MLB Trade Rumors: Ranking the 10 Best Hitters Who Will Be Available
I'm not going to lie. When I saw how well Carlos Beltran was actually performing this year, I started to wonder why he wasn't the guy every team was trying to auction the farm (system) for.
But then again, basic supply and demand aren't the only things that have to be taken into account during trade season.
Money has to be taken into account as well, such as the money still owed to Beltran from the $18.5 million he was scheduled to make this season. Control, as in how long a certain player will remain under the thumb of his franchise, also has to be considered. In Beltran's case, there is none. He's scheduled to become a free agent at the end of this season, making a deal in which a team would have to shell out around $9 million to acquire him for less than two months, or three if they're lucky, a tough deal to stomach.
Still, this is the craziest time of year for baseball execs for a reason. Sometimes, it's that little piece you add in late July that makes all the difference in the playoffs in October.
Without further ado, I present 10 of the top bats on the market this trade season.
Jose Reyes, SS, New York Mets
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As much as the Mets have sworn that Reyes is untouchable, that hasn't stopped the rumor mill from churning out some potential landing spots for the speedy infielder.
There's no doubt that Reyes is in the midst of a career year. His batting average (.346) is the highest of his career by about 40 points, and he is also leading the league with 16 triples, 135 hits and 75 runs scored. Furthermore, he seems to have put to bed any concerns about his durability, having played in 88 of the team's 103 games despite a recent DL stint.
Because of the murkiness surrounding Reyes' availability, there has been only speculation as to who might still be barking up that tree. According to Scott Miller of CBS Sports, the Angels have had internal discussions about Reyes, bringing up infielder Erick Aybar's name as a potential trade candidate. As with most of the other offers that have been rumored, the Mets don't appear to be too interested.
Colby Rasmus, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
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Despite being in the thick of a four-team playoff race, the Cardinals appear to be shopping young outfielder Colby Rasmus, who has reportedly wanted out of St. Louis for quite some time now.
According to reports from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cards have had discussions with the White Sox about Rasmus, who is hitting .244 on the season with 10 home runs and just 37 RBI. Those numbers are a far cry from his breakout 2010 campaign, in which he slugged 23 homers and drove in 66 while maintaining a .276 average.
The rumored deal could potentially see either Edwin Jackson or Matt Thornton headed to St. Louis.
Another report, this one from the Chicago Tribune, refutes the claim that the two teams have had discussions, quoting White Sox GM Kenny Williams as saying, "that, as reported, is incorrect."
Not necessarily the most clarifying statement, but so far I guess we have to take him at his word, especially since Rasmus has been the subject of numerous trade rumors since soiling his relationship with Tony LaRussa last year.
B.J. Upton, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
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Upton's batting average has regressed each year since 2007, and has bottomed out at .229 this season.
Still, there's going to be quite a market for his services, thanks to the fact that he offers some decent pop and has great speed. He's also a pretty good defender when he's motivated, and actually he's quite capable of hitting for average despite what he's shown these past few seasons.
Despite the low batting average, Upton is among the Rays' team leaders in home runs (15) and RBI (52). He also has 23 steals.
The Phillies have been among the teams inquiring as to the availability of Upton, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. He has also mentioned the Cardinals as a potential suitor if they can get rid of Colby Rasmus, and the Royals, who are looking for a big-league ready center fielder while they wait for Bubba Starling to work his way through the system.
ESPN's Jerry Crasnick has shot down rumors that the Braves have some interest in the moody outfielder, reporting that Atlanta doesn't want to part with Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Arodys Vizcanio or Mike Minor.
Ty Wiggington, INF, Colorado Rockies
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While his name isn't as glamorous as some of the others on this list, there will likely still be a pretty sizable market for Wiggington, who can play just about every position on the diamond. He's also got a pretty potent bat.
In just 83 games for the Rockies, Wiggington has hit .256 with 13 homers and 40 RBI. The 33-year-old has also played first base, third base, and both outfield corners, making him by far one of the most versatile hitters on the market this July.
According to Troy Renck of the Denver Post, the Pirates are actively pursuing Wiggington. The deal seems to make a bit of sense, since Wiggington played with Pittsburgh from 2004-2005. The Pirates also have some decent prospects, and are in a better position than ever before to trade for some bigger name talent.
In addition to his versatility on the defensive end, Wiggington will come a lot cheaper than Beltran, Rasmus or Upton, making him a more appealing target for the smaller market teams.
Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Mets
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Carlos Beltran is another guy who has been the subject of trade talks for multiple seasons.
This year, it seems like he's pretty much a lock to end up playing elsewhere. Mets GM Sandy Alderson showed no hesitation in dealing the team's best reliever, Francisco Rodriguez, so there's no reason to think that he'll hang on to Beltran, who's having his best season since 2008 (.291, 16 HR, 63 RBI), but is already 34 years old and eating up too much of the Mets' annual salary.
MLBTradeRumors has daily updates on Beltran's trade status, the most recent rumors of which have him expressing interest in playing for Texas or Boston. He reportedly has a list of seven teams to whom he'll accept trades. The list likely includes Philadelphia, San Francisco and Atlanta, as well as Boston and Texas.
Atlanta would make sense in that they've been looking for a solid center fielder for quite some time, but according to Buster Olney, the team doesn't appear willing to part with any of their top prospects, including pitchers Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Randall Delgado and Mike Minor.
The Giants could also use a bat like Beltran's but according to GM Brian Sabean, the team is not close to a deal to acquire him.
Hunter Pence, OF, Houston Astros
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Pence has been, without a doubt, the brightest spot on one of the worst teams in baseball.
With a .316 average, 11 home runs and 61 RBI, Pence is on pace to shatter most of his career highs. And if you're looking for a guy who has been a model of consistency, take notice of the fact that Pence has hit exactly 25 home runs three consecutive years, and has hit .282 for two straight seasons.
And while the 28-year-old has played strictly right field since 2008, he still has the athleticism and speed to take on center field, where teams like Atlanta, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Cleveland could use an extra shot in the arm.
According to MLBTradeRumors, Pence and his $6.9 million contract, scheduled to get a bump via arbitration for the 2012 season, are being shopped for at least three pieces, at least one of which would need to be MLB-ready.
ESPN.com's Buster Olney has linked the outfielder to Philadelphia, with pitcher Vance Worley being mentioned as a centerpiece of the deal. Given the trade history between the two franchises, it seems to make a good bit of sense.
Carlos Quentin, OF, Chicago White Sox
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The White Sox haven't made a statement declaring their interest in dealing Quentin, but with the team still two games under .500, anything is possible.
One team that has been rumored to be interested, if he is made available, is Philadelphia. According to Bob Nightengale of the USA Today, the Phillies have been one of a few teams scouting the 28-year-old outfielder.
Quentin is having another solid year, posting good power numbers (20 HR, 62 RBI), while maintaining a solid average (.265). He also earned his second All-Star nod.
One reason that the Sox might find Quentin expendable is the emergence of Cuban defector Dayan Viciedo, who is putting up great numbers in Triple-A after hitting .308 in a 38-game trial with Chicago last year.
Kosuke Fukudome, OF, Chicago Cubs
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From the north side to the south.
While several Cubs have been name-dropped in trade rumor circles, the only player who appears to be in real danger of getting dealt is 34-year-old outfielder Kosuke Fukudome.
Fukudome's production has declined steadily over the past few seasons, bottoming out this year as he's lost playing time opportunities to other players on the squad. His .273 average is actually the highest of his career, but he has just three home runs and 13 RBI through 86 games. On the plus side, he still has some of the best plate discipline in the National League, drawing almost as many walks (46) as strikeouts (55).
According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, Fukudome has a partial no-trade list, so it's unlikely that the team is going to unload him and his bloated salary to a team like the Nationals or Pirates.
Michael Cuddyer, OF, Minnesota Twins
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Despite his defensive versatility, which includes playing four different positions this season in addition to seeing time at DH, it's Cuddyer's bat that will be drawing the most interest in the next few days.
Two years removed from hitting 32 home runs, Cuddyer is having a solid offensive year for one of baseball's worst teams. His average has improved and at .298 currently sits nearly 30 points above his career mark. He's also already eclipsed his home run total of 14 from last year. Somehow, he's figured out how to drive in nearly 50 runs for Minnesota. He also offers great plate discipline.
So, who's been looking into acquiring Cuddyer?
For starters, the Angels, who are looking for some offensive upgrades to a lineup that is quickly becoming more small-ball oriented than in the past few seasons. According to CBS Sports' Scott Miller, Los Angeles has had internal discussions about what it would take to get Cuddyer, who is 32 years old. They've also discussed shifting him over to third base if they did managed to snag him.
Next to right field and first base, Cuddyer has spent more games (171) at third base than any other position.
Josh Willingham, OF, Oakland Athletics
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Like most, I apparently missed the day when Willingham became a player worthy of Type A free agency status.
Still, he is just one of the many names on the Oakland A's being floated around by numerous teams.
There's no question that Willingham's bat could help a contending club. He's hit just .241 this season, but he has also clubbed 13 homers and driven in 50. He has a solid eye at the plate and makes consistent contact. He can also play all three outfield positions, furthering his versatility.
A team like the New York Yankees, who can afford to eat some, or all, of his salary, might be interested in having him come off the bench for them in September. According to an interview with Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Willingham appears willing to stick around in Oakland via an extension, but the team has repeatedly said they aren't discussing contracts until after the season. This leaves open the door to dealing him and a number of other veterans on the squad, including Coco Crisp.