MLB Trade Rumors: 10 Former Winners of Major Awards Who Could Be Traded
Winning a major baseball award is typically a big step towards fame, riches and potentially a place in the MLB Hall of Fame. But not every MVP, ROY, Cy Young or Rolaids Relief award winner is destined for greatness. Some of them simply become trade bait.
With the baseball off-season wrapping up and Spring Training just around the corner, here's a look at 10 major award winners who could be changing teams this year.
Carlos Beltran (1999 AL ROY)
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There were rumors floating around during the recent winter meetings that the Boston Red Sox were considering going after Beltran and were engaged in discussions for the Mets outfielder. The Red Sox got Adrian Gonzalez instead, but the possibility remains that Beltran could be moved.
The 33-year-old switch-hitter hasn't played a full season of baseball since 2008, but he's still one of the game's few all-around talents. In 81 games in 2009 he batted .325 and hit 10 home runs and stole 11 bases en route to his fifth career All-Star selection. He dropped off the map in 2010 (.768 OPS in 64 games), but there's no reason he couldn't match his 1999 stats (22 HR, 108 RBI, 27 SB, .791 OPS) if he stays healthy.
The big problem with moving Beltran is the $18.5 million he's owed next season. Not too many clubs could absorb that big of a contract, but if he's healthy then he may just be worth it.
Ichiro Suzuki (2001 AL MVP & ROY)
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This one's probably a long shot considering how much money Ichiro makes for the Mariners franchise. But it just doesn't make much sense to pay a player $17 million a season to lead his team to a fourth place finish.
Ichiro has been terrific since coming to the United States in 2001, with his batting average never dropping below .300 and never recording less than 200 hits. He's still one of the fastest players in baseball, with 111 steals in the past three seasons, and is one of the best outfielders in baseball.
The Mariners need to completely rebuild their team and Ichiro is their second most tradable asset behind Felix Hernandez, who is only 24 years old. Ichiro, 37, is unlikely to be around for when Seattle becomes relevant again, so it makes sense to trade him now while he still has some value.
Eric Hinske (2002 AL ROY)
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The Atlanta Braves brought back Hinske to be their utility man next season for $1.45 million. The 33-year-old infielder hit 21 doubles and 11 home runs last season in a reserve role. He has good power, but he has never hit for a high average (career .254) and strikes out too often (118 SO/season).
The Braves would be perfectly happy holding on to Hinske if he continues to perform near his career levels, but they wouldn't hesitate to trade him if the right deal comes along.
Hinske was named the Rookie of the Year during one of the weakest rookies classes in history (Rodrigo Lopez finished second in voting) and he hasn't matched his rookie production since, setting career-highs in home runs (28), runs batted in (84), batting (.279) and OPS (.845).
Miguel Tejada (2002 AL MVP)
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The Giants brought in Tejada to be their shortstop for $6.5 million, hoping to add a little pop to a team that already has one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Tejada replaces Juan Uribe, who signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 36-year-old isn't the same slugger as he was during his prime with the Athletics and Orioles, but he's still a productive hitter who can play both shortstop and third base. He's unlikely to match his MVP production (34 HR, 131 RBI, .861 OPS), but another year like the one he had last season (15 HR, 71 RBI, .692 OPS) is definitely possible.
The Giants have several good infielders between Tejada, Pablo Sandoval, Mark DeRosa, Freddy Sanchez and Aubrey Huff, so one of them could be moved if the Giants decide they want to upgrade their outfield or bullpen. Tejada's as good of a candidate as any because he's a veteran and won't require a major financial commitment since he will be a free agent again after this season.
Barry Zito (2002 AL Cy Young)
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Zito had a bit of a resurgence in 2010, pitching just under 200 innings and achieving a respectable 4.15 ERA. He's about as good of a No. 5 starter as there is in baseball, but the Giants will be tempted to move him with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner also on the roster.
The big issue with any potential Zito deal is the money. The 32-year-old left-hander is owed $58.5 million over the next three seasons and a $7 million buyout in 2014. The Giants would have to swallow at least half of that to get any team to bite, but they still might do it.
Zito has been a massive disappointment since coming over to the NL. He posted six consecutive seasons of at least 200 innings pitched before joining the Giants, and had a 3.55 career ERA in Oakland. He was an absolute monster in 2002, going 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA in 35 starts.
Huston Street (2005 AL ROY)
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The Athletics just have a knack for producing great players. (Too bad none of them stick around long enough to win a World Series).
Street jumped onto the scene in 2005 and took over closing duties for Oakland midseason. He finished with 23 saves in 67 games and a microscopic 1.72 ERA and 1.01 WHIP.
He's since moved on to the Colorado Rockies and has 55 saves in the last two seasons. But the Rockies owe him $14.8 million through 2012 and they have other holes they need to fill with that money, like in the starting rotation. Plenty of teams would make a move for a 27-year-old closer who has a career 9.2 SO/9 rate, and the Rockies could replace Street with either Manny Corpas (10 saves) or Matt Belisle (2.93 ERA).
Brandon Webb (2006 NL Cy Young)
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Webb used to be one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. In 2006 he went 16-8 with a 3.10 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and a 3.56 SO/BB rate. Then he repeated that performance the next two seasons, finishing second in Cy Young voting each time. But then Webb missed almost all of 2009 and all of 2010, and is now a reclamation project.
The 31-year-old sink baller signed with the Texas Rangers for $3 million and he'll be given every chance to make the rotation to lessen the blow of losing Cliff Lee in free agency. Assuming Webb does make the rotation, the Rangers could use him as a trade chip and deal him to a team in need of an extra starting pitcher.
If Webb can prove that his sinker still has that magical touch, then there will be no shortage of suitors after the right-hander.
Jose Valverde (2007 NL Rolaids)
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Valverde was just about untouchable in 2007. Pitching for the Diamondbacks the big right-hander recorded a league-high 47 saves and sported a 2.66 ERA and 10.6 SO/9 rate. Besides winning the Rolaids Relief award, Valverde also finished sixth in Cy Young voting and 14th in MVP voting. The Dominican born pitcher has been closing his entire career and is ninth on the active list with 193 saves.
Arizona traded Valverde that off-season to the Houston Astros, and the pitcher signed as a free agent with the Detroit Tigers two years later. Valverde, 32, had a solid first season in Detroit, saving 26 games to go along with a 3.00 ERA.
But the Tigers just spent $16.50 million to sign Joaquin Benoit and they have fireballer Joel Zumaya finally healthy, so there may not be a need for a $7 million closer like Valverde. Unless the Tigers can seriously challenge the White Sox and Twins for the division title, then Valverde should be on the trading block come July.
Francisco Rodriguez (2006, 2008 AL Rolaids)
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The Mets enigmatic closer and holder of the single-season saves record had quite a year in 2010. He started the season brilliantly, saving 25 games in 53 appearances and striking out 67 batters in 57.1 innings. His 2.20 ERA was among the lowest in the league.
But then on August 11, Rodriguez was involved in a physical altercation with his girlfriend's father. The pitcher was arrested for third-degree assault and put in jail, and was eventually released. It was also discovered that he had torn a ligament in his right thumb during the fight, ending his season.
The Mets and K-Rod haven't gotten along during the two seasons Rodriguez has spent in New York, and it might finally be time for a change of scenery. But that's easier said than done with $11.5 million still owed to Rodriguez next season and potentially another $17.5 million in 2012. There's no doubt that he's still one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, but the Mets will have pay a decent-sized chunk of Rodriguez's salary to find a suitor.
Heath Bell (2009-10 NL Rolaids)
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Of all the players on this list, Bell was the closest to actually being traded. Rumors were circulating non-stop that the Padres would trade their closer, especially in the wake of the Adrian Gonzalez deal, but nothing ever materialized. Instead, San Diego agreed on a one-year, $7.5 million deal to keep Bell, at least for now.
The 33-year-old right-hander has been one of the best pitchers in the NL since joining the Padres in 2007. He was Trevor Hoffman's premier set-up man for two seasons and then took over as the closer in 2009. Since then he's saved 89 games, made two All-Star teams and won two Rolaids Relief awards.
The Padres claim that they will keep Bell, but without a long-term contract it's difficult to see him staying in a San Diego uniform for long. If the Padres fall out of the NL West early, then Bell will be the first piece to go.