MLB Trade Rumors: Every Team's 3 Biggest Trade Chips Entering Opening Day
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Opening Day has come and gone. Teams have finalized their 25-man rosters and baseball is officially under way.
So, with the first series of the 2011 season complete, why not take an early look towards the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and predict just who could be dealt between now and that magical day.
Players who could be dealt are faced with situations where their team is waiting for a starting player to return from a trip to the disabled list. Or perhaps there is an up-and-coming prospect about to emerge from the farm system, and his club needs to make room by dealing a seasoned veteran.
All of this and more will be covered, as we take a look at each club's top three trading chips for 2011.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Aaron Heilman, Tony Abreu, Brandon Allen
Aaron Heilman longs to be a starting pitcher.
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Ever since he was brought up by the New York Mets in 2003, Aaron Heilman has always wanted to be a starter. And primarily for the first two seasons of his big league career, he was. But his numbers as a starting pitcher are anything less than stellar (5-13, 5.93 ERA, 1.61 SO/BB ratio). So the Mets put him in the bullpen as a long reliever, turned middle man, turned set-up man.
But he entered 2011 training camp with the Diamondbacks in competition for the team's fifth starter. He has since lost that battle to Armando Galarraga, and will once again be in the bullpen for the D-Backs. Heilman has been very patient, biding his time in bullpens until he is able to be a starter again. But if there is a team that is looking for help in the back end of their rotation, Heilman could be a useful option.
There are a number of clubs rumored to be looking for a utility infielder. Tony Abreu could be a nice pick-up for any one of those teams. Throughout is career, he has played third base, second base and shortstop. The 26-year old isn't a master at the plate, but his defensive prowess can hardly be undermined. Potential trade partners include: San Diego Padres, Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland Athletics.
This man has a ton of potential power in his bat. Yet, he seems to have fallen out of favor with the D-Backs. The 25-year old out of Texas boasts 121 career minor league home runs, and can play first base and left field. Any team looking for a left-handed power bat could find themselves a rather inexpensive prize with Allen. Potential trade partners include: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs.
Atlanta Braves: Rodrigo Lopez, Jordan Schaefer, Mike Minor
The Braves signed Rodrigo Lopez to a minor league contract in January.
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In January, the Atlanta Braves signed right-hander Rodrigo Lopez to a minor league contract. Lopez went to camp to compete for a spot in the Braves' rotation and/or the bullpen. The nine-year veteran has had a roller coasted career. He's been good (14-9, 3.59, 121 in 2004). He's been bad (9-18, 5.90 in 2006). But for the most part, he's been durable. And Lopez just wants to pitch.
Lopez did not win a spot in the Braves' rotation, losing out to Brandon Beachy. The Braves will either look to trade him, or he will be sent to Triple-A to provide depth to the team. But teams in need of rotation or bullpen depth could take a low-risk, high-reward approach with the 35-year old.
Drafted in the third round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Jordan Schafer has not really had the opportunity yet to prove his overall value. He spent the first two months of the 2009 season with the big club, before a wrist injury shut him down for the majority of the year. But he's healthy going into 2011, and at only 24 years of age, Schafer still has plenty of time to be a factor in the Major Leagues. He will not break camp with the Braves this year, but the young left-handed hitter has speed, pop and can get on base—tools that any team could benefit from.
Mike Minor is a young left-handed pitcher, who was a seventh overall pick by the Braves in 2009. A year later, he made his Major League debut. Though it wasn't a very successful debut, Minor got a taste of the big show. He will begin the 2011 season in the Braves' farm system, but could be used as trade bait as Opening Day approaches. The Braves could be in the market for a reserve outfielder, and could use the 23-year old as a lure for other ball clubs.
Both Schaefer and Minor were optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett last week.
Baltimore Orioles: Mike Gonzalez, Brendan Harris, Jim Johnson
Mike Gonzalez is no longer the primary closer in Baltimore.
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There was a point in history where Mike Gonzalez was looking like a potentially dominant left-handed closer. He saved 24 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2004 with a sparkling 2.17 ERA. But, mainly due to injuries, it has not exactly turned out that way. Now in Baltimore, Gonzalez has become the third-string closer/left-handed specialist. He is scheduled to make $6 million in 2011, the final year of a two-year contract. If the Orioles can find a team willing to pay a portion of that salary, Gonzalez could find himself wearing a new uniform before Opening Day. Potential trade partners include: New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Kansas City Royals.
Brendan Harris has yet to play a Major League game for the Orioles, but could soon find himself playing somewhere else sooner than later. The O's acquired Harris from the Twins in the deal that also brought in J.J. Hardy. Harris can play all over the diamond, and is a solid defender. But the Orioles are loaded with utility infielders and could improve other parts of their ball club by trading one of them (Cesar Izturis and Robert Andino could also be dealt). Potential trade partners include: San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates.
Jim Johnson is a right-handed reliever that seems to have flown under the radar while flying with the Orioles. But in the time he's spent in the Major Leagues, Johnson has strung together some nice seasons. In 2009, he saved 10 games for the O's, while finishing with a 6.3 K/9 ratio. The Orioles' bullpen is rather deep for 2011, and Johnson, who remains under team control until 2014, could be a nice catch for a team looking for bullpen stability. Potential trade partners include: Florida Marlins, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Houston Astros
Boston Red Sox: Mike Cameron, Andrew Miller, Hideki Okajima
Mike Cameron had a disappointing first season with the Red Sox in 2010.
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In December of '09, Mike Cameron signed a two-year free agent contract with the Boston Red Sox. His first of those two years did not go all that well. He only appeared in 48 games in 2010 and had a season-ending sports hernia surgery on August 27.
But when healthy, Cameron can still be a dangerous threat in the lineup, even at 38 years of age. But the Red Sox are very deep in the outfield and have a lot of young players that they would like to give opportunities to, such as Jacoby Ellsbury, Darnell McDonald and Daniel Nava. Cameron still has value, and is owed $7.25 million in 2011. If the Red Sox had any holes in their roster, they could spare him to fill that hole.
Andrew Miller is a once highly-touted left-hander who has yet to fulfill his potential due to a rash of injuries. Originally a first round (sixth overall) draft pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2006, Miller is now with his third club. He has shown bits and pieces of what he has been projected to do, but has yet to put it all together.
He signed a minor league contract with the Sox in December. And last week, the Red Sox reassigned the southpaw to minor league camp, with the intention of him beginning the season at Triple-A Pawtucket as a starter.
But Miller has good stuff. He's a lefty who can start or come out of the bullpen, and could be a cheap find for a team who is in need of such a talent. The Sox are especially deep in pitching, so they would not feel any burden from trading Miller.
For the first time since coming to America, Hideki Okajima does not have a role in the Red Sox bullpen to open 2011. Okajima, who came over from Japan in 2006, has been optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. His contract is up at the end of the 2011 season, and with the amount of depth the Red Sox have, it could make sense to try and trade him while his value is still at a reasonable level. After all, teams could always use a left-handed arm to come out of the bullpen.
Chicago Cubs: Jeff Samardzija, Carlos Zambrano, Sean Marshall
Jeff Samardzija - the Cubs' tall right-hander who has been given chances to excel, but has yet to do so.
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It's not often a team would be in a position to trade a 6'5" right-hander, who was a fifth round draft pick out of Notre Dame. But the Chicago Cubs could very well be in that position with Jeff Samardzija.
Samardzija, 26, was drafted in 2006. Two years later, he made his Major League debut. Over the course of his three years in-and-out of the big leagues, Samardzija has yet to show the brilliance and effectiveness he is capable of. He has a career ERA of almost six. He's been wild, with a career 5.5 BB/9 ratio. And his numbers seem to get worse with the more experience he is given.
So, it may be soon time for Samardzija to find a new home. A change of scenery might do the youngster some good. He has the stuff to be a formidable presence on the mound. But his time to shine is slowly dwindling away.
It seems like year after year, there are rumors that Carlos Zambrano will be traded by the non-waiver deadline. Yet, here in 2011, he is still pitching for the Chicago Cubs. There's no question that Big Z has great stuff, and, when he is on his game, he can be one of the most dominant pitchers out there.
But he also has had some skirmishes with teammates during games, and sometimes has trouble keeping focus on the mound. He'll turn 30 years old in June, and perhaps a change of scenery will do wonders for him as well. We shall see if the Zambrano trade winds pick back up this summer.
Sean Marshall may be one of the most underrated pitchers in the game. The value he has given the Cubs is insurmountable. He's been a starter, a long reliever, a set-up man—he's practically done it all, with no qualms or complaints. And he's put up very decent numbers too, like his 2.65 ERA from a season ago.
The left-hander is signed to a low-cost contract through 2013. Should the Cubs fall out of contention early in 2011, there may be a number of teams calling about the availability of their versatile pitcher.
Chicago White Sox: Mark Buehrle, A.J. Pierzynski, Mark Teahen
Mark Buehrle has been one of the most consistent pitchers in all of baseball over the last 10 seasons.
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You pretty much know what you are going to get when Mark Buehrle is on the mound. He will pitch in just about every inning of every game, and the team will always have a chance to win. So would the Chicago White Sox trade their ace in 2011?
The 32 year-old's contract is due to expire at the end of the 2011 season. As a 5-and-10 player, Buehrle has to give consent in order to be traded to any team. It does seem tough to imagine the White Sox dealing their franchise pitcher, who is about to make his ninth consecutive Opening Day start. But if they somehow fall out of contention, he could bring back a bunch of talent for the South Siders.
It must be nice for a team to be deep at the catcher position, one that is generally shallow for most clubs. But the White Sox have two catchers at the Big League level (A.J. Pierzynski and Ramon Castro), and they also have 25-year old Tyler Flowers waiting in the wings. And 2011 may be the year that Flowers gets his chance to grow with the White Sox (Flowers has only played 18 games at the Major League level).
Flowers had a strong spring, and has a ton of upside. Should the White Sox decide to give Flowers a spot on the big league roster, Pierzynski could be used as trade bait. The left-handed hitting catcher had a down year as far as power production in 2010. But he is still a viable defender and has good plate discipline (he struck out only 39 times in almost 500 at-bats in 2010).
Manager Ozzie Guillen has already declared Brent Morel the White Sox Opening Day third baseman, meaning Mark Teahen will enter the season as a utility player. But Teahen, who can play the corner infield and corner outfield positions, could be a starter on another team that is lacking in any of those roles.
Cincinnati Reds: Francisco Cordero, Jonny Gomes, Fred Lewis
With Ardolis Chapman throwing in the triple digits, the need for Francisco Cordero may be waning in Cincy.
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Francisco Cordero has been a rather consistent closer. He hasn't saved less than 30 games in a single season since 2006, and is 10 saves shy of 300 for his career. But will he record those 10 as a member of the Cincinnati Reds? That remains to be seen. But the Reds have Cuban import Ardolis Chapman throwing in triple digits out of the bullpen, and he could be the next closer in the Queen City.
So if Cordero begins to struggle in 2011, look for him to become available in the trade market. Cordero does have a limited no-trade clause in his contract, which expires at the end of the 2011 season (the Reds do have a $12 million club option for 2012, one they likely would not exercise). So trading him may not be all that easy, but could be worth the effort.
The Reds signed Jonny Gomes to a two-year contract before the 2010 season, and he provided them with a solid campaign. Last season, he hit 24 bombs and drove in 86 runs.
But the Reds have youngsters Chris Heisey and Juan Francisco who are really primed and ready to go in the big leagues. The Reds could choose to see what value they have in Gomes, and give one of their young guns a chance to get experienced.
The Reds could trade Fred Lewis in lieu of Gomes if they do not wish to sacrifice the power that Gomes provides. Lewis is currently on the 15-day disabled list, and his return timetable at this point has not been specified. But the speedy left-handed batter, when healthy, has shown he can be a great asset to a club's outfield.
Cleveland Indians: Grady Sizemore, Fausto Carmona, Travis Hafner
The Cleveland Indians are in a complete re-building mode. They have been for the past several seasons.
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The Cleveland Indians may have the largest trade chip of all 30 teams. Grady Sizemore is an unbelievable talent with all the skills to make him a five-tool player. The 28-year old can run (38 stolen bases in 2008), and he can hit (129 home runs over his career). He is an above-average center fielder with a great defensive prowess.
The problem lately with the young superstar is his ability to stay healthy. Sizemore's contract expires at the end of the 2011 season. The Indians do hold an $8.5 million club option for 2012 (though, due to a clause in his contract, if Sizemore is traded, that option becomes a player option). The Indians are in a seemingly perpetual rebuilding process, and they could net a some decent prospects for Sizemore. Trading Sizemore makes sense since the Tribe most likely would not pick up his option anyway.
It's hard to find a starting pitcher that has had as high of highs and low of lows than Fausto Carmona. In his rookie season in 2006, he went 1-10 with a 5.42 ERA. The next year, however, he turned everything completely around and finished 19-8 with an ERA just over three, as he finished fourth in the American League Cy Young award race. But 2008-2009 were back to being tough years for the 27-year old right-hander. He had a decent rebound season in 2010, earning his first All-Star nomination.
The 2011 season is the final guaranteed year on Carmona's contract. The Tribe does hold club options for 2012-2014. But, like Sizemore, Carmona could bring the Indians back some young talent as they try to search for the magical pieces to make them contenders again.
It wasn't long ago that Travis Hafner was the Indians' franchise player. He slugged 141 home runs between '03-'07 while driving in close to 500 runs during that span. For a time, he was looking like a potential perennial MVP candidate.
But then the injury bug bit, and Pronk has not been the same since a right shoulder injury derailed his '08 and '09 seasons (he only appeared in 150 games between the two seasons). But Hafner returned to near form in 2010. And for 2011, he appears to finally be healthy again. Being a first baseman, the shoulder woes shouldn't prevent him from being nothing more than a designated hitter and playing for a National League team. He is still under contract through 2012, and has a limited no-trade clause.
Colorado Rockies: Jose Lopez, Ryan Spilborghs, Aaron Cook
Jose Lopez hit only 10 home runs for the Mariners in 2010.
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It was looking like Jose Lopez was going to be a true player with the Seattle Mariners. Primarily used as a second baseman, Lopez had a unique amount of power in his bat (he slugged 25 home runs in 2009).
But the durable and versatile 27-year old had a real down year in 2010, when he had his lowest offensive production since 2005. In December, the Mariners traded Lopez to the Colorado Rockies, which had to be a dream come true for the infielder. A place (Coors Field) where his power can really come to life. But the Rockies are deep in the infield with budding young stars and up-and-comers, so Lopez, who did not have a very good spring, could be on the block.
Ryan Spilborghs has quietly put together some nice seasons for the Rockies. His numbers aren't anything to write home about, but he's also never been given a full-time starting job (he's never had 400 at-bats in a single season). But he is capable of playing all three outfield positions. The Rockies right now are solid in the outfield with Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler, so they could look to trade Spilborghs (or possibly Seth Smith) for help in some other areas.
Aaron Cook has never pitched for a team other than the Rockies. But it may be time for him and the Rockies to move on. Cook has put up some nice numbers over his tenure, pitching in Coors Field. But now 32 years old, Cook has seen some decline in his durability and performance. The Rockies have a nice core of young starters, and Cook (who will begin the 2011 season on the disabled list) could provide some stability to a team's back of the rotation.
Detroit Tigers: Joel Zumaya, Ramon Santiago, Don Kelly
When healthy, Joel Zumaya can be a lights out relif pitcher...when healthy...
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It seems like it's been a lifetime since Joel Zumaya was the dominant, hard-throwing relief pitcher that he was in 2006, when he struck out 97 batters in 62 games. But a smorgasbord of injuries have really derailed his promising career. He has yet to miss an entire season thus far, but 2010 marked the first season since that '06 campaign in which he appeared in at least 30 games (31).
As if it were scripted, Zumaya will begin the 2011 season on the disabled list. But he only has some inflammation in his right elbow, and should resume throwing next week. It's possible he may miss the first month.
If/when Zumaya returns, the Tigers could look into dealing the 26-year old. Detroit has a number of young relievers who are about to get their shot to be mainstays, and despite his injury history, Zumaya can still be a solid pitcher when healthy.
According to MLBTradeRumors.com, the Tigers have stated that Ramon Santiago can be obtained in "the right deal." Santiago is a utility player originally drafted by the Tigers in 1998. He's not known for his offensive power, but he gets on base, and is a slick infielder. The Tigers currently have 25-year old Danny Worth, who had an impressive spring training, at Toledo waiting to be the Tigers main utility infielder. If the Tigers do eventually decide on going with youth over experience, Santiago could be a nice pick-up for a team.
He's not a household name, but Don Kelly is a serviceable ballplayer. He has played at least Major League game in all positions except for catcher and pitcher (he even owns a catcher's mitt, just in case). And he did hit nine home runs in 238 at-bats in 2010. So Kelly provides versatility with a little bit of pop. He will break camp with the Tigers to open 2011, but he could become trade bait if the Tigers choose to give the playing time to the likes of Danny Worth or Andy Dirks.
Florida Marlins: Leo Nunez, Burke Badenhop, Donnie Murphy
Leo Nunez saved 30 games for the Marlins in 2010.
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Leo Nunez was never recorded a save in the Major Leagues until he came to the Florida Marlins in 2009. Since then, he has notched 56 saves over his two seasons in Miami. He's got a lively fastball and a good change up. But he has started to fall out of favor with the Marlins, and the team may look to move him in the coming months.
They acquired Ryan Webb in a deal with the Padres this offseason, and he has closer-like stuff. Nunez becomes a free agent for the first time after the 2013 season, so the fact that he will remain under team control for a few more seasons could be attractive to some clubs. He's a solid closer that could definitely provide depth to the back end of any bullpen.
The Florida Marlins optioned 6'5" right-hander Burke Badenhop to Triple-A New Orleans on Tuesday, meaning he will not break camp with the team for Opening Day. Badenhop still had options, allowing the club to send him down to the minors without exposing him to waivers.
But Badenhop has Major League experience. He's spent parts of three seasons with the Fish, and has put up respectable numbers in about 100 big league games. The Marlins have a lot of depth in their bullpen and rotation, and one could foresee them trying to trade the "Hopper" for some farm system help. Badenhop can serve as a starter or a long man out of the bullpen.
The Marlins' third baseman of the future appears to be Matt Dominguez. But their third baseman of the present will be Donnie Murphy. The Marlins assigned Dominguez to minor league camp to get him some more playing time at Triple-A New Orleans. Murphy will be the team's starting third baseman on Opening Day in 2011.
But it may not be long until Dominguez makes his way on to the Major League roster. And with Wes Helms, Gregg Dobbs and Emilio Bonifacio already on the big league club, the need for Murphy may not be so great.
Houston Astros: Carlos Lee, Tommy Manzella, Wesley Wright
Carlos Lee has seen a general decline in run production over the past five seasons.
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It wasn't all that long ago when the Houston Astros were perennial contenders. But those days are over. The days of Bagwell, Biggio, Berkman, Oswalt...they are gone. Now, the Astros are just trying to stay above water in the National League central division.
If the Astros are indeed buried in the division as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as they are seemingly expected to be, Carlos Lee could be a potential trade candidate. The 34-year old has been in a steady decline in run production over the last five seasons, and right now the Astros should continue getting younger. Lee is owed $18.5 million each of the next two seasons, which would conclude his current six-year contract.
He still has enough power to be a solid bat in any lineup, and he is transitioning from left field to first base due to defensive limitations.
Tommy Manzella was the Astros' starting shortstop in 2010. In 2011, he will begin the season in Triple-A Oklahoma City. The Astros are very deep when it comes to middle infielders, especially since they acquired Clint Barmes from the Rockies during the offseason. And with youngsters like Angel Sanchez (who will be the Astros' Opening Day shortstop) and Oswaldo Navarro, there just may not be a place in Houston for Manzella.
There was a time when the Astros were hoping Wesley Wright could become a solid left-handed starter. Then, they decided he would be best suited as a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen. However, for 2011, that will have to wait as he's been optioned to Triple-A and will have to earn himself another call-up.
Or, the Astros could decide to move 26-year old and let him find a new home elsewhere. They've already given the specialist job to Fernando Abad, who looked promising last season, to start 2011.
Kansas City Royals: Joakim Soria, Alex Gordon, Jason Kendall
Joakim Soria has been one of the most consistent closers in baseall over the last four seasons.
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The Kansas City Royals have themselves a dandy of a closer in Joakim Soria. He has 132 saves under his belt over four big league seasons. He's a two-time All-Star, and quietly had the best year of his career in 2010.
This season is the last guaranteed year on his current contract. The Royals do hold club options for 2012-2014, and the 2012 option becomes guaranteed if Soria appears in at least 50 games in 2011, according to Cot's Contracts.
So if the Royals are once again out of contention in the American League, they could look to deal the right-hander in exchange for some more young talent as the perpetual rebuilding process in Kansas City continues.
The Royals, and their fans, have been waiting for Alex Gordon to finally reach his potential. Gordon was the second overall pick in the 2005 draft, and two seasons later he made his Major League debut. But so far, he has not produced the type of numbers the world was expecting of him. It has gotten to the point where the Royals have shifted Gordon around to different positions in the field to make room for other hitters.
Though the Royals aren't expected to contend in 2011, one must wonder how long they can wait for their budding superstar to bloom. It may not be much longer, and perhaps a change of scenery could do the 27-year old well. Gordon had a terrific spring, so his stock could be rising here in 2011.
Jason Kendall is currently recovering from September shoulder surgery, and is due to miss about the first month of the season while on the 15-day disabled list. When he does return to the Royals, however, the team will have three legitimate catchers on their roster.
Bryan Pena is 29 years old, and the Royals are trying to give him ever chance to excel. They acquired veteran Matt Treanor from the Texas Rangers to provide some more veteran leadership. Plus, they have another youngster, Michael Pina, waiting in the wings. So Kendall could become expendable with Treanor on board now as the senior mentor.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Scott Kazmir, Brandon Wood, Alberto Callaspo
Scott Kazmir was a top prospect out of the Mets' farm system
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There was a time when Scott Kazmir was billed as the next great starting pitcher. Coming up through the Mets' farm system, the left-hander had a bright future ahead of him. Then, in a well-documented move, the Mets traded Kaz to Tampa Bay for Victor Zambrano in 2004. And for a while, he looked very impressive with the Rays.
Mid-way through the 2009 season, the Rays dealt Kazmir to the Angels for a couple of minor leaguers. Along with a great fastball, the Angels adopted the three-year, $28.5 million contract he had signed with the Rays. In 2010, his first full season with the Angels, Kazmir was awful. He had a 9-15 record and an ERA just under six. His walk total (79) was very close to his strikeout total (93). He is owed $12 million for 2011, the last guaranteed year on his contract. Once Joel Pineiro returns from the disabled list, it may make sense for the Halos to look to deal the southpaw, desperately in need of a rebound season.
Brandon Wood has become the epitome of untapped potential. Wood is a former first-round draft pick, and displayed great power in the minor leagues (to the tune of more than 160 home runs). But the 26-year old has not parlayed his talent into Major League success.
Wood has hit a total of 11 home runs and a carer .169 batting average in parts of four seasons with the Halos. The kid can play all over the diamond, and could benefit from a change of scenery. He was a candidate to be cut after spring training, but he survived the spring cuts and is currently on the Angels' active roster. But how much longer will they wait for Wood to become the star they were expecting?
Should the Angels decide to hang on to Wood, Alberto Callaspo could be another candidate to be dealt in 2011. Like Wood, Callaspo is capable of playing just about all over the diamond. But his game is built more on getting on base, speed and slick fielding. He doesn't steal a lot of bases, but he's quick and could be a great lead-off hitter given the opportunity.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Andre Ethier, James Loney, Jonathan Broxton
Andre Ethier needs two more home runs for 100 in his career.
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The Los Angeles Dodgers are playing in the 2011 season with total uncertainty in their front office. Frank and Jaimie McCourt are currently trying to settle a divorce, which includes fighting over ownership of the Dodgers. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have to play ball and be competitive with questions as far as their budet goes.
Andre Ethier has drawn some attention in regards to trade potential. Ethier will turn 29 years old next Sunday, and will be eligible for arbitration for the last time after the 2011 season. And he could be due for a nice chunk of money if he puts up numbers anywhere close to his career average (22 home runs, 86 RBI, .291 BA). He has gone on record as saying he wouldn't be shocked if the Dodgers traded or non-tendered him. If the Dodgers were to fall out of contention early on, an Ethier trade may become a reality.
Dodgers' first baseman James Loney made his Major League debut in 2006, four years after being a first-round draft pick. He too will be eligible for arbitration for the final time after 2011, and financial constraints could force the Dodgers' into dealing the 26-year old. He hasn't shown as much power as a typical first baseman, but he drove in 90 runs each in 2008 and 2009, and 88 last season. He's a solid defender at first as well.
It looked like the Dodgers had themselves a dandy of a closer in big Jonathan Broxton. He debuted with the Dodgers in 2005, but didn't become the team's everyday stopper until the '09 season, when he saved 46 games. But the 26-year old struggled in 2010. He saved 22 games and ended with an ERA over four. He'll begin 2011 again as the team's closer. But any signs of further struggling, and the Dodgers may not be afraid to turn closing duties over to Hong-Chih Kuo and send Broxton, who becomes a free agent for the first time after the season, on to another club.
Milwaukee Brewers: Prince Fielder, Jeremy Reed, George Kottaras
Prince Fielder is due to become a free agent after the 2011 season.
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There might not be a bigger name (be it physically or in terms of value) on this list than Milwaukee's Price Fielder. The big first baseman will turn 27 next month, and could be primed for a very large 2011.
He is due to become a free agent for the first time in his career at the end of this season, and should be in store for a very generous contract. He's only averaged 37 home runs and 104 RBI per season over his five-year career. It should be a banner year for free agent first basemen, as both Fielder and Albert Pujols will hit free agency, each for the first time.
Currently there are no extension talks going on with the Brewers. Milwaukee is one of those small-market clubs that may not be able to afford to keep their marquee star. The Brewers seem to be in need of some relief help, and could bring in a slew of talent by dealing the slugging first baseman.
Jeremy Reed is certainly not the biggest name on this list, but it stands to reason that his need to be on the Brewers' roster will be severely diminished once Corey Hart returns. The Brewers could simply release the well-traveled outfielder, or they could try and deal him and get something for him.
Similar to Reed's case, George Kottaras' time on the Brewers' squad may only be dictated by how long Jonathan Lucroy is out with a broken finger. The Crew also has Wil Nieves as depth behind the plate.
There are still a bunch of teams looking for catching help (the Astros or Mariners could be a fit), and Kottaras could be expendable.
Minnesota Twins: Francisco Liriano, Denard Span, Matt Capps
Francisco Liriano had a solid rebound season in 2010.
Francisco Liriano had a dismal 2009 season, winning only five games all year. But he rebounded with a nice 2010 campaign, on his way to being named the American League Comeback Player of the year. And though it seems that the left-hander has been in the league for a long time, he is not eligible for free agency until after the 2012 season.
But he will be due arbitration after this season, and if he has himself another solid season, he could be in line for a nice raise. The Twins could look to move the southpaw—there were rumors this spring that the Yankees were looking into a possible deal. He's still only 27, and could be a huge pick up for a large-market team.
MLBTradeRumors has reported, Fox Sport's Ken Rosenthal is suggesting that the Minnesota Twins may actually look to trade outfielder Denard Span. According to Rosenthal, the entire situation in the Twins' outfield could get rather interesting, with Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer about to hit free agency.
Rosenthal also noted that three of Baseball America's top five prospects in Minnesota's farm system are outfielders. Span's contract is very favorable for other clubs. He signed a five-year contract with the Twins before the 2010 season, and will remain under team control until at least 2015 (the deal includes a club option for 2015).
The Twins struck a deal with the Washington Nationals last summer to acquire closer Matt Capps. But Joe Nathan is returning in 2011 from Tommy John surgery, giving the Twins the "problem" of having two legitimate closers.
Capps is due to be a free agent at the end of the year. He could be considered a definite trade potential to a team looking for some help in the back end of the bullpen this summer.
New York Mets: Johan Santana, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes
Will the Mets trade their best starting pitcher since Doc Gooden?
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No other team seems to have more trade chips than the New York Mets in 2011. Johan Santana is currently on the disabled list, recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. He is due back around the All-Star break, so he won't have much time to audition for the 2011 trade deadline.
But, it's pretty clear what you are going to get with the 32-year old southpaw. The two-time Cy Young award winner has a .658 winning percentage over his career and is an absolute workhorse. The Mets would probably need to be completely wowed to move Santana, who is due to earn more than $50 million through the end of his contract. Should the Mets fall out of contention early on, look for them to try get his contract off the books.
Carlos Beltran is coming off an injury-plagued 2010 season. He spent the offseason and spring training working his way back from knee surgery, and so far in 2011 he looks primed and ready for a rebound season.
The question remains, will that rebound season end in a Mets uniform? All through the offseason, there have been whispers about Beltran being dealt before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. He's a free agent at the end of the year, and it seems highly unlikely that the Mets would try to re-sign him. He does have a full no-trade clause in his contract, but it's a pretty good bet that he would waive it for a chance to play in the postseason.
The Mets would be waving the proverbial white flag if they were to trade Jose Reyes. He is their star shortstop and the spark that makes the team go. But he becomes a free agent at the end of the 2011 season for the first time in his career, and he is expected to get a hefty contract (especially if he rebounds from two consecutive injury-riddled seasons). With the Mets trying to rebuild their farm system, it may make sense long-term to try and deal the speedy shortstop.
New York Yankees: Joba Chamberlain, Andruw Jones, Russell Martin
What was once a very promising career for Joba Chamberlain has become quite frustrating.
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A former first-round pick in 2006, Joba Chamberlain has certainly had a roller coaster career with the New York Yankees. The Bombers have bounced the young right-hander back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation. After starting him in the bullpen, the Yanks placed him in the rotation for two months in the middle of the 2009 season and he made a dozen starts that season. In '09, he was a full-time starter, and has his struggles (despite recording 133 Ks).
Chamberlain is now back in the Yankees' bullpen, as they are likely trying to groom Chamberlain to be the successor to Mariano Rivera. But the recent free agent signing of Rafael Soriano seems to complicate those matters. It may be time to send Chamberlain to a team for whom he can have a solidified role.
The Yankees signed Andruw Jones to one-year, $2 million this offseason to provide some outfield and offensive depth. But the Yankees are plenty deep in outfielders, with Kevin Russo, Chris Dickerson and Justin Maxwell waiting in the wings. The Bombers could use some help with the pitching staff, and could swing a deal with the once perennial all-star.
If the Yankees are deep in outfielders, then they are drowning in catchers. Jorge Posada has been relegated to designated hitter duties. But they brought in Russell Martin and Gustavo Molina. They also have Francisco Cervelli on the disabled list, and top prospect Jesus Montero not long for the Major Leagues. The Yankees could easily spin one of these backstops for some pitching help.
Martin, who was signed to a one-year $4 million contract, seems to be the most realistic choice. Montero was rated Baseball America's third best prospect in baseball before the 2011 season, and is on the high road to the Bronx. With Molina and (eventually) Cervelli on the roster, Martin could be on the move, as he could bring the most talent back in a deal.
Oakland Athletics: Gio Gonzalez, Brian Fuentes, Chris Carter
Gio Gonzalez pitched seven strong innings in the A's win on Sunday.
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Having Gio Gonzalez on this list may cause a bit of a stir. But the Oakland Athletics have a number of talented starters in their rotation right now, with Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and Trevor Cahill. They will for sure be part of many low scoring games in 2011.
But what they do lack is power in the lineup. Kevin Kouzmanoff, Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui are too inconsistent to count on, and the rest of the offense is made up of small-ball players. Gonzalez is a great talent, one that could for sure bring the A's a legitimate power bat to insert into that lineup.
The A's brought in left-hander Brian Fuentes during the offseason with a two-year, $10.5 million contract. Fuentes has had some success as a closer over his career, but in Oakland, he will serve mostly as a lefty specialist/set-up man (once Andrew Bailey returns from the disabled list). With fellow lefty Craig Breslow already in the bullpen, Fuentes, who has almost 200 career saves, could be a potential trade chip for a team that could use some back-end of the rotation help (a return to Anaheim perhaps?).
Though the A's are lacking power in their lineup, they seem content in letting Chris Carter go to waste in the minor leagues. Over six minor league seasons, Carter has 149 home runs, including the 31 he hit in 2010. The outfielder/first baseman has enormous potential, and there is little left for him to prove in the Athletics' farm system. If they refuse to make room for him on the active roster, then perhaps they could trade him to a team that will actually benefit from his immense talent.
Philadelphia Phillies: Joe Blanton, Raul Ibanez, Placido Polanco
Joe Blanton is the Phillies' number five starter entering 2011.
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When you have a rotation consisting of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee, who needs a fifth starter? To an extent, this is the scenario the Philadelphia Phillies are currently in. Ever since they signed Lee to a mega-deal over the offseason, trade rumors swirled about a possible Joe Blanton trade.
And though those talks have quieted with the start of the season, they could just as quickly pick back up. After all, the Phils do have Kyle Kendrick, who has spent the majority of his young career as a starter, currently serving in the bullpen. Kendrick could easily slip into that fifth starter role, should the Phillies actually need it.
And Blanton is relatively cheap. After signing a three-year extension with the Phillies prior to the 2010 season, he is owed $17 million over the next two seasons.
Raul Ibanez is in the last year of a three-year contract he signed with the Phillies. And with Dominic Brown (who is currently on the 15-day disabled list) primed and ready for big league action, it seems unlikely the Phillies would try to re-sign Ibanez, who turns 39 in June.
Despite his age, however, Ibanez still has enough pop in his bat to be a benefit to a team's offense (Oakland perhaps?).
The Phillies gave Placido Polanco a three-year $18 million extension before the 2010 season. But he could still be used in a trade package if the Phillies feel they are lacking in any particular area of their ball club. The Phillies are particularly deep with infielders and the 35-year old, and can play second base and third base.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Ryan Doumit, Scott Olsen, Garrett Jones
Ryan Doumit can be used as a catcher, right fielder or even first baseman.
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It seemed like the Pittsburgh Pirates were trying to trade Ryan Doumit all offseason. The 2011 season is the final guaranteed year in his current contract (the Pirates hold options for 2012 and 2013). And with the Pirates possibly starring their 19th straight losing season in the face, they could be looking to trade more of their veteran talent for young prospects.
Doumit has been fairly inconsistent over his seven-year career, as he's battled injuries along the way. But he just turned 30 years old on Sunday and can be used as a catcher, right fielder or first baseman—versatility that just about any team could benefit from. And he still has enough talent the Pirates might be able to get some Major League ready prospects in return.
It was a rough couple of years in Washington for lefty Scott Olsen. And after two injury-filled seasons in the Nation's Capital, Olsen's journey didn't get any easier after he signed a one-year deal with the Pirates.
Olsen is currently on the disabled list with a hamstring injury and his role with the club is in serious question. He could possibly work himself back and join the rotation, or the Bucks could put him in the bullpen. Or, perhaps, they could try and trade the 27-year old left-hander and let him be another team's question.
Garrett Jones seemingly came out of nowhere and had a breakout season in 2009, when he crushed 21 home runs in only half of a season. His 2010 season wasn't as impressive—he hit the same number of long balls, but over the full course of the season.
Now, Jones is platooning with newcomer Matt Diaz in right field. At 29 years old, however, the Pirates might still be able to get some value in return for the left-handed outfielder/first baseman. Though they probably shouldn't wait too long, for his stock may drop even more with a sub-par 2011 campaign.
San Diego Padres: Chad Qualls, Dustin Mosely, Everth Cabrera
Chad Qualls is trying to regain the closer form he had in 2009.
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In 2009, Chad Qualls saved 24 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks. But he had his struggles as the D-Backs' closer, and the next season was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays, where his woes continued—he had a 5.57 ERA last season.
Now in 2011, the right-hander will be in the bullpen for the San Diego Padres, who have a very talented bullpen. They have one of the better closers in the league in Heath Bell, and behind him an army of solid relievers. So, the Padres may soon have no need for Qualls, and could look to pass him on to another club, as he looks to try and find that closer stuff he once possessed.
As talented as the Padres' bullpen is, their rotation is even more impressive. They brought in Aaron Harang to provide some veteran leadership to the young, but very gifted, pitching staff. Ace Mat Latos is currently on the shelf after suffering from a bout of bursitis, but should be back by the end of the month.
The Padres also have Wade LeBlanc, who will be the team's fifth starter once one is needed later in April. That would likely leave Dustin Mosley in a long relief/spot start role, one which he is used to, but could be best served on another ball club.
Light-hitting shortstop Everth Cabrera is currently in the Padres' minor league system after playing parts of the last two seasons in San Diego. The Padres signed Jason Bartlett and recently traded for Alberto Gonzalez, so they are plenty deep with middle infielders. Cabrera, 24, could be blocked if the Padres intend to keep Bartlett around for a while. He, and the Padres, could equally benefit from a trade to a team in more need of defensive improvements up the middle.
San Francisco Giants: Barry Zito, Aaron Rowand, Mike Fontenot
The Giants signed Barry Zito to a seven-year contract before the 2007 season
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When the San Francisco Giants signed Barry Zito to a seven-year, $126 million contract, they probably were hoping to get more than the 40-57 record he has given them. After having a brilliant career across the bay, the Giants brought in the left-hander to be a solid part of their budding rotation.
But now, in 2011, Zito has become a bit of a burden on the Giants' payroll. He is still owed a boat-load of money, and his contract doesn't expire until 2014. But perhaps a change of scenery will help the 32-year old get back on track. The tricky part is, finding a team willing and able to take on a big chunk of Zito's obese contract.
Like Zito, Aaron Rowand has not produced to the level of expectations that were set when the Giants signed him to a five-year contract before the 2008 season. In three seasons with the G-Men, Rowand has a total of 39 home runs and a .257 batting average. He's been having to split playing time with several of the Giants' young outfielders—Andres Torres, Nate Schierholtz primarily—and could be playing his way out of the Bay Area. He is due to make another $24 million over the next two seasons, so Rowand will be another tough contract to move.
Mike Fontenot is a somewhat of an unknown commodity. But Fontenot, though light-hitting, is a solid defender who can play multiple positions. The Giants have youngster Emmanuel Burris waiting in the minor leagues, and also have Mark DeRosa as a utility player with much more pop than Fontenot. The Giants may not be able to get much back in a trade for 30-year old infielder, but his use on the team may not be very high much longer.
Seattle Mariners: Erik Bedard, Milton Bradley, Adam Kennedy
Adam Kennedy is a well-traveled veteran who consistently plays well no matter what uniform he is wearing.
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Before we begin...the Mariners will NOT be trading Felix Hernandez this season. Just to put that to rest.
Erik Bedard hasn't thrown a big league pitch since July of 2009, but his value is still relatively high. He is 32 years old, and still possess the stuff to make him a solid mid-rotation pitcher, despite numerous surgeries throughout his career. Bedard is a free agent after the 2011 season and he seems primed for a nice bounce back season with the Mariners to prove he is healthy—he looked very good in spring training.
There seems to be a general cringe when Milton Bradley trade rumors start to swirl. Through most of his career, the talented outfielder has had a history of anger problems on just about any team he's played on—and Seattle is no different. He's had physical and personal problems throughout his tenure in Seattle, and is in the final season of a three-year contract. Bradley has talent—he hit 22 home runs in 2008. The only question is whether he can keep himself together for the rest of his career.
Adam Kennedy is used to playing with different teams. In 2011, he will be playing for the Seattle Mariners, his fourth club in four seasons. But no matter where he goes, Kennedy keeps his chin up and plays hard.
But in Seattle, he is currently blocking the path of top prospect Dustin Ackley, the number 12 rated prospect by Baseball America, according to BaseballReferece. The Mariners are very deep in up-the-middle defenders, and Kennedy could be used in a trade package to bring in some more young talent.
St. Louis Cardinals: Gerald Laird, Allen Craig, Nick Punto
The Cardinals signed veteran catcher Gerald Laird during the offseason.
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The St. Louis Cardinals brought in Gerald Laird to give some more stability after Yadier Molina behind the plate. Laird is a fine backstop with years of big league experience. The move was rather curious, however, as Molina certainly does not need any mentoring as he is as fine a backstop as there is in the game.
The Cards do have a young catcher by the name of Bryan Anderson who is waiting in the wings for his shot at backing up Molina (Anderson had a cup of coffee with the team last season). The Cardinals could potentially deal Laird to a team in need of a veteran catcher, and give Anderson some exposure to big league pitching.
The Cardinals have already received queries into the availability of outfielder/infielder Allen Craig. And right now, with Matt Holliday on the shelf, the team is not exactly in the position to move the 26-year old. But once Holliday returns, the Cards may have the flexibility to spin Craig off in a potential deal. But Craig has the ability to play pretty much all over the diamond.
Craig, who made his Major League debut last season, has some pop in his bat. In five minor league seasons, he totalled 90 home runs and over 350 RBI. It could be interesting to see what kind of player he turns out to be given regular playing time at the Major League level.
The St. Louis Cardinals signed infielder Nick Punto to a one-year deal back in January to provide some organizational depth. But Punto is currently on the 15-day disabled list after undergoing surgery for a sports hernia—he will be out until at least May.
The Cardinals already have a deep infield, with Skip Schumaker, Ryan Theriot and Tyler green all on board. The Cards could afford to deal the 33-year old without sacrificing any depth on the roster. I can foresee them using the roughly two months between his return and the trade deadline as an audition period to show other ball clubs that he is healthy and ready to go.
Tampa Bay Rays: B.J. Upton, Andy Sonnanstine, Felipe Lopez
B.J. Upton was drafted second overall in 2006.
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There aren't very many players in the game that have as much raw talent as B.J. Upton. The Tampa Bay Rays drafted him second overall in the 2002 draft. He's got power, speed and is a solid defender—he has all the skills to be a five-tool player. But has Upton finally worn out his welcome in Tampa Bay? He's been criticized in the past for a lack of hustle.
Upton is arbitration eligible for the final time after the 2011 season, and the Rays could look to trade the 26-year old outfielder before he hits his free agency years. They do have another up-and-coming outfielder by the name of Desmond Jennings. He's just about ready for the show, which means that Upton, who has had some injury issues in the past, could be seeing his way out of Florida in the not-too-distant future.
The 2011 season could be a year of "spring cleaning" for the Rays. They could clear some payroll by trading Upton. They also could make some room on the roster by ridding themselves of Andy Sonnanstine. The 28-year old right-hander began his career in the Rays' rotation. But after a disastrous start to the 2009 campaign, the Rays optioned him to Triple-A.
Since then, he has pitched out of the bullpen, and though he showed some improvements in 2010, the Rays have a number of young arms that could prove more efficient for the club. Sonnanstine has two more years of arbitration eligibility, which could help increase his trade value.
Felipe Lopez is about to show his value to the Rays in 2011. Star third baseman Evan Longoria has recently been placed on the disabled list, and Lopez was subsequently called up to replace him. Lopez was signed to a minor league contract by the Rays during the offseason. If he is able to have anything close to his 2005 All-Star season, it could be the absolute bargain signing of the year.
But chances are, Lopez will become expendable when Longoria returns. The well-traveled utility infielder has played for nine different teams (including Tampa Bay) over his 11-year career. And as useful as Lopez can be for a team, the Rays have Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriguez, Ben Zobrist and youngster Elliot Johnson—all of whom can play multiple infield positions.
Texas Rangers: Michael Young, Julio Borbon, Chris Davis
With the additions the Texas Rangers made in the offseason, what does the future hold for Michael Young?
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You kind of have to feel bad for Michael Young. He's done so much for the Texas Rangers. He changed positions multiple times when it was convenient for the team, and never made any bones about it. But the Rangers' offseason seems to have left the perennial All-Star without a home position.
The Rangers brought in Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli this winter, and with youngsters Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland entrenched at their respective positions, Young has been relegated to designated hitter/utility player. That's gratitude for ya. So for the better part of the winter, rumors were raging regarding a possible Young trade. And though no deals were made, it would hardly shock anyone to see Young wearing a different uniform by July 31. The Rockies, Phillies, Diamondbacks and Marlins have all been linked to Young during the offseason.
There may be room for only so many left-handed hitting outfielders on one roster. Right now, the Rangers have three (four if you include current first baseman Mitch Moreland). One of them is the reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton, and the other is speedy Julio Borbon—neither of whom are likely to go anywhere anytime soon.
So should the Rangers wish to clear some room on their active roster, David Murphy could become the odd man out in the Texas outfield. The 29-year old quietly puts together one solid year after another, and could provide a team with added depth in their outfield.
Chris Davis is yet another example of a top prospect that has yet to fulfill his potential—or come anywhere near it. The 25-year old was drafted in the fifth round of the 2006 draft, and had an impressive rookie campaign in 2008. But in '09, he looked completely over matched (150 strikeouts, 24 walks), and he spent the majority of 2010 in Triple-A. With Mitch Moreland performing admirably at first base, and the Rangers' patience with Davis wearing thin, a trade may soon be in the works with the left-handed slugger.
Toronto Blue Jays: Jon Rauch, Yunel Escobar, Jesse Litsch
Jon Rauch stands at an intimidating 6'10".
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Coming into Opening Day, the Toronto Blue Jays possessed four pitchers who could be the team's closer—Jason Frasor, Octavio Dotel, Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch. Of the quartet, Rauch may be the most logical to deal. The tall right-hander has success in the closer role. He has saved 47 games over his career, and his intimidating stature makes him that much more fearsome on the mound.
With the Jays' plethora of late-inning relievers, it seems almost natural that at least one could be dealt this summer. Rauch, who will be a free agent at the end of the 2011 season, would certainly provide a team with a fear factor at the back of the bullpen.
The Jays acquired shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Braves last year, as the Braves had run out of patience with the 28-year old. He came up with the Braves with tons of talent and potential. But aside from a good 2009 season, Escobar has really been more of a bust.
This offseason, the Blue Jays signed a young shortstop out of Cuba by the name of Adeiny Hechavarria. The 21-year old signed a four year deal with Toronto, and the Jays are anxious to see what this kid can do. If Escobar is not able to find his 2009 form soon, his time north of the border could come to an abrupt end, especially with the 21-year old waiting in the wings.
Trades and injuries are both intricate parts of the game. When a player gets injured, another player is called upon to replace him (sometimes temporarily). When the injured player returns, depending on how his replacement fared, a deal could be in order. This very well may be the scenario of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Their ace Brandon Morrow is currently on the disabled list, but is due to return in the coming days. Left-hander Jesse Litsch, coming off injury-shortened 2009 and 2010 seasons, is, as of now, the Jays' fifth starter. But once Morrow returns, it could be time to let the young southpaw pitch every other five days for another club. If Litsch pitches well in Morrow's absence, Jo-Jo Reyes could become a potential trade candidate instead.
Washington Nationals: Ivan Rodriguez, Rick Ankiel, Alex Cora
At almost 40 years old, Ivan Rodriguez is still going strong.
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It's one thing for a man to play into his 40s. It's another thing for a man to play into his 40s primarily as a catcher. But what Ivan Rodriguez has done over his career is nothing short of incredible. He will turn 40 years old in November, and aside from his 2008 and 2010 seasons, Pudge has hit at least 10 home runs in every season of his career.
His first year with the Washington Nationals did not go all that well. He hit only four home runs and missed some time with a back injury. But he has 3,000 hits on his radar, and stands a very good chance in reaching that historic milestone. Will he eclipse that mark in a Nationals' uniform, however? If it were up to him, the answer would be yes. Rodriguez has stated he would like to stay in the Nation's Capital. But with youngster Jesus Flores itching to return to the Major Leagues, the Nats could look to deal the future Hall-of-Famer.
It seems like another lifetime when Rick Ankiel was making fans behind the backstop at Busch Stadium flinch with every pitch. Now, Ankiel is patrolling center field for the Nationals after having a down 2010 season with the Braves and Royals. But Ankiel may not want to get too comfortable in the Capital. Bryce Harper, the first pick in last year's draft and future right fielder, is determined to crack the Major League roster in 2011, and with the Nationals not yet expected to be serious contenders, that may very well happen.
And with Jayson Werth added to the club on a blockbuster deal, Ankiel may be the odd man out. Ankiel is a free agent at the end of the '11 season, and will need to have a big rebound season is he wishes to land on his feet with another ball club in 2012.
Alex Cora has been around this game for a long time—14 seasons to be exact. So he is for sure well aware that no job is safe in baseball. The Nationals signed Cora to a minor league contract this offseason, and he made the ball club out of spring training. But the steady veteran made the team as a back-up infielder, something the Nats have plenty of, especially with Jerry Hairston Jr. also in the fold.