MLB Trades: Each MLB Team's Biggest Weakness Heading into the Deadline

Jason LempertCorrespondent IJuly 30, 2011

MLB Trades: Each MLB Team's Biggest Weakness Heading into the Deadline

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    One of the most exciting times in baseball is just around the corner. The Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline is a mere day away. Rumors have been swirling for weeks now. Which teams are buyers, which are sellers and what big-name players will be on the move prior to the 3:59 p.m. EDT deadline on July 31?

    Let's take a few minutes and play pretend. Let's pretend we are the general managers of all 30 teams. What is our biggest weakness heading into the trade deadline? What pieces can we move in order to fill our most pressing needs?

    Here is a list of the biggest weaknesses of all 30 MLB clubs. Keep in mind that not all of these clubs are in the position to make any moves to fill these voids, thus some may not make any moves at all.

Washington Nationals: Center Field

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    After years of humility and futility, the Washington Nationals are on the verge of becoming a legitimate contender in the National League. With the bright futures of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper getting closer to reality, there's much reason to believe in the Nation's Capital.

    Although they have a solid group of young talent, the Nats are lacking a bit in the outfield—particularly left/center field.

    Currently, the Nats have Jayson Werth patrolling right field for the next six-and-a-half years. But in left and center field, the combination of Laynce Nix, Roger Bernadina and Rick Ankiel has been decent, at best.

    Center fielders for the Nationals have combined to hit just seven home runs so far in 2011, with five of them coming from Bernadina. Bernadina was optioned to Triple-A earlier this week.

    And while the Nationals did acquire Jonny Gomes from the Reds earlier in the week to address their left field issues, they have continually been rumored to be seeking a long-term solution at center field. Names like Denard Span, B.J. Upton and Michael Bourn have repeatedly surfaced in Nationals rumors.

Toronto Blue Jays: Designated Hitter

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    It's tough to be the Toronto Blue Jays. No matter how good of a team is put together, playing in the same division as the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays just about guarantees a fourth-place finish.

    The Jays have themselves a solid team. They have young, talented pitching, a deep bullpen and an offense that can stand with the best of them.

    But if they hope to ever overtake the Yanks and the Sox at the top of the division, they need to add a little more punch to the lineup.

    Currently, the Jays are fifth in the American League with 120 home runs—an impressive stat. But two of the teams ahead of them in that category are the aforementioned Yankees and Red Sox.

    Part of the problem has been Toronto's designated hitters. The Jays have gotten just 12 long balls out of their DHs so far this season, a position that is obviously known for its power supply.

    Edwin Encarnacion has spent the most time at DH for the Blue Jays, and though he has shown some flashes of life here and there, he's been a real disappointment thus far.

Texas Rangers: Relief Pitcher

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    It's hard to find a weakness in the AL West-leading Texas Rangers, but their weakness may get solved before it even develops.

    The Rangers have been tinkering with the thought of adding closer Neftali Feliz to their rotation next season. They would only be able to do this, of course, if they had an experienced closer to replace him.

    One name that has recently popped up in Rangers trade rumors is Heath Bell. The current Padres closer is at the end of his current contract and would be a great fit in Arlington, should Feliz move into the rotation.

    Bell has stated he would accept a setup role with his new ball club, which would give the Rangers a solid 1-2 punch in the bullpen for their playoff push.

Tampa Bay Rays: First Base

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    It's no secret the Rays have a hot buy in the name of B.J Upton. His name has been surfacing in trade rumors the last few seasons, but 2011 could be the year he's finally dealt.

    The Rays lost a big power bat at first base during the offseason in the name of Carlos Pena. And although Casey Kotchman has been a decent fill-in this year, the Rays have gotten just four home runs total from first basemen this year—all from Kotchman.

    Typically, first base is an ideal source of a team's power. If the Rays are able to trade Upton, perhaps they should seek a power-hitting first baseman as part of a return package,

St. Louis Cardinals: Relief Pitching

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    The Cardinals need pitching help. Whether it's in the rotation or the bullpen, they need someone if they want to win the NL Central crown in 2011.

    Their pitching staff isn't terrible, but it is by no means playoff material.

    The Cards' team ERA of 3.87 is eighth in the National League. Their late-inning relief hasn't been anything spectacular, with a 3.93 ERA between the seventh and ninth innings. Ryan Franklin, their Opening Day closer, was released at the end of June after recording just one save and four blown saves.

    Meanwhile, rookie Fernando Salas has been somewhat impressive, racking up 19 saves in 43 appearances since claiming the role.

    Earlier this week, the Cardinals partially addressed this woe. They traded center fielder Colby Rasmus and pitchers Brian Tallet, P.J. Walters and Trever Miller to the Toronto Blue Jays for starter Edwin Jackson, outfielder Corey Patterson, and relievers Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel.

    While Dotel and Rzepcynski can be solid additions to the Cards' bullpen, neither of them provides the team with a closer they really need.

    But an acquisition of someone like Bell would improve the back-end of their bullpen significantly.

Seattle Mariners: Offense

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    When you lose 17 straight games, have the second-worst record and the lowest team batting average in the American League, it's easy to find a weakness.

    The Seattle Mariners have by far one of the worst offenses in baseball this year.

    And while the team will be sellers at this year's deadline, there hasn't been much written about what the M's might get in return for some of their movable pieces (Erik Bedard, Brandon League, Jack Wilson, etc.).

    The Mariners are last in all of baseball in just about every offensive category, so GM Jack Zduriencik should definitely be asking for offense in exchange for whichever player he winds up trading.

San Francisco Giants: Offense

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    The San Francisco Giants are determined to repeat as World Series champions in 2011. Their solid pitching staff is loaded with talent, and they have a well-balanced lineup.

    The problem is, that lineup hasn't been hitting. They rank near the bottom in all of baseball in just about every offensive category. In particular, they are severely lacking offensively from their catcher and shortstop positions.

    Generally speaking, catcher and shortstop are two of the weaker hitting positions in the game. But the Giants seem to be taking it to a new level.

    Their catchers are hitting a combined .249 with a .361 slugging percentage (much of that can be attributed to the early-season loss of Buster Posey), and shortstops for the Giants are hitting a "robust" .217 with a .285 OBP.

    The Giants recently picked up Carlos Beltran, but in my opinion, it's not their outfield that needs an offensive boost. Then again, I'm not a general manager.

San Diego Padres: Offense

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    This may be the case for quite some time, but the San Diego Padres have the worst offense in the National League. Playing their home games in the spacious PetCo Park has caused the Padres to finish in the bottom of just about every offensive category the past several seasons.

    There may not be enough offense in the game to help the Padres regain some offensive prowess. They traded Adrian Gonzalez, their biggest power bat, during the offseason. But even while he was on the club, there just wasn't enough offense to go around.

    The Padres have plenty of pitching to spare (starters and relievers). They may want to look into trading some of their assets to obtain any amount of bats they can get their hands on.

Pittsburgh Pirates: First Baseman

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    There's not a better story in baseball than the Pittsburgh Pirates. After 18 consecutive losing seasons, the Bucs are looking like a legitimate contender in 2011, despite all the odds.

    So for the first time since 1992, the Pirates will likely be considered buyers at the trade deadline, and one area they are focusing on improving is first base. Lyle Overbay has played the majority at first base this year, struggling to a .234 batting average and just seven home runs.

    They could pursue the Rangers' Chris Davis, the Orioles' Derek Lee or the Cubs' Carlos Pena—all of whom will likely be available at the deadline.

Philadelphia Phillies: Right-Handed Power Bat

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    Even the No. 1 team in baseball has a weakness. Sure, the Philadelphia Phillies have the best record in the game, but they too have needs to make them an even better team.

    For example, you can be sure they are missing the right-handed bat of Jayson Werth, who left for the Nation's Capital via free agency this past offseason. For the past several seasons, Werth had shown his worth to the Phillies, providing a power bat from the right side to split up left-handers Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez.

    In 2011, however, switch-hitter Shane Victorino has seen the most time in that role. And as excellent of a hitter as Victorino is, he doesn't exactly fit in the five hole in the lineup where he has spent most of the season.

    The Phillies are in the market for a right-handed bat, and although they had been linked to players such as Josh Willingham, Melky Cabrera, Michael Cuddyer, and most notably, Carlos Beltran, they made a deal with Houston for Hunter Pence Friday night.

Oakland Athletics: Offense

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    The American League West has become a two-team race recently, and if the Seattle Mariners have the worst offense in the league, the Oakland A's are right behind them—which they are, statistically-speaking.

    The A's, who got off to a fast start this season, are currently 12.5 games out of first place in the division and have completely fallen apart offensively. This has led to the A's becoming sellers toward the trade deadline.

    Players such as Coco Crisp, Josh Willingham and David DeJesus have all been amongst trade rumors this summer.

New York Yankees: Relief Pitching

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    Injuries are a natural part of the game. A 162-game season is a long year, and the human body can only hold up for so long.

    But the New York Yankees have had more than their share of injuries this year, particularly in their bullpen. Three pitchers who were projected to be main cogs in the Yanks' relief core have been bitten by the injury bug. Rafael Soriano, Damaso Marte, Pedro Feliciano and Joba Chamberlain have combined to appear in 43 games (none by Marte and Feliciano).

    Chamberlain is done for the year following Tommy John surgery. Feliciano and Marte have yet to throw a pitch this year, and Soriano has been out since the end of May (though he is expected to return to the Yankees this weekend).

    Boone Logan, All-Star David Robertson and Luis Ayala have done an admirable job being the bridge to Mariano Rivera, but if the Yankees hope to reclaim the World Series trophy, they're going to need to upgrade that bullpen.

New York Mets: Starting Pitching

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    At the beginning of the season, the New York Mets were not expected to compete in 2011, according to many experts. And now as we approach the trade deadline, with the team four games over .500 and 6.5 games out of the Wild Card, the Mets are being considered sellers.

    But let's not jump the gun here.

    The Mets had a formidable lineup with David Wright, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran all healthy at the same time. Of course, pitching is a bit of a sore spot for the Queens Team. Mike Pelfrey has not lived up to expectations this year as the team's ace.

    However, true ace Johan Santana is about to head out on a rehab assignment after missing all year recovering from shoulder surgery. Having him back for the last month of the season will be a much-needed boost for the rotation.

    Undoubtedly, the hottest trade rumor coming out of Flushing surrounded Carlos Beltran. At least five or six teams were linked to the re-emerging outfielder; in the end, the San Francisco Giants won out. Personally, I felt the Mets should have only traded Beltran if they were receiving a Major League-ready pitcher (like Jonathan Sanchez) in return.

Minnesota Twins: Relief Pitching

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    Is there enough relief pitching to go around? For the sake of the Minnesota Twins, there had better be. If the Twins hope to remain in contention in the American League Central, they're going to need to improve their bullpen.

    An ERA of 4.83 and a 1.468 WHIP are not going to help get a team into the postseason. In particular, the Twins need help in their long/middle-relief. In innings 4-6, the Twins' staff has a composite 5.18 ERA.

    Setting up has also been an issue, as evidenced by their 5.24 ERA in the eighth inning. Matt Capps had been the closer for the majority of the season for the Twins, while Joe Nathan was getting back on track following Tommy John surgery.

    But Capps has struggled recently, and last month he was removed from the closer role, replaced by Nathan. Currently, the Twins are targeting the Nationals' Drew Storen with center fielder Denard Span as possible trade bait (though recent reports suggest Storen is going nowhere).

Milwaukee Brewers: Second Baseman

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    The Milwaukee Brewers were delivered quite a blow Thursday.

    They placed All-Star second baseman Rickie Weeks on the disabled list with a sprained left foot. Weeks exited Wednesday night's game against the Cubs after injuring his foot while trying to beat out an infield hit. The Brewers are hopeful he will be able to return at the end of August.

    The trade market for second basemen is pretty thin, but the Brewers' in-house replacements are not any better. The team has been looking at the Dodgers' Jamey Carroll and Rafael Furcal as possible replacements, while internally they have Craig Counsell as the primary fill-in at second.

    Right now, the Brewers sit atop the NL Central with a 1.5-game lead on the Pirates and Cardinals. If Weeks, who has 19 home runs, is not able to return soon, the Brew Crew could be feeling that void during their September playoff push.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Offense

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers are scuffling. They are currently 12.5 games out of first place in the NL West. After winning the division in 2009, they ended with a losing record last season, and it's only getting worse in 2011.

    Despite an MVP-calliber season from Matt Kemp, the Dodgers have scored the third-fewest amount of runs per game in the entire National League.

    In particular, they've gotten very little production from third base and the middle infield positions. But James Loney, subject of a few trade rumors, hasn't exactly helped the cause either. He's managed just four home runs this season, and from the first base position, his 59 career home runs over six-plus seasons is rather disappointing.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Offense

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    The Los Angeles Angels are having a fine bounce-back season in 2011 after finishing with a losing record a year ago—but they are still struggling a bit offensively.

    The Angels have been rumored to be scouting the Cubs' Aramis Ramirez, among other possible targets. Like their crosstown rivals, the Dodgers, the Halos have scored the third-fewest runs per game in the league. They rank below the league average in just about every offensive category.

    The Angels have gotten some nice production out of youngsters Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos, but some of the veterans have had down years (particularly Bobby Abreu, Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter).

    The Halos are safely in second place in the AL West and could be tasting postseason play for the first time since 2009. But in order to do so, improving their offense will be key.

Kansas City Royals: Starting Pitching

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    Despite getting off to a hot start in 2011, the Kansas City Royals are headed to another losing season. However, the team is likely only a year or two away from becoming serious contenders in the American League Central.

    In order to make that a reality, they're going to have to improve their pitching. As a team, they've allowed the second-most runs per game in the American League, and their team ERA of 4.55 is also second-worst in the league.

    Specifically, their starting pitching has been atrocious. The team's starters have a 5.17 ERA and a WHIP over 1.500. They've had some big disappointments from pitchers like Luke Hochevar, Kyle Davies and Sean O'Sullivan. Two of their better starters this year—Bruce Chen and Jeff Francis—are drawing trade interest from other clubs in search of left-handed pitching.

    Teams have also checked in on Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera, outfielders who could bring back some decent starting pitchers.

Houston Astros: Closer

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    The Houston Astros haven't had a true, reliable closer since they traded Brad Lidge to the Phillies before the 2008 season. Since that trade, Jose Valverde, Brandon Lyon and most recently, Mark Melancon have been the ninth-inning options for Houston.

    This year, the Astros have a total of 14 saves—10 of them belong to Melancon. The other four are owned by Lyon, who was supposed to be the team's closer, but is out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery in June.

Florida Marlins: Starting Pitching

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    Despite being 14.5 games out of the division race, the Florida Marlins don't have any glaring needs. They've gotten good production from most of their regular position players, Leo Nunez has turned into a quality closer and their pitching his been good, if not great, at times.

    The one weakness they do have is the back-end of their rotation. With ace Josh Johnson likely out for the remainder of the season, everyone else in the starting rotation gets pushed up a notch. As a team, the Fish have a decent 4.25 ERA out of their starters.

    But, for instance, Chris Volstad (who was recently demoted to Triple-A) owns a .305 batting average against in innings 1-3 this year. It makes winning somewhat difficult if you get that lit up in the first three innings of a game.

    Additionally, the Marlins' staff as a whole has a 5.91 ERA in the first inning, thanks in part to the .371 batting average against Javier Vazquez in the opening frame.

    All-in-all, the Fish are fine. But if they want to be better than just fine, they need to get JJ back healthy and should probably look to enhance their rotation some more.

Detroit Tigers: Starting Pitching

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    The Detroit Tigers have a lot going right for them in 2011. They currently lead the American League Central by 2.5 games. They have arguably the league's Cy Young Award-winner (Justin Verlander) and a legitimate MVP candidate (Miguel Cabrera).

    Yet, they too are seeking help as the trade deadline nears.

    They were actively scouting starting pitching targets such as Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Marquis, Hiroki Kuroda, Doug Fister, Jeremy Guthrie and Erik Bedard. As of today, Fister is now headed for Detroit.

    But perhaps they should focus more on relief help.

    The Tigers already have the best pitcher in the division as part of their rotation. And while their composite starting pitcher ERA is an inflated 4.10, their bullpen ERA is even higher at 4.72. Particularly, their left-handers are not getting the job done; Tiger Southpaws own a collective .285 batting average against.

    None of the Tigers' pitching stats are paltry, but it is a small cause for concern, especially when starters like Brad Penny are unable to go deep into ball games. After all, Verlander can't pitch every game.

Colorado Rockies: Starting Pitching

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    It's no surprise to see the Colorado Rockies near the bottom of the league in ERA and runs-per-game allowed. Playing their home games in the thin air at Coors Field, pitching has never been the name of the game in Denver.

    Still, the arms they are throwing out there every fifth day in 2011 have not helped the cause. No Rockies pitcher who has started a game has an ERA under 3.50, including ace Ubaldo Jimenez.

    The Rockies may be waving the white flag in 2011, as reports are swirling about a possible Jimenez trade prior to the deadline. If that happens, the team would be without a legitimate ace on their staff and with Aaron Cook—with his plus-5.00 ERA—as the team's veteran starter.

Cleveland Indians: Starting Pitching

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    If the Pittsburgh Pirates are the story of baseball in 2011, the Indians are the story of the American League. Despite some tough times recently, the Tribe have been a very pleasant surprise this year, and they currently sit 2.5 games out of first place in the division.

    But their starting pitching has been shaky at times, to the tune of a 4.19 collective ERA from the starting rotation. Justin Masterson has been magnificent most of the year. Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin have had up-and-down seasons.

    But Mitch Talbot and Fausto Carmona each have ERAs over 5.00, and Talbot has only nine more strikeouts (35) than walks (24) on the year. Talbot is currently on the disabled list suffering from a lower back strain.

    The Indians, who have already acquired outfielder Kosuke Fokudome from the Cubs, are shopping for starting pitchers. They have been linked to Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Marquis, Jeremy Guthrie and other potentially available starters.

Cincinnati Reds: Offense and Starting Pitching

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    The Cincinnati Reds are hanging on for dear life in the NL Central division. They are 6.5 games behind first-place Milwaukee and four games under the .500 mark.

    Despite having some very talented players—Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips—the Reds have several holes to fill on the diamond. In particular, third base has been a rough spot for the Reds, as it has been in all of baseball in 2011.

    Starting third baseman Scott Rolen is currently on the disabled list for the second time already in 2011. Combined with Miguel Cairo for the most part at the hot corner, Reds' third basemen have accumulated just seven home runs with a .247 batting average in 2011.

    Similarly, the Reds' starting pitching has been suspect. Edinson Volquez, who is drawing some trade interest, has been demoted to Triple-A twice this year and has a 5.93 ERA.

    But he hasn't been the only one to struggle in the rotation. Bronson Arroyo owns a 5.58 ERA, and Travis Wood was optioned to Triple-A in June and has yet to return to Cincy.

    The Reds certainly have a core of talented players. The problem has been getting them to play at a consistent level. And with that, their chances of returning to October baseball this year continues to dwindle.

Chicago White Sox: Offense

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    The Chicago White Sox are three games behind the Tigers for the AL Central lead, entering play on Saturday. Earlier this week, they addressed one of their needs as they aim for postseason play when they acquired Jason Frasor from the Toronto Blue Jays to help improve their bullpen.

    Now the South Siders need to do something to beef up their offense. They were hoping Adam Dunn would have done that for them when they signed him to a $56 million contract this past winter, but Dunn has just 10 home runs on the season, with a paltry .307 slugging percentage (he slugged .536 last season in Washington and has a career .509 percentage).

    Yet, despite their offensive struggles (they've score the third-fewest runs in the league), they are shopping outfielder Carlos Quentin, who has been one of their better hitters this year. Granted, he will be arbitration-eligible for the final time this year, almost certainly resulting in a raise for the 28-year-old. But when you are pushing for a playoff race, is this the time to sell a potential 30-home run bat?

Chicago Cubs: Starting Pitching

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    It's been a much more disappointing season on the other side of Chicago. The Cubs are 22 games under .500 and have the highest ERA in the league.

    In my opinion, their biggest weakness has been Carlos Zambrano. Year after year it seems almost imminent he will be traded, but they constantly hang on to the big right-hander. And though he can be effective at times, he can also be troubling in a clubhouse.

    Multiple times in his Cubs career, Big Z has gotten into scuffles with water coolers, as well as fellow teammates. This year, he has a 4.59 ERA—respectable, but not great.

    Of course, his supporting cast hasn't helped either.

    Randy Wells, Doug Davis and Casey Coleman, all of whom have made at least nine starts for the Cubs, each have an ERA over 6.00! Davis was released at the end of June, Coleman was demoted to Triple-A earlier this month and Wells has remained in the rotation, despite only two wins on the season.

    It's a lost year in the North Side, and the Cubs could look to trade some of their expensive pieces, such as Alfonso Soriano, for some pitching help.

Boston Red Sox: Right Field

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    The Boston Red Sox are having a fine season in 2011. They lead the AL East by 2.5 games. Statistically, they have the best offense in the American League, and they may have this year's MVP playing first base (Adrian Gonzalez).

    Still, the Red Sox are lacking consistent production from their right fielders. J.D. Drew, on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, has spent the most time out in right. He has a .219 batting average to go along with just four home runs. His career seems to be in a downward spiral.

    Other Red Sox right fielders have combined to hit just six more home runs, and altogether right fielders have a .223 batting average for the Sox.

    This has led to the Red Sox to shop for right fielders. Names like Josh Willingham, Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Quentin and (up until Friday) Hunter Pence have popped up in trade rumors.

    However, the recent emergence of Josh Reddick has cooled these talks...for now at least.

Baltimore Orioles: Starting Pitching

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    The Baltimore Orioles have allowed the most runs per game and have the highest ERA in the American League. They're also 21 games out of first place in the impossible American League East.

    Their starting pitchers have a combined 5.00 ERA and a 1.475 WHIP. No pitcher to make a start for the O's has an ERA under 4.00 this year, and the struggles of talented youngsters Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen are particularly alarming.

    Currently, the Orioles are shopping ace Jeremy Guthrie, along with first baseman Derek Lee, in the hopes of bringing in some more young talent to help solve their woes.

Atlanta Braves: Offense (Outfield)

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    It's been no secret that the Atlanta Braves are seeking offensive help for the anemic outfield—and it's no wonder either.

    Jason Heyward has hit a wall in his sophomore season, batting just .220 on the year with only 11 long balls and 29 RBI.

    But the likes of Nate McLouth, Jordan Schaefer and Eric Hinske haven't exactly helped either. In fact, the Braves' outfield as a whole is batting .242 with 31 home runs this year.

    Therefore, the Braves have been in serious discussions regarding players like Coco Crisp, B.J. Upton, Josh Willingham, Carlos Quentin and—up until recently—Hunter Pence and Carlos Beltran.

    The Braves have the no small task of taking on the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East. If they hope to catch them, or at least make it into the postseason, they're going to need their offense to pick it up.

Arizona Diamondbacks: First Base

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    Would you believe me if I told you that the Arizona Diamondbacks are leading the National League in home runs hit?

    It's true. They have more than the Phillies, the Braves and the Cardinals.

    The Diamondbacks are having a resurgent 2011 season and sit just four games out of first place in the NL West.

    They lost shortstop Stephen Drew for the season after a nasty play at home plate caused him to fracture his ankle earlier in the month, but the D-Backs haven't lost stride. Willie Bloomquist has been a big bonus for them this year.

    They've gotten solid pitching too with Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy leading the way.

    The one area they have been lacking this year is first base. First basemen for the D-Backs have combined to hit just 13 home runs, with a .238 batting average this year. Xavier Nady, Brandon Allen and Juan Miranda have shared the majority of playing time at first base, and none of them have been anything but mediocre at best.

    The Diamondbacks could take a look at acquiring a first baseman like Carlos Pena, Derek Lee or Michael Cuddyer if they can find the right package to trade away.