Trade Market Rumors

Trade Notes: Orioles, Angels, Blue Jays

Major names are appearing in plenty of reports, but those are not the only players whose fates could be determined in San Diego. We’ve just looked in at some of the less flashy free agents available, as well as the latest on the Rule 5 draft, and now we’ll do the same with regard to the trade market:

  • There is a sense in the Orioles front office that a trade of some kind will be completed at the Winter Meetings, tweets Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com. But Ghiroli cautions that it will likely not be a major move.
  • The Angels are continuing to explore their trade options for a utility infielder, and there is a good chance that a deal will be struck today, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports on Twitter. One player that could be on the move is out-of-options reliever Kevin Jepsen, per Gonzalez.
  • Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos says his club is looking more closely at the trade than the free agent market as it seeks to bolster its relief corps, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports (Twitter links). Toronto is still willing to listen on catcher Dioner Navarro but otherwise is disinclined to move any of its MLB-ready arms or other active roster players, Anthopoulos added.

Mozeliak On Jay, Taveras, Choate, Arb Eligibles

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny conducted their end-of-season meeting with the media today, and Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has several highlights from the talk. Here are some of the main items that are relevant to MLBTR readers, but interested parties should check out the full transcript for additional insight into the team…

  • The Cardinals view Jon Jay as their starting center fielder heading into the 2015 season after the 29-year-old hit .302/.372/.378 in 140 games. Mozeliak revealed that Jay will have his wrist scoped this week to clear out some damage that has been lingering since July.
  • Mozeliak expects Oscar Taveras and Randal Grichuk to compete for the starting right field job next season and echoed recent comments that he expects Taveras to be with the club in 2015. Taveras has received specific instructions to work on his conditioning and speed this winter.
  • The entire coaching staff has been asked to return for the 2015 season. Bench coach Mike Aldrete is expected to be pursued by at least one other team, Goold reports, but Mozeliak said to this point no team has gone through the protocol of asking to interview Aldrete.
  • The Cards will be on the hunt for power to add to their lineup and possibly a right-handed power bat to add to the bench or pair with Matt Adams at first base. Still, Mozeliak said that he and Matheny see Adams as a potential 600-plate-appearance player.
  • St. Louis will shop Randy Choate this offseason, Goold writes, following comments from Mozeliak on the “specialized” nature of Choate’s current role. Said the GM: “I think we both feel that if we can upgrade there or have an additional arm to choose from, that makes sense. We’re certainly not ruling out [Kevin] Siegrist. I think in Choate’s case, for us, he’s fairly one-dimensional. That makes it difficult for us to use him, particularly during a long season.” Choate is owed $3MM next season and held southpaw hitters to a .093/.205/.147 batting line.
  • Mozeliak expects to offer contracts to all of the team’s arbitration eligible players, including Peter Bourjos and Daniel Descalso. However, Goold writes that the team could gauge interest in both on the trade market. Bourjos strikes me as a particularly appealing candidate, given his elite glove in center field. I speculated that he’d be a good fit for the Twins as a starer in my recent Offseason Outlook, and he could make sense for a number of teams, in my mind. Goold’s colleague, Joe Strauss, tweets that he got a “strong sense” that at least one outfielder would be moved.
  • Both Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales will come to Spring Training as starters, Mozeliak said, but the clearer openings for each are in the bullpen at this time. Elsewhere in the bullpen, Mozeliak noted that the team won’t rule out re-signing Pat Neshek or Jason Motte.

Why Aren’t There More Early-Season Trades?

Last week, the Rockies traded catcher Ramon Hernandez to the Dodgers for starting pitcher Aaron Harang. It was a minor deal involving two aging players, and it essentially amounted to an exchange of contracts — the Rockies designated Harang for assignment right after they received him. But it was still an unusual deal, in that it was an April trade involving two Major Leaguers.

Let's look at the biggest April trades in Major League Baseball since 2008.

That's not much. Even the De La Rosa deal, which appears to be the most significant one, occurred after a season in which De La Rosa posted a 5.82 ERA.

The list of recent May trades isn't much more titillating. Last May, the Padres shipped Ernesto Frieri to the Angels for Alexi Amarista and Donn Roach. In 2009, the Padres sent Jody Gerut to the Brewers for Tony Gwynn Jr. In 2008, the Padres — the kings of May trades, clearly — sent Jared Wells to the Mariners for pitcher Cha-Seung Baek.

There have, historically, been some big early-season trades, like the then-controversial May 2003 deal in which the Diamondbacks sent Byung-Hyun Kim to the Red Sox for Shea Hillenbrand. But recently, such trades have been rare.

The reasons why are worth exploring, because some circumstances might suggest early-season trades would be somewhat more likely. It isn't as if GMs are inactive in April — waiver claims abound, for example. And the longer into a season a team waits to make a big trade, the less impact, in an absolute sense, that trade will have.

In general, trade-deadline deals just don't have the impact we imagine they do, at least not in a straightforward, arithmetical sense. There are exceptions, like the Dodgers' trade for Manny Ramirez in 2008, which produced 2.9 wins above replacement. And as long as teams make their big trades before the end of August, they're able to use their new acquisitions in the playoffs. But think about the July 31 trading deadline, and how important it seems when it's happening. Now let's review some of the major trades last July.

  • The Dodgers acquired Shane Victorino from the Phillies; Victorino produced one win above replacement for Los Angeles, then left via free agency.
  • The Giants acquired Hunter Pence from the Phillies; Pence had a big hit in the NLCS but otherwise did not hit particularly well in the postseason, and he produced 0.5 WAR for the Giants in the regular season.
  • The Rangers acquired Ryan Dempster from the Cubs; he produced 1.2 WAR in Texas before leaving via free agency.
  • After arriving from the Brewers, Zack Greinke produced 1.2 WAR for the Angels before leaving via free agency.
  • Wandy Rodriguez had 0.6 WAR down the stretch after going from the Astros to the Pirates.

These are not huge numbers. It is, of course, possible to find examples of deadline acquisitions who made an impact in the postseason, since stars are disproportionately traded to what become playoff teams. But their absolute impact, particularly in the regular season, is smaller than the average fan probably imagines, mostly because there simply isn't much time for them to produce. The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is only two months before the end of the regular season. And yet contending teams routinely wait until late in the summer to make splashy moves for stars.

There are several reasons why this happens. First, GMs attempt to build their teams in the offseason, and unless there's an injury, it takes awhile for teams to diagnose their problems. Teams that appear well-positioned to contend usually have some degree of confidence in themselves, and it's rarely wise to radically change one's viewpoint in April or May, when there are, at most, only a couple months' worth of new data. For example, the Pirates, though they certainly couldn't have been described as "well-positioned to contend," began the 2012 season with several weeks of strong pitching performances, but had the worst offense in baseball in April and May. The Pittsburgh media blasted the Bucs for not making an immediate move for a hitter, sparking debate among Pirates fans about the rarity of early-season deals. But, despite not making a major move, the Pirates' offense was the best in baseball in June, and fifth-best in July.

Also, it can be difficult to make big trades in April and May because non-contending teams usually aren't yet ready to completely cut bait on their seasons. In fact, it's too early to say for sure who the contenders even are. For example, the Rockies were 11-16 and in last place on May 1, 2007, but they ended up going to the World Series. The Padres were 10-15 at the same date the previous year, and they won the NL West.

There clearly are some teams who know with near-certainty, before the season even starts, that they won't be contending — the 2013 Astros and Marlins fall into this category (and both have shown so little interest in hiding their rebuilding plans that it's possible to imagine them bucking the trend and making significant trades this month or next). But such teams rarely have much to offer contenders. And even for bad teams, there's value in waiting until summer before making trades. An in-season veteran-for-prospects trade can deflate a fanbase, and most teams probably don't want to raise a white flag just before they sail into what are generally the best-attended games of the year in early summer.

It's unclear when — or whether — the trend of waiting until midsummer to make big trades will change. By making big deals earlier in the season, contending teams could get more absolute value out of their acquisitions, and gain a bigger edge on other contenders. And non-contending teams should, at least theoretically, be able to extract more value in prospects, since, if the player they're trading is a rental, they're trading four or five months of that player rather than two.

It's doubtful many teams will avail themselves of those advantages, however, mainly because, later in the season, it's clearer what trades actually mean. I use the word "absolute" above to mean value that can be assessed using a statistic like WAR, where a September solo homer for a contending team has essentially the same value as a September solo homer for a non-contending team. Obviously, if a team's primary goal is to make the playoffs, the relative values of the two home runs could be dramatically different.

Imagine your team has a one-run lead in the second inning, and now imagine it has a one-run lead in the eighth. The former situation is far less urgent, because most aspects of the outcome of the game remain undecided. Your opponent could easily score five runs in the third, or the fourth, or any other inning, and make that one-run lead irrelevant. Or, your own team could score five, and suddenly be in the midst of a blowout. But if your team has a one-run lead in the eighth, you're close to securing a victory, and the likelihood of one team or the other posting a big inning and dramatically changing the outcome of the game is greatly reduced, and any run either team does score has a big impact on its chances of winning.

The standings work the same way. A two-game lead or deficit in a division race means little in mid-April, and substantially more in late July. (On Saturday, the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay sarcastically responded via Twitter to a fan who asked if that evening's game was a must-win for the Reds: "Absolutely. Could be 2 out with 151 to play. Tough to come back from that.") That's one reason teams continue to wait until then to deal for stars — they may get less value from them in an absolute sense, but they help make up for that by getting more value in relation to their situations. They get fewer WAR, but they increase the chances that the WAR they do get will be meaningful.

Someday, a couple of creative organizations at opposite ends of the talent spectrum will make a big trade in the early part of the season — this year's Blue Jays and Marlins would have been perfect, if that Josh Johnson / Jose Reyes / Mark Buehrle blockbuster hadn't already happened. It's still possible the Marlins could trade Giancarlo Stanton in the next month or so. The Astros could also make a deal early on. If not, though, it's unlikely there will be many big trades until the summer. Early-season trades simply don't happen very often.


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Trade Market For Relievers

The free agent market is packed with useful relievers, especially from the right side.  Today let's survey relievers who may be available in trade this offseason.

Closers

Heath Bell, Jonathan Papelbon, David Aardsma, and Leo Nunez could be made available if their teams seek cheaper replacements.  All four could earn $4MM+ as arbitration eligible players; Papelbon will jump past $10MM.

Joakim Soria can be retained affordably by the Royals through 2014, and he's only earning $4MM in 2011.  In the unlikely event the Royals trade him, it'll be because they were bowled over by an offer of multiple young players.  He can block trades to the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Phillies, Cardinals, or Cubs.

Bad Contracts

Francisco Cordero ($13MM through '11), Francisco Rodriguez ($15MM through '11 or $29MM through '12), and Scott Linebrink ($5.5MM through '11) are overpaid and likely immovable right-handed relievers.

Setup Arms

Brandon League and Joba Chamberlain are a couple of arbitration eligible late-inning guys who could be available.  League seems less likely to be dealt than Aardsma, and the Mariners probably wouldn't move both.  Chamberlain could be acquired by a team looking to use him as a starter.

Non-Tender Candidates

Plenty of relievers are non-tender candidates, meaning they could be trade bait prior to the December 2nd deadline.  Gustavo Chacin, Tim Byrdak, Brian Tallet, Jeremy Accardo, Todd Coffey, D.J. Carrasco, Blaine Boyer, George Sherrill, Chris Ray, Joe Smith, Sean White, Jim Johnson, Matt Albers, Dustin Nippert, Lance Cormier, Hideki Okajima, Jared Burton, Manny Delcarmen, Zach Miner, Pat Neshek, Tony Pena, Bobby Jenks, Dustin Moseley, and Sergio Mitre comprise this huge group.

Summary

The list of relief trade candidates is lengthy, but closer types such as Aardsma and Nunez are the most likely to go.  A few more trade candidates could surface if certain free agent relievers accept arbitration offers.  Teams are unlikely to overpay in trade with so many interesting free agents out there.


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Trade Market For Left-handed Starters

For most of the last two seasons Cliff Lee has been on the trade block. Now that he's safely on the free agent market, teams can only hope to trade for less accomplished southpaws. More options will likely surface this winter, but here are some names to consider for now:

Bad Contracts

Barry Zito has three years and $64.5MM remaining on his contract, but Giants GM Brian Sabean says he doesn't intend to trade him. Something tells me that Zito could be acquired if someone chipped in enough money, but a deal seems unlikely. Randy Wolf  ($20.5MM remaining), Scott Kazmir ($14MM remaining) and Paul Maholm ($6MM remaining) could potentially be moved for the right offer.

Probably Not Available

Wandy Rodriguez and John Danks could sign extensions with their respective clubs this winter. They are not likely to become serious trade candidates, but it wouldn't be shocking to see them on the block. The same goes for Joe Saunders, who earned $3.7MM last year and is becoming expensive through arbitration. Jerry Dipoto, who traded for Saunders as interim GM this summer, is still in the D'Backs front office, so it would be surprising to see Saunders hit the trade market this winter.

A Prince's Ransom

These pitchers wouldn't normally be trade candidates, but their clubs could dangle them in talks for Prince Fielder: Jonathan Sanchez, Derek Holland, Brett Cecil and Felix Doubront. That's a speculative list, of course, but the Brewers are presumably going to ask for arms if and when the Fielder trade talks begin.

Non-Tender Candidates

Zach Duke, Brian Tallet, Scott Olsen, John Lannan, Ryan Rowland-Smith and Andrew Miller could be traded before next month's non-tender deadline.

Summary

Some pitchers under bad contracts are presumably available, but the trade market for left-handed starters doesn't offer up much beyond that. There's the usual assortment of non-tender candidates and players who won't get traded. The free agent market, which features Lee and Jorge de la Rosa, may be more appealing, especially for clubs willing to spend.


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Trade Market For Right-handed Starters

It's a murky trade market for right-handed starters.  We can assume certain pitchers with burdensome contracts can be had, but the availability of the more interesting names is unknown.

Bad Contracts

Derek Lowe ($30MM through '12), A.J. Burnett ($49.5MM through '13), Daisuke Matsuzaka ($20MM through '12), Aaron Cook ($9.75MM through '11), Carlos Zambrano ($35.875MM through '12), Kenshin Kawakami ($6.667MM through '11), and Gil Meche ($12MM through '11) fill out this group.  Some contracts are worse than others, and names like Lowe and Zambrano are not necessarily on the market.

Are They Available?

We've got six interesting righties who could hit the market: Zack Greinke, Shaun MarcumJeremy Guthrie, Matt Garza, James Shields, and Jeff Niemann.  Greinke would really shake up the pitching market, though the price would be huge and he has a partial no-trade clause.  The Rays are at least six-deep in their rotation, causing many to wonder if Garza, Shields, Niemann, or at least Andy Sonnanstine could be available.  The Orioles might prefer the stability Guthrie adds, though this could be a sell-high opportunity.  Marcum is under team control for two more years; is there any good reason to flip him?

The Marlins' Ricky Nolasco could be a name to watch this summer, as could Chicago's Edwin Jackson.

Non-Tender Candidates

We mentioned Kyle Davies, Brian Bannister, Jeff Karstens, Dustin Moseley, John Maine, Sergio Mitre, and Brandon McCarthy as non-tender candidates earlier.  If a team is willing to tender a contract, we could see trades in advance of the December 2nd non-tender deadline.

Summary

The free agent market for right-handed starters is uninspiring, but names like Greinke, Garza, and Shields would spice up the landscape considerably.


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Trade Market For Right Fielders

The free agent market for right fielders offers a few solid options, such as Jayson Werth and Magglio Ordonez.  With the Tigers, Angels, Phillies, Nationals, Pirates, Cardinals, and Giants potentially looking for help at the position, let's survey the trade landscape.

Are They Available?

Jose Bautista, David DeJesus, and Carlos Quentin are three names to watch this winter.  Though there were a few rumors in the summer, it's difficult to picture the Blue Jays trading Bautista coming off a 54 home run campaign.  With DeJesus, we mentioned earlier that it may be wise to let him establish good health after his season ended in July with a torn thumb ligament.  Though it's pure speculation, Quentin seems the most likely of the three to be dealt this winter.  The Daily Herald's Scot Gregor examined his stock four days ago.  At one point, the Nationals showed interest.

Three Under Contract

Bobby Abreu, Kosuke Fukudome, and Milton Bradley are three well-paid right fielders who could be on the move if their teams assume salary.  Abreu is owed $9MM next year and another $9MM in 2012 if he reaches 433 plate appearances in '11.  Abreu or Juan Rivera could be dealt if the Angels add a free agent outfielder.  Fukudome was useful given his .263/.371/.439 line, but at $13.5MM next year the Cubs might prefer to trade their first-ever Japanese player and recoup some payroll space.  Bradley at $12MM is nearly immovable, but I like listing him anyway.

Deemed Expendable?

The Giants' Nate Schierholtz, 27 in February, could be sent packing after failing to produce in the bigs the last few years.  The non-tender candidates, discussed here, are so heavily favored to be cut loose that it doesn't make sense to trade for any of them.

Summary

There are several useful bats potentially joining the right field trade market.  Players like DeJesus and Quentin require injury risk tolerance, while most of the others require a willingness to assume part of an oversized contract.  Also consider that some clubs may be open to tolerating a left field type in right field for a year, adding names like Josh Willingham, Raul Ibanez, and Luke Scott to the mix.


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Trade Market For Center Fielders

After Coco Crisp and Jayson Werth, the free agent market for center fielders is barren.  The Royals, Braves, Marlins, Nationals, and Padres may be looking for help at the position; let's see what the trade market offers.

Star Potential

Three potential stars, all 26 or younger, have surfaced in the rumor mill: Colby Rasmus, Matt Kemp, and B.J. Upton

Rasmus is seemingly untouchable after a .276/.361/.498 performance at age 23.  Though Rasmus requested a trade earlier this year, GM John Mozeliak said on September 26th, "I can assure you, Colby's not going to be traded."  It was reported on October 6th that multiple teams are preparing a push for Rasmus anyway, but I expect Mozeliak to keep his word.

Kemp, signed through '11 and under team control through '12, slumped to .249/.310/.450 with apparently poor defense this year.  Dodgers GM Ned Colletti wasn't as firm as Mozeliak was about Rasmus, but Colletti's October 2nd comments to ESPN's Buster Olney indicate Kemp's also staying put.  Colletti said he'll listen on any player, "But there's not going to be any shopping on our part.  I view all of our core younger guys as people who are going to be here for a while."  It appears the Nationals will kick the tires.

Upton has not been able to match his offensive production of 2007-08, but he still adds value defensively.  He'll earn more than $3MM as a second-time arbitration eligible player, but even the cost-conscious Rays might prefer to keep him given Carl Crawford's expected departure.  Highly-regarded prospect Desmond Jennings has mostly played center in his career, so he could replace Upton if necessary.

Crawford Consequences

Should the Yankees or Red Sox win the bidding for Crawford, a center fielder could become available.  The Sox have Mike Cameron ($7.25MM for '11) and Jacoby Ellsbury (team control through '13), while the Yankees have Curtis Granderson ($20.25MM through '12) and Brett Gardner (team control through '14).  Darnell McDonald, who logged 450.6 center field innings for the Sox this year, could also be trade bait if a logjam develops.

Veterans Under Contract

Carlos Beltran ($18.5MM), Grady Sizemore ($8MM), Kosuke Fukudome ($13.5MM), Nate McLouth ($7.75MM), and Skip Schumaker ($2.7MM) are all signed through next season, with Schumaker arbitration eligible after that and the rest heading toward free agency.  Aaron Rowand is owed $24MM through '12.  Beltran and Sizemore must prove their health, though the former played a half-season and came alive in the final month.  Fukudome and Schumaker were not primarily center fielders this year.  McLouth and Rowand were major negatives offensively.

Possibly Expendable

Nyjer Morgan, Rajai Davis, and Jordan Schafer could be viewed as expendable by the Nationals, Athletics, and Braves.  Morgan's future may depend on whether the Nationals add an outfielder, while Davis' could rest on Coco Crisp's option and the team's corner outfield alternatives.  Schafer, the Braves' 2009 Opening Day center fielder, had a lost year partially due to wrist problems.

Non-Tender Candidates

Tony Gwynn, Scott Hairston, Reggie Willits, and Dewayne Wise could be on the non-tender bubble come December 2nd, and therefore might be trade candidates.  You wouldn't consider any of these players a starting center fielder, though.

Summary

Rasmus and Kemp may be nearly impossible to pry loose, but the trade market for center fielders still offers more promise than the available free agents.  Clubs willing to gamble on well-paid health risks will have more options.


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Trade Market For Left Fielders

A week ago, we established that the free agent market for left fielders is weak for clubs that can't join the Carl Crawford bidding.  The Rays, Tigers, Angels, Braves, Reds, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Padres, and Giants may be looking for help at the position; let's see what the trade market adds to the picture.

Solid Regulars

If the Nationals re-sign Adam Dunn or add another slugger and feel they can spare Josh Willingham, this offseason would be the time to make a deal.  Willingham, 32 in February, posted a solid .268/.389/.459 line in 450 plate appearances this year.  He's open to playing first base or the outfield corners and could make around $7MM in 2011 before reaching free agency.  He has faced injuries recently, however.

The Royals' David DeJesus played little left field this year, but has extensive experience at the position.  The team already picked up his $6MM option for '11.  His career-best season ended in July with a torn thumb ligament, just before the trade deadline.  If the Royals intend to move him, it may make sense to let him demonstrate good health first. 

Baltimore's Luke Scott is another name to consider, though he hasn't played 200 innings in left field since '08.  Scott had a strong offensive year and is due a raise on a $4.05MM salary, but there's been no indication the Orioles are looking to move him.

Bad Contracts

If you're willing to pick up a bad contract, the trade market for left fielders presents several options: Carlos Lee, Raul Ibanez, Juan Rivera, and Milton Bradley.  Lee's deal would be the toughest to stomach, at $37MM over the next two seasons.  His normally respectable numbers fell off a cliff this year at age 34.  Ibanez, with $11.5MM remaining, is still a useful hitter.  The Phillies might need him if Jayson Werth departs, though.  Rivera, owed $5.25MM for '11, may be shopped as the Angels look for more athleticism in left field.  He hit just .252/.312/.409 on the season.  Bradley says he can coexist with new Mariners manager Eric Wedge, but if not it'll be nearly impossible to find a taker even if the Ms assume most of his $12MM salary.

Out Of Favor?

Nolan Reimold and Gerardo Parra disappointed this year for the Orioles and Diamondbacks, respectively.  They could be trade candidates.

Non-Tender Candidates

Scott Hairston, Matt Diaz, Conor Jackson, Ryan Langerhans, Fred LewisLaynce Nix, Reggie Willits, Travis Buck, and Lastings Milledge are non-tender candidates.  Melky Cabrera has already joined the free agent ranks.  The non-tender candidates figure to be trade bait prior to the December 2nd deadline, especially borderline cases like Lewis, Diaz, Milledge, Nix, and Willits.

Summary

Willingham, DeJesus, and Scott would greatly improve the market for left fielders if made available.  Otherwise you're looking at bad contracts and players hoping to bounce back or establish themselves.


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Trade Market For Third Basemen

On Wednesday we looked at the free agent market for third basemen, noting that it's Adrian Beltre and not much else.  The Orioles, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Indians, Tigers, Angels, Athletics, Mariners, Marlins, Cardinals, and Giants can't all sign him, so let's analyze the trade market at the hot corner.

Best Available Regular

There is sentiment that new Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers could shop Mark Reynolds in hopes of changing the team's offensive approach.  Reynolds led MLB in strikeouts in each of the past three seasons, and those totals hold the top three spots as single-season records.  He hit 44 home runs and slugged .543 in '09, but slipped to 32 and .433 this year.  Former GM Josh Byrnes locked Reynolds up in March; he's owed $5MM in 2011, $7.5MM in '12, and has an $11MM club option for '13.  Reynolds being under contract doesn't help his market value, but at half the price of Beltre he will draw suitors despite his difficulty making contact.

Sell High Opportunity

Wilson Betemit isn't known to be available, but Royals GM Dayton Moore would do well to field offers.  The soon-to-be 29-year-old has hit a little in the past, but nothing like this year's .297/.378/.511 line in 315 plate appearances.  The Royals are his fifth organization; he'll be arbitration eligible for 2011 before hitting free agency after the season.  Betemit is expendable and coming off the best year of his career at a time when decent-hitting third basemen are hard to come by.

Three Under Contract

Chone Figgins didn't play third base for the Mariners this year, but he's played it well in the past.  He slipped to .259/.340/.306 this year and has $26MM left on his contract for 2011-13.  A $9MM salary for 2014 could vest with 600 plate appearances in '13.  A fresh start makes sense for Figgins, who still qualifies as a useful leadoff man.  Another burdensome contract will have to be involved.

Mark Teahen, inexplicably locked up through 2012, hit .258/.327/.382 in 262 plate appearances in his White Sox debut.  He fractured a finger on May 30th and returned to the team on August 13th.  The Sox could change course and try Brent Morel or Dayan Viciedo as their third baseman next year, perhaps swapping Teahen for another bad contract.

The Twins' Brendan Harris is under contract at $1.75MM for 2011.  He was outrighted in June, so he's presumably available.

Former Top Prospects

Brandon Wood's stock is low – he hit .146/.174/.208 in 243 big league plate appearances for the Angels this year and turns 26 in March.  He's shown big power at Triple A and is capable of playing shortstop, so a few clubs would be interested in seeing if a change of scenery helps.

Mat Gamel, 25, had a solid year in the minors but saw little big league time with the Brewers.  He dealt with a slight tear in his right lat muscle in the beginning of the season but eventually hit well enough to earn a September call-up.  He had toe surgery at the end of the month, however.  Casey McGehee is locked in at third base for the Brewers.  They could use Gamel elsewhere or shop him for starting pitching this offseason.

Non-Tender Candidates

As we mentioned before, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Lopez, Andy Marte, Andy LaRoche, and Kevin Frandsen could be trade bait as non-tender candidates.  There may be a few clubs willing to tender Kouzmanoff a contract if the Athletics aren't, so a trade is possible for him if the A's find a third base alternative.  Regarding the others, teams might wait until the December 2nd non-tender deadline passes.

Summary

The trade market for third basemen offers worthwhile gambles.  Will Reynolds and Figgins bounce back and will Betemit regress?  Can Wood and Gamel hold down everyday jobs?  Can Kouzmanoff and Teahen hit enough to justify salaries north of $4MM?


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