The MLB season isn’t even a month old, and already rumors have swirled about which free agents would make likely trade targets near this year’s deadline.
While a few big name players like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes could all be on the move, sometimes contending teams will look to add more of role player to round out their postseason rosters.
Whether it is a power bat of the bench, left-handed specialist or utility player, that final piece can make a difference down the stretch.
Here are 10 free agents likely to be traded at this year’s deadline.
Marco Scutaro appears to be the odd man out in Boston already.
The Red Sox signed him to a two-year prior to the 2010 season to be the stopgap for their young prospect, Jed Lowrie.
Lowrie has stepped up in a big way this season, and is hitting .431 through 16 games—the second highest mark in the A.L.
Scutaro, on the other hand, is hitting just .213, and is seeing his playing time slip away. He has a $6 million option on the table for next year, so Boston may look to move him.
While Scutaro may no longer be a starting player, he can provide a contending team with infield depth down the stretch. He has experience at all the infield positions, and has even dabbled in the outfield in his career.
Scutaro is a positive presence, and a team that trades for him would value his leadership.
Most teams long for a right-handed power hitter on their bench with the ability to go deep late in games or neutralize the opposing team’s left-handed specialist.
That is Austin Kearns in a nutshell.
Kearns has been cold in limited plate appearances for the Cleveland Indians thus far. However, he still has some clutch hits left in his bat.
He also could fill in as an outfielder if need be, but his true strengths are at the plate.
The Indians may be receiving some calls regarding Kearns around the deadline.
Jack Cust is basically the left-handed version of Austin Kearns.
He’s a guy that will hit the ball out of the park, but also strike out as much as Adam Dunn.
In fact, Cust led the A.L. in strikeouts each year from 2007-2009.
The Mariners signed him to a one-year deal, but don’t expect Cust to remain there too long.
Just like Kearns, Cust’s skills are starting to deteriorate, but he could provide some punch off the bench for a contender.
However, he has never played in a postseason game in his 10-year career.
Kyle Farnsworth has taken over the closing duties for the Tamps Bay Rays to fill the void left by last year’s A.L. saves leader, Rafael Soriano.
He’s off to a good start so far, with five saves and a 1.23 ERA.
Based on his track record, Farnsworth might be better suited for a setup role at this stage in his career.
Though he still throws in the mid-90s, his fastball is said to be straightening out.
He’s no stranger to being dealt at the deadline.
Just last year, the Kansas City Royals traded Farnsworth to the Atlanta Braves for the stretch run.
Though he has a knack for giving up the big hit in the big spot, he can still be a valuable bullpen addition for a contender.
Xavier Nady was once a highly-touted San Diego Padres’ prospect with a great power bat.
He hit his stride during his last year in San Diego, and his production continued with the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates.
However, Nady suffered from injury troubles his whole career. Therefore, he was relegated to a platoon role the last few seasons.
He’s seen limited action for the Arizona Diamondbacks thus far, and appears to be a candidate for a deadline deal.
Nady is versatile, with the ability to play the corner outfield spots or first base.
Since he has traditionally abused left-handed pitching, his true value is a late-inning pinch hitter/platoon player.
Omar Infante played so well in a utility role last season for the Atlanta Braves that he was rewarded with a selection to the N.L. All-Star team.
Infante was included in the Dan Uggla trade, and took over at second base for the Florida Marlins.
Though he’s never really been known an as a major offensive threat, it’s his versatility that will catch contenders’ eyes at the deadline.
He’s a scrappy player with a good glove. He can basically play any position well, other than pitcher and catcher.
While he is starting for the Marlins, he is best suited for a utility role.
Bruce Chen seems to have rediscovered himself after a few lost years in the mid-2000s.
He finished 12-7 last year, and is already off to a 3-1 start. More importantly, he’s averaging over six innings per start.
Chen can be a valuable back of the rotation starter for a contender looking for a pitcher that can not only eat innings, but also keep the team in the game.
The Royals will likely look for a few low-to-mid level prospects in exchange for Chen.
Mike Gonzalez is off to a dreadful start this season.
He’s surrendered six runs in just five innings for the Baltimore Orioles.
When on, Gonzalez is one of the top left-handed relievers in the game. Though he has been used as a closer, his value is as a lefty specialist.
Every team needs a lefty in the bullpen to come in and get out the opposing team’s top lefty hitter. While this strategy doesn’t always work, managers like the odds of making this move.
The Orioles have Kevin Gregg and Koji Uehara as late inning options.
Gonzalez hasn’t won many fans in Baltimore after injuries and inconsistent play have clouded his Orioles career.
Teams may come knocking to bid for the lefty’s services in late July.
It’s almost surprising that the Pirates haven’t traded Paul Maholm yet.
He has a $9.75 million option for next year, so the Pirates would sure like to move him soon.
Being the ace on one of the worst teams in baseball must be tough. However, Maholm goes out there each start and gives his team a chance to win.
Though his 1-3 record isn’t anything special, Maholm has posted a respectable 3.90 ERA
He would see an increase in his numbers if he played on a team that actually gave him some run support.
There isn’t a team in the big leagues that would pass up this innings-eating lefty if the price is right.
Though it’s a surprise to Mets fans and baseball fans alike, Carlos Beltran is actually healthy, and has swung the bat decent so far.
He has even shown good range defensively.
While his playing time was monitored the first few weeks, Beltran will be starting everyday in right field from now on. With Angel Pagan on the disabled list, the Mets will need steady contributions from Beltran.
There’s a slim to none chance Beltran winds up with the Mets next season.
He had some good years in New York, but his Mets career will be forever tainted by injuries and taking three straight strikes from Adam Wainwright to close out the 2006 NLCS.
If Beltran continues to swing the bat well, a contender may want to take a chance on him well before July’s trade deadline.
He’d be best suited for an A.L. team that can give him regular at-bats at DH but also some innings in the outfield.
Even at age 34, a healthy Beltran is a five-tool player who can bolster a contending team’s offense down the stretch.