Every baseball season, at least a few "name" players switch teams via trade.
These players are known to even the most casual of fans because they have appeared in All-Star Games and competed for major awards in the past.
At the time of the trade, their level of skill can fall into any number of categories.
Many are former stars and heroes who now find themselves in the fading light of their careers; still in search of that elusive World Series ring. Lance Berkman and Kerry Wood were dealt separately to the Yankees last year in an attempt to reach that goal.
Some are players still in the primes of their careers whom rebuilding or poor teams can no longer afford to hold onto. Dan Haren, Roy Halladay, Matt Holliday and Victor Martinez have been traded recently for similar reasons.
Fewer are rising stars who likely have their best years in front of them, but are players that generate polarizing opinions and are valued differently by different clubs.
Still, what all of these players have in common is that, through some combination of talent and experience, they are expected to make their new teams better.
After the jump is a list of 10 former All-Stars, each more talented than the last. Look for any number of these players to make a midseason switch and help a contending club in their chase for a pennant.
Cot's Baseball Contracts: http://mlbcontracts.blogspot.com/
At this stage of his career, Ivan Rodriguez is little more than a backup catcher and mentor.
In his prime, Pudge was on the of best catchers of all time. He won seven Silver Slugger Awards, 13 Gold Gloves and the 1999 AL MVP award.
He was also named to 14 All-Star Games and helped lead the Marlins to the 2003 World Series title.
Pudge hasn't had an OPS over .700, however, since his last year with the Tigers in 2008. The previous year contained Rodriguez's final all-star appearance. It was also the last time he managed 500 at-bats.
Although no longer the force he once was with the bat, Pudge maintains most of his value from his defensive abilities.
He still has one of the best arms for any catcher in baseball and he's continually placed in the top 10 for caught stealing percentage.
Additionally, Pudge is renowned by his pitchers and coaches alike for his ball-blocking and game-calling abilities behind the dish.
The Nationals are grooming young Wilson Ramos, who they acquired from the Twins, to be their catcher of the future.
Rodriguez's contract is up at the end of the season and the team has made it clear that they intend to trade him. He should serve as a fine defensive backup for a serious contender the rest of the way.
Although the Manny Ramirez experiment couldn't have gone worse, the Rays decision to also ink former Red Sox and Yankee Johnny Damon appears to be so far, so good.
During the Rays recent five game winning streak from April 11th-16th, Damon drove in the winning run in each game.
This probably has much more to do with opportunity than skill, but at the end of the day, Damon is still endearing himself to the Rays fan-base with his work on the field of play.
Then there's his "Rock Star" personality as well. According to John Romano of the St. Petersburg Times:
"Damon has brought a star quality never before seen in this clubhouse. It's an aura, a swagger, a red carpet attitude that is impossible to fake...Damon is the guy with World Series rings from Boston and New York, a best-selling biography and AC/DC front man Brian Johnson singing at his wedding reception."
But there's also his fun side as well:
"The guy who dropped water balloons from the 34th floor terrace of the Ritz-Carlton in Boston and who popularized the name Idiots for the 2004 world champion Red Sox...He's the guy who, after a charter flight home from a seven-day road trip, turns up the volume on the bus ride from the airport and sings his signature wail from the so-bad-it's-good 2001 movie Rock Star. At 12:30 in the morning."
Damon has always been a bit of a wildcard. But the attitude he brings to a clubhouse is unique.
He keeps both himself and his teammates loose. This mindset is what enabled the 2004 Red Sox to come back down 3-0 in the ALCS against the Yankees.
Johnny Damon may no longer be an All-Star caliber player. At this point, he's little more than a 1.5 WAR player who can play average defense (with a comically bad arm) and hit around .270 with 10-12 homers and 15 steals.
But he could serve as a nice third or fourth outfielder while he searches for his third world series ring.
If the Rays drop out of the race in the tough AL East, Damon won't finish the season there.
By virtue of being traded to the Minnesota Twins at last year's trading deadline, Matt Capps is already a former All-Star who has been dealt.
In 2010, after registering saves in his first 16 attempts during his first year with the Nationals, Capps was voted in on the players ballot and was the top vote getter among relief pitchers.
He was flipped to the Twins two days before the deadline and eventually replaced interim closer Jon Rauch. Capps was solid down the stretch, converting 16 of his 18 opportunities.
Capps has assumed the closer's role once again this season, but only because incumbent (and four-time All-Star) Joe Nathan has yet to re-gain his form after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year.
While 36 years old, Nathan will be "the guy" in Minnesota as soon as he gets his stuff back. If that happens by July 31st, the Twins could deal the experienced closer Capps, whose deal is expiring anyway, in order to fulfill another need.
While he has a bunch of experience and decent stuff for a reliever, Matt Capps owns a career 3.93 xFIP according to Fangraphs. He is the bullpen equivalent of a solid No. 3 starter.
On the trading market, someone should be willing to pay more than fair value for a pitcher with 111 career saves. If Nathan can get it together, Capps should be shopped.
Say what you will about Rafael Furcal and his immense talent, but the Dominican spark plug just can't seem to stay healthy.
Already sidelined with a broken left thumb this season, Furcal played in just 97 games last year and 36 games in 2008.
In 2009, he recorded 613 at-bats but had arguably his worst full season. He recorded a .269/.335/.375 triple slash with just 12 steals.
In those 97 games last year, Furcal rebounded with a .826 OPS and 22 steals and made the All-Star game after a stellar first half.
Either way, the Dodgers certainly regret the three-year, $30 million deal they signed Furcal to following the 2008 season. As it stands, I'm sure they can't wait to find his replacement for the future.
When he can stay on the field, Rafael Furcal can still generate 40 extra base hits, 25 steals and an .800 OPS while playing slightly above-average defense.
After two six-year stops in Atlanta and Los Angeles, it's time for Rafael Furcal to find a new employer.
If I were a team in need of middle infield help, I'd certainly take a flier for the rest of this season.
Vlad Guerrero has to be one of, if not the most underrated hitter of his generation.
The 36-year-old native of the Dominican Republic owns the following career numbers: 448 doubles, 437 home runs, a .319 batting average, a .382 on-base percentage, a .561 slugging percentage and a .942 OPS.
Vlad was always perceived as an undisciplined (but great) free swinger, who would hack away at anything close to the zone.
While this was true at times (Vlad was known to golf pitches near the ground and swing at balls a foot off the plate), Vladdy never swung at anything he didn't feel he could hit hard.
Poor plate discipline isn't my reaction when I see his career 720:938 strikeout to walk ratio. Vlad never hit the 100 strikeout mark and only crossed over 80 for two seasons. In four separate years, he walked more than he struck out.
Vladimir Guerrero has always been an extremely feared hitter. He posted back to back 30-30 seasons in 2001 and 2002, missing a 40-40 by one homer in the latter. He's hit 30 or more homers eight times.
Vlad is entering his 16th major league season, but he's coming off a year in which he hit .300 and smacked 29 homers for the AL champ Texas Rangers.
Though he struggled in the second half and had a miserable and homer-less postseason, Vlad the Impaler has proven he can swing his stick for just a bit longer.
Look for this nine-time All-Star, eight-time Silver Slugger and the AL's 2004 MVP to rebound in Baltimore and find his way into a contender's lineup for the postseason.
Before the season, there was a lot of speculation that the New York Yankees were in hot pursuit of Twins ace Francisco Liriano.
After watching his first four starts, however, I'd expect that those talks have really cooled off.
Liriano has walked and struck out the same number of batters (14) in his first 20 innings this season.
Although his velocity has steadily increased with each start, Liriano's slider (easily his best pitch) has not shown nearly the same bite or depth that it has in the past.
In his two big seasons (2006 and 2010), Liriano's slider was worth 23 and 19 runs above average respectively.
He uses the offering around 30 percent of the time, and it usually comes in around 85 miles per hour. The slider is the out-pitch, which he mixes with a mid-90s fastball and a mid-80's change-up.
The result is a ground-ball pitcher (over 50 percent in 2006, 2010, 2011) who can strike out over a batter per inning while walking just one for every three he strikes out.
This makes Francisco Liriano an ace when healthy.
However, Liriano underwent Tommy John surgery near the end of the 2006 season, forcing him to miss all of 2007 and struggle in 2008 and 2009.
Arm concerns have already been an issue in the past. These early season struggles (and the dip in velocity) could indicate that Liriano is fatigued after throwing 191 innings in 2010.
He's due a big raise at the end of the season if he can come close to his 2010. The Twins probably won't be the team who gives it to him.
Some team might take a gamble on this ace, I just hope it's not mine.
If your need is power from a corner infield spot, Aramis Ramirez might be the most intriguing trade target on the market.
Although Aramis has struggled with injuries the past few years, missing at least 30 games in four of the past five seasons, when he's played he has been on.
During his last full and healthy year, in 2008, Ramirez played 149 games and recorded 554 at-bats. He hit .289 with 44 doubles and 27 homers, receiving his second All-Star bid along the way.
Although he was bothered by a bad thumb for most of 2010, Ramirez looks poised to rebound early in 2011.
Ramirez must know that he's playing for a new contract, so he should be financially motivated to perform at the top of his game.
With a healthy year and a little bit of luck, there's no reason Aramis Ramirez can't get back to the 30-home run plateau he was at from 2004-2006.
If he makes it back to the all-star game, a rebuilding Cubs team should sell while his stock is highest. Ramirez would make for a solid No. 5 hitter on any playoff team.
After this year, his future may be as a DH with an AL club.
If at all possible, the Mets will try to deal Francisco Rodriguez as soon as they can this season.
The 28-year old-reliever is owed $11.5 million for the remainder of 2011. He has a $17.5 million team option (with a $3.5 million buyout) for 2012 which triggers automatically if he finishes 55 games.
The Mets new front office is very risk averse. With K-Rod's declining strikeout rates and his off-the-field issues, there's no way they want to risk giving him anywhere near that kind of money.
In fact, they wouldn't pay any relief pitcher anywhere near that amount of money. For his contract, Rodriguez is extremely overrated.
He is, however, still one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. Though not as dominant as he was with the Angels, K-Rod still strikes out about 10 batters per nine innings, with a 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio.
He's two for his first three save attempts in 2011. K-Rod's career mark is right around 85 percent save success.
If K-Rod can continue to show that the pitching hand he injured in the clubhouse fight with his father-in-law is again healthy, and if the Mets are willing to pay most of his contract, the team could certainly flip the closer for something before he walks at the end of the year.
The Mets wouldn't want to risk having K-Rod on the roster once he's starting to near the 55 games finished mark.
Much like what happened with slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez last season, the San Diego Padres will be in "wait and see" mode with regards to Heath Bell this year.
Largely due to their strong pitching and defense, the Padres were surprise contenders last season, winning 90 games and missing out on the NL West title by just two victories.
San Diego was in contention around the trading deadline and ultimately decided to hold off on trading their best hitter until after the year was over.
If the Padres can remain in the NL West hunt this year, Heath Bell should remain on the team. If they fall out of the race, they should certainly sell high.
Over the past two seasons, Bell has registered 89 saves over 139.2 innings, with 165 strikeouts and only 52 walks. Due to the environment at Petco, he surrendered just four homers combined.
Bell throws two above-average pitches, a mid-90's fastball and a low-80's curve.
Both pitches are above-average, but Bell is already 33 years old and has the type of big body that could break down easily.
He'll be a free agent at the end of this season and should receive sizable contract offers from a few teams.
With a move away from baseball's most pitcher-friendly environment, any decrease in velocity could turn this now elite closer into a player struggling to hold his role.
With the New York Mets in serious financial trouble, their new management team led by Sandy Alderson will have to decide what to do with former top prospect Jose Reyes.
If they decide to deal him this year, I doubt his stock will get much higher than it is now.
Reyes is off to a fast start in 2011. He's gathered 23 hits in his first 73 at-bats, with six doubles, two triples and one homer. He's also been 6-for-6 in steal attempts.
Jose Reyes is a true five-tool player who can consistently hit around .285 with 60-plus extra base hits and 60-plus steals. From 2005-2008, Reyes's stolen base totals were 65, 64, 78 and 56. His extra base hit totals in those years were 48, 66, 60 and 63.
He has, however, struggled with leg injuries throughout his career. Reyes missed a bunch of games early in his first couple of seasons due to various ailments. He missed just 15 games total, however, from 2005-2008.
Injuries held him to just 36 games in 2009, but Reyes returned for most of 2010 (133 games) and looked fresh and healthy, hitting .282 with 29 doubles, 10 triples, 11 homers and 30 steals.
He is probably the most electrifying and exciting player in baseball when he's on the field.
But the Mets front office can't afford to take a chance that this three-time All-Star will stay healthy over the course of a long-term deal. Additionally, shortstop might be their best position for depth in the minors.
All signs indicate that Jose Reyes won't be with the Mets after this season. If the team wants to maximize their return (instead of just getting draft picks), they'll trade him before the July 31st deadline.