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Multiple third base options were traded in the summer months of 2013, including veterans Michael Young, Alberto Callaspo, Juan Francisco and Jamey Carroll. This season’s crop of third base trade candidates includes some more impressive names, though it’s far from a certainty that they’ll all be moved. Here’s a look at some of the names that could be circulating on the rumor mill in the coming weeks…
Chase Headley (Padres), Martin Prado (D’Backs), Juan Uribe (Dodgers), Luis Valbuena (Cubs), Cody Asche (Phillies), Adrian Beltre (Rangers), Trevor Plouffe (Twins), Will Middlebrooks (Red Sox), Casey McGehee (Marlins), Matt Dominguez (Astros), Conor Gillaspie (White Sox)
- Headley’s name has been on the rumor circuit for years, and with three months to go before free agency, he could finally get dealt. Unfortunately for San Diego, he’s hitting a career-worst .226/.296/.350 and is dealing with back issues. He’s hit well since an epidural injection, however, and the Blue Jays are said to have interest.
- The 30-year-old Prado is owed about $27MM through the end of the 2016 season and isn’t hitting much in 2014, but he’s an excellent defender at third base and a Swiss army knife on the field, capable of playing third, short, second and left field.
- Uribe’s a bit of an out-of-the-box suggestion, admittedly, but the Dodgers could prefer to slide Hanley Ramirez over to third and go with a defensively superior option like Erisbel Arruebarrena at short. Uribe is hitting well but has missed time on the DL and is owed $6.5MM next year in his age-36 season.
- Valbuena is playing well, but he’s not a long-term piece for the Cubs which makes him plenty susceptible to a trade. The 28-year-old is controlled through 2016 and earning just $1.7MM this season after avoiding arbitration for the first time last winter. The Cubs’ wealth of infield prospects makes Valbuena expendable.
- Asche’s another unconventional trade candidate, as it stands to reason that the rebuilding Phillies would want to keep their young, controllable assets. However top prospect Maikel Franco is a better hitter and blocked at first base by Ryan Howard‘s immovable contract. The Phils could conceivably dangle Asche in an attempt to acquire a young outfield option, then go with Franco at third to make the team younger.
- Beltre is among the best all-around players in the game and would require a king’s ransom to pry away from the Rangers, who hope to contend in 2015 when the club is healthy. GM Jon Daniels has said he hasn’t considered trading the potential Hall of Famer, so a deal seems unlikely. Still, with Joey Gallo‘s 75- to 80-grade power looming in the minors, the Rangers do have a fallback option if they’re blown away by a Beltre offer.
- The 28-year-old Plouffe is providing league-average offense with improved defense. A former first-round pick, he’s under control through 2017 as a Super Two player. The Twins’ long-term solution at third is Miguel Sano, so it stands to reason that Plouffe could be had in the right deal now, with one of Eduardo Nunez or Eduardo Escobar playing stopgap while Sano mends from Tommy John surgery.
- Middlebrooks is currently on the shelf with a fractured finger, but he’s on a minor league rehab assignment and should be healthy by month’s end. He’s shown flashes of his high potential but has been inconsistent, and with Garin Cecchini nearly ready for the show as well, Boston could entertain offers on Middlebrooks, though the Sox would admittedly be selling very low.
- As of this writing, it’s not that likely that the highly affordable McGehee ($1.1MM salary) will be on the move. The Marlins are still within striking distance in the NL East, and as such aren’t motivated to deal McGehee. However, an extended skid for the Fish could make McGehee, who is under team control through 2015, an attractive commodity for contenders.
- The Astros have shown a willingness to deal virtually anyone in recent years (with a few notable exceptions), and while spring extension talks with Dominguez suggest they’d like to keep him long-term, the fact that a deal didn’t happen could make them more willing to trade him. They’d be selling low, as Dominguez isn’t hitting much this year. He did have a similarly poor first half in 2013 before finishing strong.
- Gillaspie has four more years of team control remaining and is hitting well in 2014, while offseason acquisition Matt Davidson is floundering in Triple-A. That may make it tough for GM Rick Hahn to deal him, but Gillaspie’s name hasn’t been included among Chicago’s four supposedly unavailable players. The Sox may look at Gillaspie and see unsustainable production (.370 BABIP) coupled with platoon issues and think this is a good time to sell high.
The above players are all capable of playing multiple positions, though some would be tougher to acquire than others. Turner has been an excellent signing for the Dodgers, who are firmly in contention, but they have the infield depth to move him and/or Figgins if it improves another area of the team. Wheeler has plenty of team control remaining, but Nolan Arenado is clearly the long-term mainstay at the hot corner. Both of the Twins’ Eduardos are playing well this season, and I’d imagine Escobar would be the more difficult of the two to acquire, given his superior glove and extra team control.
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.
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
- 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.
A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR the last seven days:
- Steve Adams examined the trade market for second basemen and Jeff Todd did likewise for shortstops.
- The agent for Jerome Williams told Zach Links he believes his client will have another opportunity to be a Major League starter. Three days later, the right-hander signed a minor league deal with the Rangers.
- Zach was the first to report the Phillies signed left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes to a minor league contract.
- Brad Johnson asked MLBTR readers which All-Stars will be traded. Nearly one-third of you see the Rays dealing David Price this summer.
- Steve hosted the weekly live chat.
- Zach gathered the best the baseball corner of the web had to offer in Baseball Blogs Weigh In.
Last year’s trade market was quiet on the shortstop front, with Jose Iglesias and John McDonald the only MLB shortstops to change hands. And the latter not only was dealt in August, but never saw time at short for his new club.
That could change this year, as several clubs could stand to upgrade, including the Tigers, Indians, Mariners, Brewers, Reds, Marlins, and Mets. (Of course, some of those teams seem unlikely to make a significant addition, for various reasons.) The Dodgers and Cardinals could potentially shift their current top options off the position if the right opportunity presented itself. The Orioles and Athletics have also received less-than-optimal production, at least from the offensive side, though they appear more likely to count on improvements from their incumbents while making additions elsewhere. Meanwhile, the Nationals (and perhaps some of the above-noted clubs) are interested in adding younger shortstop options to their organization.
For teams looking at the position, there are multiple potentially useful possibilities:
Alexei Ramirez (White Sox), Asdrubal Cabrera (Indians), Jimmy Rollins (Phillies), Elvis Andrus (Rangers), Starlin Castro (Cubs), Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies), Stephen Drew (Red Sox), Chris Owings (D’backs), Yunel Escobar (Rays)
- Ramirez has cooled significantly after a hot start, but that leaves his overall offensive line (.282.317/.402 with eight home runs and 14 steals) at roughly the same level as it was during his career peak in 2010-11. He has always been a productive defender. Ramirez is playing out the year on a $9.5MM salary and is owed $10MM next year before a $10MM club option with a $1MM buyout. That seems a reasonable price for the veteran, though he is nearing 33 years of age. With Chicago now looking poised for a breakout, though, it may take a fairly substantial haul to pry him loose.
- The 28-year-old Cabrera profiles as a roughly league-average hitter and slightly below-average defender at the position. He has not returned to his All-Star form, but remains a useful player and is earning a manageable $10MM in his final season before reaching free agency. Of course, he is also playing on a Cleveland team that remains in the post-season hunt. If the Indians fall back, though, he could certainly become available.
- Rollins, an established veteran with ample post-season experience, is an obvious trade piece for a floundering Phillies club. Though he is well off of his peak levels, Rollins has still played at an above-average clip. He is playing on a $11MM salary this season and is just 57 plate appearances shy of triggering a $11MM vesting option for next year. The questions, of course, are whether Philadelphia will deal away one of the team’s core players from its glory years and whether Rollins will waive his 10-and-5 rights. He’s said recently that he wants to stay in Philadelphia.
- Andrus is still yet to turn 26 and is already in the midst of his sixth consecutive above-average season. Though he has limited value at the plate, he rates as an excellent base-runner and defender. Despite signing a massive eight-year, $120MM extension that does not even kick in until next year, and which allows him to opt out if he is able to meet or exceed expectations, he is playing on a club that has fallen out of contention this year and which has several even younger options waiting in the wings.
- In a somewhat similar situation is Castro of the Cubs, who has $44MM in guaranteed money remaining on his deal, including a buyout of a $16MM club option for 2020. The Cubs are clearly sellers, and the 24-year-old has returned to form (.280/.326/.452) after a disappointing 2013. Of course, Castro could be an important piece in the team’s turnaround plans, but there are several top prospects filtering up behind him. Needless to say, it would take a significant package to pry him loose.
- Speaking of large returns, Tulowitzki would obviously represent the prize of the market — and not just that of shortstops. He has been both outstanding (offensively and defensively) and healthy this year. His contract includes $118MM in guaranteed money, but with it comes seven years of control (the last via club option). That may price several teams out of the market, but many would jump at the chance to add one of the game’s true superstars at a below-market price. Owner Dick Monfort did publicly state that the Rox have no plans to deal Tulo, who is the face of their franchise.
- Drew has yet to find his form after sitting out most of the early part of the season. He owns an unsightly .131/.170/.238 line through 88 plate appearances, but is not far removed from being a solid regular. If the Red Sox eat a good portion of the remainder of his (annualized) $14.1MM salary, he could be moved to make way for younger players.
- For the Diamondbacks, Owings represents one of several middle infielders, all of whom could theoretically be dealt. He seems the least likely to go, in large part because he appears to be the prize of the group. Through 254 MLB plate appearances in his age-22 season, Owings rates out at 1.9 fWAR on the back of above-average production across the board.
- Escobar, just inked to a fairly team-friendly extension, is probably unlikely to be dealt in spite of his club’s struggles, but could potentially be had for the right price. His numbers on both the offensive and defensive sides of the equation have dipped since his excellent 2013 season, reducing his appeal. Tampa seems likely to hold on to him and hope for a rebound.
Sean Rodriguez (Rays), Mike Aviles (Indians), Eduardo Nunez (Twins), Adam Rosales (Rangers), Danny Espinosa (Nationals), Clint Barmes (Pirates), Cliff Pennington (D’backs), Josh Rutledge (Rockies), Alexi Amarista (Padres)
Clubs aiming to plug holes in their benches have several options to pursue. Veterans like Rodriguez, Rosales, Barmes, Pennington, and (potentially) Aviles could provide ample flexibility and a useful presence down the stretch. All have seen time at short, some of them as everyday options at the position.
On the other hand, there are several younger players who could fill a bench role while also potentially representing longer-term options at short or other positions. Espinosa and Rutledge have both shown their fair share of promise at times, and may hold appeal for a variety of clubs if they are made available. The former, who will be arb-eligible next year, has seen his playing time diminish of late. Though Espinosa has played second base primarily at the big league level, he is an outstanding defender and came up as a shortstop. Rutledge, meanwhile, comes with plenty of cheap control. Amarista looks more like a true utility player, and has seen more action at other spots around the diamond, but should remain fairly inexpensive as he enters arbitration for the first time.
This group represents something of a different segment of the shortstop market. All face obstacles to regular playing time (and value maximization) with their present clubs, and each could appeal to teams looking to add a solid youngster that can take Major League innings from the get-go. Of course, all three come with some questions: for Franklin, whether he can handle short on an everyday basis; for Sardinas, Ahmed, and Gregorius, whether their bats will hold up in the majors.
Recently-released Astros hurler Jerome Williams has already drawn inquiries from eight clubs, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. That does not include the Twins, he notes. Williams’ agent tells MLBTR’s Zach Links (Twitter link) that he believes the veteran righty will get a chance to start on a major league club.
Here’s more from the AL West:
- The Astros are interested in upgrading the club’s bullpen in both the short and long-term, reports MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. Owner Jim Crane said that the team’s relief corps has cost the club ballgames, indicating that he hopes to find some solutions during the current season. Nevertheless, any moves would keep an eye firmly on the future: “We’re always looking more long term,” he said, “but we want to try to establish a nucleus this year and win a lot more ballgames than we did last year.”
- Of course, the Angels‘ bullpen needs are on a much shorter fuse. Even after making several recent acquisitions, club GM Jerry Dipoto says that the team is still browsing the market, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter). Dipoto hopes to form a late-inning nucleus that can record the “last nine outs” of a game. “We will continue to look for a guy who can join that group,” he said.
- Multiple teams have expressed interest in Mariners righty Erasmo Ramirez, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports on Twitter. The 24-year-old has not had sustained success at the major league level, but does offer plenty of youth and team control. Ramirez would seem to make a useful trade chip in a lower-level deal for Seattle, or as a part of a package in a larger swap.
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- Righty Jerome Williams has been released by the Astros, according to the MLB.com transactions page. The 32-year-old swingman owns a 6.04 ERA through 47 2/3 innings (all as a reliever) on the year for Houston, with 7.2 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9. Across nine MLB seasons, he has allowed 4.45 earned runs per nine while working mostly as a starter.
- The Phillies have agreed to a minor league deal with Jo-Jo Reyes, reports MLBTR’s Zach Links (via Twitter). The 29-year-old lefty has seen time in parts of five MLB seasons, the last of which came in 2011. He owns a 6.05 career ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 through 334 2/3 innings, mostly as a starter. Reyes has been playing in Korea since the start of the 2013 season.
- The Orioles have outrighted righty Ramon Ramirez to Triple-A, the club announced. Ramirez got just one inning during his time with Baltimore, though he has seen action in parts of nine MLB seasons.
- After being designated for assignment by the Blue Jays on Sunday, outfielder Brad Glenn has cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A, reports Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star (via Twitter). The 27-year-old notched his first MLB hit during a brief call-up.
- The DFA rolls are growing, with the following players are currently in limbo (per MLBTR’s DFA tracker): Justin Maxwell (Royals), Jeff Francis (Athletics), Rich Hill (Angels), Raul Fernandez (Rockies), Alfonso Soriano (Yankees), Brad Mills (Athletics), Donnie Murphy (Rangers), George Kottaras (Indians), John Buck (Mariners), and Mark Lowe (Indians).
Last summer, we saw several second base options change hands in the form of veterans Emilio Bonifacio, John McDonald, Alberto Callaspo and Michael Young, while young options like Leury Garcia and Grant Green included as returns in deals. There’s no shortage of contending clubs that have received little to no production at the keystone this season; the Cardinals, Athletics, Braves, Orioles, Marlins, Royals, Giants and Nationals have all seen their second basemen combine to turn in a wRC+ of 76 or lower (per Fangraphs).
Here’s a look at some names that could potentially be available on the market…
Daniel Murphy (Mets), Ben Zobrist (Rays), Aaron Hill (D’Backs), Martin Prado (D’Backs), Gordon Beckham (White Sox), Nick Franklin (Mariners), Danny Espinosa (Nationals), Chase Utley (Phillies), Luis Valbuena (Cubs)
- Murphy is controlled through 2015 and is well on his way to the finest season of his career (already at 2.5 fWAR). He’s improved his defense steadily over the past few years and is hitting .302/.343/.411. Reports have indicated that the Mets could also extend Murphy rather than trade him, a possibility which I examined in depth late last month.
- Also controlled through 2015, Zobrist may be the most desirable second base option on the market. Zobrist is a highly versatile defender and switch-hitter with a solid bat from both sides of the plate, and even if his offensive game is declining at age 33, he still has a .268/.350/.411 batting line (118 wRC+) and adds value on the bases as well. His $7.5MM club option is a bargain that most teams can afford.
- The 32-year-old Hill is having arguably the worst season of his career and certainly his worst with the D’Backs, but he’s just a year removed from a strong .291/.356/.462 batting line. Hill’s contract — he is owed $12MM in 2015 and again in 2016 — is a detriment, and Arizona would likely need to eat some salary.
- Prado, 30, hasn’t played second baseman extensively since 2010 with the Braves, but he has nearly 2000 career innings at the position. He’s not as strong defensively at the keystone as he is at third base or in left field, however. He’s also owed about $27MM through the 2016 season and hitting a sub-par .268/.313/.365 in 2014. Those numbers translate to an OPS+ of just 89, but he had a mark of 109 from 2008-13.
- Beckham, 27, is hitting just .244/.298/.389, having cooled off after an excellent month of May. He’s controlled fairly cheaply through 2015, earning $4.18MM in 2014 before being arb-eligible one last time this winter. However, he doesn’t come with a great defensive reputation, and he’s had some injury issues. Still, the rebuilding ChiSox are reportedly willing to deal him.
- The 23-year-old Franklin was recently considered one of the game’s top prospects. He’s been displaced by Robinson Cano and used some in a utility role with Seattle, but most of his time has come in the minors. He’s hitting .298/.396/.487 at Triple-A this season and is likely ready for a full-time crack at the Majors, despite his ugly numbers there in his brief stint this season.
- An Espinosa trade wouldn’t be ideal for the Nationals, but it would clear up their latest roster logjam. However, the Nats would also be selling low on Espinosa, which they’ve previously shown an unwillingness to do. The switch-hitter has just a .216/.283/.347 batting line this season and hit just .158/.193/.272 in 2013. While an Espinosa trade seems at least plausible, it doesn’t seem likely at this time.
- Utley’s inclusion on the list is simply due to the fact that there’s bound to be speculation regarding the lifetime Phillie. However, he’s gone on-record to say that he’s not planning on waiving his 10-and-5 rights, and I’d put the odds of him being traded under five percent, personally. Still, teams will likely at least ask GM Ruben Amaro Jr. about Utley, who is in the first year of a two-year extension that contains three vesting options.
- Valbuena hasn’t played much second base since 2010, and some clubs may prefer him in a utility role, but he’s hitting well enough in 2014 to justify regular at-bats. Controlled through 2016, Valbuena is earning $1.7MM this season and has a solid .260/.344/.427 triple-slash line.
Backups/Utility Players/Defensive Specialists
Darwin Barney (Cubs), Cliff Pennington (D’Backs), Rickie Weeks (Brewers), Chone Figgins (Dodgers), Logan Forsythe (Rays), Sean Rodriguez (Rays), Ryan Goins (Blue Jays), Daniel Descalso (Cardinals), Dan Uggla (Braves), Josh Rutledge (Rockies)
Uggla isn’t so much a trade candidate as he is a release candidate, but if and when the Braves cut him loose, another club could buy low on his powerful bat and hope a change of scenery turns him around. Weeks has been a serviceable right-handed component of a platoon in Milwaukee, but the Brew Crew may be open to shedding some of his salary and going with a cheaper option there if someone wants to roll the dice on giving Weeks a bigger role (though that’s just my speculation). Rutledge could be viewed by some teams as a starter, and Colorado could feel comfortable in dealing him and going with Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu up the middle (again, my speculation). But, he’s posted some pretty pedestrian numbers in his career despite hitting at Coors Field.
Some players on this list — Descalso, Figgins, Goins — are under control with contenders, but they could conceivably moved for another piece and replaced with an internal option. The recently designated Donnie Murphy (Rangers) could be of interest to teams in need of bench help as well. He struggled in 2014 but did mash 11 homers in just 164 PA for the Cubs in 2013.
A look back at the original reporting and analysis found on MLBTR this past week:
- Zach Links participated in the conference call with Cubs President Theo Epstein announcing the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade and reported Epstein’s desire never to be a Trade Deadline seller again. “We thought a lot internally as we went through this process that we hope that this is the last year that we’ll be obvious sellers at the deadline. And, nothing would make us happier than aggressively adding to the big league team and enhancing chances for a World Series.“
- Tim Dierkes was the first to report the Rays claimed right-hander Cory Burns off waivers from the Rangers.
- Tim analyzed the trade market for catchers.
- Steve Adams provided a primer on the 2014-15 international free agent signing period, which began July 2 and runs through June 15, 2015.
- Brad Johnson asked MLBTR readers who will be the first position player traded. Martin Prado was the top pick followed by Chase Headley, Luis Valbuena, Dayan Viciedo, and Ben Zobrist.
- Steve hosted the MLBTR live chat this week.
- Zach put together the best of the baseball blogosphere in a double dose of Baseball Blogs Weigh In.
Yesterday, the Cubs set off fireworks in the baseball world when they agreed to send Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Athletics for top prospect Addison Russell, outfield prospect Billy McKinney, and pitcher Dan Straily. In a conference call earlier today, Cubs President Theo Epstein spoke fondly of both starters and thanked them profusely for their effort while in Chicago. Samardzija will be under contract with Oakland through 2015 but Hammel will hit the open market after the 2014 season. I asked Epstein if he might circle back to the 31-year-old whom he signed to a reasonable one-year, $6MM deal earlier this year.
“You know, Jason left a great impression while he was here, but he’s an Oakland A now,” Epstein said. “We just wish him well with Oakland all the way through October.”
While word of the trade leaked out late last night, the deal between Chicago and Oakland was actually agreed to mid-afternoon yesterday. A’s GM Billy Beane first reached out to Epstein “about a month ago” to let him know that they wanted to be aggressive this year, particularly in acquiring pitching, and asked him to keep the A’s in mind when it came to Samardzija and Hammel. Epstein quickly realized the two clubs didn’t match up “one-for-one” in a deal involving Samardzija and Russell, but they managed to expand the deal in yesterday’s talks to something that worked for both sides.
Russell is one of the top prospects in baseball and gives the Cubs a nice return for their pitchers, but Epstein is hopeful this will be the last time they find themselves on this side of a summer deal.
“We thought a lot internally as we went through this process that we hope that this is the last year that we’ll be obvious sellers at the deadline. And, nothing would make us happier than aggressively adding to the big league team and enhancing chances for a World Series,” Epstein said. “We repeated to ourselves that this type of move is not something that we want to do.”
Of course, the addition of Russell gives the Cubs something of a glut at shortstop on the surface. However, even with Starlin Castro at the big league level and two top-100 prospects in Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara waiting in the wings, Epstein says no one will be changing positions right away.
“The nice thing about having impact players who are athletic, can play in the middle of the field, and can hit is that it gives you options. You can never have too many shortstops and you look around baseball and you see some of the best outfielders in the game came up as shortstops and the same for the best third basemen and second basemen. We feel that Baez is a shortstop but we’re also comfortable that he can play second base or third base or outfield if he has to. Addison Russell has versatility to play all over the infield, Bryant can also go out to right field with a relatively smooth transition, Alcantara can play shortstop or second base or be one heck of an outfielder…They can all fit on the field together,” said the Cubs president, who went on to say the acquisition of Russell had “nothing to do” with Castro.
Ultimately, the Cubs feel you can never have too much of a good thing and they have a plan in place to make sure everyone is utilized. Of course, as Epstein himself said, there also figures to be plenty of trades in the club’s future.
Last summer, catchers Steve Clevenger and Drew Butera were traded in July, while Kurt Suzuki and John Buck were dealt in August. The Orioles, Blue Jays, and Dodgers could consider adding a starting catcher, while clubs such as the Royals and Giants could seek a backup. Here’s a look at this summer’s trade market for catchers. The roles listed below could differ based on the acquiring team.
Miguel Montero (Diamondbacks), Carlos Ruiz (Phillies), Kurt Suzuki (Twins), Jason Castro (Astros), Welington Castillo (Cubs), Wilin Rosario (Rockies), Yasmani Grandal (Padres), A.J. Pierzynski (Red Sox)
- Montero, 30, has been the most productive of the group. He’s having a resurgent campaign after a lost 2013, and at the trade deadline he’ll have roughly $43MM left on his contract through 2017. However, the D’Backs are not looking to dump salary, and aim to contend in 2015. To that end, trading Montero doesn’t make sense, but GM Kevin Towers is known as the Gunslinger for a reason.
- The Phillies made a three-year commitment to Ruiz last offseason, so he’s not the most likely candidate to be dealt. Plus, he’s currently on the seven-day concussion DL.
- Suzuki, a free agent after the season, seems a reasonable trade candidate. He’s having his best season in years and will be owed less than a million bucks by the deadline. The Twins could look to extend him instead, though.
- Castro’s performance has taken a tumble since his breakout 2013 season. Certainly the Astros would consider trading the 27-year-old, who is under team control through 2016 as an arbitration eligible player. However, the club will probably be disinclined to sell low.
- Castillo is a speculative name here, in that the Cubs would likely at least listen. He’s 27 years old and under team control through 2017, and the Cubs don’t have much catching in their farm system. But if they manage to acquire a better “Catcher of the Future” candidate in another trade, moving Castillo becomes more palatable.
- Would the Rockies trade Rosario? They made an offer to Ruiz in the offseason, suggesting they weren’t thrilled with Rosario’s defensive chops. Rosario, just 25, is under team control through 2017. He hit 49 home runs from 2012-13.
- Grandal is a player who could be considered more by a non-contending team, if the Padres decide to cut bait with the former top prospect.
- At 6.5 games out, the Red Sox are currently on the bubble of contention. The meager return they could get for Pierzynski may not be worth shaking up their catching situation, with the veteran having the worst offensive season of his career.
Robinson Chirinos (Rangers), Ryan Hanigan (Rays), Rene Rivera (Padres), Carlos Corporan (Astros), Chris Gimenez (Rangers), John Ryan Murphy (Yankees), Austin Romine (Yankees), Tony Sanchez (Pirates), David Ross (Red Sox), J.P. Arencibia (Rangers), John Baker (Cubs), Jose Molina (Rays), Geovany Soto (Rangers), Gerald Laird (Braves)
It should be noted that Soto is currently on the 60-day DL, recovering from March knee surgery. This group presents a wide range of options, with a few players who are able to play regularly as well as some young players who have yet to establish themselves. Hanigan would be the most complicated one to move, with nearly $12MM coming to him through 2016.