MLB Trade Speculation: One Player from Each Team GMs Will Call To Check on
The July 31 MLB trade deadline is one of the busiest days in sports, not because it's so unpredictable but because everyone is working.
Regardless of whether a team has already secured a playoff spot or is just trying to eclipse the 50-win barrier, every general manager in baseball is busy on July 31. Even if there's nothing a club wants or can offer, it's the GM's responsibility to call anybody and everybody to see if there's a way to improve his team he didn't think of yet.
The names on this list* are among the most highly coveted players in all of baseball and even though some are out of most teams' price range, a simple phone call can never hurt.
* Teams are listed alphabetically, with the Oakland Athletics first and the New York Yankees last.
Dmitriy Ioselevich is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for all your MLB news and updates.
Oakland Athletics: Josh Willingham
The A’s have several moveable pieces (and most of them are in the outfield), but the one name that stands out is Willingham. The 32-year-old slugger is the only Oakland hitter with a pulse and easily leads the team in OPS at .736.
Willingham bats from the right side, and luckily for Billy Beane there are several teams desperate for a right-handed bat, among them the Phillies and Braves. The other thing that sets Willingham apart from everyone else on the market is the fact that he’s cheap (making just $6 million this year) and will be a free agent at the end of the season, meaning whichever team gets him also gets a couple draft picks.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Jeff Mathis
The Angels don’t have much in the form of trade chips and there’s zero chance that they’ll ever move super-prospect Mike Trout. The same can’t be said, however, of Mathis.
The 28-year-old catcher is just keeping the spot warm for Hank Conger, and he doesn’t figure into the Angels' long-term plans anyway. Competent catchers are a rare commodity and Mathis is already getting attention from the Pirates and Red Sox despite a nonexistent bat (.195/.241/.286).
Houston Astros: Hunter Pence
The Astros will hold onto their franchise player as long as they can, but that won’t stop GMs from calling about Pence. The two-time All-Star is having a career year with a .323/.364/.496 line and 11 home runs, and he’s under contract through 2013.
Unfortunately for Pence, it may take much longer than that for the Astros to become competitive. GMs are hovering around Pence like hawks on the slim chance that GM Ed Wade decides to bite the bullet.
Toronto Blue Jays: Jason Frasor
The Blue Jays have a wide assortment of middle relievers and part-time closers that they could part with, including Frank Francisco, Octavio Dotel, Jon Rauch and Shawn Camp. But the real prize of the bullpen is Jason Frasor.
The 33-year-old righty sports a 3.16 ERA in 40 games and he’ll be a free agent at the end of the year. He won’t come cheaply, but Frasor is battle-tested in baseball’s toughest division and is a veteran workhorse.
Atlanta Braves: Derek Lowe
The Braves have more starting pitching than they know what do with and not nearly enough starts go around. But that hasn’t stopped Derek Lowe from racking up a team-high 20 starts and 113 innings.
The Braves aren’t looking to deal the veteran righty, but they may have no choice if they want to upgrade the offense. Lowe, 38, has one year and $15 million left on his contract.
Milwaukee Brewers: Nyjer Morgan
The Brewers made their big move by acquiring Francisco Rodriguez shortly after the All-Star Game and with a barren farm system, it looks like GM Doug Melvin might be done dealing.
However, if the Brewers do decide they need another piece to win a championship, then one player who may have some value is Nyjer Morgan. The speedy outfielder has a .327/.355/.497 line as a fourth outfielder. Morgan, 31, is under team control through 2014.
St. Louis Cardinals: Colby Rasmus
Rasmus, 24, has seen his name mentioned in trade rumors seemingly since he made his major league debut in 2009. The Cardinals have resisted thus far, but that hasn’t stopped teams from calling. It appears the Cardinals are finally willing to move him in the right deal.
Rasmus has underachieved this season and is losing playing time to Jon Jay, so the timing for a move has never been better. He’s still viewed as a terrific all-around player and won’t be a free agent until 2015, making him a big-time trade chip.
Chicago Cubs: Carlos Zambrano
The Cubs will listen to offers for pretty much anyone on their roster, but the one player who stands above everyone else, literally and figuratively, is Carlos Zambrano.
Zambrano, 30, has spent his entire career in Chicago and, when he’s on, is as good of a pitcher as there is in baseball. The Cubs will have to find a team willing to pay Big Z $18 million in 2012, which significantly reduces the list of potential trade partners, but it’s impossible for any GM to ignore the talent.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Wily Mo Pena
Scouts couldn’t help but drool when they saw Wily Mo Pena hit. His raw power, even as a 20-year-old rushed almost directly to the majors, was off the charts. But a lack of any other tools prevented Pena from sticking with a big league club and he was out of baseball by 2008.
This season, however, the slugger has returned to baseball after a two-year hiatus and is a big part of the Diamondbacks' success. He’s catching the attention of GMs across baseball, but the Diamondbacks are in no rush to move him.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Kemp
One of the biggest stories of this season is how the Dodgers would survive financial bankruptcy and an owner in turmoil. MLB has stepped in and stabilized the historic franchise, but how long until the Dodgers have to host a fire sale just to meet payroll?
Kemp, 26, is their best player and has emerged this year as an MVP candidate, but he’ll be a free agent after 2012 and it’s questionable whether the Dodgers have the financial resources to sign him to a long-term deal. Any team in baseball would be more than happy to pick up the bill on Kemp’s future the second that GM Ned Colletti puts up the “For Sale” sign.
San Francisco Giants: Ryan Vogelsong
Vogelsong, 33, is the best feel-good story of the year. The former Pirate struggled early in his career and was out of MLB by 2006, moving to Japan to continue his career. The right-hander returned this season to the Giants, the team that originally drafted him, and earned his first All-Star selection after going 6-1 with a 2.17 ERA in 14 starts.
The Giants are in no rush to trade Vogelsong, but if GM Brian Sabean wants to acquire an impact bat then he has to give up something. Everyone else in the rotation is as good as untouchable, so that leaves Vogelsong as the best trade chip.
Cleveland Indians: Grady Sizemore
Sizemore’s career has been a series of disappointments and letdowns. After breaking through with the Indians in 2004, Sizemore quickly became one of the game’s best young talents and had already earned three All-Star selections before he turned 25.
Now 28, Sizemore is still trying to get his career back on track after an endless rash of injuries. His time’s running out since he’ll be a free agent at the end of the season (unless someone picks up his $8.5 million team option), but there are plenty of GMs who would be willing to take a chance on him to see if he can rediscover his Hall of Fame talent.
Seattle Mariners: Brandon League
Felix Hernandez isn’t going anywhere so let’s just forget about that. Ditto for Ichiro Suzuki. But the real prize on the Mariners roster is right-handed reliever, Brandon League.
League, 28, has taken over as the Mariners closer and has a 3.44 ERA and 23 saves in 39 games, good enough for his first career All-Star selection. League won’t be a free agent until 2013 and the Mariners are still in the race, so a trade seems unlikely, but GM Jack Zduriencik would be stupid not to at least listen.
Florida Marlins: Leo Nunez
Hanley Ramirez isn’t going anywhere unless he finds a way to really piss off manager Jack McKeon, and even then it’s a long shot. Leo Nunez, however, is fair game.
The 27-year-old righty has been remarkably successful as the Marlins closer with 81 saves in three seasons and is due for a big raise in arbitration. A new stadium should help the Marlins pay Nunez, but a trade is always possible.
New York Mets: Jose Reyes
The Mets already unloaded their closer, Francisco Rodriguez, and it wouldn’t be a shock if their shortstop is next in line. GM Sandy Alderson maintains that Reyes won’t be traded, but until the July 31 deadline passes, we have to take everything he says with a grain of salt.
Reyes, 28, would undoubtedly be the prize of the trade market. There are few players in baseball history who can do everything that he does and it’s pretty safe to say that he’s the best all-around shortstop in the game (sorry, Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez). Who wouldn’t want this guy?
Washington Nationals: Tyler Clippard
Clippard, 26, has found a niche with the Nationals as one of the premiere setup men in the game. This season he’s turned it up a notch and has a 1.75 ERA in 41 games and 51.1 innings, good enough for his first All-Star selection.
You can never have enough relievers and Clippard is among the best in the game. The Yankees, Phillies and Rangers are all on his heels, with the rest of baseball not far behind them. Clippard won’t be a free agent until 2016.
Baltimore Orioles: Mike Gonzalez
The Orioles can’t get out of the AL East soon enough and are looking at another season in the cellar. That translates into them being sellers, again.
Gonzalez, 33, has struggled this season out of the Baltimore bullpen with a 5.46 ERA in 32 appearances. But he’s one of the few lefties with a track record of success and will draw interest from teams who think he still has something left, especially since it’ll only be as a two-month rental.
San Diego Padres: Heath Bell
This one’s a no-brainer. Bell’s name has been tossed around in trade rumors for almost two years now and the clock on his time in San Diego is finally ticking.
Bell, 33, is considered the best reliever on the market and with three consecutive All-Star appearances and 115 saves in three seasons, it’s hard to argue with that designation. At least five teams will be competing against each other for the rights to Bell’s services.
Philadelphia Phillies: Raul Ibanez
The Phillies have their backs against the luxury tax and a shortage of moveable pieces, but dealing Ibanez solves two problems. First, the move would free up enough cap space to pursue another player. Second, the move would open up a spot in the lineup for a right-handed bat.
Ibanez, 39, is due $11.5 million this season and is a worth maybe a third of that considering his .241/.287/.416 line. Either Carlos Beltran or Josh Willingham would be an upgrade.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Paul Maholm
The Pirates seem committed to staying quiet at the deadline and letting the current squad play out the franchise’s first winning season in nearly two decades. However, Paul Maholm might not be around the ride.
The 29-year-old lefty is due to become a free agent at the end of the season and, though the Pirates would like to sign him long-term, those dollars might be better used to pay Gerrit Cole’s signing bonus. Maholm is having a career year with a 2.96 ERA in 19 starts.
Texas Rangers: Michael Young
Young tried to force his way out of Texas before the season and nearly landed in Colorado. The former third-baseman-turned-designated-hitter must be glad he stayed with the Rangers because he’s enjoying a superb year and recently was named to his seventh career All-Star team.
Young, 34, can now veto any deal, but that won’t stop GMs from trying to pry him away from the Rangers. There aren’t many guys out there who can consistently put up a .323/.358/.482 line, even if Young can’t really play the field anymore.
Tampa Bay Rays: Kyle Farnsworth
B.J. Upton is the big name in all Rays rumors, but there’s only a couple of teams actually interested in him (namely the Nationals). Farnsworth, on the other hand, has drawn the interest of virtually every contender in baseball.
The 35-year-old righty has a 2.02 ERA and 17 saves in 39 games as Tampa’s closer. He’ll be a free agent at the end of the year and could catch on as a closer or late-inning reliever for a team in need of bullpen help.
Boston Red Sox: Josh Reddick
The Red Sox depleted their farm system in the Adrian Gonzalez trade and they’re not in a position to make another big move right now. However, GM Theo Epstein is always active around the deadline and one player he’ll be fielding offers for is Josh Reddick.
Reddick, 24, filled in admirably for the injured Carl Crawford and has a 1.101 OPS in 23 games this season. He’s being groomed as Boston’s future right fielder, but the Red Sox also have Ryan Kalish in the wings.
Cincinnati Reds: Ramon Hernandez
Hernandez, 35, is having the best offensive season of his career with a .916 OPS and 10 home runs already. The veteran catcher is a popular trade target for a team like the Giants, which is still searching for a replacement for Buster Posey.
The Reds also have several starters they could move (Mike Leake, Travis Wood, Edinson Volquez, Homer Bailey), but Hernandez is the easiest to deal because he’ll be a free agent at the end of the season and Cincinnati already has Ryan Hannigan. Yonder Alonso is another name to keep an eye on.
Colorado Rockies: Ubaldo Jimenez
The Rockies may not be serious about dealing their ace, but even the slightest whisper is enough to make GMs pick up their phones and call Dan O’Dowd.
Jimenez, 27, is not having a particularly good season (4.14 ERA in 17 starts), but his stuff is as good as anybody’s in baseball and he’s signed to a bargain deal ($18 million over the next three years). It’ll cost a ton to land him, but the idea of adding a young, cost-controlled ace is too enticing for any GM to give up.
Kansas City Royals: Joakim Soria
The Royals have a long laundry list of players that they plan to deal at the deadline, but most of those players are short-term fixes on one-year deals. Soria is the exception.
The 27-year-old right-hander was one of the hottest trade targets in baseball the last two or three years, and despite a hiccup in 2011 he’s still considered a prized talent. The price is astronomical and Soria has a partial no-trade clause, but Dayton Moore has to at least listen as he grooms a championship roster.
Detroit Tigers: Phil Coke
The Tigers, like the Phillies, have very few moveable pieces. But unless they want to swallow a huge chunk of salary to dump Brandon Inge or Magglio Ordonez, the player with the most trade value right now is Phil Coke.
Coke, 28, lost his rotation spot recently and is now working out of the Detroit bullpen, a role in which he was very successful in 2010. Some scouts still view the left-hander as a starter and would be happy to give him a fresh start, especially since he won’t be a free agent until 2015.
Minnesota Twins: Michael Cuddyer
The Twins are living a pipe dream if they think that they have a shot at contending this season. As soon as they come to terms with reality, Cuddyer should be heading out the door.
Cuddyer, 32, is a versatile player with pop (.843 OPS) and some speed. He picked a good time to make his first All-Star team because he’ll be a free agent at the end of the year. He’s one of the most sought-after right-handed bats in baseball.
Chicago White Sox: Edwin Jackson
With GM Ken Williams calling the shots, it’s likely that GMs already know all about Jackson. The 27-year-old righty doesn’t have a permanent spot in the rotation and will be a free agent at the end of the season, but he’s pitched well in both leagues and could still be getting better.
With guys like Zambrano and Jimenez expected to be difficult acquisitions, Jackson may emerge as one of the most heavily targeted pitchers.
New York Yankees: Jesus Montero
Last but not least, a player who has yet to make his major league debut. Montero, 21, is the prize of the Yankees minor league system after hitting .289/.353/.517 with 21 home runs in 123 games last season at the AAA level.
GMs know that the Yankees will be active at the trade deadline and the Yankees seem willing to part ways with Montero. That means any potential trade discussion will start and end with Montero’s name.