As the 2011 Trade Deadline approaches and is under two weeks from passing, contending ball clubs are frantically looking for any way to improve themselves for the home stretch of the season.
For teams not looking to give away top prospects for contract-burdened sluggers, the next two weeks are all about finding the diamonds in the rough.
The following players, the “diamonds in the rough” so to speak, are six well established major leaguers who are just not superstars. They are utility men, playing wherever they need to for the good of the team with a smile on their face.
The Dodgers' Jamey Carroll (pictured here) leads a talented but undervalued group of major leaguers that could truly make all the difference in the playoff push. Carroll's terrific performance for the Dodgers in a versatile role has made him invaluable to the Dodgers, even though they will sell for the right price.
From the Chicago Cubs’ Reed Johnson batting over .330 to Jerry Hairston Jr.‘s ability to play every position except catcher and pitcher, these guys are professionals and invaluable to any team.
For a team in the thick of a pennant race, these players and their extensive experience could truly make the difference between an October with a ring or an October spent crying.
Luckily for most teams, the front office knows exactly who is going to come through in the clutch and who to avoid even making a phone call for.
Will your favorite “everyman” be on the list? Let’s check it out.
Reed Johnson, who can play all three outfield positions superbly, can be used as a defensive replacement in a crucial game.
However, he is known to destroy left handed pitching. His overall batting average in 146 plate appearances is .336, with a .372 on base percentage and 4 home runs.
His batting average against lefties is a phenomenal .375, which makes him advantageous for managers to have on the bench. As an 8 year veteran of the league, he is a good pinch hitter in the clutch and doesn't let pressure get to him.
His contract with the Cubs is a one year, $900 thousand deal that would be a bargain for contending teams to pick up.
A team like the Cincinnati Reds, going after big time pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez and Wandy Rodriguez, could also look to Johnson to bolster their lineup and provide relief for outfielder Jonny Gomes’ struggling bat.
A couple teams in the AL Central, such as the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers, both with young and fragile outfielders, should also look to the Cubs and see about Johnson. He’s just the guy to help a team win a division.
The mighty mouse Jamey Carroll has done it all through his 10 seasons in the majors, playing every position except for pitcher, catcher and first base.
His versatility has helped the Dodgers tremendously this season. At times fans wondered if Carroll would have to play more than one position at the same time to help save money for Frank McCourt (insert your own insult of how the Dodgers can’t afford to pay their players here).
The signing of Carroll before the 2010 season was widely criticized, but turned out to be a huge boost to the team because of the constant injuries to infielders Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake.
Carroll batted .291 with a .371 on base percentage last year and is replicating his numbers this year with a .290 average and a .360 on base percentage.
Carroll has no power and only decent speed, but he is a solid defender and gets on base by driving the ball into the gaps. He plays a solid shortstop and second base, and can play the outfield well despite lacking a very strong arm.
He has almost as many walks (30) as he does strikeouts (35) this season. Carroll is only making around 2 million dollars, so whatever team got lucky enough to grab him would only be on the hook for under a million.
The Milwaukee Brewers have put in phone calls about Carroll, hoping he can provide a spark at shortstop where Yuniesky Betancourt currently batting .245, roams.
For the Indians, Carroll could fill in for rookie third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall one day a week just to give him a mental break, and play second base if the Indians decide not to promote young stud Jason Kipnes.
Carroll is an asset overall because he not only would he provide an experienced bat and glove off the bench, but is great in the clubhouse.
The ultimate journeyman utility player, Jerry Hairston Jr. has played for 7 different teams and at 7 different positions over the course of his career.
He started as a second baseman but sees a lot of time in the outfield as well. Hairston Jr. has decent power and decent speed. He is a good veteran bat off the bench and can be a big asset because he can fill in wherever and whenever.
Currently earning two million dollars, Hairston would be due under a million for the rest of the season. Since Jerry is 35 and not going to be returning to the Nationals anyways, a mid-level prospect would be more than enough to pick up this excellent clubhouse personality.
Hairston played for both the Texas Rangers and the Cincinnati Reds, they can't be out either.
Adam Kennedy, the epitome of a player finding a way to stick around in the majors, is aggressively being shopped by the Mariners.
Kennedy is 35 years old and has played first, second and third base for the M’s this year, batting .260 with 6 home runs and 30 RBIs.
Kennedy is a career .275 hitter with not much power. However, he finds a way to get on base and has a career .324 on base percentage. Kennedy possesses excellent defensive skills and has played the outfield before, increasing his stock.
Since the M’s are looking to get rid of him, they will probably pay most of what is left on his $750 thousand contract, even though it would only cost another team about $300k for the rest of the season.
Kennedy could be a great fit for a team in need of some extra infield depth and an experienced bat off the bench.
If no team pursues him, look for Adam’s old squad, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to jump in the mix to provide some depth behind Howie Kendrick and Maicer Izturis. It would be awesome to see Kennedy help the Angels overcome the Texas Rangers for the AL West title.
Other teams such as the Milwaukee Brewers could also be interested in Kennedy’s services.
It will be interesting to see if Kennedy will find a team to take him. If he doesn't I believe he will find himself on the bench for the rest of the season as the Mariners go with a younger lineup.
The A’s have been trying to increase Jackson’s value in recent days as they search for a suitor for the slugger.
Over the last weeks, Jackson has started playing third base in games in to increase his versatility for potential buyers.
Both Conor Jackson, who played for the Diamondbacks for many years, and teammate Josh Willingham are on the trading block and being aggressively shopped by General Manager Billy Beane.
Jackson, who plays first base regularly but has decent range as a left or right fielder, is batting .245 this season with 3 home runs and 27 RBIs. Jackson is a career .272 hitter, so he is having a major down year in 2011.
However, teams have been putting in phone calls inquiring about the 29 year old slugger.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have been linked to him, and the Detroit Tigers could definitely use another bat for the outfield.
Jackson could spell Cincinnati Reds’ struggling left fielder Jonny Gomes as well, so there are three teams in the mix.
The Boston Red Sox could jump in as well, if they lose out on the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes.
Since Jackson is only owed about $1 million for the rest of the season, he could be a bargain for a contending team in need of another bat with some power.
Look for both Jackson and Josh Willingham to be moved before the deadline.
Wigginton is the Rockies super utility man was the opening day third baseman. Since then has filled in for Todd Helton at first and in the outfield, playing both left and right field.
He would be a major asset to a contending team.
Although the Rockies’ GM Dan O’Dowd is not publicly shopping any of the Rockies on the market yet, the Rockies are 10.5 games back of the San Francisco Giants and on their way to a third place finish behind the surging Arizona Diamondbacks.
Wigginton is batting .252 this year with a solid 13 home runs and 38 RBIs. His on base percentage is .310 and slugging percentage is .462. They are decent numbers for Wiggie, an all star last year.
Ty could be a deciding player in the AL East race. Both the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have inquired about Wigginton.
The Yankees need a replacement at third base for A-Rod as he recovers from injury, and the Red Sox are in the market for another hitter due to the decline of J.D. Drew and the injury to Carl Crawford.
With a four million dollar contract for the year, Wigginton would be a bargain at just under 2 million for the rest of the season.
However, it was only a couple days ago that the Rockies discussed being buyers at the Trade Deadline. It will be interesting to see if the 33 year old Wigginton will be swapped for prospects in the coming weeks.