We’re officially three weeks away from the non-waiver trade deadline and after last week’s Cubs-A’s deal setting one heck of a precedent for the trade market, here’s the players most likely to be dealt by July 31st:
David Price, LHP – Tampa Bay Rays
Kind of an easy one, but perhaps no other player on the trade market makes as much sense to trade right now as Price. Thanks to what Theo Epstein and Billy Beane did, Andrew Friedman has been working the phones with quite possibly every contender out there in regards to his star southpaw starter. With a year left on his contract after this season, Price becomes even more interesting for a team looking to stay in the hunt for 2015, but also has a larger price tag because of it.
Because of that, the number of teams that can truly contend for Price’s services are few, as the number of prospects the Rays will want to start with is at least an A prospect and possibly two. (Heh, that rhymed.) Tampa’s currently 10 games out of the second wild card spot and knows this will be the time where Price can bring in the biggest haul. While known more for the offseason deal than the trade deadline deal, Friedman’s move here will set the Rays franchise up for the long haul.
POSSIBLE SUITORS: Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, Toronto Blue Jays
Jake Peavy, RHP – Boston Red Sox
Peavy has already been involved heavily in talks over the last 24 hours, with Atlanta and St. Louis looking to be the frontrunner for the 33-year-old, who has experienced somewhat of a down year with a 4.64 ERA and 2:1 K/BB ratio. With his velocity down to about 90 mph on average, he’s not the power pitcher he once was, but can still be helpful at the back of a rotation for a contender.
He’ll also carry a smaller price tag, especially if a team can get Boston to eat a big chunk of the $6.5 million he’s owed the rest of the season. Atlanta seems to be the favorite here, but don’t count out the Dodgers here, too, as the resurgence of Josh Beckett might give Peavy something to shoot for if he heads for Los Angeles.
POSSIBLE SUITORS: Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers
Huston Street, RHP – San Diego Padres
After a down 2013, Street has bounced back to have a monster 2014 and make his relatively modest closer’s salary stand up as one of the better bargains on the trade market. Plenty of teams would love to have him at the back of their bullpen. Street’s time in Petco Park has allowed him a lot of leeway considering he has a career ground ball rate of 37.8%, and a team who takes him on will have to put him in a ballpark that allows his fly ball tendencies to not hurt him.
There are some fringe teams who would love to shore up the closer’s spot, but the question is whether or not they’d part with the prospects to do so, especially considering the Padres are asking for a lot. With a few teams on the edge of contention, Street’s arm in the 9th inning could really allow them to feel better about going deep into games with the lead, as before this past weekend, the Padres had won every game they were in this year with a lead past the seventh inning.
POSSIBLE SUITORS: Seattle Mariners, Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates
Josh Willingham, OF – Minnesota Twins
Another no-brainer of sorts, Willingham is in the final year of a very manageable contract and can fill in at a corner outfield or DH spot in a pinch. Many teams need a player like that, but are even happier to see Willingham’s contract (about $3 million left) and low prospect cost attached. He should be wearing another team’s jersey by the end of the month.
POSSIBLE SUITORS: Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds
Alex Rios, OF – Texas Rangers
Larger price tag than Willingham, but Rios is a much better player and has been much more durable (no less than 145 games each season since 2007). While he doesn’t have his home run stroke this year, he’s still a great contact hitter and a plus on the base paths. He has been limited to RF the last two seasons but can play center in a pinch if needed. The same three teams who could land Willingham could also land Rios, but the ability of Texas to eat some of that contract could get some other teams involved, as well, including the team that originally drafted him.
POSSIBLE SUITORS: Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Toronto Blue Jays
Denard Span, OF – Washington Nationals
Span looks to be the odd man out in Washington, as the return of Bryce Harper means that the outfield will be filled up. Known primarily for his stellar defense in center field, Span has been a negative with the glove by some defensive metrics in 2014. His average bat and speed make him a decent leadoff candidate, but without the glove working for him, a lot of his value is lost. That being said, there are a few teams that could use a center fielder due to injury, and Span wouldn’t cost much if the Nationals agreed to eat some of the money owed to him the rest of the year (Just over $4.5 million).
POSSIBLE SUITORS: Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants
Kurt Suzuki, C – Minnesota Twins
I was on the fence about this one for a while, but given that Minnesota would really like to see what they got with Josmil Pinto, an extension for Suzuki doesn’t seem that likely, especially given Minnesota ain’t exactly going anywhere in the standings over the next couple seasons. With that said, Suzuki’s bounce back season puts him on a lot of teams’ radars, and could help a contender looking for some backstop help. There are a couple of places in the National League he could land for sure, but don’t rule out Minnesota holding onto him if the team wants Pinto to become a bit more seasoned.
POSSIBLE SUITORS: Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Toronto Blue Jays
Ben Zobrist, Wherever He Wants – Tampa Bay
Finally, the mega-utility man might be leaving the only team he’s ever played for in the majors. With versatility that literally has no bounds on a baseball field (if they asked him to catch, I’m sure he could), Zobrist is a plug and play guy that can do whatever you need him to do. After his slow start, he’s begun to look like the Zobrist of old, making him as attractive a trade chip as there is in baseball thanks to his modest salary this year and a no-brainer option next year.
As much as Tampa would love to keep him, they could get quite the return for him, as well. Look for Friedman to test the waters with him at the trade deadline. If something doesn’t get done in the next three weeks, it most likely will come the Hot Stove season in the winter. He’s also an interesting combination of needs from a prospect standpoint, as his advanced age make him have a price tag that’s not as high as some might lead you to believe. He’ll be the most targeted player from a team standpoint, as nearly every contender has a shot at landing him.
POSSIBLE SUITORS: Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves
There are other possibilities, but a lot of these are just conjecture on my part and need things to happen in order for them to be more realistic. The list of “maybes”:
-Marlon Byrd (Plenty of pop, but DH-bound, limiting his options; poor man’s Nelson Cruz)
-Elvis Andrus (Still young enough where a team could take a chance on that contract, way too many middle infielders in Texas)
-Kyle Kendrick/A.J. Burnett (Kendrick more than A.J., who might be nearing the end here)
-Chase Headley (Don’t rule out him staying with San Diego to reclaim some value for 2015 on a one-year extension)
-Pablo Sandoval (If the Giants continue their free fall, Sandoval should be traded in order to reclaim some value before his free agency)
-Garrett Jones (Marlins should sell high, especially with cheap price tag for 2015; reminds me of Adam LaRoche in some ways)
-Gerardo Parra (Diamondbacks should try to move him, but might not get much in return due to down year, including defensively)
Regardless, the next three weeks should be fun. And we’ll be right here with all the big news as it happens.