Last July one of the most notable first baseman trades came early in the month, as the Marlins acquired Carlos Lee from the Astros for Matt Dominguez and Rob Rasmussen. The Marlins later dealt the man Lee replaced, Gaby Sanchez. The Lee trade might have marked the last time the Marlins will act as buyers for a while; they moved Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante, Hanley Ramirez, and Edward Mujica for younger players weeks later, sparking a new direction. This year, teams such as the Yankees, Royals, Rockies, and Giants could be looking for help at first base.
Mike Morse (Mariners), Kendrys Morales (Mariners), Justin Smoak (Mariners), Adam Dunn (White Sox), Paul Konerko (White Sox), Justin Morneau (Twins), Carlos Pena (Astros), Chris Carter (Astros), Logan Morrison (Marlins), Ike Davis (Mets), Lucas Duda (Mets)
A closer look at the teams and situations listed here:
- Mariners: Morse and Morales are probably the most eminently available bats who are capable of playing first base, though neither has spent much time there in 2013 and Morse is currently on the DL with a quad strain. Both players are free agents after the season and are unlikely to receive qualifying offers. They've got some pop and don't come with ridiculous contracts. Smoak, 26, was the primary piece acquired by Seattle upon sending Cliff Lee to Texas three years ago. This year, he's missed time with an oblique strain and has continued to fail to show the power typical of a first baseman. With arbitration eligibility ahead (not that he'll receive a large salary), the Mariners could choose to use Smoak in a deal.
- White Sox: I don't expect Dunn or Konerko to be traded, but they should at least be available. Dunn's walks can't save a .200 batting average, his defense at first is not beloved, and he's owed around $20MM through 2014. Konerko has started to hit somewhat in June, but he is a Chicago icon with no-trade protection. He'd have to want to go to a contender, and with around $4.5MM left on his contract the money would have to be worked out with the acquiring team.
- Twins: Morneau has spent his entire career in Minnesota, winning the MVP in '06. Like Konerko, he has no-trade protection, over $4.5MM remaining on his contract, and a slugging percentage below .400. Trying to move guys like Konerko and Morneau might be more trouble than it's worth unless the players are completely on board and the teams can find significant savings.
- Astros: Pena is a veteran on a cheap one-year deal, but he's not hitting enough to bring back anything notable. The Astros might rather just have him in their clubhouse. Carter, 26, is tied for 12th in the AL with 15 home runs. He also leads all of baseball with 108 strikeouts. He appears to be the 30 home run, low batting average slugger we thought he was, which is OK but shouldn't prevent the Astros from listening.
- Marlins: Morrison's season debut was June 9th, as he was recovering from September knee surgery. There's no particular reason to expect LoMo to be dealt, but he'll be arbitration eligible next year, and it's the Marlins.
- Mets: Considered a probable long-term piece for the Mets as the season began, Davis was brutal over 207 plate appearances to begin the season and was optioned to Triple-A. A recall seems imminent, but as with the Mariners and Smoak, the Mets could just send him packing in a change of scenery deal. Davis will probably be tendered a contract this winter, but not necessarily by the Mets. Duda has drawn some walks and hit some home runs, but similar to Carter, there's no reason the Mets shouldn't listen on the 27-year-old.
The Marlins' Greg Dobbs should be available, and the Astros' Pena would fit in a backup role.
The Brewers' Corey Hart looks like an August trade candidate, if anything, as he's dealt with delays in his recovery from January knee surgery. The Phillies' Ryan Howard would be nice to add in the larger part of a platoon, facing righties, but he's owed about $65MM through 2016 with good no-trade protection. The logistics of a deal would be complicated, and the Phillies might not have the desire anyway. The Nationals' Adam LaRoche gets a mention because of a scenario from ESPN's Jayson Stark, but it doesn't feel too likely to me. The Giants' Brandon Belt has been OK, and as you've seen in this post, there are few available players who would serve as a clear upgrade.
Check out our Trade Market For Catchers post as well.