MLB Trade Speculation: Top 20 Players Potentially Available This Winter
With the season winding down and many September call-ups giving their teams a glimpse at the future, GMs around the league are taking notes regarding which holes they'll need to fill heading into the 2012 season.
With a top-heavy free-agent class that's rounded out with an abundance of over-the-hill former star's, many teams will try to upgrade their roster via the trade market this winter.
There were plenty of names who were rumored to be on the market before July 31st that ended up staying put, and many of those players will be back on the market come November.
In most cases, a team isn't looking to trade away their best player in order to rebuild. Rather, they are looking to get rid of a foolish contract of a player they want in their past. This doesn't mean the player is bad, it just means he isn't worth his contract. An acquiring team generally doesn't have to foot the bill, so many times they come out looking good.
Then, of course, there is the possibility that two team's will swap bad contracts, which seems to be a likely scenario this offseason.
Finally, there are a few players who could be moved simply because their team needs to trim payroll.
Here are the Top 20 Players Potentially Available This Winter.
Derek Lowe, SP, Atlanta Braves
Remaining Contract: One-year, $15 million
With every passing start, Derek Lowe looks less and less like his former self and more like a washed up pitcher heading straight for retirement.
Lowe no longer fits into the Atlanta Braves' rotation. Realistically, he would rank seventh at best on their depth chart heading in to next season.
At this point, the Braves would do almost anything to rid themselves of Lowe. It's just a matter of any other team wanting him.
Bronson Arroyo, SP, Cincinnati Reds
Remaining Contract: Two years, $23.5 million
The Cincinnati Reds realized very quickly that giving Bronson Arroyo a three-year deal last offseason was a huge mistake.
Coming off of back-to-back seasons of sub-3.90 ERA's, Arroyo has imploded in 2011 with a 5.00 ERA while already giving up 40 home runs on the season.
The Reds would need to eat most of Arroyo's remaining salary in order to move him, but that may be a wise move considering all of the young players on their roster who will be looking for raises in the very near future.
Chone Figgins, 2B/3B, Seattle Mariners
Remaining Contract: Two years, $17 million
Chone Figgins has been awful since joining the Seattle Mariners before the 2010 season. He's compiled just a 69 OPS-plus through his first two seasons, earning a mention as one of the worst contracts in baseball.
To be honest, though, I still believe Figgins has something left in the tank. He provides above-average defense at second and third base, he can draw a lot of walks, and when healthy, he is a lock for 30-plus stolen bases.
The Mariners want to forget that they ever signed him and would probably be willing to get rid of him for dirt cheap.
James Loney, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Remaining Contract: Last year of arbitration ($4.875 million in 2011)
James Loney hasn't quite lived up to the expectations that the Los Angeles Dodgers had for him when he became their starting first baseman back in 2007.
While Loney has by no means been horrible, his OPS-plus has ranged from 99 to 103 during each of his four full seasons. This makes him very, very average.
With the right team in the right situation, Loney could bounce back to be an above-average player. He has the talent; he just hasn't utilized it to this point.
Jason Bay, OF, New York Mets
Remaining Contract: Two years, $32 million ($17 million vesting option in 2014)
After a stellar contract year with the Boston Red Sox in 2009, the New York Mets handed Jason Bay a five-year deal worth a potential $75 million.
In parts of two seasons spanning 209 games played, Bay has hit 18 home runs with 103 RBI while batting only .252.
As much as the Mets would love to get rid of Bay and part of his contract, I have a feeling he will be stuck in New York for three more seasons.
Alex Rios, OF, Chicago White Sox
Remaining Contract: Three years, $37 million
After Alex Rios seemed to regain form in his first full season with the White Sox in 2010, the team couldn't have been happier that they claimed him off of waivers the season before.
Rios' 2011 season has been a completely different story, as he's currently batting .222 with an OPS-plus of only 59.
While the White Sox would most likely need to eat a chunk of his contract, it could be a smart play to acquire the center fielder. Without question, Rios has talent, and he seems to step up during his first season with a new team.
Even if he can't hit for average, he still has power and can steal bases, along with playing above-average defense in the outfield.
Barry Zito, SP, San Francisco Giants
Remaining Contract: Two years, $39 million
The chances of any team taking a chance on Barry Zito are slim to none, but you can bet the Giants will make him available to the highest (or lowest) bidder.
Thing's couldn't possibly have gone any worse for Zito over his first five seasons in San Francisco, and the Giants just want to make Zito and his contract a thing of the past.
The Giants would gladly eat most of his contract to get him out of town. If they can't find a trade partner, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Giants release him.
Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Houston Astros
Remaining Contract: Three years, $36 million
Although inconsistent, Wandy Rodriguez has put together another solid season in 2011. The Houston Astros had hoped to trade him before the deadline in July, but no teams were willing to bite.
Since 2008, Wandy has pitched to a 3.60 ERA or better. One concern, however, is the fact that his K/BB ratio has taken steep declines during each of the last three years.
Many believe Rodriguez would fail as a pitcher in the AL, which hinders the Astros market in a possible trade. In the midst of new ownership and after cleaning house in July, he is the next player in line to be traded with the Astros being in a clear rebuilding mode.
Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, Baltimore Orioles
Remaining Contract: One-year, $8 million (includes buyout for 2013)
The Baltimore Orioles acquired Mark Reynolds from the Arizona Diamondbacks last offseason in hopes that he'd improve their otherwise stagnant offense.
While he has hit 32 home runs, Reynolds is hitting only .222 while leading the league in strikeouts for the fourth consecutive season. He has also proven to be woeful defensively at first and third base.
Reynolds is becoming the next Russell Branyan, except he's even worse defensively. The Orioles know he's not a player who will help them compete in the AL East.
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Chicago Cubs
Remaining Contract: Three years, $54 million
Alfonso Soriano's contract is as embarrassing as it is laughable. There is no way the Cubs would be able to find a team to take on a meaningful portion of his contract.
That being said, Soriano can still be of value to a team that isn't paying his $18 million per season salary.
While his average has taken a dive over the last couple seasons, Soriano is still capable of hitting 25 home runs and could do great as a DH in the AL.
Carlos Quentin, OF, Chicago White Sox
Remaining Contract: Last year of arbitration (made $5.05 million in 2011)
Carlos Quentin barely made it to July 31st in a Chicago White Sox uniform, so there is no reason to believe he'll be on the south side in 2012.
White Sox GM Kenny Williams has hinted that some big changes will be made following a disappointing 2011 season. With the team unlikely to offer Quentin a long-term deal, they'll receive more compensation from a trade partner who can get a full season from the slugger.
Quentin was an All-Star this season, although he has missed some time due to injuries. Out of his 107 total hits, 55 have been for extra bases.
Carlos Zambrano, SP, Chicago Cubs
Remaining Contract: One-year, $18 million
After another Carlos Zambrano blow-up, the Chicago Cubs have made it clear that their former ace will never play for the team again. He is currently suspended, with pay, for the remainder of the season.
It's hard to imagine a player as competitive as Big Z retiring at the ripe age of 30 years old, so it seems likely that he'll be suiting up for a different ball club in 2012.
This is another massive contract that the Cubs would have to eat in order for him to be moved, but they're just lucky Zambrano has only one more year remaining on his contract.
As bad as he's seemingly been, until this season, Zambrano has had an ERA-plus of at least 117 during every season since 2007.
Carlos Lee, 1B/OF, Houston Astros
Remaining Contract: One-year, $18.5 million
Carlos Lee has lost quite a few steps over the last two seasons, but that is to be expected as a player reaches his mid-30s.
The Houston Astros would have loved to part with Lee this summer along with Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, but no one would bite on the chubby slugger's big contract.
That should change this offseason, although the Astros will likely have to swallow a good $15 million of his remaining salary.
Lee would instantly become one of the better DH's in the AL. Clearly he's getting too chunky to play in the field, so keeping him fresh and only focused on hitting could pay huge dividends to both Lee and the acquiring team.
Francisco Liriano, SP, Minnesota Twins
Remaining Contract: Last year of arbitration (made $4.3 million in 2011)
Francisco Liriano hasn't fit in with the Minnesota Twins the last couple of seasons, and many were surprised to see the team hang on to their underacheiving pitcher this summer.
Liriano has been a "Jekyll and Hyde" for the Twins during his career, with this season being one of the worst of his career.
Not expected to retain him once he hits free agency, the Twins should be able to get a decent return for a full season of Liriano. With quite a few players heading to free agency this season, the team would definitely like to free up some funds to bring back some key player's who they see as part of their future.
Jonathan Sanchez, SP, San Francisco Giants
Remaining Contract: Last year of arbitration (made $4.8 million in 2011)
Jonathan Sanchez has long been thought to be the expendable member of the San Francisco Giants rotation. With the Giants disappointing in 2011, primarily due to a woeful offense, you can bet they will do everything possible to shore up their lineup heading into 2012.
Even though he's taken a step back this season, with the way team's covet pitchers these days, the Giants should be able to nab a decent bat in return for a full season of Sanchez.
Sanchez may not be top-of-the-rotation material, but he is definitely capable of being a No. 3 starter in many rotations around the league.
Jake Peavy, SP, Chicago White Sox
Remaining Contract: One-year, $21 million (includes $4 million buyout for 2013)
Jake Peavy hasn't been able to stay healthy since the Chicago White Sox acquired him from the San Diego Padres back in 2009, and he hasn't pitched well even when he has been.
It's amazing how fast the White Sox have gotten themselves tied up in half a dozen bad contracts, but GM Kenny Williams will be fixing that issue this offseason.
The former NL Cy Young winner still has some serviceable years ahead of him if he can stay healthy. With pitching being a prime focus for almost every team in baseball, the White Sox should have no problem moving him and part of his contract.
B.J. Upton, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Remaining Contract: Last year of arbitration (made $4.8 million in 2011)
As bad as B.J. Upton has been this season, he's still about to reach 20 home runs and 30 stolen bases. Obviously, his .224 average leaves plenty to be desired, but that could easily change if he's put into a different environment.
Upton was almost dealt away by the Rays before the trade deadline, but they held on to him knowing his value will only increase come the offseason.
With rookie Desmond Jennings appearing to be every bit as good as advertised, Upton becomes all the more expendable.
Andre Ethier, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Remaining Contract: Last year of arbitration ($9.25 million in 2011)
Earlier this season, I would have guessed that the Dodgers would hold on to Andre Ethier while fielding offers for Matt Kemp. The last six months have completely changed that logic.
Matt Kemp is in the midst of an MVP-type year and has become one of the best players in the game. Both he and Ethier will be free agents after next season, and in their current financial situation, I'd be hard-pressed to believe the Dodgers can lock up both.
The Dodgers would be able to land a nice haul for a full season of Ethier. Every day Frank McCourt hangs on to the franchise only increases the likelihood that he'll be moved.
David Wright, 3B, New York Mets
Remaining Contract: Two years, $31 million (includes team option)
David Wright is one of the best third baseman in baseball, and he could surely pull in a nice haul for the Mets. That's exactly what the organization needs to rebuild from the ground up.
While it may seem unlikely that the Mets will trade Wright, whether or not they re-sign Jose Reyes could play a huge role on his future with the team.
It doesn't seem logical for the Mets to hold on to Reyes and Wright when the franchise will be rebuilding for the next four or five years. If they choose Reyes as the man they want to build around, Wright may find a first-class ticket out of town.
James Shields, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Remaining Contract: Team options through 2014, $28 million
James Shields has been one of the best pitcher's in baseball this season, leading the league with 11 complete games and four shutouts. While it may seem dumb for the Tampa Bay Rays to trade Shields, the possibility arose before this past trade deadline.
He came in to 2011 coming off consecutive down seasons, and now, his value will never be higher. It actually makes sense, considering the Rays have the best young crop of pitchers in all of baseball.
With top prospect Matt Moore a near lock to be in the Rays rotation in 2012, the team will likely be trading away one of their starters to refuel their farm system. There is no doubt that Shields would be the best pitcher available, and the Rays would get a very handsome return for his services.