With spring training in full swing, all 30 MLB clubs are getting a good look at the talent they have assembled. Some will be mostly satisfied with what they have. Other teams will still be on the lookout for big improvements.
As spring training rolls on and into the regular season, many ball clubs will experience player injuries or find they have needs somewhere they did not expect. As a result, the trade wheels continues to spin.
Players who were once labeled "untouchable" may suddenly find themselves in the midst of a trade for a variety of reasons. Part of the fun and excitement of baseball is that you never know what might happen next.
Here are ten unusual suspects that could be traded in the near future.
Prior to the 2010 season, Carlos Lee was to go-to guy in Houston. But after a dreadful 2010 where he batted just .246, the aging player may now be expendable.
Lee hit at least .300 with over 100 RBI in four straight seasons for the Astros before last season. Looking at those stats, his recent decline and the fact that Lee is 34 years old on an otherwise young team, leads to the possibility that he could be traded.
While it would be odd for Astros fan to see someone other than Lee in left field, it may be a good move for the team if Lee cannot bounce back to his 2009 form.
For 13 seasons, Todd Helton has been the face of the Rockies franchise. But his advancing age and decline in production leave this 37-year old with an uncertain future.
Helton had the worst season of his career in 2010 where he batted only .256 with 37 RBI. He spent time on the disabled list, which did not help. But this also raises questions about whether or not Helton can still compete and remain healthy at his age while he suffers from chronic back issues
Under contract through 2013, Helton's hefty salary may be an issue as well if he does not produce. The Rockies do have Ty Wigginton who can play first base and several young players waiting their turn in line also.
Helton might be better served in the American League as a designated hitter. Without all the grueling hours playing the field, it is possible Helton could still be a good contributor. Then again, he may bounce back in 2011 and surprise everyone.
Entering a contract year in 2011, Prince Fielder may no longer be "untouchable" in the Brewers franchise. If the Brewers think the possibility of re-signing Fielder after the 2011 season is slim, a trade deadline deal could be in order.
If the Brewers are in contention for a possible playoff run mid-season, Fielder may be a non-issue if he is producing. But if their playoff hopes seem remote, it is likely the Brewers will send him packing.
Coming off a down year where he hit .261, a career low, Fielder will be looking to impress going into free agency. But whether or not he stays through the end of 2011 may depend on how the team performs.
David Wright is not only one of the Mets core players, but he is also one of the best third baseman in the majors. So while the odds of Wright being traded currently seem remote, it is not as unlikely as some may think.
Signed through the 2013 season with an option for 2014, Wright will make $29 million over the next two years. And since the Mets are rebuilding, keeping Wright around will be expensive. Trading him could bring significant, young talent to the Mets.
Wright is not old by any means, but if he lingers with the Mets over the next two seasons, by the time the team might be ready to compete again, he could be on the down side of his career.
Wright hit his prime from 2006 to 2009 where he hit over .300 each year. The odds of him getting back to that form are not good. But Wright is still an excellent third baseman and many teams would be thrilled to open up both their wallets and their farm systems to acquire him.
Closer Jonathan Papelbon has been slamming the door on opposing teams for over five years now in a Red Sox uniform. Between 2006 and 2009, the Red Sox would not have even considered trading him. However, 2010 was not his best year.
While Papelbon may rebound from his 5-7 record and 3.90 ERA of 2010, he is in the final year of team control before reaching free agency after this season. If the Red Sox think they will be unable to sign him as a free agent, Papelbon could be trade bait at mid-season.
Another factor to consider is that the Sox have been grooming pitcher Daniel Bard to eventually take over the closer role. If Bard shines this year, the Sox may not even want to resign Papelbon. So again, he becomes an attractive trade piece.
Despite being one of the Dodgers key producers in years past, Matt Kemp has been the subject of trade rumors throughout his career. That the Dodgers would ever consider letting him go seemed ridiculous, until this past season.
Kemp struggled in 2010, hitting a career worst .249, although his power numbers improved. He also had his share of personal life dramas after a very public break-up with singer Rihanna.
Kemp should rebound after a bad 2010, however, that only makes him a more attractive trade piece. If the Dodgers are not set to contend my mid-season, there are plenty of teams with interest in the center fielder.
This is a contract year for Kemp which means the Dodgers may have to weigh the odds of resigning him versus his trade value.
The only thing keeping the Mariners from utter shame and embarrassment over most of the past decade has been the outstanding play of Ichiro Suzuki. In ten years with the Mariners, Suzuki has never hit below .300.
At 37 years of age and still producing, if the Mariners are ever going to get anything in return for Suzuki, the time is now. The odds of creating a winner in 2011 for the still rebuilding Mariners are slim to none.
Yes, the Mariners spent a good deal this offseason bringing in more talent. But going from the lowest-scoring team with the fewest home runs in all of baseball last year to a contender this year is a very tall order.
Suzuki may still have many good years left in him, but the Mariners as a team are not ready to take advantage of that. If they are still struggling come mid-season, a trade could be a possibility.
For most of his ten year career with the Rangers, Michael Young was considered untouchable. But after he helped them get to the World Series last year, Young is no longer feeling the love.
After signing Adrian Beltre to replace Young at third, the Rangers told Young that he would be mostly delegated to the DH role. Young has since requested a trade.
Young feels betrayed and rightfully so. This is man who gave his all to a mostly average team all these years and was rewarded by losing his starting job without warning.
While a trade has not yet come to fruition and Young did report to spring training as scheduled, clearly, the drama is not over.
For years, Justin Upton was touted as a high-end prospect with great athleticism and raw speed in the D-Backs system. But since making his major league debut in 2007, he has been less impressive than Arizona had hoped.
However, Upton was an All-Star in 2009, giving the D-Backs reason to hope he had come into his own. But in 2010, Upton saw his numbers decline. He went from batting .300 to .273 and collected 17 fewer RBI. Upton was also caught stealing eight times.
But despite the decline, Upton was still a productive player. Then this offseason, the D-Backs GM Kevin Towers, shocked fans by saying he was open to trading Upton.
Still, the asking price for Upton is said to be very high. No teams have bitten just yet. However, as the season progresses and players get injured, expect the trade talks to gain some momentum again.
While many see the chance of this as very remote, trading Albert Pujols is not an impossibility. Earlier this week, contract talks came to a screeching halt when the Cardinals would not meet Pujols' demands.
Now, Pujols says he will not negotiate until after the 2011 season.
Based on the previous negotiations, the Cardinals should have a good idea of whether or not they will be able to resign Pujols after the season ends. If they feel it is unlikely and come mid-season, the Cards are not contending, they could trade Pujols.
If they wait until after the season and cannot resign him, the Cardinals get nothing in return. However, if they move him before the trade deadline, the return should be very, very good.
Imagine what some teams would be willing to part with to get a guy like Pujols to use in a playoff push for the second half. It is certainly something to think about.