With the All-Star Game getting ready to be played later tonight, its easy to forget just how much of the regular season is left to be played. A lot of teams find themselves in the middle of potential playoff races, there aren’t as many teams willing to color themselves as sellers just yet. However, the teams that do find themselves in a giving mood have players that could go on the market and command a lot of attention.
Of those players, Joe Binckes and Greg Kaplan have come together and listed the top 10 that could move at this deadline and provide more than just a marginal impact on their new team.
1. SP Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies- Of the two top-tier arms that could be on the move before the trade deadline, we agreed that Hamels was likely the safer bet to have a tremendous positive impact on his new team, should he move. Unless the Phillies are able to lock Hamels down to an extension before the deadline, then trading him to a contender for prospects seems like the way to go. Hamels is 28 years old, still early in his prime years, and at this point seems like 200+ innings and about 200 strikeouts is all but money in the bank from the stud lefty. From what I understand about the new CBA, half-season rentals are no longer eligible for salary arbitration, and as a result the loss of them after the season ends no longer results in compensatory draft picks. This could put a hitch in some trade talks, as teams are now really forced to go all-in on this year (or try hard to re-sign mid season acquisitions) when trading for a player whose contract is up at season’s end.
Potential destination: Earlier in the year, the Dodgers were being touted as the prohibitive favorite to land Hamels in any potential trade if the Phillies continued to slide in the rankings (spoiler alert: they did). Recently, however, it has been reported by ESPN’s Buster Olney that the Rangers are emerging as frontrunners. This wouldn’t be out of character for the Rangers, as we saw them make a similar move for current Phillies ace Cliff Lee leading to their 2010 World Series trip. Add in the fact that they made it again in 2011 only to be bested by the Cardinals, and this team has to be absolutely starving for a championship. The Rangers have an excellent farm system, with infielders Jurickson Profar (SS) and Mike Olt (3B) as big names in positions that the Rangers already have filled. Profar is one of the top prospects in baseball, but in the words of my co-author: “They have to move either Profar or Andrus eventually. If you have to move him, doesn’t Hamels feel like the guy worthy of it?”
Other suitors: As I mentioned above, the Dodgers are also likely to be in the mix for Hamels. If Texas decides to go all-in on him without regard for the fact that they’re likely to see him walk at season’s end and get nothing in return, I don’t expect anyone to be able to match what they put forward. The Dodgers will remain the favorites to sign Hamels in the offseason regardless of whether or not he ends up with them to finish out the 2012 campaign. It wouldn’t be unlikely to see the Dodgers move top prospect Zach Lee in a deal to get him early because they intend on keeping Hamels for the long term.
2. SP Zack Greinke, Milwaukee Brewers- In almost any other trade market, Zack Greinke would be the #1 player available, with a Cy Young on his mantel and impressive stats while playing for a below-.500 team. Of course, this isn’t a normal trade deadline, as the Phillies find themselves in a precarious situation as potential sellers. The other reason Greinke ranks a spot below Hamels, fair or unfair, is his history with anxiety. It may very well not be a factor anymore, or ever again, but it still hangs over him. Even so, Greinke is having his best season since his ’09 Cy Young year, and any team that wants to chase a ring and needs a starting pitcher should be calling Milwaukee.
Potential destination: For me, Atlanta stands out as the clear-cut first choice for a landing spot. The Braves are already eliminated in the chase for Hamels since they play in the same division as the Phillies, so they can turn their attention fully on the Brewers’ ace. They have the pieces in their system to swing a deal, especially when it comes to young, game-changing power arms. The shine has faded ever so slightly from the Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran stars, but their still two guys that can bring back a pitcher like Greinke.
Other suitors: Pretty much any team that loses out on Hamels is going to quickly shift their attention to Greinke. Texas would seem like the next in line in terms of willingness to make a huge move without much commitment beyond this season. They seem hell-bent on a Cliff Lee-like addition that could potentially put them over the top and finally capture a ring. The Rangers have the best possible prospect that could be available (Profar), so really, the Rangers brass can make any move they want at any time.
3. OF Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks- We went back and forth debating whether or not to include J-Up on this list because we were in disbelief that Arizona would actually trade a talent like him away. However, with reports coming out that the divide between Upton and DBacks management continues to worsen, it became apparent that he must be included here. Upton is the kind of impact bat that has shown flashes of brilliance, including his seeming breakout 2011 season when he put up 31 homeruns, 21 stolen bases, and posted a triple slash of .289/.369/.529. He’s not going to come cheap, but this also isn’t your second half rental player- Upton is under contract through the 2015 season, and I have to believe whoever trades for him will be looking to lock down a potential star for the long haul.
Potential destination: Pittsburgh actually seems like a team contending for something, and whether or not you believe they can keep this up or if we’ll see a repeat of 2011′s second half, a team that hasn’t finished above .500 in 19 years has to take a run at it considering the first half they’ve put together. Acquiring Upton would work as a “win now” move as well as a viable step towards a brighter future, as McCutchen-Upton back to back should be enough to make any pitcher think twice about facing this lineup for years to come.
Other suitors: While it wouldn’t necessarily be a “win now” move, which I feel a large chunk of deals made at the deadline are, it seems to me that Toronto would be a very interested party. Jays GM Alex Anthopolous always seems hesitant to use his top tier farm system without a guarantee that he’ll be working towards his team’s future. As I said earlier, going for Upton would mean locking him up until at least 2015. That gives them plenty of time to either move him for more pieces to a contender in a few years, or reach a point where their young pitching emerges and they are ready to make a run at a World Series. As a Yankee fan myself, and Greg a die-hard Met fan, I’d be remiss not to mention that either New York squad could be a fit for Upton. The Mets are in dire need of a right handed bat, and Lucas Duda has done nothing to have a stranglehold on his job in right field. The Yankees have shown interest in Upton before, although with their stated interest in getting below the salary cap in the next few years I don’t see them giving up potential young, affordable stars to acquire Upton. Detroit made a mega-signing this off season in Prince Fielder, but if they decide to try and improve their offense in order to assure their (seemingly) inevitable meteoric rise up the AL Central standings, they could surely stand to improve in the outfield.
4. SP Matt Garza, Chicago Cubs- The Cubs have made it abundantly clear that just about any player not named Anthony Rizzo is available via trade. Binckes and I both find it incredibly hard to believe that the team will move shortstop Starlin Castro, but Garza is a completely different story. There was a lot of buzz in the off-season that the Cubs could ship Garza off then, but the team held off to see if his stock could rise with a strong first half performance. Garza hasn’t exactly been a world-beater this year, but he still has inherent value with his age (only 28), durability (180+ innings each of the last four years) and strikeouts (8.3 K/9). He won’t bring back a package like Hamels or Greinke, but he’s still going to enable the Cubs to rebuild their farm system.
Potential destination: This one is a little harder than most. Let’s say the Rangers do, indeed, get Hamels while the Braves swoop in and snag Greinke. Could the Cubs potentially force the Dodgers into a panic trade so they don’t feel like they miss out on one of the impact arms? That would seem to be the logical play. The only obstacle in front of the Dodgers, and it’s a pretty big one, is that their farm system is nowhere near as deep as other teams competing for starting pitching. However, they could still put together a pretty strong package, and they’ll want to get something on this year’s market.
Other suitors: Well, the other teams competing for a playoff spot this year don’t seem to be in the market for a starter at the level of Garza, considering what it will take to get him. The Mets and the Pirates have their strengths in their starting rotations, plus top caliber starting pitching prospects in the minors almost ready to contribute. One surprise name I could potentially see getting into the Garza talks: the White Sox. Gavin Floyd seems to be regressing, while John Danks remains sidelined with a left shoulder injury. I don’t know if the Cubs would do a deal with the White Sox, but Kenny Williams is known for making splashes at the deadline. Why should this year be any different?
5. CF Shane Victorino, Philadelphia Phillies- Victorino seems a very likely candidate to move. Unlike Hamels, The Phillies are probably not looking to offer Victorino a multi-year extension, so at this point where he spends the rest of his season depends on whether or not the Phils are willing to admit that it just isn’t their year. Their offense is anemic, and their pitching hasn’t lived up to its highly touted billing so far. With Halladay still out (and a question mark even when he returns), Lee having a rough go lately, and Hamels potentially on the trading block if an extension cannot be reached, trading away the 31 year old Victorino to a team that needs outfield help this year and looking towards the future would appear to be the logical move. The Flyin’ Hawaiian still has speed at this point in his career, and as always has some pop left in his bat. Looking at his current pace, it’s not unreasonable to expect that he ends the year at 15/40, which would mean 7 homeruns and 21 stolen bases the rest of the way. Combine that with adequate outfield play- probably better than he’s been if you move him to a corner- and there’s undoubtedly some value there.
Potential destination: As much as I love the idea of the Pirates getting Upton to pair with McCutchen, if that falls through I think Victorino could also be a nice fit in Pittsburgh. For all of the reasons outlined above, adding a bat in the outfield would be nice. He’s having a down year so far, but if his batting average and on base percentage (OBP) move closer to his career norms, he could be a help to the Pirates’ quest to make the playoffs for the first time in decades.
Other suitors: The list here is comparable to that of Upton. As a switch hitter, he fits into the needs of the Mets. Detroit might find this a more affordable option with less long-term impact on their Fielder-inflated team salary while also helping with their outfield woes this season. The Red Sox also could come into play here, depending on how the returns of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford go. If both seem to go well, whether or not they pursue a trade will depend on how they feel about their rotating cast of outfielders such as Cody Ross and Daniel Nava to continue doing an effective job.
6. SP Ryan Dempster, Chicago Cubs- Dempster is no longer on the same level potential-wise as Hamels, Greinke and Garza, but you could make the case that he’s having the best season of the entire bunch. He’s a veteran pitcher that has been in every and all sorts of situations that is about to hit the free agent market and cash in, likely for the last time in his career. The package I could see snagging Dempster is much like the package the Mets sought in return for Carlos Beltran last year. Either the Cubs could go for the best possible prospect from a team looking to acquire him, or a package of a couple B-to-C level prospects. Since teams can’t get draft pick compensation for acquired players at the deadline, trading for Dempster becomes a little more complicated for other teams.
Potential Destination: We’re six players deep into a trade deadline post, and we haven’t once mentioned the New York Yankees as anything more than a mere possibility? Man, maybe the Mayans were absolutely right that 2012 is potentially the end of the world. Andy Pettitte is injured, C.C. Sabathia is injured (though close to coming back), and Phil Hughes has been inconsistent, to say the least. Dempster seems like the type of player the Yankees would want in this market. They don’t need someone along the lines of Hamels or Greinke to lead them in the playoffs. Instead, they need someone to add quality depth to the rotation. Dempster fills their need, and can easily slide into the post-season rotation. He should be their logical first choice on the market.
Other Suitors: Once again, anybody that misses out on the three pitchers mentioned before Dempster will be all-in on the veteran righty. Unlike the other three, however, the team that trades for Dempster will be in “win now” mode, as opposed to “win now and possibly build for the future”. This could be Dempster’s last All-Star caliber season. No team should be depending on Dempster to come back next year and match these type of numbers. Any ideas otherwise would just be silly.
7. OF Carlos Quentin, San Diego Padres- Despite having a strong farm system, the Padres aren’t close to being ready to win, so trading Quentin and his expiring contract makes the most sense. Quentin has cooled off a bit after a blazing hot start upon his return from the disabled list, but a power bat will always have value on the trade market. He’s got seven homeruns in only 33 games, with a .408 OBP that is nothing to sneeze at. If he’s traded to a better ballpark (and let’s be honest, there aren’t many that can rival Petco as being poor destinations for power hitters), 15 homeruns isn’t a crazy expectation for the second half- a nice boost for a team who needs offense.
Potential destination: I’ve said it before, and I said it again. The Pirates could use a bat to shore up that offense before Andrew McCutchen comes back to this planet from whatever planet he’s been living on and inconsistency rears its ugly head. If they fail to get Upton or Victorino, I’d think Quentin ends up with a target on his head from Pittsburgh. Barring that, I’ll repeat myself again and say that the Mets are in dire need of a right handed power bat and an outfielder would be a nice spot to plug a player into.
Other suitors: While looking into the details of Quentin’s contract, I came across recent reports that the Indians and Reds may be interested in trying to deal for Quentin. The Padres would only need a return that they believe is greater than the draft pick compensation that Quentin would bring them upon leaving. Considering that the Padres are still several years away from winning, a handful of prospects with upside that are a few years from the majors may be enough for them in this deal. This would greatly increase the number of teams that could try to get in on this deal, making it much harder to predict what pieces will be moving.
8. SP Wandy Rodriguez, Houston Astros- Wandy Rodriguez is the middle ground between Dempster and the three young guns. He’s just young enough where if you trade for him, you can get more than just a rental player. But, he’s also just old enough that you aren’t planning to build around him for the future. The Astros have been sitting on the fence about trading Wandy for a bunch of years, but there doesn’t seem to be a better time than now when it comes to trading their best starting pitcher.
Potential Destination: Texas, the Dodgers and Atlanta are aiming higher than Rodriguez. The Yankees would want to make a bigger splash. To me, this is a perfect spot for the White Sox to come in and add an arm to their mix-and-match rotation. It would be wise for them to add an arm. As nice as Jose Quintana has been at the back end of the rotation, if this team wants to not only remain in the race, but win the division, they’ll need reinforcements. It’s a match that makes perfect sense.
Other suitors: This is the level at which I could see Cleveland, Detroit or Baltimore coming in to snag a pitcher. Baltimore and Cleveland want to prove that they’re for real and will be buyers, but aren’t willing to mortgage the future to do so. As for Detroit, Wandy would be along the same lines as what the team did last year when they brought in Doug Fister from Seattle. There’s no saying any of those three teams would have any sustained interest in a pitcher at Rodriguez’s level, but this is the neighborhood these three should be shopping.
9. 2B/SS Marco Scuarto, Colorado Rockies- Scutaro doesn’t have the offensive upside of some of the other players that made our list, but the fact that he’s a middle infielder with a fairly decent batting average and a homerun every now and then gives him some value. It could very well be that he stays in Colorado, but the Rockies are going absolutely nowhere this season and really need to liquidate any assets they have in order to get some potential impact players for the future. Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzales can’t carry this team on their own going forward. He may not be an exciting player wherever he ends up, but the fact that he’s fairly reliable and can play shortstop or second base
Potential destination: Why not just go for it at every turn? The Pirates need offensive help, and the dynamic duo of Clint Barmes and Josh Harrison isn’t wow-ing anyone at short. This will likely depend on how their pursuit of an outfielder goes as well as the asking price on Scutaro, but if the Rockies are looking for a modest enough offer, I don’t see what Pittsburgh has to lose.
Other suitors: If the Tigers are looking to improve in the second half, they haven’t got anything special (or even useful, really) going on at second base. After the Fielder mega-signing, they have to feel pressure to really turn it on as we move on in the season. Baltimore has to consider
10. 1B/OF Bryan LaHair, Chicago Cubs- LaHair is going to be the premiere lefty power hitter on the market this year. The only thing holding LaHair from being higher on this list is his lack of a defined defensive position. However, while that is his biggest weakness, it may also play well into his hand as American League teams will line up outside of the door trying to acquire him as a DH/1B/OF type platoon player against righties. Its clear that there is no ballpark too big for his power, and he can hit for a decent average as well. He hasn’t played much against lefties, but that shouldn’t scare teams away if they’re looking for offensive upgrades.
Potential destination: American League team in need of instant offense that could play either in the outfield, at first or DH? Kind of sounds like the Cleveland Indians, doesn’t it? Nobody can rely on the health of Travis Hafner. Casey Kotchman is a reliable defender, but has taken another step backwards with his bat. Even if he only plays against right-handed pitchers, he’s a major upgrade over what they are currently running out there from day-to-day.
Other suitors: I can see the Tampa Bay Rays getting involved if Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce remain out of the line-up for an extended period of time. They seem more than pleased by what Luke Scott is currently giving them, which would seem to keep them out on LaHair if he keeps up the production. National League teams that could have interest include the Dodgers (who need to understand that James Loney will never hit like a MLB 1B) and not much else. The Mets are lefty-heavy as it is already. The Pirates already have Garrett Jones. The Braves, Nationals, Giants and Diamondbacks all don’t need a player that holds the positions LaHair does. It’s not exactly a huge market for LaHair, but the teams that do have interest could go all-in for him.
In addition to these ten players, we realize that there are likely a handful of relievers that will be on the trading block. Wherever they end up, these pitchers are unlikely to continue to act as closers. Given the relative value of middle relief as compared to a potential impact bat or innings-eating starting pitcher, combined with the fact that relief pitchers tend to come with a caveat of inconsistency from season to season (or in this case, potentially half season to half season), we decided to leave these players off the list and instead include this aside at the end. Notable names we thought would be most likely to move include (in no particular order):
Huston Street, San Diego Padres- While Street being named to the All Star team is more a testament to San Diego’s shortcomings than it is indicative of true elite talent, he has been nothing short of excellent this year, when healthy. Of course, those last two words are always the biggest caveat when dealing with Street. Taking him on includes the omnipresent injury risk.
Jonathan Broxton, Kansas City Royals- Although his strikeout numbers remain way below the rates that made him an excellent closer as recently as a few years ago, Broxton is putting together an excellent season. Sporting a sub-2.00 ERA to this point on a team that’s going nowhere in the immediate future, there may be some team in need of bullpen help that doesn’t believe the bottom is going to fall out due to his low strikeout totals.
Brett Myers, Houston Astros- Brett Myers isn’t doing anything spectacular, but his contract in combination with the Astros’ continuing woes almost guarantees that he’s going to be traded somewhere and assume a middle relief role. If he finishes 45 or more games, his 2013 option vests at $10 million, a price the Astros surely want no part of. His performance has been good enough so far this year that Houston shouldn’t have too difficult a time finding someone to take him off their hands.
Brian Fuentes, Oakland Athletics- Fuentes was designated for assignment by Oakland, so it’s become apparent that they’re feeling pretty done with him. Ryan Cook has assumed his role as closer of the future there, but as a left-handed reliever Fuentes has inherent value that will help him find a new home.
The likes of Francisco Rodriguez, Brandon League, Brandon Lyon, and Grant Balfour could also potentially find themselves wearing new uniforms by the time the trade deadline passes.