Trade Market For Corner Outfielders

Last summer, Alfonso Soriano and Scott Hairston were among the corner outfielders traded near the July deadline, with Alex Rios and Marlon Byrd changing teams in August. This year, Rios and Byrd could be on the move again, and a variety of other names could enter the mix as well, with the Mariners perhaps being the team most likely to make a move to upgrade at one of the corner outfield spots.

The tight playoff picture in both leagues makes it difficult to determine which players will be dealt, and there could be players not listed here who enter the market if their teams fall out of contention in late July or August. (David Murphy of the Indians might be one such possibility.) With that in mind, here’s a look at possible corner outfield trade candidates in the current market, some of whom are more likely to be dealt than others.

Regulars Or Semi-Regulars

Josh Willingham (Twins); Marlon Byrd and Domonic Brown (Phillies); Alex Rios (Rangers); Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist (Rays); Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo (White Sox); Carlos Quentin, Chris Denorfia and Will Venable (Padres); Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier (Dodgers); Chris Young (Mets); Nate Schierholtz (Cubs); Ichiro Suzuki (Yankees); Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins); Mark Trumbo (Diamondbacks); Allen Craig (Cardinals)

  • Willingham is a good hitter (despite his low batting averages) whose contract expires after the season, so he should be an attractive fit for a team like the Mariners in need of right-handed power. His reasonable $7MM salary should not impede a trade.
  • Byrd could also help a team in need of a right-hander, although he’s signed through 2015 with a team/vesting option for 2016. With 18 home runs this year, he’s having a strong follow-up season after his terrific 2013. The Mariners reportedly have significant interest in him, with Byrd apparently being willing to waive the no-trade clause that allows him to block trades to Seattle and three other teams.
  • Rios, one of the few members of the Rangers roster to stay healthy all year, returns to the trade market for a second straight season. Like Willingham and Byrd, he’s a good  right-handed option — at .302/.332/.435, he’s having a strong offensive year. He’s making $12.5MM this year, with a $13.5MM team option or a $1MM buyout for 2015.
  • Brown has had a dismal season, with a line of .225/.277/.328 to go with his usual poor defense. Given that he’s only 26 and hit very well last season, the Phillies’ best course might be to hold onto him, although his name has already appeared in rumors about a potential change-of-scenery trade.
  • Rays outfielders Joyce (who is eligible for free agency after 2015) and Zobrist (who’s making just $7MM in 2014 and has a reasonable 2015 team option) could be desirable trade pieces. Zobrist, a strong offensive player who can also play second base, should fetch a nice return if he’s traded. The Giants, Mariners and Reds have reportedly shown interest in Zobrist. Joyce, a consistently above-average hitter, would be a good fit for a contender looking for a left-handed bat.
  • De Aza and Viciedo are both hovering around replacement level, so it’s hard to see them netting much of a return, although De Aza’s ability to play center field might make him somewhat desirable as a fourth outfielder. Viciedo is just 25 and isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season, so it might make sense for the White Sox to keep him, although he’s already been connected to the Mariners and Giants.
  • The Padres have three outfielders potentially available in Quentin, Denorfia and Venable. (Seth Smith might have been another, but he recently signed a two-year extension to stay with the team.) Dealing Quentin might mean selling low for San Diego, since he’s off to a poor start after missing the first six weeks of the season due to injury. He has a no-trade clause, but might be willing to waive it, and an AL team might be a better fit for him anyway. The lefty Venable, who has lately played sparingly for San Diego, might represent an interesting buy-low opportunity to augment a contender’s bench with a lefty bat — he’s only one year removed from a 2.9 WAR 2013 season. Teams might not like that he’s owed $4.25MM next year, however.
  • The Dodgers currently have a logjam in their outfield, although Crawford’s enormous contract (he’s owed about $62MM from 2015 through 2017) is an obstacle to trading him. Ethier is in a similar boat — he’s signed through 2017 with a team/vesting option for 2018, and he’s in the midst of a poor season, so he would probably be difficult to move. Trading either of them would, however, clear space for top prospect Joc Pederson, who is hitting .324/.445/.572 for Triple-A Albuquerque.
  • Young and Schierholtz have been disappointments in 2014 for the Mets and Cubs, respectively. Both are eligible for free agency after the season. Either or both of them could be traded, but it’s hard to see any team paying much.
  • Ichiro has started 45 games in right field for a contending team this season and doesn’t appear to be a likely trade candidate, given Carlos Beltran‘s injury issues. But there were rumors before the season about the Yankees trading Ichiro, so it’s possible he could be dealt, particularly if other trades change their outfield picture.
  • Stanton isn’t likely to be traded, but as one of the biggest names in baseball, his name will surely appear in plenty of rumors.
  • Trumbo only recently returned from a foot injury and was a key offseason acquisition for the Diamondbacks, so he isn’t likely to be dealt either, but with Arizona far out of the race, it can’t be ruled out. He’s hitting .209/.261/.488 in 92 plate appearances in his first season in the desert.
  • Craig is a starter for a contending team and is signed to a long-term contract, so a deal is probably unlikely, particularly since trading him in the midst of a .243/.293/.357 season would be selling low for the Cardinals. Moving him could help the Cards clear space for Oscar Taveras, however.

Reserves

Justin Ruggiano and Chris Coghlan (Cubs); Mike Carp, Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava (Red Sox); Chris Parmelee (Twins); John Mayberry and Tony Gwynn Jr. (Phillies); Bobby Abreu and Eric Young Jr. (Mets); Brandon Barnes (Rockies); Cody Ross (Diamondbacks)

  • Ruggiano has had a strong season so far and could be good fits for teams looking for right-handed hitters, particularly if the prices for outfielders like Willingham, Byrd and Rios prove too high. (Drew Stubbs, who has played center field in Colorado but played mostly right field in Cleveland, could be a possibility in a similar vein.) The Cubs have shown obvious willingness to trade veterans, so it would not be at all surprising to see them trade the 32-year-old Ruggiano. The same goes for the left-handed Coghlan, who’s having a strong season in 166 plate appearances so far.
  • The Red Sox might have been able to get a nice return for Carp before the season, but both he and Gomes (who is eligible for free agency after the season) have struggled relative to 2013. Trading Nava might also be a possibility, but perhaps less of one, since he isn’t even eligible for arbitration until after the season.
  • Parmelee, Mayberry, Gwynn, Abreu, Young, Barnes, and Ross are all potential lower-cost possibilities. Of the group, Barnes might be the most interesting, due to his defense.

Big-League-Ready Minor Leaguers

Jose Tabata (Pirates); Thomas Pham and Randal Grichuk (Cardinals); J.B. Shuck (Angels); Steven Souza (Nationals)

  • The Pirates recently outrighted Tabata and would surely have to eat some of the approximately $10MM remaining on his contract to trade him, but he’s still listed as being just 25 and has been a passable, though frustrating, performer in the big leagues.
  • The Cardinals have gotten good performances from their Triple-A outfield, and Pham and Grichuk, who are both still fairly young and should be ready for the big leagues, could be attractive targets. Dealing one of them would help relieve a Cardinals outfield logjam that exists not only in the big leagues, but in the minors as well.
  • Shuck and Souza are good Triple-A hitters who might be able to help right away. Of the two, Souza would likely cost more, since he’s still only 25 and had a strong offensive track record before this season.

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