Nearly a month into the 2011 season, teams are beginning to see what the year has in store for them. Decisions will be made very soon, if they have not been already, as to who should stay and who should go.
Teams with a lot of infield depth may look to unload some extra weight. Finances may also play a role in a player's future. Changes could come in the form of a trade, a demotion or an outright release.
Some players made available will be attractive trade chips, while others will not. Players with huge salaries or those lacking in production are the hardest to sell. In those cases, they may be "available," but this does not necessarily mean a team will pick them up.
The following is a list of 10 infielders who will become available in the near future.
This past offseason, Michael Young was bumped from his regular role as the Rangers' starting third baseman when Adrian Beltre was signed. Young was moved into a utility and DH role.
Unhappy with the situation, Young asked to be traded, saying he felt “misled and manipulated,” according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
And while Young is adapting to his new job since the Rangers have not yet traded him, it could still happen. The Rangers may announce sometime between now and the trade deadline that Young is available.
The only real issue in trading Young is going to be his salary. He is owed about $48 million over the next three seasons. So what the market for Young may be is unknown, the Rangers will at least give it a try.
The Cubs signed Carlos Pena this offseason to a one-year, $10 million deal in the hopes that he could add some pop to their line-up. But so far, Pena has struggled in Chicago.
His struggles at the plate are likely aggravated by a sprained right thumb he has been dealing with. But the Cubs have been able to replace him in the line-up while he is either slumping or hurt.
So while Pena is batting below the Mendoza line, the Cubs seem comfortable with his replacements which therefore, may render him obsolete.
Whether or not they can get someone to bite on Pena's big dollar contract is another story. But if the Cubs are willing to eat some of the contract, Pena may be on his way out the door.
The Mets got off to another rough start in 2011. Both the team and their financial situation appear to be having difficult times.
Short stop Jose Reyes is in the final year of his contract. These cash-strapped Mets could be looking to dump payroll sooner rather than later.
The Mets financial issues make resigning Reyes highly unlikely. So if they are going to lose him at the end of the year anyway, why not get something in return before the trade deadline?
In a talented division with both the Phillies and Braves as likely front-runners, the Mets' chances of competing in the NL East this year are slim. And Reyes is an All-Star shortstop, making him very attractive to other teams.
The Mets will probably begin courting possible suitors very soon.
There are a few teams out there in need of a quality short stop, like the San Francisco Giants, as an example. The Mets Jose Reyes could be an option, but J.J. Hardy is an appealing choice as well.
And unlike Reyes $11 million contract, Hardy is being paid just $5.85 million this year making him a cheaper option.
The Orioles are, again, in a situation where their division is so tough, they stand little chance at making a playoff run. Hardy could be a good bargaining chip for them, as long as his numbers start to pick up.
The Diamondbacks signed Russell Branyan to a minor league deal this past offseason. He made the team out of spring training and has been sharing time at first with Juan Miranda.
Although lately, Branyan has had a hotter bat and is getting more starts. This type of performance will get him noticed around the league by teams looking for more power on their bench.
In 2011 so far, the D-backs are having a rough time competing in the NL West. The odds that they will make the playoffs seem slim.
This makes Branyan worth just a bit more as a bargaining chip for the D-backs while other teams look to solidify their own chances at getting to October baseball.
The Mariners have got to be getting a bit tired of Chone Figgins struggles at the plate by now. In his first 21 games of the season, Figgins is batting only .160.
Last season, Figgins ended with a .259 average and only 35 RBI. The Mariners were hoping he would bounce back, but so far, it is not to be.
Owed $26 million over the next three seasons, Figgins is not living up to his contract. The problem the Mariners will face is getting a team to pay for a player who has underperformed. Odds are good that the Mariner's will have to eat most of his contract to get rid of him.
So even though Figgins may be "available," there may not be an suitors for him. The Mariners best hope is that a team will bank on a change of scenery to turn around Figgins' luck.
In his contract year, Prince Fielder will be looking to make a big impression on potential suitors this year. He signed a $15.5 million dollar contract with the Brewers for 2011, but it is likely he will land elsewhere before the year is up as the Brewers probably cannot afford to sign him.
The Brewers have also been struggling with injuries early this season, losing star pitcher Zack Greinke to a cracked rib shortly after they traded for him. Slugger Corey Hart and pitcher Shaun Marcum missed time as well with injuries.
As for Fielder, he has gotten off to a hot start in 2011. He is putting on a show with his big bat that will not go unnoticed.
If the Brewers are going to lose him at the end of the year anyway, they will probably start listening to offers for Fielder soon.
Veteran third baseman Felipe Lopez was signed to a minor league deal this offseason and made the Rays team out of spring training. With Evan Longoria on the DL, Lopez brings a lot of experience to the table.
However, when Longoria returns, the Rays have plenty of depth at third. Both Sean Rodriguez and Elliot Johnson can cover the spot.
There has also been a lot of talk about Lopez's lack of hustle. He has even been benched as a result. So the odds are good that Lopez will be available once Longoria returns. Either he could be used in a trade or, more likely, he will be released and another team could grab him if they need bench help.
In 2007, James Loney looked like he was going to be an All-Star player for the Dodgers. But since that break-out season, it has been all downhill.
Loney's batting average has dropped from .331 in 2007 to .289, .281 and .267 each year since. In 2011, he is off to a slow start hitting just .170.
This season, the Dodgers owe Loney $4.875 million. The odds are good that most teams will not be interested in a player who is in a serious decline, unless the Dodgers are willing to eat the salary. What they could get in return is a question as well.
But one way or another, the Dodgers will have to address the issue. Loney could be released or traded if the Dodgers are willing to pay. But with MLB currently handling the team's finances, no one really knows what could happen.
Currently on the disabled list with an injured right hamstring, much is uncertain about Aaron Hill's future in Toronto. Just prior to the injury, the Jays declined the three option years on Hill's contract. 2011 will be his last guaranteed year.
That move possibly indicates the team may be will to part with Hill before the trade deadline if the price is right. Of course, he will need to get healthy first.
Hill is an attractive infielder as he can play multiple positions. And so far, his production has been a little better than last season.
Plus, the Jays have some infield depth and also talented prospects, like Brett Lawrie, waiting in the wings. Hill could be a nice trade chip for the Jays before the deadline.