At less than three weeks away, the trade market is fast approaching.
A clear picture is forming of which teams are becoming sellers.
Right now, we can safely assume that the Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, Florida Marlins, Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs, and San Diego Padres will be selling before the deadline.
The New York Mets also appear to be a seller at this point. However, they are clinging to slim hopes of staying in the Wild Card race down the stretch.
The Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, and San Francisco Giants all could be in the market for an outfield upgrade at one of the three positions.
Some additional players will become available who would be able to crack this list, but as of right now here are the top 12 outfielders that should be available at the deadline.
The biggest obstacle to trading Carlos Lee will be the remainder of his $18.5-million salary this season, as well as a matching $18.5-million salary in 2012.
Lee is not the player he used to be, but he still has enough pop in his bat to be valuable to a contending club in the second half of the season.
He would be most useful for an American League club that could use him as the designated hitter, a power bat off the bench, and also in the outfield.
So far this season, Lee is batting .268/.316/.425 with seven homers and 48 RBI.
With the Oakland Athletics now out of contention in the AL West, Coco Crisp will likely be packing his bags to play center field for a contender in the second half of the season.
Crisp is a free agent at the end of the season, so any team that chooses to acquire him will be accepting the risk that he could be just a rental player for a few months.
Crisp still plays solid defense in center and has been a clutch hitter with the A's at times this season. He currently is batting .267/.314/.393 with 18 double, four homers, 30 RBI and 26 stolen bases.
The Los Angeles Dodgers would love to hang onto Andre Ethier. Their very public financial problems may force them to choose between Matt Kemp and Ethier though, in which case Ethier would hit the market.
He will remain under club-control with his final year of arbitration eligibility in 2012 before becoming a free agent for the first time in 2013.
So far this season, Ethier is batting .311/.383/.463 with 23 doubles, nine homers and 44 RBI.
He was named to the 2011 National League All-Star team.
Michael Bourn is another Houston Astros' player that could find himself on the move this summer.
Bourn will remain under team control in 2012, his final year of arbitration eligibility, making him more than just a summer rental.
So far this season, Bourn is batting .287/.351/.395 with 22 doubles, seven triples, 27 RBI and a league-leading 35 stolen bases.
Bourn was an All-Star in 2010 and won the Gold Glove award in both 2009 and 2010.
At just 6.5 games out of first place, the Minnesota Twins are statistically still in the playoff race in the AL Central.
Their 41-48 record, however, suggests that they will become sellers sooner, rather than later.
Jason Kubel will become a free agent at the end of this season, a strong indicator that he would be a player the Twins might look to capitalize on before the trade deadline to bring a few prospects back to Minnesota for the future.
Kubel is batting .310/.355/.465 with five homers and 30 RBI this season.
He would be a solid addition to a team looking for a right fielder, although he can also play left field and DH.
It will be difficult for the Cubs to trade Alfonso Soriano with his bloated $18 million annual contract through 2015.
Soriano is still a threat with the bat, and given his often lackluster effort in the outfield, he may be best suited for an American League club that could choose to split his time at designated hitter.
Soriano is currently batting .265/.309/.477 with 14 homers and 41 RBI.
Alex Gordon, the former top prospect of the Royals, is enjoying his best season of his career, and may have earned himself a ticket out of Kansas City if the Royals choose to sell high on him.
Gordon will remain arbitration eligible and under club-control in 2012 and 2013 before reaching free agency in 2014, adding to his value in a trade.
He is batting a career-high .299/.367/.483 with 11 homers and 50 RBI so far this season.
A former third baseman, Gordon has started 84 of his games played this year in left field.
Ryan Ludwick is probably the most likely outfielder on this list to find a new home for the remainder of the 2011 season.
Ludwick is a free agent following the season and the Padres seem intent to cash in on their impending free agents before the trade deadline.
So far this season, he is batting .245/.310/.390 with 11 homers and 55 RBI. A change of scenery from the pitching friendly PETCO Park will definitely help boost his numbers in the second half of the season.
David DeJesus is in the midst of the worst season of his career.
DeJesus would likely gladly welcome a trade to any team with a more hitter-friendly park than the Oakland Coliseum (O.co coliseum now).
He is just one season removed from being one of the hottest names at the trade deadline though, and a contending team would surely take a chance on him in hopes that a change of scenery is all he needs.
For his career, DeJesus is a .284 hitter. So far this season, he is batting just .220/.310/.333 with five homers and 24 RBI.
The A's shouldn't expect a huge return for DeJesus, but given his minimal contributions, they shouldn't need to win the trade to be enticed to trade him.
Josh Willingham may be the A's best trade chip headed into the second half of the season.
Willingham is in the final year of his contract and will be a free agent at the end of the season.
He expressed a willingness to sign an extension with the A's when he was traded to Oakland during the offseason. It is unlikely that Oakland will explore a new deal with the outfielder though, given his poor hitting in the spacious Oakland Coliseum.
Despite his low average, though, Willingham has shown good power when healthy this year.
For the season, he is batting .241/.311/.424 with 11 homers and 44 RBI.
A return to the National League and a more hitter-friendly ballpark could get his season right back on track and help him boost his stats in preparation for free agent negotiations in the offseason.
The Mets' decision regarding whether to trade Carlos Beltran may hinge on where they stand in the Wild Card standings in the next three weeks.
The Mets may choose to keep Beltran if they are still hanging in contention at the deadline. If they fall too far back, though, they will definitely look to trade their all-star outfielder for some salary relief in the second half.
There are a number of teams that would be interested in Beltran's services. The Mets' return will depend on how much salary they are willing to eat in exchange for a better package of prospects.
So far this year, Beltran is hitting .285/.377/.503 with 28 doubles, 13 homers and 58 RBI.
Hunter Pence is the big outfield prize in this year's crop of potentially available trade targets.
Although it remains unlikely the Astros would trade their all-star right fielder, they will likely listen to offers and, if the right deal comes up, he could be headed elsewhere.
Pence is having a career-best season so far, batting .323/.364/.496 with 24 doubles, 11 homers and 60 RBI.
He still has two more arbitration years in 2012 and 2013 before he becomes a free agent in 2014. Any team that acquires him would receive him for at least two and a half seasons, adding to his value in any return the Astros would receive for his services.
A Hunter Pence trade would likely wind up being the biggest blockbuster deal we would see this summer if the Astros did receive an offer they couldn't refuse.