At this point in the season, Major League Baseball has well established contenders and teams that are clearly out of the playoff race.
Teams that are on the fence like the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays are looking to add some late help for the remainder of the season. But teams like the New York Mets and Colorado Rockies are looking to move their stars and start preparing for 2012.
A couple of the bigger names on the trading block are Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez and New York Mets right fielder Carlos Beltran. Let's take a look at who else could be moving and where they could potentially be ending up.
Josh Willingham currently has a .242 batting average with 12 home runs, and 46 RBI in 72 games this season.
With the Oakland Athletics firmly in last place in the American League West, it seems very likely they'll be willing to let go of some of their talent to prospective suitors.
The most interested party seems to be the unexpected contenders out of the National League Central—the Pittsburgh Pirates.
According to ESPN's Buster Olney, "The Pirates are evaluating Josh Willingham, as possible trade target, and they've been in contact with Oakland."
The Pirates, with a 2011 salary of just $45,047,000, have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball and would prefer a player who will be a free agent in 2012. Josh Willingham is signed to a one year, $6 million contract and would give Pittsburgh another good bat.
The New York Mets are currently 12 games out of first place in the National League East. While a Wild Card berth would have been conceivable, they have already dealt closer Francisco Rodriguez to the Milwaukee Brewers and have been considering trading All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes.
Carlos Beltran has been on the trading block for some time now. In 90 games this season, Beltran has a .287 average, .381 OBP, with 14 homers and 59 RBI.
According to Doug Mittler of ESPN Insider, "With Beltran's salary a possible issue for potential trade suitors, ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney writes that the Mets are willing to pick up the money in order to get a better return."
While many teams could be interested in the services of a veteran like Beltran, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com mentions that "6-7 teams in play on Carlos Beltran," including the Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants.
However, according to Buster Olney, the Mets are expecting quite a bit in return for the six-time All-Star.
"As opposed to K-Rod, the Mets are giving off a very different vibe in their early discussions about Carlos Beltran, according to sources. The Mets believe they have the best available outfielder in a mediocre market for offensive players, and are aiming to land a top prospect -- and they have indicated that they will keep the slugger until they get exactly what they want. It remains to be seen if the Mets' strategy can pay off, or if their early pre-tradeline stance on Beltran will change. But the Mets fully intend to get a prime prospect for Beltran, and believe that some team in need of an upgrade will eventually submit to their demands, because of Beltran's potential to impact a lineup."
The San Diego Padres are just 2-8 in their last 10 games and have slipped behind the Los Angeles Dodgers into last place in the National League West.
As a result, they seem to be willing to let go of charismatic closer Heath Bell, who has a 2.54 ERA with 26 saves and a 1.21 WHIP this season.
Bell is set to make $7.5 million this season and will be a free agent in 2012.
According to Tim Sullivan of The San Diego Union-Tribune, "With shopping days dwindling before baseball’s July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, Bell estimates the odds of him being dealt at '90 percent.' "
With the Padres apparently determined to deal Bell, it seems as though the organization has caught the interest of the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, and Philadelphia Phillies.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that "[Bell] remains a target of the Phillies, Yankees, Rays, and possibly Cardinals. Bell has given the OK to be used as a setup man, but for this season only. 'I definitely want to close next year, but if I have to go somewhere to set up this year, I would do it,’' Bell said."
Having declined a bit in recent years, Derek Lowe is currently 5-7 with a 4.30 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. Although all those numbers are worse than his career averages, he still is a candidate to add depth to a rotation and has been getting some interest from the Detroit Tigers.
According to ESPN's Doug Mittler, "The Braves are looking to add a bat and have a surplus of pitching, so it makes sense that GM Frank Wren would try to peddle the expensive Lowe, who owed approximately $6 the remainder of this season and $15 million next."
Both the Detroit Tigers and the Atlanta Braves are playoff contenders this season, but neither currently have sole possession of first place. Giving up Lowe in exchange for an additional bat from Detroit seems possible.
Known mostly for his start in 2010 that saw him go 10-1 with a .78 ERA in the first two months of the season, Ubaldo Jimenez has become human and is now a just an above average starting pitcher with potential.
Although Jimenez is currently just 5-8 with a 4.08 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP, he's still the ace of the Colorado Rockies and may not be dealt without a good return.
At first, it seemed like a move to the New York Yankees was likely, but ESPN's Buster Olney says "Contrary to report, Yankees and Rockies haven't started exchanging names in any Jimenez talks. Odds that NYY/COL work out deal are very slim."
Still, according to ESPN Insider, "Jimenez's reasonable salary makes him a palatable option for several teams, not just financial behemoths with starting pitching needs like the Yankees and Red Sox."
Keeping that in mind, along with the fact that the Colorado Rockies are below .500 with little hope to make the playoffs, its possible that Jimenez could move to any number of teams looking to bolster their playoff hopes.
However, despite the buzz surrounding Jimenez for the last few weeks, ESPN's Buster Olney reports that "the Rockies are telling interested teams that the price will be high, and that if Colorado deals him, the extraction of prospects needed in return will be painful. One evaluator's current odds of Jimenez being traded: 25 percent. 'It has to be something that makes sense for the Rockies [right now].' "
Given the attitude of Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd, moving Jimenez this season doesn't seem all that likely.