Top Trade Chips Rumors
Let's finish off our series with the toughest division in baseball...
- Blue Jays: The Jays already traded away most of their top pieces, but they still have three desirable relievers in Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, and Kevin Gregg. All three can become free agents after the season. There might be some interest in first baseman Lyle Overbay, who will also hit the open market after the season.
- Orioles: Considering how poorly he pitched before landing on the DL, I'm sure a large part of the Baltimore faithful wouldn't mind seeing Mike Gonzalez go. Alas, that won't happen anytime soon. There always seems to be interest in Luke Scott, who still has two more years of team control left. If they decide to sell at mid-season, Kevin Millwood and Jeremy Guthrie could find their way onto the block.
- Rays: The Rays are a player development machine, and they have enough young players to get get pretty much anyone they want. They have enough depth that they could trade one of Reid Brignac or Sean Rodriguez plus one of Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, or Jeremy Hellickson and not miss a beat. If they fall out of it and decide to sell, it doesn't get much better than Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano, and Carlos Pena. I believe the term is "stacked."
- Red Sox: Boston has held onto Clay Buchholz for this long, but with his name appearing so frequently on the rumor circuit, it really wouldn't be surprising if they moved him for a big time player. They might still be able to find a taker for Mike Lowell, and there would be interest in Manny Delcarmen if he were made available. They did lose a valuable chip when Junichi Tazawa went down with Tommy John surgery.
- Yankees: They seem unwilling to trade either Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain, so their best chip is the semi-blocked Jesus Montero. Of course, the Yankees have the ability to absorb even the ugliest of contracts, so maybe we should consider that their biggest trade chip.
Let's continue our look at each club's top trade chips today with the AL Central...
- Indians: The Tribe have dealt their Opening Day starter in each of the last two seasons, and there's a good chance they'll do it again with Jake Westbrook in 2010. The 32-year-old righty will earn $11MM this season, the last one on his contract. After dumping Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez in cost-cutting moves last year, expect them to shop Westbrook around for prospects this summer.
- Royals: All four of Kansas City's outfielders come off the books after this season (assuming some options are bought out for six figures), so Rick Ankiel, David DeJesus, Scott Podsednik, and even Jose Guillen could be moved in a deal for a young player. The team would obviously have to eat a lot of money to move Guillen. The contracts of relievers Juan Cruz and Kyle Farnsworth also expire after the season, so there might be some interest in them.
- Tigers: Detroit isn't going to move any of their young power arms, but if they eat a large chunk of salary like they did with Nate Robertson, there might be interest in Jeremy Bonderman and/or Dontrelle Willis. Young backstop Alex Avila could make Gerald Laird expendable as well. The Tigers have four lefty relievers on their 40-man roster (Phil Coke, Fu-Te Ni, Daniel Schlereth, and Brad Thomas), and that demographic is always in demand.
- Twins: Minnesota has one of the best trade chips in the league, blocked catching prospect Wilson Ramos. Lefty Glen Perkins is pitching in Triple-A and seems to have fallen out of favor with the club after filing a grievance, so he could be made available as well. He has four years of team control left.
- White Sox: GM Kenny Williams isn't shy about emptying out the farm system in a trade for an established big leaguer, which has left him with little minor league ammo. Their best young prospects are catcher Tyler Flowers and starter Daniel Hudson, who would seem to have a future with the club, but I'm not going to put anything past Williams. Flowers could make A.J. Pierzynski or Ramon Castro expendable, ditto Hudson and Freddy Garcia. Gordon Beckham should be untouchable, obviously.
We've completed the National League, so now it's time to jump over to the so-called junior circuit...
- Angels: They moved three pretty good young players to get Scott Kazmir last season, so they might prefer to hold onto the rest of their top prospects. Their best chip is someone you may not have heard of, out of options catcher Bobby Wilson. He's on the 25-man roster but has barely played as the third stringer, yet how many teams would love to have a 27-year old catcher with a very good defensive rep, a .290/.345/.425 batting line in 820 Triple-A plate appearances, and six years of team control left? Pretty much all of them. He'll never clear waivers if the Halos try to send him back to the minors.
- Athletics: Oakland has plenty of young pitching, but Billy Beane likes to hang on to those kind of guys, and for good reason. With ten infielders on the 40-man roster, someone like Jake Fox or Eric Patterson could be moved, as could outfielders Travis Buck or Gabe Gross since Michael Taylor is coming fast. Plus there's always Ben Sheets.
- Mariners: Jack Zduriencik surrendered a good amount of prospect depth this offseason by acquiring Cliff Lee, but no one will argue with that move. Dustin Ackley, the second overall pick in 2009, will make Jose Lopez expendable in short order, and they could choose to make one of two minor league outfielders - Michael Saunders or Greg Halman - available. Seattle's best trade chip might be their potential ability to absorb some money.
- Rangers: Texas is absolutely loaded with young players, so they have plenty of pieces to offer. They can move Chris Davis because Justin Smoak is knocking on the door, or they could move Derek Holland because Martin Perez isn't too far away. They dangled Max Ramirez this winter, and outfielder David Murphy is about to get expensive through arbitration, so he could find himself on the block. Bottom line: the Rangers have the pieces to go out and get anything they need or want.
Let's continue our top trade chips series today with the NL East...
- Braves: The Braves aren't going to move Tommy Hanson and/or Jason Heyward, and they already traded away their top piece of bait this winter when they sent Javier Vazquez to the Yankees. What Atlanta does have is cache of big time pitching prospects in 20-year-old Randall Delgado,19-year-old Julio Teheran, and 19-year-old Arodys Vizcaino that they could dip into if needed.
- Marlins: Florida has been reduced to flipping players before they get expensive through arbitration, nevermind get close to free agency. Dan Uggla is the team's highest paid player and also one of its most productive, but he's perpetually on the block because he's owed $7.8MM this season and will make even more in 2011 through arbitration. The Marlins could trade him, put Chris Coghlan back at second (his natural position), and call up super-prospect Mike Stanton to fill the vacant outfield spot.
- Mets: Even though Carlos Beltran's knee is problematic and Jeff Francoeur is a perennial non-tender candidate, the team's best piece of trade bait is 21-year-old outfielder Fernando Martinez. Lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano could be used as trade fodder, but if ownership decides to part ways with GM Omar Minaya, then they could be in for a full blown firesale. Everyone not named David Wright would be available.
- Nationals: Forget Stephen Strasburg, it's obviously not happening. However, GM Mike Rizzo has a valuable piece in Josh Willingham, who is no stranger to the trade rumor circuit. He is under team control through 2011, and his production isn't far off from Bay's. Relievers Matt Capps and Brian Bruney could be dealt as well.
- Phillies: Philadelphia unloaded most of their top prospects to acquire Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay in the last nine months, so the cupboard is pretty bare. They could shop hard-throwing and oft-injured reliever Scott Mathieson, but the doomsday scenario could find Jayson Werth on the block if the Phils don't think they can re-sign him after the season. Of course that's highly unlikely, he's only the second or third best player on the top team in the league.
Let's continue our series looking at each team's top trade chips with the NL Central...
- Astros: Teams can ask for Hunter Pence, but it's just not happening. 26-year-old catcher J.R. Towles and his five years of team control could be shopped with top prospect Jason Castro coming up behind him. If Houston falls way out of it, Roy Oswalt could be made available, but it would be a massive PR hit. He's owed $31MM through 2011 with a $16MM option ($2MM buyout) for 2012, and would have to approve any trade. Dealing him would signify the start of a full rebuilding effort.
- Brewers: Yovani Gallardo was never going to be moved in the first place, but his new contract extension all but guarantees it. Manny Parra seems to have fallen out of favor, but a lefty who can dial it up to the mid-90's will always have value on the trade market. He still has three years of arbitration eligibility ahead of him.
- Cardinals: The Cards dealt away most of their top prospects for Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa last year, so there's not much left to move. Triple-A catcher Bryan Anderson and Double-A outfielder Daryl Jones could be used in a trade since the big league team is pretty well set at those positions. Jones is more highly regarded of the two. Colby Rasmus is untouchable, obviously.
- Cubs: Josh Vitters, the third overall pick in 2007, watched his name pop up in trade rumors involving Jake Peavy last year. If Chicago is willing to eat some of the $26.5MM left on his contract, there would be interest in Kosuke Fukudome.
- Pirates: Neal Huntington has completely turned over the team's roster since taking over in September 2007, dealing away every notable veteran player. He did, however, build up a nice inventory of veteran relievers this offseason. Octavio Dotel, D.J. Carrasco, Brendan Donnelly, and Javier Lopez could all be used as trade fodder this summer.
- Reds: Cincinnati is clearly a team on the rise, but one young player they could make available is the blocked Yonder Alonso. The power hitting first baseman masquerading as a left fielder in Double-A has all six years of team control left, and is the best trade chip in the division.
Let's take stock of each team's top trade chips, starting today with the NL West...
- Diamondbacks: Arizona moved two of its best trade chips this winter in Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth, and there's obviously no way Justin Upton will be moved. The cupboard is a little bare right now, but Stephen Drew could be available for the right price. He has two more years of team control left after 2010. Conor Jackson, who won't be a free agent until after 2011, could be attractive as well. Top prospect Jarrod Parker is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
- Dodgers: Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw are deal breakers, but Chad Billingsley could be dangled after popping up in rumors during the offseason. The 25-year-old posted a 5.21 ERA in his final 19 appearances last year, though his peripheral stats were in line with what they had been in previous seasons. He won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2012 season.
- Giants: Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval aren't going anywhere and Matt Cain just signed a new extension, so Brian Sabean's best trade chip is lefty Jonathan Sanchez. The 27-year-old owns a career 9.3 K/9 and won't be eligible for arbitration until after the 2012 season. Madison Bumgarner's stock is down while he battles with Missing Velocity Disease, and Buster Posey isn't going anywhere.
- Padres: Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell aren't just San Diego's two best trade chips, they're among the best in the game. Gonzalez is one of the baseball's premier power hitters at age 27, and will make just $4.75MM in 2010 with a $5.5MM club option for 2011. Bell has emerged as one of the league's most dominant closers, and won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2011 season.
- Rockies: Everyone wants to get their hands on Troy Tulowitzki, but it's just not happening. Brad Hawpe is the player most likely to be moved, and there should be interest given his annual .890 OPS's and 25+ homers. He has a $10MM option for the 2011 season with a cheap $500K buyout, and Colorado has a glut of young and productive outfielders to replace him.