The trade market is pretty hard to predict. As a Rays fan currently living in Arizona, if you told me last year's trade deadline acquisition was going to be Chad Qualls and that's it. . .I'd probably have punched you in the kidney out of both anger and disbelief.
GMs have their own way of thinking and in this post-Moneyball era, predicting where a GM is going to go is harder then before. You can see, basically, where a team needs help, but this massive world we live in has so many players with so many upsides, downsides, and intangibles, and baseball itself relies on so many factors when deciding a W or an L in the standings, that trying to find that one player to fit a specific need is tough.
Baseball relies on faith a lot more then people think. Younger generations see the Red Sox as a two-time champion and continuous contender. Older fans know that money and trades alone don't just buy a trophy though, as the Red Sox previous 80+ years indicated.
So trying to figure out who a team needs or who a team wants, while not impossible, is pretty demanding on a writer. However, seeing WHO is available, is far easier and, frankly, more fun.
The MLB trade market focuses less on budgets and expiring contracts (like, say, the NBA) and more on futures. Teams will trade for, on the surface, 'nothing' in order to build for the future. But teams don't want to just give away the cows and the land they need to graze.
Finding a trade chip demands give and take. The player has to have flaws that the team doesn't want but has enough upside that other teams, however, do. It's a strange business when you say to a competitor, 'well, he stinks for us but he'll be great for you. . .and we want those other guys you don't want'. BJ Upton, of the Tampa Bay Rays, is the epitome of this belief system. So much talent you can't NOT have him but so many detractors you might not want him. Confusing!
With that in mind, here is a look at the AL East's trade chips (or, rather, a few of them).
*all stats are updated as of 6/28/11