MLB Trade Rumors: Odds of Biggest Superstars on the Block Being Dealt
Think about this for a moment: By this time next week, Major League Baseball's trade deadline will have passed. Yes, July 31 is Thursday, which means any buyer or seller better act fast.
Despite the parity in baseball—11 AL teams are either in a playoff spot or within five games of one, while eight NL clubs can make that claim—and the relative dearth of clubs that are all but out of it in 2014 because the second wild card is keeping more hopes alive than in years past, plenty of players are on the block. There are even some big names, too.
That's what this is all about: determining how likely—or unlikely—the biggest names are to be swapped this summer. No matter what, a number of deals are going to get done between now and the deadline. Ultimately, though, these are the players who have been rumored as trade bait and could make the biggest impact.
If they do, in fact, change jerseys.
David Price, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
After winning seven straight and 16 of 20, the Tampa Bay Rays are just about all the way back in the race in what is a crowded AL wild-card chase, let alone the wide-open AL East.
With each win, the Rays are less and less likely to trade David Price, who has been at the top of the trade-speculation food chain since last offseason, as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports wrote all the way back in November.
The 28-year-old has a 3.06 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 10.0 K/9 and 8.2-to-1 K:BB ratio—those last three are all career bests, by the way—and he's been even better than that over his last 10 starts: 1.72 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 10.2 K/9.
Given that he's having arguably the best year of his career—and this is a former Cy Young winner we're talking about—and remains under team control through 2015, Tampa Bay doesn't have to trade him now. In fact, you can be sure the Rays won't trade him now unless they get exactly what they want in return.
Odds of a Trade: 5-1
Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Miami Marlins
Sorry if seeing his name here got you all excited about the possibility of Giancarlo Stanton being traded. The NL's No. 2 home run hitter (23) and top RBI guy (66) is in the middle of his best season yet and remains under control through 2016. The Miami Marlins have no reason to move him at this point, even with The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo reporting "more than a few" teams have called about his availability.
Dude ain't going anywhere anytime soon. Not happenin'. That's hard-hitting #analysis.
Odds of a Trade: 100-1
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Colorado Rockies
Up until his (latest) injury, the idea of Troy Tulowitzki being dealt at least seemed possible, if not exactly plausible or likely. Heck, Tulo even expressed recently that he would be open to moving on from the Colorado Rockies, via Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post:
In Todd Helton, there's someone who's easy to look at his career here and how it played out. I have the utmost respect for Todd, but at the same time, I don't want to be the next in line as somebody who was here for a long time and didn't have a chance to win every single year. He played [17 seasons in Colorado and only] in a couple postseason games and went to one World Series. But that's not me. I want to be somewhere where there's a chance to be in the playoffs every single year.
Whether Tulowitzki wants to or not—and no matter how great of a season he was having (.340/.432/.603)—because the injury-prone 29-year-old with $118 million still left on his contract timed his annual disabled list stint to coincide with the trade deadline, he's staying put...at least until the offseason.
Odds of a Trade: 100-1
Jon Lester, LHP, Boston Red Sox
The latest news on the Jon Lester front wasn't especially promising for the Boston Red Sox. It was, however, more promising for the possibility that the two-time World Series winner could be traded.
That news? After months of on-again, off-again contract extension talks, the two sides apparently have decided to table talks until the end of the season, according to a statement from Red Sox principal owner John Henry, via the Boston Herald:
I'm not going to discuss Jon's situation out of respect for both Jon and (general manager) Ben (Cherington) other than to say that both sides have put further discussion off until after the season. It's clear that both Jon and our organization would like to see Jon back next year if possible.
Of course, that doesn't mean a deal can't still be struck between now and the time 29 other clubs are allowed to bombard Lester, 30, with nine-figure offers in free agency. It does, though, put the Sox—47-55 and in last in the AL East after winning it all last season—in an interesting position.
If they decide their 2014 season is all but over, they could trade Lester now for a haul and then still try to bring him back by ponying up over the winter. By allowing him to negotiate with all teams, Boston would be risking having to pay more than it wants to get him back—not to mention, the reality that he could just walk away.
But the Red Sox almost certainly would get more in a trade for Lester while he's smack in the middle of his best season (2.50 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) than they would by recouping the draft-pick compensation if he were to sign elsewhere.
Odds of a Trade: 3-1
Cole Hamels, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies are the club holding the most big-name chips, as you'll see in the pages to follow. And Cole Hamels is the biggest of those chips.
The 30-year-old with a 2.72 ERA that is currently his lowest ever and a World Series MVP on his resume would net the organization some much-needed younger, cheaper talent to build up a farm system that's lacking. And yet Hamels doesn't seem likely to go anywhere.
He's owed $96 million through the 2018 season (with a $20 million option for 2019), and the Phillies would have to be presented with an offer that any suitor probably would be silly to even float. As Buster Olney of ESPN recently noted: "To date, Phillies telling other teams Cole Hamels is not available."
Oh, and Hamels can block a trade to 20 teams, which complicates this even more.
Odds of a Trade: 20-1
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies
With Troy Tulowitzki out, teams looking to the Colorado Rockies to land a big name in a trade will turn their attention to Carlos Gonzalez.
Of course, Gonzalez comes with his own injury issues, having missed five weeks from early June to mid-July after undergoing surgery on his thumb. Despite being a seven-year veteran, he's played more than 140 games only once—and that was back in 2010.
Still, because of his age (28) and reasonable contract ($53 million through 2017), Gonzalez is an appealing target for just about any contender.
Thing is, the Rockies have indicated they don't intend to move him (yet?), according to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, because of how much he means to the organization and its fanbase. That means, much like with Hamels and the Phillies, they would have to be knocked over by an offer.
Odds of a Trade: 15-1
Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
In a logical world, Chase Utley would be traded, because there are a number of contenders in the market for a second baseman, as Randy Miller of NJ.com writes.
Among those seeking a second-sacker upgrade? The Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays. When there's a market like that and a player of Utley's caliber is sought after, it's a matter of leveraging the clubs against one another to get the best return possible.
In the world of a certain franchise, however, the longtime Philadelphia Philly almost certainly is considered too important to the club and even the city. Plus, as a 10-and-5 player (10 MLB seasons, five with his current club), Utley has the right to veto any deal anyway. He told Todd Zolecki of MLB.com in June, "I don't plan on going anywhere."
Maybe, though, Utley feels differently a month later, especially with the club foundering and badly in need of a painful, time-consuming rebuild.
Teams would give up something that would get the Phillies started on that process for a 35-year-old who is due up to $15 million in 2015 (and then has year-to-year options through 2018). It's just a matter of whether the club is ready to move on.
Odds of a Trade: 8-1
Cliff Lee, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
The odds of Cliff Lee being traded would be much better had he not lost more than two full months with an arm injury. That leaves Lee, who got knocked around for a career-high 12 hits in his first start back on July 21, only one more turn before the deadline to show he's healthy and his usual self.
Scouts for several clubs who were on hand for Lee's last game didn't come away particularly impressed, as Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com points out. He cited an AL evaluator who said, "I thought [Lee] showed some rust. His fastball command was off and he wasn't nearly as precise as usual. He threw too many hittable pitches, and his overall stuff was flatter than normal."
Bottom line? This is a soon-to-be 36-year-old who is due $25 million in 2015 and carries an untenable $27.5 million option for 2016—and a still-steep $12.5 million buyout—so health isn't the only factor working against the odds here. Lee also has a no-trade clause that's "limited" to 20 teams.
That said, Lee has proved to be dominant in Octobers past (2.52 ERA, 0.93 WHIP in 82.0 October innings), and if the price of acquisition is significantly discounted by the injury, it wouldn't be shocking to see a contender swoop in. The Phillies would be selling this stock at an all-time low, but they'd also be getting many millions in salary relief going forward.
Odds of a Trade: 10-1
Jonathan Papelbon, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Hey, we warned you this list was full of Phillies.
As MLB's highest-priced closer on a last-place team, Jonathan Papelbon is a luxury Philadelphia might be able to afford but not close to one it needs. He's owed $13 million through next year (with a vesting option for 2016 at the same amount), which makes him more or less an immovable object, unless the Phils eat some (OK, a lot) of that money.
Even then, two of the contenders that needed to address late-inning problems—the Angels and Tigers—already have done so. The market for closers is drying up, which makes trading Papelbon that much more challenging.
If the Phillies actually unload Papelbon—who's been critical of the organization in the past and has made some noise about wanting to pitch for a winner, per Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News—it may simply be to get rid of him and whatever portion of his contract the acquiring club is willing to take on.
Odds of a Trade: 6-1
Koji Uehara, RHP, Boston Red Sox
According to The Boston Globe's Peter Abraham, "Uehara would be a valuable trade chip for the struggling Red Sox, but team officials have said they would prefer to bring him back."
Much of what was said about Jonathan Papelbon, his team's declining position in the standings and the shrinking closer market also is applicable here.
There's one huge difference with Uehara, however: His contract is up after 2014, so a team would be on the hook only for what's left of his $4.25 million salary for this season.
That—not to mention, the fact that Uehara is better than Papelbon—makes him more appealing and more accessible, which means Uehara is more likely to be swapped despite the team's current stance.
Considering the returns for closers Huston Street and Joakim Soria were pretty strong, the Boston Red Sox could do well to get something for Uehara before he reaches free agency.
Odds of a Trade: 2-1
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