MLB Trade Speculation: 5 Players Who Could Hit the Market Before the Deadline

Jim MancariCorrespondent IJuly 8, 2011

MLB Trade Speculation: 5 Players Who Could Hit the Market Before the Deadline

0 of 5

    With the All-Star break looming, trade rumors should start heating up real soon.

    Many teams find themselves in contention, so the distinction of being a "buyer" or "seller" may be difficult to determine.

    These teams are hopeful that they will acquire the one or two pieces necessary to make a postseason push.

    Struggling teams will be focused on acquiring young prospects in exchange for players who will be free agents after the season that the team has no shot of re-signing.

    The rumor mill will be churning over the next month, and here are five players who could hit the market before the deadline.

5. Jeff Francis, SP, Kansas City Royals

1 of 5

    Lefty Jeff Francis got off of a great start this year for the Kansas City Royals after missing much of last season due to injury.

    However, Francis has struggled mightily the past two months. He’s just 3-9 with a 4.69 ERA.

    Francis would benefit from a change of scenery, but will there be a contender willing to take a risk on a pitcher who was so good for the Colorado Rockies during their playoff run several years ago?

    All contenders need pitching depth, and that’s why Francis is appealing, especially because he would come cheap and he's left-handed.

    If he can string together a couple of decent starts after the break, he may be on the move.

4. Mark Buehrle, SP, Chicago White Sox

2 of 5

    Mark Buehrle is having a typical Mark Buehrle year. In 16 starts, he’s 6-5 with a 3.66 ERA and has thrown 113.0 innings.

    With the Chicago White Sox hovering around .500, it’s tough to rule them out as contenders, especially now that the Cleveland Indians have come back to earth.

    However, if the White Sox fall out of contention, Buehrle could be on the move. He’s a free agent after this season, and would likely net the White Sox some good young talent.

    Buerhle has been so durable for so long that the team willing to trade for him shouldn’t have reservations about locking him up to a new contract.

3. J.J. Hardy, SS, Baltimore Orioles

3 of 5

    Of all the offensive firepower the Baltimore Orioles added this offseason, shortstop J.J. Hardy has been the most pleasant surprise.

    He's hitting .288 with 13 HR and 32 RBI on the year.

    After losing parts of the last two seasons due to injury, Hardy has picked up where he left off in 2008.

    A team looking for some offensive punch from a middle infielder may take a chance on Hardy. He's a free agent after this season, so likely will only be a two-month rental player.

    The Orioles have superstar shortstop prospect Manny Machado waiting in the wings, so they likely won't have any qualms about dealing Hardy.

2. Carlos Pena, 1B, Chicago Cubs

4 of 5

    Once again, the Chicago Cubs have underachieved with one of the game’s highest payrolls. Injuries have played a factor this year, but the Cubs still have had a rough time.

    Carlos Pena may be a hot commodity around the trade deadline.

    He has found his power stroke, clubbing 17 HR so far. He has never been a guy who hits for average, so his .225 BA is right on par.

    Pena hits moonshots, so a team wanting to add some power to either its lineup or its bench may come calling.

    Trading Pena this season would also open up a spot for the Cubs to go after Albert Pujols this offseason.

1. Francisco Rodriguez, CP, New York Mets

5 of 5

    Earlier this season, it looked like Francisco Rodriguez had regained the form from his days as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim closer.

    At one point, he converted 19 straight saves and made 1-2-3 ninth innings a routine occurrence.

    K-Rod went through a stretch of ineffectiveness, but seems to have found his groove once more over the past week.

    The New York Yankees have already inquired about K-Rod, since their bullpen has taken severe hits in the losses of Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain—not to mention Pedro Feliciano, who’s been out since spring training.

    The loophole with K-Rod is that he has a $17.5 million vesting option if he finishes 55 games. He’s well on his way to that mark, so whatever team acquires him would have to be willing retain him next season as a closer or put him in a setup role so that he doesn’t reach the mark.

    The Mets likely won’t be able to pay him that much money, especially if they plan on keeping Jose Reyes, so K-Rod may have a new home by season’s end.