Ranking the Top 20 MLB Players on the Trade Market Post-All-Star Break
The second half of the 2014 MLB season kicks off Friday, as teams turn their attention back to the task at hand coming out of the All-Star break.
With 23 of the 30 teams sitting no more than eight games out of their respective division or wild-card races, it will be an interesting trade deadline to say the least. The first few weeks of the second half will go a long way in determining whether teams wind up as buyers or sellers, though a vast majority of fringe teams could simply stand pat.
Two of the big chips have already fallen prior to the July 31 deadline, with the Chicago Cubs shipping Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland Athletics back on July 4.
That being said, there are still a number of potential impact players who could be dealt before the non-waiver deadline, and what follows is a look at the top of the heap.
The following rankings are based on a handful of things:
- Overall impact they would have on a contender
- Estimated cost to acquire
- Likelihood they will be traded
With that combination of factors taken into account, here is a look at the top 20 MLB players on the trade market post-All-Star break.
Notable Players Who Won't Be Traded
C Kurt Suzuki, Minnesota Twins
The Twins struck gold with the one-year, $2.75 million deal they gave Suzuki in free agency this offseason. He's a prime candidate to be re-signed in the offseason, and chances are the Twins won't be looking to move him.
2B Daniel Murphy, New York Mets
Murphy was the lone All-Star representative for the Mets this season, and the organization no doubt values him higher than the market will. He brings a nice mix of power and speed, but he's a below-average defender, and it's unlikely anyone is going to pay the steep asking price the Mets will have for him.
2B Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
Utley could change his mind and opt to accept a trade to a contender, but all signs point to him finishing his career in a Phillies uniform. He has full 10-and-5 veto rights, so the ball is in his court as far as where he plays.
SS Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox
Should the White Sox sell high on the 32-year-old Ramirez here at the trade deadline? Probably, but with a reasonable salary for next year ($10 million) and valuable leadership qualities, he's probably not going anywhere. The White Sox have never been ones to commit to a full-on rebuild.
OF Alex Rios, Texas Rangers
Acquired via waivers last August, Rios has been one of the few bright spots for the Rangers this season, hitting .305/.333/.440 with 33 extra-base hits and 16 steals. He has a $13.5 million option for next season, and for a team that will be looking to contend again next year, the Rangers will want him back.
SP Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies don't really have anyone on the roster who could be deemed "untouchable," but if there is one piece they are going to build around, it would seem to be Hamels. With Roberto Hernandez and A.J. Burnett potentially heading for free agency and 35-year-old Cliff Lee not getting any younger, Hamels remains the centerpiece of their staff.
SP Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies
Lee has been on the disabled list since mid-May with a strained elbow, but he is expected to come off the DL in time to make two starts before the trade deadline, according to Corey Seidman of CSN Philly. Two starts won't be enough for anyone to be willing to make the type of talent and financial commitment it will take to land the left-hander. He is a candidate to be moved via waivers, though.
SP Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are still interested in re-signing their ace, though the two sides have failed to come to terms on an extension to this point, per Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. Unless they feel there is zero chance of him returning to Boston this winter, it's unlikely Lester will be on the move this July.
RP Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox
Uehara is another Boston trade chip that would net a decent return, but he is also likely staying put with the team setting its sights on re-signing him as well this coming offseason. It would take someone overpaying significantly for the Red Sox to move him, and with several other closer options on the market, it's unlikely anyone will do that.
20. CF Denard Span, Washington Nationals
The Nationals gave up a good deal to acquire Denard Span to the mix prior to the 2013 season, shipping pitching prospect Alex Meyer to the Minnesota Twins. The big right-hander now checks in at No. 32 on the Baseball America Midseason Top 50 prospects list.
The Nationals picked up Span to add a much-needed legitimate leadoff hitter and a plus defender in center field. However, after he posted a 5.0 WAR in his final season with the Twins, that number dropped to just 2.2 last year.
Moving him would allow the Nationals to shift Ryan Zimmerman back to left field, Bryce Harper to center field and Anthony Rendon back to the hot corner. Span is not having the best season, but he should still have some value for his speed and defense.
19. SP Jake Peavy, Boston Red Sox
Jake Peavy may not be having the best season, but he's still an attractive trade chip for teams looking to add a proven veteran at a fairly low price.
It's worth noting that he's tallied three straight quality starts, posting a 2.84 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP over that span, so he's entering the second half with some momentum.
At this point the Red Sox really have no reason to hold on to the free-agent-to-be, and shedding what's left of his $14.5 million contract would be a good move for a team that looks destined to be a seller.
18. OF Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins
Back in 2012, Josh Willingham was one of the hottest commodities on the trade market. He entered the All-Star break hitting .261/.376/.536 with 19 home runs and 60 RBI in what was his first year of a three-year, $21 million deal with Minnesota.
He went on to win Silver Slugger honors with 35 home runs and 110 RBI that season, but his numbers dropped off significantly last year. Injuries limited him to just 111 games, and he hit .208/.342/.368 with 14 home runs and 48 RBI in the 389 at-bats he did manage.
His .212 average so far this season isn't great, but he does have a solid .362 on-base percentage and a .286 average with runners in scoring position. In a thin market for bats, he offers some attractive right-handed pop.
17. RP Brad Ziegler, Arizona Diamondbacks
Since the start of the 2012 season, Brad Ziegler has been one of the most frequently used relievers in all of baseball, appearing in 204 games over that span for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He has pitched to a 2.37 ERA and 1.100 WHIP during that time, and he even spent a good portion of the second half last year in the closer's role, racking up a career-high 13 saves.
The 34-year-old is signed for $5 million next season and has a $5.5 million team option for 2016. He's not going to be closing for a contender, but there are few veteran setup men who are more reliable.
16. SP Jorge De La Rosa, Colorado Rockies
Jorge De La Rosa enjoyed the best season of his career in 2013, going 16-6 with a 3.49 ERA (126 ERA+) a year after dealing with injuries and making just three starts.
He's been one of the few pitchers to enjoy any sort of consistent success in Coors Field over the years, going 41-14 in 76 games with a 4.11 ERA—a number that is actually substantially better than his 4.69 career mark.
The 33-year-old earns $11 million this season in the final year of his deal, and while the Rockies could still look to bring him back next season, flipping him now as a solid mid-level arm could net them a decent return.
15. 3B Chase Headley, San Diego Padres
There's no chance the San Diego Padres even sniff the kind of return they could have gotten for Chase Headley if they had pulled the trigger on trading him after his big 2012 season, but he still has some value.
The 30-year-old looked untradable early in the season, and he was still hitting just .201/.289/.322 with six home runs and 23 RBI at the end of June.
He has quietly heated up here heading into the break, though, hitting .327 in 52 at-bats in July. That should be enough to entice someone into overpaying for the potential of a big second half, but regardless of the return he will likely be shipped to the highest bidder.
14. SP Bartolo Colon, New York Mets
He's not quite pitching at the level he did in Oakland, but 41-year-old Bartolo Colon is still putting up solid numbers in his first season with the New York Mets.
The big right-hander signed a two-year, $20 million deal in the offseason, with the contract slightly back-loaded as he will make $11 million next season. That's still a relative bargain, given the current price of pitching, and shouldn't scare anyone off.
With the return of Matt Harvey and the expected arrival of Noah Syndergaard, the Mets could have as many as eight starters vying for a rotation spot next spring. Trading Colon now while his value is fairly high could be a first step in sorting out the staff for 2015.
13. DH Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox
In the final year of his four-year, $56 million deal, Adam Dunn still has as much power as anyone in baseball. He hit just .211 the past two seasons, but he posted a .781 OPS and launched 75 home runs during that time.
While he is not homering at quite the same rate this season, his .361 OBP and .798 OPS are terrific, and the market for him is amplified by the overall lack of available bats.
He could be slotted at first base for a team looking to upgrade there, remain at designated hitter on an AL club or be used in a platoon/pinch-hit role in the National League. Regardless of where he ends up, he is capable of making a serious impact with his bat.
12. RP Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies
If there is one piece of the Philadelphia Phillies' high-priced, veteran core that is going to be moved this July, it will likely be closer Jonathan Papelbon, as he seems to be ready to get back to pitching for a contender.
"Some guys want to stay on a losing team? That's mind-boggling to me. I think it's a no-brainer," he told Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer (via Fox Sports/NESN). He added, "I'm with a group of guys in the bullpen that can do very special things in the future. I've been waiting for that, you know what I mean? It's fun to be a part of that, it really is. ... But at the same time, winning is the cure-all of cure-alls."
The 33-year-old is pitching at an elite level once again this season, and while it may take eating some of the $13 million he is due next year, the Phillies should have no trouble finding a landing spot for him.
11. RP Joakim Soria, Texas Rangers
He has not seen many chances to slam the door and record a save pitching for the worst team in baseball, but Joakim Soria has quietly returned to the level that made him a perennial All-Star candidate during his time in Kansas City.
After missing all of 2012 with Tommy John surgery, he was brought along slowly last season, posting a 3.80 ERA in 26 games as a middle reliever. He beat out Neftali Feliz for the closer's job this spring, and he's been one of the few bright spots in Texas.
The 30-year-old ranks ahead of Papelbon thanks to his far more reasonable salary, as he makes just $5.5 million this season. He also has a $7 million team option for next year that will almost certainly be picked up, regardless of where he winds up.
10. 3B Casey McGehee, Miami Marlins
Casey McGehee has been one of the better stories of the 2014 season so far. After he spent 2013 playing in Japan and received little interest on the free-agent market, the Marlins took a chance on him with a one-year, $1.1 million deal.
With the Marlins hoping only for better production than they got out of Placido Polanco last year, McGehee has far exceeded his team's expectations, as he ranks fourth in the NL in batting average and leads the league in hits with 115.
The Marlins are technically still in contention at 7.5 games out of a wild-card spot, but with the Braves, Nationals, Brewers, Cardinals, Reds, Pirates, Dodgers and Giants all looking like better teams, it's hard to picture them reaching the playoffs. They don't have many movable pieces, but they should have no trouble flipping McGehee for a decent return.
9. RP Joaquin Benoit, San Diego Padres
Though he fell apart in the postseason, Joaquin Benoit was one of the better relievers in all of baseball during the regular season last year, eventually stepping into the closer's role for the Detroit Tigers and converting 24 of 26 save chances with a 2.01 ERA.
The small-market San Diego Padres surprised more than a few people when they ponied up a two-year, $15.5 million deal to add him as a setup man for Huston Street. However, the result has been one of the best bullpens in baseball, and now Benoit has become a very attractive trade chip.
The 36-year-old has been one of the best setup men in baseball for years now, and with a reasonable $8 million salary for next year and an option for the same in 2016, he could be a long-term solution to shoring up a contender's bullpen.
8. SP John Danks, Chicago White Sox
John Danks missed a grand total of 185 games the past three seasons while dealing with oblique and shoulder injuries, but he is finally healthy again and enjoying a nice bounce-back season as a result.
The 29-year-old was 40-31 with a 3.61 ERA from 2008 to 2010, as he quietly ranked as one of the better left-handed starters in the game over that span. That previous track record of success makes him one of the more intriguing options on the market, and he definitely has more upside than some of the other second-tier arms.
He's not a sure thing to be dealt, as he is still under contract through the 2016 season, but if the White Sox can potentially unload the $28.5 million remaining on his deal and still bring a couple solid prospects in return, they may have a hard time saying no.
7. SP John Lackey, Boston Red Sox
There was a time when the five-year, $82.5 million deal John Lackey signed to join the Boston Red Sox looked like one of the worst in baseball and a potential albatross for the team, but he now looks like a prime candidate to be moved.
After posting a 5.26 ERA in his first two seasons with the team and then missing all of 2012 with Tommy John surgery, he was 10-13 with a 3.52 ERA last year. Perhaps more importantly, he was 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA in five games (four starts) during the playoffs.
His postseason track record, coupled with the fact that he can be re-upped for just $500,000 due to a clause in his contract that dropped his option year if he missed time with an arm injury, makes him as attractive as any pitcher available.
6. OF Marlon Byrd, Philadelphia Phillies
Few players looked more primed to regress than Marlon Byrd, who came out of nowhere to hit 35 doubles and 24 home runs last season, but that didn't stop the Philadelphia Phillies from signing him to a two-year, $16 million deal.
Against all odds, the 36-year-old is producing at a high level once again this season, ranking fifth in the NL in home runs and ninth in RBI here at the break.
For teams like the Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals looking to add a right-handed bat with some pop, there is not a better option on the market. His $8 million salary for next year is still something of a risk given his age, but it's one worth taking, as he could make a serious impact.
5. 2B/3B Martin Prado, Arizona Diamondbacks
He may not net quite as big a return, but for all intents and purposes, Martin Prado is the National League version of Ben Zobrist.
The 30-year-old is capable of playing second base, third base and left field, slotting in at one of those positions on an everyday basis, and can also fill in at shortstop in a pinch. That sort of versatility makes him invaluable to a contender looking to fill out its roster or to a team looking specifically to plug a hole at one of those three positions.
His numbers aren't great this year, but it's worth noting that he hit just .253/.303/.365 in the first half last season before turning things around to bat .324/.374/.490 with 48 RBI after the All-Star break.
Prado is owed $11 million each of the next two seasons, which is a fairly reasonable price for someone with his all-around skill set. He won't come cheap, but the Diamondbacks are motivated to deal, and he could be a difference-maker for a contender.
4. RP Huston Street, San Diego Padres
There are other solid relief-pitching options on the market, but Huston Street looks to be the prize for any contender looking to shore up the ninth inning, and there are at least two big ones in the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels.
The 30-year-old has blown just one save on the year, and his 0.758 WHIP is fifth among pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings on the season.
He's been rock-solid ever since coming to San Diego, converting 80 of 84 save chances with a 2.03 ERA in his two-and-a-half years with the team. That could be reason enough for the Padres to hold on to him—especially if they wind up moving Benoit.
However, it's very possible someone makes the Padres an offer too good to refuse, and for a rebuilding team it would be hard to pass on a top prospect. The $7 million team option Street carries for next season only makes him that much more valuable.
3. SP Ian Kennedy, San Diego Padres
Despite being out of contention, the Padres made a splash at the trade deadline last year, buying low on right-hander Ian Kennedy by acquiring him from the Arizona Diamondbacks for lefty reliever Joe Thatcher.
Kennedy looked like a cornerstone piece for the Diamondbacks after going 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA in 2011, but his ERA jumped to 4.02 the following season and was at a dismal 5.23 through 21 starts when the team pulled the trigger on trading him. He's bounced back nicely this year, though, and now he could be flipped again.
His 2.94 FIP ranks seventh in the NL, ahead of guys like Madison Bumgarner (2.97), Johnny Cueto (3.16), Cole Hamels (3.28) and Julio Teheran (3.50). He's only been getting better as the season goes on too, with a 0.86 ERA in three July starts.
One may be quick to point to the spacious Petco Park as the reason for Kennedy's success this year, but he actually has a better ERA on the road (3.06) than he does at home (3.92).
The 29-year-old also has one year of arbitration remaining before hitting free agency at the end of next season, so that extra year of team control makes him an even more attractive trade target.
2. 2B Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays
A two-time All-Star and a staple in the Tampa Bay Rays lineup for years now, Ben Zobrist ranks third in the MLB in WAR (34.5) since the start of 2009, trailing only Robinson Cano (38.0) and Miguel Cabrera (36.5) over that span.
He is the definition of versatile, capable of playing second base, shortstop, third base, left field and right field, and he has the bat to make an impact wherever he is slotted in the field.
Zobrist carries a very reasonable $7.5 million team option for next year, so moving him won't be a financial move for the Rays.
It may simply be a matter of teams offering up so much that the Rays will be unable to say no. There is not a team in baseball that wouldn't like to add him to the mix for its stretch run, and that vast appeal will no doubt result in a bidding war of sorts, with the Rays sitting back and waiting for the best offer.
1. SP David Price, Tampa Bay Rays
No surprise here in the top spot, as David Price has been viewed as the prize of the trade deadline for months now.
The Rays are still technically in contention at 9.5 games back in the AL East, but if they can't make a significant dent in that number between now and the deadline, expect them to finally pull the trigger on moving their ace.
Price entered the break leading the AL in innings pitched and strikeouts, and he's been particularly great recently, going 5-3 with a 1.92 ERA while turning in a quality start in each of his last nine outings.
It's going to cost at least two top-tier prospects and a few other secondary pieces to land him, and considering the haul the Cubs were able to get for a rental player in Matt Garza last July, we could be talking about a franchise-altering move for both teams involved in a Price deal.
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