MLB Trade Speculation: Top 5 Moves That Could Still Be Made Before the Deadline
With Carlos Beltran being welcomed as the newest San Francisco Giant and Edwin Jackson being added to the rotation of the St. Louis Cardinals, we can really expect to start seeing some action in the rumor mill and trade market.
This isn't just because the deadline is less than four days away, but also because the pickings are slim, and getting slimmer.
For several teams, some of which hope to make another trip to the playoffs after having their runs cut short in 2010 and some of which are hoping to put an end to a long playoff dry spell, these next four days are absolutely crucial. They'll need to make a move towards the little remaining talent on the trading block if they hope to keep those dreams alive.
Here are the five biggest transactions that could still happen which would give their respective teams a much needed boost to make a run towards the playoffs.
Hunter Pence to the Philadelphia Phillies
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Hunter Pence is exactly the kind of player who, if put on the right team, could be the catalyst that takes them to the World Series.
The Phillies have recognized this and believe, as they aggressively pursue the five-tool sparkplug, that Pence is the final piece to their puzzle designed to make them World Champions again.
Although Houston has seemingly taken Pence off the block, it has not been carved in stone. According to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, a baseball official told him that the price for Pence is "very high." Salisbury also speculates the Astros would probably want Domonic Brown in return.
Domonic Brown was named the top prospect in all of Major League Baseball by Baseball America in 2010, and is a younger, more potential-packed five-tool player than Pence. Brown could also be a key player in the rebuilding phase that seems to be taking place under new owner Jim Crane.
The Phils also have a number of high B level prospects that could be packaged for Pence to assist the rebuild.
Twenty-year-old Brody Colvin comes to mind, as he has averaged a 3.59 ERA, 7.3 K/9 and a 2.41 K/BB ratio over the last three seasons.
Houston may be playing hardball when it comes to the relocation of their prized outfielder, but after the Phillies were able to assemble one of the greatest rotations of all-time in the past offseason, don't discount them from prying Pence from their grasp.
Hiroki Kuroda to the New York Yankees
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Kuroda has made it quite clear that he has an emotional attachment to the city of Los Angeles and the Dodgers organization.
He has a full no-trade clause which he can use at any time to keep him where he's comfortable for at least another year.
He comes with a bit of a hefty price tag, as $6 million of his $12 million contract are still owed to him.
So why could this transaction happen, when it seems like the forces of nature want it not to?
Teams are still actively pursuing Kuroda, as he has not refused a trade to this point, and according to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, the Yankees "have intensified their pursuit" of the right-hander.
Kuroda has never pitched in the American League, and with all of the teams currently ready to make a bid for him (Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Tigers, Indians), the Yankees are positioned with a favourable atmosphere for any player who is reluctant to be traded.
No offer has been contended to the Dodgers that has yet to be reviewed by Kuroda, but the Yankees would surely have a lower level prospect in their farm system, or a position player who could prove to be a suitable return for the 33-year-old hurler.
At this point, the prospect that the Dodgers will find and accept a suitable offer does not seem to be an issue, but Kuroda still needs to waive his no-trade clause. And let's not forget that the Yankees are well equipped to offer a cash incentive for Kuroda to do that.
Michael Bourn to the Pittsburgh Pirates
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As I've noted, the Astros have seemingly moved Hunter Pence into the shadows of the trading block, not advertising his availability, but not nixing the idea.
Aside from the Phillies, several teams pursuing him have since laid off, including the Pittsburgh Pirates, for whom Pence would have been a great fit.
However, Houston has another outfielder who has put up exceptional numbers this season and could prove to be an even better fit in the deep outfield of PNC Park, and that is Michael Bourn.
Bourn offers a similar skill set in the outfield as Andrew McCutchen, and if moved to left field, the two defensive gurus could completely lock down the left and left-center areas of the outfield.
Bourn leads the Major Leagues with 38 stolen bases and is boasting an impressive .304 batting average through 418 at-bats.
This makes him a perfect leadoff hitter for the Bucs, who have been using Jose Tabata for much of the season to lead off the order.
What's even more attractive about Bourn? He's on the trading block, though Stephen Goff of examiner.com says interest in the speedy outfielder is not very high.
B.J. Upton to the Cleveland Indians
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With Colby Rasmus and Carlos Beltran now scooped up off of the trading block and in new uniforms, the hunt for outfielders is getting competitive, as only three high-level outfielders remain in B.J. Upton, Hunter Pence, and Michael Bourn.
According to Carrie Musket of MLB.com, Kosuke Fukudome has been traded to the Cleveland Indians for two minor leaguers.
The Indians have been actively pursuing outfielders with talent at the plate to compensate for the losses of Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore.
Yahoo's Jeff Passan reported yesterday that the Indians were still pursuing B.J. Upton.
This would secure their outfield until the returns of Choo and Sizemore, at which point Sizemore could play DH to ease back into playing regularly. Then, they could possibly shift Upton to left field, Fukudome to DH and return Choo to right field.
Adding these bats could relieve a guy like Travis Hafner from everyday play and allow him alternate at the DH spot with the new veteran in Fukudome once all the everyday players are healthy.
Although other teams are still looking into acquiring Upton, this move could secure the Indians with a strong hitting lineup from top to bottom, as if they hadn't been strong enough this season.
Ubaldo Jimenez to the Cincinnati Reds
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I have a strong feeling that whoever ends up acquiring the recently massively overrated Ubaldo Jimenez could be the laughing stock of the 2011 trade deadline come October.
The Rockies have made it very clear that they want the sun and the moon for a starting pitcher who they must think is still in his 2010 form, and that they will not budge on their requisition.
The Yankees, Red Sox and Reds have been the three major teams in competition for Jimenez, but the Yankees have virtually bowed out of the competition, saying they are not willing to part with three of their top prospects for him. The Red Sox are still in the mix, but it's doubtful that they will sell the farm for him.
That leaves the Reds at the forefront of the bidding. They are the furthest along in making a deal with Colorado.
According to Thomas Harding of MLB.com, the Rockies would require starting pitchers Travis Wood and Homer Bailey, plus either left-handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman or catching prospect Devin Mesoraco (Chapman being the more likely of the two), in order to trade Jimenez to the Reds.
To most people who will get wind of this deal, jaws will drop and laughter will ensue at the childish, naive request the Colorado Rockies expect any team to take them up on.
However, the Rockies apparently have no aching need to relocate Jimenez, so they are going to wait and see if any team will take the bait and make what could be the worst deadline deal of the decade.
For the Reds' sake, I would like to see them hold on to all of the players named in this deal. But the fact that talks of a deal of this magnitude have managed to make it this far tells me that you cannot dismiss it, but only hope that it gets dismissed.