Best MLB Trade Targets Potentially Available at Each Position

Ely Sussman@@MrElyminatorCorrespondent IJuly 5, 2013

Best MLB Trade Targets Potentially Available at Each Position

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    Jump starting their MLB competition, several teams have already completed moves well in advance of the July 31 trade deadline. Nonetheless, notable big-name players remain available at every position for potential trade opportunities.

    A torn meniscus has removed Minnesota Twins slugger Josh Willingham from trade discussions, though other disabled players like Chicago Cubs outfielder David DeJesus and Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy could still make it back on the field in time to show that they're worthy acquisitions. 

    Insider reports suggest that the guys in the following slides—a few of which who even play for winning teams—could be dealt under the right circumstances.

    *Players with significant experience at multiple defensive positions could be listed more than once.


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    1. John Buck (New York Mets)

    Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that prized Mets prospect Travis d'Arnaud has been running on flat ground as he rehabs a broken foot and works toward his MLB debut.

    That means the clock is ticking for John Buck. After impressing with his power-hitting surge in April, the soon to be 33-year-old has crashed to an 81 OPS+, which is reminiscent of his 2011-2012 offensive mediocrity.

    On the bright side, he still does an adequate job behind the plate (34 CS percentage).

    2. Dioner Navarro (Chicago Cubs)

    Last month, ESPN Insider Buster Olney confirmed the worst-kept secret in baseball—the Cubs would be sellers at the trade deadline. With several weeks to go, they have already dumped Scott Feldman and Carlos Marmol.

    Starting catcher Welington Castillo is a cheap, long-term building block, and Navarro is set to hit free agency this winter. He has slugged above .500 in limited action this season.

    3. Miguel Olivo (Miami Marlins)

    The well-traveled backstop hangs in DFA limbo until his messy divorce from the Fish is finalized.

    Rob Brantly and Jeff Mathis pushed Olivo down the depth chart, which isn't surprising considering his .203/.250/.392 batting line. His caught-stealing percentage and overall defense consistently rank above league averages, but his inability to get on base limits him to second-string duty.

    Olivo hasn't had an OPS above .650 since the 2010 season. He's the prototypical low-risk/low-reward veteran.

First Base

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    1. Kendrys Morales (Seattle Mariners)'s Jay Jaffe thinks Morales would be a good fit for the New York Yankees, who have lost Mark Teixeira to season-ending wrist surgery.

    Even though the switch-hitter has hardly played first base in 2013, he isn't much of a defensive liability. Moreover, Morales has boosted his on-base percentage to .341 and struck out less often compared to last season.

    The expectation is that he'll receive multi-year offers in free agency over the winter.

    2. Justin Morneau (Minnesota Twins)

    The Twins have been fading fast in the AL Central race, entering July 5 at a season-worst 10 games below .500.

    A former MVP like Morneau who's earning $14 million in his walk year doesn't belong in such a rebuilding situation. Morneau's recent performances have restored some of his trade value (seven of his past nine hits have gone for extra bases).

    3. Carlos Pena (Houston Astros)

    Common sense tells us that the priciest position player on the lowly Astros is going to be shopped aggressively. The recent re-emergence of Brett Wallace makes Pena all the more expendable.

    Much like last summer, he's slashing .217/.328/.370. That's not worthy of a starting job on any serious contender, but the 35-year-old could be useful against right-handed pitching.

Second Base

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    1. Chase Utley (Philadelphia Phillies)

    Sans Utley, the trade market is devoid of All-Star-caliber middle infielders.

    According to Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News, however, the 34-year-old could depart under the right circumstances. Yeah, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. believes he's "a Phillie for life...the most popular player," but didn't rule out a possible exchange.

    Utley's slugging percentage is the highest it's been since 2008. 

    2. Gordon Beckham (Chicago White Sox)

    CBS Sports' Jon Heyman calls Beckham an "interesting positional possibility" for suitors this summer, as the White Sox seem intent on selling.

    A broken hand interrupted his season, but when healthy, his numbers have rivaled those he posted during a standout rookie campaign in 2009. There's also a lot to love about the former first-round draft pick's defense.

    Beckham has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining.

    3. Jeff Keppinger (Chicago White Sox)

    The return for Keppinger would be close to negligible, as he has underachieved at the start of a three-year, $12 million contract.

    It's Chicago's duty to stress his recent production. The veteran utility guy slashed .317/.388/.400 in June and only whiffed six times, resembling the player that the White Sox were so eager to acquire in the first place.


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    1. Alexei Ramirez (Chicago White Sox)

    Even with strong defense, Ramirez is an overpay for the remainder of his contract ($19.5 million for 2014-2015).

    ESPN's Jim Bowden names the Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Dodgers as possible landing spots (Insider subscription required).

    2. Brendan Ryan (Seattle Mariners)

    This impending free agent is the extreme example of the all-glove, no-offense shortstop. Since joining the Mariners in 2011, Ryan is a .211/.287/.293 hitter, and he's down in all three categories so far this summer.

    Rookie Brad Miller has been eating into Ryan's playing time. Jon Morosi of Fox Sports tweets that his call-up could mean a swift departure for the veteran. 

    3. John McDonald (Philadelphia Phillies)

    The Phillies just acquired McDonald on June 27, but his niche only exists on their roster so long as Freddy Galvis keeps hitting around the Mendoza line.

    Philadelphia sent Galvis to Triple-A for the first time all year to refine his offensive skills. He should surely be able to regain his job over McDonald, a .236/.275/.327 career hitter who will turn 39 by season's end.

    Some contender could make better use of the versatile defender.

Third Base

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    1. Aramis Ramirez (Milwaukee Brewers)

    The Brewers haven't been within 10 games of .500 since Memorial Day. Around that date, Ramirez acknowledged that "you see changes" on underachieving teams when speaking with Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports.

    The Dominican veteran is still an offensive threat, though his slugging percentage has plummeted over 100 points from last year. On top of the $16 million he'll earn in 2014, the likelihood of further decline will obviously deter some suitors.

    At this time last summer, the Los Angeles Dodgers targeted Ramirez, but only a scorching hot streak in the coming weeks can generate buzz again.

    2. Michael Young (Philadelphia Phillies)

    A change of scenery has clearly benefited Young (.733 OPS), though let's stop short of calling 2013 a strong bounce-back season. Taking sloppy defense into consideration, the 36-year-old is only performing around replacement level.

    More so than veteran teammate Chase Utley, Jon Heyman believes that Young is a realistic trade target because he hasn't been with the organization as long. He also reports that "people connected to the [Phillies] organization suggest there's more chance of a trade involving players on expiring contracts."

    3. Jeff Keppinger (Chicago White Sox)

    Keppinger is a utility infielder by trade, but has grown accustomed to the hot corner over the last few seasons.

    Even if his 2012 offensive numbers were fluky, he represents an upgrade at third base for several playoff hopefuls. He has reached base in 15 of 19 contests since the start of June.

Left Field

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    1. Alfonso Soriano (Chicago Cubs)

    Soriano didn't cooperate last summer when there was a deal in place with the San Francisco Giants.

    However, he has indicated that any destination providing comfort and an opportunity to win immediately would satisfy him, per Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.

    Then again, the demand for his services has dwindled since Opening Day. Soriano's lack of plate discipline and pedestrian power numbers in 2013 don't come close to justifying the $27 million that he'll earn between now and the end of next season.

    2. Raul Ibanez (Seattle Mariners)

    With teammate Michael Morse finding it difficult to stay healthy, Ibanez has been forced into an everyday role. Despite his 41 years of age, he has not been absent from the starting lineup since May 29.

    Ibanez inexplicably ranks fifth in the American League with 21 home runs (12 since June 3). The .306 on-base percentage is nothing to write home about (nor is his defense), so the fourth-place M's won't be picky. 

    3. Alejandro De Aza (Chicago White Sox)

    Dayan Viciedo patrols left field more often for the White Sox, though his lack of present value (.233/.266/.365 slash line) and superior potential makes him an unlikely trade candidate.

    The 29-year-old De Aza, meanwhile, might be headed for a 20-20 season. His 10 home runs (already a career high) has largely compensated for the drop in his on-base percentage.

    With two more years under team control, the Dominican speedster is making about $2.08 million.

Center Field

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    1. David DeJesus (Chicago Cubs)

    Prior to suffering a shoulder sprain in mid-June, DeJesus was exclusively playing center field for the Cubs.

    His .260/.318/.445 batting line, reasonable strikeout rate and 2014 team option make him desirable. The only question is how many games he'll participate in prior to the trade deadline to prove he's at full strength.

    2. Alejandro De Aza (Chicago White Sox)

    De Aza has played a brutal center field—with -14 DRS and -6.6 UZR—despite 5 years of major league experience at the position prior to 2013.

    Nonetheless, he's among the best options. 

    3. Avisail Garcia (Detroit Tigers)

    The 22-year-old has been generously compared to Miguel Cabrera considering his Venezuelan roots, size and offensive potential.

    In reality, he isn't an established everyday player yet. Garcia has been primarily exposed to left-handed pitching since his 2012 debut, but produces below replacement level. The Tigers actually demoted him to Triple-A on Thursday, tweets's Jason Beck.'s Jayson Stark learned from other clubs that Detroit will consider moving him for an elite reliever.

Right Field

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    1. Alex Rios (Chicago White Sox)

    The 32-year-old was on pace to replicate his stellar 2012 stats before falling upon hard times toward the end of June. His on-base percentage remains respectable, but his slugging percentage has plummeted.

    The White Sox have made most of their personnel available, and Rios' contract appears very movable. A great athlete like him with solid contact skills who can be controlled through 2015, $12.5 million in 2014, followed by $13.5 million team option ($1 million buyout), makes sense for a team like the struggling San Francisco Giants.

    To an extent, Rios can control his fate. Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune shares his six-team no-trade list, which includes the offensively starved, yet competitive New York Yankees.

    2. Norichika Aoki (Milwaukee Brewers)'s Adam McCalvy made an interesting discovery that could lead the Brew Crew to shop Aoki with more urgency: 

    Contrary to previous reporting, and with potential implications for the July 31 nonwaiver Trade Deadline, Brewers outfielder Norichika Aoki will be a free agent when his current contract expires after this season or next.

    Previously, a club official told that Aoki’s two-year contract, which runs through the end of 2013 and has a $1.5 million option for 2014, did not include language calling for the Brewers to release him when that deal is up.

    With slim odds of contending this season or in 2014, Milwaukee might want to sell high on Aoki rather than let him leave for nothing as a free agent.

    3. Nate Schierholtz (Chicago Cubs)

    He's mashing right-handed pitching at a .285/.330/.556 clip with 11 home runs in 230 plate appearances. Facing a platoon disadvantage is a totally different story, unfortunately.

    One major selling point for the Cubs will be Schierholtz's remaining year of arbitration eligibility prior to hitting free agency.

Starting Pitching

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    1. Cliff Lee (Philadelphia Phillies)

    All indications are that Lee will cooperate if the Phillies decide to shop him. Even though contract language gives him the authority to block trades to most destinations, Lee explains to's Jim Salisbury that winning is his top priority.

    ESPN Insider Jim Bowden notes that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.—at least publicly—has "no desire" to move his impact players. Realistically, though, unloading Lee while he continues to excel might be the only way to thoroughly rebuild a weak farm system.

    The former Cy Young Award winner and Arkansas native is on pace for a career-best innings total and his first sub-1.00 WHIP. He'll make $25 million in both 2014 and 2015 with a $27.5 vesting option for 2016.

    2. Matt Garza (Chicago Cubs)

    Undoubtedly the hottest name among starting pitchers brought up in trade speculation, Garza has practically halved his earned run average from 6.26 to 3.45 with four straight outstanding performances. In that period, he owns a 0.90 ERA and .509 OPS against.

    Buster Olney calls it a "dream scenario" for the Cubs, who have already been involved in the 2013 trade market.

    The impending free agent has approximately $5 million owed to him from this point onward. 

    3. Jake Peavy (Chicago White Sox)

    Peavy's remaining contract is enormous, and Chicago is trying to unload, but a broken rib throws a wrinkle into the situation. The injury has prevented him from pitching since June 4.

    However, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune tweets that the right-hander had an encouraging bullpen session and could be sent off on a rehab assignment shortly before the All-Star break.

    Through nine starts in 2013, Peavy thrived (2.97 ERA, 63/15 K/BB in 60.2 IP). Barring any setbacks, he'll have at least two major league starts prior to the trade deadline to show he's still a legitimate No. 2 option in the rotation.  

    4. Bud Norris (Houston Astros)

    The highest-paid Astros player tells Brian McTaggart of that he understands there's a high probability that he'll wear a different uniform later this season. His solid performance continues to intrigue competitive teams and Houston's front office hasn't approached him about a long-term contract.

    Despite the transition to the American League, many of his stats have improved. Norris has maintained a 2.29 ERA since May 21.

    After earning $3 million this season, he's eligible for arbitration in both 2014 and 2015.

    5. Yovani Gallardo (Milwaukee Brewers)

    The Arizona Diamondbacks are eyeing Gallardo as a source of rotation depth as they look to create some separation in a jam-packed NL West race, per CBS Sports' Jon Heyman. Gallardo had been freakishly consistent for Milwaukee from 2009-2012.

    In his age-27 season, however, Gallardo has been hard-pressed to string together consecutive quality starts. Uncharacteristically short outings and a high batting average against have hurt his team in the standings.

    The Brewers might wait until deadline day to make any decisions so that the right-hander has as much time as possible to restore trade value.

Relief Pitching

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    1. Jonathan Papelbon (Philadelphia Phillies)

    ESPN's Jayson Stark reports that two division leaders have been particularly eager to discuss potential Papelbon trades with the Phillies:

    "They're talking to Boston and Detroit [about Papelbon] right now," an exec of one team said. "They may not say they are, but I know they are." Said another: "Don't be surprised if you see Papelbon end up in Detroit. If the Tigers have a chance to get the closer they need, they won't let [a big asking price] stand in the way..."

    Not surprisingly in the least. Both the Red Sox and Tigers have struggled to find a consistent closer and expect to contend immediately. According to Ruben Amaro Jr., moving Papelbon to either of those destinations will hinge on whether or not he receives a fair "baseball deal," per Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Despite posting his best ERA and WHIP in several years, the 32-year-old hardly looks untouchable in 2013. His 7.7 K/9 represents a personal career-worst and left-handed batters have been slugging .415 against him.

    Regardless, Papelbon should be coveted on a thin relief market. 

    2. Jesse Crain (Chicago White Sox)

    It's been an excellent season for the impending free agent.

    Per FanGraphs, his 0.74 ERA, 1.54 FIP and 2.0 WAR are tops among qualified American League relievers. With less than $1.5 million owed to him from July 31 onward, Crain should be in play for practically every contender.

    Landing on the disabled list with a shoulder strain, however, will keep him out of action through at least the All-Star break. That kind of overuse injury is also a red flag for clubs who hoped to use him frequently down the stretch.

    3. Addison Reed (Chicago White Sox)

    What if Crain is a slow healer? Or suffers a setback? Then Chicago would feel more pressured to deal Reed for the promising prospects they sorely need.

    Few 24-year-olds with his kind of arm demonstrate such great command. A couple rough outings bloated Reed's earned run average, but a dramatic drop in his WHIP indicates growth and the potential to close for a serious contender.

    Teams with large home ballparks best suit Reed because of his tendency to induce fly balls.

    4. Steve Cishek (Miami Marlins)

    Trade buzz about Miami's bullpen has flown under the radar.

    Courtesy of CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, we've learned that most of their relievers are drawing interest. Cishek, the closer, should attract the most suitors as both an immediate asset and someone to help a pitching staff for years to come.

    The 27-year-old has been practically untouchable since the second week of June. Overall this season, Cishek is striking out nearly a batter per inning.

    There's less than a quarter-million dollars left on his 2013 contract. He'll gain arbitration eligibility for the first time next year.

    5. Kevin Gregg (Chicago Cubs)

    Ken Rosenthal insists the Cubbies are "all but certain to trade" Gregg and their other players who will be free agents at season's end.

    The 35-year-old closer began his second stint with the organization by inking a minor league deal in April, so his salary won't deter any suitors. He pitched in 14 appearances this season before surrendering an earned run and still boasts a 1.59 ERA and 9.8 K/9.

    The main concern about Gregg has to be his historically high walk rates, including 4.9 BB/9 last summer.