not even get the chance to finish his contract as a Met, but wherever he goes, barring another injury, Beltran will rebound and will be a valuable asset for any team looking for a superstar.
It'll cost a lot to acquire him, and many of you will disagree with me, but even at the age of 33, Beltran will be worth every penny.
Heath Bell, San Diego Padres
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Any team in need of a closer should turn their attention towards Heath Bell, who is under the Padres' control through 2011.
After saving 47 games with a 1.93 ERA in 2010, Bell has not disappointed since being acquired from the Mets in November of 2006, going 24-15 with 91 saves and a 2.54 ERA in 311 innings.
At 33, Bell is in line for a big raise. San Diego is in a tough position with both Gonzalez and Bell because they’re likely to be contenders again in 2011, but if the Padres are going to trade one it makes sense to deal the other as well.
They have two closer candidates in Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson if Bell is traded or if the Padres allow him to walk. They'd be losing a great closer, but if they can get players return, all would not be lost if the Padres were to trade Bell.
A lot of uncertainty surrounds the future of the team. It might take a few months to determine the future roster of the Padres, but we'll find out soon enough where Bell will begin next season.
Padre fans are hoping it'll be in San Diego, but don't be surprised if Bell begins 2011 someplace else.
Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego Padres
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Adrian Gonzalez might have a new home by opening day; possibly Boston.
Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reported that the Red Sox are intrigued with Gonzalez and are doing some research to find out "how available" the slugging first basemen is in a trade.
Gonzalez, who is 29, has been targeted by the Red Sox for years. He'll be seeking $20-plus million a year, and the Padres, who are unwilling to pay Gonzalez that type of money, are reportedly open to trade before he becomes a unrestricted free agent next winter.
Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein should not let the opportunity of acquiring Gonzalez pass him by.
If they have Gonzalez playing first base, not only will they be a threat to win the AL East, but the World Series championship too.
Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians
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Playing in only 33 games this season due to undergoing season ending micro-fracture surgery on his left knee, Grady Sizemore is expected to be ready for the Spring Training.
Sizemore finished the 2005 season batting .289 with 22 home runs, 81 RBI, and 22 SB, earning a six-year contract with the Indians worth $23.45 million with a club option for 2012.
Sizemore became the only AL hitter to hit at least 20 home runs and steal at least 20 bases each year during 2004-08. In 2008, Sizemore was awarded his second consecutive Gold Glove (his .995 fielding percentage was second among AL center fielders). He was also awarded his first Silver Slugger Award.
Over the past couple of seasons, Sizemore's career has hit a bumpy road. In 2009, he missed the final month of the season after undergoing surgery on his left elbow, and 2010 is a season Sizemore would like to forget.
Now, the 2012 option on his contract is vastly approaching, and the Indians must decide what to do with the two-time Gold Glove award winner.
Should the Indians re-sign him or will he be patrolling center field for another team?
Sizemore has proven he can be a superstar in this league. He deserves to be playing for a contender. I'm hoping he gets that chance next season.
Edwin Jackson, Chicago White Sox
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Former All-star, Edwin Jackson, who threw a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays this past season, can possibly be dealt once again during the off-season.
During the regular season, in desperate need of a bat, the White Sox claimed Manny Ramirez off waivers with hopes of adding an offensive spark to their lineup, but Ramirez, who hit .261 with only one home run in his 24 games, failed to provide the offense manager Ozzie Guillen was expecting.
Now the White Sox, who'll be looking to add a slugger, might be willing to package Jackson and a few prospects in a deal that would bring either Price Fielder or Adrian Gonzalez to Chicago.
Jackson, who went 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP with the White Sox, has pitched for five teams during his seven years in the league. He's always had the potential, but has never been able to live up to expectations.
Maybe, under the right tutelage, Jackson will become the pitcher the Angels, Rays, Tigers, Diamondbacks, and White Sox had hoped he'd become. At only 27 years old, he has the time and potential to turn his career around. Failing to find a permanent home in the majors, it makes you wonder if Jackson will ever be the "can't miss prospect" he was labeled after being drafted by the Dodgers in the sixth round of the 2001 entry draft.
He hasn't proven it yet, and who knows if he ever will.
Jason Bartlett, Tampa Bay Rays
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One year removed from making his first All-Star game (2009), Tampa Bay Rays shortstop, Jason Bartlett, will hit the free agent market at the end of next season.
He will not hit for power, or drive in runs, but Bartlett is the ultimate team player.
With the shortstop free agent pool being extremely shallow, don't be surprised if Bartlett is on the move before the end of next season. Also, he has the the ability to collect his last year of arbitration, meaning whichever team trades for him, they will be receiving a discount compared to signing him as a free agent.
They will have the ability to either re-sign him to an extension, or let him go at the end of the season.
In 2010, Bartlett failed to live up to the numbers he compiled in 2009, by hitting a lousy .254, belting only four home runs and driving in 47 RBI.
I have seen that during a contract year, certain players raise their level of play with hopes of cashing in on a mega deal. However, Bartlett appears to be the type of player that no matter what his contract is, or how much he's making, he will give you 100 percent every single times he takes the field.
That is a trait you can't teach, but any team will certainly enjoy having a player with his attitude.
CJ Wilson, Texas Rangers
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Christopher John Wilson, or known to the baseball world as "C.J.", returned to the starting rotation for the first time since his rookie year in 2005.
Wilson excelled in the role as a starting pitcher, and by season's end, Wilson led the team in wins and ERA, throwing more than 200 innings, recording 170 strikeouts, and was named the second starter behind Cliff Lee for the playoffs.
In his playoff debut, Wilson pitched 6.1 innings allowing no runs on two hits, seven strikeouts, and two walks in a 6–0 win in Game 2 against the Tampa Rays in the American League Divisional Playoff series. In Game 1 of the ALCS, Wilson pitched seven innings, allowing three runs and six hits. During Game 2 of the World Series, Wilson was on his way to earning his first World Series victory, but a blister on his left middle finger forced him to leave the game with one out in the seventh inning.
He proved he can pitch under pressure. He proved he can be a big-game pitcher.
Now, Wilson is entering the final year of his contract.
Will co-owner and team president Nolan Ryan look to trade Wilson, or will he sign him to an extension?
It's no secret the Rangers number one priority this off-season will be making sure Cliff Lee remains a Ranger.
If that holds true, Wilson potentially becomes expendable, creating more room for the Rangers to pay Lee. If the Rangers were to trade Wilson, now would be the time to sell high. Good against lefties, and a ground-ball pitcher, Wilson is only turning 30 and has some great years ahead of him.
All teams in need of pitching should contact the Rangers to see if Wilson is available.
I'd give up a lot to acquire him. He'll certainly be worth it.
Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers
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Prince Fielder might have a new home during this offseason, but the 26 year old, who hit at least 28 home runs in each season since 2006, including 50 in 2007 and 46 in 2009, will be seeking major money when he becomes a free agent next winter.
It's no secret Fielder will be leaving Milwaukee, but it's simply a matter of when and which team is willing to pay him. Entering the 2011 offseason, if Fielder fails to sign an extension with the Brewers, he'll be available.
If he's traded before the start or during the season, but fails to sign a contract extension with his new team, he will also be available.
But buyer beware because whoever wants him, is going to need to pay him.
Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs
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Owed roughly $36 million over the next two seasons, the Chicago Cubs and Carlos Zambrano have had their problems in the past, but after going 7-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 10 starts following his return to the Cubs' starting rotation in August, Zambrano finally might be at peace with himself.
With his late-season turnaround performance, Zambrano has everyone thinking and wondering if Cubs are willing to pay him the remainder of his contract, or have other teams seen enough from "Big Z", where they'd be willing to take a chance.
In all likelihood, Zambrano's days in the Windy City are far from over, but if the Cubs are willing to pay for some of his contract, I'm sure there are teams out there who'd want Zambrano in their starting rotation.
If Zambrano pitches to his ability, he can be a major factor during this upcoming season, but a few bad outings can lead to another Zambrano meltdown. And if any team were to trade for him, just remember, that would be the risk worth taking.