MLB Trade Talk: 3 Trade Chips Sellers Will Look to Deal
As the baseball calendar nears its turn to July, teams around baseball, particularly those hovering around the .500 mark, will have to decide whether they will be buyers or sellers before this year's trading deadline.
Unfortunately for the teams that hold out until near July 31st, they often don't receive maximal possible return for the players that they might have to offer.
As such, it is in the best interest for these potential sellers to commit to rebuilding sooner rather than later.
The most prized possessions for contenders are often veterans with years of service and good track records who have one year remaining on their contracts and make for great short term rentals.
Players like Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez and Lance Berkman come to mind from the past few seasons.
Fewer are arbitration eligible players, on the right side of 30, who are seeking long term deals elsewhere because their current club is unwilling to pay a player who will be past his prime by the time the team has re-built.
Players like Jose Reyes and Hunter Pence may fit that exact mold this season.
What follows is a list of three players, two of whom fall into the first category and one into the second, who I believe will be highly sought after in the next 30 days.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Chicago Cubs
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Aramis Ramirez is currently working on a $14.6 million player option which he picked up as part of the five-year, $75 million extension he signed with the Cubs after the 2006 season.
The deal includes a $16 million team option for 2012 (with a $2 million buyout) but is extremely unlikely to get picked up no matter where Ramirez's final destination this season may be.
The slugging third baseman, who owns 297 homers for his career with an .834 OPS, started off slowly this year but has really picked up his game in June.
For the month, Ramirez is hitting .290 with six doubles and as many homers (including two against the Rockies just yesterday).
Aramis's power numbers have largely been victimized by a poor home run to fly ball percentage (5.7 percent), which falls far out of line with his career norm (13.1 percent).
Though a subpar fielder, Ramirez more than makes up for his glove at the plate. He posted seasons of 5.1 and 4.7 WAR (wins above replacement) with the Cubs in 2007 and 2008.
Injuries have harmed his value the past two seasons (just 3.0 WAR total), but if Aramis can stay in the lineup, he provides a nice source of power from the right side.
At 33 years old, it remains to be seen how much this native of the Dominican Republic really has left in the tank. For at least this season, contenders in need of a third baseman (a real position of weakness around the bigs) should bid with confidence.
This is a hitter with something to prove as he looks for one last big contract and another chance at his first World Series ring.
The Cubs probably wouldn't ask for all that much in return. But as a 10-5 player, Aramis would need to waive his full no-trade clause.
Carlos Beltran, RF/CF, New York Mets
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I've already written about Carlos Beltran ad nauseam, but that's only because the veteran outfielder is the most likely of the Mets tradeable trio (along with Jose Reyes and Francisco Rodriguez) to actually get dealt.
Beltran has had an up and down tenure with the Mets, but if WAR has anything to say about it than he has certainly lived up to the seven-year, $119 million deal he signed back in 2005.
According to the metric, Beltran's 2006 and 2008 seasons (7.9 and 7.6 WAR) were actually better than the 38-homer, 42-steal effort he enjoyed between the Royals and Astros in 2004 (6.6 WAR).
All told, Beltran owns 29.9 WAR with the Mets over his six-plus seasons, and that includes lost years in 2009 and 2010 in which he only played in 81 and 64 games respectively.
If we account for $4 millon per win, the Mets have already at least broken even on this deal ($119.6 million) and stand to turn a bigger profit margin by the time Beltran changes uniforms.
Still recovering from a knee injury, Carlos has switched to right field this year and has really had a bounceback performance, flashing a .272/.372/.480 triple slash line with 21 doubles, two triples and 10 homers.
With his range still limited, he's been about average defensively. But at the plate, this is the Carlos Beltran we've come to appreciate as a dangerous switch-hitter.
For the long term, Beltran's knees present a real cause for concern.
As he's currently making $18.5 million this season, Carlos's comeback campaign (say THAT five times fast) will almost certainly guarantee himself a nice chunk of change as he enters free agency for probably the final time.
For the short term, he could be the final piece for someone's championship puzzle (my guess: Texas).
That is, so long as he doesn't freeze at any two strike curveballs with the season on the line (see: 2006 NLCS, Game 7). Yes, I'm still bitter about that one.
Francisco Liriano, SP, Minnesota Twins
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I really don't know what to make of Francisco Liriano anymore.
The lefty has had about as up and down a season (and a career) as any supposedly dominant pitcher that I could remember.
Ron Shandler invented a metric called PQS (Pure Quality Starts) which, with a quick glance at a pitcher's game line, can help you to determine how effective he was.
A pitcher is awarded one point each for: pitching six innings, allowing no more than an equal number of hits to innings pitched, striking out no fewer than two batters less than innings pitched, striking out twice as many batters as walked and allowing one homer or less.
A score of zero or one is considered a disaster. Two or three is a mediocre start, and a four or five is a dominant start.
Liriano start's this season: 1, 3, 3, 2, 2, 3, 3, 5, 4, 4, 5, 4, 2
This line would suggest that Liriano has been generally mediocre.
But a closer look reveals that he's been all over the map. In some starts, Francisco has avoided bats completely, racking up the strikeouts but also showing poor control to an equal number of walks.
In others, he's shown awful control but managed to avoid hits. Liriano had perhaps the wackiest no-hitter in baseball history when he managed only two strikeouts to six walks in his 1-0 victory over the White Sox on May 1st.
Lately, he's been very dominant, particularly in his June 12th outing against the Rangers when he registered a 9:0 strikeout to walk ratio and carried what was nearly his second no-hitter into the eighth inning.
One thing is for sure: Francisco's average velocity is down to about 91 MPH after hovering near 94 MPH during his two best year's (thus far) in 2006 and 2010.
His primary out-pitch is his slider, a pitch that has already forced Liriano to Tommy John surgery once (in the midst of his breakout 2006 campaign).
Although it looks like the offering may once again be eating away at his arm, it has also carried the lefty to great heights; quite the unfortunate trade-off.
The Twins can't afford to hang onto Francisco until his arm inevitably implodes once more. The Yankees appeared very interested in the offseason and would surely be willing to take a chance on him (perhaps for Jesus Montero?) with the injury problems they've already had with their staff.
If Liriano can bounce back from his last poor outing and rip off a few more quality starts, look for him to get traded before July 31st.
Minnesota will finally rid themselves of one of baseball's biggest boom or busts, and could potentially add insurance for Justin Morneau (or a future DH) along the way.