MLB Trade Deadline 2016: Top Trade Targets at Each Position
Trade speculation is tricky business, especially with more than a month before the Aug. 1 non-waiver deadline.
Who's selling? Who's buying? And which impact players are available?
With the second wild-card slot keeping fringe contenders afloat—and parity leveling the field, particularly in the American League—those are hard questions to answer. To quote the Dude, there's "a lotta ins, a lotta outs, a lotta what-have-yous."
Let's give it a crack anyway, highlighting the top potential trade target at each position, including a starting pitcher and a bullpen arm.
We'll skim the best names from obvious sellers such as the Milwaukee Brewers. But we'll also raid the rosters of on-the-bubble clubs like the New York Yankees, who could be a hot July away from going for it or a few cold weeks from a fire sale.
That said, we're giving priority to guys with a semi-reasonable chance of being moved, so you won't find any pie-in-the-sky, fever-dream fantasy candidates (cough, Mike Trout).
Strap on your general manager's thinking cap, pick up the proverbial phone and proceed when ready.
Catcher: Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers
The list of All-Star-level catchers is short, and the list of All-Star-level catchers who might be on the trading block is even shorter.
In fact, it consists of one name: Jonathan Lucroy.
On June 16, Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio called the rumors swirling around Lucroy and the team's other chips "much ado about nothing," per ESPN.com.
"We don't have to make that decision now," Attanasio added. "We'll see where we are at that point."
Let's get real, though: The Brewers are buried in fourth place in the National League Central and in rebuilding mode. They could hang on to the 30-year-old Lucroy, who likely won't become a free agent until after the 2017 season as he's owed just $5.25 million that year on a team option.
But if they're going to move him, his value will never be higher.
In addition to being more than a rental, Lucroy owns an impressive .302/.360/.504 slash line with 10 home runs and is among the game's top 10 pitch-framers, per StatCorner.
It might be easier to list the teams that couldn't use Lucroy's services, but the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, New York Mets and Texas Rangers make for logical landing spots.
Lucroy can block a trade to eight clubs, including the Washington Nationals, per Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal. But he stated his desire to play for a contender in a January interview with Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel (h/t MLB Trade Rumors' Steve Adams).
"I want to win, and I don’t see us winning in the foreseeable future," he said, per Haudricourt. "I want to go to a World Series. That's what all players want. Rebuilding is not a lot of fun for any veteran guy."
Other Notable(s): Derek Norris (SD)
First Base: Wil Myers, San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres paid a hefty price in the three-team trade that netted Wil Myers from the Tampa Bay Rays prior to the 2015 season. So it's possible San Diego will hang on to Myers, who won't become a free agent until 2020.
But the Friars bared their intentions to wheel and deal when they shipped veteran right-hander James Shields to the Chicago White Sox in early June.
And San Diego is at least "open" to moving Myers, per Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball.
After a couple of injury-shortened seasons, the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year is hitting .284 with 18 home runs and an .874 OPS, even while playing his home games in pitcher-friendly Petco Park.
Center fielder Jon Jay is out indefinitely with a broken forearm (more on that later), making the 25-year-old Myers arguably the Padres' most enticing chip.
Given his age and the years of control, he'd likely cost multiple top-shelf prospects. But Myers' versatility—he can play all three outfield positions—makes him a fit for every contender in need of an impact bat. Which is to say, virtually every contender.
Other Notable(s): Chris Carter (MIL)
Second Base: Jed Lowrie, Oakland A's
The Oakland A's are 34-43 entering play Wednesday, 16.5 games out in the AL West. And Billy Beane, a man who's never afraid to cash in his chips, remains at the helm.
That makes Oakland one of the deadline's few likely sellers.
You'll find other A's on this list, but we'll begin with Jed Lowrie, who headlines a shallow pool of potentially available second basemen.
Lowrie, whom the A's reacquired in November from the Astros, hasn't flashed prodigious pop, as his .351 slugging percentage suggests. But the 32-year-old is hitting .294 with a .351 on-base percentage. And he's signed for a reasonable $6.5 million in 2017 with a $6 million team option for 2018 or a $1 million buyout.
There aren't many buyers with a glaring need at second. But Lowrie, who has logged time at shortstop and third base the past two years, could provide infield depth for an injury-depleted team like the Kansas City Royals or New York Mets.
Other Notable(s): Brandon Phillips (CIN). Note: Phillips has 10-and-5 rights and can reject any trade, as he did with a deal that would have sent him to the Nationals in December.
Shortstop: Jonathan Villar, Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers could bolster their rebuild by keeping Jonathan Villar, a 25-year-old speedster who won't reach salary arbitration until 2018 and won't hit free agency until 2021.
Or they could help the process by moving him now for a hefty return.
General manager David Stearns seemed to lean toward the former approach June 9, when he told Heyman of Villar, "We are looking to acquire players like that."
But with touted shortstop prospect Orlando Arcia knocking on the door, Milwaukee might decide to sell high on Villar, who is hitting .293 and pacing MLB with 26 stolen bases.
There's no contender with a loaded system and a gaping hole at short for now, but that could change as the deadline approaches—as could the Brewers' willingness to listen on Villar.
Other Notable(s): Zack Cozart (CIN), Eduardo Nunez (MIN)
Third Base: Danny Valencia, Oakland A's
Danny Valencia played for five different big league clubs in his first five seasons, essentially defining the word "journeyman."
Now, he's found a home with his sixth team, Oakland, where he's hitting .327 with 11 homers and a .910 OPS.
The 31-year-old could be on the move again, however, and there will be plenty of takers.
"We all joke about it," Valencia said of a possible deadline swap, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. "They are notorious for making trades, so it's in the back of everybody's mind."
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe suggested the Indians and Royals as potential suitors. Another intriguing possibility is the San Francisco Giants, who have a need at third after an Achilles injury to Matt Duffy and have hit the second-fewest home runs in baseball.
Then again, the Giants and A's haven't consummated a trade since 1990, so history suggests Valencia will be departing the Bay Area if he's dealt.
Other Notable(s): Yunel Escobar (LAA), Trevor Plouffe (MIN)
Left Field: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Yours truly parsed Ryan Braun's trade value on May 9, so it's no surprise he makes the list.
The 32-year-old former NL MVP is putting together a legit comeback campaign, posting a .322/.380/.541 slash line with 12 homers and 40 RBI.
Yes, Milwaukee owes Braun $76 million over four years after this season, and he has a $4 million buyout for 2021. And yes, it'll take more than a few productive months to erase the memory of his recent injury issues and performance-enhancing-drug past.
Milwaukee, though, has shown a willingness to eat some cash to get deals done, as it did in 2015 with Yovani Gallardo, Aramis Ramirez and Jonathan Broxton.
Alternately, a contender in need of a proven power bat (which, again, is basically every contender) could agree to absorb the money and keep its prized prospects.
Either way, Braun is a player best suited for a club in win-now mode that's prepared to pay in the declining years for production now. And that doesn't describe the Brewers.
Other Notable(s): Khris Davis (OAK), Matt Kemp (SD)
Center Field: Coco Crisp, Oakland A's
This spot belonged to Jon Jay before his forearm injury derailed things. It's still possible a team could buy on the hope of a late-season comeback. Jay is signed for $6.85 million next season and was hitting .296 with an NL-leading 26 doubles.
It's doubtful someone bites, though, so we'll stick him under "other notables."
Instead, let's go with another member of the A's, Coco Crisp. He owns a pedestrian .241/.305/.418 slash line but has seven homers and 31 RBI and has extensive postseason experience with Oakland and Boston.
Crisp has 10-and-5 rights—meaning he has 10 years of MLB service time and five with the same team—and can thus nix a trade to any club.
He's also got a $13 million vesting option for 2017 that will kick in if he reaches 130 games or 550 plate appearances, and he's sitting at 64 games and 263 PAs entering play Wednesday.
So there are roadblocks to a deal, and the return likely wouldn't be massive for Oakland. But with an array of contenders seeking outfield depth and Crisp able to man center and left, there should be takers.
Other Notable(s): Jon Jay (SD)
Right Field: Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies
There are zero assurances the Colorado Rockies will trade Carlos Gonzalez.
He's signed through 2017, meaning the Rockies could move him over the winter or at the deadline next year and still get a handsome haul.
And he's hitting .329 with 18 homers and 51 RBI for a club that's just three games under .500 and technically on the fringe of the playoff hunt.
There could also be multiple intriguing right fielders on the block, meaning CarGo's value might be better optimized down the road.
All that said, the 30-year-old slugger and three-time Gold Glove winner is a perennially exciting rumor sponge.
And as Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post recently noted, "If general manager Jeff Bridich doesn't believe the Rockies can make the playoffs this season—and I think in his heart of hearts he knows this team is at least a year away—then moving CarGo makes sense. The fact that outfield prospects David Dahl and Raimel Tapia look like potential stars makes a CarGo trade even more likely."
As with other power hitters on this list, it's silly to name the teams that might want Gonzalez, because it's basically all of them.
But here's one possibility put forth by MassLive.com's Christopher Smith: the Red Sox.
The Sox have the prospects to get a deal done. And while pitching is a more pressing need, they're locked in a dogfight in the wide-open AL East race that a player of Gonzalez's caliber could tip.
Other Notable(s): Carlos Beltran (NYY), Jay Bruce (CIN), Nick Markakis (ATL), Josh Reddick (OAK)
Starting Pitcher: Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves
There is no cut-and-dried, mortgage-the-farm ace in a relatively barren starting-pitcher market.
There are, however, numerous contenders seeking pitching help, so expect action at the deadline regardless.
If the Rays sell, you can make a case for either of their top arms, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi. And if Oakland decides to move Sonny Gray, he's got the ability to front a rotation, early struggles aside.
For now, though, our pick is Julio Teheran, who ranks second among MLB starters in WHIP (0.887) and ninth in ERA (2.46) and innings pitched (106).
The Atlanta Braves could hang on to the 25-year-old right-hander, who's signed through 2019 with a $12 million team option and $1 million buyout for 2020.
But they could unload him and net a prospect haul that would rival or surpass the lopsided package the Arizona Diamondbacks surrendered for Shelby Miller.
If Atlanta shops Teheran, he'll incite a feeding frenzy. But Fox Sports South's Cory McCartney singled out the Red Sox (sound familiar?) and name-dropped elite prospects like outfielder Andrew Benintendi and infielders Rafael Devers and Yoan Moncada.
Boston fans may balk, but that's the type of return Atlanta would demand.
Other Notable(s): Matt Garza (MIL), Sonny Gray (OAK), Jeremy Hellickson (PHI), Rich Hill (OAK), Jake Odorizzi (TB), Drew Pomeranz (SD)
Reliever: Andrew Miller, New York Yankees
The bullpen market doesn't hinge entirely on the Yankees. But if New York is selling, a trio of drool-inducing late-inning arms enters the picture.
We're talking, of course, about Aroldis Chapman (3.15 ERA, 20 innings pitched, 31 strikeouts), Dellin Betances (2.89 ERA, 37.1 innings, 67 strikeouts) and Andrew Miller (1.34 ERA, 33.2 innings, 63 strikeouts).
The Chicago Cubs, among other clubs, have scouted all three, according to the New York Post's George A. King III.
The Yankees sit at 37-39, nine games out in the AL East. On Monday, team president Randy Levine said "there's a long way to go" before the Yanks make a buy-or-sell decision, per Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media.
But with an aging core and three teams to leapfrog in their own division, it's a safe bet they'll at least listen to offers.
While any member of their elite relief troika could tip a race somewhere, we'll give the top spot to Miller, a veteran southpaw with bat-missing stuff and closing experience who is signed for $9 million annually through 2018 and doesn't carry Chapman's off-field troubles.
Other Notable(s): Dellin Betances (NYY), Aroldis Chapman (NYY), Sean Doolittle (OAK), Jeremy Jeffress (MIL), Fernando Rodney (SD), Huston Street (LAA), Arodys Vizcaino (ATL)