We've finally passed the first-quarter point of the season and it's this time of year that general managers begin looking at potential trades.
Some teams are buyers, some teams are sellers and some teams are a little bit of both, but regardless of how realistic their playoff aspirations are, every team will still be involved at the trading deadline.
Here's an early look at the 100* players you can expect to come up in trade discussions over the next two months.
*Players are listed alphabetically in order of what team they're on, so the Arizona Diamondbacks are first and the Washington Nationals are last.
The Diamondbacks made stud OF Justin Upton available over the winter, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they’ll do the same for Drew. The 28-year-old shortstop has been playing well (.276/.350/.425), but he seems to have peaked as a player and is about to get expensive. He’s due for a $3 million raise next season to $7.75 million and then Arizona has a $10 million option on him for 2013.
If the Diamondbacks are serious about rebuilding, and with two of the top seven picks in the upcoming MLB draft, they really should be, then Drew is one of the few players they can get a substantial return for. He won’t be around when Arizona is competitive again, so it makes sense to trade him now while his value is at its highest.
Heilman, 32, was one of the busiest arms in baseball this decade, making at least 70 appearances every year from 2006-2010. He hasn’t pitched particularly well this year, with just a 6.94 ERA in nine games, but there are probably plenty of teams that would be happy to take on his expiring $2 million contract to see if he has some juice left. On the plus side, his strikeouts are way up (10.8 SO/9).
Johnson, 29, is Arizona’s highest-paid player ($5.85 million) and will be a free agent following this season. The left-handed Johnson is having an awful year with just a .184 batting average and an even more embarrassing 52 strikeouts in 152 at-bats.
He did hit 26 home runs last season and there are plenty of teams that would love to rent a power-hitting second baseman for a couple of months.
Several teams have been after Montero for a while now, and it’s easy to see why. The 27-year-old is finally healthy and is slugging a robust .447 with a .809 OPS. That’s good news for Montero, but bad news for the Diamondbacks, which will have to pay the catcher upwards of $5 million in arbitration for 2012 before he becomes a free agent in 2013. It might be time to make him someone else’s financial problem.
Mora, 39, is one of a handful of serviceable utility players that play for Arizona. He might be the most attractive of the group because he’s a veteran, cheap ($2.35 million expiring deal) and can still hit a little bit (.262 batting average).
Xavier Nady, Geoff Blum, Henry Blanco, Willie Bloomquist and Russell Branyan are all in a similar position and will be open for bidding now through July 31.
The Diamondbacks waited for the free-agent pool to thin out before grabbing their closer in Putz with a two-year, $10 million deal. The 34-year-old righty has rewarded Arizona for its patience by saving nine games and compiling a 2.40 ERA in 14 appearances, but it doesn’t make much sense to pay someone that much to close games for a losing team. Putz is much more valuable to Arizona as a trade chip.
Saunders, 30, has been a big disappointment for Arizona this year after coming over in the Dan Haren trade. He’s 0-5 with a 5.48 ERA and has almost as many walks (24) as strikeouts (25).
The Diamondbacks aren’t quite ready to give up on the lefty yet, but they’re leaning heavily in that direction. Saunders will make $6 million to $7 million in arbitration next season and then be a free agent in 2013.
The Braves remain adamant that they don’t want to trade their veteran right-hander, even if he is 38 and halfway through a four-year, $60 million deal. But even with a 3.43 ERA in 57.2 innings, he’s the worst starter in the rotation, and easily the most expensive.
A market definitely exists for Lowe if the Braves decide to make him available.
Gonzalez, 33, is the primary lefty in the Baltimore bullpen, but he’s been pitching like the mop-up guy. In 15 games, he has an 8.53 ERA and is giving up 13.5 H/9.0 IP, all for the hefty price of $6 million in the final year of his deal.
Lefty relievers with proven track records are hot commodities on the trade market, so expect the Orioles to find a team willing to acquire Gonzalez.
The Orioles signed Guerrero to a one-year, $8 million deal to add some thump to the lineup, and he’s certainly done that with four homers and a .755 OPS. But Baltimore is still a couple of years away from contending and the Orioles have no use for a 36-year-old designated hitter. Some team will be happy to take Guerrero off their hands.
Cameron, 38, was supposed to be the right-handed complement to Jacoby Ellsbury in center field, but it’s hard to take Ellsbury out of the lineup when his OPS is .815. That leaves no role for the veteran outfielder, who is hitting just .175 this season.
The Red Sox should trade Cameron and the $7.75 million remaining on his deal to a team that still thinks he can hit 20 home runs and play Gold Glove defense.
The Red Sox aren’t in a position to trade away talented catchers, but lucky for them, Saltalamacchia’s talent got lost somewhere between Atlanta and Texas. The 27-year-old catcher is hitting a brutal .217 (which is still higher than Carl Crawford’s batting average) and has struggled defensively. That won’t fly in a city like Boston so look for the Red Sox to acquire another catcher and dump Saltalamacchia on someone else.
For the first time in over a decade, the Red Sox actually have a surplus at shortstop. Jed Lowrie (.856 OPS) is a better hitter than Marco Scutaro, and rookie Jose Iglesias is a better fielder, so what to do with the veteran utility man?
It’s hard to trade someone who’s hitting just .235 and has only three extra-base hits on the season, but the Red Sox will happily dump Scutaro and the $7 million remaining on his contract just to free up a roster spot.
The Cubs are about a week away from coming to the conclusion that they can’t win the World Series this year, and that means they’ll be selling. At the top of that list is Fukudome, a solid, 34-year-old outfielder who is actually having a good season at the moment (.323/.432/.364). The lack of a home run or stolen base is worrisome, but this is still a pretty good third outfielder for a championship team.
The Cubs need to free up a spot for prospect Tyler Colvin anyway, and what better way to do that than to dump Fukudome and the $14.5 million left on his deal?
Grabow, 32, is another impending free agent who is due $4.8 million this season. He’s a lefty, so there’ll be some demand for him, even if his 4.30 ERA and 4.9 BB/9 are hard to swallow. Some team will bite.
Johnson, 34, is in a similar position to Fukudome and Grabow, except that his $900,000 contract makes him much easier to move. He’s nothing more than a complementary player at this point in his career, but if he keeps hitting like this (.385/.444/.615) then some team will find a way to get him at-bats.
The White Sox are on the verge of full-on sell mode, and Buerhrle is going to be the club’s most coveted player. The 32-year-old left-hander is 3-3 with a 4.07 ERA thus far, but he’s made at least 30 starts every year of his career and has a 3.85 lifetime ERA. He’s in the final year of his four-year, $56 million deal and would be the premier pitcher on the trade market if made available.
The White Sox brought in Crain on a three-year, $13 million deal to take the pressure off a bullpen that had just lost longtime closer Bobby Jenks. The 29-year-old righty has pitched well with a 2.66 ERA in 17 games, and he will garner a lot of interest at the trade deadline by the same teams that wanted him as a free agent.
Danks, 26, is unlike the other White Sox starters who could be traded this season in that he won’t be a free agent next season. He’ll be arbitration eligible and after making $6 million this year, he’ll be in line for a $7 million to $8 million paycheck in 2012. That’s a respectable price for the left-hander, who has a 4.32 ERA in 58.1 innings.
The White Sox don’t have to trade Danks, but he’ll net the biggest return package if they do.
Jackson, 27, is definitely available and it’s only a matter of time before a deal is made. The righty has pitched OK, with a 4.53 ERA in nine starts, but he’s a free agent after this season and has a habit of changing teams. He’ll only cost his new team about $3 million for a two-month rental, and that’s a good price for a solid No. 4 or 5 starter.
Quentin, 28, was terrific when he first joined the White Sox, but the former MVP candidate has fallen off the map a bit. He does have eight home runs this year, but his .250/.339/.507 line is poor for an offensive centerpiece.
That said, he’s still a bargain at just $5 million this season and $6 million to $7 million next season. The White Sox would have to blow up their entire team for Quentin to go, and it’s starting to look like GM Ken Williams is leaning in that direction.
Gomes, 30, has been awful in left field for Cincinnati, with just a .189 batting average, though he does have seven home runs to lead the team. It’s only a matter of time before he loses his job to Chris Heisey, and the Reds may want to get something for Gomes while they still can. Power hitters are always in high demand and Gomes would be an especially attractive trade chip with less than $1 million remaining on his contract.
Hernandez, 35, is splitting time with teammate Ryan Hanigan at the backstop, though he’d be good enough to be a starter for almost any team in baseball. The righty has six home runs already and a 1.026 OPS in 85 at-bats. He’s a free agent after this season, so this is a perfect time for the Reds to deal him and go with Hanigan as the full-time catcher.
Leake, 23, lost his rotation spot to Johnny Cueto and earned a demotion to Triple-A after compiling a 5.70 ERA in 36.1 innings. It doesn’t appear there’ll be a spot for him in the rotation anytime soon with all five Reds signed through at least 2013, so a change of scenery may be in order. Leake, meanwhile, won’t hit his arbitration years until 2013 and is still a highly-regarded prospect.
Renteria, 34, has been relegated to the bench by Paul Janish and seems to be on the last legs of his career. He’s still a competent hitter with a .353 on-base percentage and can help a team that is weak up the middle. Renteria’s also only making $2.1 million this season on a one-year deal, so he’d require a minimal financial commitment.
Cabrera, 36, has had a long-and-successful career, but the Indians are in a full-fledged youth movement and Cabrera simply doesn’t fit in. He’s hitting well enough (.286 batting average) to keep playing and is only making $1 million this season, so he’ll definitely get some interest as a middle infielder for a contender.
Carmona, 27, has been terrific for the Indians this season and a main reason why the club has one of the best records in baseball. In nine starts, he has a 3.94 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. But he’s about to get very expensive and that’s bad news for a team with as many as 10 guys eligible for arbitration.
Cleveland has a $7 million option on him for 2012, $9 million option for 2013 and $11 million option for 2013. The righty has been very inconsistent over the course of his career and now may be the perfect time to capitalize on his success.
Why would the Indians trade their best offensive player who has finally rediscovered his stroke after three forgotten seasons? Because Hafner’s value will never be higher. He’s 34 and hitting an obscene .345/.409/.549, a rate the career .283 hitter almost certainly can’t keep up. He’s expensive and is owed $13 million next season with a $13 million team option for 2013, and the Indians will never be able to get out from that contract if they don’t trade Hafner now.
Kearns, 31, is the prototypical fourth outfielder. He can play multiple positions, he has some speed and power and he’s a great teammate. The problem is those are the kinds of players that belong on contenders, not pretenders. His contract will expire at the end of the season and he’ll be prime trade bait as long as he can get his batting average (.160) above the Mendoza Line.
Sizemore, 28, has been the definition of an enigma for the Indians. When healthy, he’s one of the best players in baseball. But those moments have been few and far between as the left-handed hitting outfielder has played in just 157 games over the last three years.
Cleveland would be foolish to trade its star player before he gets back on the field and proves that he’s healthy, but once he does, it’ll be hard for the Indians to reject the trade offers for Sizemore. He’s making just $7.5 million this season, a paltry sum for a potential superstar, with a $8.5 million team option for 2012.
The Indians need to rebuild and the future is around guys like Carlos Santana and Josh Tomlin, not Sizemore.
The Rockies have a terrific chance of contending this season, but it’s no thanks to Lopez. The 27-year-old righty is hitting just .179 and has as many strikeouts (10) as runs. He’s only starting because his predecessor (next on this list) was even worse, but he has to be considered a trade chip since he’ll be a free agent in 2012.
Stewart, 26, was once a highly-regarded prospect in the Rockies system. He had a big season in 2009 with 25 home runs, but he’s struggled to put everything together and is now headed in the wrong direction. The lefty was batting just .064 before earning a demotion to the minor leagues, and there’s no timetable on when he’ll be back.
He’ll make about $2.5 million next season through arbitration and that’s way too much for what he’s contributing, but some club will be willing to give him a fresh start.
Guillen, 35, has yet to appear in a game this season because of surgery on his left knee, but is expected back soon. The Tigers have gotten by with Jhonny Peralta in his absence, and there’s no telling what Guillen will be able to contribute once he gets back. He’s one of the few players the Tigers can actually trade without mortgaging the future, but Detroit will probably have to throw in some cash to help offset the $13 million he’s owed this season.
The Tigers outbid several teams to bring Ordonez back, although the $10 million may have been best spent elsewhere. The 37-year-old righty is hitting just .172 with one home run in 99 at-bats, and is currently sitting on the bench for Ryan Raburn.
He’s still an elite hitter, but the Tigers don’t have the luxury of waiting for him to come out of his funk. He might be purely a salary dump at this point.
Bonifacio, 26, is currently manning left field for the Marlins while Logan Morrison recovers from an injury. The switch-hitter has played well with a .288/.351/.390 line, but he’s not much more than a utility player. There’s not enough playing time to go around and Bonifacio may be the odd man out.
He’ll be an attractive trade chip, as he is under team control through at least 2014.
The Marlins completely rebuilt their bullpen during the offseason and the results have been positive. Florida has one of the best bullpen ERAs in baseball (less than 3.00 ERA) and Choate has been a big part of that. In 16 appearances, the lefty has a 1.35 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 6.2 innings.
He’s signed to a team-friendly two-year, $2.5 million deal and would be a hot player on the trade market if the Marlins decide to unload some of their pitching depth to get more offense.
Matt Dominguez was supposed to man third for the Marlins, but the youngster is taking his sweet time at Triple-A. Helms, 35, has done his best to fill in his 23 games, but he’s not a full-time player anymore. He’s also a free agent after this year, so look for the Marlins to find him a new home and call up Dominguez over the next two months.
The Marlins aren’t ready to give up on Vazquez, but they’re leaning heavily in that direction. The 34-year-old righty has been atrocious in eight starts with a 7.55 ERA and 1.91 WHIP. Luckily, Florida only signed him to a one-year, $7 million deal so a trade is likely if the Marlins can find a team convinced that Vazquez’s past two seasons are an aberration.
Hall, 31, is the perfect utility player because he can do a little bit of everything. He can play the infield or the outfield. He can hit home runs or steal bases. He’s carved out a solid career doing all of those things, and that’s why the Astros brought him in on a one-year, $3.25 million deal to be their second basemen.
There are at least half a dozen teams that would happily acquire Hall for the same reasons, and the Astros will be hard-pressed to trade him.
The Astros are in a full-scale youth movement and it doesn’t look like the 30-year-old righty will be a part of the future. Myers was terrific last season for the Astros and is off to a slow start this season (4.79 ERA in 56.1 innings). He’s also signed to a big contract and is due $12 million next season. He’s a capable starter so a trade to a big-market team is a definite possibility.
Pence, 28, might be the best hitter the Astros have. He’s already got five home runs on the season and has a .795 OPS that is second on the team. He’s the centerpiece of the team, but he’s about to get very expensive.
After making $6.9 million this season, he’ll make close to $8 million in arbitration next year and then $10 million in 2013. That’s a lot of money to pay someone who can’t keep you out of last place in the NL Central, so the Astros might be better served by trading Pence and finding another Brett Wallace or Bud Norris to build around.
Rodriguez, 32, is the unofficial ace of the Astros staff and is certainly pitching like one. The lefty has a 3.45 ERA in nine starts and is second on the team in strikeouts with 47. The Astros brought him back on a three-year, $34 million, but with youngsters Bud Norris and J.A. Happ playing so well, it might be time to move him. Rodriguez would be worth a couple of solid prospects on the open market.
The Royals are in a unique position because they have the financial flexibility to be both buyers and sellers. Nobody on the roster is making more than $4 million, so the Royals could package a bunch of their players to bring in some veterans or they could dump a bunch of guys and go after a big name in free agency. Either way, this is going to one very active team at the trade deadline.
Betemit, 29, figures to be one of the first players to go. He’s a good hitter (.309/.378/.445) and can play a few different positions, but unfortunately for the switch-hitter, he’s just keeping the spot warm for Mike Moustakas. He’s under team control through 2012 for $1 million to $1.5 million a year.
Cabrera, 26, came to the Royals on a one-year, $1.25 million deal because no other team was willing to give him a third chance after he failed to live up to his potential at each previous stop. Naturally, he’s having a monster year in Kansas City. His .275/.313/.462 line easily puts him on pace for a career year and the trade value for the switch-hitter will never be higher. The time to trade Cabrera is now.
Chen, 34, is the resident veteran of the pitching staff, but he’s due to be replaced very soon by one of the stud pitching prospects in the Royals system. He’s still pitching well and leads all Kansas City starters in ERA (3.59). He’ll be a free agent after this season so the Royals might as well get something for him while they still can.
Davies, 27, has been a disaster in his first season for the Royals. In nine starts, he has a 7.46 ERA and only one win. The Royals would happily dump him and his $3.2 million salary, but they might need to package the righty with a few other Kansas City players on this list to get a deal done.
Like Cabrera, Francoeur had little choice but to come to Kansas City on a one-year, $2.5 million deal. Once again, the Royals got lucky as the 27-year-old is having a monster season. He leads the team in home runs (eight), RBI (26) and OPS (.881). If his All-Star campaign continues, the Royals will have a hard time keeping him.
Francis, 30, joined the Royals after a long tenure in the Rockies organization and is still winless in nine tries. The lefty has a good track record with great control and would be worth a prospect or two in a trade.
Gordon, 27, has had an up-and-down career in a Royals uniform. He’s not quite the superstar everyone thought he would be three years ago, but he looks like a serviceable regular. He’s hit the ball well this season, with a .284/.343/.463 line and a team-leading 14 doubles.
So has he peaked as a player or is there more to him? The Royals might not be willing to find out and may cut their losses now on Gordon, who still has two arbitration years left.
The Angels already traded away Mike Napoli in the offseason, and don’t be surprised to see them unload Mathis either. The 28-year-old catcher is useless offensively and has a career .199 batting average. Hank Conger is the future and the Angels may want to jettison Mathis while he’s still cheap (one year of arbitration left).
Pineiro, 32, has bounced around baseball his entire career and finally landed with the Angels on a two-year, $16 million deal that expires after this season. The righty has been terrific in four starts so far, boasting a 1.98 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. If the Angels fall out of the playoff race by July 31 then Pineiro will become available to the highest bidder.
Rodney, 34, started out the year as the Angels closer, but quickly lost his job to the young Jordan Walden. Now, there doesn’t seem to be a spot for him on the team, especially if he keeps pitching like this (4.67 ERA in 20 appearances). Rodney makes $5.5 million this season and will be a free agent in 2012, so it won’t cost much for a team to acquire him for a rental.
Barajas, 35, is second on the team in home runs with seven, but has done little else of value with just a .220 batting average and 35 strikeouts in 123 at-bats. If the Dodgers fall out of the race, they may be pressured to let go of Barajas and rely on A.J. Ellis and Hector Giminez, especially since Barajas will be a free agent in 2012 anyway.
Broxton almost lost his closer spot last season, and he’s losing it again this year, with a 5.68 ERA in 12.2 innings. The 27-year-old righty still leads the team with seven saves, but Vicente Padilla is getting lots of opportunities now, and Broxton looks discombobulated.
It might seem counterintuitive to trade him when his value is so low, but Broxton will be a free agent next year, and there’s almost no way he’ll come back in a Dodgers uniform.
Furcal, 33, has missed most of the season thanks to a broken left thumb, but is expected back in a week or two. Once he does return, the Dodgers have an important decision to make about what to do with him. He is due $13 million in the final year of a three-year, $30 million deal and the Dodgers have to be thrilled by what they’ve gotten out of current-shortstop Jamey Carroll.
The Dodgers bullpen is in absolute shambles, and it might make sense to maintain the status quo on the field and use Furcal to get some relievers.
The Brewers maintain that they won’t trade their slugging first baseman, especially when he’s playing this well. Fielder, 27, is second on the team with nine home runs and 33 RBI, and his .897 OPS is about in line with his career average.
However, we all know that the chances of Milwaukee re-signing Fielder after this year are slim to none, and a trade now is the only way to get a decent return for him. There’ll definitely be discussions, but will a deal get done?
Hawkins, 38, is one of the few bright spots in the Brewers bullpen. He has a 1.04 ERA in nine games and has been close to untouchable. The club isn’t in a position to trade away capable relievers, but if the playoffs seem out of reach, then expect Milwaukee to unload the righty before he hits free agency at the end of this season.
Capps, 27, was brought in last season to fill in as the closer for the injured Joe Nathan, and he’s done so again this year even with Nathan back in the bullpen. The righty has six saves and a 3.72 ERA in 17 games for the Twins, and has shown incredibly good control, with just one walk in nearly 20 innings pitched. The Twins would like to bring Capps back next season despite the fact that his contract is expiring, but he may also be the best trade chip they have.
Cuddyer, 32, has spent his entire career in the Twins organization and been a very productive player. This year he’s struggled a bit with just a .700 OPS, but that’s still second on the team. He’s making a robust $10.5 million this season and will be a free agent in 2012, so it might be time for the Twins and Cuddyer to take their separate paths.
Kubel, 29, is in a similar situation to many of the players on this list in that he, too, will be a free agent after this year. He’s hitting the ball well with a team-leading four home runs, 20 RBI and .853 OPS, but even that’s not enough to keep the Twins from losing.
Plenty of teams would be happy to acquire a polished offensive bat, and Minnesota may not be able to hang on to him much longer.
Liriano, 27, is the ultimate hit-or-miss pitcher. When he’s on he’s brilliant, and that no-hitter he threw earlier in the season was no fluke. However, he’s still just 3-5 on the season with a 6.12 ERA and has momentarily lost his spot in the rotation. He’s also due to make about $6 million in arbitration next season—way too much for a fringe starter.
The Twins would like to see Liriano string together a few good starts before dealing him, but better late than never.
The Twins thought the return of Nathan to the bullpen would offset the free-agent losses of guys like Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier. However, that was assuming that Nathan would pitch well. The 36-year-old righty holds a 7.43 ERA in 13.1 innings and doesn’t look like a dominant reliever anymore, having since been demoted to a set-up role. It might only be a matter of time before Nathan gets it together, but regardless, the Twins have little reason to keep him with his impending free-agent status.
Beltran, 34, has rejuvenated his career with a team-best eight home runs and .945 OPS. This is the player the Mets thought they were getting when they signed the switch-hitter to a seven-year, $119 million deal back in 2005. Unfortunately for the Mets, it’s a little bit too late.
Beltran is in the final year of his contract and probably can’t play the outfield much longer. But he’s still a terrific hitter when healthy, and could be a big-time trade chip over the next two months.
Capuano, 32, was brought in to provide depth to a pitching rotation that was without Johan Santana, and the lefty has certainly lived up to his $1.5 million salary. In seven starts he has a 4.78 ERA and somehow leads the team in strikeouts with 34.
The Mets don’t really have a capable starter to replace Capuano with, but they also have no reason to keep him if they’re going nowhere this year. Capuano’s nothing more than a No. 4 or 5 starter, but there are still plenty of teams that would be happy to acquire him.
The trade speculation surrounding Reyes seems legitimate and there’s a good chance he could end up in San Francisco by July 31. The 28-year-old shortstop is back to his All-Star ways with a .313 batting average and 16 steals already on the season. He’ll be a free agent in 2012 and there’s almost no way the Mets can bring him back, so a trade must happen for the club to get any sort of return.
The Mets have absolutely no reason to trade away their best player other than the fact that he would bring the biggest return for a team desperately in need of a makeover. Wright, 28, is having a poor season with just a .226/.337/.404 line thus far, but he’s a five-time All-Star with the tools to be a dominant player well into his 30s. He’s also signed to a reasonable deal, due to make $15 million in 2012 and potentially $16 million in 2013 if his option is picked up.
Any number of teams would love to have Wright as the centerpiece of their offense, and the Mets will have to make a decision on where the organization is headed over the next three-to-four years.
The Yankees signed Chavez to a one-year, $1.5 million deal because he was cheap and a decent insurance option if A-Rod got injured. Much to everyone’s surprise, the 33-year-old has actually played well and has a .303 batting average through 17 games.
He’s on the 15-day disabled list right now, but when he returns, the Yankees may want to think about trading him to a team that could use a starting third baseman. Chavez won’t get any playing time with A-Rod as his teammate, so his presence in the Yankees clubhouse is somewhat confusing.
Colon, 38, has turned in an inspiring performance as the Yankees’ emergency starter. In six starts he has the lowest ERA (3.16) and WHIP (1.13) on the team, and is second in strikeouts with 48. But the Yankees are kidding themselves if they think they’re going an entire season with Colon and journeyman Freddy Garcia in the rotation.
Look for the Yankees to capitalize on Colon’s performance by trading him for other pieces and either upgrading (Mark Buehrle, Derek Lowe) or bringing up rookies Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos.
The A’s are adamant about not trading any of their young, stud starting pitchers, but the same can’t be said of their position players. Crisp, 31, is a switch-hitter with speed and outstanding defense. He leads the A’s in steals (13) and OPS (.737), an improbable combination that sounds Bonds-esque but is really just a testament as to how bad the Oakland offense really is.
He’ll be a free agent next year and the A’s need to trade someone from their major league roster if they actually want to improve the lineup. Crisp may be that guy.
DeJesus, 31, has been a disappointment since coming over from Kansas City and is hitting only .232 with a .666 OPS on the season. He’s also Oakland’s highest-paid player at $6 million this season, an improbable sum for someone who can’t hit. Trading him might be difficult, but the A’s will definitely listen to offers.
Jackson, like every other Athletic on this list, will be a free agent in 2012, but he’s the only one without a full-time job. Alternating between first base and the outfield, the 29-year-old is hitting .276 with a .739 OPS that leads the team among players with at least 100 plate appearances. The A’s should probably bench one of their underachieving outfielders in favor of Jackson, but if they don’t a trade isn’t out of the question. Someone has to go.
Matsui, 37, has had an outstanding major league career, but even Godzilla would admit that he’s not an elite hitter anymore. He’s down to .241/.293/.380 and has just three homers on the season. The A’s could get better production out of Ryan Sweeney, so it’s hard to see why they keep putting Matsui in the lineup. A trade may be a better alternative.
Willingham, like DeJesus, is making $6 million this season to not hit the ball. The 32-year-old leads the team with six home runs and 25 RBI, but has just a .701 OPS that is still somehow third on the team. The A’s aren’t in a position to trade away competent bats, but Willingham is the only outfielder of value that Oakland can offer as trade bait if they want to pursue a big-time bat.
Baez, 33, was brought in to Philadelphia as bullpen depth, but the right-hander is being out-performed by rookies. In 16.1 innings he has a 4.41 ERA and can’t strike anybody out anymore. The Phillies are all about winning right now, and anybody who gets in their way is trade bait. That means Baez.
I believe the Phillies did their best to try to trade Blanton during spring training, but just couldn’t get a team to bite. Now, nearly two months into the season, teams are going to start getting desperate. The 30-year-old righty has not pitched particularly well, with just a 5.50 ERA in six starts. But he has a history of success in both leagues and is only due $10.5 million next season. The Phillies may have to pick up a chunk of that to get a deal done, but they’re almost certainly better off with Vance Worley in the rotation.
Schneider, 34, is a backup catcher for the Phillies and is hitting like one. In 16 games he has a .173 batting average and just four extra-base hits. He’s in the final year of his contract and it’s hard to see the Phillies bringing him back with Carlos Ruiz signed through 2012. Schneider was a hot name on the trade market before, and he may be again if the Phillies make him available.
The Pirates beat out a lot of teams to sign the 33-year-old Diaz to a two-year, $4.25 million deal, and then promptly made him into a fourth outfielder. In limited playing time Diaz has a .233/.263/.301 line and it’s hard to see him as a part of Pittsburgh’s future with Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata clogging up the outfield spots. A trade is all too logical.
Teams have been after Doumit since he debuted with the Pirates in 2005. The 30-year-old switch-hitter has had three straight productive seasons of at least 10 home runs, and appears headed in that direction again this year. However, he’s still sharing time with Chris Snyder, a weaker hitter.
Both Doumit and Snyder will be free agents after this year and at least one won’t be back in a Pirates uniform. It’s time for Pittsburgh to figure out which catcher that is, and then trade the other one.
The Pirates are not in a position to trade away good pitching, and Maholm probably qualifies. In nine starts the lefty has a 3.67 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, two numbers that would be career highs if he can maintain them. However, he’s also Pittsburgh’s highest-paid player at $5.75 million this season with a $9.75 million team option next year.
The Pirates don’t have a big payroll, but they also have to go to arbitration with McCutchen and Joel Hanrahan soon, two players that will not be cheap. Trading Maholm would be a salary dump that could also net the Pirates a decent prospect or two.
Overbay, 34, has found a niche as a good-fielding first baseman with decent power and not much else. His .667 OPS this season is among the worst for all major league first basemen, and he’s somehow making $5 million for it. The Pirates need to let their young kids play and they should be able to find a team willing to take Overbay off their hands and make the lefty a utility guy, which is what he should be.
The writing on the wall says that the Padres will trade their closer before the trading deadline rolls around. Bell, 33, is once again having a super season with a 1.20 ERA and nine saves in 15.0 innings, but we all know he’ll soon be a free agent and the Padres don’t have deep enough pockets to retain him. The righty should be worth a couple of very good prospects on the open market.
Hudson, 33, was San Diego’s big free-agent acquisition of the offseason and, interestingly enough, only one of two players on the entire roster who is signed to a multi-year deal (Jason Bartlett is the other). The switch-hitter has always been a superb fielder and anything he adds with the bat is considered a bonus, but a .668 OPS for a major league regular is kind of embarrassing.
The Padres could go with the cheaper and younger Logan Forsythe at second and trade Hudson to a team that would actually sacrifice a spot in the lineup just to get Hudson’s glove on the field.
The Padres acquired Ludwick for the stretch run last season, hoping the righty could add some thump to the lineup. Unfortunately, San Diego still fell a few games short of the playoffs. Ludwick, 32, now leads the Padres in home runs (eight) and RBI (28), but he’ll be a free agent after this season and there’s little indication that there’s a long-term spot for him in San Diego. He’s of much more value to the Padres as a trade chip than as an outfielder at this point.
The Giants have too many competent players, and not enough spots to put all of them. Even with Pablo Sandoval out for another month there are still five outfielders who deserve playing time (six if you include Aubrey Huff), as well as four corner infielders. DeRosa, 36, may be the odd man out in part because he’s a free agent after this season and in part because he isn’t hitting the ball (.162/.225/.189).
Aardsma, 29, was terrific in his two seasons as the Mariners closer. In 126 games he recorded 69 games and sported a 2.90 ERA with impressive strikeout totals. He’s yet to pitch in 2011 because of several injuries, but insists that he’ll make it back to the field this season. If he does, it won’t be as Seattle’s closer (Brandon League seems to have that role down). Instead, the right-hander could be used as trade bait for a team in need of a set-up man.
Bedard, 32, has been a massive disappointment for the Mariners. Even when healthy he’s been an average starter at best. He’s 1-4 with a 4.78 ERA in seven starts this season, and even that’s more than most people expected out of him. Mercilessly, he’ll be a free agent soon. If any team wants him, they can have him.
It’ll take a monster offer to entice the Mariners to trade away their franchise player and a Seattle icon, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t at least listen. Ichiro, 37, is on pace for another 200-hit season and leads the team in most offensive categories (except the power ones), but there’s zero chance he’ll still be around once the Mariners are good enough to make the playoffs again. The Mariners have to trade him and the $18 million left on his contract this season if they want any kind of substantial return.
For a team full of guys who can’t hit the ball, Wilson has been especially putrid. The 33-year-old middle infielder has a .548 OPS with just three extra-base hits on the season and as many steals (four) as RBI. The Mariners have better options in the minors and Wilson is due to be a free agent soon anyway, so keeping the veteran makes no sense.
The odds of the Cardinals trading Carpenter while they’re still in the playoff hunt are virtually zero, but that doesn’t mean it won’t at least be discussed. The 36-year-old right-hander is in the final year of a monster deal with a $15 million team option for 2012 that isn’t likely to get picked up if the Cardinals have any hope of re-signing Albert Pujols.
Carpenter can still pitch (don’t let his 4.95 ERA fool you) and he’d likely be the best starter on the market if made available. It’s too early to make that declaration, but definitely don’t rule it out.
Franklin, 38, has been a disaster for the Cardinals this season after a good run as the St. Louis closer. In 12 games he has a 9.88 ERA and lost closing duties to Fernando Salas. The Cardinals have better options than the right-hander, who’ll be a free agent in 2012 anyway, so expect St. Louis to float Franklin out there to a team desperate for a proven closer.
Farnsworth is having a sensational season as the Rays closer. In 19 games he has nine saves and a 1.76 ERA that is eerily Soriano-esque. The Rays won’t let anybody touch Farnsworth as long as they have a lead in the AL East, but the righty has never pitched this well. If Tampa Bay begins to fall out of the race then don’t be surprised to see them capitalize on Farnsworth’s career year and hand over closing duties to someone like 24-year-old Jake McGee.
Shoppach, 31, splits time at catcher with John Jaso, but he’s also in the final year of his deal and unlikely to return to Tampa Bay. It’s debatable whether Shoppach is good enough to be a starting catcher (his .424 OPS certainly says no), but he’d definitely be an upgrade for several teams starved for catching depth.
Webb, 32, hasn’t thrown a meaningful pitch since 2008, back when he was a perennial Cy Young candidate. Several shoulder injuries later and he’s still working his way back. If and when he appears in a game for the Rangers, it’ll be his first pitch in over two years. Anything the Rangers get out of Webb would be a bonus and he would instantly become trade bait if he looks like a serviceable starter.
Young, 34, has been on the trade block much of the past two seasons, yet he still comes to work every day in a Rangers uniform. He’s having a monster season with a .339/.384/.494 line and a team-leading 16 doubles.
The bad news, however, is that he’s still due $32 million over the next two seasons and that’s a big financial commitment for a team that has to find a way to lock up both Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz long-term, not to mention Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler. Young will be made available, but will any team pick up the remaining two years on his contract without the Rangers throwing in some cash?
Encarnacion is still only 28 years old despite nearly seven seasons of major league experience. The right-handed hitter has shown flashes of being an above-average player, even hitting 21 home runs last season in just 96 games, but he’s taken a turn for the worst in 2011. Currently, he’s batting .244 and has zero home runs. It could just be a really bad slump, or it could be a sign that Encarnacion has peaked as a player.
The Blue Jays hold a $3.5 million option on him for next season and it looks like they’d prefer to go with Jayson Nix at the hot corner, so a trade is a definite possibility.
The Blue Jays brought in Rauch to offset the loss of Scott Downs, and in 17 games he’s lived up to his expectations. Currently, he’s sitting with a 2.70 ERA and five saves, one more than teammate Frank Francisco. However, it’s always been an unwritten rule of baseball that bad teams don’t need good closers and this may be a case where Rauch and his one-year deal could become trade bait.
Rivera, 32, was acquired in the Vernon Wells trade as a throw-in more than anything else, and the Blue Jays may soon throw the right-hander somewhere else. Rivera is hitting a weak .203 at the plate and has six times fewer extra-base hits (four) than Jose Bautista (24) despite playing in one more game. Plus, he’ll be a free agent at the end of the year.
Ankiel’s return to baseball as a hitter will forever be remembered in the sport’s history books. However, after a strong start to his slugging career it doesn’t look like the 31-year-old has much left. With a .221/.302/.288 line he’s the second-worst hitter on the team behind only Adam LaRoche. Luckily, he’s signed to a one-year deal so the Nationals can unload him for pretty much anything.
Marquis, 32, is probably Washington’s best starter right now, with a 3.54 ERA in eight starts. However, he’s also in the last year of a two-year, $15 million contract and was never supposed to be a part of the Nationals’ long-term plans. The right-hander is a very productive pitcher when healthy and would be one of the best pitchers on the trade market, worth two decent prospects.
Rodriguez will one day go down as one of baseball’s best catchers ever, but the 39-year-old is way behind the limelight this season and is stuck in a mentoring role behind Wilson Ramos. Ramos seems to be doing pretty well and that should make Rodriguez expendable as a trade chip.
He can still hit (that .680 OPS is pretty good for a catcher) and has always been a superb defender. A team like the Red Sox would happily overpay to get him, and the Nationals have gotten everything they’re going to out of Rodriguez.