MLB Trade Rumors: Ranking Top 5 Outfielders Likely to Be Moved to Contenders

Alec Dopp@alecdoppCorrespondent IJuly 21, 2011

MLB Trade Rumors: Ranking Top 5 Outfielders Likely to Be Moved to Contenders

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    With less than 10 days left until the July 31 MLB trade deadline, rumors and speculation surrounding some of the league's top talents won't cease to end.

    So far, pitching seems to be dominating the headlines, but many quality positional players are out there, particularly in the outfield.

    Teams such as the Pirates, Diamondbacks, Phillies, Red Sox and Indians are all in contention for top-tier outfielders to aid in their postseason fantasies, but which outfielders are the most likely to be moved to contenders?

    Here are the top five outfielders likely to be moved to contenders by July 31.

    Follow Alec Dopp on Twitter: @doppler9000.

Josh Willingham

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    After Carlos Beltran and Hunter Pence, there is a unarguable drop-off in terms of talent and return-on-investment.  However, there are still many outfielders who bring value and production at a bargain price.

    Willingham, 32, has had a solid season by all accounts, batting .244 with 12 HR and 46 RBI, but missed over two weeks of playing time due to an Achilles injury.  In July though, Willingham has some pretty impressive numbers including a 1.045 OPS, .345 BA and .424 OBP.

    Teams such as the Pirates, who are scouring the market for a right-handed hitting outfielder, are already in talks with Oakland to bring in the steadfast outfielder for their playoff push.

Michael Bourn

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    One of the most overlooked and under-appreciated outfielders in MLB, Bourn can do virtually anything asked of him on the basepaths, as he leads all of baseball with 35 stolen bases.

    Reports say the Astros have already heard interest in Bourn from the Nationals, although no names have been mentioned in a potential trade between the clubs.

    Houston will be looking for a substantial amount of young talent in return for the 28-year-old, but the Astros seem intent on restructuring the farm by dealing away their top current talent.

B.J. Upton

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    By now the only team with real interest in the speedy outfielder is the Atlanta Braves, sources say.

    The Rays are now a full eight games back of AL East-leading Boston, and their stance on whether or not they will be buyers or sellers at the deadline will hinge on their next handful of games.

    From what we've been hearing, Atlanta is fully intent on acquiring an all-star caliber outfielder to their lineup, and Upton is one of the viable targets on the Braves' radar.

Hunter Pence

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    Probably the biggest stretch of anyone on this list, Pence would bring in at least two top-tier prospects from any team willing to deal for his services, sources say.

    This season, Pence boasts a .318 BA, 11 HR and 61 RBI.  The Pirates, who seem to be the biggest player for Pence thus far, will need an upgrade in the outfield if they want to contend this season.

    At just 28 years old, Pence is a young enough talent for a team like Pittsburgh to make a deal this season and have a great shot at re-signing him once his contract runs its course.

Carlos Beltran

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    In the midst of a career season, Beltran is drawing serious interest from a plethora of clubs as the deadline draws nearer.  Thus far, Beltran is batting .287 with 14 HR and 59 RBI, and is a premium outfielder that will likely be dealt in the next few days.

    Beltran will yield much in return in a potential trade for the Mets, who are looking to dump as many unneeded contacts as they possibly can.  New York, however, will be looking for top-notch talent in return, sources say, which may postpone a trade until the very last minute.

    Rumors and speculation surrounding New York's luminary outfielder seem to change on a day-to-day basis, but you can almost sense there's a deal already in place.