The regular season is about to begin, and before you know it, fans of struggling clubs will be combing rosters for players their team can acquire from even worse clubs come July. With apologies for being a wet blanket, things look particularly dire this year for the Astros, Twins, Marlins, Mets, and Cubs. They comprise our very early list of potential midseason sellers, which will surely grow in the coming months. What can other teams scavenge from them?
The Astros are in complete teardown mode. Their highest-paid player is starter Bud Norris, at $3MM. He's under team control through 2015 and will appeal to anyone looking for more than a rental. He'll just have to show some consistency first. Lucas Harrell, meanwhile, is under team control through 2017, but I still think GM Jeff Luhnow will listen. Wesley Wright is a credible left-handed reliever. Otherwise, we're down to newly-signed veterans like Carlos Pena, Jose Veras, and Erik Bedard.
With first baseman Justin Morneau entering a contract year, he's a good candidate to be dealt this summer. The 2006 MVP is only 31 years old, and enters the season free of health concerns. Josh Willingham may be a popular target, though he's signed through next season and the Twins weren't willing to deal him last summer. Veterans such as Jamey Carroll and Ryan Doumit could draw some interest. I'm not sure the Twins would be willing to trade from their rotation, but Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey are not long-term pieces.
Teams will be clamoring for Giancarlo Stanton, but he's the only reason to see the Marlins right now and he's under team control through 2016. Expect plenty of rumors. The Marlins will get more for starter Ricky Nolasco if they assume some of the $11.5MM owed to him, not that I expect that. Then we're mostly down to veteran pickups like Placido Polanco, Juan Pierre, Jeff Mathis, and Jon Rauch.
Johan Santana's shoulder will cause him to start the season on the DL. If he looks decent in May and June, and the Mets pick up most of his $31MM tab, and he waives his no-trade clause, maybe they can get a prospect back. Other players in the last year of contracts or on one-year deals such as John Buck, Frank Francisco, and Brandon Lyon should be available. Ike Davis and Jon Niese will draw interest, but seem like building blocks for the Mets.
This might be the year the Cubs finally move Alfonso Soriano, who has two years and $36MM left on his deal, plus a full no-trade clause. The Vernon Wells trade has to give the Cubs hope toward the idea of picking up less than half the tab. Matt Garza is entering his contract year, and could be one of the better starters available if he's healthy and the Cubs prefer not to extend him. The Cubs also have starters Scott Feldman and Scott Baker on one-year deals. Closer Carlos Marmol, earning $9.8MM, will be difficult to unload given his control issues. David DeJesus, who has a club option for 2014, could be a useful piece for someone.
Best hitter available: Justin Morneau
Best starting pitcher available: Matt Garza
Best reliever available: Rafael Betancourt