MLB Trade Speculation: Best Player Available at Each Position This Offseason
With the regular season winding down, it's unlikely we will see any more major transactions before the beginning of the postseason.
Most of the trade conversations taking place this time of the year, if there are any at all, are just meant to gauge interest for deals that will take place later this winter. Some teams will make deals to ship their star players in the final year of their contract to other teams for a greater return.
This posting is not meant to suggest that each of these players mentioned here will be dealt this winter, but these players will likely be made available if the right deal is presented to their current employers.
We'll see how the offseason plays out and which players remain in the same uniforms. Some other players of note will likely find their names stirred up in trade rumors as well, and we'll undoubtedly speculate it right here.
Until then, though, here is the top player at each position that may be available this offseason as it currently stands with time still left to play in 2011.
Catcher: Russell Martin
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This one's certainly not a sure thing, but the promotion of Jesus Montero likely spells the end of Russell Martin's playing days in the Bronx.
Russell Martin has had a fine season for the Yankees, though, batting just .240 but hitting 17 homers and driving in 61 runs while providing them with solid defense behind the plate.
He is arbitration-eligible this offseason before reaching free agency after the 2012 season. The Yankees should not have a problem finding a taker for Martin and picking up a couple of prospects in return to help stock the farm system. Or perhaps a back of the rotation pitcher in exchange?
First Base: James Loney
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James Loney could find himself on the trading block this year if the Dodgers feel they have an adequate replacement that will cost themselves less than the raise Loney is likely to earn in arbitration this offseason.
Loney will head to arbitration this offseason for the final time before becoming a free agent following the 2012 season.
He's not a huge power-type batter, hitting just 15 homers once in his career (he currently has nine this season), but he's a consistent hitter that should give you around a .280 average with 10-15 homers a year.
His plus-defense and age should also make him an attractive target this offseason for a few clubs looking to upgrade the position or acquire a stop-gap for a season.
Second Base: Jeff Keppinger
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The Giants acquired Jeff Keppinger to fill the void left at second base when Freddy Sanchez was lost to the disabled list earlier this season.
With Sanchez still under contract through next season, it is unlikely the Giants will hold onto Keppinger as well into next season. With a full year left on his contract before he reaches free agency, he should find a home with a team looking to fill the position without looking to half-season rentals at the trade deadline.
This season Keppinger is batting .292 with six homers while splitting the season with the Astros and Giants.
Third Base: David Wright
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The Mets made their big payroll-shedding moves this year prior to the trade deadline when they shipped Felix Rodriguez to the Brewers (although they did send some money along with him) and Carlos Beltran to the Giants.
By doing so, they decided to hold onto the two faces of the franchise, Jose Reyes and David Wright.
Wright's future with the team could be tied to Reyes, ironically enough. If Reyes re-signs with the Mets for a large contract, New York could be forced to part ways with Wright to keep their payroll under control. If Reyes signs elsewhere, they will certainly keep Wright and likely offer him an extension to keep him in Queens for several more years.
For what it's worth, I don't see Wright being traded this offseason. I do certainly think there will be plenty of rumors circling around him this winter though.
Shortstop: Stephen Drew
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I could have gone with Hanley Ramirez for this slide, and earlier this year I certainly would have, but I now think Ramirez will stay with the Marlins and open their new ballpark with them in 2012.
And since I had to pick someone, Stephen Drew was the lucky recipient since his name had been brought up in trade rumors prior to his injury earlier this year.
Aaron Hill, Drew's replacement, is a free agent following this season so it's certainly not guaranteed he'd be Drew's long-term replacement in Arizona. They've proven they can win without him though and there should be a few teams willing to part with a talented young arm capable of being a solid No.2 pitcher to acquire Drew's bat.
Since he'll be a free agent following next season anyway, the Diamondbacks could capitalize by dealing him a few months earlier than the trade deadline and receive a higher price for him than they would if he struggles the first half of next season.
Left Field: Delmon Young
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I know Delmon Young just got traded to the Detroit Tigers, but that doesn't mean he won't get traded again this offseason. It fits the pattern.
Well, actually Young was with the Twins for three full seasons, so maybe there is no pattern.
He does fit the pattern I am sticking with in this slideshow-speculation piece though. He's set to enter his final season under contract with his current team and represents one of the top talents at his position.
This year, Young is batting a combined .273 with just eight homers, but he is a legitimate five-tool player. He's also just 26 (or at least he will be in just a couple days) and there are always teams willing to take a shot at a talented young player with a less than perfect past (see Milton Bradley who kept finding a new home year after year).
And to be fair, I actually have no proof whatsoever that Young had the attitude problems he was rumored to have in the past while with the Minnesota Twins, making it that much more likely there would be teams willing to part with some young(er) talent to acquire him (or the Tigers may just hold onto him as a piece of their own future).
Center Field: B.J. Upton
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B.J. Upton emerged as one of the biggest names on the block before this season's trade deadline, increasing the likelihood that he would be dealt this offseason by the Tampa Bay Rays.
The emergence of Desmond Jennings has made Upton expendable, and truthfully his greatest value to the Rays may now be in what he can bring back to them by being dealt.
He's having a bad year in terms of batting average (.226), but he has hit 19 homers and driven in 67 runs for the Rays. He's also stolen 27 bases this season (40+ stolen bases in each of the past three seasons).
He's a solid defender as well, definitely the top center fielder available this offseason.
In case you hadn't already guessed, Upton is also about to enter the final season of his current contract before entering free agency following the 2012 season.
Right Field: Andre Ethier
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Andre Ethier apparently wants out of Los Angeles and being in the final year of his contract before having the ability to leave on his own, he could get his wish.
The tricky part of trading Ethier this offseason will be the likely knee surgery he is headed towards during the offseason.
Knee injury or not though, Ethier is a consistent and solid offensive force. Even in a season where his power has dipped (likely due to the knee injury), he is still batting .292 with a .368 OBP.
And has the knee injury effected his effectiveness in the outfield at all? Well, his fielding percentage is 1.000, you be the judge...
I'd bet the Dodgers will find several suitors willing to take him off their hands if they can't come to terms on a contract extension with him before spring training 2012.
Designated Hitter: Travis Hafner
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Finding a designated hitter that could be dealt this offseason was a bit tricky since a lot of the top DH candidates are going to be free agents this offseason (David Ortiz, Hideki Matsui, Jason Giambi, Josh Willingham, Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero, Jason Kubel and Jim Thome).
Travis Hafner is the most likely candidate at the DH position that could find himself on the move though if the Indians find a more productive bat to help them in 2012.
Hafner is batting .281 with 11 homers and 49 RBI for Cleveland. If his stats seem a little down, it's because he's only appeared in 82 games this season.
He'll be a free agent following the 2012 season. My best guess is that the Indians will hold onto him and be forced with a decision whether or not to offer him an extension as the season winds down next year.
Starting Pitcher: Jonathan Sanchez
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It pretty much comes down to Jonathan Sanchez or Matt Cain for this slide. Matt Cain is obviously the more accomplished pitcher and bigger name, but the less likely of the two to be dealt by the Giants.
The Giants need hitting though and they are most likely to acquire an impact bat by dealing one of their starting pitchers.
Jonathan Sanchez's name seems to come up every year in trade rumors.
This is likely the winter when he is finally dealt.
Relief Pitcher / Closer: Huston Street
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Huston Street is another player whose name surfaced in trade rumors this year prior to the trade deadline.
The Rockies may be tempted to deal him in exchange for some younger prospects or perhaps a third baseman if they decide Kevin Kouzmanoff is not the answer at the hot corner.
Street is set to earn $7.5 million in 2012 and has a $9 million mutual option for 2013 with a $500K buyout.
Teams that miss out on Heath Bell and Jonathan Papelbon this offseason could turn to the Rockies and try to pry Huston Street loose from their control.