7 New MLB Names Who Could Become Trade Bait If Their Teams Struggle in July

Jason Martinez@@mlbdepthchartsContributor IJuly 10, 2013

7 New MLB Names Who Could Become Trade Bait If Their Teams Struggle in July

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    There are several teams on the cusp of falling out of playoff contention, which is always fun as it opens up the potential for even more trade rumors.

    Seven teams—the Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins, New York Mets, Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox—are currently more than 10 games back of a playoff spot, a very tough situation from which to bounce back. More could join them soon in the land of non-contenders. 

    Teams like the Blue Jays (43-45, lost nine of last 14), Giants (40-48, lost 12 of their last 14), Padres (40-50, 10 consecutive losses), Rockies (43-47, lost 14 of their last 20) and Royals (42-44, lost 34 of their last 59) will need to make a decision of whether they are buyers or sellers in the next few weeks. If they play any worse than they have lately, veteran players from those teams could be shopped to contenders before the trade deadline.

    Here are seven of the more interesting names that could be part of your daily Hot Stove news in the near future.

Rafael Betancourt, RP, Colorado Rockies

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    With the Phillies not likely to shop closer Jonathan Papelbon, the trade market could lack veteran pitchers with late-inning experience. Betancourt could fit the bill for several teams looking for a setup man who could step in as the closer on occasion.

    The 38-year-old, who has a $4.25 million mutual option for next season, has a 2.91 ERA with 43 saves in 51 chances and a 2.5 BB/9 and 9.1 K/9 since 2012. He probably wouldn't be too tough to acquire if Colorado falls out of the race.

    Lefty Rex Brothers, who has an 0.98 ERA in 40 appearances, could be ready to assume the closer's role for the Rockies and could benefit from a late-season audition if Betancourt is traded.

Chase Headley, San Diego Padres

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    All has been quiet on the Chase Headley front since late April, when the Padres began to play much better than expected. When the switch-hitting third baseman returned from the disabled list, he looked nothing like the hitter who posted a .978 OPS, 23 homers and 73 RBI in the second half of last season.

    Fast-forward a month-and-a-half and the Padres are free-falling right out of contention and likely into "seller" mode. This, combined with a strong start to July from the 29-year-old Headley—he's seven for his last 17 with four doubles and a homer—might motivate San Diego to explore a trade.

Casey Janssen, Toronto Blue Jays

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    The price will be much higher to acquire Janssen than Betanourt, considering he's much younger (31) and has a team-friendly $4 million club option for 2014. He's also pitched extremely well since taking over as the Jays closer in 2012. 

    In 92 appearances since 2012, Janssen has posted a 2.55 ERA with 39 saves in 43 chances, a 1.7 BB/9 and 8.9 K/9 while holding opposing hitters to a .188 batting average.

    The Jays expect to compete in 2014, and Janssen would continue to be a big part of that team. But if the Jays can get a very good prospect back now, moving him could be worth it in the long run.

    Steve Delabar (1.58 ERA, 12.8 K/9) would be a candidate to take his spot, as would Sergio Santos, who is close to returning from an elbow injury. 

Josh Johnson, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Looking at his 2013 numbers (4.62 ERA in 10 starts), it sure doesn't seem like Josh Johnson is anywhere close to the pitcher he was with the Marlins, for whom he went 36-13 with a 2.80 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and 8.5 K/9 between 2008-2011 before a shoulder injury knocked him out of action. In between a disabled list stint for a triceps injury, though, the 29 year-old has shown flashes of potential. 

    In three of his 10 starts, he's gone at least seven innings and has allowed a total of three earned runs with four walks and 24 strikeouts in 21.1 innings pitched. We can't completely ignore the other seven starts, which have resulted in 26 earned runs over 32 innings. But that No. 1 starter is still in there somewhere. 

    If he can be closer to that guy in his next three or four starts, his trade value will rise and the Jays could get back a nice return on the soon-to-be free agent.

Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants

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    Lost in the Giants' recent struggles is the fact that Tim Lincecum hasn't been all that bad lately. Over his last seven starts, the 29-year-old has a 3.83 ERA with 13 walks and 44 strikeouts in 42.1 innings pitched.

    That's still not pre-2012 Lincecum, but it's good enough where a contending team would love to have him pitching for it down the stretch. At the least, that team will know it has a pitcher still capable of stringing together solid starts before potentially moving to the bullpen for the playoffs.  

    Is that worth paying the remainder of his $22 million salary for 2013? Not at all—but the Giants could probably get a nice return on the pending free agent if they were to pay all but $5 million of that contract.

Hunter Pence, OF, San Francisco Giants

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    If the Giants can't get it going over the next two weeks, Hunter Pence could find himself on the move near the trade deadline for the third consecutive season.

    The 30-year-old, who will be a free agent at season's end, was traded from Houston to Philadelphia in July 2011 and from Philadelphia to San Francisco last July. He is having a solid 2013 season with a .767 OPS, 13 homers and 13 stolen bases.

    A thin trade market for outfielders could make the Giants more inclined to trade their starting right fielder. The Pirates and Rangers could be interested if he's made available.

Ervin Santana, Kansas City Royals

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    Just as the Cubs did with Scott Feldman, the Royals are getting a lot more than they bargained for with Ervin Santana and could flip him for a pretty good return before the trade deadline. 

    A strong candidate for the Comeback Player of the Year Award, the 30-year-old Santana has bounced back from a rough 2012 (5.16 ERA, 39 homers allowed) to post a 2.90 ERA with only 24 walks and 94 strikeouts in 118 innings pitched. He's completed at least seven innings in 12 of his 17 starts and has allowed two earned runs or fewer nine times. 

    After going all out this past offseason, the Royals will be reluctant to give up too early, so expect a decision to buy or sell to go down to the wire. If they do sell, Santana could be the top starting pitcher available.