As we head ever closer to July, the trade deadline is just around the corner, and with every game it becomes more defined who will be a buyer and who will be a seller at the July 31st deadline.
While many teams will make small moves to improve their team, such as adding a bat off the bench or picking up an arm to fill out their bullpen, there will no doubt be at least a couple blockbuster deals that see a number of big name players and prospects changing hands.
So here are the teams most likely of pulling off a blockbuster deal, and the deal that makes the most sense for them. Also, an explanation of why the teams not included won't be pulling off the big time deal this year. Take a look at the potential blockbuster deals of 2011.
Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs, Florida Marlins, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, New York Mets, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Toronto Blue Jays, Washington Nationals: Not in contention, and expected to be sellers.
Arizona Diamondbacks: They are currently playing at a much higher level than anyone thought they would, but with a weak farm system, and a commitment to rebuilding, chances are they won't be buyers at the deadline.
Chicago White Sox: Many pegged the White Sox as the favorites in the AL Central this season, but they have been disappointing at five games under .500. Chances are they will be sellers, and they have some intriguing trade pieces in their starting pitching depth.
Cleveland Indians: While the Indians are legitimate contenders, they will be reluctant to move their top prospects, and may instead promote a few of them to help make a push this summer. Second baseman Jason Kipnis and third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall should be up at some point around the All-Star break, and they will serve as the team's mid season additions more likely than not.
Los Angeles Angels: The Angels are a team built on pitching, and they could use an upgrade offensively. However, their biggest holes are made at catcher, where rookie Hank Conger is still settling into his role, and in left field where Vernon Wells is making too much to bench. The team is also 36-38, and could wind up being sellers by July.
Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers are in the thick of things in the NL Central, and they have glaring needs at shortstop and in center field. However, their farm system is decimated after trading for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, and they don't have the horses to pull off a major deal.
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates have the look of one of baseball's most promising up and coming teams, and it has certainly been a surprise that they are sitting at 36-37 on the season. It makes no sense for them to mortgage their future for a run at a .500 record, but they are on the right track.
St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals were in the market for a closer until the emergence of Fernando Salas in that role, and they are adamant about holding onto top prospect Shelby Miller. Retaining Albert Pujols at season's end is priority number one, so they will not be looking to take on a big contract of any sort.
Seattle Mariners: Much like the Pirates and Indians, the Mariners are on the right track with their current rebuilding, and while they have a wealth of young talent, they are best suited holding onto it and moving forward with the players they have.
Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays are technically in contention this season, but are clearly a tier below the Red Sox and Yankees after losing so many key players in free agency. Also, their biggest needs are at catcher and shortstop, and the market for those positions is slim to say the least.
Braves Get: LF Josh Willingham and 2B Scott Sizemore
Athletics Get: CF Nate McLouth and SP Arodys Vizcaino
The Braves are a team that is built to win right now, and they have some of the best young pitching in all of baseball. Looking ahead two or three years down the line, the rotation will consist of some combination of Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Arodys Vizcaino, Mike Minor, and Brandon Beachy. An absolutley ridiculous assortment of young pitching talent.
That also means that at least two of those guys will be left out of the rotation and can be viewed as trade bait. Hanson and Jurrjens are locks to stay, and it would take on hell of a deal to pry away Teheran, Delgado, or Minor. That leaves Beachy or Vizcaino to be dealt now, and while Beachy is contributing at the big league, Vizcaino has more upside and value in a trade.
The Braves need outfield help badly, with Nate McLouth under performing and Martin Prado shelved with a staph infection. Willingham has been great this season, with 10 home runs and 42 RBI so far as well as a .333 average with runners in scoring position. Packaging McLouth and Vizcaino should be enough to land Willingham as well as Sizemore who has been relegated to the bench. Willingham would take over in left field and bat fourth, while Sizemore could spell Dan Uggla while he tries to figure things out.
Red Sox Get: RF Carlos Beltran and RP Francisco Rodriguez
Mets Get: OF Josh Reddick, RP Michael Bowden, $$$Cash$$$
The Red Sox are the best team in the American League, but if they are to make a legitimate run at a World Series championship there are a few holes that need shoring up first.
First off, JD Drew has been horrendous this season, hitting just .235 BA, 4 HR, 18 RBI so far on the season, and the team will need to eliminate what has been more or less a dead spot in the lineup to this point. Beltran would slide in nicely as his replacement for the remainder of the season, as he has managed to stay healthy and is having a very productive season.
While the Red Sox could also use a starter, their top three guys are solid, and John Lackey has to turn things around at some point. Once Buchholz gets healthy, and if Andrew Miller is in fact a legitimate option, they should be fine. However, with the flops of Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler, they could use another bullpen arm. K-Rod has already said he would be willing to setup for a team in contention.
The Mets would get a pair of solid, big league ready players in Reddick and Bowden, as well as whatever salary relief the Red Sox deep fit in this deal, and any money that can be saved on the two big contracts would be a bonus for the Mets moving forward.
Reds Get: SS Jason Bartlett, LF Ryan Ludwick
Padres Get: 1B Yonder Alonso, UT Todd Frazier
While the Reds have the highest scoring offense in the National League right now, it is thanks in large part to Joey Votto and Jay Bruce who are off to phenomenal starts. On the other end of the spectrum, the team has two glaring weaknesses in their lineup in LF Jonny Gomes (.216 BA) and SS Paul Janish (.229 BA).
The Padres will no doubt be sellers at the deadline, and while the strength of their team is their pitching, they could fill the Reds two biggest needs in one deal by moving Bartlett (.255 BA, 12 SB) who they acquired in the off season, and Ludwick (9 HR, 45 RBI) who they acquired at the deadline last season.
The Reds would give up Alonso, who is one of their top prospects but is also firmly blocked by Joey Votto at first base, and Frazier who at 25 years old is on the fringe of being a prospect and looks to be a future utility player, albeit one with good power.
Rockies Get: 3B David Wright
Mets Get: SP Chad Bettis, SP Christian Friedrich, 2B Chris Nelson, 3B Josh Fields
The Rockies are on the verge of contention this season, as they currently sit in third place in the NL West, two and a half game behind the Arizona Diamondbacks and three games behind the San Francisco Giants.
While it looked as though they had their third baseman of the future in Ian Stewart, he got off to a disastrous start and was demoted after hitting just .064 through 47 at bats. So it is no wonder the Rockies were one of the first teams mentioned when word got out that the Mets would consider trading David Wright and holding onto Jose Reyes. He would no doubt provide a spark to an already solid Rockies lineup, and could be the difference.
The Mets would get two of the Rockies top pitching prospects, as well as a second baseman of the future who is MLB ready in Nelson, and an interesting bounce back candidate in Fields who, after hitting 23 home runs as a rookie with the White Sox in 2007, has disappeared of the baseball radar. This season, however, he is hitting .365 BA, 11 HR, 45 RBI and would step in as Wright's immediate replacement for this season.
Tigers Get: SP Jeff Francis and 3B Wilson Betemit
Royals Get: SP Adam Wilk, SS Danny Worth
The Tigers are currently just a half game behind the Cleveland Indians in a wide open AL Central race, and with the Indians expected to more or less stand pat at the deadline, the moves the Tigers make at the deadline could be the difference for them.
At the moment, they could use a left handed starter to fill out their rotation, as former reliever Phil Coke is the team's only lefty starter, and the staff currently has three starters with ERAs over 4.00 and could use another arm to add some depth. Along with that, they have some holes in their lineup at second and third base.
Francis would give the Tigers another experience, veteran starer and perhaps allow them to move Coke back to the bullpen where he was the team's most reliable reliever last season. Betemit, on the other hand, would give the Tigers a super utility player who could split time between second and third.
Yankees Get: SP Francisco Liriano and DH Jason Kubel
Twins Get: SP Ivan Nova, SP Adam Warren, 3B Brandon Laird, SS Eduardo Nunez
Even before the season started, the Yankees starting pitching looked to be a concern and while Bartolo Colon has been a pleasant surprise, the team still figures to almost certainly trade for one of the big name starters on the market. Liriano figures to be at the top of the heap if he is made available and expect the Yankees to make a run at him.
Aside from starting pitching, the team is also in the market for a designated hitter/outfielder with Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher both struggling at the plate all season. Kubel would fill both of those roles, and with his expiring contract there may be no bigger stage for him to play for his next contract.
Nova gives the Twins a starter to immediately take over Liriano's spot, and Nunez could help immediately as well in a depleted infield. Warren and Laird are both solid player who should help down the road as well.
Phillies Get: RF Hunter Pence
Astros Get: SP Jarred Cosart, SP Jesse Biddle, OF Jiwan James
With the Astros under new ownership, the team will no doubt be hesitant to deal the current face of their franchise in Pence, but the Phillies need an outfielder for their stretch run this season, and moving forward to take Raul Ibanez's place.
It will take a lot to get Pence, most likely more than it took to get Oswalt last season, but the Phillies have the farm system to do it, and with a stacked rotation, they can afford to deal some of their big time pitching prospects to secure one of the games top up and coming hitters.
Cosart is the team's top pitching prospect, while Biddle was their first round pick last season. James serves as a long term project with great athletic skills who could eventually take over Pence's vacated spot in the outfield. It will take a stacked proposal to pry Pence away from the Astros, but they wouldn't be able to say no to a deal like this.
Giants Get: SS Jose Reyes
Mets Get: SP Zack Wheeler, SS Brandon Crawford, 3B Conor Gillaspie
The Giants have been rumored to be linked to Reyes since the season began, and the Giants are out in front in the NL West despite their less than intimidating offense.
Reyes is currently leading the National League in hitting, and the Mets could choose to hold onto him and hope for the best when it comes to re-signing him this off season, instead dealing David Wright.
However, if the Giants come with an offer built around top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler with a handful of other MLB ready prospects, the Mets could have a hard time ignoring such a deal. So while it remains a bit of a long shot, the Giants are the destination that makes the most sense for both sides on a Reyes deal at this point.
Rangers Get: SP Jeremy Guthrie and RP Koji Uehara
Orioles Get: 1B Chris Davis, SP Miguel de Los Santos
The Rangers currently stand at the front of a wide open AL West, and after acquiring Cliff Lee at last season's deadline, they will look to once again make a splash to push them over the top in 2011.
The offense has been down across the board from last season, but is still a strength, and players like Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz should turn things around in the months to come. Pitching, however, is a concern, and beyond C.J. Wilson and Aleix Ogando there are certainly question marks, and in the bullpen as well.
Guthrie gives the Rangers a veteran innings eater, while Uehara would bolster their bullpen which has been a concern. As for the Orioles, they get a potential Derrek Lee replacement in Davis, while landing a big time pitching prospect in de Los Santos. Low level prospects would no doubt be involved too heading to the Orioles.