2011 MLB Trade Speculation: 8 Teams That Will Make a Deadline Splash
Every year around this time, as players look forward to a few days off and the All-Star Game dominates the headlines, trade talk heats up. Early-season peaks and valleys have begun to even out, and teams generally have a better sense of whether they should buy or sell at the July 31st deadline.
In 2011, several big names have been offered up as possible trade bait. The question, as always, is where they will end up. Which teams will make big moves, and which will stand pat?
In recent years, teams like the Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have been among those willing to spend money on significant acquisitions. But Angels owner Arte Moreno put speculation to rest about his team being active at the deadline this season. Ditto for Yankees GM Brain Cashman, who believes that the Yankees' internal options are as good or better than what they'd find on the market. The Sox are also limited in what they can do financially, and will probably make a series of smaller moves rather than pulling off a marquee deal.
So which teams will step up this year? Who will be wheeling and dealing at the deadline?
No. 8: Chicago Cubs
If the Cubs organization has any sense, it will hold a fire sale of sorts this July. The team is in need of a rebuild, and aging, high-priced veterans simply aren't part of the long-term solution.
Expect Chicago to move pitcher Carlos Zambrano and possibly third baseman Aramis Ramirez. While neither are the game-changers they once were, both are proven commodities that will appeal to teams still in the playoff hunt.
Others available could include Carlos Pena and Kosuke Fukudome. Chicago, already 10 games out of first place in the NL Central, will be seeking prospects in return.
No. 7: Arizona Diamondbacks
One of the year's biggest surprises, Arizona trails NL West-leading San Francisco by only three games. The Diamondbacks have put together an impressive offense that should be among baseball's top 10 all season, and the nature of their division gives them a real playoff shot.
The rotation's young arms have done well so far; Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy have been particularly successful. But the team could use another starting arm, and definitely needs some bullpen assistance.
Names like Edwin Jackson, Paul Maholm, Francisco Rodriguez, Carlos Zambrano and Matt Capps have been tossed around in connection to the team. While the D'Backs might miss out on the Heath Bell sweepstakes, expect them to improve their chances by adding pitching.
No. 6: New York Mets
The Mets have performed above and beyond expectations in the first half, and could be headed into the All-Star break with a winning record. But that doesn't change much for this team. Technically, the Mets could be both buyers and sellers, but the selling half of that equation must take precedence.
Whether or not New York bites the bullet and shops superstar shortstop Jose Reyes, it will almost certainly send outfielder Carlos Beltran packing. And reliever Francisco Rodriguez will likely follow him out the door.
The suitors will be plentiful, and the Mets' splash should radically change the makeup of the team.
No. 5: Cincinnati Reds
After a very long playoff drought, the Reds won the NL Central and made the postseason last year. That reset expectations in Cincinnati. Staying competitive is now even more important to keep the fanbase energized and young talent in town.
The Reds have a good core of players, but bats like Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce, who must contribute if this team is going anywhere, have been streaky. Another solid hitter could be just what the doctor ordered.
The Reds have been connected to San Diego's Ryan Ludwick, though an already-crowded outfield would need some retooling for him to come on board. What Cincinnati really needs is some pitching help to lower their 4.09 ERA.
No. 4: San Diego Padres
With names like Heath Bell and Ryan Ludwick being constantly linked to the trade market, it seems like a foregone conclusion that the Padres will be big sellers in July. Bell could be one of the biggest pieces involved in any trade, and his ability to lock down a bullpen could change the playoff landscape depending on where he goes.
In that way, San Diego could a have substantial impact this month, and should also reap the rewards if it does elect to shop its power closer.
Having moved Adrian Gonzalez over the winter, the team could go into full-on reloading mode.
No. 3: Detroit Tigers
Thanks to Cleveland's return to earth and their own hot play, the Tigers are within spitting distance of first in the AL Central. But Detroit has had its struggles in this first half. Players like Max Scherzer have been maddeningly inconsistent, and nothing can kill a playoff run faster than streaky play.
The Tigers will be looking to add a reliable arm at the deadline, and with a limited number of quality pitchers, competition should be fierce. The Tigers won't want to give away too much, as the team is in a nice position to compete for the next few years. And with Justin Verlander anchoring the staff as one of baseball's top aces, what the Tigers really need is a middle-of-the-rotation guy.
Zambrano, Malholm and Chicago's Ryan Dempster, among others, are possibilities.
No. 2: Minnesota Twins
Few could have foreseen this kind of drop-off from the perennially contending Twins. Usually a club that does a lot with a little, this year's team is in danger of finishing last in the AL Central. Despite nice surprises like Scott Baker and Glen Perkins, Minnesota is in real trouble.
MVP catcher Joe Mauer has missed most the year, and now that he's back, MVP first baseman Justin Morneau is out for an extended period. The current lineup doesn't have a single .300 hitter and the rotation is struggling overall.
Francisco Liriano has been a popular trade target all spring, but Minnesota has others who might be on the move, including relieve Matt Capps, former starter Kevin Slowey and any of the host of infielders that the team has been platooning.
No. 1: Texas Rangers
Few teams are in as good a position as are the Rangers. Sitting atop the very winnable AL West, Texas has both the offense and the pitching to return to the postseason. With Nelson Cruz heating up, Josh Hamilton healthy and Adrian Beltre producing, the offense is in good shape. And C.J. Wilson is leading a rotation that has stayed effective throughout the first half even without Tommy Hunter.
If the team has a weak point, it's probably the bullpen. Texas recently designated David Bush for assignment, and Arthur Rhodes has had a weak 2011. Despite the emergence of Neftali Feliz, the club should be seeking to add a quality arm.
Several teams have inquired about the Rangers catching depth, and Texas could very well flip a guy like backup backstop Taylor Teagarden to get a key player in return. This team is close to being dominant, and one or two changes could make the difference.
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