MLB Trade Rumors: The 12 Highest-Paid Players Who Could Be Traded in 2011

Lewie PollisSenior Analyst IIIMay 30, 2011

MLB Trade Rumors: The 12 Highest-Paid Players Who Could Be Traded in 2011

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    As the first third of the season comes to a close, the MLB Hot Stove is heating up.

    The biggest deals might not happen until July, but the Trade Deadline rumor season begins in earnest when the calendar turns to June—as will happen on Wednesday.

    Trades don't have to involve marquee names to be exciting—minor deals can be interesting too. But let's face it: the blockbuster deals are more fun.

    In this slideshow are the 12 highest-paid players who could change teams in the coming weeks. They're sorted in ascending order of salary, not likelihood of being dealt.

    Let the speculation begin!

No. 12: Jose Reyes, Mets

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2011 Salary: $11,000,000

    Ever since it became clear that the Mets—who, at (24-28), don't seem bound for the postseason—were unlikely to re-sign Reyes after his contract expires this winter, the 27-year-old shortstop became an early target of Hot Stove speculation.

    The San Francisco Giants are the favorites to land Reyes, but I think the Cleveland Indians make for an intriguing dark-horse candidate. He has also been connected to the Brewers, Cardinals, Mariners, Red Sox, Reds and Twins.

No. 11: Joe Nathan, Twins

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    2011 Salary: $11,250,000

    Nathan has lost his job as the Twins closer and currently owns a 7.63 ERA through 15.1 innings in 2011 after returning from Tommy John surgery. It's safe to say his performance hasn't matched his tax bracket, and with Minnesota in the AL Central cellar they have no reason to keep him around.  

    But that doesn't mean he's untradeable. His situation is similar to that of Kerry Wood last year; if the Indians were able to pawn Wood off on the Yankees, surely Nathan, who had been better for longer, would fetch the Twins at least a couple interesting prospects.

No. 10: Francisco Rodriguez, Mets

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    2011 Salary: $12,166,666

    Say what you want about Rodriguez' off-field issues and inflated salary, but K-Rod has shut down opposing hitters to the tune of a 1.80 ERA and has already racked up 15 saves.

    His personal baggage would decrease his appeal to a team worried about chemistry, but you can bet Mets GM Sandy Alderson will be fielding calls from clubs in need of bullpen help later this summer.

No. 9: David Wright, Mets

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    2011 Salary: $14,250,000

    Notice a trend here? As a high-budget losing team that just underwent a radical change in its front office, it's no surprise that almost half the players on this list play their home games at Citi Field.

    It's not surprising that Wright's name has popped up in trade rumors—the Mets seem poised for a fire sale, and he would be their biggest trading chip. But since Wright is off to a (relatively) slow start and under team control through 2013, dealing him now wouldn't make much sense.

No. 8: Kosuke Fukudome, Cubs

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    2011 Salary: $14,500,000

    Fukudome was lauded as a star when he came over from Japan, but it's safe to say he hasn't given the Cubs a good return on their $48 million investment.

    Fukudome has a .433 OBP and is in his walk year, and the Cubs (23-28) are going nowhere fast. GM Jim Hendry will certainly be fielding calls on him later this season.

No. 7: Aramis Ramirez, Cubs

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2011 Salary: $14,600,000

    No one seemed to notice Aramis Ramirez when he was one of the game's best offensive third basemen from 2004-9, but everyone turned to watch as his wRC+ dropped to 91 in 2010.

    Ramirez' plate discipline is coming back this year (.342 OBP), but he's seemingly lost all his pop (.306 Power Factor). Still, he would surely interest a competitor in need of infield help at the Trade Deadline.

No. 6: Derek Lowe, Braves

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2011 Salary: $15,000,000

    Derek Lowe's name has been popping up in rumors for years, and with a 3.28 xFIP, his trade value is probably higher than it's been since he signed with the Braves.

    The Braves have for the most part resisted depleting their immense pitching depth via trade over the last couple seasons, but looking at Atlanta's anemic offense, they might be better off dealing Lowe for a bat.

No. 5: Prince Fielder, Brewers

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    2011 Salary: $15,500,000

    Fielder will be playing second fiddle to Albert Pujols on the free-agent market this winter, but he's undoubtedly the best hitter on the trading block this season.

    The Brewers are still in contention, and after trading for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum before the season they're not going to be quick to give up on what will likely be their last year with Fielder. But if Milwaukee starts to fall away from the pack by the end of July, they'd get a king's ransom for Prince.

No. 4: Barry Zito, Giants

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2011 Salary: $18,500,000

    The $126 million contract the Giants gave Zito in 2006 looked bad at the time. After watching him go 40-58 with a 4.48 ERA in 136 outings with San Francisco, it looks even worse.

    Zito is a serviceable pitcher, but after he returns from his foot injury in the coming weeks GM Brian Sabean should try to shop him around. It might mean eating some salary or taking on another bad contract, but after Buster Posey's season-ending injury last week, the Giants have more pressing concerns than the back of the rotation.

No. 3: Carlos Lee, Astros

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2011 Salary: $19,000,000

    When the Astros signed Lee to a six-year, six-figure deal in 2006, outsiders thought it was a significant overpay but that Houston was at least getting a solid player. Now it's clear that the first part was right.

    Right now, Lee is hitting .251 with a .670 OPS; surely the Astros would love to get rid of his contract. A deal is possible, but they'd have to eat a significant amount of salary to get any team interested.

No. 2: Carlos Beltran, Mets

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2011 Salary: $20,070,000

    Of all the salaries the Mets are likely to avail themselves of this summer, the biggest is Beltran's. Team owner Fred Wilpon has said he thinks the deal was a mistake, meaning there's not a very good chance Beltran will return to Queens after his contract expires this year.

    He's not the player he once was in the field, but he's enjoying one of the best offensive seasons of his career. No doubt he'll have several suitors lining up for his services at the Trade Deadline.

No. 1: Johan Santana, Mets

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    2011 Salary: $22,500,000

    Of all the players on this list, Santana is both the most expensive and most farfetched trade candidate. But don't count out the possibility of seeing him dealt.

    If Santana makes it back from injury this year and hits the ground running, he'd definitely draw interest from contenders looking for a rotation boost for the 2011 season and beyond.

    A lot would have to go right for a deal involving him to go down—he'd have to come back in time and pitch well enough to put concerns about his health on the back burner, and the Mets would have to eat a large amount of salary—but he looks like the clear choice for the highest-paid player who could be traded.

     

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